Friday, June 13, 2014

FEMINISM IN VIDEOGAMES



by Cecelie Keys

            My fondest memories as a young girl usually involve video games. I have been an avid gamer since I was about eight years old. However, as much as I love gaming, as a woman, I have always had an issue with the lack of strong female characters in video games. While there certainly are a few truly strong female characters in video games, considering the vast number of video games out there, having only a few to choose from is a big problem. When I talk about strong female video game characters, I am referring to characters where the fact that they are a woman does not take the forefront of discussion. They are women, and that is obvious, but their character, soul, and spirit shine through. Strong characterization is important for any character, male or female. But women in particular, are usually just seen as an excuse to excite males into playing a game as part of their fantasies. In this article, I want to showcase shining examples of women in video games who show that they are fully fleshed out human beings, and not just women for male gamers to ogle at.

Silent Hill 3
            Silent Hill is a gaming series known for putting horror and great storytelling at the top of it's priority list. Silent Hill 3 is no exception to this rule. The lead character of this game is Heather Mason.  Heather is written to be a character that you can easily identify with. You see her go through challenge after challenge, and her reactions to everything are realistic and moving. Nothing she does is overly girly, or stereotyped. She is simply a well-written character. I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game with her as the main character. If you are a fan of the horror genre, you should definitely give the Silent Hill series a try.

Parasite Eve
            Parasite Eve is a horror RPG by Squarenix, the company that created popular gaming series such as, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. The game stars Aya Brea, an NYPD officer who discovers a power inside her that is being used to destroy humanity. Aya is a very strong character, who is never treated as a woman who needs others to protect her. In fact, she is seen as highly competent by the other members of the force, and they look up to her abilities as an officer. It is very refreshing to play a female character that is competent, powerful, and self-sufficient. I highly recommend the first game in the series to everyone. Parasite Eve 2 is also a great game, but it is more for hardcore gamers, as it has rather steep difficulty throughout.

Xenosaga
            Xenosaga is a sci-fi RPG trilogy by Namco Bandai that has been praised countless times for its excellent use of storytelling, characterization, and philosophical/religious subject matter. Not only does this series contain very strong female characters, but all of the characters are fleshed out, and very well developed. The lead character of this game is Shion Uzuki, an employee at Vector, a company that specializes in technological innovation. Shion is a shining example of how women exhibit many different types of emotions, and have many different traits. She acts feminine and has emotions, but she can also be very masculine, and is quick to order people around in order to get things done. She is strong and has a powerful spirit, and those who work with her treat her as an equal. Any misogynistic attitudes that appear in Xenosaga, are clearly portrayed in a negative light, and showcase the inner workings of how a character thinks and perceives the world, rather than being treated as a normal thing. Xenosaga is an exploration of life, what it means, and how figuring out what it means to be human effects people across different walks of life. I highly recommend that people play this game. Also, if you can't play it, you can look up all of the cut scenes on Youtube to learn the story.

King of Fighters
            Fighting game series speak to me in a special way due to my lifelong love of martial arts and action. The good thing about fighting games is that it is hard to find any series without female characters. The bad part is the difficulty one usually has in finding female fighting game characters that are not overly sexualized. King of Fighters is a great series in this regard. Sure, some of the women on the roster are definitely part, if not wholly eye candy. (*cough* Mai Shiranui *cough*) However, King of Fighters also offers up not only the largest number of fighting women of any series, but also the widest variety. All of the women have many different outfits and display a wide range of fighting styles. If you are partial to the idea of not showing a ton of skin, there's a character for you and vice versa. There are options!

            Women come from many different backgrounds and walks of life. It is beyond time that our media starts to reflect this! Not all women are the same! All characters, regardless of gender, deserve to be fully developed human beings, not just a walking pile of stereotypes. Let's all embrace diversity, and encourage those around us and those we look up to do the same!

           

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

MY LIFE = MY LIFE PHILOSOPHY: DEAL WITH IT!



A colleague from Writer’s Club once described me as someone who is “passionate in her views and unconstrained in expressing strong opinions.”

I usually just tell people that I’m a drama queen. They often think that I feel more strongly about certain issues than I really do just based on the way I express myself. But in reality, I can have a heated discussion about whatever and then laugh it off and go for a drink (which in my case means mineral water), feeling nothing but calm and peaceful inside. That’s just the way I am.

(In fact, the second part of my colleague’s e-mail said that despite of my fierce personality, I tend to be fairly unbiased and open-minded, and capable to “honestly consider viewpoints even if they do not support my demographic.” Just sayin’.)

But this time, ladies and gentlemen, I’m REALLY pissed off!

Those of you, who have been following my blog for a while, probably know by now that I have been having some issues with modern feminists and as a result also with some members of our counseling community, who are buying into some of the modern feminist theories about gender equality. If they were speaking for themselves, I would be as cool as a cucumber; however, when folks start acting like they know what’s best for me as a woman (without actually asking ME how I feel about it), it’s the point when I start growling.

So what set me off this time?

Well, ever since the unfortunate incident in California there have been an increase in all those articles that are trying to convince me that as a woman, I’m scared and vulnerable all the time, and face oppression and misogyny and sexual harassment on daily basis (neither of which is true). But what really got me was the article The Feminist Version of American History You Never Hear About in School. I worked as a babysitter and a tutor for many years, and can testify from my own experience that kids in fact DO learn about many of the women of the list in school! And while I agree that there are some names on the list that an average American probably never heard of, I refuse to see it as some kind of patriarchal conspiracy; there are many men in American history who did some pretty amazing things and didn’t make it into (most) history books either.

However, the most irritating part is the beginning. See for yourself:

“When Divergent actress Shailene Woodley told an interviewer recently that she didn't call herself a feminist because she "love[s] men," many people were outraged. But there's another side to this story: Shailene Woodley doesn't understand what feminism is, and it's not necessarily her fault.”

The way I see it, Shailene Woodley, whoever she is, or any other woman should be able to identify herself as she sees fit without being patronized (or without facing an outraged mob). I for one declare openly that I no longer identify myself as a feminist. If Maureen Shaw (the author of the article) doesn’t like it, I have one thing to tell her:

Maybe the problem is that FEMINISTS don’t understand what feminism is!

Because from how they have been presenting themselves in the media for past couple of years, I gathered that feminism is a movement of women who 1) have very specific ideas about how I should look, dress, and behave, 2) will pass judgment on me when I don’t submit to said ideas, 3) know better than me how I feel as a woman in our society, 4) make decisions about how I’m allowed to express yourself sexually.

And yes, I’m aware that not all feminists are as extreme and that there is plenty of the moderate ones – but you know what? The diversity within feminist movement actually supports MY view, not Maureen Shaw’s. Because if women have such different perceptions of what feminism is, how can any of them pass judgment on others regarding how they see feminism?!

 Merriam-Webster defines feminism as follows: 

: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
: organized activity in support of women's rights and interests

No problem here, right? But already the discussion underneath the definition shows that reality is much more complex. I especially liked a comment from someone called Tammy Kaulback:

The title is only a name; a way of identifying a set of ideas. Other waves of Feminism have since emerged with more inclusive (not perfect) understandings of other women's multitude of experiences as well as marginalized persons. May I suggest a little more insight in to the reality of this world on your part and don't get caught up on a label.

I’m getting the vibe that Tammy wrote her comment in defense of feminism, but that’s okay – the comment points out the diversity within the feminist movement and that’s what I’m talking about.

A Voice for Men: Humanist Counter-Theory  website warns that “it’s also important to recognize that what some people tell you a word means is not reflective of reality”. Well, no shit. I read some so-called “feminist” writings that indicated that the author was sharing her wisdom from an impatient psychiatric clinic.

And once more with feeling:

Feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. However, there are many different kinds of feminism. Feminists disagree about what sexism consists in, and what exactly ought to be done about it; they disagree about what it means to be a woman or a man and what social and political implications gender has or should have. Nonetheless, motivated by the quest for social justice, feminist inquiry provides a wide range of perspectives on social, cultural, economic, and political phenomena. Important topics for feminist theory and politics include: the body, class and work, disability, the family, globalization, human rights, popular culture, race and racism, reproduction, science, the self, sex work, human trafficking, and sexuality. Extended discussion of these topics is included in the sub-entries to feminism in this encyclopedia.

The quote is from A Voice for Men: Humanist Counter-Theory and it illustrates nicely my experience with feminism: There is no consensus between feminists THEMSELVES how things should be!

Mind you, that’s not necessarily meant as criticism from my side - we ALL have a different life story and tend to see the world through the lens shaped by our experiences, which is okay. However, it’s not okay when we start feeling that our experiences are so superior that it gives us the right to tell people what to do.

So the way I see it, until there are feminists out there who preach feminist gospel that is irritating to women like myself or (clearly) Shailene Woodley, Maureen Shaw has no right to accuse us of rejecting feminism out of ignorance. Mainly because she doesn’t have the answer to the question “what is feminism” either. No one does. I had identified myself as a feminist for many years (and even wrote passionate articles in defense of feminism) and while no scholar, neither I see myself as a dummy. When I decide to reject feminism, you can trust me that I have reasons for doing so! And you are welcome to ask what those reasons are, if you are interested, but you are not welcome to start lecturing me, telling me that I’m stupid, or accusing me of “internalized sexism” (which I just recently read in another article written by a genius; luckily for my mental health I accidentally deleted the link).

Because if you do, guess what?! You are being just as oppressive as is the traditional patriarchal society you are (supposedly) trying to liberate me from.

So here!