Tropes vs. Women: The Damsel in Distress Part 2

Steven here…

Anita Sarkeesian is just plain awesome. She’s just put out part 2 of 3 in her series on the “Damsel in Distress” trope.

What I love about this series is that it could have been done as “look at how shitty gaming is” and given how many gamers have treated her, that would have been an entirely understandable response. But instead, the message is “Gaming can be bigger and better than it is.” As a gamer, I hope that game developers are paying attention to her.

I write a lot of jokes. Some of them are in this book.
I also host the podcast of the Skepchick events team, Some Assembly Required, and cohost the WWJTD Podcast.
You can also follow me on Facebook or that bird thing.

  • Jamie

    I loved how she kept moving forward among all the hate and threats hurled her way, and that the main result of all that negative attention was more media attention and a ridiculously well funded Kickstarter.

    After watching the first two episodes though, it sounds like a purely academic analysis made by someone that neither plays games, nor shows a good understanding of the the literature that created those tropes. The presentation was so dry that my partner and I thought we were back in college, listening to a calculus lecture. Like hearing Ben Stein read a car owner’s manual. When she mentioned a few positive examples she only mentions indies, missing any mainstream game that’s shown that the big publishers have noticed the need to change – even if just a little.

    I support the cause, and the ideal, but this particular execution was disappointing.

    • Laurence

      I haven’t watched the second installment yet, but it’s pretty clear to me that she plays games and cares about them. It’s also clear to me that she understands the literature which created those tropes. I also have never found any of her presentations dry at all. But even if they are dry, that does not imply the things that you implied.

    • Brad C.

      Appreciate your comment, but I just don’t agree. Yes, her presentation is very practiced (scripted, even), but I don’t interpret this as dry. I found it very informative, rational, and persuasive.

      I don’t know how you can say she doesn’t have a good understanding of the literature that created the tropes, she spends a good portion of the first video talking about that background in literature, TV, and movies.

      Part 3 sounds like it will address some more titles that attempt to flip the trope, but she’s right, it is riskier for a publisher to spend huge money on a mainstream game that falls outside the “proven” methods. That’s why it tends to be indie games that break that ground first.

      Do you have some specific mainstream titles in mind?

  • swbarnes2

    I thought it was supposed to be academic. I liked that style, just laying out the evidence, point by point.

    I thought she said that the third would have some examples of games that buck those trends.

    I fell like with all the controversy, she needs a couple of lines about why this matters outside of gaming…something like “Society is saturated with messages like ‘women only matter when they are wives or mothers or girlfriends’ or ‘women are helpless victims’, or ‘women should dress to titillate men at all times’, or ‘women should be willing to sacrifice everything for men’. If you aren’t consciously aware of these messages, one can’t help but be influenced by them. One can’t help but start to think that they are true, or that they ought to be. That’s why responsible citizens and people have to examine what their culture is telling them all the time. Gaming is one source of these messages. Gamers need to be aware of the messages that their games are subtexually feeding them, and they ought to be telling game designers to stop designing games that use these noxious tropes.”

    Maybe that’ll be in the last one.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I felt she made that very clear towards the end, when she talked about how we interact with media and how violence against women is a real, global problem. She mentioned power imbalances in relationships being normalized, helplessness being seen as titillating or desirable, and women-as-property themes. She definitely talked about how institutionalized sexism means that these messages are internalized unconsciously by both men and women and that the game designers aren’t trying to be noxious, but they definitely are and should stop it.

    • Hibernia86

      But don’t you see those negative messages about men as well? Commonly in society you will see messages about “men should please their wives” and “men should sacrifice their life if necessary to protect their wives”. You almost never see those messages aimed at women. In fact if you had a message about what wives could do to please their husbands, many people would be offended by it.

      • Nate Frein

        Rephrase it as “men need to take care of their possessions” and I think you’ll hit closer to the mark.

        it’s all part of the same toxic masculinity.

        • Hibernia86

          I agree that it is toxic, but it isn’t about seeing women as possessions. Why would a man give up his life for a possession? It is about seeing women as needing protection and their lives as more valuable than the men sent to protect them. If a man dies trying to protect the woman then he is just doing his job as a man. This is why we used to have “women and children first” in emergencies, even when it was clear that whoever was left behind would die and have no chance of survival. Thankfully this is less true today, but we still have the echo of this mentality in our culture.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            It is about seeing women as possessions. More specifically, about seeing some other man claim them and then feeling threatened in one’s masculinity, then going on a violent spree to reclaim their own manhood by reclaiming dominance. The vast majority of video games that I’ve seen don’t have the man grieving *Sally*, but *my wife*. They don’t want to rescue *Amy*, they want to rescue *my daughter*. I think that’s an important distinction.

            Actually, “women and children first” is a falsehood that was honored more in the breach than the execution. The Titanic was unusual in that it did happen, and then only because the captain ordered it and enforced it with lethal force. Women of the time knew it was bullshit; so do we today. They were furious that it was used as a propaganda tool to try to deny them the right to vote.

          • Hibernia86

            The vast majority of men, both in reality and in video games are fighting to protect their loved ones. They don’t see them as property, but rather as people that they are willing to sacrifice their lives for. Don’t be so quick to take a negative view of men. That is unfair and biased.

            No, the “women and children first” was seen as part of society. There was one story of a man who was looked down upon by society for the rest of his life because he dared to get in a lifeboat before all of the women were in. It wasn’t just the one captain but society itself who viewed saving women’s lives as more important. Men were the ones who were supposed to take the bullet if necessary in all walks of life to protect their wife even if his body was no more likely to survive the bullet than a woman’s was.

          • Laurence

            I don’t see any reason to believe this in video games. In most games, we never actually see the love in the game. It’s just implied. And we never really see much of the reunion or anything like that. The focus is often not on the relationship between the people at all. The damsel is simply uses as a tool to get the male protagonist to go on an exciting adventure.

            I also think you are too quick to dismiss the idea that many men see women as property and this is portrayed in video games. And it’s not surprising that this trope is being played out in game because for most of western history, women have been seen as property. Daughters were seen as things to be sold off to some man. Wives were seen as things that you received to make children and take care of the household. We’ve gotten better, but this legacy still has an effect on our culture and thus an effect on gaming.

          • Hibernia86

            The reason why the love is implied in video games is because it is a game and they can only have so much back story. Gamers would get bored if they had to wait through an hour long video about how the husband and wife met and married. There are plenty of games where characters are friends and we never demand that they give long back stories for that.

            Yes, in some parts of the past women were traded like property and men had legal rights over their wives (just as people have legal rights over their children today). But even in those cases, the men saw their wives as people. They talked to them and cared for them. It isn’t as if they saw them as talking objects. The wives were members of the family.

            Also, there are many times in history where female choice was seen as the most important. Knights would act chivalrous toward ladies in an attempt to woo them and the woman’s choice was considered the final say.

            But the most important point is that we are talking about today, not the past. Men today are never going to claim that women are their property. That is not how they think. They view their wives as partners. It is just insulting how some people say “well, he may look like he loves his wife, but secretly he thinks of her as property because you know how men are”. No one makes these negative assumptions about women. I just don’t think it is fair that people come to that assumption about men without proof. It isn’t right to make negative assumptions about people based on gender.

          • Laurence

            “Yes, in some parts of the past women were traded like property and men had legal rights over their wives (just as people have legal rights over their children today). But even in those cases, the men saw their wives as people. They talked to them and cared for them. It isn’t as if they saw them as talking objects. The wives were members of the family.”

            You can treat someone as property and still care about them or love them. I don’t actually think those things are mutually exclusive. I’m sure that there were slave owners that actually cared about their slaves, but still considered them their property. However, we recognize that this is still problematic. I also think you are minimizing the facts of history. It’s not just “some parts of the past.” It’s pretty much the majority of human history that this has occurred.

            “Also, there are many times in history where female choice was seen as the most important. Knights would act chivalrous toward ladies in an attempt to woo them and the woman’s choice was considered the final say.”

            I’m pretty sure that this is an overly romantic view of the past that has little basis in reality. Most of the time (especially in the medieval period where chivalry was supposed to rein) husbands were chosen for women by men and they had little say in it. Even though it takes place in a fantasy world, I suggest watching Game of Thrones as it gives a much more accurate picture of what went on than what you said does.

            “But the most important point is that we are talking about today, not the past. Men today are never going to claim that women are their property. That is not how they think. They view their wives as partners. It is just insulting how some people say “well, he may look like he loves his wife, but secretly he thinks of her as property because you know how men are”. No one makes these negative assumptions about women. I just don’t think it is fair that people come to that assumption about men without proof. It isn’t right to make negative assumptions about people based on gender.”

            I’m not saying that by all or even most men may consciously think about this, but to think that we have overcome the history of women being property of men so easily is laughable to me. And since we’re talking about video games, we’re talking about the way it is portrayed rather than what’s going on in anyone’s head.

          • Hibernia86

            It seems laughable to me that we would still think that women are treated as property in a society where such a suggestion is highly offensive to most.

          • Nate Frein

            “It seems laughable to me that we would suggest that Father is an alcoholic in a family where such a suggestion is highly offensive to Father.”

          • Hibernia86

            If there was no evidence that the father drank, then it would be offensive. What I’m saying is there is no evidence of women being treated as property in modern society where women can vote, own property, go to school, get a job, and live life much the same as her male classmates can. While there are still a few issues left, the vast majority of cases have men and women treated equally. That is the point.

          • Nate Frein

            it’s less about avenging or protecting the woman as it is about defending the man’s “turf”

          • Hibernia86

            Why would you defend “turf” if it meant your own death? You’d only defend someone if you thought that they were worthy of your sacrifice of death. I think you are adopting an overly negative view of men. Don’t let your own biases color your view of the world.

          • Nate Frein

            Why would a president justify invading Vietnam by pulling his penis out and saying that “they stepped on this”?

          • Hibernia86

            I have no idea what you are referring to or how it relates to this discussion at all.

          • Nate Frein

            it’s all part of the same toxic ideal: Equating a man’s genitalia with his value in life, and treating his possessions as an extension of his genitalia.

          • Hibernia86

            I tried to find the event you were talking about and I did find an urban legend that Johnson took out his dick at a press conference, but I can find no legitimate sources that this ever actually happened in real life.

          • Nate Frein

            Our cultural narrative informs our views. It’s the same trend we’re seeing with these games. The tropes work because they’re part of unquestioned, underlying assumptions about relationships and the inherent values of men and women. Because the tropes work, they get used and re-used, and end up reinforcing the underlying assumptions, rather like the XKCD comic on Wikipedia citations. Until we decide to make ourselves aware of the phenomenon, we can’t fix it.

            But that seems to be the primary point that you’re invested in not getting.

          • Hibernia86

            But my point is that men today love their wives and this is reflected in video games where the man risks his life for his loved one. There is no evidence that they are treating them as property in the video game or otherwise. You are making negative assumptions about the men in video games without proof and that is sexist. That is the point of all of this.

          • Nate Frein

            The evidence has been explained to you multiple times. Your refusal to acknowledge it does not make me sexist.

          • Hibernia86

            No it hasn’t. You are just telling a “just so” story. What evidence do you have? The fact that the character is going to rescue his wife? Again, if a woman had rescued her husband or children, she wouldn’t be accused of treating them like property. The fact that you make accusations based entirely upon gender and not upon evidence at all is what makes your accusation sexist.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Have you met anyone from tribal or gangland areas? There’s a lot of people who will defend “turf” at the cost of their own lives, who would rather get respect than live. It’s a rather toxic aspect of US and global masculinity that has been repeatedly pointed too by many critics.

          • Hibernia86

            Okay, granted, but my point is that just because a man tries to save his wife, he shouldn’t be accused of treating her like property. A woman would never be accused of that if she tried to save her husband or children. It seems wrong for people to be making these negative assumptions based on gender. In the modern world, the vast majority of men view their wives as equal partners and I think that is true in video games as well.

          • invivoMark

            Hibernia, you’re missing points so hard it’s like you’re trying to.

            The issue under discussion is NONE of the following:

            - Men shouldn’t save their wives
            - Men who save their wives are accused of treating her like property
            - Men are evil and maliciously think of women as property

            Yet almost all of your responses have focused on refuting one or more of the above. If I thought you actually understood this discussion, I’d say you were committing the straw man fallacy. But since it’s clear that you don’t, I’ll excuse your behavior on account of ignorance.

            Here’s what’s actually under discussion:

            - There are societal expectations of behavior, attitudes, and traits that are unequal between men and women.
            - These societal expectations work overwhelmingly against women, but also against some men.
            - These societal expectations are unconsciously internalized by almost everyone, and are reinforced by interactive media such as video games.

            So no one is accusing men all over the world of maliciously treating wives like property. Rather, the accusation is against a rather less tangible societal expectation by which men judge themselves, and that expectation works under an assumption that women are valuable only as property.

            You have actually made a good point, though perhaps inadvertently: this expectation can be disadvantageous for men, too. Men are expected to behave irrationally and violently, with disregard for personal safety, under certain circumstances. And that doesn’t fairly represent the entire breadth of human behavior.

            But the reason that expectation exists is because of unconscious sexist assumptions that are overwhelmingly anti-woman.

          • Hibernia86

            Your points:

            - There are societal expectations of behavior, attitudes, and traits that are unequal between men and women.

            Yes in some cases that is true.

            - These societal expectations work overwhelmingly against women, but also against some men.

            While I think society in general is gender equal, I agree that there are more social expectations that work negatively against women, though there are plenty that work negatively against men as well, so the numbers are closer than you suggest.

            -
            These societal expectations are unconsciously internalized by almost
            everyone, and are reinforced by interactive media such as video games.

            Sometimes, but I’m saying that the accusations presented in this article are exaggerated or untrue.

            I agree that there should be more female heroes in video games, but there is no evidence that the male heroes are treating their women as property when they rescue them. They are rescuing them because they care about them. My point is that a female hero would never be accused of treating her husband or children as property if she rescued them, so why are people on this thread accusing the male characters of it? It seems that people on this thread are making negative assumptions about the male characters without proof, which is a bias that should be overcome. I am a progressive and I think that there are real cases of discrimination that need to be addressed, but those on the far left tend to exaggerate or make up accusations which have no proof behind them and these people run the risk of adding to the bigotry rather than decreasing it.

          • invivoMark

            “but there is no evidence that the male heroes are treating their women as property when they rescue them.”

            ^^THIS! Stop doing this!

            That isn’t the point under discussion, as I just explained to you at length, so stop refuting that point!

            This is why I said you don’t understand this discussion! This is why you need to carefully review what you think you know about these issues! This is why you don’t get to say “I think society in general is gender equal”! You do not understand gender issues well enough to make that call!

          • Hibernia86

            Read Nate Frein’s posts if you think that isn’t the point under discussion on this thread.

            I answered your three points. What else do you want from me?

            You said “the accusation is against a rather less tangible societal expectation by
            which men judge themselves, and that expectation works under an
            assumption that women are valuable only as property.”

            You seem to be suggesting that men subconsciously treat women like property. But you don’t have anymore proof for that than you do that the consciously treat women like property. They are going to rescue a loved one, something a woman would be praised for. Making negative assumptions based on gender (which is what you are doing) is sexist.

          • invivoMark

            I did read Nate’s posts. I think he’s spot on, especially in the post beginning with, “Our cultural narrativeinforms our views.”

            Nate never made the assumption nor the claim that male heroes in stories maliciously believe that women have no value beyond that of property. Re-read his posts in light of the fact that we’re talking about cultural tropes, and they might make more sense to you.

            I never asked you to answer the three points I posted. I wanted you to understand them, accept them as true (because they are… if you still dispute any of them, then you haven’t been paying attention and are woefully uninformed), and then re-shape your narrative keeping those points in mind.

            Nate was right. You seem to be actively invested in not getting the point.

          • Hibernia86

            Nate and you (if I am understanding your hair splitting correctly) are saying that men don’t believe that women are property but they are treating women as if they are. I’m saying that isn’t true and that the heroes in the video games are rescuing people they love.

            I answered your three points because while they were partially true, they weren’t completely true. If you list three points and expect me to accept them on faith just because you said so, I’m afraid that isn’t how I work. I provided my corrections for those three points because I felt it was related to the rest of the discussion and hopefully would help people to better understand this particular issue.

          • invivoMark

            You are not qualified to reject the three points I posted, because you don’t understand gender issues.

            Case in point, you missed the point again in your first paragraph.

            Do you actually know what a trope is?

          • Hibernia86

            Maybe I am missing your point because you are not making it clearly. You think men don’t view women as property, but the “expectation works under an assumption that women are valuable only as property”, but somehow that is different from what I said in my last comment about conscious verses unconscious views. You aren’t making a clear argument.

            It seems like you are making arguments based on ideology rather than fact. If you make accusations, there needs to be proof. This is true not only in regard to religion, but in regard to everything including gender issues. I feel like both the far left and the far right take an anti-scientific view too often.

            A trope is a cliche seen in this case in movies, TV, or comics.

          • invivoMark

            Actually, I think Nate explained it best above: “The tropes work because they’re part of unquestioned, underlying
            assumptions about relationships and the inherent values of men and
            women.”

            If you don’t get it from that, I don’t think I can phrase it any better.

            Asking me to defend the three points that you rejected is a lot like saying, “Please explain feminism and gender inequality of the 21st century.” That’s why you’re not getting a satisfying answer in this conversation. I am not even qualified to given an answer, and if I were, I wouldn’t want to fill this discussion board with a literal textbook. People spend entire careers studying gender inequality, and if you only seek to understand it through short exchanges of two to three paragraphs at a time with non-experts, you’re not going to meet with much success.

            So I suggest for now that you either accept that the experts who study this shit are reaching different conclusions than you are, and therefore you shouldn’t reject those conclusions without further study; or you should actually go and study the subject in depth by reading textbooks and studies or even taking classes.

            To paraphrase Bertram Russell, it is foolish to reject an idea when a consensus of experts supports it.

          • Hibernia86

            “If you don’t agree with an idea, then go read more books” is called the Courtier’s reply and is a logical fallacy. There has to be facts supporting views and the response, telling people to go read more doesn’t help because there is no necessary reason to believe that those books hold the answer either. I’m not asking you to defend all of feminist history because that would be too long. But I am rejecting some of your premises because I believe them to be false. The problem in the Humanities department is that too many programs (whether they be women’s studies, Hispanic Studies, Black Studies, ect) have the ideology that their group is by nature oppressed and it causes them to color their views. While there certainly are racial and gender issues, these tend to be exaggerated in the humanities departments (similar to what you see on this thread). They rely too much on ideology rather than scientific analysis. The scientific method HAS to be primary in all discussions. If their methods aren’t scientific then that hurts their claim that they are an expert in the matter.

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Courtier%27s_reply

          • invivoMark

            The courtier’s reply isn’t always a logical fallacy, in the same way that an appeal to authority isn’t always a logical fallacy.

            It’s an inductive argument. “My argument is more likely correct because an expert in the relevant area agrees with it.”

            In the case at hand, there is an overwhelming majority opinion among the relevant experts. In that case, the courtier’s reply is not a logical fallacy, but an appeal to a consensus.

            Besides, you haven’t actually logically refuted any of the points. You just said “nuh uh!” and then pretended like you refuted them.

          • Nate Frein

            Nate and you (if I am understanding your hair splitting correctly) are saying that men don’t believe that women are property but they are treating women as if they are.

            No.

            What we are saying is that men and women learn how to express their feelings within their culture by absorbing the memes of their culture. A child learns to walk and talk by watching and listening to the surrounding people. A young adult learns “how to love” from sharing the collective narratives of love, via television, books, and videogames.

            I’m saying that isn’t true and that the heroes in the video games are rescuing people they love.

            The fact that you continue to repeat this point ad nauseum says that you either do not understand what we are saying, or you are being deliberately obtuse. We do not disagree that in most (though probably not all) of these cases, the male protagonist “loves” his wife and child.

            What is under discussion is the toxic nature of how this love is expressed under the current cultural narrative exposed in video games. That relationships require power differentials. That women’s self worth is in their “purity” (spoiled women ask to be mercy-killed). That an easy plot device is to simply brutally murder a woman).

            Part of the discussion is that these tropes are widespread. That they work. That they create a self-reinforcing feedback cycle.

            If you want to continue on with that discussion, be my guest. If you continue to throw the “but I say he really loves her” red herring, my assumption is that you are being deliberately dishonest and I will not engage you further.

          • Hibernia86

            I have never seen a video game where a “spoiled” woman is asked to be mercy killed. That doesn’t happen in Western Society (except with Fundamentalist Muslims who don’t follow Western culture).

            You admit that the character loves his wife, but you somehow claim that by trying to rescue his wife he is “treating her like property” which makes no sense! We should be congratulating the men for attempting to rescue their loved ones, not criticizing them! If you want more female heroes, fine, but please don’t criticize and make negative assumptions about a man just because he tries to rescue a loved one. There is nothing wrong with that. It seems that people are making negative assumptions based on his gender and that is the sexism I speak out against.

          • Nate Frein

            I have never seen a video game where a “spoiled” woman is asked to be mercy killed

            Then you did not watch the video.

            I have nothing more to say to you. You have shown yourself to be dishonest and uninterested in any meaningful debate.

          • invivoMark

            I’m calling it.

            You’re being deliberately obtuse.

            You’re a troll. You are not interested in honest discussion, and you have no interest in actually understanding what Nate and I have been trying to tell you.

            You just pulled the “But he really loves her!” line, right after Nate told you not to.

          • http://geekinthebreeze.wordpress.com mythbri

            You seem to be suggesting that men subconsciously treat women like property. But you don’t have anymore proof for that than you do that the consciously treat women like property.

            Um, actually, yeah. Just recently three women in Ohio were freed from a man and his brothers, who treated them like property. For 10 years.

            One of my earliest exposures to the idea that some men consider “their” women to be property is when I was watching the O.J. Simpson murder trial, when the victim’s sister was testifying to an incident that occurred shortly before the murder. Simpson grabbed his ex-wife’s crotch and said, “This belongs to me.”

            The entire purity culture that is built around forcing young people to “save” themselves for marriage is all about fathers owning their daughters’ virginity. That’s what “purity rings” mean. Literally.

            Is this consciously done? In some cases, yes. In most cases, no. But you’d be a fool to deny that it happens.

          • Laurence

            “While I think society in general is gender equal, I agree that there are more social expectations that work negatively against women, though there are plenty that work negatively against men as well, so the numbers are closer than you suggest.”

            Umm, I’m not sure which world you live in, but it does not sound you live in the same one that I live in. Society is not even close to being gender equal, and there is plenty of evidence to support this. I suggest you watch a documentary named Miss Representation. It does a good job of showing how unequal the media is towards the genders.

          • Hibernia86

            In Western society, gender equality is seen as the only acceptable view and anyone who supports gender inequality is bashed by those in society. This has been true for decades. While there are still some issues, people who are honest and objective would say that in most cases gender equality is the accepted position of Western countries.

          • invivoMark

            Believing that gender equality is desirable is different from actually being in a gender-equal society.

            Why do you think that every time a woman in the tech industry calls out an instance of overt sexism, everybody starts howling for their bosses to sack them?

            Gender equality, my ass.

          • amycas

            “women and children first” only applied to white, upper-class women. I guarantee you it didn’t apply to lower-class women. Go listen to the speech “Ain’t I a woman” to get a good idea about how those types of ideas *actually* played out in society.

          • Hibernia86

            Of course racism existed at that time. But the point is that in the late 19th century, a white man was supposed to give up his life to save a white woman in danger and a black man was supposed to give up his life to save a black woman in danger. The gender aspect still applies.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            And as I said, that was honored in the breach, because it usually didn’t happen. On every other shipwreck of the time except the Titanic, the survival rate for women and children was abysmal, while the survival rate for men was adequate/higher than expected. Women were victims in war all the time. Women were the victims of domestic violence at a hideous rate. Most men ran and hid in the face of violent crime against women because that’s a very natural human reaction. The cases where “women and children first” actually did happen were news because they were so rare, not because they were so common.

            So what is still around is this idea of a time that didn’t actually exist, used to subjugate women and reinforce power structures that disadvantage them. It worked then, it works less well now.

          • amycas

            Except for the fact that they weren’t, and they didn’t….

          • Hibernia86

            Yes they were and they did. Read history.

          • amycas

            I think Feminerd down below has a good rundown of that for you. This is like talking to a conservative who thinks Horatior Alger’s books were historical biographies.

          • http://geekinthebreeze.wordpress.com mythbri

            Where is this book called “History”? It must be very big.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Actually, she did talk about how the masculinity presented in video games is toxic to men as well. Their reaction to grief is inevitably violent and bloody, which is not exactly an appropriate response in the real world the vast majority of the time.

        She also talks about how the emotions of the male protagonists always seem to be less about grief for the deceased and more about worrying about themselves and their loss of self-image: they didn’t protect their families. They didn’t preserve their property. Now some other man has stolen/defiled/broken it, and they must exact revenge and regain dominance over the man who has robbed them. That is clearly a negative message to men the games send AND one that Anita Sarkeesian has presented to her audience as a negative message to men.

        • Hibernia86

          I think grieving is important and that immediate violent revenge can be a bad idea because a person isn’t thinking straight when they attack. But the revenge is not about them. It is about hurting the villain for the damage that they have done to his loved one. He doesn’t view his loved one as property, but rather as someone he devotes his life to.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Right. It’s not about “you hurt Susan, you bastard!” It’s “you hurt my wife“. The personhood of the woman is less important than that she was his. That is a very unhealthy message to send.

          • Hibernia86

            “my wife” is a person who is loved, someone he has a close connection to. The bad guy may not even know that Susan is the woman’s name. Women refer to their husbands as “hubby” all the time, but people don’t accuse them of thinking of him as property.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani J. Sharmin

    I’ve recently been watching Anita Sarkeesian’s videos and really enjoying them. She’s been incredibly brave, considering how she has been treated. It’s appalling how people come to see themselves as the ones who *really* matter, the ones who media-makers should cater to, and threaten anyone who wants to be treated equally.

    I love how she lays out the examples demonstrating her points in an organized way and explains the issue. I actually like the way she’s done it, because the point is that she’s explaining the evidence. I’m not a gamer, but much of what she says is relevant to books, TV shows, movies, etc. as well, and I’ve seen some of what she says says in things I’ve read and seen. There have been times when I didn’t notice something myself, and a point she made caused me to spend time thinking about it.

  • Zinc Avenger

    If you can judge the quality of your message by the inverse of the quality of the people who oppose it, the firehose of piss she is subjected to validates her every concern.

  • Hibernia86

    While I support the idea of female gaming heroines and would find it great if female hero rescued a male captive, I think the reason why you see more damsels in distress is because men are often physically stronger than women, society expects them to be the ones to protect women and sacrifice themselves for women. It makes sense that the games would have the physically stronger man have a better chance of fighting off the thugs than the woman would. It doesn’t make the games anti-woman, just focuses on physical realities to create generalities.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Uh, there’s magic (or magi-tech) in a lot of games. What, demons can’t possess men? Crazy scientists can’t kidnap and perform horrible experiments on men? Men can’t ever be kidnapped by superior force (seriously, it usually takes like four guys to kidnap a woman- one man is going to lose to those odds too)? A magical teleport trap won’t hit a man? A shot to the head won’t kill a man who is tied to a chair?

      So no, it doesn’t make sense. It only makes sense in the context of our culture that teaches us false things about men and women. Yes, on average, men are stronger than women, but the distribution curves greatly overlap. If you picked pairs of two random people (both male, both female, one of each), the two men or two women are likely to be further apart in strength than the man and woman, and you’d only be right slightly more than 50% of the time if you said the strongest person of the six was male.

      • Hibernia86

        Well I agree that if there had been magic in the world, then gender roles may have developed differently. I think that the video games take our world and add magic on top of it. Demons possess plenty of men and plenty of men get killed in grizzly ways in video games, far more than the number of women who get killed. In a world where magic was equal for everyone, you might see more gender equality in rescues, but I think video games are taking queues from our past where physical strength mattered.

        It is true that there is great differences within the genders as far as strength, but I don’t think that there is as much overlap as you suggest. I think if you took three men and three women, about 95% of the time the strongest one will be male.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          It depends on how you measure strength and is highly culture dependent. http://www.warandgender.com/wggendif.htm

          Men are usually stronger, but training such as military training can bring even below-average women up to high male-strength standards, reinforcing the first article’s assertion that a lot of strength is culturally based.
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1279143/

          • Hibernia86

            True, training can change strength, so how much training a person would need to be held about the same if we were to compare them. In the first article you link to, for example, it says that the vast majority of female runners finished before the slowest male, but it doesn’t list the age of the slowest male, something that is very relevant. And it says that 90% of the time, military women have a lower lifting capacity than the lowest 10% of military men. Men are biologically stronger because for hundreds of thousands of years, they were the ones expected to fight and die if necessary to protect the tribe. That biological difference still exists today.

          • invivoMark

            Okay, now you’re just abusing your misunderstanding of evolution to try and support your point.

            That isn’t how evolution works. Lamarckism doesn’t happen. Neither does group selection, so “protect[ing] the tribe” isn’t relevant to evolution.

            There may actually be an evolutionary reason for certain biologically-based strength differences between men and women, but that hasn’t been demonstrated and you don’t get to make shit up when that data doesn’t exist.

          • Hibernia86

            Yes, of course I understand that group selection doesn’t work. But because tribes used to consist mainly of closely related individuals, helping the tribe to survive meant helping people that were related to you, thus providing a genetic reason why you might risk your life. The reason why men were the ones to do it was because sperm was plentiful but wombs were rarer. If half of the men were killed off, then the other half could still impregnate the remaining women and the number of children would stay the same. However if half of the women died, that meant that the number of children that could be born was also cut in half since the number of wombs to have them in was halved (again, genetic relation would make a gene “care” about this when deciding whether to influence a male it was in to risk his life). Men were more likely to be hunters which required strength. Women were attracted to men who could provide resources and protect them and their children. In exchange, women had sex only with their husbands, making him much more sure of paternity (of course there was adultery from both genders, but most of the time most people don’t cheat)

            However today we have a problem of overpopulation and most jobs don’t require excess strength so there is no real biological or moral reason why men should be expected to sacrifice their lives more than women are.

          • invivoMark

            Wow! THAT was impressive!

            What you just did? You just said, “Yes, I know that group selection doesn’t work. But let me explain to you how group selection works….”

            Also, your favorite strategy appears to remain Making Shit Up. Stop doing that. Seriously. It does not make for good honest discussions.

            Either put up actual relevant data, from peer-reviewed anthropology sources (evo psych doesn’t count), or admit you’re talking out of your ass and abandon this point.

          • Hibernia86

            Kin selection is not the same thing as group selection. How exactly are you expecting to explain bee hives and other similar social settings without kin selection?

            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kin%20selection

            And yes, the literature does support what I wrote above. In almost all tribes in recorded history and the few that exist today have mainly male warriors. Why is it that those on the far left are perfectly fine with accepting basic biological principles when it comes to animals but when it comes to humans they can’t accept anything that doesn’t fit with their own biases. Why do you think that humans somehow don’t follow the same biological principles that affect every other animal on the planet?

            http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/01/2012/why-men-exhibit-warrior-tendencies

          • invivoMark

            Kin selection works. But what you described in your post was group selection: the suvival of the tribe is the thing worth risking one’s life for. The fact that the tribe includes one’s kin has always been a part of the group selection hypothesis. You’re not being clever by describing group selection and then calling it kin selection.

            And what you just referenced doesn’t reinforce your point. Your claim was that men are physically stronger because they were expected to fight to protect the tribe. What the news article you linked claims is that modern men associate with groups and initiate intergroup violence more readily than women. There’s an enormous chasm between the two claims, and you’ve got your work cut out for you if you want to cover that gap with references.

          • Hibernia86

            But the tribe IS his kin. You sound like the creationists who say “I believe in microevolution but not macroevolution”. It’s the SAME THING just at a different scale.

            Look at every social animal where the males do the fighting: gorillas, lions, walruses, hippos ect. In each case, the male is much bigger and stronger than the female. Why do you think that this biological principle doesn’t apply to humans? Add to that fact, like I said, that in almost every tribe historically and the ones that exist today, the men do most of the fighting. I’m not even sure what you are trying to prove. What do you think the evidence proves?

          • invivoMark

            But the tribe IS his kin.

            DUH! When did I ever dispute this?

            If you would actually read what I wrote, I acknowledged this fact, and then said, “The fact that the tribe includes one’s kin has always been a part of the group selection hypothesis.”

            I honestly don’t know how to make that point any clearer.

            And I never said that men aren’t bigger or stronger on average than women. I questioned the post hoc reasoning you pulled out of your ass to explain it, because you don’t have any evidence to support it.

          • Hibernia86

            Like I said, in the social species where the males fight, he is bigger than the female. Stronger males are more likely to survive these fights. There is very easy to prove based on basic biology that the number of children produced is much more influenced by the number of females rather than the number of males. How is that not enough evidence for you? What exactly are you asking for? Do you think all of this is just coincidence? Again, this is like talking to a creationist who is fine accepting the principles of electromagnetism but when it comes to the same scientific principles used in regard to evolution sets a much stricter standard in which no matter how much evidence is offered it is never enough.

          • invivoMark

            Okay, great, you’ve provided a mechanism by which stronger males can be selected for in a social species.

            I guess that proves that men are stronger than women because men evolved to protect their tribe, while women evolved to be ninnies who sit at home knitting!

            Oh, wait, no it doesn’t. Not even bloody close. As I said, there’s a huge chasm you need to fill in with evidence, and you’ve wasted yet another post without providing any.

            Here, since I’m such a nice guy, I’ll do some of the work for you:

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/785524

            “Females are larger than males in more species of mammals than is generally supposed. A provisional list of the mammalian cases is provided. The phenomenon is not correlated with an unusually large degree of male parental investment, polyandry, greater aggressiveness in females than in males, greater development of weapons in females, female dominance, or matriarchy.

            Oh, whoops! I guess I actually provided peer-reviewed evidence that directly contradicts your point. Well, that might make your task even harder. Sorry!

          • Hibernia86

            I didn’t say men evolved to protect the tribe just because it is a group. I said men evolved to protect their kin, most of which are in that tribe. He is obviously going to be more protective of his child than he is of a distant relative, but the point is that cooperative defense helped his family otherwise this would have gone extinct long ago.

            Why would larger size have anything to do with polyandry or male parental investment? Males can impregnate multiple females while females can only be impregnated by one male at a time. Polyandry decreases populations because if all the males are loyal, it leaves some females without mates which means less children.

            I can’t get to anything besides the abstract, but mammal species where the female is larger are almost always nonsocial, so matriarchy or patriarchy doesn’t even make sense in those cases.

          • invivoMark

            Actually, you did say that men evolved to protect the tribe. Then you backpedalled when I pointed out that that was invoking group selection, and said, “But wait! His kin are part of the tribe! Therefore men evolved to protect the tribe because of kin selection!”

            Which is problematic, because that’s exactly what group selection says, and we both agree that group selection doesn’t work.

            You need group selection to explain your hypothesis. The only evidence you’ve brought up in this discussion is that men initiate intergroup violence (note: your reference did not mention interfamilial violence). And your argument revolves around men’s status in a tribe, not in a nuclear family.

            I find it remarkable that even though you can’t access the paper I posted, which contains the list of mammals with larger females, you already know that almost all of the species on that list are nonsocial! Clearly, you are already very knowledgeable about this topic, and I needn’t be wasting my time with references – I should just ask you!

            But just for fun, here are some of the mammals on that list:

            A few species of quolls, which are social marsupials and have communal toilets.
            Tasmanian devils, which are going extinct because the males of the species are infected with a transmissible cancer that spreads when they fight.
            Several wombats and other marsupials.
            Many bats, which are often social. Vampire bats are on the list, which are considered the most social of bats. They even take care of each others’ offspring.
            Primates on the list include spider monkeys, tamarins, marmosets, and gibbons, all of which are social.
            Several rabbits, flying squirrels, hamsters, lemmings, chinchillas, and mice are on the list.
            A few whales are there, too, including blue whales and humpback whales. A couple dolphins, as well.
            There are a couple hyenas, a few seals, a manatee, a tapir, and a zebra.

            Oh, and look, there’s the hippopotamus! Hey, I thought I heard someone say the male hippos were bigger and stronger than the females. I guess they were wrong.
            And then the list finishes out with a few deer, anteloupe, and assorted herd animals.

            Huh. I guess the list is almost totally social species. I mean, there are some shrews in there, which aren’t that social… but otherwise, it kinda looks like your point is thoroughly debunked by this list.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            And what do you think the women were doing while the men were out fighting and/or hunting? Lying around embroidering? They farmed with primitive tools (you try farming fields with nothing but wooden tools for awhile. It’s hard work). They tanned hides. They carried children around while gathering roots and berries. They built houses. They made clay pots after digging up the clay and seasoning it (literally beating it smooth). They cut up trees for firewood and carried the wood home. They hauled water. All this is hard physical labor that does not make for delicate flowers of femininity. In fact, it’s harder than hunting or fighting, which often only requires bursts of strength instead of a solid mix of strength and endurance.

            Also, your explanations of early human behavior don’t actually match a lot of so-called primitive tribes today. It matches some of them, but others are structured much differently. What is and is not attractive is very much culturally determined; a man who can hunt is attractive, but so is one who demonstrates nurture for children. It just depends on your tribal gender expectations.

          • Hibernia86

            I think you would agree that for the last 10,000 years, almost all societies were ruled by men. The only way that men could have conquered the world is if they were biologically or economically stronger. I’m not saying that this is how it should be (I don’t think we should follow the past if it is immoral), but I am saying that worldwide patriarchies didn’t happen by accident. It was because patriarchal societies proved more powerful than some of the other models that you may be able to find examples of.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            I would argue that patriarchal societies encouraged a surplus of violent men (socialized into violence. Men aren’t inherently violent) to go attack neighbors instead of tearing society apart. Armies and warfare have been seen for a long time as excellent ways to dispose of surplus men. They weren’t biologically or economically stronger- they were stronger militarily. That meant they could go break and/or steal their neighbors’ stuff. Combine that with the Christian narrative of weak, deceitful, and stupid Eve who is all women, and you have some men deliberately destroying female-dominated or egalitarian societies as evil. What has happened for the past 2,000 years to women can, in large part, be traced directly to Christianity and Islam. That’s not a biological inevitability; that’s a quirk of history.

            So no, I can’t agree that for the past 10,000 years, most societies were ruled by men. I can agree that in the past 2500 years or so that is likely true, but before that, evidence is much sketchier AND what we know about civilizations at the time suggests a much more prominent and healthy role for women, including leadership.

          • Hibernia86

            But Christianity didn’t conquer the entire world and thus we can’t blame all of patriarchy on them. While there is some diversity in tribes that exist, the vast majority of historically recorded cultures were patriarchal. Most ape species are patriarchal (except for the Bonobo and that is only because the males do not form alliances and the females do). While I think male power increased after the development of armies at the beginning of the neolithic period, males have likely always been dominant until recent times.

            http://books.google.com/books?id=vE85zkFdURQC&pg=PA263#v=onepage&q&f=false

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Matriarchal_Prehistory

      • Loqi

        Not to mention that even without magic or tech, the “women are just physically weaker” thing is simply not true in many games. If nothing else, it would make for terrible gameplay. Do you think anyone would play a female character in WoW if your swings did less damage because you’ve naturally got less strength? Would anyone play Chun Li if half her moves didn’t work against E Honda because she can’t lift him? In the video game world, physical strength is often invariant. Yet we still see the damsel in distress thing.

    • John H

      Feminerd already hit the strength-difference fallacy; I’ll just add that a huge part of the average (mean) difference has to do with the fact that WAY more men than women engage in dedicated strength training aimed at being able to lift the most weight (that builds bulky muscles which are often considered unattractive for women to possess); in controlled experiments that specify the same strength-training regimens for men and women, the biological difference almost disappears.

      society expects them to be the ones to protect women and sacrifice themselves for women

      Yes.
      That’s what a trope is. The fact that this is a common social
      expectation that plays out in video games is half the point. The other
      half is the case that this is a bad thing. Reinforcing the trope is
      anti-woman (also anti-man to a lesser extent: Patriarchy Hurts Men
      Too™).

  • Ted Thompson

    I teach my daughter to save herself and that way she can pick whatever prince she wants.

    • Loqi

      I’m trying to find a way to interpret that such that it isn’t horribly sexist, but it’s not coming. Help me out?

      • islandbrewer

        Oooh! Uuuuh…. he means that he’s teaching her to … um… fight her own battles and not succumb to the role of “Damsel,” thus being able to choose any partner she wishes (within a heteronormative paradigm) as a free and equal agent?

      • Ted Thompson

        Wow. I’m trying hard to see how it could possibly be sexist and I really just can’t. Perhaps you’re looking to be offended?

        With damn near every Disney or other brand of movie for little girls projecting the inability of the princess to do anything about her predicament but wait for a big strong guy to save her, I’m teaching her to solve her own problems.

        I still really can’t see how what I said can be construed as sexist. I guess you constantly have to be on the lookout for it to see it that often. Perhaps Infowars has a section for people who see sexist stuff everywhere.

        • http://geekinthebreeze.wordpress.com mythbri

          Well, for one thing you’re assuming that your daughter will want to pick someone, and that she’ll want to pick a prince.

          I applaud your commitment to raising a capable young woman, but her journey might not fit the narrative you’ve laid out here.

          • islandbrewer

            Of course, any parent should want their daughter to marry a prince (or now in the UK, she could marry a princess).

            That way, she can quietly knock off any competitors for the throne, and when her prince (or princess) becomes King (or Queen), she can poison them, frame her worst enemy, and then rule the Nation with an iron fist! AND THEN OUR POWER AND WRATH SHALL BE MIGHTY, INDEED!

            MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

            It’s what every loving parent wants for their child, isn’t it?

          • islandbrewer

            And that reminds me, I have to go to the nursery and see if they have any hemlock saplings for the backyard.

          • Ted Thompson

            I live in a state where gay marriage is legal. If she picks a princess, fine by me and swell for her. If she chooses to remain celibate her whole life and is content doing that, good for her too.

        • Loqi

          I read “teach my daughter to save herself” as “teach my daughter to not have premarital sex.” Makes for a very different interpretation of your words (and apparently not the one you intended).

          Complaint withdrawn.

          • amycas

            That’s how I read it the first time too. I’m glad he offered a clarification.

        • Nate Frein

          Try not using language co-opted by purity culture advocates.

          You give little context for “save”. Given how a woman “saving herself” is generally construed, your comment comes across as “I teach my daughter to save herself (be celibate) and that way she can pick whatever prince she wants (because if she has sex, most guys won’t want her).

          • invivoMark

            Eh, I got his meaning. Since the context is “video game men saving video game women,” I thought the word “save” was already given the proper context.

          • Nate Frein

            He asked how his comment could be construed as sexist. I explained. I’m not the only one who read his comment that way :P

  • David Simon

    This is awesome, thanks for linking! It reminds me of some of the cool analysis that Nostalgia Critic and pals do.