There is an extremely critical difference that you need to remember between mock battles and real battles.
People in mock battles are not only not trying to kill you, they’re actually take deliberate steps to make sure you aren’t injured!
In a real battle your head is particularly vulnerable and a high priority to protect for a variety of reasons:
- Head wounds bleed really strongly, between blood in your eyes and problems from blood loss – a relatively light cut can be a death sentence
- Your head is relatively unprotected compared to your other vital regions. Even a glancing blow can do serious damage to organs like your eyes, nose, etc
- Because it is on top of your body, your head is vulnerable to attacks from pretty much every angle except directly below it so it has more ways to get hurt
- As well as being the end point for the common carotid arteries, your head also contains a vital organ known as the brain. Serious harm to this organ can result in life long crippling and/or death.
Not wearing a helmet as part of artistic license is often employed with characters who are either not normally in armor, or who need to be recognizable as unique among many armored figures.
However it is also often employed with female characters because of the idea that unless a character has long flowing locks, warm kissable lips and a dainty little nose clearly on display – men won’t be able to tell the character is female (and hence they’re supposed to be attracted to her).
Basically prioritizing the sexualization and objectification of female characters over portraying them as competent, interesting people, etc.
Actually we’re both working on our own projects (they’re at a stage of completion where we’re comfortable sharing, and neither are the like minded people we’re working with (so there will be no further details forthcoming at this time).
Also, believe it or not: Some of the people involved in related blogs actually work in industries such as video games.
Saying that it “worked for Andrew Hussie’s Homestuck series” is as absurd, it’s like suggesting that someone’s who broke should just become a millionaire by building a web site like Google (it worked for Larry Page and Sergey Brin!)
Homestuck is a particularly bad example because it:
- Didn’t really challenge the status quo at all, it was just a new absurdist comic that wanted to tell a story and entertain
- Has a large and very enthusiastic fanbase, but has more or less no influence outside of that fanbase. It’s very successful for a web comic, but that success doesn’t mean it’s influential in the grand scheme of things (or even in web comics)
- Employs an economical style that works fine for the stories in Homestuck but is not necessarily even faintly compatible with other styles and stories.
Making a production that showcases women in sensible armor would pretty much require a higher standard of visual quality than something that’s intended to look like a scribble done in MS Paint. So even with a web comic at a lot of hours in image creation.
More accessible and larger markets (which means more competition) products like animated features/movies/etc require even more effort and expertise. Video games would require more skills and time again.
That’s not to say things like Kickstarter and Steam’s Greenlit aren’t fantastic and making the market more accessible but it’s insulting to creators of these products to downplay the work involved and pretend just anyone can do it (particularly with their other responsibilities and how much work is involved).
Even if Ozzie and I did somehow stumble across the time, money and connections to make a modest game (since video games are currently the biggest market) – say on par with Gone Home, here’s what we could look forward to:
- Sales would be a small fraction of those by mainstream publishers – even a lambasted product like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning gets more sales (and hence market influence) than a critically acclaimed indy production
- If the game doesn’t do well, for any reason – there will be a general backlash saying that it’s proof that the public doesn’t want well armored heroines
- If the game does do well, for any reason – there will be a general backlash from people claiming that it’s only got sales due to political reasons and not because of the game (for more information, read the reviews on Gone Home’s Steam Store page – for extra laughs compare them to the reviews on The Stanley Parable a game that employs almost identical mechanics but doesn’t challenge people’s perceptions of the world around them per se)
- While it may provide some influence in mainstream gaming, it is likely that the industry would in general mostly overlook. Lots of people want to copy Minecraft – but almost nobody talks about its gender ambiguity.
I mean we already have big names in industry like David Gaider promoting the importance of inclusion, Mark Rubin – the executive producer of Call of Duty (the iconic game of brodudes) recently announced they’ll be including female playable characters to recognize the female fanbase they already have around the same time that Ubisoft announced that making female characters in their next Assassin’s Creed game would be too much work.
The idea that an independent production is somehow going to overpower the influence of the mainstream media is, frankly, ridiculous (unless you’re Batman). None of that is to say there aren’t things like games or artworks out there that are made for political reasons or with such goals – but they’re made by people who want to make the things.
History has already shown that if you make a web comic just because you want to make lots of money off it – you’re going to be disappointed. Likewise if you make a web comic, animation or game just because you want the world to change their perceptions of other people. Usually even political projects are less about expecting to change people, and more about the need to express something important.
So to summarize the main points:
1. Not everyone who is critical of a market should be expected to produce for that market. Every modern marketplace needs more customers than suppliers so it makes sense to leave the production up to people with the motivation and skills to do so.
2. If 50% of the population can see themselves well represented by going to, say, a game store, but the other 50% have to spend years building a game for themselves – that is not equality.
Criticism in the marketplace is important, it leads to more pressure on the experts to make better products and refine their priorities.
Wow, that’s some fundamentally loaded question…
The premise of asking for ultimate criteria of gendered power fantasy is kinda flawed… First, there are VERY different facets of indulging in the male fantasy. Let’s make it clear: strong, overly-muscular men aren’t the only representation of male power fantasy, they’re just the most obvious one, cause they’re extending the stereotype of maleness to ridiculous degrees. They appeal to the deep-rooted societal notion that male = stronger, that’s why to make the character seem powerful the designers exaggerate the “manly” aspects of the him.
But when it comes to female characters, it gets complicated.
The thing is, our culture tends to view things almost exclusively from the (straight) male point of view. Men try to extrapolate their own experiences onto us and assume that how they feel is how we feel. That’s why conventional female “power fantasy” either emulates the male one (butch warrior woman) or (more often) assumes that female power comes from controlling sexual availability to men. That’s where the sexy femme fatale warrior stereotype comes from. Men imagine that the only area where women can be in total control is sex.
Going back to the male power fantasy, it’s important to realize how Buff Warrior Dude type basically comes down to eliminating the fear of ever being threatened by other men. Notice how Sexy Warrior Babe type, instead of eliminating the fear women have (of being overpowered, assaulted etc.), feeds onto the fear men have (of being rejected and/or sexually controlled by women). That’s why villainesses are very likely to be portrayed in most sexual characters.
This disingenuous female power archetype is the result of filtering everything through male perspective.
To create a genuine power fantasy, female point of view must be applied and male one must be deconstructed. We can’t latch onto the simplistic and hurtful notion that associates maleness with strength and femaleness with weakness.
I touched upon this recently, but the genre of magical girl narrative is one of the basic deconstructions of that: the powers, weapons and outfits of the heroines are usually designed to be as girly as possible, so that monsters are defeated not with the male-coded brute strength, but with sparkly magic beams from pink, heart-shaped rods and jewelry. Things associated with the “weak” part of femaleness stereotype become the source of their power.
That said, it does not mean that no female character ever can find their strength in being butch or sexual. Just that those female power stereotypes (especially the sexual one) have so far been framed in how men see them and thus, problematic.
Also, Sexy Warrior Babe type of character is vastly overused, so it’s really hard to to make it work without looking like you’re playing it straight. That’s one of the reasons this blog exists.
Big thanks to our dear friend ami-angelwings for helping me to put our collective female perspective on the subject to words.
(Disclaimer: wincenworks is a cishet male so can only give information from observation and received from women who have spoken about the issue)
Firstly, the story of a character who is so badass that they can run into fights with no protection and be assured of a victory without injury is a pretty boring story. There’s no tension or drama if the outcome is pre-ordained – even less so if it’s only pre-ordained to justify a costuming decision.
Secondly, the buff barbarian look isn’t about selling men a fantasy of being fit and attractive (Conan is traditionally not a pretty man, he often gets injured and he’s not above wearing armor) – it’s about recognized as physically powerful and coded as a great warrior and one who is above caring what regular think of them. Howard wrote about the appeal of this aspect at length in letters and at least one artist has already explored what Red Sonja might look like if she was given the same visual coding Conan is.
Bikini armor on fictional women doesn’t project this, because after decades of it’s being used for senseless titilation, for Ms Male Characters and damsels who are to be rescued by manly men. They’re not designed with the intention of anything done, or having other primary traits other than “sexy” by Male Gaze standards.
This leads to (in case you missed it, at the top of the post you’re replying to):
See female power fantasy characters are meant to reflect female fantasies and it turns out women are people. So their fantasies tend to be more complicated than “look sexy to the assumed straight male audience and be do something badass to justify my position as ‘strong’ character”.
Thus a female character is more likely to read as a female power fantasy characters if she looks more like:
- Chief Judge Hershey
- Tank Girl
- X-Men’s Storm, with mohawk
- Lady Sif, as she’s been featured on BABD
- nihilnovisubsole ‘s Saints Row boss, Rosie
That said, many characters who are wearing outfits that are not particularly power fantasy inducing have become female power fantasies to certain groups of women via particular traits, their personalities and their stories.
None of these function on the half-arsed justification of “I mean can’t a woman who is attractive and so skilled she can kill enemies without armor be a fantasy for women as well.“ They tend to be things more like “I’d like to treated with respect regardless of my body or how I dress, be feared by tough guys and able to smack them down if they threaten me.”
Most women, in my experience, are not really that adverse to the idea of having or wearing awesome armor which is why our “positive examples“ posts tend to get lots of love and we get awesome asks like this one from yondamoegi :
So in summary, the primary flaw with your argument is that women shouldn’t be expected to be for men’s benefit. The secondary flaw is that women actually aren’t expected to wear armor more than they are bikinis so have no reason to wish they could be free of armor.
On the topic of people defending bikini armor by saying that they’re distracting,
Does anyone really think about boobs when they’re in a place where their balls could be chopped off? Just asking, since I’m female and all.
I highly doubt it, but let’s ask the cishet male mod. So, wincenworks?
As a man who is attracted to women (which I think is the larger part of the issue), I would say the answer is: No.
I can say that with great certainty because I have:
- Attended numerous Dr Sketchy’s and similar art events where sexy models pose in very sexy outfits, and artists (many of them men) concentrate and draw them in short periods of time – somehow overcoming the distraction
- Been to at least one high speed car race where there were numerous cases of women flashing their breasts to the crowd and the racers – and not a single accident or near miss as a result
- Seen acrobats and aerial performer groups in titillating outfits perform stunts without getting distracted and injuring themselves
- Talked to multiple bouncers who have assured me that even when there is a performer doing a full blown strip show, it’s not that hard to keep your attention on your job
- Helped out a women’s self defence course (I was the fencing dummy) which covered a lot of techniques and tricks – not one of which involved using sexual traits for distraction.
It turns out, amazingly, that straight men as a group are capable of focus and basic self control when necessary! Shocking I know!
It’s also always baffling to me that the only “distractions” that supposedly generate this bonus are sexy bits on ladies. I mean, there are other things that’d keep me distracted with sheer puzzlement or shock for much longer.
Since there are apparently men who want to contradict this claim, making this argument with all seriousness – I’ve included five points to highlight just how stupid this claim is – beneath the cut.
1. You never see straight male gamers complaining about the sexy female opponents in fighting games
People get really excited about their video games and analyse them. They analyse them really well, especially when it comes to things that might effect their effectiveness – like when Age of Conan gave female characters slower animations.
Now, given AoC is a game with a lot of Player vs Player action, and one with plenty of female enemies is questionable attire – one would think that the predominantly male player base would have celebrated when Funcom reduced bust sizes. Nope, they rioted and demanded the big boobs come back!
I have never seen any noteworthy review, play guide or walkthrough warn that a particular opponent would be difficult due to THE DREADED DISTRACTION FACTOR. I have never seen anyone indicate that a female character is too powerful due to the distraction factor – even in games like Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive or Tekken where players need intense focus so they can make decisions instantly while fighting jiggling beauties in improbable costumes. Not one.
2. If distraction bonus actually applied, sexy armor mods would be self sabotage
Not only do audiences not complain about “distraction factor” getting in their way – they actively sabotage themselves. Visit NexusMods, search for “armor”: Even without enabling “adult content”, I guarantee you that you will come across multiple mods that are pitched entirely on their sex appeal.
Why oh why would any player sabotage themselves like this? If the sight of a perfect butt is so overwhelming it leads to a fatal mistakes, why would anyone set themselves up to be thwarted over and over?
3. Zero historical precedent
I hear the cries already, “But those are just video games – it’s different in real life!”. However, if history is to be believed – there is clearly no basis behind this.
Not a single army in modern times that allows women in combat has proposed capitalising on “distraction factor”. Military groups around the world have tried a lot of tricks to give them advantages over the enemy, none of them have deployed cleavage armor. As we’ve covered before, there is no shortage of female soldiers in history.
Spartans were quite accepting of homosexuality and the fiercest warriors in Ancient Greece – apparently their soldiers were never distracted by one another. Amazons were feared due to stories that they sacrificed a breast in order to shoot their bows better, not stories of hypnotic cleavage.
4. Nobody is that good looking
How would you even know if the people you’re fighting are going to be into you? Despite the constant pressure by modern society to force heterosexuality and a singular beauty standard – there are many people who’s tastes differ radically.
There are people who are primarily attracted by a particular build or physical trait. There are people who are not attracted to popular aesthetics at all.. There are people who are not attracted to women. There are people who are not really swayed by physical appearances and there are people who not attracted to anyone.
Even if you have a body that is attractive to 90% of your opponents, that still means one in ten opponents is going to be completely unhindered and have a massive advantage since your tactics hinge on this “distraction factor”.
5. Fights are messy and it only takes one mistake
Okay, you’re fighting away in a group against another group, hypno-boobs swaying seductively at all who approach from the front – someone stabs you from the side: Game over.
The guy who’s just not into you (see above) attacks from the front, blocking the view for another of his buddies: Game over.
It’s dark and so they can’t see your hypno-boobs: Game over.
Incoming burning oil, a magic fireball, incoming projectiles, rabid wolves and all manner of fantasy monsters are completely indifferent to hypno-boobs.
It is really a lot easier to die in a sword fight than most people give credit for, because there are so many viable targets (many take a while to kill you, but that’s of little comfort while you’re dying)
In summary: “It’d defend them by distracting the enemy…” is perhaps the worst possible defence anyone can bring to the table, ever. There is only one appropriate response to someone making this as a serious claim:
People talking about practical armor in Red Sonja dont seem to realize its practical for her. The world she lives in looks rather warm so wearing full armor would burn her up and sap her energy, not mention restrict her movements and agility. It would be impractical to have her in full armor given her environment and fighting style; just like when Spider-Man had that armored suit that slowed him down…it made it harder for him to fight
A metal bikini is not an armor, cause it serves no protection. It’s just an uncomfortable bikini.
If Sonja was supposed to wear something that doesn’t make her hot or restrict her movements, she’d go topless in some kind of loincloth, like Conan does.
Without going into complicated discussion of the character and the origin story, the reason the original Red Sonja (not the current incarnation) can fight in that bikini is “divine protection”* (related to “a wizard did it”) combined with near suicidal recklessness.
The reason she doesn’t wear regular clothes is… the costume was designed in the 70s, became iconic and until recently people kept choosing nostalgia over making sense.
* Doesn’t it seem kind of sexist that the female rival to Conan needed divine magic to be his equal? Yes. Yes it does.