Written in Ink
Written in Ink

Video Games, Feminism, and Selective Outrage

There has been a recent trend in video games lately where people are getting tired of how women are portrayed. The only problem I have with that is people choose to be offended by.

Up to and following the release, Dragon's Crown was the most talked about game because of its artstyle. People really took offense because of the perceived misogyny. Outrage was the norm.


Then GTA 5 came close to its release. "Holy shit!" I thought to myself. "They have been ripping into games like it's nothing. I can't wait to see the reviews/outrage from this." There was some outrage (from Jezebel of all places.), but not much. Mostly it was glowing praise. There was this from Polygon's review:

I counted roughly (and generously) six semi-important female characters in the game, maybe a couple more if I include the occasional quest giver or victim of theft. None are playable. All but one are shrill buzzkills; the latter has Stockholm syndrome. And the two grisliest murders in the game happen to women. One side story involves the persistent and unsettling harassment of an absent female character, the purpose of which is to show the cruelty of Trevor, but which goes upsettingly far beyond what feels necessary to the story.

While most of Grand Theft Auto 5 feels like an evolution of the blockbuster video game, its treatment of women is a relic from the current generation, which is too often fixated on bald men and big breasts. In terms of landscape and architecture, San Andreas is the most realistic virtual world I've visited, but the population is aggressively, comically, distractingly male. I cannot think of any piece of media more fascinated with the male phallus.

The size and the use of the penis is discussed with fervor and frequency. By the time I literally tattooed a turgid member onto a man's chest, I could hear David Mamet groaning from whatever bridge he currently lives under. Other moments are even more egregious in subverting the game's comic, winky tone, taking Grand Theft Auto in disturbing, uncomfortable directions. One scenario asks the player to swap between slowly torturing one Middle Eastern man and racially profiling another.

The script plays it for laughs. I felt nauseated.

The game still got a 9.5/10. (I won't get into how the black guy is portrayed because I see no one cares about PoC in video games.)


Where was the outrage? Why does this game get a pass? It has zero women lead characters. Maybe an editor at Polygon can help me out with that:

Illustration for article titled Video Games, Feminism, and Selective Outrage

There you go. It's only kinda bad when women aren't there. If you're there to get ogled at, that's where you need to draw the line.

Why is it people get upset about women not being hired but nothing is said when Polygon hires a man for an editor position. Rock, Paper, Shotgun loves to talk about gender inequality, even though they have all men on their staff. They had the perfect opportunity to practice what they preached but decided to become hypocrites instead.


So check this out video game websites. I think it's time for some consistency. You can't be a feminist four days out the week. You have to be all in or start doing reviews over at Reddit. If you want us to start believing that you are taking feminism seriously, then you need to actually start taking it seriously.

ETA: Changed final paragraph. Thanks croguesburg!

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