When it comes to the issue of women’s rights, I am easily bothered. Perhaps because all my heroes have cared deeply for the issue, I always take into account how any work treats women. As a gamer, it places me in an interesting position because the videogame industry is often guilty of sexualizing everything from violence to entertainment, and that too out of context. So, before buying a game, I make sure its trailers don’t imply that it is insulting to women and, when it comes to Hitman: Absolution, it is insulting indeed.
The trailer I’m referring to, titled “Attack of the Saints,” is an early Hitman: Absolution promotional video that showcases our protagonist brutalizing several assassins sent to kill him. The assassins are all females dressed as nuns donning habits and necklaces bearing the cross. Then, before they approach their target, the assassins disrobe their habits to reveal PVC and latex costumes. The women continue to don their religious headgear while their noses are broken, necks are strangled and chests are shot.
It’s not to say that I am against violence in videogames, and I certainly don’t discriminate based on the gender of the pixels I attack. Much of my childhood was spent playing Mortal Kombat, which really is as violent a videogame as they come, and it does not change anything from gender to gender. Also, one of my favorite games is the original True Crime, where you actively beat up women in a quest for peace in Los Angeles.
The violence in these games, however, is not based on gender. A punch to the face, for example, is gender-neutral and fair game within a game. Compare that with Duke Nukem Forever, where the violence against women is gender-specific. Nude women will be found in caves attached to gigantic symbols of phallic flesh. You will then be required to beat them to death using your fists or the butt end of your rifle.
The doors to the level will be shaped like labia that you will penetrate (spouting a vulgar remark each time) to open. The decapitated breasts of the women will be on the walls for you to slap and get a health boost (a recommended activity in the game’s hints section). You will target the chest of a three-breasted alien called the “Queen B****.” Now tell me about the context.
In Hitman, the violence never particularly targets female body parts but it is still isn’t done in a gender-neutral manner. The trailer repeatedly focuses on the highly sensuous body parts of the female anatomy, such as the cleavage, thighs and buttocks. That, combined with the fact that the women are dressed in clothes designed for sexual activity, gives the terrifying impression that the developer sees congruence in violence and sexuality when latex-clad women are involved.
Certainly, these clothes are contextually inappropriate because I refuse to believe any assassin would pack a bazooka but head out to battle dressed so scantily, yet that is the popular trend in videogames, is it not?
The other issue here is the juxtaposition of a nun’s habit with a PVC costume. These clothes reflect such opposing ideologies that both sides would be offended by this combination. Be it the woman donning the habit or the latex, both were insulted here because the former’s conviction to her faith was mocked while the latter’s right to not have men harbor abuse fantasies about her was disregarded.
Just as it is a woman’s right to partake in latex fetishism without being judged, so is it her right to take up the habit without being judged. People often forget the “without being judged” part but that is because they are self-righteous, intolerant hypocrites.
If this was the creator’s attempt to somehow satirize hypocrisy, it should have been done more sensitively. As it stands, the game has effectively mocked both the nuns that have a right to dress modestly and the ladies that have a right to not have their abuse sexualized simply because of their fetishes.
My heightened sensitivity to this issue also owes itself to an ingrained fear that too many gamers have no problem with gender-specific violence in their games. When I had written about a similar issue a few weeks ago, the comments for my news link on n4g included the following:
- I'm started to think the majority of male gamers are gay now....
- Maybe he is trying to look good to his feminist girlfriend….
- Yeah, I'm over these pansies. What happened to men? They shave their chests and wear skinny jeans. Why would a man boycott a game like DN?
- …this guy needs to get back in the kitchen where he belongs.
- What a fag.
- Shut up feminists, gosh.
- …modern day feminists are pretentious, self righteous busybodies who capitalize on minutia and create problems, rather than solve them.
- …where the hell do all these nutty liberals come from?
And this really is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how women are often treated and portrayed in this industry. In the past, gamers have verbally abused a woman for admitting to be a lesbian online (after which she was banned from the service), a female professional gamer was forced to forfeit a tournament because of sexual harassment so obvious it was actually caught on tape, and a game was built around the concept of raping underage schoolgirls.
Even the less extreme examples, such as the massively popular Mass Effect 2, cannot resist from focusing on Yvonne Strahovski’s backside during conversations, meaning that there just isn’t the kind of discourse on this matter that there needs to be.
Luckily, however, women are now increasingly involved in both the consumption and production of videogames, so this trend may change; it’s just a little disheartening that it takes that much of a paradigm shift for developers to realize you aren’t supposed to insult an entire gender.