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Alexa Petersen | Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist

Video game violence

Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 12:02

The U.S.government has gun control on the mind. Following the devastating massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Barack Obama has launched an effort to address gun control. The initiative, spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden, has also begun to address additional purported causes of Sandy Hook, including mental health issues and video game violence.

The argument here states that video games are harmful to young people because of their promotion of indiscriminant violence. But there’s another reason why video games can be really harmful to young people, bolstering an already strong argument against the games. And it shouldn’t be ignored. They promote absolutely abominable images and stereotypes of women.

When researching this topic, what I found disturbed me. Women wearing fewer clothes than an average bikini and trying to fight men in full armor who are three times their size. Women “warriors” who are really just tough-looking ballet dancers, only able to lightly and gracefully kick an opponent with a perfectly pointed foot and often lose to their more formidable opponents. Women who aren’t even playable characters, simply there to walk around in the game and look sexually desirable.

There are a couple of stereotypes that appear many times over. The first is the “damsel in distress” character: the woman who is meant to be saved by the large and ill-proportioned male hero. Princess Peach from the Mario franchise is one of these characters. She is described as soft-spoken, is often not a powerful fighter, and is generally being saved in some capacity. Princess Zelda, from the Legend of Zelda franchise, is quite similar. No descriptions of her leave out that she “almost always gets kidnapped” and “almost always needs to be saved.”
The second stereotype is a more physical one. Female characters with absurdly small costumes and absurdly strange body proportions that mirror no female that we’ve ever seen in real life. Lara Croft, of the Tomb Raider franchise, has blogs written about her breasts. Many blogs. Utterly pitiful commentators spend copious amounts of time referencing the growth of her breast size as a proportion of the growth in the popularity of the franchise. Ivy Valentine, a character from Soul Calibur, has such large breasts that each breast individually is larger than her head. Her head. This is no joke. Kaileena, a character from Prince of Persia, is a “warrior” who fights other men in no less than a piece of cloth and a large belt. The cloth leaves very little to the imagination and is simply a preposterous piece of clothing for someone who is doing any kind of physical activity. Countless female characters fall under this scantily clad category. For those that wear armor, it often does not cover or protect any vital organs, or anything else worth protecting. Armor is on their body to look sexually appealing, while the men with the real armor do the real killing — a statement that purposefully bleeds with more than a little irony.

There are countless more concerning stereotypes to discuss. The bottom line is video games often (not always, but often) portray women as in need of male salvation, sexual objects that have mostly useless other skills and characters that must be in the shadow of their strong and burly male counterparts. It’s not hard to see the damage this can have on the predominantly young boy viewership. If we are assuming in public discourse that images of video-game violence lead to real-life violence, it follows that images of sexual objectification cannot be too far off from instances of sexual misconduct or assault.

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Alexa Petersen is a senior majoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She can be reached at Alexa.Petersen@tufts.edu.

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