Issues of Gender

To what degree are female characters of video games treated with sexism?
David John Vandepeer

• Compared to male characters, females were more likely to be represented in a hypersexual way: being partially nude, featured with an unrealistic body image and shown wearing sexually revealing clothing and inappropriate attire. (Mou, Peng: 2009, 924)

Gender Signifiers
• “When it comes to signifying a character’s gender and also their sexual orientation, designers can dig into a big library of signs to do so. In most cultures clothing is gendered, hair cuts are gendered, there are clear expectations of what a male or female body looks like, even going as far as common expectations what role a person of each respective gender should play in a society. In short, gender signifiers come in two forms: • - artefacts of gender norms and stereotypes • - or simply displays of male or female body parts.” (Anhut: 2012)

Overly Sexualized Characters
Original Lara Croft Ivy Valentine Bayonetta

Lara Croft from the 1996 “Tomb raider” was criticised for breast size. Games such as “Soul Calibur” were met with controversy for depicting big busted women (Ivy Valentine) with “jiggle physics”.

“Bayonetta” notably for its plot necessitated nakedness of its female protagonist.

Lara Phenomenon
• “Nowadays quite a few video games have women in leading parts: Tomb Raiders Lara Croft is the prototypical example. In our study we tried to ascertain the existence of a socalled “Lara Phenomenon,” that is, the appearance of a tough and competent female character in a dominant position.” (Jansz & Martis: 1980, 141-142)

Dominant Female Characters
2013 Lara Croft Female Sheppard Anya Stroud

(From Left to Right) The New Lara Croft of “Tomb Raider Survival”. The Female Sheppard from “Mass Effect 3” and Anya from “Gears of War 3”. The Mass Effect image is notably depicted the exact same way for the male opposite.

• One could say that game characters have to be visually stimulating in some way shape or form. However this is not to say that a battle ready female character should be wearing heels in a fight or wearing armour that provides no actual protection just to provide sex appeal.

• One could argue that this is simply a case of players wanting to have what they consider to be the best looking avatar for an “ideal” gender. This could therefore be a by product of our culture – telling us that true female beauty is in anorexia and plastic surgery and that true male dominance is in strength and physique.

Issues of Gender - To what degree are female characters of video games treated with sexism?
• C1 – “Mario and the Damsel - Gender Stereotypes from early video games” • C2 – “The sexualized Bayonetta - Japanese Sexism present in modern day video games" • C3 – “The Lara Phenomenon – empowering female games characters”

Illustration List
• Original Lara Croft (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 26/02/13) Ivy Valentine (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 26/02/13) Bayonetta (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 26/02/13) 2013 Lara Croft (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 26/02/13) Female Sheppard (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 26/02/13) Anya Stroud (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 26/02/13) Lara Croft Comparison (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 26/02/13) •

• Mou, Yi & Peng, Wei. (2009) Gender and Racial Stereotypes in Popular Video Games At: (Accessed on: 26/02/13) • Anjin, Anhut. (2012) Significant Other – Gender Signifiers in Video Games At: (Accessed on: 26/02/13) • Jansz, Jeroen & Martis, Raynel. (2005) The Lara Phenomenon: Powerful Female Characters in Video Games At: (Accessed on: 26/02/13)

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