Warning: Imma 'bout to rant.
First off I'd like to point out that I'm not a raving feminist. I acknowledge that women are not equal in western society (despite corporate efforts that seem to be more about statements and false enthusiasm on the subject rather than actually taking women seriously) and I don't think we will be equal for a long time, if ever. Just how it is. Unfortunate (from the perspective of a woman), but just how it is.
ANYWAY. Here's my rant. I'm really tired of a female character being undermined by her being half nude. Really, really tired of it. And I'm not talking about artistic nudity, I'm talking about ass-cheek flashing skirts, bikini tops and little else (I'm looking at you, Japan).
I love a strong female lead, but they're so rare. Writers find it so hard to create a complex female character; they're either so brave and outspoken that they become butch and unattractive by design, or they're a sex object. A hopeless damsel in distress or someone who can hold their own until a man comes along and is inevitably better than her at everything bar looking good in a tiny dress.
Let's take Kaine as an example, from videogame Nier. She's totally badass, until she turns around, and then she's just all ass: static.giantbomb.com/uploads/o…
She transforms from being an actual person with actual feelings, to a sex object in the time it takes for her to turn around. Personally, I find it insulting. Whether we realise it or not, this image is brainwashing both women and men into thinking that this is all we're worth. We don't have feelings or brains, we're all tits and ass.
I understand that comic book and videogame companies are targeting their prime audience: men. And men want something to look at. It's understandable, I'm not criticising. But I feel it's sending the wrong message.
Of course there's nothing wrong with having a sexual and powerful character, but I'd love to see more female designs that aren't defined by their sexuality. I'd like a character to be respected for their battle prowess and/or personality, and for their attractiveness to be a bonus (I feel the Final Fantasy girls almost hit that mark).
I write this because of a recent picture that made front page. I shan't link it. But it basically depicted an Amazonia tribe amidst 'war'. It would've been cool except that all the women's 'armour' consisted of thongs, skimpy straps and bikini tops with the occasional helm and javelin thrown in for health and safety. I feel like the idea of this strong society of warrior women was completely undermined by the artist depicting them as sex objects. It's such a shame… and worse still, it's ACCEPTED.
It's difficult to find any fictional character that's worthy of being a role model, at least in terms of dress. Perhaps because a strong woman with clothes on is either too boring for a man, or makes them feel uncomfortable?
I'd like to see more characters like Anya, from Gears of War.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Heather from Silent Hill 3
Faith Connor's from Mirror's Edge
Perhaps even Black Widow, from the Avengers, to a certain extent.
Now, I'm not bashing men. I'm not saying that men are purely driven by sexual desire and have no interest in women beyond physical attraction. That's not it. I totally get that men want something to look at. (And we certainly don't help ourselves with Playboy etc.) I'm blaming the media and uncreative, lazy writing and that the bottom line is, well, sex sells.
I suppose I can't get mad at these primarily male writers/designers/illustrators, but it would be nice to be shown some semblance of respect and acknowledgement to the fact that we are more than just sex objects and not EVERY design has be all tits and ass. Just saiyan.
I'm sure an onslaught of people will disagree with me, but I'd be interested to hear your opinion, especially if you're a man! Please do share
- Mood: Irritated
- Listening to: Marina and the Diamonds
- Reading: ShadowHeart, by Tad Williams
- Watching: Mob Wives
- Playing: Ni No Kuni
First off, it's okay to be a feminist. It's okay to rave, or rage, or whatever. Feminism gets a bad rap but in general it's a good thing (it got us the vote and financial independence, etc.) and you're pretty much espousing a feminist view and that's fine and nothing to be ashamed of. You're tired of seeing women sexualized, and indirectly you're also saying you'd like to see women portrayed the way men are-- strong, confident, and badass-- and just as well dressed.
Second, you keep apologizing and claiming not to be critical when, in fact, you are. I'm pointing that out because it's okay to criticize the industry, it is not required that you kowtow to something if you disagree with it. Don't simper, don't waver, be that strong character you admire. Don't say 'I hate this, it's wrong, but I don't want to criticize' when in fact you DO hate it, you DO feel it's wrong, and saying so IS a form of criticism. And that's fine. More women should criticize this kind of artistic choice because if a lot of women do speak up there's a chance it will get changed.
Which brings me to my next point: As for things being how they are and it is what it is-- that's bullshit. You listed several characters who aren't mined for their sex appeal so it's clear that that this is something that is possible and has precedent. Why not demand better?
I personally love drawing female characters who are dressed because the clothing is a fun challenge to draw, but that's just me.
So in the end, I don't disagree with you but I'm guessing that since you first posted this you've become more strong and confident as a person, and an artist, and that if you were to rewrite this you'd do it like a boss.
But now, I have a problem: I wanted to try some sexy drawing, sooner or later. I like sexy images when ... well, when I like them! I mean, I have my own taste, and I trust it because I think it's really good taste. I use to write fanfictions in Italian, and often I write sexy scenes that are so erotic I haven't try to submit them here because I'm afraid they may be too explicit for dA (in case you don't know it, they are very strict about writings, no strict at all about images, only God knows why). They are in Italian, and I post them on an Italian site, where my readers (mostly females) use to tell me "read it all with a smile on my face", "so hot but no vulgarity at all": which means I can write these things with a total respect for my own sex (and for males, btw). Is it possible to draw a sexy image of a girl (let's say, the character of an anime) without falling into this outrageus stream we can see everywhere? Any answer would be appreciated.
One female warrior that I love is Wonder Woman. But when they talk about her armor, I think to myself 'What armor? She wears bracers, a one piece suit, form fitting outfit, boots, and I think what could be called a crown.' Granted her 'armor' is imbued with enchantments, but it still looks like a glorified swimming suit to me. Hawk Girl, on the other hand, did wear armor, and when she wasn't wearing armor, would fight in regular street clothes and aside from her wings, looked like a normal human.
Every now and then a few days I get a kinda depressive mood that I just can't shake-- where every where I look there is sexualization and woman 'images' used as sex objects and... I just can't get away from it. It's on TV, book covers, art ect... everywhere. I love scifi and fantasy themes stories and movies... but there is little room for the idea of a women to be much more then a sex object, even if there have a strong character they are presented and well more then not held back as a sex object. It's hard to find a game or a comicbook where the women.. aren't tits and ass in some way...
It's a relief to hear someone speak out on it... Thank you for this journal and you thought on this. It's really is too bad how harsh the feminist movement is taken and well 'acts' becouse this here is somthing they target and talk about a lot, and want to change and improve. Some times too extreme but yeah it's an issue. I like sexy art.. and understand male interests.. and I know sex sells but I truly believe and feel I have seen it as harmful to men and women by doing this 'all' the time-- it make less of the media/show ect, degrades it and harms the opinion of sex and females and men over all. I grew up for a time feeling very affected by these images and seen young men also be so-- I thought the sexed up purpose for females and images was... what women were only good for and what we were. I've seen young men growing up very disconnected with any idea of what/who women are, ideals of beauty and well, even sex.
How can 'sex' do anyone any good by having thrown in your face all the time?! Let alone making one gender be so sexualized that being a women makes you a sex object and are judged on worth by how much you fit into that?
I dated a guy last year who told me he only liked sexy female characters. He would gawk at the hot Bayonetta cosplayers and played Lollipop Chainsaw and he always talked about how sexy they were. I just thought, God, is that what we've come to? :/ Someone needs to make a small-breasted main female character in a great game. See how people like that.
And about the picture you saw on the homepage, I agree at how aggrivating that is; that's why I love Skyrim. All the aromor isn't typical girl armor like loincloths and metal bras. It's full body armor and at some points you can't even tell the gender by looking at them in the armor.
I think it's sending the wrong image to children, honestly. How many kids movies do you see these days with a romancey scene and how many in them show a head-over-heels girl or something? I don't know. That's not the same argument. I'm just tired of the image women have in society.
I hear you. I remember reading a letter to the 'Dear Abby' column from a 13 year old girl who pretty much was saying that she was worried that none of the guys in her school could keep up or meet her sex drive! The fuck?! You are thirteen fucking years old! If you are already of thinking like that by that age, I don't want to know....
One of the main problems with society is how we indoctrinate kids from a young age that this drama is normal and your adult will be easy- from a steady high paying job that you are rarely at to the kegger and getting laid. That life after high school isn't hard and that you have no responsibilities whatsoever. If they actually showed how much adult life is like for the normal and not so rich and well off, they would reconsider, buckle down and study so that they could succeed.
Life is based anymore off of the rare, fairy tale like qualities that make up most television and kid shows and movies these days. Every girl wants to be a princess, but they don;t want to work for it. Guys want to couple with someone who takes care of them and works hard so they don't have to. Or they think that the thug life is the way to go. I don't know which is worse.
THe other problem is that we coddle our kids too much. Seriously, in the last five weeks of public school in my city, the kids have had only one full week of school and there are people out there who think this is a great thing because those full weeks are so hard on the kids. I looked at this one lady and asked her what kids were doing from 1939-1945. She looked at me confused. I told her that back then, most kids ten and over were helping with the war movement- working in factories and helping their mother with their younger brothers and sisters. And before that kids would start working to help their parents support the family as young as the age of eight. It wasn't until after WWII that we felt children should be entitled to play and have rights. That innocence must be preserved at any cost. And ever since then, things have taken a turn south.
Maybe if we started having kids watch Game of Thrones are telling them how the real Fairy Tales ended, they would change their outlook on life and grow up maturely and correctly. Maybe if parents would take responsibility for their actions and if punishing kids wasn't against the law, things would be so much better.
I've made extensive efforts in my writing to NOT let my female characters be sexual in nature, unless there's a reason for it (I can think of three characters I have in two different stories who are sexual, two in their design and two in how they behave). I've tried very hard to try and adapt what I know about writing guys to make it into writing girls. It's not the easiest thing, either, because unlike with a guy, I'm going to get a lot more criticism for making a small mistake.
And like you said, making a female with no weaknesses at all also isn't fun. With a guy, I can let weaknesses come naturally to the writing (and they always do). With a girl, I have to intentionally define those weaknesses ahead of time and then be sure to include them in my writing. It's a bit frustrating how much one has to do in writing to get a strong, appropriate female character compared to a male character. This is partially from the severe lack of female characters that aren't damsels in distress or eye candy, and partially from how our society acts: we have it in our minds that writing a strong female character can only be done in certain ways which, in turn, creates a lot of limitations and makes it a LOT harder to write more strong female characters.
I think what bothers me about the lack of strong female characters isn't the lack of them itself, but rather the way we, as a society, look at things due to the lack. There are lots of different ways to write a good male character, but there's a severe limitation when it comes to females I think, even for female writers. As a male or female writer, if a female character has certain things written, it's automatically not considered a strong character. This leads to a lot of fear for writing female characters, unless it's an environment where most of the characters are female (MLP: FIM comes to mind. Some characters are weaker than others, but because it focuses on female characters you're more likely to excuse the weaker characters and, over time, appreciate them and find they're stronger than you initially thought).
The odd thing, for me, is that I don't notice a difference in how girls talk with girls in comparison to how they talk with me. I'm around ladies who aren't family every Friday. I see how they talk with each other, I see how they talk with me. It's the exact same. Are the girls I'm talking with very masculine (Doubtful, some of them are VERY girly), or am I really missing something?
Actually, lemme link something.
This summarizes the problem. Here's a scene I wrote between three female characters. I wrote and rewrote the dialogue over and over to make each line feel like it spoke to how the character behaved. However, I still had a female friend say "This dialogue is what a guy thinks girls talk like" simply because of how a single character spoke (which is actually a part of her character. You'll know what I mean if you read it), but when I asked for clarification on what exactly was the problem and how I could fix it, I couldn't get an answer. It's like being told "You're wrong, but I don't know how you're wrong."
This aspect also causes a lot of fear in male writers for dealing with female characters, and sadly in mass media (video games, movies, etc) you'll find more male writers than females. As a result, female characters get shunted to one side. I think if this didn't exist as a problem, if writers could be more experimenting with female characters, it could eventually develop how to write female characters. I feel as though I've gotten a lot better simply because I've been doing a LOT of work with female-led stories as a means of helping me understand. The more I do it and get feedback, the better I get. Your mass media writers can't do this, because if they slip up on a female character then whatever movie, game, etc. that they wrote suddenly becomes hated and a flop. Unless, of course, the female was done as a sex object.
There is one other level to it, I think, when it comes to mass media: who will be interested? In comics, video games, and movies, you always have something like 75-80% male characters to 20-25% female even though in reality it's 50/50. Why? Because both males and females will enjoy stories about male characters, even if they don't like how female characters are portrayed. However, the same can't be said for stories about female characters. A lot of males don't WANT to see stories about female characters, and as a result female characters also have another thing standing against them: viewership.
Also, forgot to bring it up before, but you had brought up Japan... Japan is a VERY sexist country. Like, immensely so. It's heavily ingrained into their society, so much so that they don't even know it. You see it done in Japanese media, both in what's made for guys and for girls (In stuff written for guys, the male characters are always stronger and feel like they need to protect female characters. That anime trope of a taller guy hugging a female is what defines this. That sort of scene is ALWAYS done when the guy is trying to protect the girl he likes. On the flipside, in stuff written for girls, the girl is suppose to be attracted to some guy and everything about her life is about that guy. Yes, you get exceptions from this, but that's just it. They're exceptions).
But I think what defines it the most, for me, is how dating in Japan goes. I don't know if this is the same in the UK, I'd imagine it is based on what I've seen in British media that's come overseas, but in Canada and the US, it's the guy who asks the girl out. The guy has to put himself out there, risk being embarrassed, to get anything going. All the girl has to do is say yes or no, and from there it depends on how things play out. Then in the relationship, the man has to jump the hoops while the girl just costs along. Of course, this alludes to a male-dominating attitude that exists here. The man puts himself out there, but he's also the one who "does everything." But this isn't the same in Japan. In Japan, it's the GIRL who asks the guy out. The girl has to put herself out there and risk embarrassment and all the guy has to do is say yes or no. In a lot of cases, the guy doesn't have to do much at all while it's the girl who runs the hoops. You'd think this would mean it's be female dominated, but no. She does all the work, but at the end of the day he's still top dog. He's the breadmaker while she's still the housewife.
Hell, I've seen this distortion of it apply when it comes to BREAKING UP! Since it's the guy who puts himself out there, usually it's the girl who will break up with the guy. Maybe she didn't like things she didn't know before they got together, maybe she realized she didn't like him after all. This isn't to say guys don't break up with girls, because it happens. In Japan, as far as I've seen, it's the guys who usually break up. I even have a Japanese friend, female of course, who has had three or four boyfriends. She's never once broken up with them, even when she wanted to. When she wanted to, she'd, quite literally, go to her boyfriend and say "I want you to break up with me." In other words, she wouldn't end it on her own, she wanted her boyfriend to do so.
This is how sexist Japan is. It's a society where, in relationships, the girl does everything but the guy is still considered top dog, and it's thought to be normal there.
As a girl, I would never want my boyfriend jumping through hoops for me! It's only really douchey girls who do that. I dont' expect to have anything paid for me, I don't wait for him to call me first etc. etc. I think Britain is slowly breaking away from that mentality. However, it is still a long dated tradition that the male asks out the female. Similar to the male proposing. To have a female propose to a male is demasculating (according to my friends! I also don't think that's a word but you know what I mean haha).
I think GRRM (who has churned out, in my humble opinion, some of the best female characters ever to grace page and screen) summed up my feelings towards writing female leads during an interview:
Interviewer: There's one thing that's interesting about your books. I noticed that you write women really well and really different. Where does that come from?
George R.R. Martin: You know, I've always considered women to be people.
And in another interview:
So how does he get inside the head of, say, his teenage characters? 'Yes, you're right I've never been an eight year old girl,' he says, 'but I've also never been an exiled princess, or a dwarf or bastard. What I have been is human. I just write human characters.'
I believe that's the key to writing believable characters. Strip away their sex when creating them then add it later and embellish it as necessary (eg speech flourishes). If you lean too heavily on the sex then they will warp into the social-media, stereotyped mannequins that make lame, forgettable characters. That's my opinion anyway
I happen to know a few Japanese ladies who have decent office jobs. It's rare, but it happens. Much like in North America, there are a lot of female teachers as well.
Emasculating is the term, and some people do think this. It's rather sad, really. All I say about it is "grow up and get with the times." There's no reason everything should be on a single gender, because that's when we create gender roles and inequality. Destroy them at the most base levels of society, and it'll eventually work its way up.
When it comes to jumping through hoops for a lady, I'm iffy on it. If she's someone whom I respect and who gives me respect, then I don't mind jumping through hoops since she's likely doing so for me as well. Those are the ladies I don't mind paying for on a date (Even if they refuse), because I know at some future point they'll do something to keep things balanced.
So yeah, sex sells, but objectification of women? I'm not buying it!
The maybe worst pattern about damsels in distress is that some way or another, they always have to end up linked to a man. Desperately in love, married, having his child, doing what they ought to do only because of him. Like a woman without a man had no purpose in life, which doesn't always happen to male characters. An example: Frodo, Gimli and Legolas didn't fall in love with any woman, they were lone heroes. But Arwen, Eowyn and even Galadriel for that matter, did not have the chance to become lone heroines: they had to fall in love and marry a man. Don't misunderstand, I love Tolkien, he is a genious. But here we can see a pattern that repeats itself so many times in so many novels. There is never an Artemisa, who survives alone till the end of her days. Or even an Aphrodita, who has different lovers. But then again, in male characters, it is completely acceptable to find this kind of behaviour.
About the female characters who are unreallistic, too strong, etc. etc. I agree. And I never found comfort on liking a female character who was perfect till her boots, because it didn't look real.
But strong warrior female characters can be realistic and they don't have to be perfect. In fact, they are not meant to be exceptionally beautiful or to catch the eyes of all men.
A female strong warrior who is brave, skilled, beautiful, perfect, eventually bores you. But a female character who is a warrior, who dresses more like a man than a woman, who is a little too wild or a little too insecure, who is not even so beautiful or has to hide her beauty, who has to fight in order to: protect her father(Mulan)/Kingdom(Eowyn)/Sister(Katniss Everdeen)/ avenge her family(Arya Stark)/save her empire(Youko(Twelve Kingdoms))/escape(Babydoll(Suckerpuch)). Those are the female characters who steal your heart, because they have a real development, and because they break that image of "perfect, beautiful damsel, following the steps she is told to follow".
I agree with you on what you say that all this females we see as warrior in movies, games, comics, etc. are more meant to be sexual icons than real heroines.
When I play a videogame and I choose the male character he is completely covered by armour. When I choose the female character she has some ridiculous bikini on, which of course shows more than what it should. I mean, how does she even fight like that?
An example: I liked Sucker Punch, even though many people hated it. I found an amazingly developed character in Baby Doll. She was crazy, schizophrenic, weak: A Damsel in Distress. Then, thanks to her own schizofrenia, she becomes a warrior. In the end she sacrifices herself for another girl, she is lost forever, trapped in her own world of schizofrenia. She is happy, being mad. One thing I didn't like about the whole movie: the costumes and the sexualization they made around the characters didn't allow people to understand the complexity of the characters. The strong sexualization around Baby and the other girls had a specific reason: they were whores, which meant they were constantly harassed, forced to dress with less clothes and seen as sexual objects: thus, sexualization, even in Baby's sick mind, could not be avoided.
The problem was that the audience foccused too much in the sexual visual form of the character, they left completely aside the fact of her own psichologic development.
My own interpretation would be that many creators, both male and female, lack the imagination/determination/insight to see beyond the conceit which is, regrettably, still pervasive in media education that 'sex sells'.
The most visited image in my gallery here on dA is Femme Fatal my tribute to the Philip Marlowe/Sam Spade era which comes in for much derision as being 'sexist' even though it is in the parody of these stories that the women have become efemeral.
Neither Lauren Bacall nor Mary Astor could be described thusly in their respective roles.
A 'sexy' character, male or female, may sell in the short term, but a well defined, complex, character lasts and they are the ones I enjoy and recommend to others.
I have a problem when the nudity becomes gratuitous with over exaggerated features and accessories... the link you have definitely crosses the line >.< I hate seeing female characters being defined by their sexuality also, and it's annoying when they become popular because of that fact.
I'm playing the female Shepherd in Mass Effect atm and I think she's a really strong character in game But even then promo pics have her with makeup on during battle and that's kinda eye-roll worthy.
As a new generation of illustrators and designers, we gotta challenge the sexism and racism and other bad stuff in society! Weave it in there into everything you make...normalize better behaviours, talk about it~
I am about to do a line of tshirt designs on redbubble with all of my favorite badass women from books and movies. So far, I've got quotes picked for Buffy, Veronica Mars, Hermione, Gemma Doyle (a Great and Terrible Beauty), Tessa and Clary (Clockwork Prince/Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare), and Katniss. If you haven't read all of those books, I recommend you do, because they are some incredibly inspirational lead females I am making this collection of shirts for all those girls (and women) out there who need the reminder that women can be brave, badass, and beautiful.
Anyway, sorry, hit me up, and i'll totally let you know when they go up they're gonna be a labour of love <3
Thanks for writing that, this is a thing that I also really dislike but I just can't find the words to express myself fluently. As if more clothes would change the character or make it less interesting.
But, in general, I agree with you, especially in relation to Kaine. (You should play through a second time, Neir is awesome for replay story.)
Don't get me wrong, I love eye candy, but there's a difference between occasional fanservice and blatant sexualization. A lot of the books that I read tend to break this stereotype, though. Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth has a lot of strong, independent and beautiful female characters. Margret Weis and Tracy Hickman also make some strong female characters.
And not in the "feministic" fashion so many people fear. I believe in strong women and girls who make a difference because of who they are and how they earn the respect of those around them.
Together, we can make a difference!!! Thank you for speaking out on this as well!!!
Good luck getting published! It's a tough old world
Thank you for the well wishes on my writing. I know it's a very tough trade, but I believe I will make it. My heart is in all I do.
I think Nintendo hadn't been such an ass in this case; well, Zelda and Peach are both usually damsels in distress, but at least they have all the proper clothes on. And Zelda is sometimes kinda badass.
And now I think about those incredibly stupid metal strings you sometimes see on female characters... How can you even wear them?!?
Also, its nice to see there are some men out there that agree!