A Response To The Latest Feminist Frequency Tropes Video: “Strategic Butt Coverings”

I began to follow ‘Feminist Frequency’ around just over a year ago, when I was still in the games Industry and I decided I wanted to know more about “Gamergate” and what it actually was. It felt like a detached argument from the game development bubble I was in, but I felt it important to keep up to date with the media’s perception of the industry I was a part of.

First off, I want to make it clear I think it’s vital that there are organisations out there like Feminist Frequency that bring inequality issues to light. Without going into details I will say I’ve experienced sexist remarks at work from a minority of individuals (we’re talking maybe 2% of everyone I’ve ever worked with). I’ve felt that glass ceiling where I’ve been paid less and done the same amount of quality work as male counterparts.  These are real issues that need addressing, but they need doing so in the right way, and whilst I admire the courage and attitude of movements like Feminist Frequency, changing perceptions is not helped when they make reference to outdated materials.

Let me break this down and be more specific. In the latest video tropes FF have released, the presenter Anita Sarkeesian has done much due diligence researching the different portrayal of women VS men protagonists in games, and how this ultimately reflects on whether we are able to relate to them.

 Here’s my issue – this is a history lesson. How relevant is using examples from eight, fifteen, twenty years ago? Its takes away relevancy in today’s gaming community. The gaming industry is a fast moving beast, as well as still being in its infancy compared to other media forms. Take a three decade industry and compare it to a sixty year television industry. Using Tomb Raider from 1996 as an example to back up woman portrayal in games today, is equivalent to going halfway back through the TV Industry and saying Farrah Fawcett in ‘The Charlies Angels’ isn’t doing anything for women in 2016. My initial thought when watching the latest video from FF was exactly that, and surely this will negate the important message behind the video in the first place? Even looking at the games industry five years ago; the audience was different, and the marketing was much lazier and fell on its tropes too quickly to sell its games.



1970’s era iconic poster of Farrah Fawcett by photographer Bruce McBroom

Extending the marketing blame further here, FF example several box cover artworks that depict the females contorting in such a manner as to have both their butt and breasts visible to the viewer. In comparison to male counterparts that have their rear ends artistically covered with a shadow or a piece of foliage etc. This is not an issue with gaming tropes. This is a universal media trope. You can see the likes in films, television and advertising throughout industries. I think it needs to be tackled, but it is unfair to put this on the doorstep of the gaming industry. Marketing surely have a responsibility to bring equality to their box art, no question, but in order to bring this subject up it needs to be expanded across global media.

A few examples of butt tropes in global media marketing, Women contorting vs men with no accentuation and/or strategically placed butt covering.

A few examples of butt tropes in global media marketing, men with no accentuation or a strategically hidden derriere…

men tropes

VS women contorting to get everything on show.

When researching this point I looked hard to find an example of a man stood in the same way as a Black Widow or a Mystique, but darned if I can find any. It highlighted the need to discuss this sort of portrayal further, but it is a cross sector argument, not a gaming one. This sort of tunnel vision annoys me as much as the ignorant arguments thrown around every few months about games causing violence in children. (For the record, they do – that’s why there’s an age rating the developers have to obtain to be released, you dumb ass parents). In summary, I want questions like this to be continually raised, I want debates about this sort of thing. I only ask to keep the accusations and the evidence relevant. Don’t use games that are overtly sexualised like ‘Bayonetta‘ as an example, because you moot your point. Don’t use games that are from two generations ago as an example, you moot your point.

Hopefully that way it will form a stronger argument for wannabe believers like me.

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