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  1. Faith
    Faith June 13, 2010 at 9:15 am |

    “That your passing desire means you get to derail a woman’s life whenever you feel like it is the absolute definition of male privilege.”

    I’m getting that line tattooed on my forehead.

  2. Lauren
    Lauren June 13, 2010 at 9:27 am |

    What makes these kinds of exercises so important is how they are meant to interrupt and call attention to patriarchal norms. And it’s interesting how you bumped these two instances up against one another, because they’re essentially opposites on the chivalry dichotomy.

  3. Dominique
    Dominique June 13, 2010 at 10:23 am |

    I find this really disturbing: “From your perspective, you’re just showing how you feel.”

    Disturbing because it’s true.

    Because it’s entirely “natural” for men not to understand one little bit of what we go through. It’s “natural” for them to trigger and provoke women subjected to constant harassment, as long as they’re not as obnoxious as those other guys. The sense of entitlement remains. The whole social setup remains.

    It’s almost like as long as your interrogator offers you cookies while you’re chained to the table, he’s one of the “good guys”, never mind the bruises all over you from the previous session. That’s the het cis patriarchy.

  4. Weekly Round Up: June 13, 2010 « Stop Street Harassment!

    […] Baby video game is covered by: NY Times, NPR, Ms Magazine Blog, Feministe, and WPIX […]

  5. Andy
    Andy June 13, 2010 at 11:23 am |

    As a bloke, a situation I’ve encountered on enough times to go, “whaaa…?” is being verbally lambasted for innocently holding a door open for a passing woman.

    The trouble is, I was brought up to be polite – I would have done that regardless of the gender of the person but, of course, the woman didn’t know that and so therefore lumped me in with whoever else she’d put up with that day.

    But it does sadden me that acts of general politeness can easily be misconstrued as patriarchal acts just because it happens to be a man being polite to a woman. I worry that the only course of action for people like myself is to never help and generally keep myself to myself, for fear of offending someone accidentally.

    And that would be an equally sad outcome for the world. :(

  6. Andy
    Andy June 13, 2010 at 11:26 am |

    …and also, now thanks to this quote:

    “beneath the polite smile she has to offer, has probably fantasised about you dying”

    I now worry that the 90% of times where the woman in question smiled sweetly and said “thanks” rather than having a go at me, actually thinks I’m a cock :(

  7. wds
    wds June 13, 2010 at 11:53 am |

    See, violence against women in games is so common, so obvious, that some men are actually viscerally bothered by seeing themselves blown away by women.

    This, and the rest of that paragraph, really doesn’t follow. Had I played the game I certainly wouldn’t have acquired some realisation about violence against women in games. The whole point of the game is to point out verbal violence against women in real life. Or at least it is when played from the point of view of a man.

    If you’re referring to killing hookers in GTA, perhaps you really should start playing some games again so you can put this kind of stuff into context. There’s definitely a lot wrong with how women are generally depicted in video games, but it has very little to do with the main character being able to kill them with impunity.

  8. Andy
    Andy June 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm |

    Also (man, I wish there was an edit feature to these comments), this ‘walking on the outside of the pavement’ thing is utterly news to me.

    Again, like the previous incident I mentioned, I would consider it politeness to choose to be the pedestrian who walks nearest to all the cars whizzing passed and the filthy petrol fumes – again, regardless of the gender of the person I was walking with.

    Do I now have to also panic about doing this, too? Frankly, there’s a danger of this all getting out of hand – how on Earth am I supposed to judge the situation?

  9. R-Cop
    R-Cop June 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm |

    “That your passing desire means you get to derail a woman’s life whenever you feel like it is the absolute definition of male privilege.”

    @Faith, I also want that tattoo. This is what so many guys just seem to not get, and actually just seem to resist getting. Their thinking seems to go along the lines of, “As long as I, myself, am not doing anything that I, myself, would be bothered by, no one has any right to be bothered my actions, regardless of the bullshit they had to put up with before I came around.” When I’ve tried to explain this concept to guys, they’ve often acted offended that I would dare suggest they would ever harass a woman.

    Really, this game does seem to be a good way of actually showing guys what it’s like to be harassed continuously, since trying to tell them can be almost as frustrating as dealing with the catcalls themselves.

  10. LC
    LC June 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm |

    I want that on a business card, not a tattoo.

    @R-Cop. I remember when the Schrodinger’s Rapist post went up and I started a conversation on it at my livejournal, the reaction you mention was exactly the kind of thing I got. That and “But what if I respect she might be having a bad day and leave her alone, but my friend isn’t as clued in, so he bugs her, and then she goes out with him! Even if it is a 99.9% chance that won’t happen, it might! And then I lose out because I hesitated!”

  11. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin June 13, 2010 at 1:05 pm |

    I have to say that it wasn’t until I began going to gay bars that I understood something of this sort of behavior. Some men just have no sense of boundaries. I remember this one dude who apparently fancied me who kept deliberately bumping into my butt, before I pretty much had to get up into his face to get him to stop.

    And then, of course, there was the verbal harassment which usually preceded such things. But I did have a decided advantage in that I could leave such spaces whenever I chose, and women don’t usually have that option.

  12. Brooklyn
    Brooklyn June 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm |

    I was curious, so I downloaded the web player and played the game. It was confusing for me because I have never played a first person shooter and I could only stand it for a few minutes and then my thinking got in the way of “playing” the game.

    After hearing the harassing comments I was left thinking. Most of them were comments about the character’s beauty. “You’re beautiful,” “I like the way you bounce,” etc. Because it is considered “normal” or “natural” to comment on a woman’s physical appearance, I kept wondering about the “negative” comments not meant to be “come ons.” There were are few “negative” comments, but they came after a comment about beauty.

    I guess what I’m saying is if this game is meant to be (or interpreted as) a consciousness raising tool for men, it would be interesting to also include negative comments about the character’s appearance, because those sorts of comments happen just as often.

  13. Redbronze
    Redbronze June 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm |

    The negative ones are just as bad as the wanna fuck/suck ones.. I remember once walking from a swimming hole with a friend and being Mooed at, we were young and not fat, it did sting… and never did understand that one… I will have to show the game to my young women smile they like games/ and are working on it feminists so it may be something for them to look into. Tis difficult to be a woman the lines still need scruffing out…

  14. Lib
    Lib June 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm |

    I suppose to make the game more realistic (I didn’t play the demo so if this is in there, pardon me for repeating) the guys should be given multiple lines and be put into different categories.

    “Nice” Guy lines:
    line 1: “Hey there how are you doing.”
    line 2: “You sure are pretty”
    [if character chooses to ignore]
    line 3: So it’s like that.
    [if character continues to ignore]
    line 4: I guess it is

    Pretending “Nice” guy:
    same lines, and if character continues ignoring
    line 5: b*@ch (muttered)
    Line 6: You’re not even all that, anyway

    Guys should also come in complete pervert, I don’t know how to keep my hands to myself, god’s gift to woman, follow you around, group harassers, and stand by and do nothing while woman is harassed. Lines and situations should vary for maximum effect.

  15. scrumby
    scrumby June 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm |

    There was a Cracked article of all things a while back about why it’s still embarrassing to admit you’re a gamer. The author wrote that as an adult male with wife, kids, career, etc. it’s demeaning to lay down 50-60 bucks on a product that rewards him by assuming he’s an “emotionally stunted teenage boy.” I guess we have to hold ourselves to the same standard. “Hey Baby” functions on about the same level as a one panel cartoon. Satisfying to those who’ve experienced it and informative to those who haven’t but not particularly world changing.

  16. Stacy
    Stacy June 13, 2010 at 3:57 pm |

    Honestly, the game was interesting but it was super buggy and not very well made. I kept getting stuck and my mouse wasn’t centered on the screen, making it difficult to aim. The men would appear literally out of thin air. I think it would also benefit from some kind of character creation system, because right now you don’t really get that this happens to every woman despite dress/looks/etc. That may be overly complicated though. Also, the guys should not stop talking, instead of saying one thing and then walking up to you. That would be more annoying and also more realistic.

  17. Jackie
    Jackie June 13, 2010 at 4:50 pm |

    I thought appeasing the mostly-male audience by saying, “Of course the game is rubbish.”, is playing into the ongoing sexism against female gamers and female creators of games.

    I’m tired of rarely if not almost never getting a reasonable review of female targeted games. They’re either not reviewed, or demeaned. I’m also tired of the notion you’re not a “real gamer” if you’re playing cute which tends to be demeaned as “kiddy” games.

    I have always felt when it comes to gaming, an accomplishment is worth being praised, wether it be beating a Super Mario game or Halo. That person spent a lot of time learning how to win that game.

    Now I’m off to play Tamagotchi Corner Shop 3, a part of what I consider the highly underrated Tamagotchi Corner Shop series, because it’s super cute and is about having fun playing mini-games. It’s also non-violent, heaven forbid a game should be well reviewed for being fun and re-playable, instead of about how many baddies you can mow down.

  18. Aspasia
    Aspasia June 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm |

    I’ve only got one quibble and it’s this line: “Because when they’re walking down the street with us, we don’t get harassed.”

    Not necessarily. As a non-white female who has dated white men, other non-white men (depending on what “race” box I’m put in by the viewing male) have and will feel they have the right to accost the man I’m with. Because I didn’t “belong” with the white man. My friend who is also non-white/PoC/mixed as I am had a white boyfriend for 10 years and both of them were very short. They were constantly harassed by black men who wanted to pick a fight with the boyfriend because he “took” one of “theirs” (bonus points to the men when their hypocrisy of doing this in the presence of their white girlfriend makes the whole situation laughable and pathetic). For anyone who is curious, these situations have taken place in the Twin Cities and Chicago.

  19. Anthony
    Anthony June 13, 2010 at 5:49 pm |

    I found it interesting that the men in the game who did not harass the player could not be killed, as go suggest that not all men harass or bother women in the street. I know that the men who approached the player were all suggestive or crude, and all remarks were unsolicited, but I am concerned that this portrayal suggests that all men who approach are crude or suggestive. Would a ‘hello’ be as bad in this game as the ‘hey baby’?

  20. MissaA
    MissaA June 13, 2010 at 6:17 pm |

    “beneath the polite smile she has to offer, has probably fantasised about you dying”

    Except I don’t think the point of the game is wish fulfillment, but to be a video game representation of how women always have to metaphorically “shoot down” these kinds of dudes.

  21. MissaA
    MissaA June 13, 2010 at 6:19 pm |

    … except after reading the website I see that it actually is wish fulfillment. Nevermind.

  22. Lib
    Lib June 13, 2010 at 6:23 pm |

    I have had similar experiences in New York, and Ohio. I am black and one guy I was with was mixed (he looks more white) and was actually related to me. Another time the guy was Asian. Neither stopped black dudes and a “hood” white guy from grabbing me by the arm and trying to get at me.

  23. Joseph
    Joseph June 13, 2010 at 7:54 pm |

    @Jackie. I don’t think it was really appeasement, but rather an attempt to focus on the issue at hand. The game has value for its message, not the manner in which it is conveyed. Great modern artists are often more concerned with the thought, message and impact of their work, rather than painting something attractive to look at. There is nothing wrong with calling this a bad game – as a game it is dreadful, as several comments here have shown. I believe RPS were attempting to direct some of their more challenged readers to the subject at hand.

    On point; Leigh Alexander wrote it up at

    The comments are full of puling men saying things like ‘Oh no – the actions of rude men mean that now my genuine sweet and tender advances to random women will be rejected!!’ yuk. The original RPS article had some pretty horrendous comments too – quite shockingly bad for what I had previously assumed to be a pretty mature community.

    As a man and a gamer and a feminist I am hugely happy about this game and I hope to see lots more like it.

  24. Jackie
    Jackie June 13, 2010 at 8:06 pm |

    MissA, when it’s men being aggressive towards women in games, that’s acceptable fantasy. When it’s women being aggressive towards men, then it’s something to panic about?

    Perhaps these “men” need to grow up, and learn how to tell fantasy from fiction. After all, they have no problem telling us killing a whore in GTA is just playing around. I guess they’re realizing it’s not so amusing when they’re the ones on the shooting end of the gun in video games.

  25. Andy
    Andy June 13, 2010 at 9:59 pm |

    It’s an interesting question, what is and is not acceptable in a videogame especially as computer power presents us with imagery more and more approaching realism.

    Anyone who grew up with games will, of course, write off the arguments against as the old, “well it’s *just* a game”. But I do wonder what effects they have on kids young enough that their first game looks quite a lot like real life rather than a few blocky pixels eating other blocky pixels.

    GTA does, of course, receive quite a lot of attention in this respect due to its popularity, but generally the whole “killing prostitutes” thing is taken wildly out of context – despite its mainstream appeal it’s still a role-playing game at heart, and playing an evil character is not new to role-playing (in video or boardgames) – and moreover, I’ve played pretty much every incarnation of GTA and never intentionally killed any innocent (or been forced to in order to progress the story, that I recall), because that’s just not how I like to play. I don’t particularly like slaying innocent bears in Oblivion either.

    There’s a game being shown at E3 where you play as a superhero of sorts jumping in and out of comic books – one bit involves shooting waves of well-endowed women (I think they’re technically fembots) before surfing on one down a rooftop. A bit iffy that, if you ask me, but a moment which wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow had they been male or gender neutral robots.

    People who don’t play games can easily look at some of the more violent or immoral games out there, point, and call them as Jack Thompson does, “murder simulators”. And sometimes videogames are linked (tenuously) to real-world crimes. The interactive nature of games does give some legitimacy to these claims, however I am as yet to read any unbiased report that proves an actual link between this sort of content and behaviour.

    Additionally, the popularity of videogames amongst young kids does offer an opportunity (as with teen dramas on TV recently) to subtley introduce concepts and world views without superficially appearing to do so – this hasn’t really been explored greatly yet, but then videogames as a medium are still very much in their infancy. But ultimately, this is where I see games headed – normally, educational software exists in its own genre largely ignored by people who would probably benefit most from it. Education works best in games where you don’t notice it – learn a little about ancient history by playing Civilization, for example.

    From my own perspective, I think we can worry a bit too much about games – I’d like to think that if you label something 18, then existing laws and parental control can keep inappropriate content from minors. Of course there will always be people out there for whom the satire of GTA will fly completely over their heads while they’re running around shooting everybody in the face – but I’d personally like to live in a world where rational people don’t find their entertainment censored for the sake of a minority of lunatics.

  26. Andy
    Andy June 13, 2010 at 10:33 pm |

    Goddamn it, I’ve done it again – forgotten to add something which I meant to :(

    On the subject of this game in particular (there, I *knew* there was a point to me waffling on at length above ;), I quite approve of this game despite its obvious flaws *as* a game. The level of personal verbal abuse (for want of a better word) is not something I’ve encountered (or even been informed of by my female friends – aside from racial incidents) and so on that level it was an education for me.

    However, the message is somewhat crowbarred in – take the message out of the game and there’s pretty much no game left. So the game only really works if you’re the sort of person prepared to soak up the statement that it makes – in which case you’re not really the sort of person that needs to play it. You might catch one or two people who honestly thought they were just being nice, but the wider issue goes unsolved.

    However, as I said in my post above – the future of games is to take a message such as this and make it subtle. Make the game fun and you’ll reach the audience you seek – then you can start slowly feeding these kinds of messages in when the player is sufficiently into the game to just absorb it subconsciously. I look forward to games maturing in this way – give it time, and it will happen.

  27. Joseph
    Joseph June 13, 2010 at 11:33 pm |

    @MissA. That quote “beneath the polite smile she has to offer, has probably fantasised about you dying” is what I found most problematic in that response. The author is making some big assumptions about how all women ‘probably’ think and feel. Maybe some women wouldn’t fantasise about the harasser dying because they feel that to do so would be letting them win.

  28. The Voracious Vegan
    The Voracious Vegan June 14, 2010 at 4:29 am |

    “That your passing desire means you get to derail a woman’s life whenever you feel like it is the absolute definition of male privilege.”


    I wish men had to play this game so they could possibly, maybe, hopefully get a small glimpse of how horrible it can feel to be treated like public property.

  29. Andy
    Andy June 14, 2010 at 7:18 am |


    “Hold doors for everyone because it’s nice, not because of their gender.”

    That’s all very well and everything, but I can’t control how the other person interprets my actions. How can *they* tell if I’m like that to everyone or just her because she’s a woman? In all likelihood, it will depend on what other people had done that day and that’s the difference between yelled at (thus advertising what a cock I am in public) and being thanked sweetly.

  30. Fraser Allison
    Fraser Allison June 14, 2010 at 8:01 am |

    See, violence against women in games is so common, so obvious, that some men are actually viscerally bothered by seeing themselves blown away by women.

    It’s a widely-held perception that violence against women is common in videogames, but it’s not true. Videogame representations of women are often problematic, but rarely for that reason.

    The vast majority of violent games only allow you to shoot (or punch or explode) enemies who are both hostile and male. A significant minority of games allow you to play as a female character, and some give you female allies who will fight next to you, but probably only a single-digit percentage of violent games allow you to direct your violence at females. This is so noticeable that it’s actually been called out as a problem by feminists who play games.

    An even smaller fraction of violent games allows the player to target innocent female characters – women who are not already your enemy. In none of those games that I know of are women (whether hostile or peaceful) targeted more than men.

    I’m curious to know why popular opinion is so far inverted from reality on this point. The only thing I can think of is the controversy over the Grand Theft Auto games, and the notorious ability to sleep with and then kill a prostitute. You certainly can do that in Grand Theft Auto, but in context it’s not the violent misogyny simulator that it sounds like. For one thing, you can kill anyone in GTA. The game never directs you to either sleep with or kill a prostitute (nor any random bystander), it certainly never links the two behaviours, and it doesn’t reward the player for doing so. (Prostitutes, like most random bystanders, will drop some money when they’re hurt, but it’s an amount that’s so insignificant that it effectively doesn’t function as a game mechanic.)

    I’m not trying to be a great defender of games, here. Plenty of videogames have sexist and stereotyped representations of women. But I’m not aware of any commercial game (who knows what’s on the internet?) that encourages the player to carry out misogynist violence specifically targeted against women; I’m sure there are a few examples, because it’s a very wide field to choose from, but it’s nothing like the plague of female extermination that many non-gamers seem to think. So I’m curious why that opinion has come about and stuck.

  31. preying mantis
    preying mantis June 14, 2010 at 8:04 am |

    “I worry that the only course of action for people like myself is to never help and generally keep myself to myself, for fear of offending someone accidentally.”

    Or you could, you know, suck it up, take it into stride, and realize that there’s no way to get through life without pissing somebody off.

    If you are genuinely just being polite instead of doing that thing where you’re holding the door for the woman you find attractive and letting it slam in the face of the woman you don’t, because she doesn’t even register as a woman for you, or making a big fucking show of holding that door open, or damn near butting her out of the way so that you can get to the door first and then hold it open, odds are you’re not doing a whole lot to contribute to the general harassment buzz women swim in.

    Of course, guys who are totally! not! douchebags! who’ve been personally slagged off for holding doors open seem to be legion in these threads, while women who’ve just assumed otherwise non-douchey dudes were holding doors open for secretly douchey reasons and slagged them off seem to be thin on the ground.

    Which makes me wonder–are there just like two women who rove the planet, waiting for dudes to open doors so they can yell at them? Are dudes interpreting a fairly mild “It makes me uncomfortable when you do this” or “This really isn’t helping” or “My arms aren’t broke, buddy” as a verbal lambastation up there with “Fuck you, bitch, I didn’t really want your number anyway!”? Are the dudes who complain about getting yelled at actually the same douchebags who engage in those oh-so-subtle “I must hold the door open for you because chivalryyyyyyyyyyy!” behaviors?

  32. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac June 14, 2010 at 8:09 am |

    Joseph: Maybe some women wouldn’t fantasise about the harasser dying because they feel that to do so would be letting them win.

    I guess you’re hoping that none of the women you’ve harassed on the street fantasised about you dying?

    I don’t always fantasise about killing the harasser. Mostly, in fact, I fantasise about hanging a harasser up by his heels using some kind of Spidey-webbing. Sticking him to a wall, upside down. Then pouring a bucket of cold water on him. Or maybe emptying the cat’s litter tray over his upside down face. I’m not really a very violent person, and immobilise/humiliate is usually as far as my fantasies go.

    Plus I had one fairly detailed fantasy of chopping a flasher’s dick off, just to see that remembered look of triumphant bullying on his face turn to humiliation and agony. In fact, I made sure to play that fantasy over in my mind every time that flasher’s face came back to me.

    In real life, the most violent thing I’ve ever done was plant my foot firmly on this guy’s foot, when he was getting in my face about did I want a Valentine, ha ha, and bring my full weight down. Hard. He yelled. Wow, that felt good.

  33. Fraser Allison
    Fraser Allison June 14, 2010 at 8:36 am |

    Like my comment above, this isn’t about “Hey Baby” but violence against women in games. Sorry for the tangent; I hope it’s interesting to someone.

    After leaving that first comment, I got curious and followed a few links to try to find out if I was missing something. I found this article on Feministing, which describes “one of the trailers” for the last GTA game showing a montage of the character sleeping with and/or killing prostitutes. It’s disturbing stuff, and it shows how god-awful the portrayal of those women is in that game.

    But it also shows how the perception of this issue is slightly off. That video isn’t an official trailer and wasn’t made or published by the game developers; it was made by IGN, an independent website (and a terrible one – obviously). Some of what the video showed was stuff I didn’t even know was in the game – and I’ve played through three different versions of that game, exploring it pretty thoroughly. So it’s not accurate to say (quoting article linked from Sarah’s piece above) that GTAIV is a game “where a male avatar has sex with and beats up a female prostitute”; the player has to seek out the sex and choose to perform the violence. It’s like saying Pac-Man is a game in which a yellow circle hides in a corner until eaten by ghosts; it’s something the player could do, but has no external reason to.

    Even so, by allowing the player to be so violently misogynistic, Grand Theft Auto is highly unusual (to my knowledge). So, um… I guess that’s good news?

    Sorry about the massive self-indulgent tangent! All my thoughts about “Hey Baby” were covered by this article and other comments, so this is all I had to add.

  34. Fraser Allison
    Fraser Allison June 14, 2010 at 8:44 am |

    @preying mantis

    Which makes me wonder–are there just like two women who rove the planet, waiting for dudes to open doors so they can yell at them?

    Probably something like that, minus the roving of the planet. Notice that the guys who bring this up always talk about the one time this happened and how it affected them?

  35. Aelystriel
    Aelystriel June 14, 2010 at 8:51 am |

    Personally, I find this game as tasteless as any other relying on mindless violence to make sales. While it’s great that this one reporter has realised how frustrating and never-ending harassment can be, I find it discomforting that we as a society require bloody violence to educate each other.

  36. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 14, 2010 at 9:32 am |

    I worry that the only course of action for people like myself is to never help and generally keep myself to myself, for fear of offending someone accidentally.”

    My guy friends have a very simple solution to this: they assure anyone who gets a little defensive or suspicious, “No worries, I do this for anyone who’s behind me.” They also let it roll off their back since they know they aren’t the only ones to get occasional blowback from what was supposed to be an act of courtesy (I’ve run into similar situations as well).

    Jesus. I love how a discussion about fucking street harassment yet again has WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ as a theme in the comments. Dude, look–that not knowing the best thing to do? Feeling like you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t? Well, welcome to my world. Except in my world, there’s a real threat of physical harm if I make the wrong choice, and I’ll get blamed for it because I “chose wrong.”

  37. Andy
    Andy June 14, 2010 at 9:42 am |


    Draw attention to the fact that, “oh no, I do this for everyone, honest!”? That’s worse, surely?

    And look, I’m not in any way suggesting that such issues are comparable – I’ve never said that. It is a mild concern for the majority of normal pleasant chaps, that’s all, and only a comparatively small part of the reams of bollocks I’ve posted here ;)

  38. Faith
    Faith June 14, 2010 at 9:45 am |

    “That quote “beneath the polite smile she has to offer, has probably fantasised about you dying” is what I found most problematic in that response.”

    Well I don’t know. I’m certainly not every woman, but I am one woman who has very much fantasized about rude, harassing, sexist men dying. Sometimes at my own hands. And this is coming from a person who doesn’t even eat meat because she feels it’s murder to kill an animal for food unless you absolutely have to do so to survive.

    “Maybe some women wouldn’t fantasise about the harasser dying because they feel that to do so would be letting them win.”

    Fantasizing about actually defending themselves would be letting the man win? How exactly? Ooohh I get it. It’s one of those “bringing me down to his level” deals, right? Well, you might be right about that. I wouldn’t know for sure, however. Most of the women I know whom I’ve discussed these things with feel perfectly entitled to feel angry at these men. The only problem is that they typically don’t feel comfortable expressing that anger to the men themselves for very good reason. They are afraid that being aggressive with these men will only result in greater harm to their being.

  39. preying mantis
    preying mantis June 14, 2010 at 10:05 am |

    “Even so, by allowing the player to be so violently misogynistic, Grand Theft Auto is highly unusual (to my knowledge). So, um… I guess that’s good news?”

    The GTA franchise tends to push its titles as far into sandbox territory as possible without turning them into unplayable messes. The player being able to run around being violently misogynistic is largely a function of the player being able to run around doing what-the-fuck-ever and a lot of players seeming to find violent misogyny totally lulzworthy.

  40. Fraser Allison
    Fraser Allison June 14, 2010 at 10:41 am |

    @preying mantis
    Yes, exactly what I was getting at. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

    I know I’m being That Person Who Won’t Shut Up About Some Little Thing, but I just noticed this sentence in the article:

    …how women must feel seeing games where women get killed with impunity.

    Games that allow you to attack non-hostile people (men or women) pretty much all punish you for it. In GTA, for example, there are police cars roaming every street and if they see you hurting anyone they’ll chase you, shot at you and arrested you if they can. Other games are similar; if you’re even able to attack a friendly townsperson in an adventure game, as a rule the rest of the town will turn on you.

    The only game I can think of that reacts differently to violence against men and women is Bully (coincidentally, by the same people who developed GTA). That game is set in a rough boarding school, and while your character can be busted for getting into any fights, the system will come down on you the hardest if you hit a girl or a younger child. So the only game I can think of that singles women out for special treatment (as opposed to just being absent from the game, which is a common problem) is one that is overprotective.

  41. Russ
    Russ June 14, 2010 at 11:41 am |

    @Fraser I think it is actually quite common but usually subtle. I noticed while I was playing Batman: Arkham Asylum that the two female villains are not fought directly. For some reason it’s all right for batman to beat the crap out of hundreds of sociopaths as long as they are men, but if they are women it has to happen outside of the player’s control or with minimal or no bat-fists. Although I have to admit I felt slightly uneasy with the idea of punching Harley Quinn because she is a woman (I know i shouldn’t.)

  42. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero June 14, 2010 at 12:38 pm |

    the fucking issue about violence against women in games is not so much how common or uncommon it is but how sexualised the portrayals of both the women characters and the violence against them is. only about eight zillion (not an actual statistic) games have a mid-boss who’s an improbably-built woman in fetish gear wielding at least one whip. i’ve often wondered if some game developers took ‘ow that hurts!’ sound effects directly from porn videos to save money on voice actors. the men the heroes beat up in every fucking 2d side-scroller beat-‘em-up ever is a tough punk gangster dude. the women in them are whores. in heels and miniskirts and torn fishnets. with aforementioned orgasmic sounds when they get hit.

    the distinction is perhaps inconvenient to those wishing to emphasise quantity over quality* though i assure you women who play games have remarked upon it.

    * true — in terms of raw body count more male characters have been killed in video games than female characters have. but this is largely the result of male developers assuming a male audience and failing to put women in the games altogether. it is not a problem that has passed us by either: the much-lauded mass effect failed to have more than like three female aliens in the entire fucking game [the asari, despite their highly entertaining and biologically improbable mammaries, were not female] — we didn’t meet many female turians and golly the female krogan had been massacred because genocide by way of slaughtering all the women is just a kick-ass plot device ain’t it? and the others were all male. except for that one pc with the pressure suit helpfully outfitted with tits so we’d know the being inside was female and probably totes hawt.

    so thanks for the education on how feminists feel about violence against women in video games. it’s really awesome of you to explain that for us.

  43. Andy
    Andy June 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm |


    Hmmm… You do have a point, but those 2D beat-em-ups – even if you go back to very early ones – have frequently included a woman as a playable character if you want to play as a female beating up predominantly males – and mostly these have been characters no more overtly sexualised than the male characters with their enormous biceps and bare chests. But I’m hardly going to argue about games in general because that’s completely undeniable.

    If you look at a character such as Lara Croft and trace her development from the first game through to the latest, you can see a slow progression away from the stereotypical female. Not all the way there yet, but a definite trend. They did slightly ruin this by then clothing her in a skimpy wetsuit and making her all wet and shiny after she’s been swimming but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere :) As I said above, we’re still in the infancy of the medium – and the way I see it there’s plenty of room for optimism.

    Regarding Mass Effect, possibly you are right about the proportion of male to female characters, although the fact that you can make Shepherd a woman and have her save the galaxy strikes me as a reasonably balanced approach. Add to that the fact that they allowed you to be homosexual if you chose (even if the dialogue was a little cringeworthy in places).

    The games industry is still largely dominated by blokes and until that fact changes, even if those designers attempt to produce something balanced, they’re still limited by their own perceptions of what ‘balanced’ actually is. As this “Hey Baby” game attempts to show, most men haven’t really got a clue when it comes to the actual reality of the issues many women face, so it’s not surprising they don’t entirely hit the mark even if they try. But we should at least credit them for trying when they do (as I believe Bioware did with Mass Effect).

    @Sarah – I wasn’t trying to derail – most of what I’ve posted has been general.

  44. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero June 14, 2010 at 3:13 pm |

    no. the industry will not change so long as developers like bioware get credit for not trying and not hitting the mark with games like mass effect. so one could play as a female shepard — and i did — so what? the big change in the game with that choice was there was the possibility of that not-actually-a-lesbian-sex-scene with the nice blue tentacle-head girl. the only other woman officer on the ship was the fucking doctor? oh we haven’t seen a woman in the healer rôle before it is so new and shit! we are told pilot dude wossname is an actual disabled person — only we never see him have to actually navigate that damned inaccessible ship with all the fucking stairs in and we’re told he got no accommodation during flight school which resulted in him leaving school with his legs wrecked. they can build powered armour but not leg braces. i guess he’s catheterised and colostomied and is permanently installed in that pilot’s chair then? outstanding. that’s progress.

    heavens forfend there be anything resembling male homosexuality — the elf guy in dragon age was androgynous enough to make it clear who was top and who was bottom but the model for LT alenko was prolly too butch to make that work eh?

    thanks but shitty portrayals are still shitty portrayals and not a notable improvement over no portrayal at all. you’re not demonstrating a great deal of clue yourself for all the text you’ve generated in this thread.

  45. Andy
    Andy June 14, 2010 at 3:30 pm |

    “So what” you could play as a female Shepherd? That’s a whole chunk of additional voice recordings, an entire animation set, a massive chunk of scripting, a second set of armour and clothing, and all in all a fairly sizeable investment from Bioware – multiplied by three because it’s a trilogy. They didn’t *have* to do any of that and it would have sold just as many copies.

    I’m not saying we should run out and shower them with awards, but hauling them over the coals for not getting it right strikes me as a bit harsh.

  46. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero June 14, 2010 at 5:38 pm |

    much is made clear. you see making it possible to play as a woman — even if all it changes is the voice acting and the toon and not the script — as an extra. it’s beyond what they needed to do.

    i consider that a minimum requirement.

    the contention that ‘girls’ will buy media with ‘boys’ in but ‘boys’ won’t buy media with ‘girls’ in is exactly the problem. the environment as a whole needs to change. it is rankest sexism. and cis-centric and binary-normative while we’re at it; representation of trans* and non-binary and non-gendered folk in, well, anything is fucking dismal.

    so you think i’m harsh. i cannot possibly tell you how comfortable i am with that assessment. and really you’re behind the curve; my wife tells me i’m militant.

    which i’m also okay with. i will continue to point out the flaws. when i have the wherewithal to do it, which isn’t often. there’s always someone like you eager to tell me to settle down and not be so mean to the people who exploit me and mine as plot devices and consider our representations non-essential enough to be jettisoned when deadlines and budgets approach their ends. sorry oops didn’t have time to include y’all in this game! maybe next time!

    it’s a long road from comforting.

    you’re welcome to like bioware and the mass effect games all you like. buy them, play them, have fun. all i’m saying is that there are problems. if bioware cares about having a reputation for being representative and social-justice-y (and they do) they should do better. so far with the mass effect series they haven’t.

  47. Joseph
    Joseph June 14, 2010 at 7:17 pm |


    You’ve misunderstood me. I wasn’t clear – what I meant was that for some men, the very imposition of themselves into a woman’s existence is part of the dominance. A woman may feel that in doing anything other than ignoring the harasser, she is in some way letting this imposition occur. My main problem with the sentence was that it made broad generalisations about how most/all women feel and think.

    You effectively derailed my argument with sarcasm and assumed that I believe women shouldn’t think about defending themselves. I don’t know how you got that out of my comment, but I’ll address it. I’m not saying women aren’t entitled to think stabby thoughts about men who harass them, or that it is wrong for them to do so. I’m not saying women shouldn’t fantasise about defending themselves from harassers (which by the way, might not be directly equated in everyone’s mind with say, murder). All I’m saying is that not *all* women will respond in this way, which was what the sentence implied.

  48. Faith
    Faith June 14, 2010 at 8:44 pm |

    “My main problem with the sentence was that it made broad generalisations about how most/all women feel and think.”


    I didn’t misinterpret your statement. I understood it completely. I just happened to disagree with it. The statement didn’t imply that all women feel that way. The statement implied that quite a great number of women feel that way. My experience tells me that I’m far from being the only woman on the planet who has rather violent feelings towards men who sexually harass women. I’m not going to play the game because I find it rather pointless for myself, but I can certainly understand why women would want to play it and if it teaches men something about what women endure and how we feel about men who treat us that way all the better. I’m not sure why that bothers you so much, but I really don’t have anything else to add.

  49. Fraser Allison
    Fraser Allison June 14, 2010 at 10:00 pm |


    the fucking issue about violence against women in games is not so much how common or uncommon it is but how sexualised the portrayals of both the women characters and the violence against them is.

    I agree with you. Most games are terribly sexist. I said so two or three times. But I was responding to the article, which said “violence against women in games is so common, so obvious” and “women get killed [in games] with impunity” (by implication, more so than men). I didn’t bring up the often sexualised nature of violence against women in games because the article didn’t mention it. I agree with most* of what you said, nut none of that was mentioned in the article and I had no reason to give an all-encompassing lecture about the portrayal of women in videogames.

    *For the record, while I agree that too many games leave out women entirely (and the developers’ typical excuses are terribly lame), I don’t think that’s why there’s so little violence against women. Plenty of games have female NPCs but no female enemies; why? I think it’s the other way around: some developers are worried about showing violence against women, so they don’t put women into their violent game. Ever notice that the games that leave out women are almost always violent action games?

    so thanks for the education on how feminists feel about violence against women in video games. it’s really awesome of you to explain that for us.

    No problem. Thanks for taking one comment I made about one thing that some feminists have said about one aspect of one issue as “an education on how feminists feel about violence against women in video games”. I’m being so sincere right now.

  50. Chally
    Chally June 14, 2010 at 11:15 pm |

    “Lame” as an insult is not acceptable language here.

  51. Cretoxyrhina
    Cretoxyrhina June 15, 2010 at 12:25 am |

    “Regarding Mass Effect, possibly you are right about the proportion of male to female characters, although the fact that you can make Shepherd a woman and have her save the galaxy strikes me as a reasonably balanced approach. ”
    Also, there were human women all over the place.

  52. scrumby
    scrumby June 15, 2010 at 12:33 am |

    “As I said above, we’re still in the infancy of the medium”

    @Andy- WTF? The medium is over 40 years old. In Film that’s how long it took us to go from The Little Tramp to Vertigo. We were able to choose character gender with Mr. and Mrs. Packman; all that’s changed is you don’t need a different machine to accomplish it. I agree that video games are just getting into their stride as a story-telling medium but it’s not like they’re living in a bubble. Books, music, and especially film have broken a lot of ground when it comes to creating content for broad appeal or even for specific groups. But many game developers just don’t seem to care as long as they can find newer and shinier way to portray some sort of grizzled soldier killing nazi zombies. And they wonder why Nintendo is kicking their asses…

  53. MissaA
    MissaA June 15, 2010 at 2:59 am |

    @ Jackie

    MissA, when it’s men being aggressive towards women in games, that’s acceptable fantasy. When it’s women being aggressive towards men, then it’s something to panic about?

    The thing is, I don’t think it’s an acceptable fantasy. I do think it’s objectifying and dehumanizing. I appreciate the point of the game, and why many here think it’s cool. But I have mixed feelings about it and I haven’t sorted them out. I know that actual studies have not been able to show a connection between violence in media and violence in real life (though I’m not sure if they had to do with video games or just movies), but it still makes me uncomfortable.

  54. John
    John June 15, 2010 at 10:42 am |

    Until now, “obscene” has meant sexual. It would require several other posts to explain how much this annoys me, so I’m not going there, but it did get us thinking. The test of “redeeming social value” that keeps something from being obscene? What would pass it? Would “Hey Baby”?

    Yes, the fact that only sexual things can really be labeled “obscene” is very problematic. But couldn’t you say that only certain types of violence are potentially obscene, such as male violence against women? I think that obscenity restrictions should include harmful materials that are not sexual, such as certain types of violence, not just “violence” in general. That’s too broad and vague.

    The other problem is that almost anything which has “redeeming social value” is not obscene, and the bar for what constitutes redeeming social value is pretty low (2 Live Crew, anyone?) So I think that the legal definition of obscenity would need to be broadened with respect to its range (i.e. beyond exclusively sexual matters). We’d also have to do away with the “redeeming social value” standard.

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