Thunderf00t spends a little time discussing empathy and the fact that humans will sacrifice themselves for the people they love. Then he plays a clip from Star Trek (2009) where George Kirk goes down with the ship so that his wife and son could escape. I think his point is supposed to be that games and movies that feature men sacrificing themselves for their families aren’t inherently sexist. And no, they aren’t. However, Mary Kirk is not a damsel in distress. Yes, she is a young woman, and yes she is need of aid when her husband sacrifices himself to save the crew, but the trope doesn’t really apply here. Why?
James Kirk, the film’s protagonist, does not go on an epic quest to save his mother. Sarkeesian’s points about women as background objects might apply – might! I said might! Mary Kirk isn’t sexualized, but she is never seen or heard from again after the film’s opening sequence – but Mary is not a damsel.
Thunderf00t’s next point is a four-minute discussion on the ways in which the gender stereotypes portrayed in video games are harmful to men. Why are men always portrayed as hyper-violent troglodytes who can only solve problems with their fists? Why can’t we have thinking heroes who solve problems with negotiation? To use his exact words, “Why does the game have to dehumanize the man by making his only course of action killing things?”
The irony here is that he’s right.
Yes, Thunderf00t is making this argument with palpable sarcasm in his voice, but he’s correct. Gender roles are harmful to men too! Where women are forced into the role of nurturer and care-giver while men are forced into the role of protector and provider. Men are not allowed to display their emotions openly. Men must always project a facade of strength even if they feel like they’re falling apart inside. Gender roles are indeed harmful to men.
That’s why feminists are working to change them.
Thunderf00t then goes on to reiterate his point about games existing to make a profit. Video games, he argues, serve a market. By this, he means that people want to buy them. I will repeat my statement that the profit motive is not a valid justification for socially harmful behaviour. If you want me to back that up, just read the back-entries of this blog. Roughly half of them deal with this topic. Let me just conclude with this: yes, there is a market for video games with regressive gender roles and misogynistic imagery, but there is also a market for cocaine. Does that mean that we should allow people to sell and distribute it?
He then goes on to critique Sarkeesian’s choice to wear pink sweatshirts, makeup and large earrings. This is what we call a relevance fallacy. It’s not a straw-man because he’s not putting words in Sarkeesian’s mouth, but he has changed the subject to something completely irrelevant. In this way, it serves as a distraction from the actual topic in much the same way as a straw-man would.
Sarkeesian wears pink sweatshirts and earrings, and therefore – according to Thunderf00t – she is a slave to the patriarchy. I bring this up not because it’s relevant to the issue of women in video-games, but because it gives me a chance to clear up a misconception about feminism. Feminism is not an attempt to masculinize women, nor is it an attempt to feminize men. Feminism is an attempt to do away with assigned gender roles all together. If a woman wants to try out for her school’s football team, she should have the right to do that, and if she wants to wear skirts, earrings and makeup, she should have the right to do that too. The same is true for men and people of other genders. The point of feminism is self-determination without the restrictions of gender roles.
After discussing Sarkeesian’s apparel, Thunderf00t adds the following, “If you really thought there was a market for these feminist games, why not do the empowered woman thing and lead by example and design and market these games successfully yourself?”
Because she’s not a game designer?
At least I don’t think she is. But if you’re trying to prove that “feminist” games don’t sell, let’s take a look at some of the games Sarkeesian has praised in her Ms Male Character video.
Thomas Was Alone, the game that features Claire the Cube, is currently on sale for $10.99 on Steam. It has sold over one million copies. (Earning its creators close to $11 million).
TowerFall, the game where male characters wear pink and female characters wear blue has grossed over half a million dollars.
Sadly, I cannot find direct sales figures for Lilli: Child of Geos, but game reviews on Steam are listed as “Very Positive” with 185 out of 211 reviews giving it a stamp of Recommended.
So if you’re trying to make the argument that no one wants to play “feminist” games, I’m sorry, but the numbers just aren’t in your favour. I put the word “feminist” in quotes because these games aren’t necessarily about feminism so much as they are games that defy gender stereotypes in their storytelling. On to your next point.
“I suspect you know full well that the reason these feminist games don’t exist is not because the patriarchy is conspiring against you; it’s simply because there’s not a market for them.”
But these “feminist” games do exist!
The rest of this video is quite honestly too absurd to critique. Thunderf00t brings up a section of Sarkeesian’s video where she praises Crystal, the female protagonist of a game that was never released. He says that Sarkeesian should be thankful the game was never released because if it had been, she would still find fault with it and call it sexist.
There is actually a name for this kind of faulty reasoning. It’s called as Ceteris Paribus fallacy. The phrase literally means “all things being equal.” Ceteris Paribus is actually a necessary aspect of all scientific research. Basically it means that you keep all variables constant in an experiment. So if you want to prove that your new drug actually relieves cold and flu symptoms, you give your experimental group a sample of the drug, and you give your control group a placebo.
You certainly don’t let either group take other medications– such as Tylenol or Advil – because that might taint the results of your experiment. How would you know that the relief your test subject experienced was caused by your new drug and not the Advil?
Ceteris Paribus becomes a fallacy when you’re trying to predict what life would be like in some alternate timeline where everything is the same except for one particular variable. In this case, Thunderf00t is imagining an alternate world where Crystal’s video game was released and predicting that Sarkeesian would still find fault with it.
It’s a fallacy because there’s no way he could possibly know that. Whether or not Sarkeesian would find fault with this hypothetical game would depend entirely on what that game looked like. Would the designers have made Crystal into a strong independent character who defied gender cliches? Or would they have turned her into a walking stereotype? We can’t know because it never happened.
All Sarkeesian has is some demo footage that made the game look promising, but it’s possible the story would have involved all kinds of misogynistic tropes. It’s also possible that Crystal would have been the video game world’s answer to Buffy Summers.
Next, he plays a snippet from some video where some other YouTuber misquotes Sarkeesian’s Masters Thesis. I read the section he highlighted; it doesn’t say what he claims it says. But I won’t get into that here. Her thesis isn’t the point.
Then Thunderf00t goes on to quote wikipedia articles that suggest men have more upper body strength than women. Again, relevance? What does this have to do with the presentation of women in video games? Unless you’re trying to say that women’s supposed lack of upper strength makes it impossible for them to be protagonists in action/adventure games. In which case, I present you with this:
Judge Fudge, permission to say lawyered?
Hey, looking for some great fiction? Check out Symbiosis, the book reviewers have called the illegitimate love child of Star Trek and Buffy.
Now available on Kindle
It’s had some great reviews!