For this blog post I have decided to focus on the essay “World of Warcraft as a Playground for Feminism” by Hilde G. Corneliussen, one of the many essays in Hilde G. Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg’s Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader.
The essay opens with a brief history of the French Revolution and its connection to feminism–specifically the Parité movement, which focuses on whether or not feminism focuses on the similarities or differences between women and men, and which of the two create a demand for equality.
One of my favorite sections of Corneliussen’s essay in the section titled, “Reviewing Computer Games and Gender,” where she writes, “Much has been written about Lara Croft and her hypersexualized exterior, questioning whether she was meant to empower female players, as the designer claimed, or was made for the male gaze” (Corneliussen 67). I find this passage of the text to be interesting because you run into a large issue here–is it about feminism, or marketing and making a profit? Women often argue two sides when it comes to hypersexualized characters. The first side being pro-hypersexualization, and the second, being anti-hypersexualization. Pro-hypersexualization is the idea that women have the right to do what they want with their bodies, and to embrace themselves and who they are–including their bodies. The other side argues that hypersexualization counteracts with feminism. Women should not show off their bodies–and them flaunting themselves takes away progress made towards the feminism movement. So which side is the right side? Of course, I am not at liberty to make that decision, and to tell you which side is right or wrong; but I can offer you my opinion, and here it is–I agree with both sides. This, the concept of the right and wrong of hypersexualization, in my eyes, is situation, case-by-case decision; yet, I lean more towards the “pro-hypersexualization” side. I overall believe that women are smart enough to decide what they want to do with their bodies, and that they should not be ridiculed for their decisions. Women (and men too) should feel comfortable to do what they want–if they want to feel and be sexy through this definition of hypersexualization, then they should be allowed to do so. Yet, if women (and men) simply use this concept of hypersexualization as a tool to get something they want–then that is a gray area. But what if what they want is to sell a product? Welcome to the World of Marketing–a place where girls in tight and short clothes will convince you to buy a sports car you do not need, where men wearing Calvin Klein underwear will convince you that if you have that CK logo across your waist, you too, will be sexy–where being a hot warrior chick in World of Warcraft, might convince other character to party up with you to more quickly complete quests. We have all heard of the saying “sex sells,” and in this case “sex more quickly completes quests.” It’s true though, you are more likely to sell a product that features a man or woman who depicts what media portrays as “sexy.”
So I suppose we come back to our original issue, are having these hypersexualized characters wrong? Once again it is a gray area. We face this question of it is wrong to use hypersexualization against women, simply for one’s own personal gain? Yet is it so wrong for anyone (someone like Tom Raider, the design of Tomb Raider) to want to turn a profit? It is used everywhere else in media, why should video games be an exception? And what if it is a woman that designs the hypersexualized game? Does that change anything? With these questions in mind, I personally find myself dumbfounded to find an answer; in many ways it is a double edge sword. Women should not objectify other women, but what if she was not intending to objectify them in the first place? Secondly, shouldn’t women support one another when it comes to success–she was just using research and marketing to better sell her product–would she be ridiculed, judged, or questioned as much if she were a man? These are questions I found myself asking again and again. What do you think?