Sex Sells

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?

World of Warcraft female character.

Lara Croft, the main character in Tomb Raider.

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2 Responses to Sex Sells

  1. shhairah says:

    So let me first start off by saying, that I am glad that you brought this about and that I think you explained this, as well as spoke your mind, beautifully. Now, because I am certain you do not want to listen to me yammer on for hours about this I am going to speak this as simply/quickly as I can. First off, I couldn’t agree with you more than when you were saying that you tend to lean towards both sides of the feminism platform as to whether women should or shouldn’t be hyper-sexualized. For the sake of my response I should acknowledge that I agree with you, in that the feminist side should allow for hyper-sexualization if desired, however I must also acknowledge that I can fully understand they conservative side of feminism as well. Now, I agree with your statement that “sex sells,” because quite frankly it does, and to deny that would lead to many drawn out sentences with days and days of debate. What I am most interested in you comment is the question of: “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?” Now here I have many responses that I could give you, but I am going to settle myself down and answer this as simply as I can… First off, the answer “should” be yes. Yes, women should support one another when it comes to success. However, it is simply not that simple. You see, in a society that dictates that women are inferior to men, women are constantly at a struggle with one another to be the “least inferior.” This is to say that, while women should work together and fight for and with one another, they cannot, for they spend their time fighting with each other to see who is the “least” inferior. Now, to someone who does not have to put up with this throughout their life, this may seem stupid/insane/an easy “copout”… however, if you are in the “lesser breed” of human you would know this to be fully true. Essentially, women have been pitted against each other, because they have been bred in a society that has placed them at odds with one another where each woman is only worth her salt if she is “better” than the rest of the women around her. So while it may seem to be a simple answer of “yes,” there is a pit full of reasons why the answer “yes” isn’t so simple. As a result, women are often pitted against each other when it comes to the idea of feminism as well. Because, I mean, if women can’t even support each other when it comes to work why would you expect them to support each other when it comes to a topic as heavy as feminism?! Women are often sent to these two types of camps that you spoke about, because of where they come from. Now, this doesn’t mean that they end up in these camps purely because of where they are “from,” but it does have a great deal to do with it. Often those on the conservative side tend to lean towards they “she shouldn’t subject herself to sexualization” side, while the liberal side tends to lean towards the “she can do whatever the hell she wants with her body” side, however it is fairly simple for feminists to switch from side to side. While each of these sides have merit, and I could spend hours arguing about this, I want to sum it down to the thought that: while it would be great to have an answer as to which side is the “best,” that is never going to happen, because both have merit, and until women are no longer subjected to pit themselves agains one another the two–completely valid–sides won’t be able to meld as they should. …so yes, I agree with you.

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  2. tspace22 says:

    One aspect that can add to this argument is that these characters are commonly designed, and created, by males (there are an increased number or women in the gaming industry but it still has a long way to go, look at Gamergate). I think that hypersexualized female characters can be extremely problematic because it is not women deciding how they want to display their bodies, it is the designers decision, which is frequently made with consideration to the male gaze.

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