I recently bought a really fun game for my 3DS (thanks for that awesome present, by the way). It’s called Bravely Default, and it is exactly what I was looking for in an RPG: fun game mechanics, cool job classes, an involved story with an elaborate world and a hefty dose of nostalgia. There’s only one problem. It’s enormously sexist.
I got my first hint with the character of Ringabel, one of the members of the main party, who is constantly asking, “Will there be ladies?” when the group talks about traveling to another place. At one point, he claims he has so many girlfriends he can’t keep track. His advances at the two women in the party are constantly met with rejection and “unacceptable.”
But I was only mildly uncomfortable until the character of the old sage was introduced, a supposedly wise old man who crafts holy cloths for the vestals to wear in religious ceremonies. But instead of greeting the vestal as an equal or religious figure, he remarks that she’s gotten pleasantly curvier since he saw her as a child. He then remarks that the previous vestal was “very firm,” as in having firm, “taught curves.” He then proposes to share his bed with the two young women of the party, who are vocally uncomfortable with this.
Later, the group travels to a town of all women, where the residents are catty and vain, and male visitors happily ogle and critique the women on the street.
At every turn, women in the show, even playable characters, are treated as sexual decoration and prey. The main women, Agnes, a religious leader, and Edea, a knight, do not receive respect they deserve as people, but are reduced to their gender, and how attractive they are. They are constantly protesting Ringabel’s and others’ advances, but the male characters brush this off.
I’m sure this is meant to be lighthearted and fun, but instead it promotes rape culture and the objectification of women. The male characters refuse to respect that “No means no.” They don’t honor the women’s right to determine the level of intimacy or lack thereof that they desire. Unfortunately, this passes on the message to the boys and men that play this game that this kind of behavior is acceptable and normal:
“Because of its essential interactive nature, gaming occupies a unique and possibly more detrimental position vis-a-vis the portrayal and treatment of female characters,” says Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency, in her latest video for her Tropes v. Women in Video Games series.
Not only is the treatment of women very poor in this game, but it also passes on to men that this violation of women’s rights is flirty and humorous. And it tells women that their “no” doesn’t matter.
This is rape culture, Dad, a combination of media, laws, values, beliefs, jokes, etc., that “condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm . . . In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable . . . However . . . much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change,” according to Emilie Buchwald in her book “Transforming a Rape Culture.”
It’s gotten so bad in the game, Dad, that I’ve had to stop playing for a while. With every cut scene and conversation, I’m reminded that my rights and my safety don’t matter to the game creators, and that this message is being passed on to others who play the game. It’s scary.
It’s time for a new gaming culture.