March is Women’s History Month and Nintendo has decided to take part in order to honor women. Nintendo has released Rosie the Riveter-style posters featuring their most popular female video game characters, such as Bayonetta, Samus Aran and Toadette. Nintendo’s campaign has been met with fierce criticism by feminists such as Alexis Kleinman.
These are examples of the posters that Nintendo released to honor Women’s History Month. Judging from these posters, it looks like feminists should actually support this campaign. What’s not to love about two female video game characters on a Rosie the Riveter poster? Apparently a lot, according to Alexis Kleinman of the Washington Post.
Kleinman argues that this is a poor poster campaign because Nintendo has Princess Peach, a famous female character that plays the damsel-in-distress. Princess Peach is not featured at all in this poster campaign because she is not a heroine: instead, she constantly needs to be saved by the male hero, Mario. Whenever female characters of Nintendo are not playing the damsel-in-distress, Kleinman argues that they are just “Ms. Male Characters.”
“Ms. Male Characters” is an argument Anita Sarkeesian makes to show that female characters like Toadette and Bombette are actually just female versions of the popular male characters. Male characters like Toad get to have all kind of personality qualities while the female version Toadette have their personalities ignored because people only focus on their gender. Toadette is just the female version of Toad and lacks all of the unique personality qualities of Toad. So, the poster of Toadette is not special because it is just like having Toad on a Rosie the Riveter poster.
Female Character Sexualization
Kleinman argues that some of Nintendo’s female characters like Bayonetta and Samus are unnecessarily sexualized. She thinks this is a huge problem because “[s]tudies have shown that sexualized portrayals of women in video games negatively influence peoples perceptions of women in life.” Having Bayonetta on a Rosie the Riveter poster is counterproductive because she is over-sexualized to begin with and it is wrong to put her on a poster promoting Women’s History Month.
There are two problems with this argument. The first is this: just because a female character is beautiful does not mean she is sexualized. Characters like Samus and Bayonetta are beautifully designed characters. They both have personalities, ambition, drive, and beauty. It is wrong for feminists to say these characters are ove-rsexualized because they are beautiful? With this logic, you can say any female model is automatically over-sexualized because she is beautiful. That doesn’t make any sense.
The second problem is that it is impossible to make the case that sexualized video game characters lead people to have negative perceptions of women in real life. There are too many factors involved that might influence people to have negative perceptions of women, such as parental sexism, parental abuse, female criminals, and other environmental causes. To say that the reason that people have negative perceptions of women is because of a fictional video game character is absolutely absurd.
Women in Video Games
Kleinman wants Nintendo to include more female lead characters in their future games. She argues that women are sexualized, marginalized, and underrepresented in video games. She also makes the claim that female gamers face all kinds of harassment online. Until Nintendo fixes these issues, Kleinman will not support their poster campaign.
There are all kinds of problems I find with her argument but the main one that concerns me is the idea of under-representation and marginalization of women in video games. I do not agree that women are marginalized in video games, but let’s say for the sake of argument that they are. It doesn’t make any sense to try to solve discrimination of women in a video game that is completely fake and made up.
According to feminists like Anita Sarkeesian, Princess Peach is constantly marginalized in Mario. Feminists think we should spend time and money to try and stop Princess Peach from being marginalized anymore. I argue as a society we should stop spending resources to fix Princess Peach’s fictional marginalization when we can use those resources to help women in real life who are victims of real abuse. Princess Peach is a fake character and she doesn’t need any resources to fix her fictional situation.
The final point I want to make is that men face harassment in video games just like women. Take, for instance, popular video games like Call of Duty or Battlefield. In these online shooters, if you’re a man and play badly you will hear all kinds of insults, death threats, and profanity directed your way. If you’re a woman and you play badly, you will be harassed just like men are. Harassment is unfortunate, but you can’t control what people will say to you over the Internet.
At the end of the day, Nintendo cannot win when it comes to pleasing feminists. If they doID nothing for Women’s History Month, then feminists will complain. As the reaction to their poster campaign shows, feminists will find a reason to whine about anything. Feminists are only happy when they’re complaining about something. Nintendo is just something else they can whine about.