All the World’s a Drag Show and We’re Just Kings and Queens: Gender Performance and Video Games
In this week’s podcast, Alex brought up the fact that she was reading Judith Butler’s gender performativity theory and I thought that while Butler’s work is a little heavy it could definitely lead us to a good discussion of how feminine and masculine characters in video games are constructed aesthetically and narratively.
Here’s the deal. Gender is a social construct. We all know it regardless of whether or not we want to believe it. We are born a particular sex (male, remale, intersexed), but there is no one gender that just comes along with that sex. And there really is no set definition of gender. It’s all shades of grey. All feminine folks aren’t just “sugar and spice and everything nice” and all masculine folks aren’t “snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails”. We can all be a little bit of this and a little bit of that (and some of us are more of one than the other and just a bit less than traditional) and the kicker is, it’s all a performance. And not a one night gig, but something that takes place so many times that it becomes naturalized (not natural, but naturalized) and gets seen as being the norm.
Video games take gender performativity to a whole new level. Not only is the masculine the primary and naturalize gender in terms of video game characteristics, but they serve as a foil for female characters. Female characters are everything that the men are not and they become the objects upon which male characters act in order to prove that they are indeed “men”. As feminists who talk about video games we often get a bad wrap. We get accused of ignoring men in games, solely focusing on the female aesthetic in games, making issues where none exist, and even of hating games.
NEWSFLASH: We do not hate games, gamers, or men. We do focus on women and minorities in games because that is where our interest lies and because that is the largely unexplored frontier. Having to deal with the why question is much like having to answer why African American/Queer/Women’s Studies exists…it’s because it has to. It is not represented by the dominant paradigm and it is the thing that fills the void. It is a necessary.
does exist. And video game characters and narratives need to take a bit of this into consideration. In the meantime podcasts and blogs like ours definitely will and we will continue to expect that game developers will take it into consideration as well.
So, in the future you can expect that I will continue to talk about gender representations in games and game narratives, but that I’m going to primarily focus on women (and other Othered folks). That being said, on the next podcast we are going to mix things up and talk about intersectionality and male characters in games so expect more on gender drag, race, sexuality, and representation. It is definitely not to be missed.