Thursday, February 19, 2015

Liana Kerzner on "Fighting Fucktoys" and Feminist Frequency, and an autobiographical note

A few bits from Why Feminist Frequency almost made me quit writing about video games: Part 4 | Metaleater:
The fighting f**ktoy trope is, as Anita applies it, a blanket condemnation of women who display openly sexual characteristics. Her application of the concept is indistinguishable from the way moral conservatives expect women to be uniquely modest in both attitude and dress. That's slut shaming, and it's harmful.
The fighting f**ktoy, or FFT, is a concept popularized by Caroline Heldman PhD. It's supposed to refer to a female character who appears to be empowered and carries an action-driven story, but when you look deeper, she's still just a sex object.
Feminist Frequency also constantly confuses sexual attractiveness that is an element of a character's purpose for sexual attractiveness that is the entirety of a character's purpose. At no point do most of the female video game characters labelled FFTs ever actually have sex, meaning that the issue isn't the activities they engage in, but how they look. In order to make the FFT label appear to fit, Sarkeesian and other feminists who apply the terminology to video game characters cram and jam facts into unnatural arrangements and outright ignore other elements. They apply this term to Bayonetta, Lara Croft, and who knows how many other perfectly decent female characters who happen to have distinct costumes and large boobs.

It benefits no one to slap demeaning labels on women who choose to accept and embrace their own physicality. Around the seventh grade, girls start to lose their connections to their authentic selves, sacrificing that to survive as part of a socially restrictive, competitive group. Discouraging direct confrontation, ie: aggressiveness, is part of that loss of self. Furthermore, body shaming is a very real thing that voluptuous women encounter: we don't have many role models who are valued for being intellectuals or leaders, after all.
Some of you may be wondering at this point why I have such a radically different perspective on these characters. I think it's because I analyze these games as games, not as interactive movies subjected to traditional communication theories. Action games move so quickly and require so much concentration that you don't have time to stare at the playable character's ass. The so-called "male gaze" doesn't apply when your attention is focused on a targeting reticule. The player works with these third-person protagonists as a team. While the player may find their partner attractive, the relationship isn't a simple one of subject and object, as we've dealt with in previous parts of this series.
I'm sympathetic to Kerzner's main point because my first love hated the kind of attention her large breasts got her from men and from women so much that she had breast reduction surgery. See Power Girl vs. the Slut-shamers of Skiffydom: on cosplay and feminist pulchriphobia.

As for her point about the "male gaze", people notice people's sexual attributes. The male gaze is only one half of the human gaze. See Female gaze, and a piece I just happened on, A hip hop feminist questions the “male gaze”, which concludes:
My own experiences and knowledge have brought me to a place to deny the possibility of any woman ever actually satisfying the male gaze, no matter how hard they try, for two very contradictory reasons. Firstly, the male gaze is a product of capitalism. So it has the capacity to make even the most traditionally beautiful women feel like shit about themselves. The perfect woman to satisfy this gaze does not exist. And secondly, my experiences with men as friends, lovers, and family have shed light on the fact that they themselves are not as bound to the standards established by the gaze as one would assume.
To elaborate on the hip hop feminist's last line: This is very true. Two takes:

1. I admire Buckingham Palace, but I do not want to live there. I also suspect that if Buckingham Palace was conscious, it would be envious of the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower and Airstream trailers and any number of cute cabins and cottages.

2. When I was young, I was only attracted to women who were my height or shorter than me. Then I fell in love with Emma. Now my "male gaze" lingers on tall women.