I had to comment on this because I am dismayed and disappointed by Leigh Alexander’s thoughts here, and surprisingly impressed with some of the Kotaku readers.
Alexander does two seriously unprofessional things in this post: 1. Puts words in Samhita’s (of Feministing) mouth, and 2. Attacks Feministing, both without addressing the actual issue here: that GTA IV is a sexist game. And it is, there is no doubt about it.
However, enjoying GTA IV doesn’t make you a sexist. Here is where Alexander’s scramble to defend the game comes in: she’s not a sexist–she’s a woman, in fact!–and she likes GTA IV, so it must be okay! Yeah, no. First of all, she writes, “Are those who enjoy [GTA IV] misogynists? Feminist interest blog Feministing certainly thinks so…” which is totally inaccurate. Samhita didn’t say anything of the sort. Where did Alexander get this from?
Example time: I enjoy the Phoenix Wright games, which contain, among other issues, a male gaze-rife portrayal of one of the female characters. The second game also has a racist portrayal of a Native American. Does enjoying Phoenix Wright make me sexist or a racist? Of course not. But I’m not naive enough to pretend the games are an equality fest.
Alexander brings out the usual arguments against criticisms of GTA IV (all of which avoid the real issue)–the Mature rating, the social satire aspect, the idea that the game just reflects real-world sexism. It’s imitating life, huh? If that’s so, where are the male prostitutes? Where are the male strippers? Why are there no women with personality? If the game is “about choice”, then why can’t you date a man, or hell, be friends with a woman? Why are all women potential dates, and therefore potential sex partners? Surely there are plenty of men–even mobsters–out there in the real world who have female friends they don’t sleep with?
Alexander goes on to say:
To call misogyny here is divisive, actually, implying that the treatment of women needs to be elevated above the treatment of any other group – as if “woman” were a separate, special “race” with a unified mind. We aren’t, thank you.
In fact, with all due respect for the feminist community, demand for that sort of favoritism seems to breed resentment – perhaps even the very resentment that GTA IV provides the framework to explore. Just who are those large-breasted logo silhouettes on Feministing’s website supposed to be giving the middle finger to, anyway?
First of all, if you think feminists want women to have special treatment, you’re incredibly off-base. Go read the Feminism 101 blog. Feminists want equality, not preferential treatment for women. And the treatment of people in this game is not equal between women and men.
Secondly, totally avoiding the subject while criticizing the Feministing site? (The logo is a reclamation of the mudflap girl, by the way–much like Bitch Magazine is a reclamation of the word “bitch.”) Not a good way to make an argument. It also angers me because the online gaming culture is already so anti-feminist that Alexander’s comments just reinforce that mindset. There are definitely things to criticize about Samhita’s post, but attacking her and the site is not the way to go about it.
The complaint is that the game reinforces the misogyny already well entrenched in our culture. Just because other things are worse, just because that’s the way it is, just because it’s a game, just because it’s supposedly satire, just because Samhita didn’t play the game, doesn’t make it not sexist. In fact, there are people out there who played the game, enjoyed it, and found it sexist! Hey, here are two of them!
So relax, Alexander, you’re not a sexist for liking GTA IV. You’re a sexist for denying that the game is at the very least problematic.