Telling women what to wear under the guise of being against female objectification is not a positive action. There has been a lot of discussion over the past few years about the role of ‘booth babes’ and ‘sexy’ cosplayers, their treatment by fans, and how game expos can help.
One way that does not help is to make it ‘illegal’ to attend in sexy attire. One way that certainly does not help is to send home paid employees whose companies asked them to attend in sexy attire.
This happened at a game expo in China. Li Ling was acting as a booth babe, and was asked to leave because she wasn’t wearing enough clothes. Not only that, but she was told she was not to return the following days.
I want you to think about this – what happened to that woman after? She was humiliated and criticized, publicly. She was no longer able to do her paid job, and so she was likely not paid for the entire weekend. She had to go to her boss and explain why she was unable to return to the Expo, which is certainly a degrading experience. All because her employer paid her to wear something that was not allowed under their regulations – a penalty that would surely do better going to the company and not the model.
Meanwhile, closer to home, PAX has had a ban on booth babes for a couple years. Jessica Nigri went through three costumes of the heroine from Lollipop Chainsaw before they finally ‘approved’ her costume.
Punishing women for dressing up like their favourite characters isn’t progressive, though. It certainly isn’t what women need in order to feel more included within the gaming culture. I understand that women are trying to redefine their presence in geek culture – and that being oversexualized and harassed is a huge problem. However punishing the women isn’t the solution.
It’s a simple case of placing the blame of male behaviours – creating sexy video game characters, drooling over sexy women, being rude and objectionable and treating women like objects – and placing it on women. To ‘empower’ women, they decided that a woman needs to submit their costume idea to a man in order to have it approved.
Honestly, I’m surprised there is not more outrage. Penny Arcade had plenty of hate over their treatment of the dick wolves fiasco, and rightly so. I read the initial ‘dick wolves’ comic and took it to mean that in MMOs, we could take one of the worst things that could happen to someone – rape – and simply ignore it once our quest has been completed. Perhaps questionable, but I didn’t think it made light of rape. Some people did, and they complained.
And their treatment of those people, who were largely women, was disgusting. Mockery. Taunting. Bullying. They sold dick wolves T-shirts. They then went on to make dick wolf jokes all throughout the expo, drawing a picture of one during their live drawing. Their fans – largely male – loved it. When they removed it, they said that while they thought everything they did was fine for their site:
PAX is a different matter though. We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen. From not allowing booth babes to making sure we have panels that represent all our attendees.
So their idea of making everyone feel welcome is to tell women they can’t dress in accurate cosplay of their characters. They’re telling us when it’s okay to be offended — when there’s a scantily dressed woman — and when it’s not okay — when we discuss rape culture. It’s sad because the two things are so closely tied together that recognizing one to be problematic while ignoring the other is just a missed opportunity. Meanwhile, the one they’ve decided to fix requires a change in female behaviours and financial opportunities, but not in men’s.
Men telling women what to wear isn’t a feminist action. It’s not an allied action. It’s taking the punishment for being rude and sexist from men and putting it on women.
We could talk about the cultural reasons why women might want to dress sexy, especially in geek culture. We could talk about the reasons why a model might take a job as a booth babe. We could explore the deep roots of sexually explicit characters in geek culture, about the way women are portrayed, about how problematic it might be. We can talk about the reason men have issues with female sexuality.
We could look at all of these things, but the one thing we absolutely should not be doing is putting the blame on women and telling them how to dress and behave.
Also, I really would suggest everyone watch Jimquisition’s video on the topic. I really like his thoughtful take on it, especially in regards to job loss for women.
Related Posts on Femmedia:
Non-Violent Video Games - The patriarchy hurts everyone, including men, by forcing them to only feel comfortable expressing appropriate emotions – anger, rage, and a repulsion towards anything considered ‘weak’.
No Girls on the Internet - Women have to try harder to prove themselves in geek culture because they’re never thought to be ‘true’ geeks.
Proposals and Societal Expectation - Even women in geek culture have this idea that using geeky themes in are contrary to how a wedding proposal – something done primarily by a man to a woman – “should be”.