Feminist gaming blog with a heaping dash of science and politics

When Is It Sexist?: A Chart That Doesn’t Get It Quite Right

A picture chart titled "Is it Sexist?". In the first panel a fully armored man stands next to a statuesque woman posed awkwardly and wearing a very skimpy set of 'armor', next to the panel is a giant "Yes" to denote that this is sexist. In the second panel the fully armored man stands next to a simiarly dressed and posed woman, with a "No" to denote this is not sexist. In the last panel the skimply attired woman from the first panel returns with a man in a loin cloth, next to this panel is written "No" to indicate a lack of sexism.

I tweeted about this a little earlier, but there’s really only so much you can articulate in 140 characters or less and I’d really like to address what I find this chart to be lacking. There’s a lot to like about the picture as a handy reference for the inevitable Chainmail Bikini argument that crops up in the gaming community and it’s wittly done. The first and second set of characters are perfectly spot on. The first set is definitely sexist as all get out despite its heavy presence in the gaming industry (I’m looking at you Rift, Terra, WoW, etc.) and the second set is definitely one of the better, non-sexist ways to go about creating armored characters in the more realistic medieval fantasy settings (I ❤  you Skyrim for mainly sticking to this path, but don’t think I didn’t see the Forsworn armor *glare*). The third set of characters are supposed to be the non-sexist way to have that high fantasy “we have magic barriers and don’t need no stinking armor, besides nudeliness is godliness” setting that game developers love to delve into. The problem I have with the picture, and with that whole mindset in general, is that the sexual objectification and sexiness aren’t equalized between the genders.

You see, clothing (or lack thereof) is not the end-all-be-all measure of sexual objectification. It’s the easiest, most apparent and tangible part to be sure, and therefor the aspect of objectification that is pointed to the most during these discussions, but there’s dozens of other things, both big and small that contribute to a character’s objectification. In this particular case, there are four distinct things that keep the sexualization unequal (and therefore sexist): pose, type of clothing worn, facial expression, and anatomy.

The third panel from the chart at a larger size. The woman is wearing a bikini outfit with high heeled boots and is posed sexily/awkwardly. The man next to her is wearing a loin cloth and is standing in a more natural position.

Spot the differences! Okay, not *those* differences, yeesh.

Let’s start with the foundation of these characters: their anatomy. There is no doubt about it, the man in this picture is very much idealized. He has a body that would only be attainable by a select few men in the real world through a combination of hard work and lucky genetics. The woman’s body, however, is not an idealized body, but a body that has been distorted out of normal proportions into a sexual object that approximates a hyper-real idea of what a ‘Sexy Woman’ looks like. Her body is not even physically possible for humans outside of some pretty radical surgery: she’s missing parts of her rib cage and her waist is smaller than her head. There is also something to be said for the fact that the woman’s breasts are very exaggerated but the man’s comparable feature (the ‘bulge’) is not. I mean, he’s big, but he’s not got balls that are each the size of his fist like the lady’s got boobs that are each the size of her head.

The next layer of foundation for these characters, their poses, is also unequal. The man is in a passive pose that suggests sexual objectification, but he’s also still standing at the ready. The only thing the woman appears to be ready for is knee pain and toppling over at the slightest breeze.

After we get past the posing, we come to the issue of clothing. Here, again, the man is somewhat objectified in that he’s not wearing much of anything at all, but the woman’s outfit far out strips (ha!) him in objectification. The man’s outfit, what little of it there is, still somewhat looks like actual armor with it’s studded belt, large shoulder guards, and normal boots. The woman’s outfit, on the other hand, has almost nothing approaching real armor outside of the shoulder guards, but does have components that would actively get in her way during combat or any sort of vigorous movement: high heeled boots, long hair that hangs loose in and around her face, and that strappy contraption trying to pass as a bra.

Last, but not least by a longshot, are the differing facial expressions on the man and woman. The man has got some vague bored/nonchalant/neutral expression on his face. The woman is in the middle of having a… really nice time. Mayhaps that’s why there is a face on her crotch. Magical panties indeed.

So in sum, yes, the man in this picture is being sexually objectified what with his lack of clothing, idealized body, and passive stance. However, the woman is far more objectified because her body has been distorted to non-human proportions, she is wearing very little clothing that also restricts her ability to be active, and has an overtly sexualized facial expression. These two characters are not equivalent in their sexual objectification, and so, unlike what the chart says, this pairing is actually sexist as well. Not anywhere near as sexist as the first picture to be sure, but it definitely does still have some lingering sexism in it.

Now this is not because the person who drew this chart is a horrible, wrongity-wrong, sexist person, but because, well, they’re human and living in this same effed up sexist culture we all are stuck in. Depicting a man that has been as sexually objectified as this guy is is a huge subversion of the dictates of the patriarchy. Its such a rare and taboo-ish sight to see sexualized men that we automatically take it as extreme sexualization when in reality, and compared to what is de rigueur for women, its really not. So I can’t really get mad at the artist for making the mistake, especially when all they were doing was attempting to give us a handy illustration of this subtle form of sexism. However, for the last panel of this chart to be true and for it to have greater impact, we would need to see the real equivalent to the sexually objectified woman. We would need to see a man in heels and a skimpy, flimsy loin cloth that lifts and separates his balls, posed  in an odd, unbalanced way that best shows off his impossibly tiny hips and waist and perfectly sculpted pecs while making a face better reserved for the bedroom than the battlefield. And ya know why we probably didn’t get to see that in the last panel? Because it would look freaking ridiculous, just like the woman already does. We’re just so used to ridiculously sexualized images of women that it doesn’t even register as such anymore.

And that, really, is the lesson we should take away from this chart. Not that everyone should be brought down to the low, low standards set by the likes of Terra and Blade & Soul, but that this level of sexual objectification is just absurd. Ludicrous. Outrageous. A bunch of other adjectives that denote “holy crap why do I look like this, this is really weird”. Sexy is fine, sexy is good, nay, great! I love being sexy and seeing sexy characters, but let’s stop with the sexual objectification. Sexy is for people, not objects that are vaguely people-shaped.


25 responses to “When Is It Sexist?: A Chart That Doesn’t Get It Quite Right

  1. Rock Peterson December 1, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    First off, I’d like to say that if you’re going to compare images of sexualized individuals, I’d suggest picking a couple Frazetta pictures… any random barely dressed man and woman will do. You can still aim for many of the same ethical points, but you won’t be able to blame shortcomings on what is effectively an over-simplified image that was never meant to look realistic. (Though I should also point out that as oversimplified as the images are, I know people who look very much like each of them, without enhancement surgery, even to the point of having been dressed in a similar manner… of course, I’m in the SCA and I have spent many years working in strip clubs, so I see people who regularly dress in a manner well outside the societal norms).

    Additionally, I can’t help but wonder if as a woman (Sorry if I’m incorrect there, I haven’t looked too much into the about Zaewen, and I recognize that I’m making a sexist assumption that as a proud feminist who does not seem to have a stereotypically male name, you’re probably not a guy) you may not be a bit hyper-aware of the flaws in the female form compared to those of the male. I’ll certainly admit that the lower ribline looks off on her, but I just chalk that up to the oversimplified nature of the drawings, kinda like her freakishly long neck, or the guys weirdly underdeveloped biceps (I can’t imagine anyone who could get their chest and forearms so buff while maintaining relatively skinny upper arms) or the fact that it looks like a few inches of space below the beltline were erased before the legs and crotch were drawn. He may only be pigeon-toed on the left compared to her pointing both feet inwards, but heck, real people do that too.

    Finally, maybe you find the idea of guys in high heals sexy (heck, I find them to usually be atrocious on women, so I’m sure it’s possible), but most women I’ve talked to (and yes, the subject has come up) find the idea of guys in heals (aside from serious attempts at crossdressing/drag) to be ironic or amusing at most, but no more “sexy” than sensible shoes on a woman for most men. Many of those same women will drool over a guy with that build wearing a nice uniform though. What is stereotypically “sexy” for straight men and women does seem, in my experience, to be completely different (aside from things like being fat or deformed, apparently both sexes can agree on that level of discrimination).

    Sorry if I’m coming across as a troll… It’s not intended that way. I just want to point out a legitimate and real point of view you may not to share. Unless your intended purpose is to “preach to the choir,” there’s some significant room for improvement in how you present your message.

    • Zaewen December 1, 2011 at 10:27 pm

      Well, I’ll start off by saying that I’m not trying to compare any two random out of context images together, Franzetta or no, because that would be rather pointless. I’m specifically pointing out how this chart, handy as it is for expressing pictograhically the essence behind the chainmail bikini debate, has some flaws to it. And that those flaws lie mostly in the ways we think of male and female sexual objectification, with special emphasis on how we consider even the slightest male sexualization to be equal to the impossible pictures of female sexualization.

      And I’m stressing that impossible by the way. There is a great deal of amazing and beautiful variation in human bodies, as they exist naturally and how we can push them through excerise and diets. The sexy woman’s body in this picture is unattainable outside of serious surgery or extreme corsetting.It’s just not without our natural ability to push our bodies to have a waist that’s smaller than our heads or to be missing a couple of ribs. As for the guy, you’re right that having a female body myself I am not 100% familiar with their anatomy, but I’m familiar enough to know that his anatomy, while heavily idealized, has not been distorted out of inhuman proportions like the woman’s has.

      As for guys in heels: high heels are an artifice of our culture. They are gendered only because current society tells us they are. They originated as something noble men wore and have morphed into something that’s becoming more and more a requirement of preforming femininity the ‘right way’. The idea that women would need heels to look sex or even that super high heels make a woman sexier is relatively new. As for me personally finding men in heels sexy? Yes and no. For me it conjures up the same thoughts as seeing women in heels: makes them move in interesting ways, gives their hips a nice sway, but damn do they look painful and hard to move around in.

  2. Max Atwood December 1, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    I’d like to address your point about the clothing. Let me clarify that I am a man and I do lean towards sexism. Not because I feel that women are inferior, but because that’s a fairly natural dichotomy between men and women. It doesn’t translate to disrespect towards women, their opinions, and so on, but it does color the context of how I interact with them, generally in the form of sexual humor that wouldn’t necessarily be broached with male friends. All that being said, I feel that the final image does represent a balanced depiction of non-sexist character design. Firstly, I’ll concede that the lady’s boots may not be standard issue with their open toes, they do, however, close again similar to tabi and make their way up to her knee as the men’s do. The man’s boots don’t seem to have much stability either as the appear to lack soles and might even simply be roughly sewn leather. Their crotch and waist armor (I don’t know what else to call it) seems to be balanced as well with the man’s only real protection would be the studded belt as the rest of it seems to be cloth. Granted, the woman has her cloth wrapped differently, but if I could play Devil’s Advocate, the top section of it could be made of leather, albeit unstudded like the man’s. In the same area, the woman has bracers on, possibly made of leather as well, where the man has no wrist protection. As far as their chest protection, they both lack any real defense and to be fair, I’ve seen bathing suits that use the same design as the female warrior’s. In addition to that, the lady has neck protection, possibly the same style studded leather as the man’s belt, which is a spot where the man also lacks, and is one of the more important pieces of armor that he’s lacking. Their shoulder armor is essentially identical, although I don’t know how they’re attached to the people. Lastly, regarding their expressions, that lady looks more bored and angry than stimulated to me with the upturned lip and dipping eyebrows. Maybe a little bit of disgust, even. The man’s expression, on the other hand, gives me a chilly Luke Perry vibe, also a little bored with a bit of gruffness in it. The lady’s hair is behind her ears, so it may be held back with a beret or one of those u-shaped things that sit over the head behind the ears, I’m obviously not sure what they’re called. Their hands seem to be in identical states of readiness, both slightly curled in a fairly natural way, and while the lady’s depiction seems to be more pronounced, both the male and the female have an awkward stance with knees turned inward more than should be comfortable. I enjoyed reading your article and was quite pleased with the tone. Good luck with grad school.

    • Zaewen December 1, 2011 at 10:48 pm

      Well then.

      First, let me say that you’re sexism is, well, sexist and, yeah, kinda does end up translating into disrespect for women and thinking that they’re inferior, even if its in subtle ways or ways you don’t necessairly recognize but the women around you do.

      Secondly, your point about the clothing. There is a lot of subjectivity in interpreting what the picture is actually depicting, especially since it’s just a line drawing. Personally, the woman’s outfit reminded me a lot of a mage’s skimpy ‘robe’ that consists of strips of cloth wrapped around the bare necessities. The man’s obviously reminded me of loin cloths and so in my mind he’s wearing leather. The points though, don’t really change if she’s wearing leather, cloth, or some weird magical plate that can be skin tight like that (damn that would chafe *shudder*). They’re wearing roughly the same *amount* of clothing, heck you could even say the guy is wearing less and should get some strappy nipple covers to match hers. The difference lies in *what* they’re wearing. They’re both equally vulnerable in the vital organ area, but only she is wearing armor that will physically hamper her movement (the heels), cause distracting wardrobe malfunctions (trust me, it happens with the similarly shaped swimwear too), and limit her field of view (those bangs would negate any hairband, that’s what they’re called btw, that might exist).

      The pose, though, I’ve gotta say is no contest. She’s got her legs turned so far inward that parts of her butt are starting to show (don’t ask me, that’s the way she was drawn). He, on the other hand, has one toe kinda pointed inwards. Even in the worst case scenario, he’s got at least one foot firmly planted on the ground.

  3. Max Atwood December 2, 2011 at 12:06 am

    *shrugs. my sexism is at least as benign as women’s sexism and if there was any real disrespect I don’t think my female friends would enjoy my company half as much. but I would like to see your depiction of balanced tribal armors, or someone’s depiction that you feel is appropriate. I will say, however, that while her top may provide an embarrassing moment on the battlefield depending on how modest she is, I would imagine she would enjoy the same range of movement as the man would. if your argument is that women shouldn’t be put in a position where their breasts might be seen, that’s a different aspect of ethics than sexism. the same issue could be brought up about the man’s loincloth in that the speedo style can lend itself to the same ‘popping out’ issue and the wider the stance the more likely it is that this would happen. also, the bulge on her left may be her butt coming around, but it seems to be set a bit low and may just be a quirk of the drawing. I can understand your point about the high heels, but while common sense may say that it’s difficult to walk or run on a spike, a male may not have direct reference for that and it might not register that it would need to be modified; I wouldn’t have even noticed the heels if you hadn’t mentioned it. also, there’s the issue of what roles these characters may play: as you said, the woman’s costume seems to be mage’s robes or something similar,which may mean that she’s an arcane character versus a melee character, in which case the image isn’t an ideal depiction due to the difference in what each character does and that’s just a mistake in the example. while the image may not be perfect, I do feel that it conveys the right message but maybe some of the details may need to be hammered out. as an artist, it’s harder for me to properly depict women unless I have an example to draw from and when I work from my imagination I tend towards what is aesthetic and composed in a balanced way. the curves on a ‘normal’ woman’s body can be difficult to balance properly, the relationship of the breasts to the hips, shoulder width, and the curvature of the neck are some of my weak points, not to mention that as a male artist, I’ve spent most of my life drawing males as most of the artists I know who are women drew women. both images are drawn to idealize and sexualize, but what constitutes ‘sexy’ for men and women is different. as a male, I would assume that the male depicted is what women would depict as the ‘ideal’ male figure and the hourglass shape of the female is, ostensibly, the ‘ideal’ female. neither are particularly realistic, but they both clearly convey the gender as it would be idealistically realized; equally sexist if anything but neither of them malicious depictions.

    • Zaewen December 2, 2011 at 1:18 am

      Well, everyone has some sexism, towards both men and women, because we were all raised in a sexist culture, but that’s not the topic at hand.

      while the image may not be perfect, I do feel that it conveys the right message but maybe some of the details may need to be hammered out.

      That was the main point of the post. The image is trying to convey a good message, but some of the detail in the last panel cloud that message by not fully equalizing the sexualization between the man and the woman. It can be hard to draw a man as sexually objectified as the woman is, it’s not an image we’re used to seeing or recreating. We know, almost as second nature, the ways to exaggerate a woman’s anatomy, the ways to pose her, the ways to dress her, etc to get the “HEY YOU SHOULD READ THIS AS SUPER DUPER SEXAY” message across, but when it comes to men we find ourselves at a bit of a loss. We’re able to do idealized men, maybe even sexualized men like the one in the chart, but men as sexual objects is a very hard thing for us to understand and visualize culturally. And that’s where the uneven pairing of objectified women and just idealized or sexualized men comes from. That’s the sexism, not the fact that they are sexy or attractive, but the simultaneous expectations that men cannot be as sexy or attractive as women and that women must be sexual objects to be attractive.

      • I don't want my name online December 10, 2014 at 5:28 pm

        *Wow* I have been trying to explain to my class exactly what you wrote in on paragraph for at least three years now. I finally decided to just write an essay on the whole thing (video games the media etc.) and I was wondering if I could quote you in it. I have gotten a lot of negativeness for my opinions, being called “too much of a feminist”, and being told that I Just think this “because I am jealous of their bodies” ( which doesn’t make sense since they aren’t real!!!) So I just wanted to explain that this is a real issue and I was hoping you could let me quote you. Sorry for being grammatically incorrect, and redundant throughout.

  4. Max Atwood December 2, 2011 at 1:44 am

    I guess that leads me to be confused as to what the point of the article is, then. if the image isn’t offensive and conveys the right message, isn’t is acceptable to allow the design to grow naturally rather than pick out minutiae and use them as a platform to cry out against sexism? they are both meant to be sexy depending on the viewer’s perspective and it seems like you’re arguing against what the male perception of sexy is. women have as much capacity for objectification as men do, it’s a matter of whether or not that’s how they choose to view people. I can look at the ‘sexy’ woman and make the choice to objectify her or to wonder about her hopes and fears, the same as a woman can oggle some man and think about what he would look like naked. it goes back to what defines sexy for men versus women. a dumpy, balding man may be sexy to some women the same way as some men prefer dumpy women, possibly with hair growing unchecked in weird places. again, I’d like to see an acceptable depiction of sexy, idealized, but not sexist tribal attire. additionally, there’s the issue of men being consistently portrayed as the villains bent on the destruction of the world, fueled by violence. this is a stereotype that could be considered as ‘sexist’ but it’s never brought up in those conversations; it’s the side of the generalization coin that men occupy opposite of women as sex objects. while you can argue the point that women are portrayed as sexual object more often than not quite easily, men’s type-casting into stereotypical roles doesn’t come up as an issue on any normal basis. the point I’m trying to make is that sexism is present, on both sides of the fence, and is really only brought up with regards to women’s role, which I feel is, in it’s own way, detrimental to the feminist movement. men and women are different biologically, physiologically, and to a lesser extent, emotionally. women have forever embodied grace and beauty, among other things, where men have been defined primarily by violence and power; curves versus hard edges, lithe versus sturdy, soft versus rough. these concepts are reinforced, not just by the men in society but the women as well. even in instances where the woman is being portrayed as hard-boiled there is almost always a balance to portray the femininity to prevent the character’s gender from being a moot point.

    • feministgamer December 2, 2011 at 11:51 am


      I think the poster likes the idea brought forth by the graphic, but it doesn’t completely cover the whole issue. Of course it wouldn’t, because it’s just a pictorial, but a picture says a thousand words. Women have had their image distorted a LOT – and not just bigger boobs and such. They actually have their spines broken and their organs removed so that they can adhere to sexual fantasies. Not cool. But there’s a train of thought that persists every time that’s brought up so it can be corrected, and that’s that men are sexualized, too. (So the issue is dismissed and never corrected.) Male chars can be and are sexualized, but not nearly to the same amount or degree. No sir, not even remotely close. And I believe Zee would like that addressed, too. Because saying a man who has not been dehumanized to the same awful degree that a woman are equal is not truth. It’s not. And we shouldn’t pretend that it is, otherwise we both lose.

      And I want to say this nicely, but dismissing an issue of sexism because you think the sexism is equal on both sides is something that people like Zee have been told over and over, and we know first hand that it’s not true. You’re going to have to trust us on this. You are lucky enough to not be able to see it, so please take your failure to understand as privilege, and let people like Zee have their voice so that you, and others like you, can be educated on what it’s like in another’s shoes. Because gaming is for all of us, right?

      • Max Atwood December 2, 2011 at 1:32 pm

        how offensive. take my ‘failure to understand as privilege’? so that ‘you, and others like you can be educated’. do you mean ‘men’. are you making a sexist statement saying that men don’t understand and need to be educated? that’s just as bad as saying that women don’t understand sports and need to be educated. you may be blinded by your obviously strong feminist ideals to assume that just because we don’t see eye to eye we don’t sympathize and do our part to prevent sexism and couldn’t possible know what it feels like to be treated differently according to our gender. you don’t seem to be seeing anything from our perspective the same way you would like us to see from yours and are making a stand that what’s good for the gander isn’t good for the goose. I want to say this nicely, but feminists like you who assume that men are too stupid to understand are the reason that the general population won’t take you seriously; because you’re close-minded. I listened to the poster’s voice and I feel that we had a good dialogue between the two of us where we discussed the issues at hand at didn’t bring in the ‘you’re a woman/man so you just don’t understand’ argument. gaming is for all of us, but I want to share a server with someone who doesn’t make an issue out of their or my gender and simply plays the game. if you’re so die hard about portraying women differently in gaming make your own game with a strong female lead that exemplifies your ideology. if you’re not willing to put in the work for it, don’t come into a civil conversation spouting your crap. men’s head get shrunk in games to exaggerate larger muscle mass, where women have items removed to fit an image men get things added. both can be perceived to send the message that what we already are isn’t good enough. the difference is, men don’t care because they enjoy living out the power-fantasy that’s presented where women feel that it is a judgement being passed on them as a gender. just because you don’t believe it doesn’t make it not true. men get objectified in vastly different way than women do, but the focus always comes back to the sexualization issue.

        • Zaewen December 2, 2011 at 2:29 pm

          Feministgamer did not make any generalized statements against men. Instead, ey pointed out that you do have issues seeing past your privilege as a male gamer. For people that gaming does not cater to, there is no ‘simply plays the game’. Messages come flying at us from every corner of the gaming community, from costume choices, to romance options, to community outrage when ever a non cis-hetero-white-male voice speaks out about something near and dear to their identity.

          Also, not all of us can be game developers or a party of the actual industry. That is why gaming blogs like these exist, where individuals can speak out about the problems we see with the community and make our small impact in one of the few ways available to us.

          Lastly, like I said down below to another of your comments, yes, men are idealized and can have their bodies distorted, and yes, those ways are vastly difference. And its within those differences that the crux of the issue lies: men are distorted to give them a power fantasy, a world to escape into where they can play strong, powerful characters that they can identify easily with that can overcome all odds. Women are given someone else’s sexual fantasy to play out, they are almost never given a world to escape into where they can play strong, powerful characters they can identify easily with that can overcome all odds. The only way they are given those characters is if they are constantly reminded that that character’s primary importance is as sexual object, a lust fantasy for someone that is not them.

        • feministgamer December 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm

          Hello again,

          I am in fact in the gaming industry. And I have made games that appeal to me and my gender. I’m making another right now! 🙂

          No, I did not mean men in general. And because you don’t understand, that doesn’t mean I think you’re stupid. I hope that, no matter how defensive you will get to these posts and feminists in general, that one day you will educate yourself or hopefully meet someone you respect who shares a different viewpoint, and perhaps you will expand as a person. I’d like to see that, but a stupid person has little potential for that, so I in fact depend upon you not being so.

          Good luck.

  5. The person who drew this picture December 2, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I contemplated ways in which I could make a man more ridiculously sexualised.

    But this is a 15min doodle and I didn’t really bother with it, so I got lazy with the “sexy” guy (he was drawn the last). He got a neutral stance and a half-assed face.

    Hell, his legs are terribly terribly drawn. But I just didn’t care enough to fix anything.

    So here’s your reason for the man being the way he is.

    • feministgamer December 2, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Laziness is unfortunately what breeds sexism.

      Not that I’m saying you’re sexist or anything. I adore this graphic and want to flaunt it around. It’s something that really, really needed to be said.

      • Max Atwood December 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm

        acerbic and passive-aggressive statements also breed sexism

        • Zaewen December 2, 2011 at 2:06 pm

          Speaking of acerbic and passive-aggressive….

          Also feministgamer was not saying that the artist was a sexist, but that sexism was propagated through laziness. Much in the way that sexism is propagated when someone fails to call out a friend who is being sexist. The silence does is not an actively sexist decision, but it does give sexism one more foothold with which to spread.

    • Zaewen December 2, 2011 at 2:01 pm

      Thanks for coming on here and commenting. I kinda figured that this was a quick doodle and not a huge art project for you, but I do appreciate that you made it and that it can be a great go to reference during the infamous Chainmail Bikini debates.

      Like I said in the post, I just wish it had been more equivalent in the last panel to really bring the point home. I think the laziness you mentioned in drawing the sexy guy is at least partially informed by the sexist ideas surrounding images of sexualized men. It takes more effort and thought to come up with ways to distort a man’s image to be as sexualized as the women you have in the panel expressly because we already have so much visual references to go to for sexualized women and almost nothing for sexualized men.

  6. Johnny Unger (@johnnyunger) December 2, 2011 at 9:55 am

    This is a really thought-provoking post! If you keep writing like this, you should have no problem getting into grad-school.

    Re: men and high heels, I refer you to the excellent UK film ‘Kinky Boots’. As for gendered stereotypes, you might be interested in a paper I wrote with my colleague Jane Sunderland on gendered stereotypes in the film ‘Shrek’. The published version is in this book: but if you can’t get hold of that easily you can also download a pre-publication version here:
    We pick up on many of the same themes – unattainable body types, gendered constructions in cartoon figures, etc. If you do read it, do let me know what you think, I’d be very interested.

  7. Max Atwood December 2, 2011 at 10:36 am

    well then you just must hate woman and freedom…and baby jesus.

  8. Max Atwood December 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    yeah, men NEVER get their anatomy distorted to fit a design for a character….

    • Zaewen December 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      That guy is in a mecha suit, as such his anatomy is not discernible. However, since I know the point you were trying to make, allow me to address it.

      Most of the times that men’s anatomy is distorted it is to give them more muscles. Muscles which denote strength. Power. These idealized forms of male anatomy are power fantasies, they are there to help male players identify the male protagonist with heroic power and strength.

      In contrast, most of the times that women’s anatomy is distorted it is to give them an enhanced hourglass shape or large breasts and hips. These all denote sexuality, fertility, sexual availability. These idealized forms of female anatomy are sexual fantasies, not for female players to identify with, but for male players to lust after. The giant breasts and tiny waists do not help players identify that the character has the heroic power and strength, only that they are highly fuckable and inviting. They are little more than objects to consume sexually.

      That is the difference. If, instead, men’s bodies were constantly distorted to increase their sexual appeal or women were distorted to increase their power, we would be having an entirely different discussion.

      • Max Atwood December 2, 2011 at 3:29 pm

        I had a long response written to this but I feel like it’s counter-productive to continue with the debate as I’m not able to clearly get my point across, or it’s being dismissed as ‘ignorant’. Again, I enjoyed reading the article and wish you the best of luck in the future. I also hope that you may come to realize the power that your sexuality has in contrast to the brute-force power that is normally attributed to men.

        • Zaewen December 2, 2011 at 6:32 pm

          There’s a lot that could still be touched upon, especially the supposed power of sexiness, but we’ll leave it where it is for now. Thanks for stopping by and giving the post a read.

        • chimere February 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm

          The power of a woman’s sexuality is a lotlike the power a dead fish has over a cat.

          Just sayin’.

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