The Women as Background Decoration

Anita Sarkeesian

There’s a female trope in video games that uses sexualized female bodies to set the stage as gritty or edgy. The new video, The Women as Background Decoration Part 2, delves into this trope using some of the best loved games. 

Anita SarkeesianNo stranger to representation of women in pop culture, the team over at Feminist Frequency have released the part two in their series about the The Women as Background Decoration in video games trope, “which is the subset of largely insignificant non-playable female characters whose sexuality or victimhood is exploited as a way to infuse edgy, gritty or racy flavoring into game worlds.”

Additionally, they point out that it is still possible to enjoy the games while taking a critical eye to certain aspects of them; the video follows with a measured tone that’s educational rather than inflammatory.

The project was funded as part of the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Kickstarter that reached over 2600% of its goal.

Brenda Noiseux

Brenda Noiseux

Community builder, artist, convention organizer, gamer, geek writer @womenoncomics, @Sidequest_BHP. Owner, Bittenby Studios

9 thoughts on “The Women as Background Decoration

  1. I just watched both segments and while I mostly agree with her, there was one thing I was confused about:

    “We know that women tend to internalize these types of images and self-objectify.”

    I wanted to see her provide some examples of self-objectification, but she just showed a picture of a woman from Grand Theft Auto. I would have preferred she showed an rl example so we know exactly what she’s talking about.

    1. I reckon it was the smart choice not to. It would have been reeeal easy for that to look accusatory (+ attract a whole NEW load of NU-UH arguments)

      1. She raised a very important point about how rape isn’t just something committed by mustache-twirling stock villains; I think it’s also worth pointing out how these games deliberately portray all the women victims as conventionally attractive and suggestively dressed – which really just reinforces the harmful real-life myths of “they were asking for it” if they’re deemed attractive and “well they should just be grateful for the attention” if deemed otherwise.

        1. Oh dang, good point!

          It also reinforces the most basic idea OF “conventionally attractive”, now that you mention it. Double damage!

      2. Yeah, that’s the problem. She shouldn’t have brought it up if she were going to chicken out on that point. There was really no need to mention that (although I am biased, since I’m an author who sometimes writes characters who are strong AND into raunch culture).

  2. I just watched this, and it was one of the hardest ones yet to watch all the way through. Her trigger warning was fair.

    I actually feel the urge to watch it again, as unpleasant as the experience was, just because there’s so much to take in.

    1. Definitely not pleasant but eye-opening. It was like I wasn’t consciously aware, but seeing listening to her explain made me think.

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