A Teenager Tackles Respect For Girl Gamers

A Teenager Tackles Respect For Girl Gamers

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Cernadas is tired of the way she is treated online and games designed for men. She vents her frustrations in an NPR piece called “Why Do Girl Gamers Get So Little Respect?” Listen to it here.

Jessica’s piece, part of a Radio Rookies program at NPR member station WNYC in New York, covers some of the common problems the increasingly large percentage of female gamers face as they delve into the ‘men’s club’ of online gaming and suffer through games featuring over-sexualized female characters.

These are problems female gamers have been facing for years coming from a fresh voice and reaching a different audience through the broadcast on NPR.

Thanks to reader rUprofessional for pointing out the piece!


  • Interesting listening. It’s weird that we know all this, but it still goes on. I know you have to market to your biggest percentage, and that’s probably part of the problem, and always will be.

    Samus, we miss you being the kick-@$$ female protagonist. Nintendo, don’t let Team Ninja touch that franchise again! Sorry, venting in the wrong article…

  • *yawn*, this has been happening in action movies and comic books for years. Young males are still the target audience of these forms of media, so the creators are going to keep marketing them like the are.

    Besides, on the flip side of the coin, every male video game protagonist is a beefed up steroid jock, with a perfectly chiselled jaw and a low, cool, Clint Eastwood voice.

    Bottom line: You’re not special because you’re a girl, sorry.

    • The ‘but men have it just as bad’ argument comes up every time women question the portrayal of women in media, particularly comics and video games. They don’t. Honestly. Because characters of both genders in games and comics are designed to appeal to men, and appeal to different things in men.

      The chisel-jawed, beefy guy? He’s a power fantasy for guys. Everything about him is intended to be *heroic*, from build, to voice to posture. They’re not intended to be hot; half the time it’s just a fortunate by-product. Hell, half the time the roided-up guys are actually really un-sexy.

      The chick with the big boobs and skimpy clothing, on the other hand? What you want to look at. She’s meant to be *hot*. Not heroic. Only a handful of games I can name allow me to play my kick-ass action girl with sensible clothes, flat shoes, athletic musculature and the small chest that comes from constant athletic activity.

      Let me know when the reverse is consistently true, when the women are designed to be heroic first and eye-candy second, and the men are eye-candy first and foremost. Then you’ll have grounds to complain.

      • Your argument, if I’m summarizing correctly, is that “women have it worse because none of the characters are designed with the assumption of a female audience; they’re either power fantasies for men or fanservice for men and there is no consideration given to how a female player may view or relate to these characters.”

        You have a point but you greatly oversimplify. Not all men relate to the same character in the same way, just as not all women will relate to the same character in the same way.

        For instance, many male gamers would find Marcus Fenix to be an escapist character. I, on the other hand, think he’s pathetic because he lives primarily to please authority figures and gain the respect of his father. His “power” is entirely superficial and hence an illusion in the grand scheme of things.

        I might be analyzing things more than much of the game’s target audience, but my point is that your use of class analysis ignores a monumental amount of diversity of attitudes and aspirations amongst both men and women.

        Additionally, just because a character was intended by the creative team to appeal to men, does not mean actual men cannot find said character to be a bad/inaccurate/offensive representation of masculinity. There are way more factors than “the gender of the target audience” that need to be taken into account.

        Do I think that it would be a good thing for more creative works to design characters that are intended for a female target audience? Sure. It simply makes good business sense to appeal to the female demographic and as more women take up gaming more games will be made for the female demographic. But unfortunately your methodology of class analysis and apparent desire to prove that all men are both priveliged above and oppressors of all women results in radical oversimplifications of a very complex phenomenon (specifically, how people relate to works of fiction) and ignoring differences between members of the same group.

        Finally, and this is a minor point, plenty of people fetishize the heroic in both men and women, so the implicit dichotomy you rely on (“hot” vs. “heroic”) is both empirically false AND seems to assume men in general are only attracted to weakness and patheticness in women. Some would consider this assumption to be potentially offensive.

        • Yes, my response was a gross (and hastily written in irritation) oversimplification. Humans, as you rightly point out, are a diverse and disparate lot, and I would not presume to think that every man would be appealed to by the portrayals of both men and women in games, and that there are no women who find them enjoyable.

          I do feel, however, that the core point is sound: the characters of video games are designed to appeal to a particular audience, which is *usually* male, straight and within the ‘key’ young adult demographic. And they designed to appeal to that audience for particular reasons, using heroic men and hot women to appeal to different desires. Appealing to groups outside of that target demographic using those characters portrayed in that way is, again, a fortunate byproduct more often than not.

          • I’m not disputing your argument that most video game characters are designed to appeal to an (assumed) audience of heterosexual teenage males. This is obviously true.

            What I am disputing are your allegations that…
            1) This focus on the straight teenage male demographic is ipso facto sexist, and
            2) That men have no right to complain about how the male gender is presented in video games.

            I also object to what seemed to be the implict methodology of your post; specifically Class Analysis.

            Regarding point 1), all works are designed with a target audience in mind. You can’t say that just because a work wants to appeal to Target Audience X, it discriminates against Demographics A, B and C. For instance, “Twilight” is intended to appeal to teenage women. Does that mean “Twilight” is both misandrist (by not targeting men) and ageist (by not targeting older or younger age groups)? No, of course it doesn’t.

            To be fair, I think you have a point if you are suggesting that games aimed at a female audience (or are intended for both audiences and thus have both males and females on the creative staff) are rare. But this doesn’t imply genuine sexism (i.e. hatred of women for being women). It simply implies a missed market opportunity. Large game corporations are risk-averse and unwilling to invest money in risky propositions like exploring new demographics. Hence it will be smaller firms first that begin marketing games by and for women. IIRC, there is a small game studio making Erotic/Romantic games with male characters that a female audience is meant to find attractive. This is admittedly a small thing but it shows over time, games for women by women are going to become more prominent.

            Regarding point 2), there is an implict assumption of a zero-sum game; i.e. that if males start questioning how men (and masculinity) are depicted in video games, this would be bad for any prospect of questioning how women (and femininity) are depicted. I reject this assumption. Often, feminist and masculist scholarship has fed off each other; questioning the legitimacy of traditional concepts of one gender role naturally leads one to question the legitimacy of other gender roles.

            You also have a tacit assumption that only members of the “most aggrieved class” (not a quote from you) have the “right” to complain. That is an example of class analysis. You are in effect arguing that class affiliation overrules individual men’s own problems with social concepts of what masculinity entails.

            I could go on for a long time about why I disagree with class analysis as a methodology, however that would be unfit for this blog.

            I know you wrote your first post in haste, when annoyed.

            Still, if I were to summarize, all I would say is that I would hope your own (in many ways justified) disappointment at the portrayal of women in video games doesn’t drive you to see (or stem from you seeing) all men (“men as a class”) as oppressors of all women (“women as a class”), or think (or thinking that) traditional notions of gender are only sexist against women.

  • This issue is seriously getting old. My missus plays online and never has these problems… well not never, but as much as any online gamer gets whilst playing against 12 yr olds

  • Perhaps because girl gamers insist on pointing out at every possible turn that they’re female. I don’t give a damn what gender you are, I really don’t. But when I’m playing CoD4 and some stupid fool won’t shut up about being female and omg how random is that and how fucking special am I? then I get pissed off and i’ll take them down a peg. Just be gamers, and while other players will generally assume you’re male out of habit and ease, it’s not anything to do with sexism, it’s not a lack of respect, we just don’t care. I don’t call myself a Man Gamer, I’m just a Gamer, full stop

    • I totally agree, why even bring it up? You’re behind a tag anyways. If you don’t want people to talk to you, turn the VoIP off. Has she played a game of Quake recently, or ever? All it is is talking smack and trolling.

    • The ‘just be a gamer’ thing works great right up until the point where you have to use voice coms. Smack talk is one thing and to be expected, but I have seen entire teams turn against a player simply because that player outed themselves as being female via voice comms. Not because they couldn’t play, or because they were awesome players, because they were foul-mouthed or because they were constantly going ‘I’m a girl, te-he!’ which are the usual reasons for singling someone out, but because they were female.

  • Yes the world of online gaming is a foul place for anyone who isn’t a Straight White male. Even then race can still come into play. e.g American vs European.

  • Rubi (WET), Lara Croft, Jade (Beyond Good & Evil), Mass Effect, Fallout, Nariko, Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield.

    That’s plenty. None of these women are overly sexualised (to my knowledge).

    She’s mentioned none of the above, and she wonders why women have to look like sex on a stick.

    • So… you’re saying because you can name seven games/characters where you don’t feel female characters are overly sexualised, that’s enough? Really? And you include *Laura Croft*, she of the thousand internet screenshot manips, double-d cup and impossible waist?

      Ah man, I think I just got trolled.

      • I think if I can find 7 lead female characters out of a possible what, 10, 15, off the top of my head, then I think I’ve shown you and this woman in question that women are not always portrayed the way she thinks they are.

        And yeah, LARA Croft is perhaps overly sexualised for her time but I was making the point that not all women in games are of the legs-spreading, crotch-happy Bayonetta variety.

        I’ve also made the point in my prior post that she could only name Bayonetta as something that represented how women were portrayed in video games — she wants women in games to not have the big breasted, impossible curves you’ve alluded to; I’m saying these women exist in games, she doesn’t which makes her a hypocrite.

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