Batman: Arkham City's Weird 'Bitch' Fixation

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a mature game. I know it's rated "T for Teen", but that doesn't mean it's not for grown-ups — it features some really dark content. Torture, serial murder of innocent people, gleefully sadistic violence, lots of sexual and rape innuendo and some surprisingly salty language. Arkham Asylum went to some dark places, but Arkham City is an order of magnitude darker.

It's bracing, and at times very bold — bad stuff happens in Arkham City, and Batman is caught up in the middle of it. But of all the spicy stuff in the game, one thing has really stuck out to me: the male villains' fixation on referring to the female characters as "bitch."

It starts at the very beginning of the game, when players (who have downloaded the Catwoman content) assume the role of Catwoman. I noticed that characters almost universally referred to her as "bitch." I went back through the Catwoman missions and recorded some lines.

"That'll teach the bitch to screw with Two-Face."

"Bitch deserves it. You saw what she did to him in the court. It was only a matter of time before he got a little payback."

""I'll make you meow, bitch,"

"He sent Paulie B over to blow that bitch's secret hideout sky-high."

"She'll come straight back here… And when she does, I want you guys to blow that bitch apart!

"He had her just where he wanted her and that bitch broke free."

"Ha, I only took half. The rest I gave away. I win, bitch!"

"Help us decide if we should kill the bitch who tried to steal from us, or let her go to do it again."

"Two guns, bitch!"

And that's just a sampling from the Catwoman content. As you make your way around Arkham, you'll overhear goons from the various factions talking about current events, and every time they talk about Harley Quinn, the B-word gets dropped at least once. Often more than once. "That bitch", "That crazy bitch", etc.

To those playing the game: it's weird, right? I know it's easy to make a mountain out of a molehill on things like this, but it really sticks out to me. And that's even while acknowledging, as has been pointed out elsewhere already, that Arkham City is, frankly, a fairly sexist game.

But something about the constant "Bitch" yelling turns me off more than Sexy Catwoman or Sexy Talia Al-Ghul. It's said with such anger, and often screamed as an impotent threat just before Catwoman knocks a dude out. It comes off like the writers are either misjudging their audience, or possibly aren't comfortable portraying fearsome female characters without having the male characters attempt to belittle them with the world's most famous gendered insult.

When Batman gets in fights, he doesn't have to put up with the same kind of treatment — he gets called a "freak" sometimes, but that's as far as it goes. Granted, there's no real male equivalent to "bitch", though at one point near the beginning of the game, a character tells Batman he's going to "make [him]my bitch". Which, if we're going to give that line a thorough reading, actually implies that Batman can become a bitch, but Catwoman apparently already is one.

I like the game. A lot. But there's a fine line between edgy dialogue and forced, angry overkill.


    This is one helluva mountain made out of a mole hill.

    Complaining about the words used by characters in a videogame. Characters that are hardened criminals, ya know, murderers, rapists etc.

      Read the linked too article explaining the sexism in Arkham City.

      For some reason it's all in CAPSLOCK MODE but it does a good job of explaining it's not just the use of 'bitch' or the sexy costumes but the way the all work within the content.

        I just read it and it's even more bullshit than this article.

        He says it's the way it's presented not just the content itself but fails to go into any detail on what it is about the presentation that makes it sexist and then goes back to ranting about the language making assumptions that the writers are just women-haters with constant hard-ons.

        Catwoman has been hyper sexualised for a long time now. And as for the NPC language? What do people expect from the criminal NPC's in this game?

        "Oh that Catwoman! She is rather bothersome is she not?"

        "Oh yes, Gerald. I concur."

          Yo, this article is completely whack. Bitch.

            hahahaha as soon as I saw this article I immediately imagined Jesse Pinkman saying "stop being such a little BITCH"

        The context of the language and attitude of the NPC's is quite clear. It doesn't need depth or have to be some fancy "meta" crap.

        They are criminals. Murderers, rapists, whatever. Hardened criminals with no respect for anything or anyone. THAT is why they talk the way they do. That is the context. Simple.

          Yes DC has hypersexualised all of their female heroes and villains and that is its own can of worms.

          However that DC have done this theme selves doesn't excuse Rocksteadys choices of how to portray the characters in the game. They obviously had a lot of freedom to give their own personal touches to any of the characters involved. As I've already pointed out they've radically redesigned Harley. And as I've also pointed there are some very good non-hypersexualised Catwoman costumes already out there.

          So despite the fact that they had the freedom to create their own designs. And even if they were forced to use official DC costumes, they chose to use one that was hypersexualised. The importance here being that they had choice.

          So here's your context.

          Considering they had plenty of freedom to create and choose any sort of Catwoman costume why did they choose this one? Why choose that costume, have every man in the game except Batman call her a bitch and then have her say lines like “I need my toys. I'd just be naked with out them."?

          This stuff just doesn't happen for no reason, there is an active choice involved and coming up with a rational argument for why these particular choices were made that doesn't sound sexist is kind of difficult to say the least.

          And on the whole 'they are criminals it's realistic that they swear' argument:

          a) You can make hardened criminals without swearing. But hey it's a mature game swearing is ok.

          b) So considering it's a mature game where swearing is aloud how come the only thing they every seem to say about women is 'Bitch' Even rapists have a vocabulary.

          c) It's not just the convicts that constantly spout these lines but security guards as well.

            Oh boo frickin' hoo ya white knight.

            Maybe they chose it because sexy doesn't always instantly mean sexist until holier-than-thou wankers like you make it out to be. A lot of women show ridiculous levels of cleavage all the time but somehow it's sexist if it's done in a game that had men working on it? Pull your head out.

            And if they'd used more derogatory words people like yourself would cry even louder as you often do.

            And when do security guards spout those lines? Do they do so constantly? Do they say it with the same vitriol as the prisoners?

            Goddamn mountains out of molehills.

              Alright now that where you've had to resort to calling me a 'white knight' (a wonderfully bizarre insult) to try and detract my argument I know I'm getting somewhere.

              Yes women do often show large amounts of cleavage but usually in the context of putting on something sexy to go out and attract men. In the context of what Catwoman does (being sneaky and kicking arse) and should be dressing for it's kind of sexist. If showing off your cleavage gives you some kind of fighting advantage why don't more female police officers and soldiers run around in skimpy outfits?

              You are right that more derogatory words would piss me off. But there are plenty of non derogatory words of a 'mature' content out there that would work perfectly fine in the context. Both Bulletstorm and House of the Living Dead: Overkill show ways to use excessive swearing in a way that isn't sexist.

              And hey, I have't played enough of it to really analyse how often the security guards use the word bitch but they do with the same amount of 'vitriol' as you put it. So maybe you win a point there.

                Why does it need to have a practical advantage? Why can't it simply be an outfit that she chooses to wear because she likes it and it makes her feel sexy or something? Why is there a need for some sort of "depth" to it? Can't things just be simple without being turned into a whole "they're being sexist" load of wank?

                As for "there are plenty of non derogatory words of a ‘mature’ content out there that would work perfectly fine in the context"? We're not exactly talking about high class citizens who indulge in witty banter.

                  Unfortunately everything we say or do in life with any degree of conscious effort has some kind of meaning. That meaning my not always be intended but it's there.

                  The creators of the game specifically chose that costume. Now I'm not saying that costumes have to be 100% practical, Batmans costume sure isn't and that's fine. But every element chosen for the costume reflects on the character wearing it whether you like it or not. So when you actively choose to dress up and pose a character in a way that is overtly sexual that in turn affects the character it self. In the case of Catwoman it either informs us that she's either

                  a) Insecure and has to have the attention of men.

                  b) Has a thing for serial rapists and murderers.

                  c) Isn't capable of standing toe toe with men in the same line of work so she has to put them off guard by showing more boobies.

                  d) Exists to be a sex object for men.

                  Now in all honesty I don't think the creators have any sort of active misogynistic agenda. In all likely hood the costume was chosen because 'lol boobs.' Now I don't have any problem with fan service in and of it self, I actually quite enjoy it. But when the only way a female character gets portrayed is in a manner that is obviously fan service I get a bit irked. One because if I wanted this sort of thing I'd go watch some porn not play a videogame. And two because I think that as a medium videogames have a very large potential but that potential isn't going to be recognised so long as the view that videogames are only for kids or basement dwelling neck bearded overweight man child virgins persists. That view isn't going to change so long the majority of women are ostracised from the medium due to the majority of female characters being represented as bland sexual fantasies.

                  Now if you feel that since I'm not a women I should stop speaking for them and assuming what may or may not offend them let's put it this way. If Batman was dressed like this the entire game:
                  Or in a lesser extreme this:
                  And all of the enemies constantly referred to him as 'Beefcake', 'Choad' or even 'Bitch' I'd feel a tad bit uncomfortable.

                  As to "As for “there are plenty of non derogatory words of a ‘mature’ content out there that would work perfectly fine in the context”? We’re not exactly talking about high class citizens who indulge in witty banter."

                  I've never implied that all the enemies should speak like they were Lord McLordington of Lordshire. I supplied two examples, Bulletstorm and Overkill, as to how you can use swearing without sexism. Maybe you consider these to be examples of 'high class' 'witty banter' if so we have different interpretations of the terms.

                  In a real life situation, maybe the criminals would be extremely derogatory, hell they probably would. But this is a videogame, an environment and the creators have control over how the criminals act. If this were a videogame about being a woman in a prison environment filled with men where the goal is to make the player feel sexualised and de-humanised I could understand the choice to use these particular phrases. But it's not, this is a videogame where the character is supposed to be powerful and in control, so in this context the choice to use these phrases comes of as sexist.

              did you ... you just said, "boo frickin hoo, ya white knight" ? ...WOW.

              I mean, is it just me, or did you just do the classic bad-guy-insults-the-good-guy-for-being-good-thing? Go on, round out the cliche ... call him a goddamn boyscout! Embrace the inner douchebag!

              Seriously, guys, just wanted to provide a little perspective ... there doesn't seem to be a lot of women involved in this conversation. Do you know WHY there hardly ever seems to be women participating in video game discussions? Rank0clock knows :)

              Imagine: a group of guys put out a video game where every woman dresses, acts and talks like a hooker. Where minions incessantly call them bitches and mutter darkly about the things they'll do to them when they get them alone.

              A few other guys say -- um, isn't this a bit of cheap pandering really and is it so appropriate for a T title?

              The REST of the guys blow up an go absolutely bonkers because ... what was it that someone on this board said ... "you're just saying that because a GIRL is looking over your shoulder?"

              Speaking as a woman, I was a little annoyed by Arkham City's treatment of women, sure. But listening to the game community's reaction to this? Fuck it. I need to hide my comic book collection, throw away my PS3 and find myself a nice jock to date.

            It's a cat-spiracy!

              Don't bother rant0clock, arguing with self entitled gamers like Chazz is much the same as arguing with a tree stump.

              Arkham city is sexist, when you play as a female character the only insult they bother to throw at you is bitch. Which really makes the game discouraging to play for anyone who is female.

              Alienating a potential female audience by bombarding them with the insult bitch is sexist, end of story really.

    Although I didn't like their Harley Quinn redesign in Arkham Asylum (just looks like a jugalo hooker), I can understand that there was a need to redesign her as the original costume didn't fit with their art style.

    But I don't understand the Catwoman design. They've taken the Darwyn Cooke design, which is the best Catwoman design to date and fits in perfectly fine with their art style with little to no altering. And then they felt compelled to add cleavage. A stupid, pointless amount of cleavage as if a super model body in skin tight black leather isn't sexual enough.

    I guess this stuff is even more aggravating in light of the many problems with DCs recent reboot. Especially that the new Harley Quinn has taken her cues from her videogame version.

      They didn't really change anything.

        a) Not the design I was talking about. This was.

        b) They still felt the need to make the V line even deeper for some reason.

          My point was that these game developers took costume ideas that already existed. Just like they did with Batman.

          Totally agree, the stupid CW cleavage design they have used just adds a layer of immaturity. HQ's outfit is far more revealing, but its logical in context.


      'My girlfriend is watching me type this over my shoulder'

        Nice implication that men only give a shit about dull, immature, offensive one dimensional gender stereotypes if there's the possibility of sex involved.

          shut up

            Truly inspired counter claim there, why don't you shut up! Oh yeah got you there don't I.

          You should move the PC closer to the wall so she can't stand behind you when you browse the net

    Holy shit I almost thought I was reading a Brian Ashcraft article for a moment. Are you his protoge or something, Kirk?

    So, Characters in Arkham use the word bitch?

    Ever play bulletstorm?

    You wanna talk forced, angry overkill....

      Well, that's a bit the point, in a way. Bulletstorm is a steaming pile; so was Duke Nukem. People don't much bother about the fact that they are offensive as hell, because they're terrible games anyway. Arkham City is a good game, and a good IP. It shouldn't be given a free pass to be sexist just because the good people at RockSteady know what they're doing.

      Also, this is only a problem because it IS all over the place. It's just too easy, when most of your audience and all of your dev team is male, to throw in some quick locker-room banter instead of real dialogue. It's too easy to design a femme fatale rather than a real woman. There's nothing wrong with it, either, here and there. But when it seems to be almost every character in every game ... well, you ensure that your target demographic STAYS all male.

      On that note, to the "mountain out of a molehill" people -- no one's making a mountain. A couple people posted some articles saying "this is a bit sexist." Stop being so defensive. No one's trying to take your favorite toy from you. Someone IS trying to say -- hey, game developers, try not to resort so much to cheap, tiresome, misogynist tropes.

    hardened criminals in a prison environment harboring mysoginistic feelings towards women? stop the presses!

      Not good enough! It seems that there needs to be a story and context so intricate and deep that it rivals Schindler's List or Shawshank Redemption or some meta arthouse film for it to be acceptable.

        I can see where you're coming from Chazz, but I can also see how someone might be put off by something like this.

        The game writers/devs didn't need to make the use of the word bitch or other stereotypes (costumes I'm lookin' at you!) so pervasive in the game. Yes people do talk like that, but if it's a bit overused in game, it can be a bit off-putting.

        It's certainly not game breaking or really surprising, but considering how intelligent rocksteady have been with the overall presentation of Arkham Asylum and now Arkham City, one might wonder what happened to make them decide it was ok to have their goons hang so much crap on the ladies.

          Because that's the archetype of the hardened criminal.

    I'm also confused as to how the Kirk missed all this stuff in Arkham Asylum as well.

    Get over it, please.

    *launches from a railing and glides away*

    when i play i will determine if the bitch-level is too high, but as a person who swears a lot, im probably going to enjoy it

    Atleast penguin called batman a wanker, thats gotta atleast alleviate one bitch haha

      Batman for a Bat-wank?

      Sounds catchy

        Dun a dun a dun a dun a dun a............bat-wank, catchy indeed haha

    Yeah.. i'm sorry but i'm with the other guys here...

    this is the type of sensationalistic crap it's expect in a tabloid newspaper...

    Seriously, they are Gothams most hardened criminals, whom are never going to refer to catwoman as "that rather dapper lass".

    There are certainly A LOT of worse things they could be spouting at her, that's for sure.. if anything i think it's just in character...

    Seriously, what a waste of time.

    100% Agree with this Article. I noticed it early in the game also, like the first 1hr. it really is overkill and slightly annoys me when I'm in a fight (using Catwoman) and every second word is Bitch. Reminds me of a child discovering a swear word and using it way to often.

    I have 99 other problems to worry about :)



      Being rich ain't one? :P

      But the 99% ain't one?

        Stop swearword greed. We are the 99%.

        Occupy Kotaku.

      I 100% believe that you don't have a woman problem.

    "There’s a fine line between edgy dialogue and forced, angry overkill."

    There is a fine line between pointless and stupid articles, and this one treads that line ever so carefully.

    The *PROPER* complaint would be to point out how redundant the lines can get. *THAT* is annoying.

    Here's the reality tho. "Bitch" is an accepted word in mainstream media. There's a ton of words that sound edgy (do you *WANT* your hardened criminals calling catmon "that rude lady"? I don't), but the only main one that is acceptable is "bitch".

    Men have *TONS* of words that can be used against them that aren't curse-words. Jerk. ass(various). I could go on (and don't feel like it). Other than "bitch" most bad names directed towards women are considered not just curse-words but obscene. You can't make a T-rated game and call Catwoman a stupid c**t. Just not acceptable.

    And to hell with the "oversexualized" concept. Not that I defend anime, but Catwoman is nothing in terms of sexuality compared to a lot of the crap coming out of Japan (most of which I passionately dislike, but *CERTAINLY* not all of which). And I give you the "holy crap he's hot and manly" that is Bruce Wayne and Batman.

    Disclaimer: I've barely played Arkham City, but you learn about Catwoman pretty danged early. Seriously... this is a molehill.

    Want to complain about way way way too much lewd language in a game, I give you one of my all-time favorites - FEAR. I'm fine with soldiers cursing in the middle of combat, especially when they get hit or the head of the guy next to them explodes. THAT part is perfectly fine. But some of the friggin answering machine messages would have made sailors blush. It went way, way, way past utterly stupid with the cursing.

    Anywayz, that's about it.

      Firstly, you are right, yeah, bitch overkill in the game. However, bitch being an accept mainstream word does not make it any better or any less of a gendered insult. It is still a derogatory term that is primarily used to denote negative female qualities.

      I'm sorry to say that sexism is a part of the English language. Language is sexist. There are more female gendered insults than there are male insults. There are more gender specific insults towards womans than mans, and many insults for men can apply to women to, but not vice-versa
      Check out these lecture slids to see how language is sexist towards women, and more neutral to men. What this shows is that insults for men are gender neutral, and those for women are gender specific. (kinda imbalanced innit?)

      To address your point about oversexualization, if oversexualization is ok, why are women the objectified gender, and not men as well? Granted, there is a lot of crap coming out of Japan, and our own society, but does that make it all ok? If everybody is treating a gender, or a group, like shit, does that give us an excuse for doing the same? I don't think it does.

      BTW, this article isn't about general lewd language in the game. It is in regards to the specific, sexist language that is directed to an objectified female character that is being defined by her sexuality.

        "BTW, this article isn’t about general lewd language in the game. It is in regards to the specific, sexist language that is directed to an objectified female character that is being defined by her sexuality."


        This right here is the problem in a nutshell.

        Thank you.

        erhh I haven't played arkham asylum/city but I'm pretty sure that ol' Bruce is quite sexualised as well.

          Bruce Wayne/Batman is portrayed just as much as a gender stereotype as Catwoman. The difference is that Batmans stereotype is a positive one. Batman is sexualised to a degree but no where near what Catwoman is, if he was he'd look a little like this

            So being clever and one of the best in the world at what you do (in this case, a thief) whilst also being fit and a good fighter and attractive isn't positive?

              No but the implication that if you want to be all those things and a woman you also have to show off your cleavage and let your self be a sex object is.

              Batman is all of those things and he doesn't have to dress in a way that accentuates his sexuality.

                He dresses in an outfit that accentuates is muscly physique...

                  Yes but they don't have him running around bare chested and glistening now do they.

                  Like I said he is sexualised to a degree in that all superheroes male and female have the unrealistic body proportions of Greek gods. The difference being that Catwoman is required to have her tits out and Batman is allowed to cover up.

                  Take a look at these Arkham City wallpapers.


                  In each one there is nothing sexual about Batman in any way. Catwoman and Harley Quinn on the other hand....

          While I'm in a ranting mood, I'l go ahead and keep at it :)

          This is the funny thing about Batman -- actually about comic book/video game heroes in general. They are sexualized, but, well, not by women and not for women. Seriously. Trust me when I say, most of us do not find Batman's body sexy. He looks like a steroid fiend and serial domestic abuser.

          In fact, most male characters in games -- Marcus in GoW, Kratos, etc, etc, you get the idea -- they're fantasies, sure. But they're -- how can I put this -- they are how men fantasize themselves. Or maybe male developers think, "I like ... certain parts of the female body, and I like them big. Women like muscles, so they'll like them big, too!"

          The sexiest male character I've run across yet in games is Ezio, and that might be because you don't see most of him. He's also buff, but he doesn't look like he's more directly descended from gorillas than the rest of us.

          So that's my rant for the evening. Either end sexism in video games, or give us some male characters that we can objectify as well :)


    Actually, I think a hardened criminal element would be more likely to use the "C word", but the only time I've heard that uttered in the media was by a 12 year old girl.

    I agree - it's perfectly in context with the characters spouting it, and this 'evidence' that was posted is a CRUISECONTROLLED article by some no-name blog, and completely fails to take into account the currently state of DC or videogames in general.

    Seriously, bitch? What are we, fucking FOX now?

      So it's ok to treat all female characters as sex objects because everyone else is doing it?


    I'm sorry, but hasn't Catwoman been around for about 70 years? Isn't there a whole heap of back-story and character development already in existence? I mean, sure, maybe if they had've created their own brand-new female character and sexualised the hell out of her, maybe there might be something to argue about. But this is Catwoman.

    Taken from the all-knowing Wikipedia: "She was primarily inspired by Hedy Lamarr and partially inspired by 1930's film star Jean Harlow who at Kane's then-early and "impressionable age... seemed to personify feminine pulchritude at its most sensuous." Wanting to give his Batman comic books sex appeal and someone who could appeal to female readers as a female Batman, Kane and writer Bill Finger created a "friendly foe who committed crimes but was also a romantic interest in Batman's rather sterile life." She was meant to be a love interest and to engage Batman in a chess game with him trying to reform her."

    Seems pretty in context to me.

      Yes Catwoman was created as a way for a writer to act out his own sexual fantasies, this is the case with most female comic book characters. William Moulton Marston is famous for creating Wonderwoman to deal with his bondage fetish. Does that mean its not sexist that the creators of Arkham Asylum chose to portray Catwoman as a sex object? Hell no.

      As you pointed out these characters have been around for ages. During that time the occasional talented writer has managed to get a hold of these characters, imbue them with personality and elevate them beyond their origins as fap symbols. Rocksteady could have quite easily chosen to be inspired by Ed Brubaker's and Darwyn Cooke's 'The Dark End of the Street' what is widely considered to be one of the best Catwoman stories ever told. Instead they chose to ignore 70 odd years character development and take her back to her roots a as fetishistic wank doll.

      As Luis said "this article isn’t about general lewd language in the game. It is in regards to the specific, sexist language that is directed to an objectified female character that is being defined by her sexuality."

        I don't understand where you are getting all this so called 'information' on the created of catwomen?? Where you their when he created the character?? No! Oh and your assumptions of the quality of the staff at Rocksteady is downright offensive.

    For all this article's worth...

    It never mentions the TRUE problem with the criminals calling Catwoman a "bitch".

    She's a cat-woman.


    Another day, another mountainous molehill.

    Haha, oh dear, I just checked out the link you guys posted as your source of "someone else finding it sexist".

    If you want to try and seem legitimate best not to link to a website that's sole purpose is some moron typing reviews in full caps and signing it Hulk.

    Yeah, this game is ridiculously misogynistic. All the female characters in the game wear prostitute levels of make up, seem to only exist (villains and catwoman aside) to be tortured/put in peril, and are generally considered pretty worthless.

    Also SPOILER the 'put gag back on Harley' button. Something about that rubbed me the wrong way. It was practically a 'shut that bitch up' button.

    Im gonna chalk it up to the debs wanting to emulate the style of Frank Miller and leave it there.

      There's also the option to knock Penguin out fairly early in the game, after the fight has dissipated, despite him only being physically able to hurl insults at Bruce Wayne. Would you prefer he clocked Harley instead, instead of using non-violent means to silence her?

    Wait, so bad guys in a videogame are sexist? YOU'RE KIDDING ME?! Mind officially blown.

    Seriously, they're baddies. They're supposed to be bad people. Wouldn't sexism fall under the bad banner?

    'sides, would you rather they used other colourful language instead?

      Actually yeah, that's kind of the point. Not that they swear, but it's always "bitch". There's plenty of other swear words and insults that are appropriate.

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