Chainmail bikinis? For seriouscat feminists Critique goes deeper.
Chainmail bikinis serve as metonymy for all objectification of women in fantasy and gaming. Or, broader, for the problem of unrealistically scantily clad female figures.
Objecting to women scantily…
Yes! The problem isn’t that women are scantily clad, it’s that they’re scantily clad for fanservice. Could a female character who made a living as a performer wear not a lot of clothes onstage, while still being a well-developed character? Could some girl want to wear a bikini to the beach, without being strictly for the male viewer’s enjoyment? Could a woman wear a revealing outfit on her own time because she liked the outfit, without the writer being sexist? Could a character from a fantasy species (elf, fairy, whatever) come from a culture where clothes aren’t seen as that necessary, without descending into dumb trope fair?
I don’t think any of these things are the problem. I think the problem is that we never hear any of the actual perspectives of these women. We see the performer dancing around, but we never see the work and rehearsal and planning that went into the performance on her end. We never see her think about her costume choice or anything. We never get to relate to the girl in the bikini having fun at the beach. She’s just lying around, getting her tan, or at best doing some beachy things but in an obviously fanservicey, posed way. We never get to see the girl wearing the revealing outfit talk about why she likes it, or hear about how wearing something she thinks is cool makes her feel cool, or worry if it’s a little too much. And if we do, we’re not supposed to be really listening to her. We very rarely get to follow her around on her day and be part of her wacky misadventures. And the silly elf girl who doesn’t know she’s supposed to put on some pants? We never get to understand why nudity or almost-nudity is appropriate for elves, what cultural values or species differences led to this. We don’t get to see that to her, covering up arbitrary body parts makes no damn sense. We never get to see the culture clash from her point of view. We don’t get to see her embarrassment and frustration at not being able to figure out the new set of rules, or her decision to abide by her own rules and let people be uncomfortable if they don’t get it. In very few circumstances do we see the culture clash in other situations that aren’t sexy or funny.
A lot of writers just don’t let their girls be people. Scantily clad girls can definitely be a case of girls as objects, and when they are it’s bad, sexist writing. But scantily-clad girls don’t have to be objects, and if we’re deciding that “scantily clad girls = sexist” and “conservatively dressed girls = okay”, a lot of dumb sexist shit is going to slip through the radar. All the women who just exist to be moms or girlfriends or daughters and then die tragically so that the main male character can have feelings about it? Putting them in a turtleneck and nice set of slacks doesn’t make them actual characters instead of just props.
Fanservice, yes, that’s the word! Mostly I just want to reblog this because your extension of the critique of women-as-objects going beyond the scantily clad and into other object-roles is spot on.
Continuing the Conversation Beyond Chainmail Bikinis