Japan: Less Sexist than YOU!
You know, if there’s one thing that drives me insane, it’s when people point at the scantily clad heroines of many Japanese games and talk about how “sexist” Japan is.
Now, I won’t deny that sexism still exists in Japan. It still exists in America too and gender equality is a difficult nut to crack. These days I even hear people complaining about women doing the same things as men as it essentially makes them male but with breasts for some inexplicable reason. You wanna talk about goalpost moving. Yes, apparently women doing the same things as men isn’t equal enough.
But I’m getting off topic. Frequently when the discussion of women in videogames comes up, people will point at Japan for how incredibly sexist they are. The girls in their games are frequently cute, attractive, young women in skimpy impractical outfits. I am not going to deny this fact. But I ask you, what has America done better?
This is a sticking point with me because of one very strange fact: I got into anime at a very young age because of my sister. Why did my sister get into anime? Strong female characters.
This is neither a joke nor an exaggeration. If my sister’s stories are to be believed, back in the early 80’s (pre-She-Ra), the strongest female character on TV was Pauline from Donkey Kong (yes, Donkey Kong had a cartoon).
Reflect on that for just a second. However, one misplaced anime in the kid’s section of the video store later and everything changed.
Sure they were wearing barely any clothing and had improbable body types; so did Barbie. However, unlike miss “pink and shopping”, the girls of anime could often kick ass just as well as the men could. Sure there were exceptions, but anime was far more progressive than what we had in America at the time. Yes it’s true, beneath it all it was mostly “sex sells”, but it was still more than what America ended up with.
As I said, there were exceptions. Comic books frequently had female characters, who were often just as sexualized as the girls of anime but could also kick just as much ass. There was, of course, Charlie’s Angels as well. Jem was also more respectable than most girl’s shows and yes, eventually, She-Ra. But these were all few and far between.
Japan’s sexy heroines carried over into videogames as well, far earlier than one might imagine. I remember that while all of America was making a big deal about Lara Croft being a strong and sexy female character, I was left scratching my head as to what the big deal was. I had played Valis, El Viento, and Alisia Dragoon to name just a few. That’s not even getting into the number of fighters who featured a token female ass kicker. Perhaps more than all of that, though, was RPGs.
Any JRPG worth it’s salt features at least one female character, usually more. While the superior graphics we see today frequently diminishes the impact of women in RPGs (due to the fact that they are often drool worthy, much like most men in JRPGs), back in the 16-bit era it was very different. It’s hard to play tiny little 16-bit sprites for sex appeal and the women were often strong. While the Final Fantasy series’s Celes and Rydia spring to mind quickest, there was far more than just them. Lufia, the title character of the Lufia series, was a particularly intriguing character. All three of the girls from Chrono Trigger were commendably awesome as well. However, I think Alys Brangwin from Phantasy Star IV sticks out the most as being a strong female character who instantly endears herself to you.
We could split hairs all day about the idealized character frequently featured in videogames and the rest of the media. What if men were as sexualized as women? Aren’t they already in some cases? (Vaan of Final Fantasy XII says “Hi!”) Do men care if they are sexualized? We could do this all day. It’s an argument as old as time.
However, if one thing drives me absolutely insane, it’s how constantly Japan is held up as the pinnacle of sexism with it’s plethora of scantily clad girls in media. But the reality of it? Japan is only featured so frequently because America has so few strong female characters to show.
As I said though, there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. Not to mention that I, myself, am male so I can only say so much. Every person is different after all. Some women might like characters you’d never expect while others might be offended by the whole lot of them while others still might prefer to play men just as much as I prefer to play scantily clad women. I can’t speak for women and one woman can’t speak for an entire gender either.
All I’m saying is that if I hear one more person whine about anime girls I’m going to punch them and if that makes me a sexist pig, then so be it.