Sunday, July 26, 2015

When Average Body Types Attack

Ok. So I saw this dumbshit article, and I just had to rant about it. Because seriously. The internet can be a massive dickbag sometimes.

Here is the article in question. (If you don't want to follow the link, don't worry; I'm going to quote much of it in this post.)

Right off the bat, the title, "Fit Shaming: Healthy Video Game Characters Fattened Up for 'Realistic' Eating Disorder Campaign," gets it all wrong. Like skinny-shaming, fit-shaming isn't really a thing, at least not the way fat-shaming is. And then there's the fact that the characters are referred to as "fattened up," and that the word "realistic" is in quotes, as if their normalized bodies are somehow not normal after all. But I'll get to all of that shortly.

This sorry excuse for an article was posted in response to an article on bulimia.com called "Video Game Characters With Average Body Types."

Bulimia.com's article said:
"More often it seems video games are home to ultra-slim waistlines only.

If video game creators are going to pride themselves on accurate digital representations, then it’s time for them to get real about women.

With realism in mind, we altered some of the most beloved female video game characters with Adobe Photoshop, shaping their bodies into images that represent the average American woman’s measurements."

They used the CDC's body measurements for reference, and applied those proportions to the characters. So clearly, the way they altered these characters wasn't based on arbitrary aesthetics. The purpose of doing this was to show what a normal body type would actually look on these characters, and to highlight the fact that their original depictions are not at all typical. The results are quite stunning:



So when that other douchenozzle article says things like...
"Lara Croft would actually be a heavy set female in real life, according to an ad campaign aiming to normalize unhealthy lifestyle choices and shame fitness enthusiasts."
...I can say that she was given honest-to-goodness average proportions. You know, the kinds that are based off of actual statistics and numbers and shit. And you know what? Average is not the same as heavyset. That's why they are called different things. That's kinda the whole concept behind how words work.

And how is showing video game characters with average bodies something that will "normalize unhealthy lifestyle choices?" For one thing, there is absolutely no way that you can tell just by looking at someone what their eating and exercise habits are, or what the state of their health is. For another, not everyone wants to look like a fitness model, and that's ok because it doesn't take looking like one to be healthy.

The article also says that:
"The site claims game developers more often than not give female characters 'ultra-slim-waistlines' – you know, the kind of waistline a woman would have if she ate healthy and worked out daily, or if they were cave-exploring, vine-swinging spelunkers."

There is no way you can convince me, or any other thinking human being, that Lara Croft's impossibly skinny waist is something you'd get even if you dieted and worked out religiously. It certainly isn't the kind of physique an adventurer like her would have, either. (And let's be real, with tits like those, a back brace would be part of her usual costume.)

That particular quote also fails to consider the fact that people have different bodies. For one person, eating healthy food and exercising the recommended 30 minutes a day might be enough to make one person "fit", but for another, it might take a lot more effort than that. Not everyone has the desire to put in extra hours at a gym just to get their bodies to fit a specific standard. And you know what? That's ok. It's their life, their body, their business. But if someone does want to put all of that effort into trying to achieve an athletic build, that's great too. More power to them. They just shouldn't shame other people for not choosing to do the same.

And the nonsense continues....
"The problem with Bulimia.com's 'realistic' interpretations of women is that they’re unrealistic.
For one, speaking in purely hypothetical terms of course, most of the characters photoshopped would actually have to be fit in their supposed line of work. Jade and Sonya from Mortal Kombat would likely have the fit bodies of professional MMA fighters, such as Ronda Rousey. Imagine Lara Croft attempting to retrieve treasure from within a cave while at the same time having to look for hidden insulin injections."

Yes, Sonya would probably have a body that looks more like that of an MMA fighter, but you know what? Her original body didn't look like that of an MMA fighter either. But the point is moot anyway, because as I said before, the purpose of altering these pictures was to show these characters with average-sized bodies, not the kinds of bodies they'd have in their line of work.

And this part was just baffling:
"...the campaign claims to focus on women because 'incidence of eating disorders is markedly higher in females,' but frequently the male body is also inaccurately portrayed by developers, see God of War’s Kratos or Street Fighter’s Guile."
So they admit that the women's bodies are "inaccurately portrayed" just long enough to say, "but look! Us menz too!" There's no nonsense here about how men would look like this if they "ate healthy and worked out daily," as their own article says. Besides, no one said male characters never have unrealistic bodies in video games. It is well-known that they do, and I, as a feminist, would like to see more varied body types on male characters as well. Being a woman who has dealt with unrealistic body standards her whole life, I know how much is sucks no not have that kind of inclusivity. I want that same consideration for men.

So why did that fat-shaming fiasco piss me off so much? Bulimia.com's article sums it up:
"The perpetuation of unrealistic body imagery in the media can have decidedly negative repercussions. One could argue that the social pressures to obtain perfection are reinforced even through the depiction of video game characters. Girl gamers – especially young ones – could develop a skewed image of how the female body should look. This might mark the beginning of obsessive thoughts about their own bodies, and self-questioning as to why they don’t align with their perceived ideal. When dangerous, compulsive eating behaviors develop alongside of these negative obsessions, young women can quickly find themselves struggling with an eating disorder."
Depicting body diversity is important. When every aspect of media is flooded with images of women with proportions so unrealistic that even the thinnest models have to be photoshopped to reach them, we as a society are failing our girls and women. When these ideals are so ingrained into our minds that we think that's what a woman "should" look like, we get fatphopic idiots pointing at average sized, healthy woman and calling them fat, gross, lazy, and unhealthy. And if you cannot see why this is a problem, then you are the problem.

Before wrapping this up, I just want to reassure those of you who are screaming about how your beloved games are about to get swamped with fat chicks (as if that's somehow a bad thing). I don't think anyone intends for women in games to only have realistic, average proportions. We just want some variety. Give us some scrawny women, give us some muscular ones, give us some average and even - gasp! - fat ones. Is that really so much to ask?


1 comment:

  1. Great post! Important to show how skewed our perception of "normal" bodies is due to media reinforcement.

    ReplyDelete