I’m not entirely sure what spurred me to write this post. But the fire was burning in my belly, so I thought I would share.
Let me start by being honest. I am not a supermodel. I am, in fact, one of the furthest things from it. I am, however, a pretty average American woman, battling an overweight body while being exposed to the standard spread of unrealistic female idealizations and the high-fat diet of the American consumer. I’m 5’6″ tall and am embarrassed about my weight. I’m self conscious about my skin-tone, my thighs, my hips, my breasts, my stomach, my eyes, my hair… The list goes on and on.
And I am average. Typical. There are millions upon millions of girls and women out there receiving the same media input as I am. Those millions also struggle with their low self-esteem. Those millions also strive to reach those completely unreal ideals, believing them to be the only road to success, to love, to happiness. We run around, trying fad diet after fad diet, buying gym memberships that we’re often too embarrassed to even use because we think we’re too fat to be in even a public place like a gym. This struggle is endless. The media only changes its image of the ideal woman by making her harder and harder to replicate. And society eats it up.
Yet, somehow in the middle of all of that, parents are trying to teach their children otherwise. Americans are trying to be good parents. And how are they doing that? By telling their children that they’re perfect as they are, that they can do anything. Whatever they want to do, they can achieve it. Parents push their children to get good grades so they can get into good schools. They feed them only the very best foods and get up in arms about pesticides and high fructose corn syrup or whatever else has been recently deemed as the one thing that’s destroying our children. They protest. They read books then write books of their own. They keep their children from violence, from sex, from anything “unclean.”
And what’s one of the most popular ways to make sure your children aren’t going to grow up to become hookers or porn stars or murderers or school-shooters? By not letting them play those devilish video games, of course! Gaming must be the root of all evil. I mean, you gain points for killing people or zombies. You’re destroying everything in sight! There’s sex and drugs and rape and blood and violence everywhere! The men are heartless killers and the women are scandalous harlots in skimpy outfits designed to get the disturbed male game players aroused. Why, letting your children play video games would be just as negligent as letting them roam the streets of downtown Las Vegas alone after midnight!
What. A. Pile. Of. Self-indulgent. Garbage.
Now, being a female gamer, I’m going to do something that may seem outrageous. Instead of focusing on why video games are bad for children, I am actually going to advocate the playing of video games for the improved self-esteem of younger girls in today’s society.
First, let’s look at what girls with no video games in their lives are typically exposed to. When you think of today’s stars, there are some big names that still come to mind. Paris Hilton. Jessica Alba. Britney Spears. Lindsay Lohan. Bad role models? Not all of them. Want me to add another name to the list? Okay. Miley Cyrus. Well, let’s say you keep your kids away from the bad apples of Hollywood. Can you stop them from seeing billboards or magazine covers or commercials with impossibly beautiful women? Maybe you do. What about Disney movies? Those iconic princesses, Jasmine, Aurora. And what about that blond doll your daughter clings to. The one that lets her believe she can do anything she wants to with her life. The infamous Barbie.
All of those names have one thing in common. They are furthering the unrealistic and unhealthy stereotypes of the ideal woman.
Let’s look at some images. All of these images simply came up in a google image search.
Britney’s looking awfully thin and exposed, isn’t she? Or, at least, she had been until even Photobucket decided the image was too lewd to host.
Classy nipple cover, there, Paris.
Well this is certainly a classy image we’d love our children to imitate, eh?
Saved the best for last! This is Miley Cyrus at the TEEN CHOICE AWARDS. Of all places. LOOK at that outfit. And what is she doing? POLE DANCING!
I then typed in the simple phrase “supermodel” into my google search. These are two of the images that came up.
Look at how thin those women are. How perfect their skin is. And you WONDER why there’s low self-esteem in the female population today!
Time for some Disney characters!
Do these look like any person you know? Does this look like an average woman? Do these images even appear to be HEALTHY, should they be real? Of course not. But these are some of the first pictures of adult women that young girls begin to idealize. I know that I, personally, was absolutely obsessed with Ariel when I was younger. And my younger sister? Jasmine.
Now what about Barbie. Every little girl has some Barbie dolls. There are entire aisles dedicated to them. Pink abounds. Barbie is everything for every little girl. She can be a doctor, a ballerina, a veterinarian, or a fashionista all in a single hour. She can go to college, own a dream home, marry Ken, get together with the girls, whatever a young girl’s heart desires. But what about that figure the young children are playing with?
If Barbie were a real person, she would have some serious physical problems. Barbie could never be a mother with her measurements. If Barbie were a living, breathing specimen, she would be just a hair over 6′ tall. Even at that height, she would weigh a scant 100 lbs, most of that weight probably resting in her 39″ bust. Her actual measurements would be 39″/19″/33″. Can you imagine a 19 inch waistline? Poor Barbie would have to have many back surgeries to support her large breasts and to maintain that 100 pound figure, she has probably developed a few eating disorders in between all those degrees.
Now, what was that about female video game characters being far too lewd? I think the above images are a bit more than “lewd” at times. To find out some iconic video game characters, I asked a few of my gaming friends to rattle off a few female game characters. These are some that came up.
This is Princess Zelda of the Legend of Zelda series. Take a long look. Her breasts are a very normal size, and her waist is fairly in line with the rest of her body. Despite the large ears and pointed facial features, her figure looks, dare I say it, normal and healthy! Not only that, but Zelda receives the Triforce of Wisdom in one of the games, the epitome of knowledge. She is portrayed as a smart, resourceful, compassionate woman. Now doesn’t THAT sound like something you’d like your daughters to emulate?
This is Yuna, from the Final Fantasy series. Notice her dress. Fairly modest, especially in comparison to what has been shown above. Her skirt reached all the way to her ankle, and her modestly sized breasts are also completely covered. While fairly thin, she is by no means anorexic in appearance. The magic she performs in the series is typically either summoning or healing, both to help out her companions. She is also very unique in that she suffers from heterochromia. Heterochromia means that her eyes are different colors. One of Yuna’s eyes is green, and the other is blue. And as such an important character in the game, why not use that to teach your daughters that different features are something to be PROUD of!
Yes, the infamous Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider series. Even this video game character, often hailed as one of the best looking female characters in all of video game history, is seen rather modestly. The shorts she’s wearing are no shorter than those I see fourteen-year-olds wearing in the mall today. Lara is portrayed as beautiful, yes, but just as important is her intelligence, athleticism, and ability to make her own choices. A known archeologist, this lovely woman obviously went to school just like Barbie had to, but she came out with much more realistic proportions.
Samus Aran is an AMAZING character as far as video game females are concerned. In fact, at the start of the Metroid series, many gamers admit to believing she was a male underneath all that armor. Samus Aran has a curiosity that many identify with, and the fact that she acts on that curiosity presents a good lesson to those of us too afraid to probe the unknown. Samus is a monster of a woman, standing 6’3″ tall and, unlike Barbie, weighs a healthy 198 lbs at that height. She is described as having “superior skills” and a “strong sense of judgment.” What great qualities to instill in our children! She is a strong, independent woman, doing what men in this genre do just as well as, if not better than, her male counterparts!
Princess Peach (aka Princess Toadstool) is Mario’s love interest. Mario is almost always off saving his beloved Princess from the clutches of the evil Bowser, King of the Koopas. But Princess Peach is more than just a blond airhead who gets herself caught up by Bowser on a daily basis. Peach is a kind, good-natured, gentle woman often portrayed in a well-mannered and lady-like way. She is rarely aggressive, even in the face of her enemies. And her manner of dress couldn’t be more modest! What’s more is that despite her very average appearance (despite, perhaps, those piercing sapphire eyes), Mario goes to the ends of the earth to be with her. Mario loves his Princess Peach even though she doesn’t have a supermodel’s body or Barbie’s proportions.
So what’s the verdict?
Let your daughters play video games. Let them explore this expanding world of the female hero. Perhaps gaming will let your daughters see that they are just as capable of solving problems as their male peers. Do not let them be excluded from something they may enjoy. And most of all, do not blame video games for the unrealistic standards being set for women today. I believe that games, more than a lot of other things, are getting the imagery closer to right.