Tropes vs Women in Video Games: Ms. Male Character

The latest video in Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes vs Women video series explores Ms. Male characters. Called the "Smurfette Principle" by Sarkeesian, it is when developers create female counterparts with little or no difference based on strong male characters. The best example of this practice would be Ms. Pac Man, who – besides wearing a bow on her head – showed very little difference from her manly counterpart.

Here's more from the video description on YouTube:

"We've defined the Ms. Male Character Trope as: The female version of an already established or default male character. Ms. Male Characters are defined primarily by their relationship to their male counterparts via visual properties, narrative connection or occasionally through promotional materials."

You can check out a transcript of the video here and you can check out the video to your left. Thanks to EZK for the tip.

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  1. 0
    DorthLous says:

    I'm afraid to say it, but I think he might be referring to "butch" clothing or the like, since her shirts have mostly been things men *could* wear in traditional settings… Hopefully, I'm wrong, but…

  2. 0
    Samster says:

    What a person with agency chooses to deck themselves out in really has no relevance to what creators of media choose to use as gender signifiers on their invented female characters. But of course, you watched the video, so I'm assuming you heard the part where she said that, no?

  3. 0
    Davvolun says:

    Let me give this a shot:

    > I'm still curious if she's deliberately using her outfit to fill a trope herself, or if she is falling into the trope, just like much of what she's taking on.

    About the best sense I could make of it, but a huge waste of time. Are you actually going to complain about the outfit she's wearing? Whether you're on one side of this issue or the other (she's doing something that needs to be done vs. it doesn't make sense that this argument is necessary) or if you're on a third side of the issue, I don't think complaining or discussing what she's wearing helps anyone. I think she clearly chose fairly bland and gender neutral accompaniment, the fact that there is pink in the shirt is pretty irrelevant (or do we need to discuss Kanye West and frat groups jumping on pink polos a few years back?). A small amount of pink doesn't necessarily reflect the trope without more factors, particularly when we're talking about an actual person instead of a handful of pixels. 

  4. 0
    BlindMaphisto says:

    I actually enjoyed the video. I wonder if she has ever done anything on The Portal series. It's my favorite series and I'm curios what her take on the characters are.

  5. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    She uses oodles of relevant examples to illustrate the trope she's discussing.  She sources the history of Pac-Man stuff.  She cites the Smurfette Principle stuff.

    Specifically, what baseless claim(s) are you talking about?


    Andrew Eisen

  6. 0
    GrimCW says:

    Regardless, one should always back up their claims if they intend to make them.
    With no actual backing, the claims put forth are baseless trash.

    Your taking someones word on things at face value, doesn't mean that they didn't just lie to your face outright and you believed them openly like a drone. Some people want the facts, especially when the research is claimed to be in existence.

    Otherwise I could make a video claiming anything I want, throw in a few randomized clips that support my claims, and call it a day.

    This is called propaganda, your manipulating the facts and giving only enough to get people to believe what your rambling about. Never fully explaining the reasoning behind your claims, or where the basis comes from.

    You can't claim to have research that isn't there, or doesn't exist. Her personal research can't count either by right since she's got a very biased point of view on the entire situation. That ruins the credibility of her personal research right there. She's LOOKING for the connection, of course she'll find one. If she doesn't, her own mind will begin to draw one.

    Admittedly she's trying to cover herself in some points by making small statements here and there about things that aren't to bad, or may be unintentional. But they come off as just that, a "covering my ass" tactic.

  7. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    her opinion which, after this move, comes down to the game industry can't do right no matter what.

    Did you even watch the video? In this specific video, she highlights at least four games that she feels broke free of the Ms. Male trope and provided a very great presentation of a female character. 

    In every video she has produced, she has either explained what would be an acceptable counter to the trope discussed or provided details from existing games that countered that trope. 

    So please get your facts straight.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  8. 0
    Neeneko says:

    More specifically, she is only going to 'back them up' so far in such an overview.  When I go and watch a youtube video on game physics I do not expect them to get into the underlying math, and thus I do not expect her to get into the underlying psych or neurology involved here.

    She is backing herself up within the framework and scale of the videos, but to a lot of people it simply is not going to be good enough and having watched full blown researchers get the same criticism, even if she was putting out 40 hour videos it still would still get the 'you didn't back up your arguments' rants.

    Feminism pisses a lot of people off, it has for the last century or two.  She is not going to change that, crow we are only a few generations into the idea of women even being people, it is going to take a long time still. All she is doing is going over how classical tropes that exist across all media and storytelling pan out in a domain she is passionate about.

  9. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    "[Her opinion] comes down to the game industry can't do right no matter what."

    Not from the four videos released thus far.

    "Treat women differently than men?  You're reinforcing chauvanistic stereotypes.

    Treat women the same?  You're not giving women the respect they deserve."

    That's simplistic to the point of being disingenuous but regardless, she's neither said nor suggested either in the first four videos.

    "Never mind her entire pitch was to actually show evidence of her claims with research and citations."

    I see nothing in her pitch that says anything of the sort.  That said, she does provide a variety of links and resources for each video on the Feminist Frequency site.

    "On top of that, she's lifting other people's videos to make hers."

    I've heard that, but seen no evidence of it.  But even if it's true, so what?

    "It's called 'bait-and-switch.'"

    Everyone who chose to financially support her project is, so far, getting exactly what they paid for.


    Andrew Eisen

  10. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    No, she's just taking other people's money to make a video series detailing her opinion which, after this move, comes down to the game industry can't do right no matter what.

    Treat women differently than men?  You're reinforcing chauvanistic stereotypes.

    Treat women the same?  You're not giving women the respect they deserve.

    Never mind her entire pitch was to actually show evidence of her claims with research and citations.  She hasn't done so.  On top of that, she's lifting other people's videos to make hers.

    It's called "bait-and-switch."

  11. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    So, she doesn't have to back up her arguments – paid for with other people's money, by the way – with facts because people might still hate her?

    Seems legit.

  12. 0
    Neeneko says:

    I doubt, if she showed research, people would react any better.  Research is long and dry reading that most people do not bother with unless it is their field.  These are bridge lectures designed for people who have not spent years studying the material in detail, SciShow or other series that attempt to give an overview of a topic.

    However, people who do actual research and devote their life to the subject matter get the same threats and rebuttals as she does.  The game community tends to be a little more extreme then most, almost on-par with the men's rights activists and conservative religious groups.  There just seems to be this strange visceral reaction at the idea women might be getting the short end of things and somehow equal treatment might ruin things for men.

    Though gamers are at least better then the comic book crowd.  Wow do they get vicious when someone points out issues there, including senior industry people in ways that would make the worst offenders in the game industry blush.

  13. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    "…she makes a lot of baseless claims."

    Such as?

    "That's what her whole video series is trying to do, attempting to tell game developers they are bad and wrong for not following her view of how she thinks game characters and stories should be written."

    No, it's not.  In fact, she specifically says so in the second video.


    Andrew Eisen

  14. 0
    prh99 says:

    Some Lets players have called her out for lifting footage as well, which is fine but it makes me wonder. I think his name is thunderfoot or something like that, he seems to put quite a bit of time in discussing the points raise in her videos.

  15. 0
    Sleaker says:

    Yah, my problem is after watching a lot of them, and seeing some responses is that she makes a lot of baseless claims.  She says 'This (insert something aweful a game did) reinforces some stereotype the video is covering'  But the links she tries to make don't actually follow, or haven't been shown to follow.


    For instance, do violent games make people more violent people?  Is there research done on this? sure, but the research is almost unanimously showing that they don't even though media can claim 'the shooter was an avid gamer'.  Do games that show a stereotype make people stereotype each other more? – I'm not so sure…  That's what her whole video series is trying to do, attempting to tell game developers they are bad and wrong for not following her view of how she thinks game characters and stories should be written. 

    I think this is why a lot of people are getting angry over this, it's similar to the small crowds that continually say that video games made the killer pull the trigger.

  16. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Less 'definition of a masculine' and more a good example of how gender defaults and deviation work.  Since there was so little to the character, almost nothing graphical or narrative to identify them as male, the case strips away any real conscious or deliberate creation of a masculine character.

    One thing people often have trouble with (esp since it feels wrong) is that much of sexism is not deliberate, it is not developers or authors setting out to create something intentionally or maliciously sexist, but instead it occurring naturally without even thinking or noticing.  Which is why series like this can be useful, not to rant saying 'bad developer, you are being sexist!' and more 'hey, have you ever actually noticed or thought about this assumed pattern before?'.  Developers of course can still choose to do whatever they want, but hopefully being more aware will allow them to make more deliberate choices rather then falling back on unquestioned defaults.

  17. 0
    NyuRena says:

    Though she may have a point generally, I don't think that Pac-man was quite the definition of a masculine character, unless guys are bland dot eating circles. =)

  18. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Correct, Extra Credits.  While they have not spent as much time exploring the topic (since they are much more general) they have expressed similiar concerns over how women are portrayed in games.

  19. 0
    Sleaker says:

    Most of the negative response is because she talks about research, and I just watched her 3rd video and I was like, wait a minute.. she's been talking all this time about fluff, like she's only describing her opinions, she's not actually showing any research.  I initially thought these would be well thought out pieces, but after hearing basically the same sentences said in different ways, it doesn't make her arguments valid.

    I then noticed some Feminism vs Facts videos which put to light why I was getting bothered with the things she was saying, she talks about doing research, but never shares it. And the Facts videos offer some actual ideas on why the industry is the way it is, and why it's not necessarily a problem (for the most part).

  20. 0
    Neeneko says:

    What I tend to find both frightening and kinda sad is just how hostile people get over her work.. and noting over the years when male bloggers (like EC) say almost the exact same things they do not get nearly as strong of a reaction.

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