Over at the Mary Sue, there is an article about a series of Before & After images of video game women done by anti-eat disorder group Bulimia. As many of the commenters and then later the poster in an update point out, what could have been an interesting look in representation and the attitudes in gaming, turned into another case of unintended body shaming.
A similar b/a was discussed over at Groupthink a few months ago, which was about Superheroes having their bodies drawn to be more realistic and again, the response was very similar and there is a good reason for that.
Take one character that gets used a lot in these, Wonder Woman. Most of the time, they seem to make her fatter in order to be more “realistic”. Except, how is that realistic? Wonder Woman is both an Amazon and a warrior among other things. Surely realistic for her would be by making her 7-8 feet tall, very muscly and have the occasional scars on her body.
That is because what a realistic body is very much depends on the person in question and can’t be defined in an incredibly arbitrary and narrow set of rules. A K-pop singer for example is likely going to have a different body then a professional boxer or a gymnast is likely going to have a different body then an astronaut.
The big problem that these exercises cause is that they imply that there is only one body type that should be considered “realistic” and anyone who doesn’t conform to it is either have problems or attention seekers. “Hey you have a thin body, there is something wrong with you!” “Hey, you have naturally large breasts, there is something wrong with you!” “Hey, you have thin thighs, there is something wrong with you!”
As many of the commenters from these articles point out:
Because big boobs are so unrealistic /s
These things bother me because they assume that one body type is more ‘realistic’ compared to others. Just being a little heavier doesn’t make these comic book women more realistic looking. There are skinny women in this world who are naturally thin. There are women in this world who have naturally big breasts (hello!). Having small breasts is unrealistic for my body type unless I get a breast reduction.
Are the body types in the adjusted images more average? Yes. But it’s bothersome to me that were still using this ‘real bodies look like this’ rhetoric. Real bodies come in all shapes and sizes, even skinny ones with big boobs. Let Phoenix have her six pack, dammit.
I feel like they had a good intention but the after pictures all kind of have the same body type too, so this doesn’t really increase body diversity? I’d have liked to see more variety, like some really muscular “tank” kind of builds, more “boyish figure” slim build, etc.
No. No. NO!
This was such a missed opportunity. It would have been a great chance to focus on how irreflective most female character designs are, in regard to their lifestyle and/or chosen profession. The fight for more diversity is not meant to be about treating certain women like they don’t exist, but instead to break free from a [painfully] stilted view of women as a whole. The issue has always been with how consistent one female body-type has been in the media spot-light...for decades.
Unfortunately, the After Images are treating the female form no different than most media does. I understand the intent, but by not including the existing variated body-types [along with the background they should realistically be associated with], it comes off just as bias as the Before Images. Truly...
- If you are a person who has pushed your body athletically [military, sports, etc.] for years, your body should reflect that!
- If you come from a land of warriors and were raised to be one since you were a little child, your body should reflect that!
Regardless of whether or not you are either one of the two, your body should reflect your life. And you should be allowed to feel comfortable with who you are; beauty standards be damned.
...by handling the issue this way, you successfully make yourself a part of the problem.
The problem with these though is that you can tell that their heart is in the right place. They are right when they say video games, comics and animation can over sexualize women. Jim Sterling did an entire video pointing out how hard it is to find a woman protagonist that doesn’t fit into the conventionally attractive in video games despite men being able to have any body type they want:
But the key in improving isn’t to force a particular “realistic look” to everyone, even if it doesn’t make sense. We need more verity, more women in the creative end of the industries and developers/creators to be more thoughtful when designing women in fiction.