So Ian miles cheong recently trotted out the old 'gallbrush' argument regarding men and women in gaming. Is there a good rebuttal to that?
The first thing you should know about Ian Miles Cheong is that there’s a good chance doesn’t actually believe any of the things he says. If you look back at his past statements, even when he was supposedly supported social justice, you’ll find he’s almost never made anything resembling an original argument. He simply repeats the most common talking points of whatever group he’s affiliated most with.
If I had to take a guess, I’d say his stance on any given issue at any point in time is entirely performative, he truly doesn’t give a shit apart from getting street cred with whoever he’s decided to hang around. In hindsight, I should have probably realized that before he went full internet libertarian because he didn’t really act that different when he was an “SJW.”
Now, I could be wrong to assume this, certainly. But given that he’s been so thoroughly lazy in all of his attempts to make any kind of argument, I have trouble believing that he truly gives a shit at all.
Because of this, I generally don’t consider him to be worth taking seriously at all.
That said, if you want a rebuttal to his point, it’s really really easy to make one. Let’s take a look at IMC’s lazy attempt at an argument.
So, the first thing that I want to talk about is that this is actually an uncharitable reading of Guybrush Threepwood’s character traits.
Yes, he’s clumsy. Yes, he’s awkward. Yes, he doesn’t have much in the way of common sense. Yes, he’s a little bit self-absorbed. Yes, he often screws things up and makes things worse. But at the same time, he’s also witty enough to provide most of the Monkey Island series’ legendary humor just through his narration, clever enough to outsmart his way through nearly every obstacle he encounters (even the ones he accidentally created for himself), determined enough to weather a ridiculous amount of punishment, and manages to rack up a truly impressive list of accomplishments over the course of the series. The only time he ever really comes off as a legitimate jerk is in LeChuck’s Revenge, which is mostly just him letting his previous defeat of LeChuck go to his head.
Guybrush Threepwood is very much a flawed character, intentionally so. And yet at no point does he ever come off as being a shallow character. This leads directly into the second point that I want to talk about.
When people criticize female characters, it’s generally done so in a way that’s directly related to their lack of depth, whether in the character or in their role in the story itself. This is because stereotypes are defined by a lack of depth. A stereotype relies on generalizations about how we perceive groups of people, they undermine the ability to perceive groups with nuance.
For example, say a female character in a story gets kidnapped for no reason other than to motivate a male hero to rescue her. Regardless of how capable she might otherwise be, the story shows the male character to be the only one who can help her. Now, in a vacuum, this alone wouldn’t be bad. But taken into the context of most cultures, it feeds into several stereotypes: that women need men to protect them, that women play a more passive existence, and that men are the ones who actually go out and do things.
The way to avoid this isn’t to say that no woman can be rescued by a man in a story, ever. The way to do this is to advocate for more depth to the way these kinds of conflicts are portrayed. The key phrase above is female character getting kidnapped for no reason other than to motivate a male hero to rescue her. In many cases the female character getting kidnapped can be replaced with a pet or inanimate object the male hero feels particularly attached to being stolen, with little appreciable difference in how it affects the plot.
Everything in a story serves a purpose, and if a kidnapping of a female character doesn’t actually do anything in the story beyond “get the male lead to do something,” then that’s not a plot element that has any depth to it at all. It’s not only shallow, it parallels a shallow way of viewing women.
So is it possible to write a female character that’s inept, clumsy, socially awkward, etc. deeply without it being called sexist? Yes, absolutely. In fact, not only is it possible, but to imply that it isn’t is actually deeply insulting to game creators, because it implies that they simply do not have enough creativity to write female characters with any depth.