The Patriarchal Double-Standard (in geek culture)

Anime Central (ACen) is around the corner, and so I’ve begun browsing the forums to start planning out my weekend. As I did so, a topic caught my eye entitled, “Nerds and Male Privilege.” It linked to an article on Kotaku entitled the name of the thread, and so I gave it a read. It was an interesting read, and I agree with a lot of the points the author made, but I wanted to chime in with my own opinions since they address what I think permeates a lot of the comments on both the ACen thread and the article on Kotaku, and it’s this strange assumption that men don’t really suffer from hyper-sexualization of their gender.

I thought that we’ve made progress as a society towards gender equality, but it looks like I’m wrong. I understand that the geek community is but a facet of society, but as it grows, it’s hard not to see where this generation is headed – hyper-sexualization of both men and women.

I’m not trying to downplay the hyper-sexualization of women, whom have it far worse than men do currently. I just want to expose that while women are on the short end of the stick, they’re also facilitating the very society that oppress them, and that men need to be treated differently, too.

I want to be clear, here: I am NOT downplaying the oppression of women and the disgusting superiority of men.

I guess my main point is that men and women need to reevaluate how they perceive each other, especially in the gaming world. A little more simply put: the hyper-sexualization of men facilitates the hyper-sexualization of women.

Let’s start with a quick example when it comes to hyper-sexualization. The article on Kotaku talks about Batman: Arkham City, and quickly shows three prominent male characters, then shows three female characters. Obviously, the females are hyper-sexualized in their costumes, but let’s take a moment to look at the men, specifically Batman, the protagonist. Look at how good he looks. Look at how badass he looks. Your typical argument against that is, “That’s not nearly as hyper-sexualized as women. It’s seen as positive hyper-sexualization.”

Is it, though? If women are saying that this isn’t bad, they’re essentially saying that there’s no standard for good looking men. But there are. Men are becoming just as conscious about themselves as women are when it comes to looking good. Batman is hyper-sexualized in the sense that it portrays men with power and muscle. They can’t be looking goofy and fun – they need to look serious and dedicated to what they do.

Have you ever seen a really badass male that isn’t smiling and fun-loving most of the time? Obviously, there are those gems, just like there are gems containing non-hyper-sexualized women. This is one of the points that I think the author of the Kotaku article really falls short. He catches these kinds of reactions, completely excluding some really valid points it has – for example, how this hyper-sexualization might make homosexual males feel uncomfortable because of how homosexuals are portrayed in a sarcastic and goofy light most of the time, but soon grow to be more serious because that’s what men should rise to be.

If that doesn’t make sense, think about it this way – in high school (even college), you’ve got a lot of guys who rise to fit what society deems to be a good teen male (muscular, likes to party, confrontational), and you’ve got the girls who are attracted to them and not the ‘nerds’ because they’re not the norm. Mothers tell their sons that they can’t show weakness, and in the business world money (power) is heard more than a logical voice.

There was a comment made by a guy saying it disturbs him when people complain about sexist comments, and the retort made by a female said that she can’t enjoy playing games (like he does) because of the sexist comments. He said to ignore them, and she said ignoring them isn’t the right option, and that he isn’t the one receiving those comments. There’s a kernel of truth in there – don’t ignore issues that need to be brought up, but saying that he isn’t receiving any kind of abuse, I think, is wrong. It’s very true that women are receiving a lot of shit, and that when they think they’re being hyper-sexualized that their opinion is turned down, but here’s what’s false – men aren’t completely benefiting from hyper-sexualization.

In fact, men complaining is a sign of weakness. They should, “man up,” and just take it according to our patriarchal society. So why would they complain when they think men are being portrayed wrong? When something comes up, they’re supposed to ignore it, just like that commenter said as a response, and force themselves to think they’re being portrayed positively.

Do you see the problem?

Men are portrayed positively, but it has a negative impact on them, and this facilitates the negative treatment of women.

Patriarchy has changed into a lethal double-edged sword that cuts men deep, women more deeply, but it takes a cold, hard stab at gender equality, giving men an impression of power and privileges that they’re afraid of losing because they won’t be the standard man. It emotionally cripples men, and strips women of power. Obviously, women are still getting the short end of the stick, but the point here is that men are suffering, too, but they’re not taught that they’re suffering and so internalize a false state of mind where they think they’re fine, but they’re not.

I want more clothes on women, too, but before that happens, we need to take the muscle out of men and grant them their emotions. Once we end the hyper-sexualization of men, we can tackle the hyper-sexualization of women, and maybe, just maybe, achieve gender equality.

Just sayin’.