Let’s get a little controversial all up in here!
There was a big todo in the blog world this week about skimpy gear on female characters, and it’s kind of been making me cranky. I feel like the conversation has unfortunately fallen into a common rhetorical trap, and I dislike it when things that are variable and complicated are phrased in very cut-and-dry, “us vs. them” ways.
The crux of the matter, as outlined in this article about “slut plate” over at Apple Cider Mage, is that “[c]hoosing to wear something skimpy in real life or World of Warcraft should be because someone wants to, because it makes them happy, and should not indicate anything other about a person’s personality or sexuality other than what they wish it to indicate.” Hey, swell. I can totally get behind that, and agree that the phrase “slut plate” is dumb and should be discouraged.
As usual, though, the ensuing conversation conflates the choice with the action itself. Women should be able to dress their characters in anything they like without others assuming they are “sluts”, and I will happily defend that choice as a feminist act. However, this does not mean that dressing your characters in revealing clothing is in itself a feminist act. The issue becomes skewed away from the issue of choice and becomes a message of “celebrate in-your-face-sexiness or you hate women”. In fact, under this paradigm dressing modestly is seen as patriarchal, unfun, and something to be avoided. The choice has yet again been taken away.
The point is not the plate booty shorts. The point should be the CHOICE to wear them.
Every day we are shown women being sexualized in the real world. From the moment I leave my apartment in the morning there are girl butts on taxi ads selling beach vacations and botox injections. I am shown sexy ladies all day long in advertisements. There are ladies in skimpy clothing as NPCs in my game, on login screens, dancing on my mailboxes. By the end of the day, I want to play a game and not worry about it. I’m tired of having sexy sexuality blasted at me all day, co-opted or not, which means that in my group you, Black Mageweave Elf, can sit this one out.
(And, like, what is the external difference between a 15 year old boy playing a mailbox-dancing nelf in her underwear and a woman playing a mailbox-dancing nelf in her underwear? Because if you’re just walking by, there is no difference. Can someone tell me if I should be offended or not? I DON’T KNOW ANYMORE.)
My point is: dress your character in skimpy clothes if you want to. Seriously. I will dress my characters in modest clothes if I want to, and both options are equally valid. No one should make any assumptions about your sexuality or personality from how your elf is dressed, but I am perfectly within my rights to think your outfit is tacky and to select a group member who chose to wear pants.