The roles that are presented in video games are in no way different from the way women are portrayed in how we are to be women in the world today, they may look different but they are all cut from the same cloth in essence.
In life we are directed and/or expected to be a mother by a certain age, wife, to have a partner, to be the career women, to have a certain body shape and size – the list goes on and changes colors throughout the decades in our lives. When attending a Well-Being for Women group in London in February we discussed these expectations in the different age brackets. For us in our 20’s we discussed such things as, to be care-free and irresponsible or working out what and where your life was being directed/what to do for a job etc. In the 30’s they spoke of the tension of securing a job, a house, a partner and a baby amoung other topics.
So when we turn our focus to gaming the same things are playing out.
There’s the roles such as the tough warrior woman, the hyper-sexualized woman, the light and floaty healer/magic user (again generally sexualized), the gamer girl who can be just as much if not be more competitive than the guys. The women working or playing in a male-dominated environment having to ‘fight the system’. The cute, pixie type girl that is carefree and playful, void of seriousness and any responsbilites.
During my gaming days being a woman was not something I related to my own body with, the word ‘Woman’ was not that common, it was more ‘girl’ or ‘female’ which came with either an irresponsible, free, or sexualised connotation or a generic gender description. These roles I took on did not allude to the more expansive understanding I have of what it means to be a woman today.
These images and roles and behaviours we take on in the belief that this is how women are to be is not challenged as it is the dominant direction we are given in life. This remains unchallenged until we are provided with a different reflection, a different image and a different feel that hints if not proves that life can be another way, how we are to be women in the world may not just be limited to what we have been presented thus far.
“A woman knows herself through her body”
This one line from a presentation web-cast I attended a few years ago has stuck with me ever since. Nowhere in gaming or in life had I ever experienced this take on defining what it means to be a woman in the world today. And the gaming world is no different as we focus on the game we play, the role in that game, our actions, our looks, our equipment etc.
What is beautiful about the role models from Esoteric Women’s Health is that there is this ‘there is another way’ feeling but it’s not based on how we look and the behaviours we enjoin in. It’s based on the fact that none of those outside features can truly define us and that we can be known by qualities that are greater than our appearance, clothes, role, job in life or any other hat we may put on. The more I relate to myself as a woman from how my body feels compared to everything around me or even on me in terms of how I dress, work, behave etc. the more at ease I feel in saying and claiming that I am a woman. That being a woman isn’t determined by what I do because I was already born as a woman. The images and roles of the world are still thick and I find myself putting on certain hats and doing the dance to be recognized but the beauty in the support from Esoteric Women’s Health is that these hats are not ‘Bind on Pick up’ to use a gaming term, which means that once you 'pick up' an item or behaviour it's with you for life, but they are in fact removal, disposal and life is far more beautiful without them.
Well-being for Women’s groups are hosted across Australia, London, New Zealand and Norway.