In the newest episode of Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs. Women video series, host Anita Sarkeesian goes back in time to critique the history of female villains. Deadly, voluptuous women can be found as early as in Greek mythology, but as Sarkeesian explains, their sexuality is used as a threat.
Female villains in games tend to range from the alluring and voluptuous to literal monsters, Sarkeesian explains. "Temptresses" in games like Mass Effect 2, Hitman: Absolution and the old-school Battletoads use their looks to ensnare their male victims, while the 2013 Devil May Cry reboot’s women are designed to be "unsettling, not titillating." These women have idealized bodies that soon change into more demonic, horrifying bodies, turning the sexualized into the grotesque.
"With all of these character types, their femaleness or sexuality is an intrinsic part of what is intended to make them dangerous or repulsive," Sarkeesian says. When male heroes defeat them, it’s both a victory and a reassertion of their dominance over women, she explains.
That’s a common, age-old story, as the video explains, and it’s one that reinforces archaic, misogynistic ideas about female sexuality. For as much as the female form is romanticized, the portrayal of female villains in myths and in games suggests that a sexual women is a monstrous one.
It’s time for that to change, Sarkeesian says. Games and stories whose female villains are explicitly sexualized are "perpetuating false notions that women are inherently misleading and manipulative, and that female sexuality is something to be shamed, feared and controlled," she explains.
"Those ideas were harmful 2,800 years ago, and they’re still harmful today."
Tropes vs. Women is well into its second season, which began in March and is set to be the series' last. Previous topics this season include body diversity, armor and butts, both male and female.