clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Tropes vs Women calls on games to stop ‘exoticizing’ black women

New, 42 comments

Games “reduce these cultures to stereotypical costumes”

The newest episode of Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs Women in Video Games, above, delves into the “tragic impact” of perpetuating stereotypes of black and other minority women. That’s something host and critic Anita Sarkeesian explains that the media, especially games, are often guilty of doing.

It’s not just that games — like Far Cry 3, Diablo 3 and Resident Evil 5 — often present women of color in negative, objectifying ways, she says. They specifically treat them as exotic, sexualized beings.

“This linking of sexism and racism is an example of what’s called exotification,” Sarkeesian says. “Exotification occurs when a group is treated as inherently different, alluring, and strange.”

That’s on display in Far Cry 3, one of the first examples the host gives for this troubling trend. Dark-skinned Citra is considered a “warrior goddess” by her people, and that defines her interactions with the game’s hero, Jason Brody. Citra, with her scant clothing and spiritual, magical powers, is steeped in imagery typical of “an exotic, primitive, mystical, savage, sexualized woman of color.”

That’s a familiar stereotype that Sarkeesian identifies as all too common in the games industry. Its origins predate video games, reaching all the way back to the Victorian Era and the racist view that black women were promiscuous beings. While we’ve come a long way from this perception in many ways, American society still shows vestiges of this disturbing and dehumanizing past when it comes to how women of color are seen.

“Respectful treatment of cultural history and traditions should be the norm, but instead games more often just plunder marginalized cultures with no sense of respect and no concern whatsoever about accurately reflecting the people and traditions they’re appropriating from,” Sarkeesian concludes. “To put it simply, it’s not okay for games to reduce these cultures to stereotypical costumes and personality traits in an effort to add a bit of exotic flair to their worlds.”

Tropes vs Women’s current sophomore season will be its last. An end date has not been announced, although Feminist Frequency has produced seven episodes in just under a year’s time. The organization also is behind another female-focused web series, Ordinary Women.