Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Zaphod: "Oh, Belgium!"

Shii - the Wii for women - video as found by gender equality blog Feministing on 27th April.

Firstly, let me state, as the blogger at Feministing neglected to do, that I understand that this video is satire. A moment's googling tracked down its source, which is the Belgian comedy show M!LF (Man! Liberation Front). So, satire. Obviously.

Having said that... it's not great satire. I'm pretty sure that the outdated Battle of the Sexes "heey, women enjoy cooking, cleaning and being sexually available to lazy men, riight?" brand of humour belongs entirely to our dads' generation, if not to the generation before that (and also to Benny Hill and postcards found in seaside towns featuring rosy-cheeked cartoon British people).

Then again, I don't speak Flemish! This could be a witty comment on the state of the gaming industry. It should be. For instance, doesn't anyone think this imagined scenario is a little too close to real games such as Nintendo's Cooking Mama and its ilk? No, Cooking Mama isn't a game about cannibalising your mother. It's a cookery game - because in the Nintendo household, 'mama' does all the cooking while father brings home the cash, of course. They're springing up everywhere these days, these games designed by PR executives trying to appeal to the nurturing instinct. Domestic drudgery - it's the new fun, apparently.

There's Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends, Gardening Mama, waitressing game Diner Dash and so on. Notice how in the Shii video, nearly all the tasks the women did were ways to nurture and basically take care of their men.

Ubisoft's Imagine brand, described by their official website as "the only range of videogames offering activities dedicated to girls on the Nintendo's DS," offers a just delightful range of possibilities for young girls to imagine.

Here's the full catalogue of stereotypes:-

Imagine: Master Chef (released 2007)
Imagine: Fashion Designer (2007)
Imagine: Animal Doctor (2007)
Imagine: Babies (2007)
Imagine: Figure Skater (2008)
Imagine: Girl Band (2008)
Imagine: Teacher (2008)
Imagine: Babysitters (2008)
Imagine: Baby Club (2008)
Imagine: Fashion Model (2008)
Imagine: Modern Dancer (2008)
Imagine: Fashion Designer New York (2008)
Imagine: Champion Rider (2008)
Imagine: Pet Hospital (2008)
Imagine: Interior Designer (2008)
Imagine: Dream Weddings (2008)
Imagine Party Babyz (2008)
Imagine: Ballet Dancer
Imagine: Movie Star (2008)
Imagine Fashion Party (January 20, 2009)
Imagine: Cheerleader (February 3, 2009)
Imagine: Ice Champions (March 3, 2009)
Imagine: Family Doctor (March 26, 2009)

THESE are the ambitions being sold to the young girls of today?

God, at least you could mutilate the tacky plastic baby mama crap that they bought you when I was a lass. All MY Barbies sported mohawks, coloured in, in felt-tip pen. What's a young girl to do if a relative buys her Imagine: Babies? Let me tell you, in my day etc. etc.

Even the most recent 'doctor' incarnation of the Imagine series has that insidious 'Family' tacked onto the title - Imagine: Family Doctor. There's a sweet picture of a female doctor with a child holding a teddy bear on the box, bringing up pictures of giving babies spongebaths and curing toddlers' sniffles. Not handing out STI medicine and contraceptive advice which is, you know, some of the less PR-friendly stuff that family doctors do (and might be useful for young girls to learn about, too).

And Imagine: Teacher has primary school children on the front, a job that is usually lower-paid than lecturer or high school teacher and, as is often the case with lower paid careers in care, where UN statistics show that women outnumber men.

Now don't get me wrong. I'd be pretty damn pleased if a future daughter of mine became a doctor, or a primary-school teacher, or a talented figure skater, or pretty much anything else that made her happy and secure. BUT. There are themes here, oh yes there are. Underlying, subtle themes which say to us that young girls must be nurturing, they must care about appearances, and they absolutely must desire marriage and lots and lots of babies.

There are a lot of statistics about how computer game companies are appealing to women these days. Some studies even claim that there are more women playing computer games than men. In a time of financial crisis when corporations are looking wherever they can for profit, Ubisoft will certainly be pleased with the success of their Imagine range.

Well. Congratu-bloody-lations, you broke into a new market. But by god don't kid yourselves that you're doing anything progressive or special if you're just going to go and vomit back the same stereotypes we've been seeing for years.



A final thought on the Shii video: Because when a woman has a giant pink plastic dildo hooked up to a games console, putting it in her mouth is exactly what she'll think to do with it...

*exits to the Benny Hill music*

1 comment:

  1. I also took it to be a parody of the sexist videogames currently being targeted at girls; the very poor research undertaken by Feministing doesn't impress me (it should be obvious to anyone blogging that if you find something in a foreign language, you Google and ask around to find out what the context is before confidently posting what you guess it is), particularly since their piece therefore falls right into that old stereotypical trap - that feminists are humourless and out to be offended by everything, including things which aren't necessarily sexist. As a feminist, that frustrates the hell out of me.

    As to the games, on the Official Nintendo Magazine forums, I remember them being referred to as 'shovelware', which is evocative both of what should be done with those games and the sheer quantity in which they are being produced.

    Apart from the stereotyping and the rip-off merchantry (honestly - £29.99 for a game that lets you play with dolls, when you can buy an actual doll and accessories for a fiver?), I don't think they do much for the industry as a whole, as - unlike other kid-friendly games like the Mario and Zelda series - they lack the depth that would allow repeat play (and purchasing of later installments in a series) as children grow older, and don't lead on to anything outside their very narrow product group.

    Sorry; I seem to have written a lot, but I've been irritated by those games for quite some time!