Unmasking Gender Inequality in Video Games and National Movements

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

Type B: ChatGPT first, me second

ChatGPT post: Write a 250-word blog post about Anita Sarkeesian’s video “Damsel in Distress (Part 1)” and its connection to nationalism and gender inequality.

“In the digital age, video games serve as both an entertainment medium and a reflection of our societal values. Anita Sarkeesian’s video series, “Damsel in Distress (Part 1),” dives deep into the portrayal of women in video games and their connections to nationalism and gender inequality. This eye-opening analysis sheds light on the subtle yet pervasive stereotypes present in gaming, which are often emblematic of wider social issues.

Sarkeesian’s critical examination reveals how the concept of the damsel in distress, a recurring theme in video games, perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes. It casts women as helpless victims in need of rescue by male protagonists, reinforcing the notion of female vulnerability and male heroism. This stereotype not only marginalizes women within the gaming community but also reflects broader societal inequalities, where women often face subjugation and are denied agency.

Furthermore, Sarkeesian’s video explores the connection between these tropes and the reinforcement of nationalism. In many video games, female characters are used as symbols of national identity or objects to be “protected” to inspire players to fight for their nation. This linkage implies that women are an integral part of a nation’s identity and that their worth is defined by their connection to men.

By critically analyzing these themes, Sarkeesian’s work prompts us to question the narratives and portrayals present in our beloved games. It’s a call to action to recognize the interconnectedness of gender inequality and nationalism and to strive for more diverse and empowering representations in the gaming industry. This awareness fosters a more inclusive gaming community and contributes to the broader fight for gender equality, transcending the virtual world and entering the real one, where we work towards a more equitable and just society.”

My response:

I guess it might be difficult for ChatGPT to write the same post as I was thinking of writing. I think the third paragraph is most aligned with what I had wanted to say.

Watching Anita Sarkeesian’s video really made me think of the relationship between gender inequality and nationalism. Right now, I am writing my capstone paper about the changes to women’s rights that Kurds as well as some Arabs have created in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. While researching for my capstone, I have found that, generally, national movements do not promote women’s rights and are sometimes even opposed to gender equality (Asal et al 2021). Often, in national movements, women and children are put in the group of the oppressed and mistreated who need protection from male soldiers. They are also sometimes relegated to the role of mothers of the nation, or the people who take care of and nurture the future fighters for the nation’s wellbeing. Even though there might be women’s rights movements and organizations within a national movement, they are usually overlooked or told to wait until a nation-state is achieved.

This is like the idea that Sarkeesian demonstrates about the role given to women in video games as a “Damsel in Distress.” She says something about male characters being empowered by female characters’ disempowerment, which I think is exactly what the idea in these research articles embodies. Sarkeesian seemed to say that if we had female main characters that were able to do the same things as male characters in video games, and if we stopped using the trope of the damsel in distress, we would stop “reinforcing the idea that women are passive, secondary figures” as ChatGPT states above.

The government of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria has seemed to try to stop this trope. It is an example of a nationalist group that is an exception to the rule. Kurdish female fighters in the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) were among the Kurdish forces that fought ISIS and that continue to fight during the Syrian Civil War. Additionally, in the government that has been set up also requires each position of power to have both a male and a female leading together to break away from typical gender roles within society in Syria.

*The title is a tweaked version of the suggested title from the ChatGPT post.

Asal, Victor, Nazli Avdan and Nourah Shuaibi. 2021. “Women Too: Explaining Gender Ideologies of Ethnopolitical Organizations.” In Terrorism, Gender and Women, edited by Alexandra Phelan, 10-27. London: Routledge.  

One response to “Unmasking Gender Inequality in Video Games and National Movements”

  1. Brian Croxall Avatar

    This is an interesting way to frame things, Elizabeth; you’re suggesting that women are an important rhetorical tool at the nation-state level and not just in the confines of video games. Which, of course, they are. How does our own culture do similar things?

    And, once again, we see that ChatGPT just generally fails at its job.

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