New Feminist Frequency Video: Women as Background Decoration

Anita Sarkeesian releases her newest video on Women as Background Decoration.

Lightning rod figure Anita Sarkeesian has published her newest video as part of the "Tropes vs. Women" series, this one focused on women as background decoration. 

Ms. Sarkeesian's series, part of her Feminist Frequency channel, is focused on highlighting the negative tropes specifically applied to women in gaming. A trope can mean a variety of things, from figure of speech to a cliché, and the series has touched on a couple including the Damsel in Distress and Ms. Male Character. The series is a good introduction to feminist commentary in games, and breaks the subjects down into 30 minute segments with plenty of video game clips and assorted content. 

This video focuses on "women as background decoration," and touches a lot on sexual objectification and women in sex worker occupations. She talks about content like missions that have you walk through brothels or changing rooms, the option to use women as camouflage in Assassin's Creed 4, and sex worker mini-games in the Grand Theft Auto series.

If you've been interested in Anita Sarkeesian's work in the past, or are interested in feminist game commentary it's an interesting watch. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts on the video.  

Former Staff Editor

Former rugby player, social media person, and occasional writer.

Published Jun. 17th 2014
  • Kamui079
    I think it's a little silly at the beginning of the video that she pretends that the gaming industry is the first one to use women in advertisements. Women have been used in the same way in the auto industry long before gaming was around. Yes women are displayed more-so in a sexual way than maybe they should, but that's just a reflection of our society. If she wants this way of thinking to stop she should focus on the real life issues of why advertisers and others display women like that. The gaming industry is just mirroring this real world mind set, they aren't creating it.
  • LunaGore
    This was a nice listen while doing some course work but I have to agree with some of the commenters with points concerning misinformation, focus, and overall professionalism of the presentation. I also have to point out that these games really only affect people with a thin grasp on the difference between reality and fantasy but then again most game developers/companies have this sort of mindset where females aren't anything more than objects and are rarely seen as the main protagonist or antagonist.

    Either way I'm a bit peeved with the term feminism being tossed around because it seems that there's so many different definitions of it now. We aren't fighting for female equality anymore, that was back when we couldn't vote, own land, etc but now (as I see it) its suppose to be a movement to just abolish discrimination against any sex/gender-identity because let's face it we have everything a man can have and more if anything we need to take a second look at whats going on because the numbers will show that we are tipping the scales in a bad way and making men feel oppressed (just look at how many cases in court where a woman wins over a man).
  • Dejanira Albicollis
    It's lines like these that should make it so obvious her videos have no basis in research: "Players are often permitted to knock out, pick up, carry, and throw around inert female bodies"

    As if there are games with ragdoll physics where you can't do the same with male bodies. Of course it's worse when it's done to a female than a male chinese soldier, because hey, feminism!

    This woman is a rambling fraud, and her videos aren't worth the energy it takes to display them on a screen.
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    I feel like you can disagree with someone without calling them a "rambling fraud."
  • Angelina Bonilla
    Featured Correspondent
    I've had mixed feelings when it comes to Anita for quite some time now. I appreciate the fact that she's trying to point out problematic things in gaming but at the exact same time I get annoyed when she would get things wrong in her videos. Not opinions but facts that she would state. It was like she didn't fact check before she released some videos. I wanted to like her but I had a hard time doing so because of how many times she'd state things as absolutes when they weren't.

    However, this latest video was a massive improvement and it did show the odd trend in most M rated games. We always have to have at least one Brothel, Strip Club or Red Light District In our games. The only M rated games I can think of that didn't have that were horror games like the Silent Hill Games Or Fatal Frame ( I think. Not a 100 percent on that)

    Games like Saints Row And GTA the violence is understandable because your character is a terrible person. You can’t be a good guy in these games, you deliberately play as the villain. I’m not saying violence against women is okay, far from it, but in games like these, considering you do violence and treat everyone as objects, I understand why it was put in the game. The idea of sandbox games in general is everything is an object and is part of your playground and you can do whatever you want to them. Everyone is an object in these games not just women.

    Hitman however, surprised me. Is it necessary for Agent 47 to have a mission in a Strip Club? No? Well we need that M Rating! Same with Metro Last Light and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, both games with pretty awesome stories having things like that. It just seems unnecessary more than anything else. It’s like they just went “We need boobs here at least once for an M rating” so they did it.
    Like I said before, it’s massively improved compared to her other videos and she makes her point come across better. I’m still not a fan, but I am happy that her videos have gotten better over time.
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    Thank you for your thoughts on the subject. I also thought this was more improved than her previous videos.
  • AngularMomentum
    Unfortunately some of these stereotypical lines are strangely familiar not from video games, but from real life. I happened to hear similar lines when living in a cheap hotel in a red light district of a very expensive city every night I walked back home. Broken English, minimal dialog.

    I really didn't find a good way to handle their offers, rejecting them made these women feel bad or angry, ignoring them made them feel bad or angry, and accepting their offers was never an option. Unfortunately I am also not the most charming fellow in awkward situations.

    In the end I was really motivated to get back to the hotel early.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    A lot of it is just ranting. Using the courtesans as a distraction in AC isn't anything to get upset about; it's not only historically accurate, it also isn't even remotely offensive. They're courtesans. It's what they do.
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    I think referring to it as a "rant" is rather telling. Even if you disagree with her, she's certainly not ranting.

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