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Is Abby from The Last of Us 2 oppressing women with her muscular arms and small tits? One Reddit gamer says yes

By David Futrelle

Last week I wrote about the wave of transphobia that followed the leaks that revealed one of the new characters in the upcoming postapocalyptic survival game The Last of Us 2 would be the woman above, a buff, butch badass named Abby who is apparently very effective at beating other characters up.

With her small breasts and muscular arms, some gamers have decided that she couldn’t possibly be a cis woman; she has to be trans. Cue a million “that’s a man, baby” jokes and, the internet being the internet, much worse. Meanwhile, more “serious” critics accused the game developer, Naughty Dog, of kowtowing to evil SJWs and trans activists pushing a cis-hating agenda.

I took a look at the Last of Us 2 subreddit today to see if the angry gamers were still at it. They were, posting bad transphobic jokes, ineptly-drawn cartoons and a photoshopped picture of Abby sporting a beard.

But I also ran across an argument I hadn’t seen before, accusing the game developers of “erasing women’s bodies” by featuring a butch woman in their game. This “misogyny” would not stand, a Redditor called Ralmoren declared.

“Funny,” she wrote, doing her best to sound like a feminist,

I bet SJWs like Neil [Druckmann, the director of the game] and Anita [Sarkeesian] think that making women ugly is only punishing male gamers. By doing this they openly admit their bigotry: that they think the female body only exist through the male gaze.

Abby isn’t ugly; she’s butch. And making a character butch is hardly a proclamation that one believes “the female body only exist[s] through the male gaze.” I mean, what? This is cargo cult feminism, adopting the language of feminism without understanding the theory behind it.

“No female gamer would feel empowered by playing with a pretty female avatar, right ? Female gamers need to identify with our characters, so let’s make them ugly (gee, thanks)! Women are only pretty for men, if it weren’t for men they would certainly look like baboons !”

Spoken like a true straw SJW.

I’m a woman, I play videogames and when the game gives me the opportunity I like to play with a female avatar. So now I should be penalised with an ugly avatar because some male gamers are attracted to overtly sexualised female characters (like it’s a bad thing? )? I mean, translate that to the real world, it’s like telling me “When you get out of your house you should keep your hair covered because some men may look at you a certain way.”

It’s really not like that at all.

F*ck this misogynistic bigotry.

Can we get creative game developers who have sane relashionships and views of women or is that to much to ask for ? Like not I-do-stealth-missions-in-panties-because-I-breathe-through-my-skin sexy, nor Mass Effect Andromeda ugly, but something in the middle ? Please ?

Here’s an idea: how about a range of female characters that in some small way reflect the diversity of women in the real world?

In a later comment, Ralmoren cites Bayonetta as an example of the sort of woman she’d like to see more of in video games. Here’s the totally-not-sexualized Bayonetta, who I’m sure would have fit in perfectly in the gritty postapocalyptic world of The Last of Us.

As Ralmoren explained,

Feminine, elegant, and kicks ass. Bayonetta is a much happier and empowering female representation than the austere, masculine woman trope we’re getting recently.

Ralmoren insists that, as far as she’s concerned, “there’s nothing wrong with being a masculine woman (I’m not especially feminine myself).” Never mind that she spent much of her previous comment attacking Abby as “ugly”

She continues:

but I dislike that this trope shows that female characters can only be strong if they emulate men, meaning that by opposition anything feminine is weak and needs to be shunned.

If all female video game characters looked like Abby, this argument might have some merit. But having one butch character in a game is hardly the same as declaring that “female characters can only be strong if they emulate men” (my emphasis). Again, if games actually depicted women more as they are in the real world, with a variety of body shapes and sizes, this wouldn’t even be an issue. In the real world, moreover, there are a lot more women walking around looking like Abby than there are women looking like Bayonetta (except at game conventions).

Elsewhere on the Last of Us 2 subreddit, others offered up even dopier objections to Abby’s looks. Like the dude who insists that she’s simply too buff to live in postapocalyptic times.

Abby is literally the only human, male or female, with that sort of muscle mass. In a post-apocalyptic dystopia. With no commercial protein supplies. Or working steroid/supplement factories.

The calorie and protein requirements alone are prohibitive in a context within which there is food and resource scarcity. But even granting that they gather enough food through hunting and they have this amazing gym that auto-produces steroids, why is she the only person in her group with that sort of build?

She’s either taking a disproportionate share of the group’s food, or she eats any members of the group that exceed her in size to both maintain her gains and insure that she is the only person with that degree of musculature.

So Abby’s not just trans, she’s an actual cannibal?

This game sounds better and better all the time.

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Naglfar
Naglfar
4 months ago

@An Impish Pepper
Even for non-Service Pack updates, like smaller bug fixes, it used to be necessary to restart. I can recall my old Windows XP laptop that would always shut down to install updates exactly when I needed to use it most.

occasional reader
occasional reader
4 months ago

> Cyborgette

Rust : ok, thank you for the explanation ! I am too old (and, alas, too lazy) to dig more in this language, but i have a clearer view of it, thanks to you. Would you say there are some domains (of use) in which you find him more efficient/robust ? Like embedded code in remote security devices ?

The side quest : yikes, there is an awful flair of FATALism in this quest you describe. I can imagine the person going all purple prose because “let us show them how it is horrible by lengthily describe what happens there”. The “Look, i say it is horrible, that makes me a feminist” is a new one for me, though. It is a bit like “Look, i say this paint is horrible, that makes me an art critic” (though, “Look, i say shit, that makes me an asshole” may not be that wrong)…

I am sorry you (and all of the other persons who feel the same) had and have to go through all that. It misses too often warnings and possibility to skip this problematic contents in games. Strangely, NSFW games often offer more warnings than standard games (not that makes them better, safer or less problematic, though).

> An Impish Pepper
I think that would be nice (but the net would then be flooded by complaining True Gamers©). Currently, i think most of the games that are more open to diversity are from the adventure / visual novel (if you consider them as games, which i do) / brain game types than from action type. Which is fine by me, being more interested in story than gameplay (though, according to some, not being in FPS makes me a pussy, because it is well known that it is mandatory to all cis men to be in FPS. How do they say that ? ACMALT ?). But i can fairly understand that other types of game deserve as well a better representation of diversity, and would happily have a look at them. However, even if the in-game objectification was successfully eradicated (yay !), i fear the outside one would never cease (rule 34 exists for that, i fear).

Allandrel
Allandrel
4 months ago

@Cyborgette

I’m cool with having tragedy and horror in my fiction. What I’m not cool with is when it’s just there for shock value, and abused women are treated as story props.

This is one reason why I can’t stand GRR Martin. For him, they’re not even so much story props as set dressing.

And I like plenty of dark stuff. But there has to be a point to it.

The main reason I can’t Martin, though is his defense of making a setting and story so relentlessly GrimDark that Warhammer starts looking pleasant.

First, he does the “but real medieval history was violent, many of these plots are based on real events” claim. Except ASOIAF is NOT set in medieval Europe, but in a fantasy world of his own creation that contains exactly as much rape and abuse as Martin wants it to contain, no less.

And the really vile, lazy one is a classic false dilemma:

“I want to portray struggle. Drama comes out of conflict. If you portray a utopia, then you probably wrote a pretty boring book.”

If Martin can’t write, or even imagine, anything in between “Even The Heroes Are Monsters” and “Conflict-Free Utopia,” then he is a terrible writer.

But of course he can, he just doesn’t want to, and is too much of a shit to admit it.

Cyborgette
Cyborgette
4 months ago

@Allandrel

Oh, mood.

Before I transitioned other dudes never understood where I was coming from with this. They’d be like “Why do you hate GoT so much though?” and I would always wind up saying something like: “If I wanted to read about men raping and murdering women with impunity, I’d read the news.” Lucky if that shut them down for a whole minute, but there you go.

(And now that I have to follow the news, I have even less time for violent sexist crap in my fiction. Refusing to read novels by cis men turned from a political decision into a self-care one a while back.)

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
4 months ago

@An Impish Pepper:

Windoze 7 had one service pack. Vista had two before that. From all accounts Windoze 10 has them, or equivalently lengthy-and-involved updating processes, monthly, or at least multiple times in every year, vs. one every several years. And without the ability to avoid them or (easily) control the timing, at that. Add in stories of machines just abruptly rebooting to install updates while the user was in the middle of typing something and the impression one has is that a W10 machine is simply not reliable by design.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
4 months ago

I know of someone who was about to do a big presentation to some very important people when their laptop went into update.

The last MS thing I used was NT 4.0; which I liked. But once that stopped being supported I joined the cult of Apple (Note to self: More incense for Apple II shrine).

I have a thumb drive with Kubuntu on it for if I ever have to use a PC. Apart from the ease of use generally, I really like the office suite it comes with. Would that work for you?

Fabe
Fabe
4 months ago

I was just browsing the Steam store and came across this game, a retro 8bit style brawler about leading a revolution against a world controlled by ultra capitalism

https://store.steampowered.com/app/290690/Tonight_We_Riot/

The forum is full of anti-socialism hate threads . Once again the right shows they are the over sensitive snowflakes

Naglfar
Naglfar
4 months ago

@Alan Robertshaw
For me the last straw with Windows was 8, I really hated the lack of start menu and the general aesthetic so when my Win7 laptop died I bought a MacBook Air and haven’t looked back.
I still do use MS Office though, so I haven’t completely disowned Microsoft.

I know of someone who was about to do a big presentation to some very important people when their laptop went into update.

Similar things have happened to me, although luckily none that were career-ending.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
4 months ago

I love the Air. And fits perfectly into a little rucksack I always carry on my walks. I don’t necessarily need it as a laptop but I always like to look pretentious; even if it’s just cows watching.

Of course they prefer Moo-nix!!!

(I’ll let myself out)

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
4 months ago

On the occasions I’ve used Macs, they were pleasant enough (if harder for techies to do power-user level stuff on for free). They’re the Cadillacs of computers — with price tags to match. Which means they are simply not affordable for me …

LuckyStampede
LuckyStampede
4 months ago

Love how these chuds always ignore the feminist themes in Bayonetta, which are not subtle in the slightest. Feminists hating on Bayonetta is soooo 2010, now she’s a trans icon. Did they miss the memo?

Masse_Mysteria
Masse_Mysteria
4 months ago

@LuckyStampede
Well, considering that “feminists” are not actually a monolithic hive-mind and do not all have only one opinion on each and every issue at all times, I think it’s safe to say that “they” “missed the memo” where they were told how to feel on this particular topic.

Does that answer your question?

Naglfar
Naglfar
4 months ago

@Masse_mysteria
I also was unaware that Bayonetta is a trans* icon. I mean, I haven’t been out of the closet all that long, so I have much to learn, but I had never heard that before. The main trans* icon in video games that I know of is Donkey Kong.

LuckyStampede
LuckyStampede
4 months ago

@Masse_Mysteria
I know that, I was trying to be ironic but I can see how it didn’t come off that way. I guess I should have specified this is coming from a feminist trans lesbian. Also, I should’ve arranged the sentences in the reverse order. I meant that the chuds seem to forget that Bayonetta is good now.

@Naglfar
I’m going off of how beloved she tends to be in trans lesbian circles. Laura Kate Dale was the first trans woman I remember heaping praise on her, but there’ve been a lot of think pieces by queer femfolk with a similar opinion.

I heard mostly negative stuff about Bayonetta between 2010-2013 ish, and it always puzzled me because I immediately clicked with her and empathized with her in a way that I rarely had to other female protagonists. I didn’t really understand why until my egg cracked in 2016.

Naglfar
Naglfar
4 months ago

@LuckyStampede

’m going off of how beloved she tends to be in trans lesbian circles. Laura Kate Dale was the first trans woman I remember heaping praise on her, but there’ve been a lot of think pieces by queer femfolk with a similar opinion.

I wasn’t aware that she was so beloved, I’ve not been in trans* spaces particularly long. Sorry about my ignorance on the matter.

Cybogette
Cybogette
4 months ago

@LuckyStampede

So I think one of the things getting lost here is how the politics of desirability tends to be super different for trans women than for cis women, and how that results in a lot of us finding escape and validation in things that most cis women are horrified by. I haven’t encountered a lot of trans fem Bayonetta fans myself, but a thing I have seen along these lines is trans fem fandoms of things that reek of MPDG tropes, e.g. Your Lie in August. (The trans fem reading is often with the male protag as an egg, and the MPDG as a more experienced trans woman.)

At the end of the day I basically see this as reclaiming sexist narratives, and that’s cool, but like with any reclamation it’s also extremely YMMV. And can be dangerous if you miss how the narrative was sexist in the first place.

(For instance, the aforementioned MPDG narratives are still damaging to trans women. Hoo boy are they damaging to trans women, and in so many subtle and horrible ways too.)

Cyborgette
Cyborgette
4 months ago

LOL whoops, nice typo in my handle in the above. Doesn’t matter, y’all know who I am.

Anyway yeah, TL;DR Bayonetta and such not being Feminist doesn’t mean we can’t reclaim them if it works for us. But being able to reclaim them also doesn’t mean they’re Feminist. Right?

Naglfar
Naglfar
4 months ago

@Cyborgette
The thing about MPDG tropes is that more often than not, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl seems to have a lot of traits in common with autistic women (particularly those who pass for allistic but still manifest certain traits). As someone who is autistic, I find it rather objectifying because in addition to the misogyny that can accompany it, there’s also a layer of fetishizing autism. As a result, I’m not really a fan of the MPDG.

An interesting article on the issues with MPDG for autistic women and AFAB enbies is here, it explains what I mean better than I could.

LuckyStampede
LuckyStampede
4 months ago

@Cyborgette

I contend that Bayonetta actually *does* have some strong feminist themes. I mean, the first game’s villain is a political, military, religious, and corporate leader at the top of a mile-high tower and also literally her father. That’s not even *remotely* subtle. Also she spends the entire game protecting her time-displaced younger self, who will eventually model herself after that amazingly cool lady she looked up to as a kid.

The second game starts as an orphic journey to rescue her “roommate” from hell, and ends with her defeating a god who controls the world with just his gaze and created all binaries. She then redistributes its power to mankind so that we can all choose our own destiny.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
4 months ago

Any feminist themes in Bayonetta are accidental, which for me is as good as “not there at all.” She is explicitly a male fantasy of a hot schoolteacher with a gun.

That’s not to say that the story can’t be read critically or anything. The most misogynist episode of the original Star Trek has some accidental subversion in it, which is notable and interesting to find. But that doesn’t make “Turnabout Intruder” a feminist story. It’s not one. The subversive elements are accidents, and the message that was intended to be conveyed, and the message that is successfully conveyed, is that women are inferior to men and they ought to just suck that up. It’s fun to find the subversion, but the existence of that subversion doesn’t negate the obvious text.

The message of Bayonetta is women exist as eye-candy for the benefit of male game players. Watch her carefully, gentlemen, and you may see a bare tiddy! You could sub in any male character and lose nothing from the story, because, unless you can point something out to me, this isn’t a woman’s story, it’s just a story in which anyone could star. Yes, it could star a female character. And it does. But there’s nothing that say that female character must be waving her boobs in everyone’s face except the (male) developer.

Cyborgette
Cyborgette
4 months ago

@Policy of Madness

Yes, that. *Thank you.*

@Naglfar

Ooh thanks for the link, I hadn’t even made that connection.

CN: personal stuff below

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My own dislike for MPDG tropes tends to be more because, in a lot of cases, the MPDG character winds up dying or being victimized so that the male protag can live his best life. (See again Your Lie in April, whoops got the name wrong the first time.) She’s completely disempowered and depersonalized, doesn’t get her own story or life, exists only to serve the betterment of the dude. IDK how other trans fems feel about stuff like that, but for me that was yet another brick in the wall of “Cool self-actualized women are all doomed”. I became a distheist at one point – believe God was real, male, and a sexual sadist, and hated Him because I knew He had it in for all the women I looked up to.

Of course now that I am, more or less, a cool self-actualized woman, I sometimes get paranoid that the universe will kill me off young because hey that’s what happens to women who speak up. And likewise for my friends. That shit cuts so fucking deep. A lot of times what keeps me going now is just that need to prove to myself (and others) that men are not invincible, that women are not doomed, that I can keep existing and not be struck down instantly. What keeps me religious is the very specific need to believe in something eternal and divine that is not only compassionate and nurturing, but not male. And I wasn’t even assigned female to start with. The rampant misogyny in our media isn’t just harmful IMO, it’s a form of institutionalized abuse.

Anyway yeah, fuck MPDG tropes.

LuckyStampede
LuckyStampede
4 months ago

@Policy of Madness

…you absolutely could not substitute a male character and the fact you think you could shows you know absolutely nothing about the story.

The entire story is about a literal gender war between two occult clans, one associated with men, the sun, and heaven, while one was associated with women, the moon, and hell. The women lost the war and were suppressed for centuries, while the men formed the basis of the world’s dominant religion and spent centuries slandering powerful women.

That is the literal backstory of the game.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
4 months ago

The entire story is about a literal gender war between two occult clans, one associated with men, the sun, and heaven, while one was associated with women, the moon, and hell.

Swap the genders and make the women win, and there is your one-sentence fix for the backstory to fit a male character.

I’m not talking about backstory. I’m talking about story. The story is not the story of a woman, it’s the story of a character who could be anybody. It’s not a cis woman’s story; it’s not a trans woman’s story. It’s not a woman’s story at all. It’s just a character traversing the world trying to figure out the backstory. You could easily flip the backstory so that the women won and now your protag is male and nothing really changes in the story.

It’s fine and good that the protag is female, but it’s a female protag designed by men for other men to oogle. That’s not so fine and good.

Naglfar
Naglfar
4 months ago

@Cyborgette

I became a distheist at one point – believe God was real, male, and a sexual sadist, and hated Him because I knew He had it in for all the women I looked up to.

This reminds me a bit of the beliefs of Paul Erdős. He referred to God as the Supreme Fascist, or SF, and believed that every time someone he cared about died, the SF scored a point, and people could never win because they never scored.

What keeps me religious is the very specific need to believe in something eternal and divine that is not only compassionate and nurturing, but not male. And I wasn’t even assigned female to start with.

I can relate to this. I’m Jewish and have pretty much completely de-gendered God in my own beliefs (as have some other Jewish people I know). While I go back and forth on whether such a deity exists and to what extent they have power, I very much do not see God as male in any way, because I can’t.

The rampant misogyny in our media isn’t just harmful IMO, it’s a form of institutionalized abuse.

Oh definitely. One of the most important ways the patriarchy entrenches itself is through media, because media sets the tone for everything else.

An Impish Pepper
An Impish Pepper
4 months ago

Yeah I think we can basically agree on there being a difference between what the director, producer, etc. intended and the alternate ways in which people may reinterpret everything. I find a lot of big Japanese games have a tendency to try to delve into deep topics, but usually are hit or miss about pulling it off. Hideo Kojima is particularly notorious for this, as many people legitimately think his storytelling is masterful overall, but also, the women in his stories are consistently treated badly and that taints everything. I can believe that Hideki Kamiya may have attempted to make overtures toward feminist themes, but he still ultimately took Bayonetta in a direction that would put a lot of feminists off because of his biases as a cis man, which is the whole problem.

I guess it’s like Barrett in FF7 where, yeah, it’s awesome that there’s a prominent black person in such an old game, but also he’s a lazy stereotype. We can acknowledge both of these realities.

Masse_Mysteria
Masse_Mysteria
4 months ago

@LuckyStampede
Thank you for the clarification, and sorry if I came off as too snarky or something. I know next to nothing about Bayonetta and have no opinions on the matter, I was just reacting to the “feminists missing a memo” thing.

I’ve mostly seen people say that as a put-down, like feminists are so irrational and fickle that even they can’t remember what the correct opinions are anymore, even though opinions don’t really work like that.