Female Armor Rhetoric BINGO (PDF) by OzzieScribbler (again, yours truly)
A week after successfully publishing the Female Armor Bingo, I present to you its spin-off: Female Armor Rhetoric Bingo!
This card refers to the defenses/apologia that’s used against the critique of skimpy female warrior outfits.
I did my best to collect the most pervasive arguments used to justify bikini armors and similar costumes.
Very special thanks to ami-angelwings of eschergirls fame for suggesting back in 2013 to make two bingo cards (original unpublished version was a mix of the tropes and arguments defending them).
Breakdown of all the squares under the cut.
Keep in mind that actual arguments, depending on a given discussion, may be worded a bit differently, but if the general idea is the same, you can cross the relating square:
- "Men are sexualized too!"
No, they are not, especially when it comes to battle wear. Nothing is better example of male character serving as power fantasy than putting him in bulky armor while his equally strong female peers run around half-naked.
- "She would look too manly in a regular armor!"
What about “She would look actually protected in a normal armor”?
Also (unless it has a giant codpiece), a regular armor is not masculine be default, we’re just taught to associate it with men.
Also also, there are many ways to make armor feminine, yet fully protective.
- "This outfit is normal for her culture/climate!"
Talking about made-up culture that this made-up character is from? It’s not like the creators just… created this fictional culture and located it in a hot climate to suit their (and/or their audiences) preferences to excuse a silly outfit, riiight?
Also, when she’s not in her homeland’s climate, why wouldn’t she dress more appropriately for the weather?
- "Don’t expect fiction to be realistic!"
I don’t. But I expect it to be consistent.
- "She CHOSE to dress like that!"
Let me quote rheiders:
And unless the character is supposed to be a suicidal dumbass, she wouldn’t choose to dress like that for combat.
A strong female character is still a character—she has no agency, she has no choice. Everything about her appearance and actions is dictated by her creator. It is only through good storytelling and character writing that we begin to believe the character is alive and possessing of free will, but that’s just an illusion. SHE IS STILL JUST A CHARACTER, created by someone else.
- "Her strength comes from uncovered skin!"
Also known as “There’s A GOOD REASON for her to be almost nude!”.
If her powers come from being exposed… Why doesn’t she run around naked? Oh, I get it, she’s too decent for that!
Then why the minimal outfit she chose looks so uncomfortable and/or defies physics? Is there a special reason for that too?
- "It’s (just) fantasy/sci-fi! Magic/science protects her!"
Okay, I can buy that. Does the magic/science is also what holds her improbable bikini in one place?
And if it protects her male peer in the same way, how come his outfit isn’t equally “light-weight”?
- "It’s stylized!"
The cheapest excuse for any type of bad artwork.
"Style" itself does not explain anything! A well-designed style is ought to be consistent. It’s not a good style when there’s obvious double standard at work.
- "Girls are SUPPOSED to look sexy!"
So much wrong with it I don’t even know where to start.
It brings half of the population to one objectifying function.
It implies “sexy” has one fixed meaning.
It implies an outfit can’t be
sexy appealing and functional at the same time.
It implies there are no other times during which a warrior character can focus on being sexy (as in, times outside of battle).
TL; DR: There is nothing girls or women are ‘supposed’ to be!
- "That’s the best way of marketing to men!"
Why is this even used as an excuse?
Not only it implies that there are no women or homosexual/asexual men in the audience, but also that straight men are by definition sex-obsessed morons who can’t say no to a patch of female skin showing. An argument that insults every possible group at once!
- „She was designed in a country where sexualization is cultural!”
(This one usually refers to Japan or Korea)
As much as respecting cultural differences is important, it really does not excuse objectifying half of the world’s population. It just exposes that there might be some deeply-ingrained problem among the population that creates such things on regular basis.
- "It suits her fighting style!"
Are the inevitable nip-slips part of her fighting style? And what kind of martial art is suited for high heels and metal bikinis?
- "She embraced her sexuality! She’s empowered!"
A phrase almost inseparable from the Strong Independent Woman archetype.
It’s not a bad idea to create a female character that consciously takes advantage of her sexuality and feels empowered by that… But insisting that being sexual is the only way to make women empowered is restricting, misogynistic and unoriginal.
And making every female character like that takes any power from the idea. It then becomes just a very obvious excuse to have as many “sexy” women as possible without feeling guilty about it.
- „There’s nothing wrong with showing a bit of skin!”
MOST DEFINITELY! There is nothing inherently wrong about nudity or partial nudity. Just keep in mind that in context of a battle it makes no sense to expose random parts one’s body!
There are actually ways of fighting topless that do make sense! Take notes!
- „Why do you even care? It’s just for fun!”
A.K.A. “Don’t take everything so seriously!” or “Stop making everything about feminism!”
Dunno why I care, probably because media actually affects people and their opinions?
Because women are not catered with fanservice in the same way as (straight) men are?
Because women are actively excluded from many forms of entertainment and thus not allowed to have same kind of fun as men?
If we’re at it, why do you care so much to prove me wrong?
- "Art shouldn’t be censored!"
A.K.A. “You’re banning creativity!” or “You should not criticize artist’s choice!” or “First Amendment!”
Asking for logical and respectful designs is not censorship. And simply criticizing art is not against the freedom of expression, quite the opposite. By giving constructive criticism to a piece of art, I’m exercising my own freedom of speech.
It’s also not that artsy or creative anymore when overtly objectifying outfits are considered a norm in popular media.
- "She defeats her enemies through distraction!"
Let’s just hope all of her enemies are horny idiots who loose their focus when a bit of female body is in sight. Or that she doesn’t distract her male friends in the same way.
- „She’s indestructible! She doesn’t need any protection!”
Fair enough. Does it mean the outfit is also not uncomfortable or embarrassing to her? Or that this costume can defy any laws of physics? Being indestructible, doesn’t she feel cold or chafed?
Wouldn’t it make more sense for her to fight naked?
- „You want every woman to be covered from head to toe!”
Well, only if every man is covered in the same way. Other than that, I just expect logic and consistency from all the designs.
- „Great story makes up for those ridiculous designs!”
A.K.A. “She has a great personally, so it doesn’t matter how she looks!”
So we’re not expecting visual media to be holistic anymore?
The art and story are allowed to contradict each other for no good reason?
The audience’s immersion is not broken when a dramatic story clashes with silly visuals?
Willing suspension of disbelief has no limits from now on?
Good to learn! Guess I need to forget everything I learned about storytelling theory.
As with the original bingo card, special thanks to the people who helped me to come up with square contents and revisions: ami-angelwings of eschergirls, tica-maleo of repair-her-armor, psdo of costumecommunityservice, Ryan ‘Jabberwock’ C. and my friends who didn’t wish to be credited by name!