Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 26

Postfeminism and the Girls Game Movement: Destined for Failure

Renee Powers COMS 697 R. Brookey Northern Illinois University August 3, 2011

POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT As long as they refuse to acknowledge that theyre only making games to satisfy SOME little girls, theyre enforcing a stereotype. -Stephanie Bergman, as quoted in Jenkins (1998)

Introduction The girls games movement of the 1990s emerged with good intentions: Girls were not playing digital games as much as the boys and therefore would be forever behind in their technological savvy. To rectify this, and to ensure girls lifelong interest in technology, the computer game and video game industries developed games with girls in mind. However, they did not achieve the economic prosperity that they had hoped for. Girls still did not take interest in digital games. In retrospect, we can understand why these games failed. Instead of creating universally good games, computer and video game developers designed games that spoke to postfeminist desires in a culture that has not yet achieved feminist goals. The games in the girls games movement reinforced traditional femininity, in line with the conservative hindering rhetoric of postfeminism, or essentially feminist backlash. These games did not cultivate authentic identity formation, rather persuaded its players to develop socially sanctioned identities in accordance to traditional fixed gender norms. The marketing of such games also reinforced these stereotypes with advertisements speaking to fashion, fun, and frivolity instead of challenges, puzzles, and mindbenders. The games were relegated to specifically girls sections of retail stores where they could bask in the pink and purple glory of other traditionally girls activities.

POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT This paper seeks to understand the failures of the girls games movement in light of postfeminist rhetoric. I will first outline what exactly is postfeminism and why it is difficult to define. Accordingly, I discuss the major tenets of postfeminism and how it codifies femininity through economic and narrative choice. And importantly, I highlight how postfeminism differs from other types of feminism. From there, I introduce the girls games movement in depth, borrowing from literature inspired by a groundbreaking one-day symposium on gender and computer games, hosted by MIT in the late 1990s. I analyze where the girls games movement went wrong in its essentialization of femininity and adherence to postfeminist ideals. I discuss what draws women to gaming in the first place and how girls games were fundamentally misguided. Finally, I propose an alternate way to discuss gender and gaming.

What is Postfeminism? The definition of postfeminism, as informed by Diane Negra (2009), relies on three tenets. Firstly, postfeminism is the theory that regards all of feminisms goals regarding gender equality as achieved. For postfeminism to exist, feminism must be complete and in the past. Secondly, postfeminism relies on a capitalist, consumer-centric society to thrive. It is in this way that female empowerment is oriented toward consumer choice, favoring free market capitalism. Not just any choice will suffice; postfeminism codifies the right choices, often essentializing femininity through a series of correct choices.

POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT Thirdly, underlying economic choice is the conservative rhetoric of individualism, borne of the Reagan administration, which also favors traditional family values. The correct choices in accordance to postfeminism rely on traditional femininity. For instance, postfeminism understands poverty not as a systematic crisis that disproportionately affects women, rather the effect of the wrong choices a woman is more likely to make. In order for that woman to make good, she must find a good man to support her, as is often the case in Hollywood films. The choice to marry is considered one of the most valued characteristics in postfeminism. There are many different definitions of and assumptions about postfeminism and these differences are articulated even in volumes dedicated to essays on postfeminism (see Tasker & Negra, 2007). The difficulties of defining postfeminism lie in its interweaving of feminism with capitalism. This suggests that the definition of postfeminism relies on a fixed definition of feminism, as it is deemed by feminists and academics to be the backlash of feminism. What appears distinctive about contemporary postfeminist culture is precisely the extent to which a selective defined feminism has been so overtly taken into account, as Angela McRobbie has noted, albeit in order to emphasize that it is no longer needed (Tasker & Negra, 2007, p. 1). As is suggested here, the term feminism is just as widely disputed and can be as fluid as any political term. Many postfeminists have rendered feminism nearly meaningless. Sarah Palin has recently embraced the term feminist, though it is clear her definition and use varies greatly from the uses employed by Gloria Steinem or even Hillary

POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT Clinton. Thus, the differences in definitions of postfeminism and how it is received directly correlates to the differences in the definitions of feminism. This complicates discussions of postfeminism, yet for the purpose of this paper, postfeminism refers to the backlash to feminism. Postfeminism assumes all feminist goals regarding gender equality have been achieved, therefore any choices a woman makes can be considered empowering, unlike the feminist sense of empowerment as the ability to self-define and self-value. However, postfeminism works subversively within traditional conservative rhetoric to persuade the public to maintain strict gender roles. The choices proffered to women are framed to emphasize womens traditional place within the home. McRobbie (2007) sees postfeminism as the epitome of the double entanglement. She contends that postfeminist women adhere strictly to traditional gender roles and family values while also maintaining an open mind in regards to the plethora of choices families can make, e.g. gay civil unions and adoptions. In this definition, postfeminism blurs the line between itself and feminism. Popular understandings of feminism recognize that working towards equality for non-traditional families is a feminist endeavor. However, postfeminism understands marriage and family as the most desirable goal (Leonard, 2007). Again, this emphasizes the traditional gender roles allotted to women. Postfeminism does not affect solely adult women. As we will see in the analysis of the girls games movement, young girls are affected by the rhetoric of individual choice. In her analysis of Time and Newsweek covers, Sarah

POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT Projansky (2007) posits multiple examples to come to the same conclusion about postfeminism: that these representations limits the discourse surrounding young girls. She claims that girls on the cover of these news magazines are displayed as at-risk, can-do, or a combination of the two, yet all these representations are indicative of postfeminism. At-risk girls are those that abuse postfeminism, taking the liberties too far. Projansky lists having sex, using recreational drugs, and choosing to be mean PAGE # as poor choices made possible by postfeminism, though these freedoms are also often attributed to feminism. However, these poor choices, in regards to postfeminism, are solely the responsibility of the at-risk girl. Conversely, the can-do girl is the girl who has successfully taken hold of the opportunities that feminism, postfeminism, commodity consumption, deregulation in the workplace, and democracy afford her. PAGE # She is the girl that has made the correct choices under postfeminism. Yet can-do girls also serve as cautionary tales, as Projansky illustrates through the April 22, 1996 cover of Time. This issue featured 7 yearold Jessica Dubroff, who attempted to pilot an airplane across the United States but died when she crashed. This suggests that can-do girls who attempt masculine activities are attempting something quite dangerous and would, perhaps, be better off at home where it is safe. As Projanski puts it, at-risk and can-do girls illustrate both the promise and the disaster of postfeminism. PAGE # Postfeminisms relationship to the feminism embraced by progressive young women is often confounded. One must not mistake the emerged third

POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT wave of feminism for postfeminism. Third wave feminism enjoys many of the liberties provided by the second wave movement but it does not recognize feminisms goals as completed. Third wave feminism maintains sexism as a critique, whereas postfeminism believes we are beyond institutional sexism; any instance of sexism is simply an individual occurrence. In regard to sexist advertisements, postfeminists may understand them as ironic. If we have achieved all our goals in terms of gender equality, then it is now deemed acceptable to make biased statements about a gender. Leonard (2007) neatly sums up the difference between third wave feminism and postfeminism: Whereas postfeminism is best approximated as a cultural tendency that is either openly hostile to feminism or simply takes its precepts for granted, third-wave feminism is a self-conscious activist movement defined by its attempt to reformulate a feminist politics less restrictive in terms of class, race, and sexuality than was second-wave feminism. PAGE # For third wave feminists, empowerment is still characterized by the ability to selfdefine. For postfeminists, empowerment is choosing from socially sanctioned choices. The problem with a society permeated by postfeminism is the way in which popular culture persuades women to make traditional choices. Negra (2009) typifies popular women-centered cinema as stories of miswanting or narratives of adjusted ambition. PAGE # By this, Negra claims chick flicks perpetuate the idea that a career is not necessarily what the female character

POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT wanted in the first place. That is, in fact, what she miswanted. Instead, the female protagonist realizes by the end of the film, she wants romance and family. Often, though, a career will lead the protagonist to romance, thus her career is deemed necessary but only as a means to an end. Once a romantic partner is secured, the womans true calling can be claimed: domestication. Correspondingly, Suzanne Leonard (2007) contends that the female worker is both a feminist and a postfeminist reminder. As a feminist goal, women in the workforce meant that women had achieved financial independence, no longer necessitating support from fathers or husbands. On the other hand, as a postfeminist goal, the female worker is also celebrated but reconfigures the ideological underpinnings of this discussion, in many cases, to reaffirm the centrality of heterosexual marriage. PAGE # Whereas feminist notions of work allowed women to free themselves from the necessary institution of marriage, postfeminist notions of work insists that women can now marry for love instead of money. Postfeminism persuades women to marry, as marriage is the ultimate goal. Furthermore, Leonard also suggests that the discussion of female workers no longer is a feminist discussion about finding good work, rather a postfeminist discussion on how finding any work may hinder marital happiness, persuading women to stay at home to become traditional housewives once a partner is secured. One glaringly obvious critique of postfeminism is its lack of acknowledgement of class difference. Postfeminism does not regard those women who must work due to economic necessity, only those who choose to

POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT work. Postfeminism is only for privileged women, and these women turn a blind eye to those who are less privileged than they are. This again exemplifies how well postfeminism works alongside the conservative rhetoric of unregulated capitalism. Underlining all postfeminist decisions is the quest for upper-class luxury, as can be purchased through myriad consumer goods. Negra (2009) combines domesticity and body grooming as similar markers in postfeminist notions of authentic femininity. The authentic self, as Roberts (2007) deems it, is a sexier self, in which sexual attractiveness has been magically transformed from an oppressive imperative of patriarchy into a source of power over it, a brave new postfeminist self requiring continual selfmonitoring and investment in salons and spas, fashion stores, and regular visits to the gym. PAGE # Negra suggests that self-surveillance is one of the most distinctive features of postfeminism, which includes striving for the culturally determined ideal female body as well as keeping the perfect home, while making it look effortless. The essential postfeminist female nurtures her family through her efforts within the home: cooking gourmet meals, decorating an enchanting living room, and keeping her bikini line waxed. Indeed, these ideals are often determined in accordance to male heterosexual desire. This ideology relies on strictly fixed gender roles. Thus, postfeminism renders female choice as empowering consumption, only in accordance to patriarchal standards.

POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT Consumer choices for women often revolve around the beauty and fashion industries, and rightly so, as beauty and fashion choices are considered empowerment towards an authentic femininity: If feminism has historically aligned itself with the Marxist critique of consumer society, elaborating a critique both of the commodification of women themselves and of models of femininity inseparable from mass consumption (fashion, cosmetics, etc.), the discourse of postfeminism has proceeded to stand this critique on its head, articulating a model of feminine identity unthinkable outside consumption and constructing a logic in which empowerment--perhaps the central tenet of postfeminist ideologyis shown as dependent on self-confidence and sexual attractiveness, which in turn depend on the services of the fashion and beauty industriesall of which, needless to say, must be purchased (Roberts, 2007). PAGE # The power of the postfeminism is not simply to consume, but to consume correctly. For example, Negra (2009) makes the point that aging is distasteful in postfeminism but women can combat aging through a variety of consumer choices. Women have the choice to use various anti-wrinkle creams, undergo cosmetic surgeries such as breast augmentation, and subject themselves to Botox or collagen injections in the attempt to hide or reduce the effects of aging. While it is true that women can choose whether or not to combat growing older, postfeminism is preoccupied with presenting the right choices, such as those to combat age, as this is the traditionally feminine thing to do. Postfeminism


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT renders all women to be similar, or bound together by a common set of innate desires, fears, and concerns (Negra, 2009). PAGE # One of these assumptions is the importance of youth or looking younger than ones age. Postfeminism is likewise obsessed with time, not just aging. This obsession includes the perpetuation of the idea that a woman must always consider her biological clock; that is, a woman must find a partner and procreate while her body is still capable. This is complicated by a womans career, thus postfeminism suggests a woman should leave her career to do more meaningful workraising a family. As has been discussed already, this is one of many ways in which postfeminism works against the goals of feminism in order to enable traditional feminine values. Regarding this obsession with time, or as she deems it, womens chronic temporal crisis, Negra (2009) makes a poignant observation: Postfeminist texts so often obsess about the temporal because they half suspect postfeminisms own historical misplacedness, that is they recognize at some level the premature and deceptive nature of any conceptual system that declares feminism obsolete. PAGE # With this observation, we understand the tenuous position of postfeminism and its relationship to and reliance on the definition of feminism. Postfeminism and feminism cannot coexist harmoniously, as postfeminism depends on the posting of feminism. It is the obsession with time that clearly articulates this struggle and premature declaration of feminisms end. Although postfeminist culture is ubiquitous, it is not necessarily unchecked. Roberts (2007) points out that one of the flaws of the critiques of


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT postfeminism is that they do not take into account the possibility of resistance. Attributing the argument to Gramsci, de Certeau, and Hall, Roberts contends, no power can be absolute, and that all power is at best provisional and precarious. PAGE # Thus, postfeminism may run rampant, but this does not mean women are cultural dupes. Second wave feminists are still active and third wave feminists are reformulating feminism to suit their generations needs Young women have grown up with feminism in the water. They can speak the language of feminism because they were raised by women intimately familiar with the second wave feminist movement. Yet many young women do not recognize such language as feminist. They do not recognize the struggle for womens rights because they have not needed to overtly fight for many of those rights. Springer (2007) writes, This distinction between language and struggle is crucial because it is this difference that allows postfeminism, perhaps more insidiously than antifeminism, to appropriate feminist language and exploit feminisms key weakness, namely, a call for equality without including racial analysis. PAGE # It is no secret that the second wave of feminism was criticized for being racially exclusive. (Third wave feminism prides itself on being inclusive for all races, though it often overlooks to what degree second wave feminism was inclusive as well.) However, if second wave feminism ignored racial difference, then postfeminism seeks to render race obsolete. Postfeminism and post-race go hand-in-hand, as explored in Banet-Weisers (2007) discussion of Dora, the Explorer, to be discussed in the next section. However, if feminism taught white women that they can have it all, and postfeminism taught white women that they


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT do not need to have it all, then postfeminism for black women encourages them to be everything for everyone else and [maintain] a sense of self (Springer, 2007). PAGE # Yet, for Springer, this means black women fall into categories of norms: the diva, the mammy, or the evil black woman. Postfeminism and postracial culture disciplines black women into these safely legible roles through narratives of empowerment. In this way, postfeminism works similarly for women of all races: Postfeminism seeks to get women out of the public sphere in order to reduce the threat women present to the patriarchy.

Postfeminism and the Girls Games Movement Postfeminist women and girls have economic independence that allows them to purchase commodities being branded especially for them, or rather what the women and girls perceive as especially for them. Sarah Banet-Weiser (2007), in an article discussing the marketing and commodification of race and gender in Dora the Explorer, suggests that this commodification works to diffuse the politics from race or gender formation, creating cultural capital out of identity. It is in this way that postfeminism exploits the personal for economic gains. Dora the Explorer takes feminism into account in that the main character, Dora, is a bright, inquisitive, cheerful girl who is ambiguously raced. She is a can-do girl that exemplifies a multicultural United States. Banet-Weiser explains, Dorais clearly a product of a culture that recognizes the importance of positive gender representations yet does not call attention to any kind of feminist politics other


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT than the politics of representation. Thus, not only does Dora embody ambivalent postfeminist ideals, she is also representative of a marketing shift towards a global audience. Doras positive but ambiguous racial identity makes Dora endlessly marketable. She speaks English and Spanish on the show, appealing to a vast array of young Americans. Yet this marketing is not out of young consumers best interest. Nickelodeon, the company that created the show, may brand itself as an educational, inclusive, diverse channel, but it does so for economic gain. In other words, diversity sells well. Appealing to broad demographics allows Nickelodeon to take advantage of often segmented markets. The lumping together of segmented markets is exactly how the girls games movement of the 1990s emerged. According to Jenkins and Cassell (2008), the girls games movement was characterized by a number of goals. Economically, girls games would secure a companys viability through tapping into a new market. Politically, girls games would encourage more females to enter the hard sciences. Technologically, the CD-ROM allowed girls to play games without having to buy a console. Entrepreneurially, women could open businesses dedicated to designing products for other girls or women. And aesthetically, the girls games movement made game play more creative in terms of content, style, feel, and interface. However, I argue that it is the creation of games towards the postfeminist female that ultimate led to the girls games movements demise. The video game industry has attempted to make games for the elusive unicorn-girl. This girl represents the goals of postfeminism in that she is


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT beautiful, domestic, successful, flawless, independent, and effortlessly so. She makes all the right choices in accordance with postfeminism and is a product of consumer empowerment. Yet, like the beautiful unicorn, she does not exist. Barbie is the best example of the unicorn-girl. She is white, tall, blonde, thin, has large breasts, great hair, and all the clothes one could imagine. Her career changes at whim and her handsome partner Ken is always by her side when she wants him to be. But Barbie does not exist; in fact, she cannot exist because her proportions are impossible. In other words, postfeminism urges women and girls to strive for unattainable, non-existent perfection, such as that of a unicorn. Marketers assume all girls and women are striving towards this goal of socially sanctioned perfection. Thus, the unicorn-girl is a catchall for marketers. To many in the video game industry, girls are a singular, all-encompassing demographic, exhibiting an inherent culturally-defined femininity. During the 1990s, girls were the sought after demographic in the video game industry. Broad generalizations are made to market to this demographic, leaving little room for the girls to develop independent, individual identities. The girls games movement was informed by good intentions. Computers were seen as gateways to careers in hard sciences, yet boys often dominated computers in the classroom. In fact, as articulated by Cassell and Jenkins (1998), too often the very design of computer games for children has meant designing computer games for boys. Girls supposed interests went largely ignored by developers, though many claimed to be listening to what the girls wanted to play. Instead, games were created to appease the stereotypical


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT unicorn-girl. The thought followed that by creating games specifically for girls, they would become more comfortable with and more interested in computers. This would lead to more women in careers in hard sciences, a noble endeavor considering the gender gap in technological careers. On the other hand, the intentions of girls game movement cannot be removed from capitalist objectives. Girls were a market that video game developers had not tapped into thus creating what seemed to be the ideal demographic for new game creation. Some companies certainly had the girls best interests in mind but lacked name recognition. Other companies went directly for the unicorn-girl and created an identity for her. The movement began, in part, by the popularity of Barbie Fashion Designer in 1996. This popularity made game designers question what about the game made girls so interested in it. Certainly it was not simply an interest in fashion or an extension of Barbie play. Instead, Subrahmanyam and Greenfield (1998) attributed the games success to girls inherent desire to nurture, cultivated by creating the most fashionable clothing for Barbie. This article is representative of a series of studies informing video game literature in academia yet is indicative of how studies of girls and games have made broad generalizations. Often, these generalizations work to reinforce postfeminist notions of femininity. If Barbie Fashion Designer was so popular because it speaks to the unicorn-girls need to nurture, as Subrahmanyam and Greenfield conclude, then it follows that more games for girls will be designed with similar


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT goals. This underlines how postfeminism in the gaming community works to reify traditional gender roles. Subrahmanyam and Greenfield do make a valid point: Perhaps in an ideal world, girls would be included in the digital revolution through the development of games that appeal equally to boys and girls. In reality, however, most games have attracted at least three boys for every girl. Therefore games targeted specifically toward girls may be necessary to reach a mass audience of girls (1998). Yet, still, the mass audience of girls is only necessary for capitalist gains. Not all girls need to flood the hard sciences as careers, therefore not all girls need to play computer games. Furthermore, the mass audience of girls refers to the non-existent demographic of the unicorn-girl, who can be put in a box and marketed to en masse. Underlying intentions of the girls game movement was the commodification of gender for profit: Smaller start-up companies that are female-owned and largely female-staffedare motivated both by a desire to transform gender relations within American culture and to create a new and potentially profitable market (Cassell & Jenkins, 1998). Suzanne de Castell and Mary Bryson (1998) recognize the capitalist agenda of the girls games movement and its relationship to fixed gender roles. They write, Since the spectacular runaway best-seller, Barbie Fashion Designer major corporate-sponsored research campaigns have been launched to identify the differently gendered play patterns of boys and girls and to


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT discover what girls like best. This astonishing breakthrough into the previously dormant market for computer based playware for girls ushers in a retooling of technologya retooling accomplished, however by affirming rather than challenging received gender stereotypes that preserve girls historically assigned locations in the gender order [emphases mine]. Again, like many postfeminist economic endeavors, the best interests of their pocketbooks trump the best interests of the girls in question. Brenda Laurel, cofounder of Purple Moon, a girls video game developing company, discusses her goals in creating Rockett of Rocketts New School, her most popular game, in an interview with Jennifer Glos and Shari Goldin (1998). This interview is striking in its adherence to postfeminist rhetoric. Laurel contends, Rockett is a resilient woman. She speaks her mindshe has some qualities that I feel are off-stereotype in terms of outspokenness, self-awareness, and clarity. However, Laurel does not overtly market Rockett as off-stereotype game. She goes on to say: Weve been very consciously positioning ourselves as fun, engaging, and entertaining, as opposed to enriching, empowering, enlightening, uplifting, and all those other words that we hope are true about our products, because thats not how were going to leverage popular culture. It is obvious that Laurel is trying to balance feminist ideals in a postfeminist environment. Her statement about marketing as entertaining and not empowering is indicative of feminism being taken into account. Rocketts New School sold well, relatively speaking, as feminism in postfeminist packaging.


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT Girls grow up with feminism in the water but do not engage in it, because fun and entertaining sells better. Many articles in Barbie to Mortal Kombat (1998) claim designers of girls games listened to what girls wanted to play and designed games around that. Yet the games still failed. Perhaps the girls told the designers what they thought they wanted to hear. One other reason may stem from retailers. As empowering as a game might be, girls are not financially independent. There are systematic problems getting such games to girls; the retailers act as gatekeepers. If the games do not sell almost immediately, they will be pulled from the shelves. Because the games are not selling, the logic will follow that girls do not like games. Caraher sums it up as such: The basic truth is that the market wont tolerate mediocrity. In an interview with Glos and Goldin (1998), Lee McEnany Caraher from Sega explains her belief that the fault lies within the girls games developers. They created mediocre games in the pursuit of the elusive unicorngirl and the movement ultimately failed. Caraher claims boys and girls will play the same games as long as it is a good game. For Sega, at the time of the interviews printing, 33 percent of the market is girls without going out of the companys way to market to girls. Caraher reasons: So if 33 percent of your market is girls, even without trying, that indicates to me that if its a good game, it will sell on both sides. But its just taken a long time for girls to have the opportunity to play. In other words, a girl-centered game is not going to help girls play games. Girls were socialized to be anxious with technology. But girls


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT will be excited about a good game in any color package; they simply have not been introduced to it yet. As T.L. Taylor (2008) points out, the games people of all genders play and enjoy are often dependent upon who introduces them to the game. If a husband introduces a wife to a game, she is likely to continue playing. Thus, games for specific genders do not allow for much cross-gender introduction. Certainly a man will not introduce a woman to Barbie Fashion Designer. However, genderneutral games such as World of Warcraft benefit from coed introductions and coed play. Indeed, Nick Yee (2008) discusses how a game culture, specifically in MMOs, draw women into the game and keep them involved, as opposed to the games mechanics. Yee identified the reasons men and women play MMOs, noting that the motivations to participate are far more similar than they are different. Women initially enjoy the sociality of MMOs, often running guilds or maintaining guild communications. But that is not all women enjoy in gaming culture. Yee quotes a female World of Warcraft player: I think thats also why WoW is starting to gain female gamers: some come for the socialization aspect, and stay for the fun. Though a minority of women may pursue the game play for stereotypical reasons, many players are surprised by how fun many aspects of a good game can be.



POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT Cassell and Jenkins rectify their push for specifically girls games through Ellen Seiters argument that traditionally feminine interests must be cultivated, even as we push toward more empowering fantasies, since there are so many other forces in society that belittle and demean girls (1998). Yet, in doing so, the girls game movement replayed traditional narratives with little room for feminist empowerment. If empowerment is the ability to self-define, then the video game industry is inherently postfeminist. Video games, by their very nature, create definitions for the player because they are limited by the technology available. In the case of girls games, players can only be defined through the designers understanding of the girl. Cassell and Jenkins (1998) call for an expansion of activities in video games to encourage identity formation as a part of the game. However, whose identity formation is encouraged? And whose identity is formed as a result? Brunner, Bennett, and Honey (1998) write, Games provide a safe place to explore issues of femininity and masculinity. Yet these issues of femininity and masculinity are prescribed in terms predetermined by the games designers. Authentic identity formation cannot occur in such environments where the narrative is controlled by technology. In the terms of girls games, video game designers and marketers were intent on creating games that appealed to all girls, striving for the unicorn-girl demographic. In doing so, the games created for girls in the 1990s focused on over-generalized assumptions of youthful feminine gender identity. Instead of studying what games appeal to the unicorn-girl, perhaps more investigation of resistance to the separatist culture is more productive. As


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT Roberts (2007) says: no power can be absolute, and all power is at best provisional and precarious. We must further investigate how women and girls defy the power of the video game industry in order to better understand women in the patriarchal video game culture. Jenkins and Cassell (1998) briefly recognize the contributions of the Quake Grrls in the girls game movement. The Quake Grrls subverted the sexist rhetoric of the game Quake and reclaimed the site as one of feminist empowerment. They played aggressively among the men and truly seemed to enjoy the traditional fighting game genre. With all the noble efforts of the girls game movement, it is clear that ghettoizing girls interests only reproduces gender stereotypes. However, studying gaming cultures such as the Quake Grrls will give us a broader understanding of how gender operates in gaming. The Quake Grrls help us recognize that games for women do not have to speak to essential femininity. Rather, as Caraher (1998) argues, a good game is simply that, a game everyone will play.


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT References Banet-Weiser, S. (2007). Whats your flava? Race and postfeminism in media culture. In Y. Tasker & D. Negra (Eds.), Interrogating postfeminism: gender and the politics of popular culture (pp. 201-226). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Brunner, C., Bennett, D., & Honey, M. (1998). Girl games and technological desire. In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.), From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender and computer games (pp. 72-89). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Caraher, L. E. (1998). An interview with Lee McEnany Caraher (Sega). In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.), From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender and computer games (pp. 192-213). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (1998). Chess for girls? Feminism and computer games. In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.), From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender and computer games (pp. 2-45). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. De Castell, S., & Bryson, M. (1998). Retooling play: Dystopia, dysphoria, and difference. In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.), From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender and computer games (pp. 232-261). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Glos, J. & Goldin, S. (1998). An interview with Brenda Laurel (Purple Moon). In J.


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.), From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender and computer games (pp. 118-135). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Jenkins, H. (1998). Voices from the combat zone: Game grrlz talk back. In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.), From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender and computer games (pp. 328-341). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Jenkins, H., & Cassell, J. (2008). From Quake Grrls to Desperate Housewives: A decade of gender and computer games. In Y. B. Kafai, C. Heeter, J. Denner, & J. Y. Sun (Eds.), Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: new perspectives on gender and gaming (pp. 5-21). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Leonard, S. (2007). I hate my job, I hate everybody here: Adultery, boredom, and the Working Girl in twenty-first-century American cinema. In Y. Tasker & D. Negra (Eds.), Interrogating postfeminism: gender and the politics of popular culture (pp. 100-131). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. McRobbie, A. (2007). Postfeminism and popular culture: Bridget Jones and the new gender regime. In Y. Tasker & D. Negra (Eds.), Interrogating postfeminism: gender and the politics of popular culture (pp. 27-39). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Negra, D. (2009). What a girl wants? Fantasizing the reclamation of self in postfeminism. London: Routledge.


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT Projansky, S. (2007). Mass magazine cover girls: Some reflections on postfeminist girls and postfeminisms daughters. In Y. Tasker & D. Negra (Eds.), Interrogating postfeminism: gender and the politics of popular culture (pp. 40-72). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Roberts, M. (2007). The fashion police: Governing the self in What Not to Wear. In Y. Tasker & D. Negra (Eds.), Interrogating postfeminism: gender and the politics of popular culture (pp. 227-248). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Springer, K. (2007). Divas, evil black bitches, and bitter black women: African American women in postfeminist and post-civil-rights culture. In Y. Tasker & D. Negra (Eds.), Interrogating postfeminism: gender and the politics of popular culture (pp. 249-276). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Subrahmanyam, K., & Greenfield, P. (1998). Computer games for girls: What makes them play? In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.), From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender and computer games (pp. 46-71). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Tasker, Y., & Negra, D. (2007). Introduction: Feminist politics and postfeminist culture. In Y. Tasker & D. Negra (Eds.), Interrogating postfeminism: gender and the politics of popular culture (pp. 1-26). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Taylor, T.L. (2008). Becoming a player: Networks, structure, and imagined


POSTFEMINISM AND THE GIRLS GAME MOVEMENT futures. In Y. B. Kafai, C. Heeter, J. Denner, & J. Y. Sun (Eds.), Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: new perspectives on gender and gaming (pp. 51-66). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Yee, N. (2008). Maps of digital desires: Exploring the topography of gender and play in online games. In Y. B. Kafai, C. Heeter, J. Denner, & J. Y. Sun (Eds.), Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: new perspectives on gender and gaming (pp. 83-96). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.