Violence toward women in the video game Red Dead Redemption 2 evokes toxic masculinity

Violence toward women in the video game Red Dead Redemption 2 evokes toxic masculinity
A screen grab from the RDR2 video uploaded to YouTube. Screen Shot on November 16, 2018

It's common practice in the world of gaming for serious video game players to upload videos of their gaming experiences to YouTube, usually for purposes of providing tips to other gamers, walkthroughs and highlights.

Last month, the YouTube channel "Shirrako" uploaded a video capture of a portion of the recently released game Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2). The video depicted an avatar (the figure representing the player in a ) physically assaulting a female character until she was unconscious. The video was titled: "Beating Up Annoying Feminist".

Within days, the video had received more than 1 million views. While some viewers remarked that they planned to replicate the behaviour in the video, others commented:

  • "The only good feminist is a DEAD FEMINIST"
  • "Giving women the right to vote was a mistake"

Recent research into online gaming in the wake of the #MeToo movement sheds light on this kind of , raising concerns about the influence of gaming culture on attitudes of sexism and violence against women.

Depictions of violence against women

Following much hype and anticipation, RDR2 – the sequel to the videogame Red Dead Redemption – was released in Australia on October 26, 2018. Across the board, reactions have been glowing, with players posting fantastic reviews.

But video games and their developers have often been criticised for portrayals of violence towards women, and RDR2 is no exception.

The game is set in the US Wild West and gives players the ability to take control and act out violence towards other game characters. This includes physically assaulting and killing the female character, a suffragette, who symbolises the early feminist movement advocating for women's voting rights.

When gamers upload videos of their gaming experiences, the videos regularly depict inappropriate and socially unacceptable behaviours. That might include beating up sex workers, or assaulting other female game characters.

Following media coverage of the Shirrako channel's video being pulled and reinstated by YouTube, the channel uploaded further videos. Titles included: "Dropping Feminist to Hell & Killing the Devil", and "Annoying Feminist Fed to Alligator".

It's part of the culture

Such open hostility towards women may be surprising to those who aren't familiar with gaming culture, but such videos and behaviours are quite common. In fact, Rockstar Games has been criticised in the past for the blatant sexism and stereotypical portrayals of female characters in its games.

Women are often depicted as being weak, submissive and vulnerable to violence from male characters. Such portrayals can shape gamers' views of stereotypical gender norms, and foster negative attitudes towards victims of violence. Recent research has shown an association between playing violent video games and decreased empathy towards female victims of violence.

As in previous Rockstar games, RDR2 gives players the option to kill female characters that represent women's suffrage, without repercussions. So, should Rockstar Games be held accountable for fostering negative attitudes? Should game developers consider implementing a gaming block that prevents players from attacking the female game characters?

These are serious questions worthy of reflection considering the extensive history of game developers creating games that allow for violence against female characters. Particularly when the character is a suffragette, a symbol of women's fight for equality.

Backlash against #MeToo

Women and men around the globe are rallying to bring attention to violence against women and girls. The current #MeToo movement has provided a space for personal stories to be shared and heard. But there seems to be resistance to this form of social activism from a select group of men.

A recent study explored tweets posted by men in response to the #MeToo movement that used the hashtag #HowIWillChange. According to the researchers: "#HowIWillChange was intended to engage men and boys in the ongoing discussion about sexual violence by asking them to evaluate their role in sustaining rape culture."

Among the tweets, researchers observed the expression of sexist attitudes, a hostile resistance to social change, and a desire to maintain current gender power structures.

Hegemonic masculinity, which is the process by which certain masculine traits are positioned in society, serves to maintain patriarchal power structures and justifies the subordination of women. Toxic masculinity is considered to be a form of hegemonic masculinity. It promotes aggression, competitiveness and domination.

Consequently, behaviours of gamers and their comments towards female characters should be taken seriously. They highlight concerning attitudes and beliefs about gendered violence, which are further amplified when pushed out to an anonymous public forum, such as YouTube or social media.

Anonymity perpetuates bad behaviour

Anonymity has been found to be an influential factor when it comes to negative online behaviours. It allows individuals to freely exhibit inappropriate and socially unacceptable attitudes towards women.

And the power to openly encourage such behaviours anonymously via YouTube comments means people can share their hatred towards women and the feminist movements, without offline repercussions.

These behaviours paint a dark picture in the current quest for gender equality.

RDR2 is, therefore, not "just" a , it's a reflection on outdated sexist behaviours and attitudes that need to change. Now it is time to start an important dialogue about why there are some individuals who feel the need to depict such violence toward women, and why others accept these acts of towards as normal.

Explore further

Sexist video games decrease empathy for female violence victims

Provided by The Conversation

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User comments

Nov 19, 2018
Maybe its teenagers who just want to piss off SJWs

Nov 19, 2018
I think it would be interesting to do research about the amount of violence toward women over the years.

Traditionally, men were taught to protect women, and in many cases when a man would find it reasonable to hit another man, he wouldn't hit a woman. Women came to see this as male chauvinistic, and claimed that they don't need protection, and it's possible that men took that to heart and became more freely violent towards women, as they are with other men, which would indicate more acceptance of women's equality to men. I think it would be interesting to check this premise.

Nov 19, 2018
I do not have data about violence against women in the last decades. But the data that is available shows separation between the sexes, women are losing attraction towards men, and men are doing the same: women have their dildos, men have porn.

Everyday, less marriage, less sex, less involvement with the other sex.... it became too dangerous in many respects, like sexual infections, rape accusations, dating violence, domestic violence, etc etc. So much that I read recently that in Denmark the main way to bring children is by artificial technologies, meaning, no men involved.

Nov 19, 2018
Among other things, so action is taken against supposed engendering of violent attitudes towards women in video games, but, for a long time, now, it's been considered a settled fact that general violence does not create disinterested attitudes towards people in general?
Too, the article talks, as is so often the case, about "hegemonic masculinity" and "domination". Frankly, where, really, are women so dominated? If the opinion of many if not most men were honored, it would not have been made an ideal to get married and thereby eliminate the possibility of mating with many women. That major decisions favors women. That cannot be said to represent the necessary wishes of a patriarchy.
And "attitudes with respect to women" can be said to be shaped in many at least partly by insistent demands that women are necessarily better than men, but, also have been kept from displaying that superiority by men.

Nov 19, 2018
Ah yes, the tired old argument stating "what kids see in video games they ALWAYS end up doing" Thats why we have so many kids blowing up tanks, shooting other kids with missile launchers and hijacking mail courtier vehicles. They cant find anything else to be outraged about so they have to turn to video games. This has been going on for decades and there is still no proof they cause any "monkey-see monkey-do" changes in teens. Can we please move on?

Nov 19, 2018
Wow! What a pack of cowardly jackals. Blaming their victims. Accusing womem of "forcing" males {not men} tp beat on any female they perceive as physically weaker.

Fed a diet of ancient superstitions and a chauvinist culture of seeing themselves as worthy masters over the weak. Those commentators above, those "manly men" of action. Perpetual adolescents sneering at ever expressing empathy and sympathy,

Their bloated egos in their bro-code society of well-cocooned entitlement.

If any of you creeps actually knew any women?
And you were able to shut up bragging about yourselves?

To actually listen to what the women have to tell you?

Though knowing your proclivity to mindlessly lash out at anyone telling you what you refuse to hear?

I'd be surprised if any women would trust any of you enough, that she could talk honestly.

I wish this was satire.

Nov 19, 2018
This was written by two women, but I doubt that most of these writers looked up, or even read farther than the fourth or fifth multisyllabic word before engagin' typin' finger. Many of the target audience, gamers, are social and societal rejects and remember women as turning them down more than an army blanket. So now most if not all spend their time in their Mama's basement, in a dark corner, masturbating while knockin' the crap out of a helpless image of their refusers. Most of these were turned down because they would not or could not brutally fight or die fighting torments who in most cases were mental cretins, sadists, and other types of deviant whose only asset was a stronger upper body and a high tolerance for pain.... 'cuz of a brutal upbringing. No space here to describe all the de-humanizing among all the players.

Suffice to say that encouraging violence against weaker folks should be criminally chargeabl and civilly liable for ruinous damages & long terms.

Nov 20, 2018
Is any part of the phrase "evokes toxic masculinity" scientifically quantifiable? was the last website I expected to see an article like this. I used to come here for the rigorous, not-subject-to-debate science backed by logic, mathematics and the hard work of dedicated scientists. Instead I see this--an article decrying the ability of video game players to portray "socially unacceptable" behaviors in a game set in the Wild West. Is there a scientific definition of "socially unacceptable" that we can refer to? Should we look up the current version, or the one in the 1850s version of the scientific method?

If this article summarized a study involving neuroscience, which measured the brain's response to the game, it might have a place here and be worth listening to. But it didn't. Instead, it revealed a lot more about the decline in editorial standards here.

Entropy is inevitable, I suppose. But it's sad.

Nov 20, 2018
"RDR2 gives players the option to kill female characters that represent women's suffrage, without repercussions."

No, it doesn't. If you attack the suffragette, you'll be reported to the police, who will then investigate, and attempt to arrest/kill you. There's not an "option" you choose to attack the suffragette. You *can* engage her in conversation, which gives you a couple of dialogue options. If you want to attack her (or nearly every other adult person in the game), you can do that, as well, but it has nothing to do with the scripted interactions. You can be as kind or as cruel as you like, in this game, and there are negative consequences (legal, monetary, etc.) for your character if you choose the latter.
It's true, Rockstar has historically produced some pretty sexist games. But RDR2 is very different. It's full of strong female characters, inc. the suffragettes. Perhaps yous both should have played the game, before writing this. Or at least done five minutes of research.

Nov 21, 2018
LR, don't take my opinion as gospel.

Instead find some women willing to tolerate your presence. Convince them to play the game. Then ask how they interpret the experience.

Make the effort to listen to them. Don't just try to bully the answers you want to hear. And if the answers bother your self-image? "Man up" and accept that this is your problem, for you to fix.
It shouldn't have to be a problem for women to have to confront.

And no. I am not interested in any "anonymous" testimonials from posers claiming to be female players.

It is so sad that computer games that support producing and witnessing violent human behavior are still miscategorized as harmless. This fraud must end. They are the opposite, no matter if torturing and killing women, men, animals or phantasy figures for "good" or nefarious reasons. Nobody doubts that growing up in or living in a war zone or otherwise violent environment creates mental defects for most. Why to expect anything different to happen when facing that repeatedly in a virtual environment? Even indulging in non-physical violence through criminal or otherwise blatantly unethical behavior creates over time damage to psyche, character and consciousness.

Nov 24, 2018
Well the women's movement has managed to include women in boxing and mixed martial arts. If they really wanted to reduce violence against women perhaps they should not encourage violence among women. Men have been excluded from the family unit by modern culture and the media. Women use false cries of rape as the weapon of choice. You can't call all men pigs without there being repercussions. BTW this is all part of the divide and conquer strategy of the new left.

Nov 24, 2018
In fact the very phrase "Toxic Masculinity" is divisive. If you call someone names they will respond in kind. The intelligentsia thinks that they are bright enough to reinvent society at will and "Improve" something that evolution took 1000s of years to create.

Nov 24, 2018
You can gauge how well this new society is doing just by looking at drug abuse and teenage suicides. Our wealth has never been higher and our well being has never been lower.

Nov 24, 2018
geeze moo666! There's not a toxic lie that your tourettes symptom will not repeat, endlessly.

Your cowardice is despicable in the face of women bravely asserting their Humanity and Civil Rights.

Nov 24, 2018
".......... in the face of women bravely asserting their Humanity and Civil Rights."

As exemplified by two beating the crap out of each other right RR.

Nov 24, 2018
and moo666 was in the front row hooting and hollering with drunken abandon. Though it does fester in the back if his tiny pinhead that he has too pay to be entertained by women.

Or, for that matter, pay to have one willing to stay in the same room with him.

Hope you're getting your moneys worth receiving that Special Stormy Spanking? Yeah, yeah, just walk it off. Stop whining of how sore your butt is.

Perhaps you would prefer paying Moscow whores to pee on you like your heroes, the trumpchumps and the nra exec committee?

Nov 24, 2018
Haha, "bully"? I simply corrected some glaring factual errors in the article, rrwillsj. No need to get so upset. At no point in RDR2 are you required or encouraged to attack innocent women, and if you do, you will face "repercussions". (e.g., I was recently chased out of a city by a horde of angry cops, after accidentally knocking a lady over w/ my horse.) The authors didn't do their research, and they got that wrong.
And, actually, my wife is playing RDR2, so I asked her. She says she thinks the female characters are excellent, and doesn't feel violence against women is condoned, at all. And since you can't be bothered to google things for yourself, here's* articles by two other women, if you'd like to better understand why you're wrong.
*URLs marked as spam, so google Van Badham's "Red Dead Redemption 2: calls to ban violence against women in games are too simplistic" in the Guardian, and Elizabeth Kirby's "Is Red Dead Redemption Really Violent Towards Women?" at GamersClassified.

Nov 24, 2018
RR I have read all of your moronic accusations and have come to the sad conclusion that you are still smarter than the average liberal since you are able to write in complete sentences.

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