Desiree Ellis

Desiree Ellis is a former IFBB professional  bodybuilder who was active during the early 1990s to mid-2000s. she was born in London to a family of four sisters and one brother. The family moved from England to Canada. Residing in Winnipeg, Manitoba for a brief period, at the age of nine the her family then moved to Vancouver. Desiree also was very active in sports as a child. She ran track and field, played soccer, did some gymnastics, as well as a background in kickboxing. Desiree also had experience in kogido. It would seem that she would naturally gravitate to bodybuilding. To her own admission, she found lifting weights boring at first. The reason she started doing it after she sprained her ankle. Desiree wanted to do some physical activity, because she could not run for five months. Desiree said she mostly trained her upper body, because her legs were highly developed from years of running. She began training at the age of 24.  She had her daughter in 1990 and after that wanted to get back in shape. Desiree like the definition she was gaining from weightlifting and decided to compete. Her original intention was not to become a bodybuilder. She would go on to compete for 14 years. Desiree Ellis did build an impressive body and have great competitive longevity.

85ab6c26a02e6553250cb1b21b6e3d7e

She began to love the challenge of competing and the aspects of the fitness culture. Desiree has said “I love training hard and pushing myself to the extreme.”Desiree Ellis competed in eight shows between 1992 to 1996. She won the Gold’s Classic (1992),  the B.C. Provincials (1992),  and the North American Championships (1995). The major triumph came in 1996 when she got her pro-card in the Canadian Nationals Championships. At her physical peak , she had a flat bench press of 225 lbs and a squat of 315 lbs . Desiree’s bicep curl were 135 lbs  and a shoulder press of 145 lbs. Her leg presses are even more impressive reaching a total of 900 lbs. Not only did she look strong, she had the power to make it credible. Her body measurements are also something to appreciate. Her biceps were 15 1/2” and  her calfs  were 16.”Desiree had a powerful chest of 38” and quads of  25 1/2.” Then she had a dainty waist of 28,” providing a nice hour glass figure on her powerful physique. The professional ranks were much tougher for Desiree. Her placings were lower, but the competition was fierce. This was a time period of Andrulla Blanchette, Lenda Murray, and numerous others. Even though she never placed high, it is her love and dedication that make the sport great. Desiree had said in 2006 : “As far as competing, I’ll be doing the Ms Olympia again this year, and I hope I’ll get another invite to the Arnold Classic again for next year, and just keep going until I’m no longer having fun.” Desiree has also stated on numerous occasions how thankful she is for her fans and family that supported her through her bodybuilding career.

           Desiree’s occupation is personal trainer. She is an independent one so hours are not regular. This gave her flexibility depending on how many clients she has. Desiree preferred to train early in the morning and then work in clients into the schedule later in the day. Her training regimen seemed simple. Desiree said ” in the off season I train just five days a week.” Her preparation for contest she says ” Pre-contest I train 6 days a week as the weeks get closer, increase cardio, and I split by bodyparts over 4 days, and training 2x/dy.” That one extra day may have paid off. She is very knowledgeable about training, gaining it from autodidacticism.

She also is a certified aerobics instructor who also has knowledge of nutrition. She also provides services as a nutrition educator. Her basic philosophy regrading clients she states :   “with a reputation for motivating and pushing clients to their limits, I enable every client to successfully achieve their fitness and nutritional goals and objectives.”Desiree sounds like a person who genuinely wants to help, rather just looking at it from a business perspective. A job and a sport is very time consuming. However, Desiree had time for other passions. Most of the time she enjoyed spending time with her daughter, talking with friends and watching videos. This is opposite the common misconception that bodybuilders are selfish in their mindset. She has currently retired form the sport and her last competition was in 2005. An injury led her to the decision to retire. Yet, she still appears at some contests as a spectator and trains a few rising figures in the sport.

Women who retire in a sense never really leave the sport. They are active in it in other ways. Some train other athletes, become judges, or start a contest of their own.

       Desiree Ellis would also on occasion participate in mixed wrestling matches. She would wrestle both men and women and demonstrate her immense strength. The first time she attempted a match she was no problem beating her challenger. The video was filmed by Premier Productions and Desiree had no knowledge of wrestling.  Being strong in not enough to win, but seeing as she had an athletic background, moves were simple for her to execute. Unlike most videos of this sort the man was trying is best.

The man in the video named Bob had no idea he was going up against a woman who could leg press 900 lbs. When this video was filmed Desiree was at 150 lbs. Normally, women in bodybuilding try not to do these videos out of concern for their image. At the time, there was a stigma. There is not anymore, because it is simply wrestling. Desiree is a type of person who likes a challenge and never challenged a man in something physical. This was so much fun for her she appeared in other videos where she tested her strength against other women.

The matches against other women tended to be one sided. Her strength and skills became greater. Notably she wrestled another strong woman Fawnia Mondey. Fawnia was a fitness  competitor, but Desiree weighed more by fifty pounds. Desiree preferred to wrestle competitive matches. The match with Fawnia in 2003  for Chaosvideos.com was not fake. Desiree continued to appear in wrestling videos crushing other opponents. Besides appearing in wrestling match videos Desiree Ellis also did posing videos for Awefilms and produced some of her own.

It was a delight for fans to see her pose. Her symmetry was phenomenal. Powerful legs and biceps should have made her one of the top contenders of the Ms.Olympia contest. Desiree’s back was impeccable. She even said that her best body part was her back. The only weakness ( minor at best) was her adominals. They had limited definition, but it was hardly noticeable when looking at other parts of her body. Judges can see these minor details, which can harm a competitor in points. Then again judging has always been controversial and convoluted in a manner.

 Her routine were known for being more slow paced and artistic in presentation. Desiree style put emphasis of showing off all the muscle she put in on in strategic way to influence the judges. It is not solely about size, but shape, conditioning, including symmetry. Desiree combined these elements well in the presentation of her physique. It makes the observer reconnect with the artistic element of the sport. Desiree made a physique that seemed like it was carved out of marble.

        During her competitive years Desiree did reveal how she felt about the judging of contests. Desiree articulated the matter in this way: “well it’s such a subjective sport it’s pretty much just a matter of opinion, but I think if they stick with judging it the way is should be, symmetry, balance, {an athlete should stay within their frame}, conditioning and femininity, then I feel that it would be heading back in the right direction.”She seems to very practical in that respect. Inconsistencies and unclear criteria only cause more trouble in making assessments.

While judging seems off, fans know what they love. Her entry into the sport makes her one of the most recognizable Canadian bodybuilders. Her statement describes the physique that she displayed for 14 years. Every exercise went into transforming it, even the ones she hated the most. Normally, the assumption is bodybuilders love every exercise. Desiree hated preacher curls. Yet, she knew she had to do them. At some point an athlete has to retire. When Desiree retired from the sport she entered another field. She now is a stylist and make-up artist with her own business. Desiree then studied at the Blanche Macdonald Centre in Vancouver. Desiree found another passion being a hair and make-up artist. She is based mostly in the Vancouver area.

 It appears from recent photos from a Cecile Gambin shoot that she is still in great shape. Most of her time and energy is devoted to her business and family. Desiree’s specialty is created customized presentations for head shots, special events, film and television. On her website she writes ” it means so much to me that I not only help clients look their best, but feel amazing about how they look.” A client first approach has always been her ideology even when she was a personal trainer. This desire to lean and try new things is certainly an admirable.

desiree-ellis-2004-2005
Visit her website for make-up artist consultation : Desiree Ellis Make-up Artist

She also provides some tips on her make-up artist website on skin care, health, and general grooming. Desiree also provides a portfolio of her work. Her personal statements says “she embraces the uniqueness of each client.” Desiree really wants he customers to be satisfied with her work. The interesting aspect about this is that it overturns negative stereotypes. People often erroneously think that women involved in sports like this would not be interested in make-up or the traditionally feminine activities. Desiree continues to be one of those great bodybuilders who never one a Ms.Olympia title. Fan often complain of biased or abnormal judging. This does have an element of truth, but there is more to it. The fact is there is so many talented women like Desiree who were on stage, making a choice was not that simple. Desiree still remains in the minds of fans as one of the best contenders of the 1990s and 2000s. Canada not only has terrific hokey players, but as Desiree showed  excellent bodybuilders.

Desiree Ellis

The Walking Dead Creator: Women Are ‘Generally Physically Weaker. That’s Science’

The Walking Dead Creator: Women Are ‘Generally Physically Weaker. That’s Science’

The Walking Dead is one of the highest rated show on cable. Based on the comic with the same name it has become a major success for AMC. The show and comic tell the story of a world in apocalypse. The dead have risen, but no one knows why. The zombies known as “walkers” have destroyed civilization. Rick Grimes and his small band of followers have to survive a world of walkers and dangerous people. The show and comic have great stories and action. Yet, there seems to be a problem with its female characters. The women in  The Walking Dead   are not positively presented as their male counterparts. The strong female characters seems to fall victim to “Vasquez always dies” syndrome. The strong women characters are either killed or considered to insane to be considered respectable. Robert Kirkman’s statement in an interview for The Comics Journal  may hint to why there is a problem with how women are presented in The Walking Dead . Simon Abrams asked him a question in an interview why are women portrayed in such narrow terms. His response could be, to say the least an unsatisfying answer.  Kirkman first said “I don’t mean to sound sexist, but as far as women have come over the last 40 years, you don’t really see a lot of women hunters.” Then he expounds further “they’re still in the minority in the military, and there’s not a lot of female construction workers.” The argument gets worse as he continues “I think women are as smart, resourceful, and capable in most things as any man could be … but they are generally physically weaker.” Robert Kirkman then said “it’s science.”  This excuse for lack of strong  female characters is devoid of cogency. Then his statements are only half truths. There is no denying that the show has an issue with female characters.

           Kirman’s statements display a general lack of understanding or lack of knowledge . He claims not to be sexist, but it is clear there is a level of prejudice. The statement about not seeing female hunters is not entirely true. Women are engaged in hunting and shooting more than they were in the past. The reason is that women no longer have the certain gender role restriction. Hunting was seen as something women should be restricted from. The reason women would not be involved in large numbers is because only recently they got involved. Men were already hunting in larger numbers, so obviously it would be disproportionate.

article-0-0eb607c300000578-306_468x323
Women and even teenage girls  are getting involved in hunting Women hunting

  Kirkman’s  idea is one that come from images of cavemen hunting in the prehistoric past .  This Flinstone  cartoon idea about humanity is hardly accurate. Humans of the Ice Age probably did not hunt mammoths on a regular basis. Smaller game and gathering were probably the best options for sustainable food. Hunting may not even be a true measure of physical strength. Tracking and trapping an animal takes a level of thought and patience. The early humans appear to have the males do most of the hunting and women perform the gathering. It was assumed that males would do hunting because there size and strength was greater. However, there could be a problem with this theory. There is a possibility that early australopithecines hunted in groups. The major change was when humanity developed simple tools. Homo erectus was a maker of tools and this gave it an advantage over other animals. As time passed spears, knives, and bludgeons  came into existence. The use of these weapons and tools require little strength. This gave humanity an edge over the larger  predators and larger toothed animals. Guns are now the ultimate hunting tool and weapon . Hunting  does not require large muscles do successfully.

           There is a reason that women are a minority in  the military and construction. Discrimination was a factor, not just elements of sexual dimorphism. Protectionism a legal mandate banned women from certain professions on the basis it was too dangerous form them and they needed to be protected. Women were even forbidden from lifting objects of a particular weight in some cases. The reason women were not in combat positions in the military was because they were prohibited from those jobs. The ban had been in place up until 2013. It should be understood it takes time to reverse injustice and wrongs of the past. Women will not automatically fill all combat positions overnight. Sexual dimorphism does not mean women cannot do physically demanding jobs. It means they are different. Men have more physical strength, which makes it easier for them to handle physically demanding task. Women if they want to be part of these professions have to train to gain strength. The average woman will not be as strong as the average man, but to say “women are generally physically weaker” is not entirely accurate. The female body is thought to be biologically inferior, but exercise physiology has proven otherwise. There is no difference between male and female muscle in terms of histological composition. Exercise and weight training can increase a woman’s strength.

w_1024_1259212591969812

What should be considered here is magnitude. Men have denser bones, larger tendons and ligaments. Women’s muscle still responds to training, its just that total body strength will not be as high as a man who is engaged in the same training regimen. Women can be strong, but it requires more effort due to differences in endocrinology and physiology. Kirkman presents an image of weak and helpless woman being something common. Body type also determines strength. A woman with a mesomorphic body type could be strong as or stronger than an average man.

 There are women who can  be stronger than some men. If Kirkman tries to hide his prejudice by saying “it’s science.” Sexual dimorphism is the product of human evolution. Yet,  it is also related to sex selection. The reason men have more strength was for competition for mates. Males would fight one another for access to females. The early Australopiths  did this like other animal species and females would mate with the victors of these fights. The fact the male wins in terms of sexual selection, indicates health to the female. This can be seen in other primates like gorillas. When homo sapiens evolved some of traits of sexual dimorphism remained. Traits related to sexual dimorphism can be flexible in the human species. Kirkman from his comments believer in biological determinism . The truth is that we are products of both our environment and biology. Science still does not explain why Robert  Kirkman  has trouble with female characters.

           Female characters on The Walking Dead  are not portrayed well. Rick’s wife Lori is not really one of the best. Both the TV program and comic do not give her much character. The problem with her is the actions she takes. She has a relationship with Shane, Rick’s best friend out of grief. The problem with this is that it shows women as emotional wrecks under pressure  and vulnerable after the loss of a long term partner. Lori’s function in the comic seems so limited that it almost comes close to the women in refrigerators concept. This trope explains how female characters are normally placed in a story to either motivate the male character in action. They have no personality development or growth, but are there to either be killed or  lose power in some way. Fans were even dissatisfied with the character in regards to the show. Lori does give an apology for the relationship with Shane, but thing never were fully right with Rick. She dies during the Governor’s assault on the prison while giving birth. For the three seasons she was alive, she never developed as a character. There were points in which she could have been admirable, but writers kept her in a one dimensional box.

           The perplexing case of Andrea also reveals some issues on The Walking Dead  . The comic still has her living and she is a very active member of the group. The character that is in the comics should have been the one in the television show. Andrea as portrayed in the show started off giving up hope. The dead of her sister made her almost suicidal. Dale then convinces her to leave the CDC when the scientist sets it to self-destruct mode. Around season two Andrea wants to live and survive. She wanted to continue and find a better place. She even learns shooting from Shane and bonds with him. Andrea gets lost during the fall of the farm to the walker hordes. She meets Michonne  and both survive a harsh winter. Andrea show a level of independence, but when she gets involved with the Governor    that changes.  She refuses to see that he was nefarious and then attempts to speak on his behalf. Andrea went from being a powerful character, who could have been a potential leader  in the group to a dependent. There was an opportunity in which she could have killed the Governor in his sleep, but did not because she was under his charming spell. It seems the strongest women either end up dead.

thewalkingdeadandrea  Andrea’s situation could fall under another common trope of “Vazquez always dies.” This describes how even though a woman is powerful and a survivor some how she is killed violently.  The comic has not killed her ( for now), but it could happen seeing as this trope is so prevalent. Kirkman has stated that reason Andrea was killed in the show was that he wanted to make alterations for the TV show. While it is expected that characters will die in a horror genre, the reasons for Kirkman’s decision seems to lack fortitude. When it comes to women and non-whites of the show they are the ones who will die first. This could be fulfilling some subconscious desire of the mostly white male creators  who are projecting prejudice through their content. There is no definite proof, but if one analyzes both the comic and the show it may lead to these conclusions.

            The character of Michonne is one of the better female characters. There are still challenges and problems with her in both the comics and the show. Race cannot be avoided in popular media and stereotypes are inevitable product of an intolerant society. The most obvious stereotype here in the magical Negro. This racist stock character paradigm is common in American media. The black character only function was to help the white protagonist. This character could either have supernatural powers or special abilities and was merely a side kick. Michonne falls into this category in a way seeing as she is watchful of Andrea and Rick. The character is saved from being completely stock or stereotypical , by getting  development. She goes from being more loner like to a leader within Rick’s group.

michonne

  Some argue the treatment of women in the comics seems better, but not in Michonne’s  situation. The Governor  rapes Michonne in the comics. This tragic occurrence is even more disturbing considering it happens to one of the strongest female characters in  The Walking Dead comic. Then from a historical context it becomes infuriating. The Walking Dead takes place in the US South . The enslavement of African American people involved the rape of women and children. Slave owners would sexually assault black women and the image of a white man attacking a black woman makes it more disgusting. While feminist acknowledge the the subtle sexist elements in the show and the comic, they ignore the racist ones. Non-white characters die in the most violent way at the hands of a white person. Glenn the only Asian character has his cranium smashed by Negan in the comics ( and as seen in the season six premiere of the show). Tyreese  gets beheaded in the comics( but his death in the show was by a walker). It seems as if that black and Asian people are not survivors in The Walking Dead universe.

2354205-governor_tyrese

glennsdeath

The show enjoys killing off black characters more and specifically black men. Noah  and Bob were killed by white characters in the show. Michonne’s survival seems to be in question at this point. There also is the problem of another racist stereotype. It is the image of the angry black woman and super strong black woman. This image of a black woman with an attitude or bad temper as been portrayed in various entertainment ad nauseum. Michonne when she first meets Rick’s group at the Prison in the series seems to be more vexed in personality. The recent seasons have attempted to reverse this and her character seems to be changing. Michonne is a great fighter, but in that portrayal comes another stereotype. The super human black woman ( and man), which comes from a positive stereotype. The positive stereotype comes from blacks being super human athletes and described as something beyond human. Positive stereotypes are not harmless,because  they derive from prejudices and hatreds. This concept of the super strong black person comes from enslavement. The African people enslaved in the New World were not considered human, but animals  or property. This falsehood was used to justify physical brutality against the enslaved on the grounds their bodies were so strong it did not harm them.  This myth continues in the form of  positive stereotype in the notion “blacks dominate sports.” Michonne when she fights in the show, almost seems like she is super human. They made a physically strong female character, but did not advance her characterization.

jackie-joyner-kersee-sports-illustrated
An example of how positive stereotype works. It is doubtful they would have used this title with a white athlete.

 The show is still exploring Michonne’s  character. It’s uncertain where it might lead and what the relationship with Rick will do. There has been transformation to the character and at one point she explain the psychological distress of living in a collapsing civilization . The show humanizes her by getting her to help Carl cope with difficult situations. After the fall of the prison, Carl and Michonne  along with Rick say in an empty house. The great part about this is that she is given more personality than just being a killing machine. She even soon rejects the idea of being a person who just lives for survival. She wants to live for something. As Michonne said “she does not want to be seen as a monster.” This character has potential for improvement.

           Carol is  a good counter argument to the idea that walking dead cannot create strong female characters. Carol’s evolution is impressive.She went from being an abused wife to one of  the bravest fighters in Rick’s group. Carol is flawed for all her talents and her biggest error was the murder at the prison. Rick banished her from the prison without Daryl’s knowledge. Carol eventually will save the group from Terminis  and comeback with them. However, now she is in a crisis and the pressure has gotten to her. The killing and struggle have caused her to want to leave Alexandria. Her reasoning is that the group will be better off without her. Morgan tries to bring her back  almost getting himself killed in the process.

  carolpeletier

Carol went from being passive to more aggressive, but now questions the kill or be killed mentality. What is going on with her is more a crisis of conscience. The loss of Sophia changed her to adopt a more offensive defense strategy to the world. Even though her husband was abusive the death still was a lugubrious matter to her. It was in many respects was what allowed her to develop as a person. This evolution is still happening with Carol and it is fascinating to see how it shall culminate. There are also times in which she acts as an adviser to other member’s of Rick’s group. She once said to Daryl “that his brother is bad for him.” Carol provides Maggie comfort under intense situations. The Walking Dead  got  a female character right. The article from Jezebel does not acknowledge Carol, which is bizarre. The article was written before season four in which there have been numerous changes. It should be gratifying to women viewers or feminists that a female character was given this development. Before condemning the entire show or comic examine the entire source material. It seems that there a tendency of some to condemn media by either seeing small excerpts of a source. Carol if written correctly can be a great character. That should be the model for characters on the show, rather than the one dimensional presentations.

          The discussion about survival leads to one question : how much strength do you even need to survive a zombie apocalypse? Going off  The Walking Dead  universe it would appear large muscles may not be even useful. The walkers are slow moving and lack intelligence. Physical strength would be useful in fighting off one or two. If the number exceeds twenty or even hundreds that would be insuperable. Weapons are more efficient than fists. The type of weapon has to be considered. Baseball bats,  lead pipes, spears, axes, or knifes are better than guns to an extent. Walkers are attracted to noise and gun shots do produce it at high decibels. Guns should not be discarded completely, because it helps in situation where its too many walkers to fight off at once. The biggest issue would be finding ammunition and reproducing enough to ensure protection.

702496
Physical strength could be useful at fighting off other people and some walkers, but weapons  are more effective.

May be muscular strength is not the element of physical fitness best equipped for a zombie apocalypse. Cardiovascular endurance would be essential. The people who had the ability to run the fastest would be in a better position. Slower runners would certainly fall victim to walkers. As Zombieland once said comically, cardio is a rule.  Fighting your way through walkers would probably not be the wisest path of action. Avoidance if possible seems to be a better strategy. Flight as opposed to fight would ensure a high level of safety. It should be assumed there would be more zombies than living people. The living would be at a disadvantage in this regard. While having at least some moderate level of physical fitness could guarantee survival, there are some biological aspects to consider.

            The problem with having large muscles is that maintaining them requires a good portion of food. Fat however stores some energy. The world of a zombie apocalypse  will for obvious reasons be short on food. A person with some fat may not feel the adverse effects of hunger as a person  with  a muscular or thin body. The average person probably would not even weigh much considering food security would be limited. Hunting or farming would have to be done to meet nutritional needs. Farming would require permanent settlement. This causes some problems. Settlements would be targets of people or zombie herds. No law or order other people are just as or even more dangerous than actual monsters. The best chance is to either be nomadic or semi-nomadic. This would only work if the group of survivors follow the game they are hunting. People who live in this type environment have to live and survive on limited food.

The person who would suffer more from lack of food is a person with less fat. 

Food is not the only challenge, but access to clean water. Water is just as important as sustenance. It seems that elements of survival in the collapse of civilization require more consideration. One unrealistic element about The Walking Dead  is that clean water seems more prevalent than it should be in certain circumstances.

           Robert Kirkman’s  excuse for lack of strong female characters lack cogency. While sexual dimorphism is a scientific reality, it does not limit women from doing certain things. Kirkman’s statements seem to reflect  what could be referred to as an enlightened sexism. It does not directly state women are inferior beings, but they are defective or incomplete human beings. A technique to hide this negative belief is to attempt to justify it through a rudimentary or sometimes incorrect understanding of science. Nature did not make women weaker or biologically inferior. It is the process of primate evolution and reproductive techniques that made the human sexes different. These differences are not an indication of inferiority, but the attributes of genes and environment. Unlike Kirkman’s view that women are not important  in the story line of the The Walking Dead needs to be changed.The Walking Dead is a great comic and television show. That being said there is room for improvement. Both the comic and show are still running so there are opportunities to improve the female characters. The possibilities are endless, if you have the imagination. There is a chance that the show can introduce interesting female characters and have existing one play a larger role. It can be done; producers and creators must be willing to do it.

The Walking Dead Creator: Women Are ‘Generally Physically Weaker. That’s Science’

Happy Birthday Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman turns 75 today. The DC character is one of the most iconic comic book characters of popular culture. First appearing in 1941, she was an Amazon fighting to protect her home from war and violence. Her creation was not just some random accident.William Moulton Marston a psychologist was the creator of the character and was an advocate of women’s rights. He wanted to present an image of a powerful woman which would inspire young girls. Positive role models in entertainment do have an impact on young minds. Wonder Woman was to be that positive image to motivate girls to become strong and independent women. Besides motivating young women, it was to challenge traditional convictions as well. Marston being a psychologist realized male readers have certain emotions and responses when reading comics. He wanted to see boys become men who do not see strong women as a pariah or threat. The character does appear to be a symbol of the feminist movement or at the very least an unofficial mascot. To comics fans she is an enduring and likable character that never backs down from a fight. Certainly Wonder Woman is one of the best superhero characters around. To celebrate here are some depictions of the character through comics and fan  art.

sensationcomics wonder_woman_5_cho_large

wonder-woman

michelle-wonder-woman-675

wonder-woman-45

enhanced-buzz-12392-1374730764-0

images

realistic_wonder_woman_by_elfsar-d3bffbc

nubia_painted_by_hulkdaddyg-d6ky023

wonder_woman_by_nivilis-d9xtm85

an_other_buff_wonder_woman_by_robb_phipps_by_zefly88-d4s3lvd

Happy Birthday Wonder Woman

The Problem with Anita Sarkeesian’s “All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games” Argument

Anita Sarkeesian is a media critic, blogger and public speaker who gained notoriety when she began her tropes versus  women in video games on Youtube. She claims to point out that video game culture by its nature is purely misogynistic. Ever since it seems that she has been on a crusade to attack the subculture and the gaming community itself. She is a feminist and clearly part  of the third wave. There is no denying that there is sexism in popular entertainment and video games are not immune. However, Sarkeesian’s arguments seem to condemn enthusiasts and in a subtle manner men in general. What this amounts to is a witch hunt similar to how fundamentalist Christians would condemn Dragons and Dungeons. She also has a website known as Feminist Frequency, which she expounds on her ideas. Sarkeesian claims that she does not want to censor or prohibit games, this is what it inevitably leads to. Her videos do generate many views and he sometimes outrageous pronouncements resulted in backlash. This was only in the form of vicious online comments. The mainstream media, unfamiliar with gaming culture began spreading the story and blowing it out of proportion. It is clear that there was online harassment by cyber bullies and trolls, but the media portrayed it as gamers generally hate women. Sarkeesian does not help the video game culture by her videos or efforts. Her arguments against video games either lack cogency or contain limited amounts of evidence. Simultaneously, this invigorates a small, but vocal group of sexists in the video gaming community. One of Anita’s videos “All Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games” argument lacks fortitude. She claims that all women characters have one slim body type and are not able to be more flexible like male character designs.The characters that she does mention in her video Chun li and Cammy do not follow the same slender female model. She did not bother to do research, because there have been muscular looking  women characters that have appeared in video  games. It should be understood that game design is similar to the principles of animation and is not meant to be realistic.

           The video opens with Anita praising Overwatch . She also is laudatory to the character Zarya. The majority of the female characters to have a slender body type. It is true that more variety never hurts a video game. If it is character design, setting, or game play gamers crave something new.

Then Sarkeesian provides her first part of evidence of lack of diversity in video games by discussing Street Fighter.  The error she makes here is that she does not consider Chun li  and Cammy as different from the common slender female body type.  This is not true and even she admits that Chun li has muscular legs. Cammy has a more athletic build being a soldier. If some one were to look closely enough, their bodies do resemble women competitors from the Olympics. Although her muscles are not as large as Zarya’s, over the years game  designers have made Chun Li more athletic  looking ( especially her legs). It makes sense that her legs are more exaggerated, because a majority of her attacks are kicks.

csf4
Chun li as she appears in Street Fighter 4. Notice that her arms are a bit bigger than in previous games.
tumblr_nus5i9wx7z1qijtb6o1_500
Chun Li’s legs probably got inspiration from somewhere.

Examining the body of track and field athletes it almost appears as if they are Chun Li brought to life. It would be dishonest to say that Chun Li would fall under the thin classification. Any video game fan would know that if they have consistently played Street Fighter for many years. Cammy cannot be considered ectomorphic either. Her recent design shows her with sculpted abdominal muscles and developed legs. Cammy’s  prologue in  Street Fighter 4 shows her with an athletic physique.  The strange part is that the character design changes in the ending epilogue animation. The computer generated Cammy remains consistent in game play.

The great part about fighting games is than they at least do not depict female characters as anorexic. If Anita Sarkeesian wanted to point out the lack of body diversity in video games, using fighting games is not the best example. Her method is to take only a few paradigms, rather than examining games as a whole.

        There are games that have shown body image diversity. Yet Anita Sarkessian ignores or is either unaware of these characters that appear in various games. Power Instinct was a fighting game that had a muscular character known as Angela Beti. Most of the roster had fighters with strange quirks and in many ways it was attempting to imitate other fighting games of the 1990s. The promotional did not slim her down either.

pi2-8

ending_angela1

hqdefault

The game was first released in 1993. There have been sequels, but has not reached the same level of popularity as Street Fighter or Tekken. Angela’s physical appearance is not random. She is as revealed by the game a strongwoman of Italian descent. Angela is a formidable character in the game and her strength is even comparable to some men. The game is not a bad one, it just with other fighting games the competition is harder. Gamers may just prefer to play what they are most familiar with.

165670532_m

Another character that breaks the thin woman body model is Ms. Arrow from F-Zero Gx  . This was one of Nintendo’s popular game titles on the Gamecube in the early 2000s. It is mostly focused on racing, but what makes it great is the characters. Ms. Arrow is another zany character that provides gamers with entertainment. The game and players do not care if she has a muscular physique. Virtua Fighter 4 has Vanessa Lewis, who is anything but skinny.  There are many more games that could be mentioned to this list. It seems that future games will do the same in terms of character design.

 These characters are do not have over exaggerated breasts or are simple stock characters. They are part of the stories in their universes. There are games that even let you choose the phenotype of your character.  Fall Out 4 allows players to select a muscular body type for both female and male characters. They can also be fat or thin. RPGs  also have a character creation feature in which attributes can be changed based on characters liking. What Sarkeesian presents is not entirely accurate. There are some characters that are sexualized for the sake of getting male players to buy more video games. Skimpy outfits and large breasts seem common place. Even with women characters who are not in the thin category are sexualized.

dragons_crown_amazon
Amazon from Dragon’s Crown is barely wearing clothing. Now, if she is a warrior she would need protective armor. The interesting  part about this is that, while not thin she is still presented as desirable.

This can be a problem. If female characters are to be in a video game they should not just be there to be presented as sex objects or rewards. If game developers do not change this, claims like Sarkeesian’s will be taken as fact.

          Anita Sarkeesian then says that ” male characters are free to embody whatever physique suits their personality.” This is not true. The muscular body type for men has been presented as the standard in video game design. Just like with women, on occasion you do see a change in the standard. She does not say that this standard also has damaging effects on some men. It seems she only cares about how women are and not true equality. If gamers were to do a general data collection, it appears the muscular body type for men appears more than any other type. Male characters have the same issues as women: exaggerated body ideals. This not only distorts peoples ideas of beauty, but it has them obsess over it. There are two extremes of this culturally induced obsession. The first is that there is only one form of beauty and that everyone must conform to it. This also requires that members accept it without question. The other extreme is people who try to imposes an alternative rather than letting individuals decide for themselves what aesthetic is most pleasing. She speaks of cultural influences of “who gets to be desirable,” but the fact is a person has a choice to reject these notions. If a woman objects to the beauty myth, they should not engage in it on a personal level. Sarkeesian wears make-up which in a subtle manner enforces the beauty myth. If third wave feminists are convinced that appearance should not matter, then they stop with investing so much in make-up and anti-aging products. She then is again selective in her data, saying older men in video games appear more. The majority feature young protagonists, so this is more of an example of ageism rather than sexism. Personality is more along the realm of psychology of a character not physical embodiment. What makes a great character is not just design; it is  the essence of the psyche.

        The  video continues to miss the concept of character design. Depending on the game, characters can be either cartoon like or realistic model. Street Fighter is more cartoon like in the depiction of its roster. However, it can be based of the standard structure of the human body.

maxresdefault-3
Brooke Ence looks like Cammy.
screenshot_x360_street_fighter_x_tekken140
Cammy has more of an athletic build. Anita still classifies her as thin.

Cammy has the body of a crossfit woman, but still has the more cartoon like features in terms of the face. The character designs are meant to be exaggerated in this case. It is not meant to be realistic or a body type that should be imitated. Games now are becoming more realistic at depicting the human figure and its not always the strange body dimensions that Sarkeesian has a problem with. Uncharted 4 depicted a capable female adversary ( later defected) against Drake. She does not appear helpless or waifish. Her name is Nadine Ross who acts as second in command to Rafe Alder. When Rafe becomes too obsessed and insane in his search for the treasure, Nadine makes her exit. Being the head of a mercenary organization  also is significant. She plays an important role to the story providing troops to fight Drake and is dangerous in her own right. The great part about the game is that she is not killed off and it would not be surprising to see her in other games, if the series continues.

It looks as if the crossfit  body is used again. Nadine looks like Elisabeth Akinwale.

These cases are not as large as the thin body type, but there has been change. Character designs that are the best emphasize a unique and dynamic variety. It goes beyond just body type diversity. It encompasses height, eye shape, hair style, facial structure, and posture. This gives a character life, even though the viewer knows its not real. If women are to be presented more fairly in video games, it requires more than just simple body diversity. Then a new conundrum emerges in which another unrealistic model dethrones the other one and the problem is not solved. Gaining a better grasp of creativity in character design adds to the uniqueness of a video game. The reason the Zarya from Overwatch   captivates gamers  is that she plays on certain elements. The first is it combines two common tropes known as the husky Russkie  and the amazonian beauty. The character also becomes more humorous, because in a way she is almost a reference to Vasquez from Aliens (1986).  The game took these components and formed a unique character. Fans have embraced Zarya  and it is a positive portrayal. Although most characters in the game are slim, Zarya will be remember more because of her character concept.

maxresdefault

Character concepts involving personality, references to other materials,  and a particular essence is what makes a great video game character. These elements are the most pivotal during creation. The physical appearance takes some consideration. Sometimes the designs match the part in which role the character plays. The heroic body type ( athletic or muscular ) is common in action adventure and fighting games. Other genres are more flexible. It depends on what the intentions of the game developers are. For some characters a larger or muscular body would not suit them.  Mario Brothers characters are more on the cartoon like design and more comedic in nature. The hero body types would seem misplaced in the game.

princess_peach_by_elee0228-d7ceb3m
Princess Peach as shown in a fan art rendition.  Mario Brothers characters do not appear like this, because its meant to be comedic. Mario is fat and Luigi is tall and thin. 

There are times in which the standard can be changed in experimentation with games. It depends on what the creator envisions. It is not always a sexist conspiracy, but a general lack of vision and imagination. It cannot be denied that video games are more harsh to women with a larger body type. Fat women are often used as jokes as Sarkessian reveals. Video games are not the major offender in this case. Films and television are much worse in terms of body diversity. Advertising and the fashion industry promote an unhealthy body image that is far worse than what video games do. These industries and entertainment media predate video games and have done far more damage. Even fitness magazines that constantly obsess over weight loss rather than actual health are culprits. It should be understood that electronic entertainment is a relatively new medium and still evolving. It can go in the right direction as long as character design remains flexible and show variety.

          What vexes video game enthusiasts about third wave feminist criticism is that it condemns the entire geek culture. It merely casts all men as being misogynists, fearful of women, or advocates of men’s rights movement . Geek culture is vast and covers many aspects of entertainment including non-material culture. It involves comics, collecting memorabilia, video games, role-playing board games, and science fiction in all forms of media. It is a devoted subculture that is mostly male. It almost seems ironic that women are attacking men that they would not pay attention to if they were attempting to start conversation. This sudden “social   justice” movement against video games parallels how fundamentalist Christians condemned Dungeons and Dragons. These movements are not designed to correct an injustice or grievance, but to keep an ideology alive. Third wave feminism  has in many was become bankrupt. It does not attempt to address the racism in its own movement or lack of solidarity. It does not address class warfare that is relentless. Attacking a medium which is gaining wide spread popularity is a way to promote and keep relevant a movement that has lost purpose. There are still many challenges ranging from reproductive rights, feminization of poverty, violence against women, and unequal pay. Some factions of third wave feminists do not want to confront these issues or the challenges facing the women of the world. These women are white and of the upper class in the United States focused on improving the conditions of their own group. There is more of a push to form more of a special interest group for women within the context of third wave feminism. This faction tends to escalate an incident of which to many would seem insignificant. Whether its the  Eugenie Bouchard twirling controversy or the backlash in regards to the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters,  it seems more facetious than a serious issue. Compared to other parts of the globe, these seem like frivolous First World problems. Relevant to the gaming world the Tracer pose controversy became a ludicrous spectacle. A few third wave feminists complained that tracer was being over sexualized by doing a over the shoulder pose. Blizzard caved into pressure and removed the pose.

 

 This image was not lascivious or suggestive, but some claimed it was reducing the character to a mere sex object. The pronouncement lacked cogency. Tracer’s pose is a bodybuilding pose you see in certain categories of the sport. Observers did not know and some did not care. They saw what they wanted to see, even though it had no basis in reality. Starting a problem when one was not present angered many. These petty and often  senseless battles only cause more of a divide among male and  female video game enthusiasts. There are games ( mostly M rated) that are far more worse in depictions of women than Tracer in Overwatch.  It would have made more sense to attack those game rather than Overwatch. Blizzard’s attempt to be politically correct could have an unintended repercussion. Companies may not have female characters in their games rather than face protests. Finding a balance will be a challenge for game developers.

       Anita Sarkeesian only states problems rather than providing solutions. There are several courses of action that can implemented. Women must enter game design and become content creators. Women being leaders and workers in the industry can counter sexist attitudes and convictions. It can also add a perspective to the industry. Game developers must be willing to be more bold with their character design. Playstation 4, X Box, and the Nintendo Wii U have great graphics.Seeing as  the systems are advanced in this attribute, they have to do more to distinguish themselves. Making characters with interesting and unique appearance will help. Investing in great storylines  and setting will enhance a gaming experience. Women should consider staring their own video game companies. The administration and business section of the industry has the most power, something individuals should not be without. This way there is more control over what content is being produced and distributed. Third wave feminists must understand that not every man is their enemy. There may actually be male allies that could help change certain practices. If change is to happen it cannot come from Anita Sarkeesian. It has to be women who have been a part of the video game community either as game designers or fans. Only then can effective progress can happen.

The Problem with Anita Sarkeesian’s “All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games” Argument

Arm Wrestling

Arm wrestling is a sport which involves two competitors locking hands forcing the other’s arm down. Who ever has their arm go down first on the table loses. Although it is not a large sport like basketball, soccer, tennis, or football it has gathered a following over the years. There are divisions by weight class for competitors. It is not entirely certain when arm wrestling appeared in human history. It could have emerged whenever two humans realized it could be a simple game. Some depictions of arm wrestling can be seen in Egyptian art, but there is not complete record of the early form of this sport. One estimate is that it started as early as 2000 B.C.E.It is common to think this is an activity young children do on school yards and at home. Now it has a following in 80 countries recognized by the World Arm Wrestling Federation. Like any other sport, it has rules, competitor divisions, and other regulations.

          The divisions are male, female, and children who can compete. They are also divided by left arm and right arm including age. Children ages 12 or younger compete in a sub junior division. At age 18 one can qualify for a senior division . If a competitor is age 40 they can compete in the masters division. Veterans at age 50 can go onto the grand masters division. Competitors are weighed in to determine which weight class to go in.  The story of women in the sport reveals challenges for acceptance. Women just like other sports were at time largely excluded.Not anymore, because this small sport is seeing some women become interested. It seems to be happening in the most unlikely places. Debbie Banaian  a longtime arm wrestler began promoting and teaching the sport at the University of New Hampshire. There she teaches and challenges students in the sport.

deb-banaian-nhpr-01_0
This Woman’s Mission? To Get Other Women to Arm Wrestle

When Debbie was starting out it was sometimes difficult to find other female competitors. Many times she was the only woman competing in tournaments. She began to use the internet to form a Facebook group called Female Arm Wrestlers United. This helped generate interest from women around the USA. Debbie admits there continues to be much opposition from women’s participation in the sport and at times the exchanges become vituperative. Women who compete in the world arm wrestling league are only now getting the same pay. It has been promised in 2017, but this seems questionable. Women get limited air time on television and Steve Kaplan claims their is a lack of interest. The sport in general is not mainstream, so it is up to organizers in the federation to promote it. That is the key to advancing women competitors  and the sport .

    Arm wrestling has equipment, uniform qualifications, and a basic set up. Competitions can be done either standing or sitting. A table for a standing match is required to be at least 40 inches from the floor. Competitions that are seated have a table of 28 inches. The other dimensions of the table include one inch and six inch pegs. The table is 36 inches across and 26 inches deep with the two pegs. The pegs are placed one inch around the edge. Arm wrestlers put their elbows on a two inch pad, which will be two inches away from their opposite edges. Clothing regulations are simple. For an international competition one must have a uniform that identifies their country. Then sleeveless or short sleeve shirts are the only ones allowed in competition. Hats and blue jeans are restricted in contests. Wrap supports and bandages are permitted. People with long hair has to be pilled back and restrained. Rings cannot be worn during competition. The hand set up requires both competitors to have a palm to palm grip with the the thumb and knuckles  visible.  The gripped hams must be level and straight. Your shoulders are required to be square to the table. The hand that is free must grip the pegs on the table. There is a one minute grip up and the referee will then adjust the opponents hands and signal the start of the match.

      Arm wrestling has a set of rules that determines who wins and loses. To win an arm wrestler  must force their opponent’s hand down on the pad. Committing two fouls in a match can lead to disqualification. Failing to show up the arm wrestling table when you are called also results in a foul.

armwrest

aw-1-5

Having an injury during the mach that is so debilitating that one can no longer go on means that last arm wrestler remaining wins. There are fouls that are prevalent in matches. Bending the wrist is considered a foul and dangerous. Lifting the elbow off the table in a vertical direction also is a violation of rules. It gives a competitor an unfair advantage. Slipping out of the grip of the wrestle also gets a competitor demerits. Allowing the shoulders to extend past the center also will be punished. Behavioral misconduct will also be reprimanded. If arm wrestlers can avoid these fouls they can easily advance in competition.

         There are many muscles and parts of the body that are used in arm wrestling. The majority  of  mechanical use comes from the upper body. The muscles of the forearm, the movements of the hand, shoulders, back, chest, and stomach. Having a strong grip is critical to arm wrestling . The forearm muscles contribute to keeping the arm stable on a table.

125198-120-1af4bedb

It is not just muscle tissue that contributes, but ligaments and tendons.  Tendons act as anchors to bones and muscles. Ligaments are responsible for linking bones to other bones . Bigger tendons and ligaments provide more power. The tendons of the arm include the pollicis longus, pollivus brevis, carpi radialis brevis, carpi radialis longus, and common extensor. The major muscles used in arm wrestling are the biceps and triceps. The muscle fibers work together in recruitment to stabilize the arm and produce force. An arm wrestler can move their challenger’s arm toward them manipulating leverage.

863668923 The shoulders and back also play a role. The deltoid  and latissimus dorsi contribute to adding more power to an arm wrestler. Using some of the back requires using some rotation of the body. When an opponent is being eased to defeat this use of  the back is designed to provide more force from another area. This takes pressure off the arm. Arm wrestling although it looks simple seems to have an vast  understanding of biomechanics of the muscles. The understanding of leverage and physics also contributes to techniques developed over the years.

back-muscles

707336899

 The surprising element of arm wrestling is that it does involve the abdominals. The tightening of the abdominal muscles allows the body to summon strength from the core during a match. This time becomes valuable to allow energy to be focused on the arm. Another contributor to power in arm wrestling is the pectoral muscles. This seems more obvious, because the arms are connected to the shoulders of the body.

         One question arises when examining arm wrestling is can a woman beat a man at arm wrestling? There are elements of sexual dimorphism that make it a challenge. However, it should be noted that arm wrestling is not purely based on strength. Technique is important. It is possible that a physically weaker person could win an arm wrestling match if they have a particular method utilizing leverage and biomechanical function. Men have more upper body strength and their hands are larger than women’s. Arm width increases in men after puberty.Larger tendons and ligaments also contribute to strength. Denser bones are also essential. Therefore if a woman is attempting to arm wrestle a man technique can sometimes make up for the gap in strength.

Solely being reliant on brute strength will not always win matches. Jill Mills arm wrestles in a video from six years ago and wins one out of three matches. It is clear that she is stronger than them, but has no technique in her arm wrestling attempts. The men here however seem to know how to use leverage and power simultaneously. It is dubious that these three men could lift cars like Jill does. This demonstrates how people train differently for particular sports. It would not be impossible for a woman to win at arm wrestling against a man. Sarah Backman has done it before.She was an arm wrestling champion and beat many men at arm wrestling through both technique and strength.

If there were to be a theoretical match between Jill Mills and Sarah Backman, the outcome would be clear. Backman would win an arm wrestling match due to her technique. The 2011 match posted above shows her arm wrestling a man and winning. Even though he has the larger  hands and bigger upper body his technique is not as good. It has only been recently that women have become involved in the sport so that could influence the performance gap. However, biology is still a factor in performance.

       It should be noted that this sport does pose some health risks to the arms. This can be avoided by intelligent training and strengthening the tendons of the arm. The elbow can be vulnerable to strain and aches. That is also common in golfers and tennis players due to repetitive motion. The stain on biceps, triceps, and the elbow can lead to tendonitis. This condition is inflammation of a tendon or severe irritation.

man-and-woman-arm-wrestle A common arm wrestling injury is known as lateral epicondylitis. This colloquially is referred to as tennis elbow. Damage occurs from over use of the extensor  muscles. starting at the lateral  epicondylar in the distal humerus region. Joints and the elbows of the arm can be sensitive to  pressure. There are ways to prevent elbow injuries. It has been recommended that doing jumping jacks and a ten minute warm up can be a method of preventing injuries. Most injuries can be solved by either rest or medication. It is rare that surgery will be required to solve a elbow problem from arm wrestling. Strengthening the muscles is key, which means traditional weight lifting can help.

2422222

25465_img-php4_123_863lo  There also is the problem of shoulder pain . Arm wrestling does require the use of the shoulders. The strain puts pressure on the genohumeral joint. It is a ball and socket like structure attaching the arm to the actual shoulder. This joint is located between the humerus and the scapula. This structure allows for the arm to do rotation like movements . Cartilage will act as a padded structural support between bones and joints. Over use then become the main cause of  shoulder pain. The cartilage is thin and without it bone would grind upon bone.

kashma-maharaj-11  Shoulder pain can be treated in numerous ways. Applying heat for 20 minutes to the effected shoulder can help. Applying a cold ice pack on injured the injured shoulder within a span of 48 hours can reduce inflammation. It should be done within the first 15 minutes of pain. Never apply heat immediately after the pain, because this will cause inflammation. Doing this will allowing for a longer arm wrestling career. This sport is not major and rarely gets coverage on television. It is possible than in the future this could change. AMC briefly had a reality show called Game of Arms, which followed arms wrestlers on their journey through training and contests.  It lasted  one season in 2014 and initially it had about 1 million viewers. Game of Arms was going to be renewed for a second season, but TV executives at AMC thought it was better they focus on their fictional drama programs instead. Although it did not see major success, it did give the sport some mainstream exposure. This is the challenge for smaller and underground sports. They do not have the sponsorship, corporate, and public relations backing that more mainstream sports have. It has the potential to grow and expand across the world. Women’s participation can help and could generate mainstream interest. The great thing about arm wrestling is that it does not require special sports equipment or uniforms. Anyone can have a match anywhere without going to an arena.

Further Reading

Harris, Rob. “What Muscles Are Worked Out in Arm Wrestling?”LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 06 Feb. 2014. Web. 08 Oct. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/442511-what-muscles-are-worked-out-in-arm-wrestling/&gt;.

Emerson, Heather. “Shoulder Pain From Arm Wrestling.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 08 Oct. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/411999-shoulder-pain-from-arm-wrestling/&gt;.

inneweber, Collin. “Arm Wrestling & Elbow Pain.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 08 Oct. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/131341-arm-wrestling-elbow-pain/&gt;.

Howard, Michelle. “Arm Wrestling Rules & Regulations.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 22 Aug. 2015. Web. 08 Oct. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/422830-arm-wrestling-rules-regulations/&gt;.

Arm Wrestling