It makes sense for male and female clothing to be fitted differently. There are inherent physical differences that make it so that clothing should be made to be practical and comfortable for either sex. So, from a fit perspective, it makes sense that there should be some differences between men’s’ and women’s’ clothing.
It often seems that these differences, especially in video games and comics, do not exist for practical reasons. It seems that they exist to enforce gender roles; and make it more difficult to break free of the gender binary.
The idea of pants-for-boys and skirts-for-girls has not always been enforced as strictly as we might think. Most notably, in Scotland it was more practical for male soldiers to wear something differing from traditional trousers. Scotsmen wore kilts into battle and earned a fearsome reputation as “ladies from hell” amongst the Germans they fought. Perhaps they were so fearsome because their male anatomy was more comfortable in the loose fitting, free flowing kilt?
When it comes to the creation of female characters, the practicality of their outfits often seems to go out the window in favour of pleasing the cismale portion of the audience. While maintaining some typically-feminine elements in an outfit can help prove that anything feminine is not inherently weak, the opposite is done when an outfit or a suit of armour would limit a woman’s movement on the battlefield or make it more difficult for her to do her job.
Striking a balance is possible.
In the latest Wonder Woman movie, the protagonist’s outfit is perfectly adequate for what she needs to do. It provides her with freedom of movement and is perfect for her character. Her armour has various elements that cater to her fighting style, such as a leather skirt with strategic cut-outs to allow for her signature kicks.
Women can most certainly wear more masculine clothing, Wonder Woman’s clothing screams that femininity is not a weakness.
An important message for everyone, from little girls seeking empowerment, to men afraid to express traditionally feminine traits.
The state of female characters in video games and mainstream media as a whole is improving; there is still a long way to go in the design and features of most female characters. Mainstream video games often seem to adhere more strictly to the gender binary than most other forms of media and this is evident in their limited clothing options. In fact, when it comes to female characters who fight the same battles as men, what “armour” they have often offer very little protection whatsoever while hyper-sexualizing them; in reality, would be uncomfortable to fight in or would restrict their movement.
Mika, in Street Fighter V, is adequately clothed up to her knees. Past that, her designers covered up as little of the rest of her as possible. For a wrestler, it would be practical for her to wear tight-fitting clothing, but a thong and very little breast support, or coverage, would not be very comfortable in the middle of a wrestling match. It seems that Mika was created with an exclusively cismale audience in mind, despite the fact that this game was released in 2016 and we know that fighting games aren’t just played by one specific cohort of the population.
While there have been many steps in the right direction in recent years, we should continue to challenge the idea that anything feminine is weak; and demand that clothing and armour for female characters match what they would require in real life to offer adequate protection and freedom of movement.
With strong female characters comes an acceptance of feminine traits and ideas, making it more acceptable to do everything from expressing emotion to wearing pink.
Giving strong female characters the clothing designs they deserve benefits everyone.