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dagas_isa  -- writing under my very favorite icon of hers -- had an interesting and thoughtful post comparing Yuna and Nao of Liar Game. Much thinky thoughts were posted.

However, I must snip out this paragraph and frame it on the wall, because it's so obvious, and yet I never quite crystallized the thought:

Plus, Spira appears much bigger in the sense of gender equality than our world is. As far as I can tell, there's really no intentional sexism in the way that Spira's drawn out, and it's possible to find women incorporated in the military, sports, and in the religion. That is, any sexism in X isn't so much within Spira, as it is in the people who produced it.

Purple emphasis mine, of course.

So yeah. We have our Lucils and our Donas and our Elmas and our Lulus and our random blitzers and Shelinda the Token Doormat. We have rather more male than female characters being movers and shakers within the storyline. We have Unnamed Mother Syndrome for Rikku, Yuna, Tidus and Seymour. But in the world itself, as opposed to the cast we happen to bump into, it appears that women might pop up in any role.

Except. Deflation time. I see no female maester, no female leader of any group from Al Bhed to Ronso, until we get LeBlanc in X-2, who is not the most flattering leader-figure. Maybe Spiran women can be in any role -- military, religious, sports -- but there is still a glass ceiling?  Or do we blame that on game designers' allocation of PC/NPC roles?

It still looks to me like it would be a lot easier for Lucil to make maester (or meyvin) than it would be for a woman in our world to get signed as a free agent in Major League Baseball or acquire "President" as a job title.

Also, Bechdel Test. Flying Colors. There are conversations [not about men] between all female PCs, and between a number of NPCs and PCs. (Even the Marshmallow of Yevon).

This post is tangentially related to the whole "why are women not being written in fanfic" conversation being carried out in some other fandoms. One thing our canon has which some fandoms do not: Women. Lots. In many different roles.

Cf: LoTR(sigh)
 

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
dagas_isa
Feb. 1st, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
Except. Deflation time. I see no female maester, no female leader of any group from Al Bhed to Ronso, until we get LeBlanc in X-2, who is not the most flattering leader-figure. Maybe Spiran women can be in any role -- military, religious, sports -- but there is still a glass ceiling? Or do we blame that on game designers' allocation of PC/NPC roles?

I'd blame this on the designers, personally. Just because, in the sense of Spira as a world, there's no sense that people like Yuna, Dona, Lucil, Lulu, etc. are particularly unusual in being women in their roles even though there's a lack of female group leaders within Yevon (among other places).

Or in other words, the fact that the leaders of Ye Old Oppressive Religion are men seems to be less for institutionalized or cultural reasons (though I admit they could exist), and more for the reasons that in this world, it's hard to imagine that the leader of an organized religion could be female. And that women would be nearly as harsh and repressive as the maesters of Yevon are.

I can't speak for the Al Bhed except to say, if Sin had not been destroyed, and the Al Bhed more or less integrating into the larger Spiran society, I think Rikku had a much better chance of becoming succeeding Cid as leader than Brother.

And I'm tempted to give the Ronso a pass in my head-canon, just because I can really see them having well-defined, but equally valued, male and female roles, but really only getting to see the male roles because that's Kimahri's position. It's sad that one of the neatest things about the Ronso is that they are not a 'Single Gender Beast Race.'
auronlu
Feb. 1st, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
Or in other words, the fact that the leaders of Ye Old Oppressive Religion are men seems to be less for institutionalized or cultural reasons (though I admit they could exist), and more for the reasons that in this world, it's hard to imagine that the leader [[of an organized religion]] could be female.

I was thinking that, and then worrying I might be mentally cheating in order justify my "yay she's right the FFX world is a GREAT sandbox because women can be anything!" squee. I think you're right, but I could see someone pointing to that and saying that we can't just pretend an aspect of the game is OOC when we want it to be OOC. Not that it really matters; I just like the idea of canon being gender-neutral so that not only is there plenty of canon-opportunity for women (which, let's face it, makes things easier to write, since one doesn't have to change the world to write women and/or get Mary Sue accusations as I sometimes did in LOTR fanfic), but also since women characters are everywhere in canon, they are also everywhere in fanwork, except on rare occasions when an author decides to focus on 2 or 3 guys without much reference to context/world (i.e. Braska, Jecht, Auron, and even then the wives may get enough recognition that the lack of canon names gets in the way).

[[ Holy run-on sentence, Batman. ]]

And that women would be nearly as harsh and repressive as the maesters of Yevon are.

I suddenly think "Drace!" and "Yunalesca!" which is funny since they're the same VA in the English dub. Drace in the FFX world as a maester, hmmm. (Magister, [pseudo-latin] maester, praeter, consul...gee, why is this sounding familiar?)

"Single gender beast race." Er. Hey. Point. Another thing I hadn't noticed enough, except in a cynical, "Oh, wow, they designed a race of [lesbian?] playboy bunnies as fanservice" sort of way. Moogles, moombas, whatever-Red-XII-is, Garif, Viera... drat. At least IX had one. (Freya's people, whose name I'm blanking on.)

Edited at 2010-02-01 05:07 pm (UTC)
trekqueen
Feb. 1st, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
I recall our discussion in the early days of your LHAD about making Shelinda a Grand Maester and how she's become so much more than the meek and timid person she was before. That she took Yuna's advice to heart in somewhat of a role model sort of way in that she looked up to her and stuck to her dreams and faith. i remember you were excited about that development. :)



BTW - since we talked about Xena before in your other entries on this similar topic - there's a Xena convention at the LAX Marriott this weekend. I'm probably going Friday. :D
auronlu
Feb. 1st, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
Alas, my Shelinda turned out to be conservative and the Party of No, which made her appear to be a twit and nothing more. She is actually a good leader in LHAD, but her evacuating-a-whole-damned-city-in-a-day role doesn't appear in the main plot. (Having seen what happens in RL when a city is hit by natural disaster, her abilities there appear rather godlike).


And yay, enjoy the Xenacon! I c/wouldn't go since I've only seen one episode of Xena (and mostly just remember Xena and Gabi making out in a river, and buck!nekkid Xena fighting off a band of robbers with a string of fish, which caused me to forget the rest of the episode). But Xena is a glorious thing, despite the endingFAIL, and someday I should get copies to watch.
trekqueen
Feb. 1st, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
if I get them, I'll make copies for you. :D I know the episode you mean with the fish haha. What is funny.... Lucy Lawless is in a new show on Starz (like HBO or Showtime, we don't get it boooo) called Spartacus: Blood and Sand. They showed the first two episodes as a sneakpeek on the Directv special channel and Lucy Lawless gets nekkid and bares it all for the camera... including a sex scene. O.o I would've picked someone else for her hubby on the show, I keep expecting to see the dimwitted brother from The Mummy series of movies to suddenly break out and do what I know he will do.

Maybe just for these recent talks on strong female women, I'll do a Shelinda ficlet. :D
euphonious_glow
Feb. 1st, 2010 09:55 pm (UTC)
FFX is my personal favorite of all FF worlds (although 12 is a close second, and more expansive/political). I think the characters are interesting, and I like how their backstories aren't completely revealed in the unrealistic way that it happened in 7, 8, and 9. Instead, what we learn about them feels more natural. And I also do think that women have a larger role, though obviously the game faces issues.

Personally, I think Spira did have its sexism. I have a ton of personal fanon about this. Such as Lucil being the first woman who made it into the Crusaders. Magic was considered more of a woman's thing, and black magic was regarded with suspicion especially. Then again, the blitzball teams have women. I imagine that Yevon would be a lot like traditional Christianity in its conservatism of gender roles, but the Al Bhed are more gender-egalitarian (btw, I think Nhadala counts as a female leader). The Youth League is a rebellion against social norms, so they also have females in equal roles as men. New Yevon, not so much. Male summoners are actually quite rare.

I consider FFX to be a woman's story. It's all about Yuna, Yunalesca, Lulu, and Rikku, IMO. Not that the men aren't important, of course =)
auronlu
Feb. 2nd, 2010 03:25 am (UTC)
Hmmm. Hmmm hmm hmm.

It's so easy to see the same material in different ways, like those optical illustions that can be two faces or a cup.

The lack of female maesters jumps out at me, and I recall a couple mentions of High Priests but no High Priestess references (although there are nuns and monks at each temple). Good call on New Yevon being more guys than not. There are many nuns/priestesses in New Yevon, but they're mostly outside the Court of Yevon, wandering around the promenade, instead of in the inner sanctum/Court area with Baralai.

However.

Two items to consider.

"Lucil being the first woman who made it into the Crusaders."

In canon, Lady Yocun was a Crusader before she became High Summoner. That was 100 years before the game. Also, I'm not sure if this was deliberate or an accident, but her guardian appears to have been a warrior monk. I keep meaning to go back and write about Yocun and this woman I have named "Lilith" for no good reason:



There are few Crusader NPCs you can talk to in the game who refer to Lady Yocun: a Crusader on the Mi'ihen highroad who's hoping to emulate her, and a few Crusaders in the Gorge in the Calm Lands who say that was where Lady Yocun trained, making it "sacred to the Crusaders."

It's possible Yocun could be unusual as well.

Or, it's possible the Crusaders could always have been unorthodox in this, as in other things. Lord Mi'ihen had to walk to Bevelle to head off excommunication, and the Crimson Blades changed their names to Crusaders and agreed to report to Yevon. But obviously the Crusaders were always problematic: that's why Kinoc and Seymour used Operation Mi'ihen to "prune" them. The Youth League arose largely from disaffected Crusaders. All of which makes me think the Crusaders, and then the Youth League, may be more egalitarian than Yevon.

Then again, Shelinda gets appointed Captain of the Guard, evidently in charge of the warrior monks in Bevelle, towards the end of FFX. And the presence of women on professional sports teams is something unheard of in our world. (Although none of them are team captains.)

Re: Male summoners being "actually quite rare."

Problem: more of the High Summoners are male than female. If more summoners were women than men, yet men have a higher success rate, that would irk me. Small sample size, of course.

I still lean towards dagas_isa's idea that the world itself has women in military, religious, all other professions, but the game designers tend towards typical Final Fantasy game mechanics in which women are mages/healers more than fighters.

But YMMV. I can see it both ways.

I agree with you about Nhadala being something of a leader, and originally had that in my post before snipping it out. I see her as analogous to Lucil: in a position of authority with people under her command, but not at the top of her group's hierarchy. That may be wrong; I'm thinking Cid is still the Al Bhed elder in X-2, but one could argue that the Al Bhed have fractured into splinter groups, and she's the leader of one of them.

Apropos of nothing, I wish we knew the name of Kimahri's girlfriend. She popped up in FFX at Luca Stadium a few times (if one equates sprites, which is dicey). Blue hair. Gives backrubs. That's all we know, meh.
euphonious_glow
Feb. 2nd, 2010 04:38 am (UTC)
Ah. You do make excellent points. Consider this my lack of canon knowledge showing. I haven't played the game in quite a while =( The way I saw it, male summoners are not as common, yet they hold the positions of power in Yevon. Perhaps the Youth League, Crusaders, and blitzball teams are part of a growing modern movement that Yevon is holding out against.

How much to credit the developers with is of course important.
auronlu
Feb. 2nd, 2010 04:49 am (UTC)
Hey, it happens...
I didn't figure out that point about Lady Yocun either, until I'd already written fanfic making her a priestess and a nun.

Interesting how my own assumptions paralleled ones that the game designers often make about women in FF games. Except -- wait, the assumption was mine, even though her statue has a sword!

I only noticed my mistake while compiling the FF script, when I bumped into a few Crusader NPCs that mention her.

Here's an odd bit of trivia: despite all the people calling her lady Yocun (and her sprite being this woman), the crazy old coot in Besaid village calls her Lord Yocun. Oops, game designers! :)

Canon is never entirely consistent.
the_sweet
Feb. 2nd, 2010 10:04 am (UTC)
Thanks for reminding me of Yocun! I forgot about her and her guardian!

Also, I'd say the Al Bhed definitely seem to have splintered off. There's Gippal's Machine Faction back at the former Djose Temple, Nhadala out in the Sanubia Sands, Cid moping in the Thunder Plains, and Brother, of course, on the Celsius with the Gullwings.

Also, the success rate of known High Summoners is actually dead-even:
Yunalesca, Yocun, Yuna are the females (3)
Ohalland, Gandof, and Braska are the males (3).

These are just the named High Summoners in-game; there are plenty of would-be and former summoners, but they appear to be equal in number, too:
Dona, Belgemine, and Ginnem are the females (3)
Seymour, Father Zuke, and Isaaru are the males (3).

Considering Sin's not exactly consistent with how often it comes back, I suppose it's possible that there is one or more summoners not on this list that journeyed and either failed (died or gave up) or succeeded but, for whatever reason, were not mentioned in the annals of Spira's history in-game like the others. I don't think becoming a Summoner was meant to appear as an easy task, but for a whole world of Spira, I imagine there's a lot more failed or would-be summoners out there, right?

Also, do we know if Kimahri's girlfriend was maybe one of the Ronso blitzball players? There were a few females on the team, and I know you can view their names....
the_sweet
Feb. 2nd, 2010 09:49 am (UTC)
Was Lucil really the first female Crusader? I ask only because I thought there were previous female Crusaders who were either Guardians or Summoners, but maybe they were Crusaders and Summoners/Guardians, but not female? Hmmm....
samuraiter
Feb. 2nd, 2010 12:35 am (UTC)
Hmm. I do believe that the other posters have covered all of the relevant points. *thinks* I still find the original FFT to be the most egalitarian of the FF worlds, since the Jobs all have male and female variants, and (especially) since many of the most important characters are female despite the society itself being nearly as patriarchal as the medieval 'real world' society it mirrors.
auronlu
Feb. 2nd, 2010 01:33 am (UTC)
Gotta play FFT someday! Thanks for reminding me.
ravenclaw_devi
Feb. 2nd, 2010 10:09 am (UTC)
Speaking of egalitarian FF worlds, IMHO Final Fantasy XI (the online one) does pretty well also. For one, females and males of the same race/job have equal stats; there's no "men are stronger physically and women are stronger magically." There are females in leadership positions - Curilla, the leader of the Temple Knights; the Star Sybil, Head of State of Windurst; Tzee Xicu, the leader/"living deity" of the Yagudo; Eshan'tarl who governs Jeuno in Kam'lanaut's and Eald'narche's absence, to name but a few.
ravenclaw_devi
Feb. 2nd, 2010 10:52 am (UTC)
Regarding "no female Maester," I think that's because Yevon is supposed to be the Spiran version of Oppressive Organised Religion, and one way of conveying that notion (to us, humans from Earth) is to make it appear patriarchal.

I think this is also why we're inclined to assume that there's more female than male summoners (though that's actually not the case, thanks the_sweet for pointing it out) - sending women off as sacrificial lambs is just what an Oppressive Religion would do, yes?
auronlu
Feb. 2nd, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)
"I think this is also why we're inclined to assume that there's more female than male summoners (though that's actually not the case...)"

I mentioned the tons-of-male-summoners above as well.

On the one hand, we can acknowledge the things we don't see in Spira: no female maesters at this particular time, though 4 is a very small sample size on which to project 1000 years of history.

On the other hand, if we start making assumptions like "summoners are usually female, because women are sacrificial lambs in most religions" in flat contradiction of the world of Spira actually presented to us: Braska, Isaaru, Ohalland, Gandof -- then we're in danger of distorting the world of Spira with real-world sexist stereotypes that aren't there.

I hope I didn't phrase that too strongly, but, well.

Also, I'm not gonna assume that Oppressive Organized Religion = no women in upper echelons. That seems like it's projecting western patriarchal monotheistic religions onto religions that may be structured differently. (Cf: the Vestal Virgins, who despite our assumptions about virgin-roles were often the most politically powerful and publicly visible women in Rome.)

I read Yevon as a critique of Christianity, but I may have been projecting; I wonder if non-westerners read Yevon as closer to Confucianism or some of the state religions out there, which could be very different. The temples with all the aeons (most of them elemental and/or nonhuman) make me think of Shinto.

My point is that I want to use dagas_isa's approach: look at the world of Spira and analyze what we actually see, rather than importing sexist/western/religious assumptions from our world that don't fit.

So, on the side of "maybe a glass ceiling?" we have:
-- No female maesters
-- No female leaders of Ronso, Guado
-- No women inside the inner court of New Yevon
-- Team captains currently all male

All of these a very limited sample size: four maesters out of thousands of years of history, E.G.

Vs:

-- A woman leading the Djose Knights, elite force of the Crusaders
-- Plenty of women in the military, both Crusaders (unorthodox) and Warrior Monks (more orthodox)
-- Every temple has nuns' wing, monks' wing equally balanced
-- Floorplan not coincidentally mirrors the massive figures of Yunalesca and Zaon facing each other across the Cloister of Trials entrance, apparently the most revered figures in the temple
-- Aeons' fayth are sometimes male, sometimes female, and at least one appeared to be a priestess
-- Priests' robes showing different ranks, priestess' robes showing different ranks, similar insignia
-- integrated professional sports teams with women free agents (if you follow real-world sports, this is HUGE)
-- Nhadala, LeBlanc leading factions
-- Equal numbers of male and female summoners (Braska, Isaaru, Zuke, Gandof, Ohalland, Yu Yevon vs Yuna, Dona, Belgemine, Yocun, Lenne, Yunalesca(?))
-- A nun appointed to Captain of the Guard
-- women may be guardians (and not always to female summoners; Zuke has Lulu as his best guardian)
-- Bechdel test
-- people talk about women by referring to their roles/jobs, not as women... e.g. people in Besaid telling Tidus to go to Lulu for advice because she's the best guardian, people reacting to Yuna as a summoner not as a woman, the gate guard at Mi'ihen saying Lucil is currently the best of the knights, or (in X-2) both Baralai and Nooj reacting to Yuna as High Summoner or as a sphere hunter.

In sum, there are some signs of a glass ceiling, based on very limited evidence/sample sizes. There are many signs of equality of the sexes in all parts of Spira's public and professional spheres.

Edited at 2010-02-02 04:57 pm (UTC)
auronlu
Feb. 2nd, 2010 05:56 pm (UTC)
BUT ... GETTING BACK to original topic
Regarding the possible glass ceiling, I want to restate dagas_isa's thesis which started this whole thread, since it's gotten somewhat lost in this very fascinating discussion:

"I'd blame this on the designers, personally. Just because, in the sense of Spira as a world, there's no sense that people like Yuna, Dona, Lucil, Lulu, etc. are particularly unusual in being women in their roles even though there's a lack of female group leaders within Yevon (among other places).

Or in other words, the fact that the leaders of Ye Old Oppressive Religion are men seems to be less for institutionalized or cultural reasons [within Spira] and more for the reasons that in this world, it's hard to imagine that the leader of an organized religion could be female."


and, her original post:

"Any sexism in X isn't so much within Spira, as it is in the people who produced it."

That's making some assumptions. However, it's making assumptions based on what we see of the culture within FFX, and the culture of Square-Enix. Which, despite having made some strides in portrayal of female characters, caters to some real-world biases which are problematic (e.g. "If we're going to have three female protagonists as our party, we must spend lots of time futzing with clothing changes and having them jiggle for the camera").

I can see the argument that no female maesters in game = indicative of in-game cultural norms. But I can also see dagas_isa's rebuttal of that argument. I'm split about 50/50 on it.

Edited at 2010-02-02 05:59 pm (UTC)
vieralynn
Feb. 4th, 2010 09:33 am (UTC)
I'm the LJ spamgirl tonight...
Found this and dagas_isa's post via ff_press.

FFX definitely passes the Bechdel Test.

(I wish there had been more Female-female interaction in FFXII because when it happened, it almost always passed Bechdel with flying colors. Women Talking To Women About World History and Political Current Events == Giant Win!)

Interesting how these two posts and their comments are making me rethink Yuna. I loved FFX's portrayal of women in the professional sphere. Women held positions similar to men, it was natural, end of story.

But, for some reason, Yuna sort of grated on me. Too much of the dutiful sacrificial lamb. Although lots of fans saw her as a strong character, I had trouble with how she was portrayed. BUT -- the big but -- if FFX isn't a sexist world (or not in the way our world is), then Yuna should be judged by her cultural standards. If women in Spira aren't bogged down by expectations of being the sacrificial lamb, then Yuna's role is powerful and my own biases are the problem.

Elsewhere, ellnyx and I have talked about what happens if FFX's story is played out with FFXII's cast or vice versa. Those convos were mostly spurred by comparisons of Yuna vs Ashe.

BTW, I was out and out relieved when Ashe didn't have a Yuna/Tidus in the lake romantic encounter. Even though oceans of fans complained about FFXII's lack of romantic subplots, I think a confirmed romance with Ashe/? would have ruined the story. It would have been a "Woman made whole by Man taking charge." Thankfully FFXII didn't go there.
auronlu
Feb. 5th, 2010 08:30 am (UTC)
Re: I'm the LJ spamgirl tonight...
Very much agreed that one of FFXII's strengths was that it skipped the "woman being made whole by a man" plot.

Yuna troubles me, but I feel she made her choices more based on the culture's expectations about children related to great fathers than on sexism. Seymour, Yuna, Rikku, even Tidus have parents-issues. It's particularly interesting in Spira, because many children do not remember their parents. Those that do seem to exist in the umbra of their illustrious predecessors.
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