There is a long history in media of inappropriate dress for woman on the battlefield. You can get a great list of examples over on TV Tropes on their Chainmail Bikini page. Today I will focus less on medieval examples, and instead focus on a few from sci-fi video games.
I bring up this issue for two reasons. The first is the inherent sexism in this practice. The primary goal of impractical dress is to emphasize the physical traits of the female character. This creates the impression that these traits are of primary importance. A character is a sex object first, a woman second, and maybe a warrior third. Objectification and second-class citizenship rolled into one.
The photo here is of Elena Ivanova from the video game Vanquish. She is the field support for the main character during the operation. While she is not a direct participant in the action, she operates at a local position relative to the conflict and could easily have been drawn into direction action. Yet she is wearing a military dress-style skirt, which the game continually emphasizes with low angle camera shots. There is no reason for her to be wearing said skirt. In such a field operation, pants would be far more appropriate.
Which leads to my next point. These kinds of outfits are terribly impractical. Impractical to the point of distracting me from the narrative. It breaks the verisimilitude of the experience, creating a barrier for immersion. Our next example comes from Killzone 2. Evelyn Batton is a scientist who joins the protagonist’s squad for a mission. As seen in the photo, she enteres the battlefield wearing a skirt, again not battlefield attire. This is made even worse by the location of the mission: a hostile, dusty desert. Even if it wasn’t a known combat zone, a skirt would not be appropriate clothing.
These outfit problem are relatively small problems. But Ivanova and Batton are pretty good characters, with Batton being the better presented of the two. Which is what makes the impractical outfits and sexual pandering that much more irritating. It would take so little effort to do, yet was not. Frustrating.
But there is hope. Even old dogs can learn new tricks. Gears of War, known for its macho-men in massive armor, is getting a frontline, gun welding woman in Anya Stroud, wearing armor comparable to the men. Since GoW3 isn’t out yet, I don’t know how Anya will be portrayed in the actual game. But the early shots show at least an attempt at equal presentation. Here’s hoping.
-That is all.