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22 February 2008 @ 10:55 pm
They're not Lara Croft, but... they're okay  

I've heard it said that FF females are weak and one-dimensional. While I see their reasoning, I'd like to point out some of my observations on the former. I'm only going to refer to females from Final Fantasies 7 through 12, because they're the fandoms I'm most familiar with. I've only just begun playing 3 and 6, and haven't formed an opinion about their characters yet. These are only opinions, although I will try to present evidence from the games to justify them. I welcome any discussion, regardless of whether you agree or disagree.

Female characters have a lot of expectations pressed upon them by the fan community. I can't speak for males, but females seem to want to relate to and admire the female characters. FF is produced by Square-Enix, a Japanese company, and so their female characters are influenced by the traditions and beliefs of Japanese society, although they also want to appeal to a worldwide fanbase. When discussing female characters, several people seem to define them in two groups: dominant and submissive. According to them, the dominant types are women who are masculine in their ways, physical, and aggressive in personality or actions. The submissive types are meek, emotional, and maternal. Luckily, the majority of FF female characters do not seem to fit into either of these categories but are more realistic and complex, though they still do not achieve the complexities of the male characters. Forcing them into categories such as Fighter and Healer does not recognize their true potential as characters.

This brings me to my second point: physical strength as opposed to emotional strength. Now, I enjoy characters who can compete with the guys on a physical level, but female characters don't need to be butt-kicking Lara Crofts to be acceptable role models for girls. Several FF characters are dismissed as weak while still possessing emotional strength (strong conviction, determination, a positive outlook, etc). Also, some strong female characters are emotionally undecisive. To further illustrate this concept, I will show examples of female characters from each of the games.

Tifa -- physically strong. Emotionally insecure but brave. Connections to a male character. Sexualized.

Aerith -- physically weak. Has a strong resolve. Protected by a male character.

Yuffie -- physically strong. Emotionally immature.

Quistis -- physically strong. Intelligent and fairly emotionally healthy, yet insecure. Her emotions are affected by a male character. Stands up to a male character. Sexualized.

Rinoa -- physically neutral. Emotionally immature but has strength of will. Romantic relationship with a male character.

Edea -- physically weak. Has great mental powers. Needs a male knight.

Selphie -- physically neutral. Immature but confident and self-assured, except where romance is concerned.

Garnet -- physically weak. Emotionally mature and courageous. Romantic relationship with a male character.

Beatrix -- physically strong but cold in personality. Sexualized. Romantic relationship with a male character.

Freya -- Physically strong and emotionally mature. Sadness arises from feelings for a male character.

Yuna -- Physically weak (in first game). Emotionally mature and has strength of will, although it could be argued she is determined to finish her pilgrimage due to the brainwashing of Yevon. Romantic feelings for a male character and in a position of weakness due to a male character. In second game, gains physical abilities and becomes sexualized.

Lulu -- Physically weak. Emotionally mature and confident, but feels sorrow because of a male character.

Rikku -- Physically neutral and emotionally well-developed. Feelings for a male character.

Lucil -- Physically and emotionally strong. Becomes subordinate of male character in X-2.

Paine -- Physically strong but has emotional scars due to feelings for a male character.

Ashe -- Physically neutral. Has determination but motivation arises partly from past relationship with a male character. Receives protection from a male.

Penelo -- Physically neutral. Emotionally strong and confident. Maternal feelings for a male character.

Fran -- Physically and emotionally strong. Connections to a male character.

Drace -- Physically and emotionally strong. Connections to a male character.

As you can see, the female characters who exist above have certain common similarities. Women who are physically strong are made sexually attractive, yet they still retain a sense of innocence and self-doubt, and have an emotional connection to a male character. Those women who are weak physically are stronger emotionally, though they also have connections with a male character. This shows that just having physical strength is often not enough. However, having relationships with a male does not make them weak. This brings me to my next issue.

Yes, the females of FF are closely associated with males. Being emotionally reliant on another person is not necessarily weak. As long as the relationship is healthy and equal, emotional connections with others shows the emotional depth of that character. The exceptions of this are Tifa, Paine, and Quistis, whose emotional attachments are possibly needy and until they learn to let go of those attachments they will not fully be confident.

In terms of personality, a character does not have to be fiery and aggressive or a stoic ice queen to have strength of character. Having qualities such as kindness, sensitivity, and optimism (typically considered feminine traits) does not make the character stereotypical or weak. Yuna and Penelo have these qualities, and yet they are some of the most emotionally mature and healthy characters in their respective games. Yuna has compassion for others, but also has a firm resolve and possesses great courage. Penelo cares for Vaan in a brotherly way, yet pointedly tells Basch in the Sandsea that she is not as weak as she looks. She's brave and calm and one of the most balanced characters. Lulu and Fran are emotionally strong, but their chilly personalities isolate others.

A woman should not have to possess masculine traits to be considered strong. Lucil is one of my favorite female characters because she is a leader but also has compassion for those under her command and treats them with kindness. This is a contrast to Beatrix, whose sense of duty is admirable but leads her to blindly follow her queen, and Ashe, who recklessly goes on even while her actions may cause suffering for others.

In terms of appearance, characters seem to be overtly sexual when physically strong (Tifa, Quistis, Beatrix, Fran), more innocent when weak (Yuna, Rinoa, Penelo), and childish when emotionally immature (Yuffie, Rikku). The sexualized characters obviously are meant to attract the male fanbase, and perhaps the reasoning is that men will not accept a strong female character (a threat) unless she is physically attactive and therefore a sex object. The more innocent types seem to appeal to females, demonstrating the virtues of emotional fortitude and dedication. However, I don't believe it's bad that the characters are sexualized. Square-Enix does it with the male characters too, so they just want to create attractive characters in general.

In summary, Square-Enix's characters could be worse. There are some characters who are admirable in their physical and emotional strengths (Lucil, Drace). Just because a character is physically strong does not mean she is emotionally confident, yet her process of development makes her more interesting and by no means implies that she is a flat character. Neither is it a bad thing if she is physically attractive. Having feminine traits such as kindness does not make a female character weak, nor do her relationships with men. For instance, Rinoa is immature, but she has the ability to form healthy relationships with others and possesses confidence in herself despite her undeveloped understanding of the world.

In the end, your experiences and beliefs will affect how you see the characters, and so certain combinations of virtues and flaws will either appeal to you or repel you. In short, give the FF females a chance and appreciate them for the positive qualities that they do have.

Inspired by a previous post on this community, regarding female characters being defined by romance and why I don't think it makes them less valid.
intradependencyintradependency on February 23rd, 2008 07:01 am (UTC)
...Interesting how FF's representation of females seems to be maturing as the games develop further. Looking forward to how FFXIII's female lead (the first one?) fits into this pattern.

Do you think Aeris is possibly one of the strongest female characters in FF, even though she's bound by the archetypal 'sacrificial female' role? She's nice. She's nice in a world where niceness is meaningless, changes nothing, where Tifa and Cloud and everyone is so full of hate and cursing, and she stays nice. Nice is hard...

...and correspondingly, as FF's females develop emotional depth and maturity, FF's representation of males seems to be moving away from the idealised male. Strength isn't everything, wit isn't everything, a big sword is, ah, actually - completely meaningless.

Can you tell I've wanted to pick up this line of thought for a long time? ;)

Much pondering on my part. Thanks for writing!
Bethanyeuphonious_glow on February 23rd, 2008 10:29 pm (UTC)
I think FFXII's characters in general are more complex than previous games. They feel more realistic, much less superpowered. Even Basch does not have the godly abilities that Cloud had.

Very interesting thought about Aeris. I've always considered her to be a strong character. She has to be strong, to be able to remain cheerful living in a bleak place like the Midgar slums. She's had misfortunes in her life and yet doesn't blame anyone, not even Shinra, for them. She can still trust in people, and smile despite being a young woman in hopeless circumstances. I'd never thought about the other characters being full of hate before, but you're right, Aeris is definitely a contrast to them.

I believe Balthier is a good example of how the male character type has changed, from Cloud's and Barret's, well, emotional immaturity, to the sky pirate's cleverness and eloquence. Even Vaan is not quite the cheerful bishounen type of say, Tidus and Zidane. He has a kind of darkness to him. And Basch is very gentle despite being the big hitter in the party. As a whole I believe FFXII's characters are more realistic than previous games, and with the introduction of maces and katanas and bows, even the girls can hit for a lot of damage.
hachuruihachurui on February 25th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
I know the essay is only referencing FFs 7 through 12, but I just wanted to comment that I think Terra (FF6) is the first female lead in the series, although like FF12 the cast is an ensemble. Another thing about Terra is that she's also not romantically linked (to Edgar's dismay) to anyone else in the cast (unlike Celes).
Viera Lynn sings of Calico Things: Fran_flowersvieralynn on February 23rd, 2008 07:24 am (UTC)
Very interesting and I hope this sparks a lot of conversation.

As far as the evolution of the female characters, FFXII takes more of an ensemble cast approach for the main characters by making Vaan (the supposed main character since he's who you control in towns) more of an observer who becomes heroic at the end. Ashe is clearly one of the main characters (and Balthier, the self proclaimed leading man, the anti-hero with a mysterious story that slowly unfolds).

What I find interesting about Ashe is that although she is protected by male characters---first Vossler, in the resistance, and then Basch---she does not seem to defer to them or seek self meaning or self identity through them. We don't get to see enough of her relationship with Vossler but it is fair to say that she trusts his experience, wisdom, and judgment. What I find more interesting is how Ashe acts around Basch (presumably equally experienced as Vossler). She does not defer to him, she feels the freedom to disagree with him, such as the scene on the Ozmone plains just before heading toward Golmore. Furthermore, while Basch is her appointed protector, one can argue that he never "saves" Ashe from anything but merely helps. For example, Vossler is the one who seemed to have the actual plan for freeing Ashe from Ghis (although he needed Basch&crew's muscle power); and Vaan is the person who physically helps Ashe try to destroy the sun cryst just before Reddas takes over.

I'd posit that Ashe really isn't defined at all by the men in the game but that some of the men are defined through her.
Bethany: [tenten]; reacheuphonious_glow on February 23rd, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC)
You've made some interesting points. I would be interested to see what Ashe's personality was like before Rasler's death, and how she changed in the years she had to live among men in the sewers. I think she would have been determined to learn how to wield a sword, and she would have also learned to conceal her emotions. She wanted to earn the Resistance's trust, and she probably felt that she had to acquire more masculine traits like aggressiveness and reason in order for them to respect her. I wonder how she will adjust to life in the palace once again.

The point of my essay was trying to show that a woman doesn't have to have typical "masculine" traits to be strong or a good leader (just look at Lucil).
intradependencyintradependency on February 24th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
(hi sarasa!)

On masculine traits - yes. They shouldn't be necessary. Lucil is a good example of female leadership - Ashe, I'd hesitate, is perhaps a bad one (whilst still a good leader). Feminism wasn't about women having the freedom to be like men, because men are trapped in their own string of expectation/weakness. Feminism wanted women to have liberty from any imposed constraint or expectation.

Ashe ultimately is a Ruler - and this meant her character conforms to certain male expectations of rulership. Men such as Basch can only define themselves through her if she meets this expectation of certain masculine traits. (Think about how much Basch detests the thought of using the stone - does magick=feminine?) Ashe is, perhaps, the 'weakest' female character in FFXII because she has so little about her that is female. (She completely misses Balthier's interest? ;) - or am I getting into headcanon now?)

Fran, on the other hand, freed herself of the expectations firstly of the wood-viera, defying her role there. Then she entered the world, and defied the role of 'world-viera', aloof, cold, alone, by pairing up with Balthier. And then, just when we think she's still some kind of cold character, she contradicts even Balthier's expectations of her and strongly hints at loving him. A typical female role, perhaps, but with the enough freedom to have chosen such?

And, again on the whole maturation of FFXII along these lines, we as players have the ability to customise the whole party as we will, and without the constraints of FFX's sphere grid. I get kicks out of Penelo and Basch as my tanks; Balthier and Ashe as mages, Fran and Vaan as healers. All (apart from Basch) completely not their typical roles. ;)
Bethanyeuphonious_glow on February 24th, 2008 03:27 am (UTC)
I've noticed that magick does seem to be typically a feminine trait as far as FF is concerned. The only exceptions to this are Vivi and Arc. Perhaps this is because magick=mystery, and females are considered more mysterious and spiritual than males. Ashe does seem to rebel against her feminine aspects. Maybe she sees feminity as weakness, or gained that view from living with the Resistance for so long. Or she may feel that she must be masculine so men will admire her, because leaders who show feminine qualities are not considered as capable. Perhaps by adopting masculine traits she is renouncing her role as a sex object, so that she will gain respect. It's easier to be "one of the guys" when they no longer see you as sexually desirable (though I still believe the words masculine and feminine are obsolete because I don't feel the sexes are born with inherent traits).

Fran is quite wonderful, and I think it shows strength of character that she loves a hume, when the viera are so arrogant and proud. She broke free from her race's expectations and did what she wanted with her life.
Viera Lynn sings of Calico Thingsvieralynn on February 24th, 2008 05:19 am (UTC)
Yes, and it is interesting that Vivi isn't very human looking either. Instead, his appearance is very cute, small, and childlike.

I definitely think Ashe sees femininity as a weakness (more about that in a comment below). I'm not sure that adopting masculine traits is something she did to renounce her role as a sex object. Heck, some of those men strike me as sex objects from my female point of view. Basch, either button your shirt or start dancing as you strip! ;)

I think that Ashe decided that being "feminine" is a weakness. When the game opens, she is presented in a very feminine light: a beautiful glowing bride dressed in soft, light colors and her facial expressions are very sweet and soft. After Rasler died, her father died, and her kingdom fell she might have decided that everything about being feminine was bad and weak. In doing such, she tossed out both the weak and strong parts of femininity.
Viera Lynn sings of Calico Things: Fran_flowersvieralynn on February 24th, 2008 05:03 am (UTC)
Alright! Interesting discussion going on!! :)

Going well beyond the FF series and games in general, I think it would be pretty easy to make a case that modern media (TV, movies) are more likely to attribute magical powers to women and physical powers to men. We know that trend exists in the FF series. That said, I'm not entirely convinced that the stones in FFXII can be fairly categorized as "feminine/magick." Based purely on the storyline, the stones were cut by the Dynast King (male) and passed down through royal lines (presumably men and women). Perhaps we can say that the stones are still cryptically a feminine symbol because male characters (Vayne, Ghis) want the stones so they can gain their magick powers and that they fail miserably at using the stones correctly. Yet, for hundreds of years, male (and presumably female) descendants of the Dynast King kept peace with the stones. I worry that equating the stones with feminine/magick (or not) gets into circular reasoning that isn't easily resolved.

I'd argue that Basch detests the idea of using the stone not because it is against his masculine nature but because of his desire to prevent war and his belief that bitter enemies can become friends. If we want to align that with gendered stereotypes, Basch's desire to be reconciliatory and promote peace is a more of a feminine trait. Does that make him represent the healthy femininity that Ashe lacks?

Yes, good points about Ashe and leadership. I'm not even sure I consider her a good leader because she is often fueled by desire for revenge and she often seems blind to what her people need or want. She does present as a strong ruler (ruling over people, making decisions for them) but not necessarily a leader (leading people toward what they want or need).

As evidence of Ashe's leadership problems and Basch's reconciliatory, peace-driven behavior, here's some of the script from the Ozmone Plain when Ashe was considering if she should create an alliance between Dalmasca & Archades:

Ashe: And you can just accept this, can you?

Basch: After Vayne’s ruse I had abandoned hope for honor… Yet never did I forget my knightly vows. If I could protect but one person from war’s horror…then I would bear any shame. I would bear it proudly. I could not defend my home. What is shame to me?

[Brief pause as Ashe starts to walk away…]

Ashe: My people hate the Empire. They will not accept this.

Basch: There is hope.

[The camera shows Vaan, Penelo and Larsa talking.]

Basch: Hope for a future where we can join hands as brothers.


I agree that as far as having a health feminine side, Ashe is one of the "weakest" female characters in the FF series and in FFXII in particular purely because she seems so terribly uncomfortable with the idea of ever displaying any feminine traits. Vossler says it all:

Vossler: Her Majesty cannot abide weakness, least of all in herself. We must
make her confront the reality of our plight.
intradependencyintradependency on February 25th, 2008 04:13 am (UTC)
Excellent quote. Basch and Vossler are even vaguely feminine in their 'sacrificial' saviour roles. Even with the side-play of Vossler's being seduced to the 'dark side'...

Ohhh, so many topics that need seriously constructive research and referencing. It's been years since I've had to construct a logical argument. Right now I'm talking too much off the cuff. I'll get back to this.

One of the more interesting things I've read was a gender switch, with Ashe as a male prince and Basch and Vossler as female knights. Very psychological an' all. ;)
Viera Lynn sings of Calico Things: Basch_desatvieralynn on February 25th, 2008 06:13 am (UTC)
For someone who is billed as the manly heroic knight in shining armor, Basch is Mr. Sacrificial. My guess is that he buried his ego somewhere in the squalid dirt floors of Nablina dungeon. Out of the entire FF series (which I have nothing but love and more love for), FFXII really caught my imagination because I thought the script did interesting things with gender roles and bending certain character class stereotypes (the princess who is a hard ass and is never saved by her knight, etc.).

OOOOOH! Psychological gender switch fic?! Sounds very interesting. Can you post a link to it?
intradependency: this is sadintradependency on February 25th, 2008 10:17 am (UTC)
...it's one of the authors in my favourites list on fanfiction.net.

And I totally can't find it. Gah. It was in quite a formal style too.
intradependencyintradependency on February 24th, 2008 01:20 am (UTC)
And just another thought:

Female characters have a lot of expectations pressed upon them by the fan community. I can't speak for males, but females seem to want to relate to and admire the female characters.

I wonder what age-bracket of female fans you're referring to here - Ones who have already defined themselves in RL as (mature) women, or the teens?

I ask because I've often thought the complete inverse. Apart from FFXII, I've not had a lot of respect for any FF female, and I've never wanted to admire them; their issues have no parallels with my own.

I've speculated that the trend for yaoi writing is (in part, only in part - I have an essay outline on this somewhere) a backlash from young female fans unable to actually relate to a single female representation in FF. Far better to 'be' Cloud, to relate to Cloud, to parallel Cloud's depth, strength, angst, issues, and then sleep with Zack as 'strong desirable male', than to 'be' Tifa with her problems that can't be related to, and sleep with Cloud as 'broken male'.
Bethany: [quistis]; smart is sexyeuphonious_glow on February 24th, 2008 03:30 am (UTC)
Females want to find female characters to relate to, even if they don't necassarily find them. Personally, I've always found at least one trait in a character I could relate to, in females moreso than males. I suppose I'm referring to teenage fans, since I am one myself.

I've never understood why females like yaoi except for the sexual aspect (the same reason men like girl/girl), so I don't have anything to add there. I've never related to Cloud more than Tifa, but maybe that's just me. As a teenager, I relate to the female protaganist's romantic issues and desire to be accepted within the party.
Viera Lynn sings of Calico Thingsvieralynn on February 24th, 2008 05:27 am (UTC)
I know an article you might enjoy which talk about Male/Male fanfic sex and says the EXACT same thing you just did.

Green, S. & Jenkins, C. "Normal Female Interest in Men Bonking: Selections from the Terra Nostra Underground and Strange Bedfellows," republished in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers, H. Jenkins (ed), NYU press, 2006.

Here's a long quote from it:

So in this society, someone enriching/feeding their fantasy life with TV fare will come across variations of the traditional pattern: the hero (dashing); the buddy (his confidant and accomplice); the screaming ninny (his romantic interest). In this threesome, there are reasons to identify with the hero:

(1) He is usually the main character (the heroine being seen less often, usually a supporting character).

(2) He does all the exciting things and seems to enjoy them. He is the one to whom the adventure happens and the one who makes it happen. He must pit his wit and resources against danger and foes. (If the woman has spunk, it is not a value in itself but a source of excitement or annoyance for the hero. At worst, it is considered as cute.)

There are reasons not to identify with the heroine:

(1) A woman, having internalized the values of our culture, might feel that women are devalued per se, regardless of script, thus the woman-heroine becomes a worthless object of identification.

(2) When female characters are shown to be effective and powerful, it is often through their 'feminine wiles' (unless they are ugly frustrated lesbians. Who wants to identify with a loser, the Russian general played by Lotte Lenya in From Russia with Love?) As to women powerful through the use of their beauty and seduction (i.e. their power to manipulate men to further their schemes), they could easily become alien, incomprehensible creatures for 'average' women full of self-doubt or teenage angst, since they represent values that are not only difficult to achieve, but also considered obsolete.

So you don't want to be her, you don't want to enjoy the emotions she feels. The male hero is easier to 'feel' the adventure with: what he is made to feel you enjoy. And if you are of the daydreaming kind, you will 'borrow' him, to make him feel some more interesting things.


Risette: glasseshimiko on January 9th, 2009 10:56 pm (UTC)
In defense of Ashe
I'm really enjoying this thread and agree with many of the points people have brought up here, but I'm going to respectfully argue in defense of Ashe.

First, this is certainly just my own personal opinion, but I can't see how not wielding feminine traits makes a female character weak. Female characters cannot be good or strong characters unless they exhibit stereotypically feminine traits? Why? How does *not* exhibiting stereotypically feminine traits equate to defiance or scorn of the female gender? There are plenty of women in real life who identify as women but do not carry stereotypically feminine traits. It seems to me that there's a belief that in order to truly be female, you're required to act the way the societal gender role has scripted out for you. I'm not accusing anyone here of holding this value--- especially since this thread is about games and not real life--- but I'm putting this idea on the table just to express my opinion that you can have a strong identity as a female without actually having to exude feminine traits.

Secondly, assumptions that Ashe sees femininity as a weakness or rebels against femininity make me wonder what traits are considered "feminine" in the first place. I can't recall any in-game example of Ashe scorning anything feminine other than the fact that she doesn't match people's idea of a feminine person. Femininity is a social construct with some biological foundation. The way it is manifested and defined by people is largely varied by culture. When people think of "feminine", I'm assuming they're talking about nurturing, sensitive, graceful, social, empathic, and motherly. When you hold this standard as the feminine standard, of course Ashe doesn't seem feminine. My question is... why are *these* traits required for a female character? Why are these traits required to be feminine? I have no problem with these traits representing femininity, but I am disheartened by the idea that all female characters *have* to exude these traits to be considered a "real" female character.

What makes Ashe masculine? Well, she's haughty (though that softens up gradually in the game), impulsive, stubborn, defiant, outspoken, and vengeful, right? I'm... not comfortable with the assumption that these traits necessarily define masculinity. This is a personal opinion of mine, and I'm not here to demean anybody else for their own opinions, but I ask fans to consider that women can and are sometimes haughty, impulsive, stubborn, defiant, outspoken, and vengeful, and that it doesn't always mean they reject their on femininity. I definitely agree with others here that Ashe likely developed these traits when she was starting up the resistance force. As the princess, others in the force likely wanted to keep her protected and hidden. Yet, Ashe was experiencing anger and grief for losing her kingdom, her father, and her husband. She was frustrated that she was not able to do anything. Isn't it understandable to want to be more proactive (and aggressive) in the resistance? If she idly stood by as the passive princess, she likely wouldn't have been able to lead the resistance, much less grab a sword. That's how I see it, anyway. My point is, regardless of gender, I think it's understandable for her to develop the way she did. In her situation, aggression and stubbornness functioned to facilitate the resistance. I am a stereotypically "girly" person to most people and I'm working towards a career that is stereotypically "feminine" (a marriage and family therapist) but there are certainly times I exhibit such traits myself. Certainly if I was in Ashe's situation I would be very angry and vengeful myself at the start. Ashe is a person who turns her negative/angry feelings outward in an unhealthy fashion. I know many people, male and female, who are like that.

I also wanted to note another thing about Ashe although it's nothing that has been contested here. For many people, you are not defined only by your own personality and actions but also your role and interactions with others, including your community. To be a princess of a kingdom is quite a role that defines your identity. I saw Ashe as someone who lost that identity and reacted outwardly as well as inwardly.
Risettehimiko on January 9th, 2009 10:56 pm (UTC)
Re: In defense of Ashe

Also, I think that many fans retain their first impressions of characters they meet in games. I think it's important to consider the way that characters develop in the game. Ashe started out as very angry and vengeful, so obsessed with receiving power to enact that revenge that she almost committed an unforgivable crime. Yet, the whole point of her development is that she saw her own selfishness and decided not to enact revenge. I certainly agree with others in this thread that she was an ineffective leader and that was the point of her story. She only truly became a leader when she genuinely chose in favor of the people (not just the people of her kingdom, but of the empire as well) instead of herself.

I understand that the usual idea of a strong female is someone who's empathic, gentle, graceful, nurturing, and provides a safe base for others. I personally (and I respect that others don't agree with me here) think that Ashe, in working through and overcoming her many faults, manifested a "feminine" strength by the end of the game. No, she's not gentle or graceful, but her situation did not necessarily call for gentleness or gracefulness. She was the sole person who could use that Dynast power thing (haha, sorry, the details escape my memory) and she used it to fight for the people in the end. She also, at times, expressed concern for others and softened up her harsh personality. Yet I don't think she was a character who started off feminine, became masculine, and then became feminine again. She was a character who, to me, adapted to the situations and roles she was put into, and often manifested her troubles in an unhealthy way. I interpreted her as someone who had always had these traits (stubborn, angry, noble, thinking of the people but also selfish) but struggled negotiating them.

I do not think she's at all defined by any of the men in the game. She accepts and finds value in their assistance after she works through her selfish desire to do everything on her own.

I don't think she's stereotypically feminine OR masculine and I don't think she rebels against either gender identity. In Revenant Wings, she's still serious and determined, constantly thinking of her responsibility to her people, but she's gotten over the rudeness she had in the beginning of FF12. If anything, her portrayal is more "feminine" in that game, though not quite to the degree of being motherly and sensitive.

I'm not saying that female characters shouldn't be "feminine". In fact, I very much loved Yuna--- in my opinion, she was a wonderful example of a heroine who exuded stereotypical feminine traits, and also developed an admirable strength. I just don't think ALL female characters have to be like that to be considered a strong female character. Strength comes in a variety of shapes and forms, in my opinion.

Also, I'd like to finish my tl;dr post by stating that I by no means intend to offend anybody. I certainly do not judge people for disagreeing with my opinions on a video game character or not viewing femininity the way that I do. I found this a terrific thread to read and wanted to offer my own opinions for fun. I have no intention of changing anybody's mind. I just really enjoy analyzing and interpreting characters like this, which is why I love RPGs to begin with.
Bethany: [haruhi]; brighteuphonious_glow on January 13th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
Re: In defense of Ashe
Hi, thanks for expressing such valid points. I'm not sure what my opinions were when I first wrote this essay, and my thoughts about many of the characters have changed since then. At this time I agree entirely with your opinions about Ashe and the discussion about feminine/masculine traits.

I personally do not believe that a woman has to have stereotypical feminine traits to be a good female character. In analyzing her character, I thought that Ashe might see femininity as a weakness. I certainly don't, but I also understand that "feminine" traits are socially defined and human behavior falls on a wide spectrum. I would no longer consider her masculine, but there is the possibility of the character trying to be that way.

I remember reading that many people originally did not like Ashe due to her personality. They may have their reasons, but it seems that certain qualities are expected of a princess. Ashe is very different from the other princess in FF games, Garnet from 9. I have grown to really appreciate her as a character. She is complex and interesting, and her outward harshness masks an inner love for her people whom she is trying to protect.

I actually admire her strong-willed nature, but at the same time admire subtler strengths such as kindness and courage.
Risettehimiko on January 13th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
Re: In defense of Ashe
Ahhh thank you for responding even though I wrote my comment way after the thread even took place! Heheh. I enjoy reading your writings and hope you'll continue to write about FF.
Risette: chillhimiko on January 9th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)
By the way, I rudely forgot to express my gratitude for you writing this. Thank you! Also, I *completely* agree with the notion that having relationships with male characters does not make a female character weak. Relationships are a part of human nature, right? I think it's the way that the writers develop these female characters that matters.
paperclipchainspaperclipchains on January 11th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
To be honest, I think this is far too simplified. It's also interesting that you describe several characters as physically weak when in reality they... well, they aren't. I mean... Just because they're mages doesn't mean that they're weak.

I don't know. I disagree with you on multiple points and I don't think you've really addressed the issue here, even though you've unwittingly identified it. The problem is not necessarily the characterization, but it is the lack of diversity between the characters and the way in which they are often undercut.
Bethany: [alex]; sexy lawyereuphonious_glow on January 13th, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)
Actually, I agree with you. I was trying to appreciate the characters for what they did have instead of what they didn't, and I realize now that the female characters are really lacking in diversity.

Mages generally have the lowest physical strength of party members, but they do a lot of damage with magic certainly.

This is one of the first essays of this type I've written, so it's probably not as well thought out as I originally intended.

If you have more specific criticisms, I would certainly appreciate hearing them.