Paint women like women

Because they’re more than just a collection of parts.

Dear artists in fantasy/sci-fi/games/films,

Your paintings don’t have women in them.

You paint boobs. You paint butts. You paint legs. You paint a hollow shell that vaguely resembles a woman. But you sure as hell don’t paint women.

You paint a collection of parts that women have. All faces merge into one monotonous ideal. Boobs are big. Waists are non-existent. Clothing is rare. Baby oil is in constant supply. They’re all young and they’re all beautiful. Female characters could be swapped between games or films and no one would take a second glance. A pair of fake boobs and a round butt and she’s ready to go. I’m not going to call out specific games or movies or artists or paintings. Nor am I listing exceptions to this. Because that’s not the point. It would take an incredible amount of ignorance (intentional or otherwise) to not see this issue. Talking about specifics just invites nit-picking.

Women are rare enough in our world of fantasy & sci-fi. Most of the time in games and movies they serve little purpose beyond eye candy or something to rescue or something to exploit. They’re things. They’re not people.

And it’s our fault. It’s our fault for treating women like this.

You can blame society or your boss or popular culture. But at the end of the day it’s your call. You can decide to keep doing things the way they’ve been done or make something a little different. You can paint Women. The way they are. The beautiful, wonderful, amazing people that they are. The young or old, beautiful or plain, curvy or skinny, short or tall. And I’m not even saying they have to be covered up all the time. I’ve seen paintings of classy nudes and trashy, fully-clothed women. It has far less to do with what you’re showing as how you’re showing it.

So let’s see some different women. Women with different bodies. Different faces. With imperfections. With personality. Strong, powerful, independent, amazing women. I’m not speaking for women here because I can’t possibly do that—I’ll never know what it’s like for women. But I’ll say as a guy that I’m sick of seeing women portrayed this way. It’s boring at best, offensive at worst.

I’m sure you’ll ask why I’m focused on paintings of women and not men. “Men are idealized too!” you’ll scream. And you’re right. They are. Big, buff, ripped guys abound. Cut jaw lines and 5 o’clock shadows. But let’s be honest: there’s more variety in male body types than female. There’s big guys, small guys, thin, thick, old, young, everything. And we see ‘em all. So we’re already getting a variety, even if it is a variety of ideals.

Then you’ll scream, “But it’s fantasy! Why should it look real?” And you’re right. It is fantasy. And fantasy is amazing. We escape reality and enter a fantastical world of infinite possibility. But the best fantasy is always based in reality. It is a relatable, understandable world with fantastical elements. Big-boobed, mindless women with vapid stares do not have any place in fantasy. Paint ideals, but keep them grounded in reality. Too many artists are taking the easy way out. They’re foregoing even the slightest amount of creativity. It’s a lot easier to paint yet another “hot chick” than it is to paint a “beautiful woman.” So we just keep painting those “hot chicks.”

We should strive to push our field beyond this. To push it into a territory of diverse beauty. Women are incredibly beautiful and it cheapens that beauty to paint them the way so many of us do.

We can do better than this. And it can start with your next painting.