Pop Culture Embassy Performance in The Sims

The Sims 4 game art

The other day, I came across a video by one of my favorite youtube channels, PBS Ideas Channel.  It was about gender, specifically gender as portrayed in the Sims.

Now, I came to the Sims franchise fairly late in life. At least, I only played it for the first time about two years ago when I got a copy of the Sims 3 in a Humble Bundle. It didn’t take long before I was a little… obsessed. I could play hours at a time, switching between one of my five families to another. They all had their own backstories, relationships, and, of course, their own drama. I recently got The Sims 4 when it became available on Mac and I’ve been having just as much fun creating havoc in the lives of my sims.

In the video “How Do We and The Sims Perform Gender?” Mike Rugnetta, the host of the PBS Ideas Channel, introduces to the audience to the concept that gender is merely a social construct.  It is not physical, but rather something we learn from our environment, culture, and our interactions with others.

This is not a new idea to anyone who has studied critical theory, but, in my opinion, Rugnetta does an amazing job summing up gender theory in just a couple of short minutes.  (If it’s not already apparent, I highly recommend watching the video.)

“For both you and your sims, gender is a performance.”

As progressive as The Sims franchise has been in the past, with its long history of having both straight and gay relationships be a possibility for all sims (sims are inherently bisexual in their behavior), Rugnetta has a point.  As he says, misplaced gender expressions are not allowed.  Male sims cannot wear makeup or dresses and female sims cannot wear the clothes that are made for male sims, no matter how commonplace it is for women to wear men’s clothes in real life.

It would be truly inspiring if the Sims introduced the idea of a gender spectrum, as opposed to it’s current gender binary of male or female.  After all, how deeply does gender affect sims? Interactions between sims are mostly biased by the player – the traits a sim possesses have more effect on interactions than whether they’re male or female. (The only significant difference between the two is that female sims can get pregnant.)

Even simply having clothes and other options in Create a Sim be available to use for a sim of either gender would be a start. Clothes are already separated into categories and types.  Would it be a significant change to have all clothes be available for all sims?

I would love the chance to play around with creating myself in the Sims with double to the options when it comes to clothes. It would certainly lead to interesting new characters and opportunities in storytelling.

For now, I guess I’ll just have to wait patiently until they come out with a patch for The Sims 4 that has a decent curly hair option…. Someday.

Isabela Oliveira is a renaissance geek, in the sense that she knows a little about a whole lot of things. She is always looking for the next great TV show to marathon and for the next exciting thing to learn and write about. In her spare time, she writes and manages social media for The Geek Embassy and works to dismantle the patriarchy in Vancouver, Washington.

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