The following contains spoilers of Far Cry 4’s plot.
Amidst the civil war raging in Kyrat is a more subtle but just as important war, one where tradition is being pitted against progress. On the surface it is a war of ideals. The people of Kyrat’s resistance, the Golden Path, isn’t just at war with Pagan Min, it’s at war with its past and its cultural foundation. And through the eyes of Ajay Ghale, you are caught in the middle, choosing between the purity of Sabal’s ties to the traditional Kyrat, and the progressive views held by the Amita. You’ll be choosing whether to harvest drugs to build the economy, or to destroy the crops to uphold the values of the resistance. It is very much a game built on morals and standards, answering the question of “progress, but at what cost?”. It adds a layer of narrative complexity, sitting right alongside its portrayal of culture and religion
But hidden underneath all of that, Far Cry 4 presents an incredible exploration of sexism and gender roles, and what is means to have a society built on male superiority. More importantly, it made me question my own values and inherent gender biases.
Am I sexist?
Do I have a gender bias?
These questions forced me to take a very uncomfortable look at myself. And what I found wasn’t flattering.
I chose my side early on, justifying my siding with the male leader of the Golden Path, the charismatic Sabal, on my fierce opposition to drugs. Amita was forward-thinking, considering about economic autonomy once Kyrat was a free state, and the vast poppy crops would bring that autonomy. It was rational, but was it moral? Progress? Sure. But again at what cost. I didn’t necessarily agree with restoring Kyrat to a time where child brides were commonplace, the so-called “dark ages, but nor did I condone an economy built on illicit drugs. And so I found it easy to justify my decisions, feeling like I was making the right decisions even when I saw logic in Amita’s arguments. It was an uneasy, but logical moral choice, and one I was happy to ‘live’ with.
“I was six years old when my parents told me I had to marry. Six. That’s the world Sabal is fighting for”
But it was once the issue of gender came up directly that I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I was making my decision based on the person and not the ideal. And the further I played, the more I committed to Sabal’s traditional version of Kyrat, the more I realised that it wasn’t about what was “right” for the people, it was about playing favourites. Sure I found Sabal more sincere, less emotional, and more rational. But perhaps more importantly I found Sabal more appealing.
“Do you think it was easy? Being the first woman in the Golden Path?”
And it was the point where gender roles came into it that I realised that perhaps it was the fact that Sabal was male played a part in his appeal. Amita’s appeals for progress suddenly started falling on deaf ears, and her appeal to my own sense of gender equity and fairness through confiding in me of her plight of being the first woman in the golden path, started to feel desperate. “She’s trying to get sympathy, but she’s wrong”, I thought, justifying my position through what I considered an emotional weakness. “Isn’t she?”.
It wasn’t until Sabal verbalised my views that I fully realised just how sexist my thought process was:
“…And I bet she cried on your shoulder. Did she give you that sop story about being the first woman in the Golden Path?…She didn’t fool you did she brother?”
It was a sop story, an appeal to my emotions, and in my mind whether I knew it or not, Amita’s strength was weakened by her stories of ingrain sexism. To me, Sabal was the strong male leader, the person not basing his decisions on emotions, not caught up on the internal fight he was having to prove himself or his gender. He appealed to the very masculine view of society, one that favoured males in positions of powers, and as the stronger and more rational gender. But this wasn’t a conscious decision making process, rather an almost automatic and inherent gender bias that affects my decision making process. Whether Sabal was or wasn’t morally right was irrelevant, it was that he was a male that swayed my decision to back him. And that’s absolutely wrong.
So am I sexist? I’ve come to realise that the answer may sadly be a very uncomfortable “yes”. But not because I don’t believe in equality for women, or very strongly dismiss traditional gender roles in society, but because sexism and stereotyping based on gender is so heavily but subtly ingrained in society that it’s almost impossible not to inadvertently take on some of the biases. I’m not proud of any gender bias I may have – in fact I outwardly oppose it – but I’m glad that a video game was able to force me into a moment of introspection. Even if it meant realising a less than flattering aspect of my personality. Sexism is everywhere and Far Cry 4 is perhaps the smartest exploration of gender identity around.