Ubisoft has decided to terminate their relationship with British journalist Helen Lewis following fan uproar over her presence in the new game Watch Dogs: Legion.
The developer has decided to pull their previously recorded collaboration with Lewis who was to appear as a voice actor for two in-game podcasts discussing the threat of fascism inside the game-universe.
Since news of Lewis’ involvement was released, concern began to arise from fans of the game regarding her famously controversial stance on feminism and dismissal of trans women within it.
Currently, feminism is arguably at its most diverse point in history, with the fight for equality having evolved to encompass all those who find themselves oppressed by patriarchal systems.
However, trans women and their inclusion in feminist politics continues to be a controversial topic of discussion, particularly as young people are beginning to push the boundaries of gender conformity.
Many self-proclaimed feminists have chosen to speak out about the growing number of female-identifying trans people, seeking to exclude them from their definition of femininity. These women are known to the internet as ‘TERFS’.
Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist
TERF, meaning trans exclusionary radical feminist, defines women who take an extreme view of feminism, which borders on notions of female supremacy.
These women tend to spread trans-exclusionary rhetoric in the name of feminism to likeminded audiences across the world, a prime example being the outspoken British journalist, Helen Lewis.
In 2017 Lewis took to twitter to discuss the issue of gender self-identification, sharing her less than accepting views to an audience of thousands. Through the tweets, she declared that while trans people are free to live and identify as they please, it is ultimately unsafe to allow trans women into female-only spaces.
Lewis argued that the safety of women and children would surely be jeopardised, due to the ability for non-female identifying males to simply ‘dress up’ as women in order to gain access to female changing areas.
Censorship or Upholding Ethical Values?
It is no surprise then, that Lewis’ involvement in Watch Dogs: Legion incited disappointment and annoyance among fans.
Although the content of her character’s discussion expressed no relation to Lewis’ views on gender self-identification and trans people, the mere involvement of Lewis in the game was enough to stir up controversy and call into question the company’s ethical stance.
Ubisoft has since issued an apology for Lewis’ involvement, writing that her views were not reflective of those held by the company. A spokesperson for Ubisoft has likewise stated that they were unaware of Lewis’ views prior to working together and has assured players that her scenes will be cut and replaced with updated gameplay.
In response to the company’s attempts to diffuse the situation, some have refuted the decision to dispose of Lewis’ involvement by calling it an ironic display of censorship. Political editor Ian Dunt has named the decision “utter cowardice” which “in an anti-fascist game. Wiping away someone’s voice in a software update: [is] the digital equivalent of burning books.”.
Despite this, the decision for Ubisoft to cut Lewis’ involvement is ultimately at their own discretion. While Lewis has every right to express her personal views on the topics she chooses, others likewise have every right to refuse to work with her based on those views, and the effect they will have on the company’s public reception.
While it is no secret that the immediacy of Ubisoft’s response to the controversy is likely to do with the previous claims of sexual misconduct made against certain employees of the company earlier this year, Ubisoft appears firm in their decision to sever ties with Lewis. This, if nothing else, is to be a positive step toward a more inclusive and female supportive direction for the company.
Watch Dogs: Legion is available now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4 and PC and will be available on PlayStation 5 from November 19.
Words by Hattie Banfield
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