To Hit or Not to Hit: Is Mass Effect Post-feminist?

First of all, this blog post is going to have Mass Effect spoilers, so if you don’t want to know, stop reading now.

Second of all, I notice a bunch of you guys come for the outcome of the Garrus bro mission. Here it is: If you hit the bottle, you get a renegade point and Garrus says something about you getting lucky on account of the wind. If you’re hooked up, one of you will say something about shooting not being their only good skill anyway, some other language to establish your relationship, and you’ll kiss. If you miss the bottle, you get a paragon point and Garrus will say “this is my new favorite place on the Citadel!” and talk about putting a statue of himself on that spot. If you’re hooked up, he’ll say the same thing as he would have said if you hit the bottle and you’ll kiss. Hope this is helpful.

As many of you know, I am a major Mass Effect fangirl. So it shouldn’t surprise you that, as an awesome butt kicking badass, my Femshep found herself inexorably drawn to fellow buttkicking badass Garrus Vakarian in Mass Effect 2. Their courtship blossomed in ME3, except for a little upset where I couldn’t figure out how to break things off with Kaidan (It’s been three years man, and she DIED! Give up the ghost!!) So basically, Shepard and Garrus are the perfect couple and were totally made for each other and no other Mass Effect romance can compare with theirs.

Until the bro mission. Every squadmate and several crew members have what I like to call “bro missions” at different points in the game. Sometimes it’s as easy as telling Chawkwas not to break out the brandy just yet, since you’re both going to drink that shit together and alive at the end of the reaper war. Sometimes it’s as drawn out and hand-holding as helping Miranda protect her sister, and warning her about Kai Lang and being there for her when she murders her dad. You know how that shit goes.

If your Femshep romanced Garrus, the bro mission between Shepard and Garrus, is of course also a romantic mission. It’s actually my favorite of all the bro missions, which is why Garrus is the best squadmate ever. Shep and Garrus fly a car to the top of the citadel and, after a little pillow talk, skeet-shoot what are essentially Mass Effect universe beers off the support beams that run hundreds of feet off the ground near the citadel ceiling. Pretty hot, right? Well, at a certain point, you are 1 for 1, and Garrus just made shot 2. When he gives Shep the rifle, you have the option to hit the target, or miss the target. Missing the target is in the typically paragon upper right position and hitting it is in the typically renegade lower right, signifying that nice guys apparently finish last on purpose.

I sat and thought about it for a couple of minutes before choosing the uncharacteristic renegade option out of feminist duty. As a girl, there’s some amount of pressure on you to subjugate yourself in deference to your partner. No one likes a show off, guys don’t like smart girls, or tough girls, or aggressive girls, or whatever kind of girl you really are inside. Guys like girls they can save, can teach, can go through life without being threatened, out-shown or challenged by in any way. And of course every feminist bone in my fat feminist body says “fuck that pandering shit!” If there is something I can be better than a man at doing, I’m going to do it. And because I’m not a half way kind of girl, I’m going to be a lot better, because I can be. I don’t pull punches to protect male ego.

However, I still felt bad not picking the paragon option. I consulted my boyfriend who was playing through with a straight male Shep, and who informed me that bro Shep and sexbro Shep have the same hit or miss option, and that he chose to miss without hesitation “because it’s the nice thing to do.” I explained my “don’t pull punches for the male ego” policy and he brought up that my policy happens to be informed by a reality where men and women are not equal. Shephard is a commander. On paper, she is Garrus’s superior. But could my Femshep simply be the Michelle Obama style outlier in an otherwise overwhelmingly male environment? (And we all see how well that worked for Michelle. She’s basically America’s lunch lady right now.)

Looking at the other NPCs, I noticed that the only human female with rank seems to be the biotic school lady you rescue with Jack. And I refuse to look her up because I’m proving a point. Shes an educator who doesn’t take any active role in the fighting and is so inconsequential that I don’t even remember her name.

I’m ignoring the other aliens, even though they (except the Asari, of course, and the Quarians) are disproportionately represented by male characters, because there’s no real way to estimate the extent to which gender subjugation was or was not a part of their history, as it has been with humanity. So, my boyfriend is wrong, Femshep very much lives in a world where being a woman in power is still a unique experience. Intentionally losing to Garrus in a skeet shoot competition, however romantic, still carries social weight.

Given all this, I reloaded my save and went back in order to miss the shot anyway. Why? Because I had dutifully chosen the paragon option every time with that Shepard and I wasn’t about to let me being a girl fuck up my perfect paragon streak. Also, because I believe that in Mass Effect, as in real life, politics can help a person inform their choices, but they shouldn’t dictate them. As for how this effects my “no pulling punches for the male ego” stance, I still stand firm. No pulling punches for the male ego and yes pulling punches for my partners ego are two different animals that sometimes drink from the same stream. Garrus isn’t some douche Femshep just met, he’s her partner. Despite the sexist climate in which they live, my Femshep (like her creator) is an equal to her mate. And sometimes a partner gets to realize when she should pull a punch and when she should lay the smackdown.

8 Replies to “To Hit or Not to Hit: Is Mass Effect Post-feminist?

  1. interesting. I choose to make the shot. I didn’t see any reason why I should miss it. I didn’t get how that was the nice guy option. Garrus and I are friends and equals and he should respect my shooting skills just lie I respect his and I respect his enough not to lie to him.

  2. What are you smoking? Or is it pills? Please tell me cause I know you had to be high as f uck when you typed this. On your 200th play through don’t forget to drink plenty of water as you might dehydrate. No pun intended its just damn if you were to comment about the entire game like u did this one part in the game that meant nothing at it would take 3 weeks to read.

      1. Dont take my comment the wrong way I’m not implying that your post was stupid or anything and it’s nice to know you say no to drugs. Although I smoked some weed 8 months ago and thought I was on a space ship but that’s another story. As for as me needing help we all at some point in our life’s need a little help that’s why I was here. I needed help figuring out which option to pick as I was curious as what would happend if anything. You explained it all and then some thank you for your wonderful post and have a marvelous day.

        1. I said I didn’t need drugs, not that I didn’t do them. Your comment was confusingly worded and punctuated, so I read that as vaguely hostile and so I reacted to that. I’m happy this helped you decide which option pick. Sorry if you caught some of my early morning shade.

  3. The first sentence of your last comment made me laugh in a good way I mean as I completely get what your saying. After reading my first comment I must say I was a little out of line so there for I’m sorry for that. I guess we all have our bad days I’ll learn to not vent on others for it for now on. Your post was creative thou a lil long for my taste it was a worth while read as I did after all find the answer I was seeking. I read today that bio ware has confirmed an ME4 so I’m looking forward to the details on that one as in order to have shepard live in ME3 u have to have a perfect play through which not ever one got so I hope they keep him and/or her in the 4th game of the series. Anyways have a great day!

  4. Couldn’t help but want to respond to this, even though it’s about a year late.
    There’s a really good reason to miss.
    Read Garrus’ file in Lair of the Shadow Broker. For as awesome as Garrus is, he’s completely overshadowed by Shepard, and knows it.
    I like to view missing the bottle as a way for Shepard to inspire confidence in his/her partner. It’s less an issue of feminism or even competition when you read the stuff from LotSB. It’s more of getting your best friend (or romance) to get out from under your shadow.
    Ultimately, that’s more important than hitting a stupid bottle.

    1. I whole heartedly agree. Since this first play through, I’ve played two more Shepherds and missed without hesitation.

      Downplaying competence so as not to offend or threaten male co workers is something almost every female professional has experienced. So the scene triggered my feminist auto – targeting system, but in context I’d say a miss is more than called for. Context is everything.

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