First and foremost, I have to get this out of the way: up until a couple of days ago, I had never heard of Anita Sarkeesian or seen any of her works. This is a new development for me, and I find it significant enough to dedicate an article to. I don’t know her personally, I can’t say I am capable of judging her on a personal level, and I am a newcomer to this discussion.
With that said, this is my one and only disclaimer. If you hold issue with her for whatever reason, I cannot advise you to keep reading if your intent is anything other than intelligent discussion. This is an editorial in defense of the importance of her series Tropes vs Women (particularly as it pertains to video games), with the implication apparent that I am a newly-determined supporter of Ms. Sarkeesian. For the yahoos out there who have trouble with big words, here’s the gist: F**K OFF if you’re here to complain, whine, harass or otherwise cause suffering.
Now, those like me who are only now joining the discussion are likely to be wondering who exactly Anita Sarkeesian is, and why I had to be hostile just now. Sarkeesian is a newly-arisen video blogger who uses her blog Feminist Frequency as a staging ground for the critical analysis of how women are portrayed in various mediums. Like Channel Awesome’s own Nostalgia Chick, Sarkeesian’s goal is to explore how certain tropes tied to women in media have formed and why they pose an issue in the big picture.
Very reasonable, very sensible, very necessary in an age of growing pains – especially with regards to gaming’s struggle to “grow up”. No medium is inherently perfect and critics need to exist so that the moderators of the medium can understand what works and what needs to change. From co-writing an essay entitled Buffy vs. Bella: The Re-Emergence of the Archetypal Feminine in Vampire Stories to producing analytical videos about “The Smurfette Principle” or “The Bechdel Test”, Anita Sarkeesian has done her part in the quest for gender equality and basic human decency.
More recently, she started (and accomplished) her own Kickstarter campaign to gain finances for a new series, Tropes vs Women in Video Games. With over $150 thousand to spend, Sarkeesian went about filming and producing this new, insightful look into how certain stereotypes concerning women have become common place in the gaming scene. So far as I can tell, critical reception of the series has been largely positive and there are 7 more episodes planned on top of the existing four.
For the record, I have watched the series to date. It’s good – a bit dry for some tastes and perhaps lacking the visual energy of other webseries, but this is one of the rare straight-faced analytical web series that stands a good chance of not only surviving but thriving in the melting pot of Internet personalities. Sarkeesian gets the material, she’s well-spoken, and the show definitely looks good with effective transitions and high-quality video clips.
All of that sounds like a resounding recommendation, right? Anita Sarkeesian for the win, long live Tropes vs Women and any similar series, and so forth? SO THEN WHY THE F**K ARE PEOPLE THREATENING TO RAPE, MURDER OR ASSAULT HER?
I do not understand why this is the gaming community’s – indeed, the Internet community’s – reaction to the well-intentioned commentary of an intelligent, impassioned person. Actually scratch that – I do understand what is happening here, I just don’t want it to be the case. See, for the longest time the video game industry was largely targeted at and made for male audiences. To publishers, young boys were the most prominent and profitable demographic, and to capitalize on that fact their games usually played out as male power fantasies (hence why a female equivalent of Double Dragon is unheard of).
Why does this CliftsNotes history lesson matter? Well, those young boys eventually grew up – if you hear someone like Bob Chipman (another class act/outstanding critic who you should really check out) refer to “Generation NES”, these are the people he’s talking about. While the 80s and its games are not necessarily to blame for how misogynistic some of “Generation NES” turned out, the fact that some of the key titles of the era were inherently masculine-centric with rather regressive views on femininity does not help matters. Now we have 20 or 30-somethings whose ideas of gender politics isn’t defined by the extent of their education or their internal morality, but by archaic values imparted by an interpretive medium.
Let me be clear: I love gaming, I am proud to be a game critic, and I support the growth of the medium. I do not blame the games, but rather the inability (or unwillingness) of society to teach gamers to differentiate between reality and fiction, for what has happened here. Ms. Sarkeesian has done her best to make a solid and respectable case for why this is a problem, and why we the gamers need to change this or that paradigm for our own betterment – and for the betterment of the games.
Even taking into account how they grew up, I still can’t get into the mindset of a person who would say this:
I mean, who would? It’s insane.
So, if you want my highly intelligent and well thought-out response to these egregious statements, here is what I believe these individuals deserve as a rebuttal:
Yes. Nothing more and nothing less for you miserable f**ks.
Feminine traits are not a sin. Wearing pink, showing visible emotion, not having an active role in physical activities – things typically grouped under the “Feminine” heading – are as much a part of male existence as female existence. In fact, headings like “male” or “female” don’t really have a place anymore at all – we are all just human beings choosing to emphasize what traits feel right to us. Anita Sarkeesian emphasizes her analytical prowice and her care for equality. I emphasize my compassion for people I care about and my desire to improve the entertainment industry.
So to close out, here are some facts about me as proof that I can walk the walk:
- When I was young, I owned a “Soccer Barbie”. I have no regrets there.
- I tear up and outright cry a lot more than I let on (Treasure Planet and The Iron Giant being notable triggers)
- I think that Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake have gotten far too much flack as actors
- I enjoy baking bread over physical labour or computer maintenance any day
- Blue Valentine is one of my favourite films of all time
- Once on a whim, I sought out and watched Bride Wars. Not bad, not great, but I can at least say I’ve seen it.
I am the Codex Admin and no one has the right to judge me on my choices or beliefs. Give Ms. Sarkeesian the same courtesy.