Anita Sarkeesian has become a hot topic over the last few months. Over the last two years Anita Sarkeesian has run a non-profitable organisation FeministFrequency.com, which inspired an infamous Kickstarter project entitled ‘Tropes Vs Women In Video Games.’ This project involved several online videos that explored the biased and misrepresentation of women in video games.
(To my knowledge) Sarkeesian has never accused a video games company of being sexist and in her videos she establishes her love of video games, even the ones that perhaps do not best represent women as a whole. She carefully explains that she is disappointed as to how women are portrayed and that the video games industry, now that they are a mainstream art form and source of entertainment, have a responsibility to offer a much more diverse and truthful depiction of women. Here is an excerpt of her pledge from Kickstarter;
I love playing video games but I’m regularly disappointed in the limited and limiting ways women are represented. This video project will explore, analyze and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereotypes of female characters in games. The series will highlight the larger recurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders. I’m going to need your help to make it happen!
As a gamer, a pop culture critic and a fan, I’m always working to balance my enjoyment of media while simultaneously being critical of problematic gender representations. With my video web series Feminist Frequency, I look at the way women are portrayed in mass media and the impact they have on our culture and society.
Once the project went live, Sarkeesian has been met by a mixture of both support and hatred. The industry appears fully supportive of Sarkeesian’s work and the issues that the series has highlighted, so much so that attitudes within the industry are slowly starting to change – just looking at The Last of Us is a prime example.
But despite these videos being presented in a calm and informative manner, that doesn’t overtly promote feminist superiority, Sarkeesian and her family have found themselves at the centre of a misogynist hate campaign. Trawling through the comments left by subscribers, profanity, death threats and rape threats are common place, which has led to the disabling of posted comments. The more polite comments have suggested that Anita’s work has no validity and that she is seeing sexism where none exists.
Whether you believe Anita’s work is truthful or not, it is hard to miss the repeated story arcs that games developers adopt when it comes to women as support characters. The ‘Damsel in Distress’ video highlights that women are often disempowered and used as a trophy for the male character to rescue. This plot device, associated with classic titles such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda, still exists in modern gaming, albeit it in a slightly more subtle form. To see what Anita Sarkeesian is getting at, watch her three part ‘Damsel in Distress’ video here.
Anita Sarkeesian recently spoke out at XOXO in the way she knows best, via a calm, humorous presentation. Anita reveals some of the hatred she has had to endure. Some of it is down right farcical, all the way to incredibly personal. Simply typing in ‘Anita Sarkeesian’ to google and you’ll see various MEME’s that attempt to discredit Anita. XOXO have recently uploaded a video, which features a snippet of that presentation. Enjoy and make up your own mind, but please do it cleanly and fairly.