This week, Californian blogger and feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian (pictured) launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to do a video series about women in videogames. I’ve watched her FemFrequency videos before. She’s got wonderful presentation skills, and while I don’t always agree with her, I think her videos are often insightful, funny and professionally done. In other words, she’s just the kind of person people trust to make good use of their money on Kickstarter. She’s used to getting a certain level of abuse for being a woman, online, talking about the way women are represented in popular culture. But the abuse she copped for her Kickstarter campaign was way bigger than the shit she normally gets. Hold up. I feel bad calling it ‘abuse’. That makes it seem like someone just disagreed with her premise or said she was wrong or something. No, what people said about her was absolutely horrible. Here’s a small sample:
There’s a lot more here. A lot more. And it wasn’t just her. Even people who wrote about what happened to her got slammed. Look at the comments on New Statesman’s coverage. Pathetic. The internet matters because it’s no longer a niche dial-in accessed predominantly by male hackers. It IS the media – the back and forth that determines our culture. Women have a part to play in it, no matter what their detractors say or do. And sometimes, that’s gonna mean drawing attention to the fact that women aren’t treated very well in popular culture. You don’t have to agree with them. But it shouldn’t be a big deal when they do so. It certainly shouldn’t warrant this level of abuse. But here’s what really gets to me. When it comes to the things they say about women, these trolls aren’t regressive. That word implies there was ever a society in human existence that spoke about women like that to their faces. I’m not sure there was. They’re not throwbacks, they’re not old-fashioned. Your grandfather had far more decency than that. Both of mine did too, and they grew up in Arabic countries, so this isn’t a Western assumption or anything like that. No, today’s troll talks like he hates women. He accusses them of owning the world, and acts with outrage when women ‘move in’ on technology, one of the few areas he thinks men still rule. He reacts with a rage driven partly by cognitive dissonance, and partly due to the fact that he’s probably just not a very nice person. And if you point out to him that he’s being horrible, he’ll say it’s freedom of speech and that you just can’t ‘handle it’ or some shit. Because, you know, men are routinely talked about in that way online or something. In my mind, that’s pretty much the worst reason to not be a feminist. Not because you think women are weaker or not as clever, or because you think there’s a natural difference in the sexes, but because you think they’re out to get you. It’s sad, and not because of what it does to women who write opinion on the internet (though that’s pretty horrible too, I think most female commentators can handle it). It’s appalling because it shows me what fuckwits there are out there. It brings home how utterly depraved and deluded we can be as a species. I mean seriously, look at those comments! Anyway, that’s today’s cheery thought. I sincerely hope the people who post things like that are normal people who aren’t so idiotic most of the time.
Update So, Anita Sarkeesian has vastly overshoot her funding goals. With two days still left to go on her Kickstarter appeal, she already has $120,000 raised to make her series. One thing I’m especially happy about is one of her stretch goals. In her own words: “Anyone who has dared to offer criticisms of sexism in gaming on the internet will be familiar with the inevitable counter-arguments that arise in defense of sexist representations. If you’ve braved the comment sections below almost any post on this topic, you will recognize classics like: “But it’s just entertainment,” “But it’s just fantasy,” or “But sex(ism) sells,” just to name a few. I’ve even seen these types of defensive knee-jerk comments surface on gaming blogs and online forums discussing my (as yet unmade) Tropes vs Women in Video Games series. One commenter even suggested that I have now displaced Hitler as the worst human being to have ever existed on account of this Kickstarter project (this would be funnier if it were the first time I’d been compared to Hitler). I keep a running list of the most common counter-arguments used to dismiss, deny and derail concerns about the representations of women in gaming. I think it might be useful to round out the series with one additional video that deconstructs the top 10 typical defenses of sexism and offers some helpful rebuttals to those arguments.” Can’t wait.