The Attack on Anita Sarkeesian: From Media Analysis to Anti-Feminism and Online Harassment

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10 Responses

  1. Sunny says:

    I’ve been enjoying Feminist Frequency (the Lego for Girls episode is one of my favourites) and am a game developer, so funding the kickstarter was a no-brainer for me. Upping my pledge a few days later once the backlash started, however, was an act of solidarity, and I expect the same was true of so many people. As horrible as it’s all been, it really has heartened me to see how many people are not just waving the death threats away as “trolling” but with increased awareness of just how bad it can get when a woman dares to speak on the internet. Nevermind dares to speak about video games on the internet.

    I’ve also found that people have dismissed the threats against her a great deal as if they’re not to be taken seriously, when people have shown up on her doorstep over this. That is not “trolling”, it’s effing terrifying, and the fact that threats and physical harm are “to be expected” by women, and that they should live in fear if they dare open their mouths and deserve the expected response… all of that needs to be thrust even more into the spotlight.

    It is not normal or expected for someone to be threatened to be raped and killed for saying they are going to have an opinion, nevermind you haven’t even heard the opinion yet. And it is not possible for most women to simply ignore this, as the threat is actually real, as opposed to when it’s made to another man.

  2. Darren says:

    I find that most don’t get upset at the mere idea of her exploring the issue. It’s that #1 she’s as transparent as cellophane, can you really not guess where she falls on the issue? And #2 her methodology is flawed and shallow. Her Lego vid and others prove that. She preaches to the choir. The real tragedy is this bullying distracts from the fact the Sarkeesian is a hack.

    • Ryan Graham says:

      I think it’s important to keep in mind that Sarkeesian has not released her Tropes project yet, which makes any judgments about her perspective or methods premature at this point.

      While she is pretty clear about “where she falls on the issue”, it is neither radical nor unfounded. The perspective she brings to her content analyses are rooted in a large body of feminist theory; putting stock in established theoretical paradigms is hardly an unreasonable bias. Again, though, we’ll see where she is going when she releases her project.

      Also, can you clarify what you mean by “flawed and shallow” methodology? Content analysis is a legitimate form of qualitative research, and Sarkeesian’s target audience is informed (and uninformed?) laypeople, not the scholarly community. Research methods certainly matter, but I’m curious about what problems you have with hers.

      Finally, even IF both of your allegations are true, the very fact that she has been the target of these particular forms of abuse and hatred indicate the very real problems of online harassment and gender inequality. And frankly, people do not threaten other people with death and rape over questionable research methods.

      • Darren says:

        You make a fair point when you say “wait and see before you judge”, but isn’t it also fair that an examination of one’s past is a pretty good indicator of where they are headed into the future? I’m sure she is rooted in a large body of feminist theory (I am aware of her academic background), but there are two problems with this as I see it. First is she doesn’t give full credit or exploration even to other differing feminist theories such as the one’s that seem more sexually liberated such that an image of a large breasted woman isn’t in itself demeaning. Basically, they embrace the “sexualized” woman so long as it’s her choice, rather than taking the “I know what’s best for you” position she takes. The second is that “putting stock in established theoretical paradigms” can be an unreasonable bias. She isn’t really so upfront about this, I get the sense that she is merely reporting the fact that there is misogyny in gaming (she’s convinced and she expects her readers to be as well, BEFORE they read/watch her), rather than giving voice to the idea that maybe seeing the specter of sexism is subjective sometimes. I realize “Feminist” is in the name, but still. 😛 But yeah, established paradigms is can still be a fancy name for a bias. The KKK bases their racism on established paradigms. The scientific method is an established paradigm. Which brings me to….

        why her method is flawed. It’s because rather than asking “Is there misogyny in gaming” she assumes “yeah, the misogyny is there, let me show it to you” She starts with troupes (of her creation) then shows us where she sees them in video games. This is really nothing more than forming an opinion and sharing it. That’s her right, but don’t pass it off as interesting research. Content analysis is interesting, but she could at least throw in some systems analysis, perhaps some interviews with game makers, ANYTHING to separate it from her just ranting. Maybe she’ll do that, but her past work suggests she won’t.

        Why is it shallow? There’s a good response to her interview with Destructoid by Chris Carter that shows she frequently makes mistakes even about the games she’s playing. She claims certain female characters are nameless when they have names, makes mistakes identifying the narrative, etc. There’s also the issue of her game selection. Was it a random sampling? I doubt it.

        I can totally agree she didn’t deserve that abuse, but some think it was planned in order to make money. True or not, if I can leverage some Internet bullying into $150K, I’d take that bullying in a heartbeat. I can’t speak to why she was bullied. No excuse for it anyway, but I suspect some were defensive that their games (and to some extent they) were accused of hating women. Especially by someone with no “insider cred” with the gamer community.

      • Sheridan says:

        Feminist “theory” (hypotheses) are increadibly flawed antiscience gibberish that most legitimate acedemics will laugh at, in real science conclusions are drawn from the facts in feminist “theory” (hypotheses) the conclusion is pre determined and facts are cherry picked to support

  3. John Paul says:

    Did the author of this story even watch any of Sarkeesian’s videos that she’s released for Those are a pretty good barometer of what to expect from “Tropes vs. Women in Gaming”. I.E. Standard feminist strawman arguments, misandrist ad-hominem attacks and a boatload of other questionable positions that only exist because of the fallacy that feminism and it’s aims are beyond any sort of reproach or criticism. Clever? No… Eloquent? Hardly… Fearless? Since when is hiding behind the internet a show of bravery? None of these adjectives really apply to Sarkeesian or her work, all she’s doing is recycling an argument that’s been force-fed to women, for better or worse, for over a century and applied it to new media.

    It is unfortunate that Sarkeesian has been subject to death threats and I do disapprove of anyone doing such a thing. But Sarkeesian is going to find that her newfound celebrity is probably only going to bring her more of that sort of behavior. Again, I don’t approve, but sad fact of the celebrity lifestyle is that you’re going to attract unwanted attention. Though, I’m sure that $160,000 of Kickstarter money softens the blow nicely.

    On that point, what I think is truly unfortunate is that Sarkeesian received over 25 times what she asked for to create a cheap webseries designed to explicitly to bash males, as if we didn’t have enough of those floating around in cyberspace. Yeah, people have called her a feminazi, but there’s plenty of evidence to show that a degree of honesty exists in that epithet.

    More honesty then we’re likely to see in “Tropes vs. Women in Gaming”, at any rate.

  1. 26th February 2014

    […] trolls. Over the last half decade this has emerged as a pattern – from Kathy Sierra in 2007, to Anita Sarkeesian in 2012, to Adria Richards and Caroline Criado-Perez. Beyond these prominent and much-discussed […]

  2. 9th April 2014

    […] The glaring omission here? There’s no mention of the way that women politicians, journalists, activists, professors, and other public figures are subjected to public judgement based on their looks (and […]

  3. 8th September 2015

    […] other words, in a sort of obtuse way, this advertisement prefigures the attacks on Sarkeesian and “Gamergate” vitriol directed towards any woman that speaks up about this […]

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