The Damsel in Distress, game edition

Anita Sarkeesian tackles the "damsels in distress" trope as it appears–widely!–in video games. The inevitable sideshow: angry Internet men managed (briefly) to get YouTube to remove the video.


  1. As an Internet Man I feel guilty by association, so, on behalf of Internet Manhood, I’ll say, “Sorry”. 

    1. I do very much hope that guilt is not so easily slopped around that we, who agree with Anita, are caught in the splatter.

      I think this video is much improved over her first, but I worry that the only people watching are people who want to do physical harm to her, and people who already agree with her. 

      1. Preaching to the converted isn’t necessarily wasted effort. I, myself, haven’t done the research, so having that’s handy by itself. And a well-constructed argument is portable; one can deploy it to convince others. 

      2. If I get caught in the splatter while walking forward to apologize, well, is that really the worst thing that can happen to a white male who feels guilty about Internet Bros?  I’ll take the splatter and acknowledge that I was probably due for some for GTA.

      3. I do very much hope that guilt is not so easily slopped around that we, who agree with Anita, are caught in the splatter.

         No evidence of that, so I’m not sure why this is relevant or why you thought to bring it up.

        Oh, maybe it was just to derail this discussion to the largely straight, white men who maybe have to work a little and be made a little uncomfortable when they confront their own privilege?

        Poor guys, man.  I’m sorry you are all going through so much right now.  It must be hard. :(

        1. No evidence at all, except for the associated feelings of guilt from people who are not contributing to the problem. That was not a “but what about teh menz?!” post, I was simply hoping that people who agree with Anita’s points don’t have to apologize for those who make video games about beating her up.

          1. Yes it was.

            I actually dislike when men come in here and apologize for all of mankind. It’s not all that helpful (illustrated by your nice, irrelevant derail!), for one.  And other reasons, too.

            But the guilt is all in your own head. He cannot make you feel anything. Just because he wants to apologize doesn’t mean you have to agree with him. You’re creating the splash damage, man. And it’s NOT IMPORTANT or at all relevant.

            You’re derailing. How shocking. That never happens in discussions about sexism! The subject *never* gets derailed to talk about how awful it is to be a man facing his own privilege!

            It was one of the first freakin’ comments, even. Sigh.

          2. Well then I apologize because I didn’t mean to come off that way at all. Perhaps a poorly thought out line of reasoning, or just a poorly chosen set of words. I retract my statement.

          3. @boingboing-fbcce68c3853e923f0983996eee5573e:disqus it is frustrating to be misinterpreted, but I’m more interested in the useful aspects of this discussion than defending a point I’m not married to and was simply exploring.


  2. Ideologically totally with her all the way with the exception of Ico, which for me completely hammered home the emotional significance of what was going on. I immediately understood: it is like having a precious toy being held up to you by someone you scarcely know, and being told it is an immoral thing and even more than that it is an influence on pernicious cultural attitudes, which you are henceforth a knowing and willing participant in. Now this thing you once cherished in a way you perceived as uncomplicated and innocent has become suddenly and irreversibly politicized, by an outside force no less, and it’s like a precious domain of security, fun, happiness, and warmth has been infiltrated and sullied. And there you sit, a welling disaffection spreading through you as you look down on what was once a lavish source of entertainment, and very much it’s the feeling of innocence seeping away, replaced instead with the stern visage of disapprobation, like a mother’s or a schoolmarm’s scorn, and it is unwelcome not solely because of its implied accusation, but because of what it touches. And you lash out, tears of hurt all but streaming down your face, with the wounded recrimination that only a child’s wrath can produce. “I loved that toy…”, you say, but you can never go back.

    Don’t mistake me. I completely agree with her message and the validity of her observations. But now I understand a little more clearly why some people react the way they do. Does this excuse them? No. But at least now I think I am beginning to understand.

    1. I love Ico. It’s still one of my favorite games. I think I would love it even more if it didn’t rely so heavily on the “heroic boy, helpless girl” stereotype.

      I understand why, for the sake of game mechanics, that one character has to be completely helpless. That “solve every puzzle twice: once for Ico and once for his helpless companion” mechanic is glorious. And the contrast between the two characters does make Ico look especially heroic and compassionate. It even creates a very exciting and touching story.

      But I would have enjoyed the story even more if it had played around with the genders: maybe swapping them, making both characters the same gender or even making them genderless.

      1. Note that Costume Quest, for example, gives you exactly this choice: Right at the beginning you choose to play as either the brother or the sister, and the one you don’t choose is kidnapped and has to be rescued.

    2. What she’s also making you aware of is why you have those feelings, why you have that connection to the precious toy.  She’s not saying you’re wrong for doing so.  She’s saying that you’ve been brought to that point by writers and producers relying on time-tested tropes that pull heartstrings and pull you into the game.

      If the main character was Yorda, who had to rescue a helpless Ico, would you feel the same connection?  That’s the question she’s trying to bring to the forefront here.  Why are women the ones who always need saving and are the female characters always required to be so helpless in order to make gamers feel a connection to the characters in the game?

      I don’t feel like she’s attacking the games or anyone’s enjoyment of them, she’s attacking why these tropes still have power and why writers continue to recycle them over and over.

      1. I think my biggest problem with @disqus_fQeGmIa5u3:disqus ‘s comment is he clearly understands and has even thought about, in some length, what he’s feeling but he hasn’t spent any time at all reflecting on why he feels those things.  He spends several paragraphs going over how emotional he feels over his “precious toy’s” innocence being taken away (from him), and and then he tacks on the end, “I understand, I really do…” as if by saying he does, toootally means he does.

        Maybe some people need to spend more time reflecting, less time reacting and getting defensive.

        1. marilove: my entire intention is to try to understand the why of those feelings. If I have misunderstood the why, then I own that. Of course I see it as deeply problematic to represent the male gamer in this situation as the victim. That isn’t my goal. But emotions are sometimes like vestiges of people you once were . You have them despite your better judgment or your moral principles or all the sense you’ve acquired by living and maturing. I am saying: maybe the uncritical, emotional, childish part of me hates having my precious thing bespoiled like this. And I am owning that, and saying that the source of this indignation is childish. By saying it is childish, I am not defending it as such. We all must move beyond childish things, right?

          1. We must all move on, yes, and I appreciate your honesty, and I understand now better where you are coming from, but you still haven’t even begun to examine the “why”, or anything really.  You’ve just re-stated much of what has already been said, except in a really weird, de-humanizing way (“toys” and “things” and “lost innocence”) as if it were the saddest thing in the world.

            Your whole missive was rather strange and not particularly helpful to the discussion, honestly.  I understand that you’re having a “toy” taken away from you (in a video game…….). And it’s cool, I guess, that you realize that’s cool, buuut, now where does that leave me? Where does that leave the discussion?

            Women still getting referred to as toys and play things and it is so emotional for you to lose your innocent play things…and…k.

            That’s great.

          2. I think this chalks up to the unfortunate parallels between the metaphors I chose to use and the significance they seem to have for you as signifiers of the subordination of women. That’s unfortunate, largely unintentional but mostly to do with naivety on my part about how they might be read, and overall poor rhetorical form. Let’s indeed move on.

          3.  That’s unfortunate, largely unintentional but mostly to do with naivety on my part about how they might be read, and overall poor rhetorical form. Let’s indeed move on.

            Yet more lack of self-reflection and analyzing, just an admittance that you have problems, but no real effort on your part to do anything about it.  So typical.

            Yeah, it’s unfortunate that you call women “toys” and “play things”. That’s what it is.  “unfortunate”. 

            Not at all common and highly problematic  sexist, and misogynist   Just “unfortunate”.

          4. Honestly, @boingboing-fbcce68c3853e923f0983996eee5573e:disqus I think you’re being unnecessarily combative with people who are trying to explore their own reactions to the issues brought up in Anita’s videos. These are things people have to work through, and sometimes people do that by messily talking about it, realizing their mistakes, revising, trying again, and repeating this process. Harping on mistaken sentence structure or dangling modifiers doesn’t help anyone work through their reaction, or analyze its significance, it simply creates a situation where people feel attacked for opening up with their feelings and effectively asking for help and helpful criticism. 

            I know we had our thing above, and I fully own the fact that my topic was, at best, uninteresting, but in this case I think @disqus_fQeGmIa5u3:disqus is attempting to explore his own reaction and doing so in a somewhat public place.

            It’s not helpful to attack someone for not being all the way “there” yet. It’s much more helpful to help them get there.

          5. While not wanting to speak for Andrew, I read his comment that the toy he was referring to was the game itself, and not Yorda or women at all.

            The word “toy” appears to be used as a metaphor for “childish item that one plays with,” not calling women out as toys.  You’re adding the quotes to the word, giving it added meaning, I think he’s just using it as the noun it is.

            Andrew is acknowledging his heightened awareness of the issue, that doesn’t mean he’s not going to make any real effort on it.  Is there any effort he could really show on an internet commenting system?

    3. I immediately understood: it is like having a precious toy being held up to you by someone you scarcely know, 

      A precious toy!

      Now this thing you once cherished in a way you perceived as uncomplicated and innocent has become suddenly and irreversibly politicized, 

      A thing!  That you once cherished, as you do things (which are uncomplicated and innocent becuase they are things), and now … now that thing, that toy, is no longer complicated and innocent.

      OH THE HORROR!  A woman, a woman!  Not uncomplicated and “innocent” any longer, how very, very terrible! Ah, yes, that subjective word with the always-flexible definition… we women must always remain “innocent”.

      “I loved that toy…”, you say, but you can never go back.

      That’s fucking fantastic, man.  Great.  Just great.

      Don’t mistake me. I completely agree with her message and the validity of her observations. 

      No, you don’t.  You really, really don’t.=

      1. I think you totally missed my point. The thing in question was in reference to the beloved video game itself, not the women-as-object in the game. The thing is not the woman, who must be subjugated in order for the mysoginist to enjoy himself, but the entire game, which encompasses both good and bad.

        Not entirely relevant, but I will point out at that I am gay, and as such uninterested in the standard litany of reasons for wanting to objectify women, or represent them as weak or vulnerable. I am in no way threatened by women seeking equal and fair representation in art. I find the tropes laughable and tedious, and would love nothing more than to see some true reversals of the standard crap. In all respects, I agree with her and support her project. I don’t know how I can make this any more clear.

        DESPITE my agreement with her, I am still given to careful thought and sensitivity. Though I despair of penetrating your apparent knee-jerk desire for painting anyone who does not default to a simple binary perspective as oblivious to the nuances of the situation, I will try to explain my point.

        I am attempting to come to terms with how otherwise normal people might react, psychologically and emotionally, to demonstrably true evidence that their games are embarrassingly exploitative and simple-minded representations of women. I am /not/ trying to excuse or apologize for this behaviour. It was a minor revelation to see a favourite game of mine included in her list, and to observe the emotional responses of hurt/anger I FELT, and to acknowledge them and try to understand their source. Being a thoughtful person, I like to pay attention to my own hypocrisies or prejudices, and so when I found myself experiencing a hint of the indignation that seems to be fulminating irrationally against her, I didn’t simply indulge in it, but exposed it to the best analysis I could muster.

        Because I believe some of these people who express outrage at her work, however repugnant this outrage might seem to us who identify as feminists, might benefit a little from being understood. If we understood our enemies, rather than viciously condemning them, then we are in a better position to reason with them. And if we honestly see the capacity in ourselves to behave fallibly, as PEOPLE do, and fall prey to very same emotions we outwardly detest in others, then we come closer to understanding OURSELVES, and growing both as people and as feminists.

        That was my intention. Thank you for YOUR outrage.

        1. The thing in question was in reference to the beloved video game itself, not the women-as-object in the game. 

          You think that’s somehow helping you?  Because it is not.

          Do you think games are going to just disappear and now you’re not going to have anything to play?  Are you worried that if there is less sexism in games and if women get more of a leading roll in them rather than just mere “toys” and “play things”, that you will no longer enjoy the games?

          The thing is not the woman, who must be subjugated in order for the mysoginist to enjoy himself, but the entire game, which encompasses both good and bad.

          No, the subject includes the woman.  Always.  You can’t take the characters (in this case, the women) from the game.  They are part of the game.  It’s not just the game you’re mourning — it’s the subject matter you’re mourning.  See what I am saying about not really reflecting?

          I didn’t simply indulge in it, but exposed it to the best analysis I could muster.

          Maybe you should try to “muster” more next time and do some actual analyzing   This isn’t just about you, even though you’re using much effort to make it about you.  And I didn’t see much “analyzing”. 

          Sure, I agree, we need to try to understand why people act the way they do, but you didn’t really try to understand.  At the same time, people tend to focus on “understanding” the “other side”, far more than actually focusing on the problem and the *actual* group that is being silenced and oppressed, thus perpetuating the oppression and silencing…

          You just re-iterated the same thing we’ve been saying all along.  I’m not seeing any self-reflection or analyzing in any of your comments.

          Thank you for YOUR outrage.

          Oh, yeah.  Outrage.  Totally.  Thanks for the predictable tone-trolling to go along with the concern trolling and mansplaining. 

          Yeah, I have no reason at all to have any outrage whatsoever at the blatant sexism and dehumanization directed at women, both in video games, and in response to these videos.  I have no reason at all to have any outrage over rape and death threats, all because a woman dares to have a voice.

          But, of course, those same people who dehumanize and send rape and death threats?  I must consider their feelings, and I must consider where they are coming from.

          You’re VERY welcome for my outrage.

           It’s what shit gets done.

          Or, as Tina Fey once famously said: Bitches get shit done.

          1. You seem deeply invested in portraying me as a “mansplaning” apologist for mysoginists, and as someone invested in paternalistic imagery. Then I wholeheartedly accept your criticism, and will endeavour to investigate those issues and hopefully emerge a better, more well-rounded person. 

            Be cautious, however, that your indignation does not sometimes lead you to become a stereotype in your own right.

          2. I feel like you misintepreted the original post and are now reluctant to own up to it. The words “innocent” “uncomplicated” and “plaything” all refer to his own childhood/adolescent experiences with the game Ico as a sweet puzzle game, not to the vision of womanhood depicted in it.
            It was precisely his point that he never even noticed the depiction of womanhood in it, not that he relished in it or whatever it is that you are implying.
            He was speaking about his own obliviousness and his realization that the game he loved wasn’t as “nice” as he thought it was.

          3. That was my interpretation of the original comment and subsequent clarifications as well, thank you for chiming in.

          4. Only if we acknowledge that it is only a toy horse and not actually hitting a real “filly.”

    4. I understand what you meant because, as a woman, I’ve had similar reactions myself to beloved art/ material.

      For instance, Douglas Adams is one of my favourite authors but I found myself  having a bit of a shadow cast on my enjoyment of the ‘Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ when I  read his statement that he basically thought of women as so mysterious that it was difficult for him to invent complex motives, drives and personalities in his female characters. Suddenly, it wasn’t incidental and just flukes that Trillian was really boring and that Fenchurch was utterly excised from the story (without even a tragic death scene). It was because a brilliant, sensible artist was living in a world where women are perceived as so alien that it was easier to create a fully three-dimensional and vibrant 2-headed actual alien than a fleshed-out human female. It kinda killed a bit of the fun and glee of the work because that realization is enormously sad. I still appreciate it, but it’s true that the initial innocence is lost.

      But it is a positive (albeit bittersweet)  thing to identify and recognize problematic issues even in our favourite things. It’s part of growth, all around. We can still appreciate the good and the skills in cherished games, books, film, etc but we also can learn about shortcomings, biases and the more negative aspects of culture from them and help create new and even better generations of material based on that learning.

      1. Thank you for your lovely and thoughtful comment.

        Edit: and by ‘lovely’ I just mean ‘kind’, given the caustic nature of the discussion otherwise.

      2. There’s a potential for intentional artistry here, though. Consider “High Fidelity”, which is basically an extended “WHAAAT IS GOING ON IN YOUR HEAD!?” aimed at the various women Rob Gordon has known throughout his life. The difference, I suppose, is that “High Fidelity” is conscious, and Douglas simply wrote around the issue.

      3. …a brilliant, sensible artist was living in a world where women are perceived as so alien that it was easier to create a fully three-dimensional and vibrant 2-headed actual alien than a fleshed-out human female.

        Same thing with The Gay. Book 15 of a series which shall remain nameless, and we still don’t have a gay male character. Plenty of horny bisexual lady vampires, of course. Are we that fucking hard to figure out?

        1. But..but…you like dudes! And straight women like dudes! Obviously, it is impossible to get into the head of someone who isn’t attracted to the same people as you. Of course.

          1. It’s true. Gay men and straight women never think about anything except cock, snagging a husband and overspending on impractical clothing. No straight man could possibly penetrate that mindset in order to write a character.

  3. I am constantly amazed at the hate this woman gathers simply for saying, in essence, “Here is a thing I noticed.”  I have to wonder what exactly those guys are so afraid of.

      1. I think we’re seeing something here that is universal and deeply sad. We’re seeing people forced to come to terms with the painful truth that something they have loved and which is undeniably a huge and meaningful part of their lives is also, in a very real way, actually and no-bones-about-it sick. Not all, but a significant portion of it is given to rot, they realize, and that realization is so unsettling that the immediate and inevitable reaction is to lash out at what has made them confront all these unpleasant truths. I see the same thing in religion, in anti-semitism, in bigotry, in all the ugly facets of human nature. Tell us of our shame and we would sooner hue and cry than accept responsibility.

        1. That’s the thing.  Even if her research was 100% correct on every point, it still wouldn’t make one a bad person for enjoying a game.  Some people seem to take this as a personal attack on them, for liking something that’s problematic.  

          It’s like … I’m a feminist.  And I think that the ridiculous bikini armor on female characters is hilarious.  The more ridiculous it is, the funnier I find it.  Probably 85% of women who game disagree with me on this, and that’s okay.  Does bikini-armor say something about how society views women?  Yes, absolutely.  Maybe that’s what I find so funny about it. 

          1. Feminism used to frustrate and confuse me, until I learned not to take it personally. One can be a member of an oppressor class without actually oppressing anybody, and there’s no need for guilt (but maybe an imperative for change.)

          2. One can be a member of an oppressor class without actually oppressing anybody

            No you can’t. No matter what you do, you will still receive perks that are denied, and thus essentially stolen from, the oppressed class. That’s why they call it a class. And frankly, anyone who lives in a world where women don’t even have equal rights under the law and then claims to be frustrated by feminism is depressingly self-centered.

          3. Seriously?  As a straight couple we can’t get married in Massachusetts (which has gay marriage) and then move to, say New Jersey, where gay marriage is not recognized without immediately becoming part of the oppressors?  Even if we work towards achieving gay marriage in New Jersey with time, money, phone calls, and letters to state representatives we’re still oppressors?

          4. You get tax breaks that gay couples don’t. They pay more than you. Ergo, you are profiting from oppression. That makes you a member of the oppressor class, where you will be stuck until the oppression no longer exists.

            It’s not a personal insult. But you profit from the inequity.

          5. Again, I acknowledge that we are part of the oppressor class.  But does that make me an oppressor if I am actively working to end the oppression?

            The solutions would be what:
            a) to to divorce my wife in order to teach the state a lesson (she’s never going to be down with that)
            b) move to MA until NJ gets its shit together, thereby eliminating any leverage I have as a consitiuent to help solve the problem?

            Any profits we’ve made from tax breaks have been more than offset by supporting gay marriage, does taking the fiscal component away remove someone from the oppressor class?

            I’m not taking this personally, but I’d like to know what actions one should be taking to stop oppression when the random DNA mixup sets one into the oppressor class. 

          6. But does that make me an oppressor if I am actively working to end the oppression?

            That wasn’t the question that was being discussed. I was responding to someone who’s afraid of feminism.

            But the answer is that you can’t opt out of being a member of the oppressor class, so there’s no point in doing public penance. The idea that all men have to publicly atone for sexism is an MRA talking point, like the idea that gay marriage will force straight people to do commit some unspecified abomination. Just try to be aware of the inequities and make an ethical choice when something comes up.

          7. Actually, you were responding directly to me when discussing the profit I reap by being married.

            I feel like the ethical choice is the easy part.  That I can do from the quiet of one’s own home with little financial pain.  The difficult part is publicly acknowledging the inequities and providing public support to end them.

    1. You don’t understand why people dislike the people who feed trolls for financial or ideological gain?

  4. There is a problem with the expectation that story-based games are written for a male audience.

    But once you write pulpy type stories with a simple troped plot, like “revenge”. Having you get revenge for your “wife being brutally murdered and then you have to rescue your daughter” is a plot that “works”.  “A beautiful dame walks into a detective agency” is a pulpy plot that “works” for people as diverse as Hammett and Garrison Keillor. 

    I’m never sure if Sarkeesian’s complaint is that merely too many games are written for ‘male audiences” or if its that the tropes that male audiences might connect to are “too problematic”. if its the latter, then the male ego is being told that “you should not like X”. Or “Your tastes should be more sophisticated so that you are not fooled [in this action GAME with a thin plotline] by this “lazy writing”)

    Iron Man worries about Pepper Pots because he loves her and she is physically vulnerable where he is not. Iron Man does not worry about Black Widow because she is trained in violence.

    Oh, and Orpheus.

    1. Women play games too. Though, as with other media, when the marketroids are convinced that women-as-victims/men-as-heroes sell more than victims or protagonists without gender bias and act as though only men as protagonists sell, more women are turned off the medium. This is a bad thing for everybody.

    2. I think she wants gaming to be more sophisticated, more challenging, more entertaining, more universal to 50% of the possible audience and if that means writers need to stop relying on misogynistic tropes, well, is that so bad?

      1. Exactly! The tropes themselves wouldn’t be such an issue if they were used sparingly. The real problem is that this sort of stuff has become the default plot device for all games.

        I’d have no problem at all with a damsel in a fridge if there was just one game using it. And another game might have a gent in a fridge, or use some completely different tropes, or invent completely new ones. Instead, way too many games pick the same one because it’s an easy shortcut to drama without the writers even having to think about it. And the fact that it paints a very misogynist picture doesn’t deter them, probably because they’re not thinking about it.

        And that I think is the real value of Sarkeesian’s videos: raising awareness among game developers, so they start thinking about this stuff and making some more intelligent choices.

    3. Except that he  actually almost gets Pepper killed because of his desire to protect her, and in the end, she’s the invulnerable one who saves him. You know. Just to point it out. (And in the first movie, he sends her into danger, and she saves him twice, and also takes out the villain). And she spends a lot of time worrying about HIM. Worrying about one’s loved ones is not limited to big strong men. Women are not passive actors in their own lives.

      Take what you’re saying about “male audiences connect to tropes that are problematic” and filter it through race. You’d find it bullshit if someone was arguing against blackface and minstral shows and argued that it’s just what white audiences connect to, and you’d probably agree that yeah, it is skeevy to like such inescapably racist things. Sexism is not inescapable. It is possible to create storylines that men (and men and women) can connect to without turning women into prized possessions that exist to get killed or threatened in gruesome and tantalizing ways.

  5. I know it gets you clicks and all, but wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where we could just present someone’s work without framing it (rather unnecessarily) with side line events?

    1. Presenting her work without addressing the fact that her works garners murder/death/rape threats and video games where you can punch her in the face would be a disservice to the work, and her.

      1. So you’re saying that these reactions are integral to her work, and give it merit?

        I know that’s not what you’re trying to say, of course. But. You are saying it. And I disagree.

        The reactions are of course noteworthy, because they do underline her points (in a roundabout way). But I feel that this should be separate from presenting her work, because it makes it look like her videos alone don’t make their points well enough. [End of slight hyperbole]

        And there’s a reason why I said “wouldn’t it be nice”.

        1. Using Sarkeesian’s history to frame her work establishes context for that work. It may not give the work any further merit in itsel, but it gives *her* merit for continuing in the face of harassment. She has soldiered on in the face of adversity. Her work would not be here for us without her personal fortitude. It’s an important part of the story.

        2. You can be hyperbolic all you like, but setting out to do important work that you know, before you even start, will cause murder/rape/death-threats to be levelled at you, yes, does confer merit. I’m sorry if that offends you? I’m not sure why?

          Her videos make their point regardless of the invective being hurled at her. That she makes the video at all while being threatened lends her videos more merit.

          And yes, it would be nice if we lived in a world where someone’s work was judged solely on its merits. But we don’t live in that world, and trying to extricate this work from the world in which it is created is disingenuous and takes away from the actual meaning of the work.

          1. What’s with the emotion? Are you female or something?

            But seriously: I’m pretty sure that it’s not me who is offended.

            Not much more to add to the discussion. I’d like to see her work presented on its own, you wouldn’t. Fair enough.

        3. So you’re saying that these reactions are integral to her work, and give it merit?

          Yes, they are integral to her work.  They are very much related.

          And, give it merit?  No, maybe not merit, but a certain perspective, perhaps a type of motivation, maybe a certain sort of knowledge that someone like you would never be able to have.

          Her subject matter is about SEXISM in gaming, and she has been on the receiving end of large amounts of sexism merely for wanting to talk about that subject.
          The fact that you think it’s a “side line” event is ridiculous and, quite frankly, not logical.

        4. Good idea! Like how colonialism did underline Ghandi’s non-violent resistance (in a roundabout way), but wasn’t  integral to his work.  

    2. Would I be right in assuming you a straight, white male?  I will gladly eat dirt if I’m wrong, but…

  6.  I gotta agree that the euthanized damsel combo is pretty reprehensible. But I think the revenge and damsel in distress tropes can easily be reversed so that the protagionist is female and the victim is the husband, brother or son. An example is Boudicca who after being brutilized at the hands of the romans sacked several cities before being defeated. In Aliens the protagionist is Ripley who wants to care for Newt and walks into the lion’s den to rescue her. However these are not examples of video games. But then the video game markets biggest demographic is still male. This is changing though and we can see the effects of the changes happening around us. For example in Mass Effect the women of your team are shown to be capable in their own right. It is unfortunate though that the developers didn’t take the opportunity to comment on  your characters sex outside of relationships. The tropes involving violence against women need to stop and the best way to do that is vote with your wallet, Next time you are considering a AAA title consider how the women are being portrayed, and if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable don’t buy it. Or if ou buy a game and find something objectionable then be brave and kick up a fuss about it.  Things won’t change if we are being passive.

    1.  You’d think *somebody* would see that lost demographic of women who supposedly don’t play games as an opportunity. :/

      But they don’t because women already do play games. My 14 yo daughter has an immense stack of Sims 2 and 3 expansion packs, and my 7 yo daughter is *obsessed* with legend of zelda. I can’t count myself as more than a casual player of video games, but *they* get it from my mom, who spent hours daily flipping the board on pacman and centipede, and who still takes her DS everywhere.

      The problem is they’d rather spend their time enjoying the games rather than agitating for changes that will probably never be implemented anyway.

  7. Why is this ancient shit being re-posted?  Why are you people praising her for acting like the very thing she speaks against in her video?

    Also, I love how she hasn’t managed to make a second video after all these months.  What a crook.

  8. I’m disappointed that you continue to promote Anita.
    She abuses the DMCA to silence her critics.
    For example, she released a video review of the game Bayonetta, and the review was filled with factual inaccuracies about the game, which made it clear that not just had she not played the game, but she didn’t even read the synopses on the back of the box!

    When it was pointed out how flawed her review was, the original video ( was promptly made private, never to be spoken of again.
    When people started remixing this video, to highlight the inaccuracies in it, Feminist Frequency got out the DMCA hammer to bully people who mocked them.
    A mirror of it is here, until Feminist Frequency DMCAs it again:

    A decent recounting of this is near the end of this article:

    Of course, I’m an evil troll for pointing this stuff out.Obviously I just want women to get back in the kitchen and not vote or something, because I object to the DMCA.

    1. No, what makes you a troll is that instead of addressing the issues in the current video you’re going to bring this up.

      How about you address the issues women face in the gaming community? You don’t need to do point by point take downs of her work. Do your own work, show how you’re working towards making gaming more inclusive for women and less sexist. Show the good things you’ve done.

      Otherwise I’m just going to assume you’re crying over not getting all the ice-cream.

  9. I believe soon enough most games will be so sophisticated, you will be able to choose the sex of the hero, and of the person being saved.

    Personally, I don’t think the authors and writers of those games had some chauvinistic agenda when writing their narratives. Paint me optimistic, but I think they just adhered to their social and cultural ideas, and produced a product that will sell, and will have an emotional impact on their target audience. If 90% of gamers were female, they would have engineered the games for females (and probably get women to do it). After all, for a games company, money is the main (and maybe only) motivator – not some philosophical agenda.

    Personally, I enjoy playing both female and male characters in games that allow it. Games such as World of Warcraft (and other, similar games) will let you play both. Do I see females as being weak, damsels in distress? not really. I think it could have been a strong female, with excellent fighting skills and knowledge of martial arts, saving a guy who was weaker and gentler, and unable to fend for himself. And in WoW, I have done that several times with my female character, I saved male characters. I don’t know if they were played by males or females in real-life but did it really matter? Not really…

    And sometimes I would love to be that person who is saved, because I think sometimes it’s fun to be saved! It’s like a throwback to when we were children, and our parents saved us from stuff like touching an exposed electrical wire, from putting eggs in microwaves, from crossing the road and being run over by a garbage truck, from falling off a balcony… and when we did hurt ourselves and were bleeding, they would disinfect the wounds, and stick band-aids all over us. That’s the kinda love you get from a parent.

      1. Please don’t take what I said out of context. The context is money making. I detest generalizations, but the world of business is the world of business – the only rule is: make more money.

        1. See, this is what I don’t understand…

          When we talk about the game industry we talk about how the audience is 90% (straight/white) men, so the games get made to appeal to that demographic.

          But, when we’re making talking movies/TV, the audience is predominately female/non-white, BUT we still need to make movies/TV that appeal to (straight/white) men because we want their money too.

          So which is it? Appeal to the largest demographic because thats the audience, or appeal to the smaller one because that the harder audience to reach?

          Gee, it’s like there’s something else at play here… and its not just money.

          1. Do you really think it’s more than money? Maybe. I mean I can totally imagine a captive audience with no more channels to switch to, being force fed with materials. But I’m not so sure. I just have this idea that TV is all about money, and they will push whatever gives them the highest rating, so they can sell their ads… isn’t that so?

          2. Are you going to address the weirdness of the economics of games vs TV/Movies or no?

            You can’t have it both ways.
            Either you go after the bigger audience because Money. Or you go after the smaller audience because Money. Those are mutually exclusive goals. IF you want to do both, then there has to be something else at play her other than Money.

            Understand, I’m not saying there is a secret cabal somewhere designing things so that anyone who is not straight/white/male gets shafted.

            I am saying that sexism, racism, classism, ableism, all the isms, are silent invisible hands that have force in society and the market.

            To pretend otherwise, that we have a “free market” in all things, free from centuries of oppression of various groups, is naive at best.

        2. And if games want to be seen as more than just money making vehicles and enter the world of art, they need to act accordingly.

    1. “Personally, I don’t think the authors and writers of those games had some chauvinistic agenda when writing their narratives. Paint me optimistic, but I think they just adhered to their social and cultural ideas”

      You know what?  I think you’re totally right with this.  I know a hell of a lot of guys who make games.  Artists, programmers, designers, developers; and 99.9% of them are not misogynist jerks.  They’re not deliberately thinking “hey let’s make this girl weak because women are weak.”  

      That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with questioning a cultural assumption that you *don’t* think about generally.  Not having to think about it is the definition of “privilege”.

      1. Agree – It is through awareness that we improve as a species. So whatever manages to raise awareness, be it this video, or some campaign, I’m 100% in support of it.

        1. Good point.  Plus, it’s not like sexist tropes only appeal to straight cismale players, just like sexist images in print and video don’t just appeal to straight cismen.  Who the hell buys all that perfume and fashion sold with naked, unhappy, strewn women models?  These cultural narratives get their teeth into everyone.  Having more diversity of things to get all perked up about can only help.  

      2.  Anita says this explicitly near the end of the video. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just lazy writers reaching for the low hanging fruit. The point is maybe we should *start* thinking  about doing things differently.

        1. ^ This.  It is the laziness.  And I’m sure there are writers who are coming up with clever non-traditional ideas who then run them past the producers and directors who say “Is there some way we can make the main character more vulnerable?  Maybe he can need to rescue his daughter…”

          There are a few writers out there doing great stuff, the way to move them forward is to continue to support their work.

          1. I couldn’t agree with you more! It’s those a**holes in management, thinking that new radical ideas (strong women?! sheesh!?) might not sell at the box office.

            And you know what I hate even more? When a female character is impossibly strong, like one of the women in the X-men movies. They can do all those amazing super-human things, but the production will find ways to make them vulnerable just because they are females. Like they will be emotionally vulnerable, or fall for a guy who then betrays them, and so on. That’s total BS.

      3. Intention isn’t magic. And why does everyone think there needs to be a focused “agenda”? Particularly when it comes to sexism? That’s just silly, and totally misses the ENTIRE point.

        I also think everyone here, including @skaagargonius:disqus , needs to read up on “institutionalized” and “internal” sexism.  because clearly no one understands those concepts.  Sexism doesn’t have to be OVERT to be a terrible thing.

        And often, the reason these games are made this way is because the MEN making the games aren’t thinking outside of their own little box, and their own wants and desires in a game.  And, of course, big-box game companies and stuff tend to be lazy because of money, so they resort to the same-old sexist bullshit.  It’s a vicious cycle.

        Also, included in that cycle is that there are not enough WOMEN in the gaming industry, particularly in the bigger games I am sure.  And so even though there is an ever-increasing number of women playing games, no one is really thinking about them, because it’s all men.

        No, there isn’t a big, obvious, blatant, agenda.  It’s an ever-existing world that we live in.  And it’s not just video games.

        Hello, welcome to the Patriarchy!  I hope you enjoy your stay!

        1. I for one would totally love a matriarchy. I’m just not convinced it will be any better than a patriarchy. Power corrupts everybody, regardless of their gender.

          And I feel there are enough games where the player can choose the gender of their character (all the MMORPGs pretty much), and games where females are even stronger because of their skill set (look at Second Life for example). Also games where there is no gender involved (like Eve Online).

  10. What this video highlights is that men are simple creatures, having several huge easy-to-push buttons that arouse their emotions.  Game creators push these buttons because that’s what the predominantly male gaming market pays them to do.  Although this video appears aimed at game creators, the real source for these repeated tropes is the average gamer who giddily plunks down their money for more of the same, while occasionally (rarely) spending money on creative attempts such as Dear Esther.

    I suspect that although a critical examination of their gaming themes may persuade a very few males to avoid playing titles that poke these obvious buttons, most, by far, will shrug their shoulders and go right back to what they enjoy.  It ain’t logical, it’s biological.

    1. And you see this not just in games, mate. It’s rampant in Hollywood and Bollywood. And yet those movies rake in hundreds of millions in revenue. The capitalistic formula is simple: If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

    2. What this video highlights is that men are simple creatures, having several huge easy-to-push buttons that arouse their emotions.  

      No.  This is not cool when people do it to women, and it’s not cool when people do it to men.  Men and women are no more or no less complicated or simple than the other.  We aren’t even that different, not really.  Just because advertisement and the media says so does not make it true.

      Both men and women are just as equally vulnerable to media and advertisement.  It’s not like women are somehow better than men. Plenty of women perpetuate sexist notions and ideals. Don’t put women on a pedestal. It’s not helpful.

       It ain’t logical, it’s biological.

      No.  This is lazy thinking.  This is so lazy.

      This same freakin’ argument is used to rationalize rape.  “Men are just wired to fuck!”It’s lazy and it’s insulting to an entire gender!

      1.  Thank you. Men are *not* too stupid to know better. They continue playing these games for the same reasons women do – because that’s what’s on the shelf, so it’s either play these games or go outside. I know which I’d pick.

        1. This. Most of the men I know would bristle at the “biological” comment. Men are not ugly bags of mostly water incapable of thought, insight and critical thinking. That its mostly men that espose this “biological” argument is so bizarre to me…  

          1.  Your comment made me think how after the 70’s when people generally accepted that all sexes should share in household tasks, suddenly the ‘father knows best’ style über-reliable dude morphed into a ‘tim the toolman’ bumblefuck who just can’t be counted on to do things right, so after all, the smart, long suffering woman must take up the slack.  The ‘but we’re so simple/immature/clumsy/misguided/wired to …/etc.’ line is just another line of resistance to equality.  

          2. Its also an easy way to trap women into being too busy in the home doing all the things so they don’t have time to think/educate/protest.

            Can’t start a revolution if you can’t leave the house. 

            (I’m not actually saying this is is what “men” are doing to “women”)

        2. Yeah.  And, as Marilove pointed out above, non hetero cis-dudes are also affected by these images and often turned on by them.  In that light, this video series is not ‘against men and their sexist tropes’ but ‘look what the fuck we’re playing with here’.  

  11. I wish she was more historical and in particular discussed the “Fate Worse than Death” trope.

    Historically it usually involves killing women so they won’t be captured and suffer a fate worse than death. It is somewhat understandable if you know the attackers will just rape all the women to death which makes quick death preferable to rape death though in actual history I’m sure that stories about this were much more common than actual happenings.

    More often this fate can just refer to one where the women’s sexual purity will be violated – say they become forced brides or slaves with no consent to sex. Often it has very racist overtones – note the White Slave Act which came about from hysteria generated by popular fiction involving dark skinned individuals kidnapping white women to become sex slaves.

    The fate is usually framed as sexual defilement without mentioning that even if female victims are rescued by “polite” society they will be ruined for life. Some societies “recognize” this and engage in honor killing of rape victims which at least saves them from their only allowed fate which is to become prostitutes.

    Some current video games somewhat follow this trope – the abductors are generally of a different race (or species), though spiritual defilement is substituted for the sexual.

    Also the game killings are mostly honor killings rather than preemptive ones, though I could easily envision a game where the hero has to kill his wife and children or else they will turn into demons that he will never be able to defeat.

      1. What’s wrong with raising this horrible trope?  S/he’s not advocating honor killings.

        1. Maybe I’m reading it wrong due to the liberal use of bolding the absolute worst things in a sentence, but I thought the trope they bring up was adequately covered in the video – in the section covering the player being forced to kill the damsel in distress because ‘demons’, ‘is now evil’, ‘is in a lot of pain’ as all things death serves as a release for (implicitly are worse than death) – and she didn’t really need to be more “historical” (less videogames?) with “actual happenings” of “rape all the women to death”.  More specifically, they didn’t need to BOLD all that stuff so that it was the first thing you saw skimming down the page.

          Their mention of games seems to be an afterthought since there is an example in the video of a game where the hero has to kill the damsel or she will turn into a demon that he will never be able to defeat, so it doesn’t require envisioning. 

          Overall I think they focused way too much on structures of sexual dominance of women to protest the exclusion of what is a very broad trope that actually was covered in the video, just not in that specific sense because the majority of mainstream video-games don’t contain content where you have to murder a village’s women to save them from barbarian horde rape death.

    1. We can have their Meet Cute be at a Con!  They can dress as characters from the same game!

    2.  I forgot to mention that, thanks (sadly) to all of the vitriol thrown her way a while back (eg the beat-up-anita sarkeesian video game, etc.), I found out about Anita’s work. I am continually delighted whenever she presents something. It may be an instance of preaching to the converted, but I have turned so many friends towards Anita that I hope it helps. ( My love of Bubble Bobble being the main sexist skeleton in my video game closet, sigh).
      Yes, I seem to be a straight caucasian male — though in light of Bucky Fuller, I (more importantly) also seem to be a verb.
      Post Script — everyone go out and read Susan Griffin’s A Chorus of Stones, asap. Then read her Eros of Everyday Life: Essays in Gender, Ecology, and Society. Brilliant yet seemingly undervalued thinker.

  12. Everyone has lost their goddamn minds.  We have euansmith apologizing on behalf of all men, Andrew expressing guilt over his enjoyment of games like Ico and all his pathetic grovelling just is not good enough for marilove, who, quite frankly, is an incredibly stupid person getting confused, thinking that when Andrew was talking about toys that he was talking about women, when he was actually talking about the games as toys.  When you are predisposed with a certain bias, you will see patriarchy EVERYWHERE, marilove is a great example of this.  Read her wild assumptions and over-reactions to Andrew, trying his level best to be as sniveling and PC as possible.

    All over a poorly researched emotion driven propaganda video that, if it were an essay in college, would not have met the passing grade.

    This. Is. Bullshit.

    Really Anita’s argument boils down to “trope = bad, sexist” irregardless of context or character development.  She pretty much says in her video that you should disregard the context of specific games.  This is wrong.  Inevitably, there are going to be helpless characters that need to be saved within certain kinds of narratives.  It’s an absurd, untenable standard to say that whenever the helpless character is a woman, this equals bad, this equals sexist.

    No matter how helpful the character is prior to or after disempowerment, the mere fact that she’s disempowered makes it bad, sexist.  We can see this in the Zelda example in Anita’s previous video, which KiteTales counters in a response video

    Again, certain stories are inevitably going to have disempowered people.  

    The Seven Samurai.  A Fistful of Dollars.  Both about towns of disempowered people that need help.

    There are only so many stories that can be told, so again, inevitability here, you WILL see repetition.  And not every writer is going to be clever enough to play with tropes or turn them on their head, and neither should they necessarily HAVE to.  Everything has its place, from the trashiest hollywood Transformers movie to the artistic and thought provoking.  You can’t expect each game story to re-invent the wheel.

    Anita’s ‘euthanized damsel’ is horribly defined, very vague.  Rorschach from Watchmen fits, except he’s not a woman.  Remember the guy in Dawn of the Dead that requested he be shot if he was to turn into a zombie?  He fits too – except he’s not a woman.

    There are just as many examples (arguably many more examples) of disempowered males, who are subjected to violence, in fictional narratives.

    So it comes to, “I don’t like it when a woman is disempowered in a story”, labelling this sexist, and demanding an entire industry conforms to your personal taste.  This is shallow.  It’s stupidity.

    The worst, was Anita talking about game developers being ‘dangerously irresponsible’ and bringing in real life violence against women.  This is massively offensive.  Ya can’t just throw that out there without citing any research or sources.

    Actually, I think the worst thing about it is how people swallow it up.  “I never realized Ico was sexist until Anita told me so!”  Completely uncritical.  People accept so much of what she says, as fact, on face value alone.  It’s reminiscent of Kony2012, how willing people are to jump aboard when a video with a sensationalist style manipulates their emotions.

    You’re fucking insane, people.

  13. After a long day at the Mansplaining Plantation, a refreshing bottle of Haterade puts the lead back in the old United States of Patriarchy.

    Also, Slavery.  Aaaannndd…  Genocide. Aaaannnnndddd….. THE HEAT DEATH OF THE UNIVERSE!!!

    (Because controversy?)

  14. I’m curious as to the number of people that won’t accept any criticism of her work, calling such criticism hateful, even when it isn’t.

    In my particular case I had a difficult time with the structure of her presentation, not on the content of her message.  Her monologue was too wordy and the strength of her point is partially lost in that extreme wordiness.  The viewer has to spend too much time figuring out her language to actually pay close attention to the argument.  As a scholarly paper this might work, but it doesn’t work in video form to me.

    One of the quickest and strongest ways to get others to see things your way is through charisma.  Unfortunately for her argument, there are a lot more women that play the role of the damsel with strong charisma than there are who specifically rail against it.  I can think of several personal relationships that I was in where this was the behavior, and I can think of examples through the workplace where this was also the behavior.  For all I know, these women learned this behavior because of societal norms, but in my opinion, a top-down approach to changing this, in convincing women to stop playing a bit of the damsel in distress in real life, would probably go farther than attempting to cut off examples of it in video games, TV, and other fictional portrayals. 

    1. OMG, right?  Like how instead of national discourse about raising the minimum wage, it would probably go farther to convince poor people to stop playing a bit of ‘the proletariat’ (in your office and personal relationships).  

        1. As explained in the video: When these female damsel tropes appear in the video games studied, their character paths and the violence they suffer is all for and about the male hero character.  

          If in your workplace and personal relationships, several women exhibited some damsel tactics, it was probably to get something they wanted.  Big difference.  

          You suggested that instead of people interested in gaming and feminism looking at how female characters are used, ‘women’ (whoever the hell that is) should be convinced to change their behavior.  Even though you acknowledge that life likely imitates art in this case.   It’s as though the patriarchy which has oppressed people since (at least) prehistory continues because women are doing it wrong. 

    2. So your extremely scientific analysis is based entirely on… your ex-girlfriends?

      Ever consider that maybe you just have a type?

  15. Could someone please tell me what the the Sam Hill  is going on here?  Something weird just happened.  Got the end of the comments and . . . still feel okay . . . nice, civilized discussion, almost like as if this feminism topic were just another in BB’s litany of political/social posts.  

    Was I offline when the tide changed?  Seriously.  I want to feel not-pounded down, but can’t trust what my eyes are telling me.  Not yet.  18 months ago, even on BB, a feminist topic post would usually result in a a ‘surrounded by shit throwing chimps’ type feeling; I remember (but am too lazy to go find and link to) nights when if Antinious hadn’t been in there throwing jabs left and right, the one or two feminist commenters (and Marilove was almost always there) would have gotten creamed.  And now, this post.  With all you thoughtful, chummy mutants one wouldn’t mind crossing on the street one day.  Is the war over?  Can we call the hash connect and fire up the hot tub?  Anonymous batting for rape victims?  Dudes speaking the real?  Just when did these online DMZ’s get liberated?    It’s quiet.  Too quiet.  

      1. Still, overall tone of the comments section tending towards support of feminist ideas?  I never saw that happen a couple years ago.  

        What was the comment about?  Always so curious . . . 

        1. There had been one about how everyone was falling all over themselves because of this video presented without any evidence other than her opinion, which was, like, wrong, man.  It went on for a while, but the thrust seemed to be that we were all dummies and just falling in line without any factual evidence.

          1. She always brings out a number of single-serving commenters all saying the same thing.

  16. Are there some research statistics/literature which support that male hero fantasy will bring in the most monies in entertainment? Do executives have something other than their ass from which they pull “No, you must do this. This will bring money”.

    And from general interest; what is the interaction between money depts and creative depts in game industry (probably changes from firm to firm but f.e.x. in a big one)? Do creatives show concept art to marketing folks and the marketing can go “make that guy white, add heels and boobplate, make that guy funny like the black people”?

Comments are closed.