Sarkeesian on sexism in video games, and becoming a hate-target for talking about it


Mother Jones reporter Nina Liss-Schultz asked Anita Sarkeesian why she thinks she has been targeted by knuckle-dragging assholes on the internet--vicious threats, death, rape, and beatings by haters who happen to be men, and believe that women like Sarkeesian should shut up and stay out of their clubhouse.

Her reply:

"We are witnessing a very slow and painful cultural shift. Some male gamers with a deep sense of entitlement are terrified of change. They believe games should continue to cater exclusively to young heterosexual men with ever more extreme virtual power fantasies. So this group is violently resisting any movement in the direction of a more inclusive gaming space...

"I wouldn't call it a silver lining, but with more women speaking up, online harassment is beginning to be taken more seriously. Pressure is being put on services like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to take responsibility for their communities, and for news sites to have stricter moderation of their comment sections. Demands for law enforcement and government agencies to take digital threats of violence seriously are just now starting to gain wider exposure. We're also seeing a small handful of game developers and publishers who are actively exploring ways to create less-toxic online gaming environments." The whole interview is worth reading. And don't miss her breakdown of groanworthy gaming gender tropes: "How Sexist Is Your Favorite Video Game?"

[HT: Mike Mechanic]

Notable Replies

  1. She's a heroic woman, enacting real positive change. She's making games a better place, and she is a model for coolness under hater-pressure. I hope she continues to rock the hell on.

  2. I bet you were just so happy when you found what looked like a non-sexist reason to hate Sarkeesian, weren't you? Now you can bag on her and pretend you're not an asshole at the same time!

  3. That's a pretty popular argument, yeah. The short answer is that huge pecs are a male power fantasy but huge boobs are a male sexual fantasy. The longer answer is this (click for bigger):

  4. I stepped aside to give others time to answer questions or speak on other parts of this topic, but I'll answer this comment. You may not have noticed during game play the sexualization of the women in SCII (it appears mainly in cutscenes). All that does mean is that you were simply more focused on game play. It doesn't mean it wasn't there.

    (Comment from the site: "Comparison images of the statue, the babe from 2005 Blizzcon, and the promo artwork, nearly all of which featured her impossibly perky booty.")

    Meanwhile, here's a guy in a Jim Raynor costume flanked by two other babes.
    There's a bit of a difference.

    Here's an SCII wallpaper. It looks like an ad for jeans.

    Finally, I direct you to this page: The Buttocks of Starcraft II. Some men (and aliens) are included, and they happen to be well-covered (even cloaked) or oddly figured while each cutscene with a woman in it shows a perfectly rounded, well lit, feminine ass in stretch gear with no armor covering it.

    The reason women are irritated is that there's no equality here, we don't want to see men's fantasies of huge, muscled men. We wouldn't mind a little eye-candy of a cleanly-built guys in the same body revealing gear that women wear if we're going to be subjected to those standards of fantacized women when we play well-developed and main-stream games.

    Think about Family Guy. It's a fair show. Peter can be ridiculously awful to Lois, and that's OK - to some degree. That's because it's a comedy, and everyone, including Peter himself, gets nailed for being who they are. No one is safe. There's an attempt at equality in all the awful behavior.

    Another example (which a lot of people probably haven't seen) is 8 to 10 Cats Does Countdown, it's a comedy reboot of a British gameshow on youtube. On it, there's a young, sexy blonde female mathematician and also a pretty brunette English pro who does word checks from the OED. Comments about miniskirts or possible dates are sometimes made. They're a part of the show's comedy. Women's balance? The prop guys on the show happen to be well-cut guys (not overly built) who wear very little when occasionally deliver props to the stage in humorous fashion.

    Most reasonable women aren't saying "clothe video game women in burkhas!". I'm certainly not. We're just saying that the industry should recognize it has a huge swath of other customers to cater to and respond in kind by avoiding tropes and making the effort to play fair with women.

  5. Great examples.

    And to anyone who simply can't imagine a more realistic/non-sexualized depiction of a female Space Marine, I give you Pvt. Vasquez from Aliens:

    Note the combat-ready hairstyle, the dearth of makeup, the body armor/gun harness that weren't designed to show off her breasts or abs, and the khaki pants that don't look like they were simply painted on to her buttocks. She does have more exposed skin than her male counterparts, but in this case that was clearly meant to showcase her impressive upper body strength. In short she looks like someone you'd actually want on your side in a firefight.

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