Comprehensively addressing the stupid, intellectually dishonest critique of Anita Sarkeesian

Whenever the feminist games-critic and survivor of countless outraged misogynist stalkers Anita Sarkeesian's name is invoked, there follows a flood of men who want to explain that she brought it on herself, that she isn't a gamer, that she isn't a good critic, and assorted related rubbish.

Indeed, if you mention that Sarkeesian's critics haven't got two coherent arguments to rub together and are obviously motived by sexism and denial that their favored pastime is riddled with casual violence and sexual violence against women, you, too, are accused of being part of the Sarkeesian cabal, or a dupe of her feminine wiles, or of "white knighting" (which is misogynist-creep-code for "man who doesn't believe women are inferior and justly subjugated to men").

In this excellent New Statesman piece, Ian Steadman picks apart the many arguments raised by Sarkeesian's critics, painstakingly explaining the many ways in which they have (seemingly willfully) entirely missed the point:

There's a common trope of framing Sarkeesian's work as "cherry-picked", as she takes isolated examples from many games and presents them as a stream of misogyny in order to create the illusion that all of these games are entirely misogynist, the entire way through. That's a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is Sarkeesian is doing with TvsWVG, and what cultural criticism in general is. These are tropes - they're fragments of a whole. By definition they don't make up the entirety of a work of art by themselves, but are instead definable cultural touchstones which artists, writers, developers etc, can use when creating a fictional reality.

In other words, Anita Sarkeesian only presents sections of games as sexist because she's only talking about the sexist bits of games, and how, of the tropes developers choose to put in their games when designing for female characters, they frequently fall back on sexist ones. Seriously, she couldn't be clearer about this - in the introduction to the very first video she says:

Tropes vs Anita Sarkeesian: on passing off anti-feminist nonsense as critique [Ian Steadman/New Statesman]

Notable Replies

  1. marc45 says:

    History has shown time and time again that one cannot effect social change without making a few enemies. She's on the right track.

  2. Sarkeesian, Sarkeesian, Sarkeesian.

    If you say it three times, the man babies appear.

  3. The term White Knight is actually supposed to represent someone who claims to be a "man who doesn't believe women are inferior and justly subjugated to men" simply for the purpose of having sex with those women. "White Knighting" means coming to a woman's defense so that she'll ride off into the sunset (i.e. have sex) with you.

    Much like the term Social Justice Warrior, (someone who only holds the belief that people should be treated equally because it helps them earn internet fame points) it's intended to be used as a slur.

    It's most telling that the people who come up with these terms don't seem to understand that other people actually believe people should be treated equally and with respect.

  4. It's a critique that oftens refers to some faceless, voiceless majority which is being disenfranchised or misrepresented in some way by TvsWVG, and that "everyone" - except those pesky, fun-hating feminists! - hate her. Therefore, the only reason people gave so much to Sarkeesian's Kickstarter was as a response to the abuse she received, not in support of her project. After all, if the market wanted feminist themes in its media, then it would pay for it, no?

    See...the thing is...and this is where I'm going to try to revive the "it's possible to say things that aren't 100% positive about Anita Sarkeesian without being a horrible misogynist pig about it" mess...

    Much of the criticism that I've seen--that she's a con artist, a crook, what have you--started when it took several months to produce the first video. After the videos started to roll out, the "Sarkeesian is a con artist" train kept rolling when people became convinced that the gameplay footage was ripped from Let's Play videos on Youtube.

    Honestly, I got to that point, and found that the author, while having noble intentions, is fighting a valiant fight against strawmen. As far as what I've listed goes, it's important to note that majority of the disputed footage is, in fact, from cutscenes--so it wouldn't matter if she and her team had ripped it themselves, or ripped it from a Youtube video. And as far as the amount of time goes, she did set a fairly huge goal for herself. Good counterpoints, eh? But instead...sigh...lots of impassioned strawman skewering.

    I'd like to see them critique this, instead.

    And I honestly think most reasonable people who have beaten the "she's a crook" drum are doing so to try to convince people that maybe, just maybe, might consider using restraint before supporting any more efforts by this particular person. Look...she's not wrong about much of it, and it's fantastic to see that it's having an effect...but the adversarial "us vs. them" attitude doesn't help anyone. This goes to the creeps, and to people who make creepy comments about the creeps. None of you are helping. Nope, you're not.

    In closing, because I don't want to belabor it any further, and as a sidenote, I want to remind people that just because a handful of dudebros have decided to send threats to Sarkeesian does not mean that all gamers are horrible people. And now I'll bow out of the thread, as I'm sure there will be no replies of value or interest.

  5. As a 30-something I was disgusted by the sex scenes in Farcry 3. On account of being a grown-ass man.

    It's extremely easy to watch Anita's videos and think, "She's right!".

    Her critics, by and large, need to just grow up and realize she is not personally attacking them. However, if they feel it is a personal attack, this is a cause for some reflection.

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