Every time Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency and Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games, comes out with a new video in her series, I feel like I need to write a post because the same thing happens every time. Before we get going into this I’m going to set the tone. Do I agree with absolutely everything Anita says in her videos? No. I think that some things she points out are reaching a little too far, and that storytelling should excuse some of the faults she points out. We’re not going into those because they don’t matter.
Why don’t they matter? Because they’re her opinion and she has every right to express herself online and the sad fact is, that while I may not agree with her on some points, she raises a great many concerns that I agree with whole-heartedly. Even if I didn’t agree with her, she has every right in the world to express her opinions and concerns with the gaming industry freely and without fear of being singled out.
Is that what happens? No. With every new video she is met with an ever increasing amount of bile and misdirected rage. Bile? No, that’s not quite the right word. Let me try again. For the simple crime of speaking her mind and standing up for what she believes in she is met with behavior so foul and putrid, so revoltingly infantile and rank, that bile would be a considerable step up. There are times it makes me ashamed to call myself a gamer, to associate with the group of moronic ass-hats that claim they are defending my hobby.
What sort of behavior am I talking about? Well, it ranges from standard troll activity, loathsome on the best of days, to threats of death and rape, threats so specific and threatening that Anita actually had to leave her home for fear of her own safety last month. Why? Because she says that video games have a problem with sexism. That female characters in games are often treated little better as props or eye candy for male gamers to fantasize about. What is she asking for? Not for the industry to change overnight, but for people to start thinking about it and to start pushing for a broader range of characters in video games. She’s not invading your home and taking away your Grand Theft Auto disc, but she is pointing out how differently the game treats its male and female characters.
For this heinous crime, she is reviled by an extremely vocal and disturbing minority of gamers. There is a level of contempt and anger directed at Anita Sarkeesian, and other women in the industry, that you’d expect to be directed at an ACTUAL murderer, instead of someone who’s saying “There’s too much violence against women in video games.”. From the hate directed her way you’d think that she was some sort of baby eating monster… but no. She’s articulate, well spoken, says things that people don’t agree with and has the audacity to be a woman while doing it. The nerve.
And Anita isn’t alone. Her treatment is more par for the course for women in gaming than it is the exception and this saddens me so much. Zoe Quin, creator of Depression Quest and other games I haven’t played because I have no damn time, has recently been at the center of what can only be described as a “shit storm”. Don’t believe me? Read her own account of it. Am I just taking her word for it? YES! Part of the problem is that some people (men) don’t believe women when they talk about the kind of shit they have to deal with online. Me? I tend to refer to John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory: Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Dickwad. See the scientific research here. Basically, we need to teach people that online is not different from real life. What you do and say online doesn’t “not count”. If you threaten to rape or kill someone online just because they have the audacity to have opinions or lifestyles different then YOU are the bad guy. You’re the stain on society’s underpants.
The thing is, Anita is absolutely right. We need change in the gaming world. We need more inclusive games, we need more women protagonists who are more than just male characters with a different skin to give them boobs. We could really benefit from the stories that would result from games told from perspectives that aren’t aimed at “Male: age 15-35.” How many times do we have to tread over the World War II, first person shooter ground? There are different stories to tell, and different audiences who might love them.
I know. I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, better and by smarter more eloquent people. Just take a look, you’ll find it. All I really want to do is take a stand and say that, whether I agree with her completely or not, Anita should be listened to, considered, and treated with respect. Everyone deserves that right; to be able to say what they believe and not have to fear that doing so will get their personal information leaked, and their very well being put at risk. I’m not saying you’ve got to agree with her, or with me, just don’t be a horrible, disease of a person about it.