Anita Sarkeesian. This name has a very special sound in the video game industry today. Perhaps it’s no exaggeration to say that she’s now as famous as other influential figures like Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima and John Carmack. Unlike them, she’s known for wrong reasons.
Sarkeesian is known as an active feminist who writes and plays criticisms on sexism in media. She began producing a video series entitled “Tropes vs. Women,” which analyzes how poorly and wrongly women are portrayed in pop culture. Her blog posts have been accepted as study material for Gender Studies at many universities. Over the past few years, she appeared at various conferences and university discussions to speak on the topic of women’s characterizations in fictions.
So what does she have to do with video games?
In May 2012, Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter project to raise monetary support for her study of sexist tropes that have existed in video games. This unprecedented attempt was met with hostility and opposition, resulting in a brutal online harassment. However, despite all the hate, the project raised over $160,000, way over her original goal of $6,000.
Thus began her production of video series “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” Sarkeesian has quickly gained national attention after attacking the video game giant Nintendo. She claims in the video that Nintendo depicts women as weak and powerless, and points out that women are always victims. For example, Nintendo’s staple titles, such as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Starfox Adventures, all have one thing in common — a male protagonist saving a helpless princess.
Sarkeesian does deserve credit for her work, but that doesn’t make her right.
After watching all of her videos on the matter to their entirety, it’s still hard for me to agree with her claims, and the examples she’s brought up are not striking enough to convince me that there’s a clear evidence of deliberate sexism in video games.
In fact, it seems that all her videos are successfully achieving is causing a devious clash of her supporters and opposers. All they are trying to prove is how they agree with Sarkeesian and there should be immediate combat against female portrayals or how they feel insulted because Sarkeesian accused some of the most popular games in history that to them are immaculate and flawless.
I don’t necessarily disagree with Sarkeesian. I understand her arguments and where she’s coming from. The problem is her presentation.
Sarkeesian doesn’t look at games from other perspectives and fails to address the fact that character design decisions are influenced by multitude of things, such as time and finance constraints and publisher-developer relationships. In addition, she doesn’t acknowledge the possible counter-arguments from the opposing side. It’s difficult to take her arguments at face value when she appears unwilling to listen to the other side of the matter, as demonstrated by her disabling all comments and voting on her videos.
Everyone can agree that sexism is a serious issue and no one for both genders doesn’t want be portrayed wrongly. However, discussions about sexism must be civil and moderated. Considering the way Sarkeesian handled her argument, it is no surprise that she angered many people.
I’m not saying she deserved all the horrific hate. She just overlooked the principle that if you are bringing up an accusation on something people love, those people will feel hurt. It’s possible that they felt just as hurt from the way Sarkeesian criticized their favorite games as Sarkeesian did from the sexism in video games. So we shouldn’t be shocked that people were outrageous.