A Game that People Play

There’s a furor on the internet recently about women and video games. This is an old shouting match (I can’t call it a dialogue) but the latest flare-up began when Anita Sarkeesian, a blogger who runs Feminist Frequency, launched a project called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games,” planning to analyze stereotypes of women in games (sidekick, damsel in distress, and of course the most common, “background decoration”). She organized a Kickstarter fundraising drive to fund the video series she’d planned. This brought her to the internet’s attention, and soon she was being harassed. By harassment I mean: Sarkeesian’s feminist videos were accused of being “terrorism.” 5,000 mostly-negative comments were left on her YouTube video. Her Kickstarter site was hacked to prevent people from accessing it and donating to the project. People sent Sarkeesian images of men raping her. Someone designed a game where players could “punch” Sarkeesian’s face, resulting in black eyes and bleeding. And someone else posted her phone number and home address online.

It’s hard to pinpoint motivations for such behavior, but the general tenor seems to be that if women should even hint that the female characters in games might leave something to be desired… if women point out the instances of Male Gaze objectification in most games and Patriarchal Bargains among the exceptions… then the appropriate response is to shout her down, harass her, and intimidate her until she shuts up.

Now I’m going to talk about Ultimate Frisbee! Continue reading