Anita Sarkeesian is in a special position. Not only does she publicly and academically dissect video games from a feminist perspective, but she is able to transfer that magnifying glass onto herself, since her work has made her a well-known figure within the industry. In a talk at XOXO in Portland, Sarkeesian breaks down the violent response to her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series.
As the Joystiq comments section will attest, the Tropes vs. Women videos incite heightened emotions from seemingly long-time gaming fans – emotions including anger, disgust and outrage at any attempt to point out that video games have historically been marketed toward a heterosexual male audience, even while the gaming consumer base has shifted to include more diverse voices. As she discusses, these reactions are even more extreme when directed at Sarkeesian personally, ranging from fake Twitter accounts and fabricated speeches, to death and rape threats that include her home address alongside violent imagery.
"Once the cascade reaches a critical mass, it no longer matters what the facts are," Sarkeesian says (8:11). "It becomes a viral meme. These hoaxes work to reinforce the 'folk demon' narrative about me, because it's turning me into the embodiment of the most extreme, irrational stereotype of feminism possible. The fake quotes also gain traction in the information cascade because they prey on and help rationalize pre-existing, paranoid fears about 'feminist interlopers' and 'women invading video games.'"
To conclude, Sarkeesian discusses the systematic denial of the threats against her life and work, ending her talk with one clear thought: "One of the most radical things you can do, is to actually believe women when they tell you about their experiences."
Sarkeesian holds a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies from California State University Northridge and a Master's in Social and Political Thought from York University. She regularly begins her videos with the disclaimer, "It is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects."
[Image: Anita Sarkeesian]