CW: Sexual violence, violence against women
An ostensibly minor thing happened this week, which set fire to comments sections around the internet and resulted in a woman receiving so many violent threats, against both herself and her parents, that she was forced out of her home. The catalyst of all of this vitriol and hatred? Anita Sarkeesian released the latest episode of her well known video series Tropes vs Women in Games.
For those unfamiliar with the project, it’s a kickstarter-backed series of videos pointing out common misogynistic tropes found in video games. The videos have never been about shaming the gaming industry, or attempting to stop people playing video games, but are more an attempt to point out blind spots to an industry which is overwhelmingly male. By raising a more public awareness of these issues, it’s hoped that developers in the industry would create more fully realised female characters in games, and the next generation of girls growing up playing video games could have more heroes and role models to aspire to.
Whilst much of the reaction has been positive, the wave of negative comments has been huge and pretty soul-destroying. Sarkeesian has received thousands of threats of violence and rape (she posted a screenshot of some here, be wary of extreme graphic content), and her home address and the address of her parents have been posted online. Finally, she was bullied out of her own home. Obviously I don’t need to state that in this day and age, this is an entirely unacceptable way to treat a human being. Let alone one whose only goal is to educate others.
In between threats of violence, there have been some attempts at “legitimate” criticism. All of which has been, at least, vaguely nonsensical. One of the main criticisms made about Sarkeesian’s series is that video games provide a sense of escapism, allowing people to live out thousands of different lives or to be an idealised version of themselves. The critics will say that by calling attention to this issue and injecting more political correctness into games, they are losing this escapism. The problem with this is that the majority of girls and women are not going to get this same sense of escapism, when the characters they are forced to play as are typically white, American, gun-toting, macho men and the only characters in games who are like themselves are trophies to be saved, or prostitutes to be murdered for fun.
All this negativity reeks to me of a group of people who have never had their ideologies questioned before, and so are unable to react to the questions and issues posted in these videos. So for now they snarl and lash out, as I’m sure people did when the suggestion was first made of giving women the vote, and how I know people did when the idea of same sex marriage was proposed. Ultimately, attitudes will change, there just needs to be someone brave enough to question current mindsets.
When the original kickstarter was first posted, the monetary goal was reached within 24 hours, eventually making $158,922 when its original goal had been $6,000. Obviously there is a real need and desire for Anita’s videos and I am extremely grateful to her for making the first step. Now, we just need everybody else to catch up.