Anita Sarkeesian, the Damsel in Distress and why I’m embarrassed to play video-games

The other day, I was talking on the phone with a girl I had spoken with for a while. She had gotten off work and wanted to talk before going to bed and I was happy to hear from her.

“So, what are you doing?” she asked me.

“I’m messing around on the internet,” I said.

Except, I wasn’t. I was playing Far Cry 3.

I lied because I was ashamed. I don’t like being a white, heterosexual male gamer because as a group, we seem pretty awful. We act like we’re victims because we’re fans of a medium that caters to our basest instincts and when someone calls us on our generally misogynistic, insular shit, we get all up in arms and it’s terrible.

Anita_Sarkeesian_smilingFew people have stirred up a shit-storm amongst the gaming community as much as the late, great Roger Ebert and Anita Sarkeesian, the host of Feminist Frequency’s fascinating “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” web-series, hosted on YouTube.

I think Sarkeesian scares gamers because she’s a woman and that hurts more than anything else. As I previously stated, gamers much like comic book fans, are an insular group, one dedicated to a very specific fandom which attracts a very specific fan and not one that’s welcoming to people who are willing to join or comment on the fandom itself.

I wish it wasn’t the case because Sarkeesian has a lot of interesting things to say in the first two parts of the “Damsel in Distress” series so far. The focus of both parts is more on the proliferation of the trend and less on reasoning behind said trends. There’s no stopping either of the tropes because they’re so embedded into our culture and pop appetites. It seems as if Sarkeesian realizes this and she more than anything else hopes that developers realize the power their products can have to change perceptions of women in pop culture. She also brings up the notable and incredibly interesting issue of the trope speaking just as much to the motivation of male characters as it does to the objectification of females, with characters such as Max Payne in “Max Payne 3” and Kratos in the “God of War” series are motivated less by the rescue of the women than in reclaiming their manhood and regaining their traditionally prescribed masculinity.

But not everyone seems to want to listen. Before the first entry of the series was published some dick made a disgusting flash game about viciously beating Sarkeesian and the abuse didn’t stop there. Her previous video on the trope attracted an unbelievable amount of replies, from nebbish, angry assholes who describe her as having “eyes that make you want to punch her in the face,”to some guy who loves taking quotes out of context and misses all the subtlety, to noted “that guy in your freshman dorm who’s never showered or fucking shut up since we moved in” male rights ass-hole and patronizing YouTube personality, The Amazing Atheist. It was all embarrassing but inevitable and I was ready to expect the worst when her next entry dropped.

It went worse than expected. The new video, released May 28 and embedded at the top of this post, was briefly taken down by YouTube after it was repeatedly flagged by harassers. It’s been brought, thankfully, back but the criticism hasn’t stopped. Gawker’s video-game arm, Kotaku, has hosted one of the liveliest, most ridiculous debates of Sarkeesian’s work and is the host of some of the most gruesome misogyny I’ve seen on the site.

Picture 2 Picture 4There’s a defensiveness to many of the comments that isn’t uncommon when this sort of debate occurs and it’s something we’ve seen before in things such as the “Fake Nerd Girl” and cosplay discussions several months ago.

I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with Sarkeesian, feminists or any critic of a work. That’s a person’s right. I was a little uncomfortable with the way she seemed to target Shigeru Miyamoto for Nintendo’s early use of the damsel in distress trope but I understood her point, accepted her view and didn’t feel the need to attack her point or claim she was trying to destroy my precious toys.

Picture 1I’ve asked far too many people far too many times to be more accepting of new people into video game and comic book fandom. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to ask people to consider their privileges, their prejudices and their preconceived notions of gender. I’m sick of doing that. I’ve done it for too fucking long. I just want people to listen, to think and to be respectful, to consider the perspective of someone who may have a different opinion or experience of themselves. Don’t attack, don’t redefine the argument, don’t question intentions, just consider. And act like a fucking human.


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