The big news of the week is that another segment came out in Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs Women series, a series that all of us contributors at here RSP care deeply about. (And it came out unexpectedly early, which is a huge plus!) Of course, this wouldn’t be such huge news were it not for all of the backlash that’s it’s been getting for quite literally years now; the content is neither exciting nor controversial in its presentation. As many sources have already written, commented idly, or tweeted about, one could say that Tropes vs Women isn’t necessarily arguing against anyone at all. Sarkeesian has hardly had to make any logical leaps or stretches of intelligence. She is merely pointing out trends, commenting to say “hey look, people, this is here,” and noticing that things are happening, without being nearly as sarcastic, snide, doom-and-gloom, or even judgmental, as others might be; in our discussions here at RSP about how the hell we’re going to structure our forever-upcoming series on feminism in gaming (you know, the one we haven’t put out yet because we’ve spent over a year trying to figure out how to put it all together), we’ve sort of thought she hasn’t been forceful enough. Even her critics — or the respectful ones anyway, I’m not giving the vast majority of violent or closed-minded haters a spare keystroke — are saying she’s doing the thing legitimately, and not as scarily or forcefully as they would have thought or expected, the aggression that you usually expect and dismiss from the deplorable stereotype of the crusty, man-hating feminist.* Sarkeesian has presented these facts about the role of women in video games in an almost neutral manner.
*Don’t even get me started on how much I hate this stereotype.
Considering that her presentation is trying to reach the widescreen lens of an audience that includes a great sum of people who will be watching for the sole purpose of tearing her arguments apart simply because they don’t like the idea of them existing, she’s doing a pretty damn good job of keeping her cool and presenting her ideas in a well-researched, patient way. Her videos have gotten more intensely critical in the “Women as Background Decoration” segment she’s been working on recently, and yet she is still remaining cooly focused (hell, even the color scheme is rather cool and unassuming, blues and soft purples that are reminiscent of ice rather than of fire). You don’t need to have a degree in gender studies from some upscale northeastern liberal arts college to understand her videos. You don’t need to have even taken a gender studies course or touched a video game controller. All you need to do is click the link and take a listen.
Like I said: neutral in approach, with a critical gaze. And yet earlier this week, our champion Anita Sarkeesian was driven from her home by an ever-increasing number of violent threats. An excellent article went up on Polygon this week titled “An awful week to care about video games”, which is worth a read if only to see the horrible things that people tweet at each other.
In other words: the sun has set on another day in the gaming world.
It’s not just Sarkeesian. It’s Zoe Quinn getting yet another round of bashing by the internet (which she addresses on her tumblr), it’s Phil Fish getting attacked yet again, it’s a culture of violence and hatred which has been in the public eye and facing scorn by some groups for quite some time now, a culture of violence and hatred which has been the focus of many conferences and panels and trends in the past year or so. Sexual assault is still voiced flippantly by people who stand fundamentally against the idea of equality for all of us who love the same thing. The problem still remains that we who are not the “typical gamer audience,” or those of who do fit that image but are against the culture which surrounds it (i.e. feminist-allied men), have to fight for legitimacy to be interested in something — that we aren’t taken seriously unless we’re critiquing the dominant paradigm, and then we’re Rebel Scum who must be eradicated and forcefully shown the error of our ways. It’s a lifestyle, but it’s also a hobby. We are verbally abused and physically threatened for our interest in a different way of doing video games. The question is continually asked: when will it end?
This is not to say that things are not getting better. We have a stronger dialogue with more diverse and varied voices on the subject than possibly ever before. We have more people who are making video games out of passion for doing so and better access to tutorials and programs, which means a greater blend of experiences and thoughts. And there’s a lot of love in this community, too.* But with all of the strength and support and love we’re giving each other, there’s still a lot of work to be done — as is evidenced by the tweets in the Polygon article linked above.
*Even a developer with Love as a last name, oh ho ho, no really though, check out her games they’re great.
There’s a lot to be said on this subject, more than I can say in one little text post, more than we can begin to articulate in our still-upcoming series on feminism, more than Anita Sarkeesian can tackle in her half-hour videos and more than gaming blogs can begin to touch, more complicated stories and histories than even platforms like Tumblr can dissect in their entireties. What started out as a Regular Round-Up post has become a sort of manifesto, one of the many condemnations shouting from the fray of people who won’t take this any longer.
We at RSP stand with those on the outside looking in, we stand with those on the inside looking for those on the outside, we stand with the Anita Sarkeesians and the Zoe Quinns and the countless people of all complex identities who have the same heartbeat for the same cause. It is a sad fact that we must continue to voice a condemnation for those who threaten violence against people who are trying merely to exist and enjoy the things they enjoy — and yet we do.