CDEP – Anita Sarkeesian

I managed to catch the second half of Anita Sarkeesian’s presentation during the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy. Right off the bat, she caught my attention and had me scrambling to take proper notes when she began to explain the view people have for themselves who stand against the improvement of female portrayal in video games and online in general. She stated that they don’t believe they are in the wrong or that they’re beliefs are outdated and disrespectful. Rather, this group of people who are fighting against the change in female video game portrayal see themselves as warriors. They consider their opposition as righteous because it’s standing up for the history of video games and the tradition that lies with it.

Although I am supportive of keeping tradition alive when it comes to holidays, school spirit, and family parties, I don’t think this form of “tradition” can be justified. At this point, using tradition as an excuse just seems like a reason this group of people needs in attempt to make their case stronger. Tradition is no longer relevant when groups such as Gamergate evolve and threaten others for standing up for their right as human beings and women. Tradition is no longer applicable if a balance cannot be found between that and modern day beliefs.

Sarkeesian also brought up the fact that there are those who believe women are “asking for it,” which I personally think is ludicrous. Why would anyone want to be portrayed as sexual objects, degraded to physical representations that exploit the human body? In addition, women clearly are not “asking for it” when people like Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn are consistently being attacked online and in the physical world. If you believe that they would risk their families, friends, professional lives, and safety all for the sake of getting attention or “asking for it” then – excuse my bluntness – you’re wrong. These women are putting their safety at risk for something much, much bigger than that and I think others are shallow for believing otherwise.

Another point of discussion that Sarkeesian touched on was ways to fight and end the hatred and harassment. It shocked me that she experienced times when she had to explain to law enforcement what Twitter is and how it works, so I definitely agree that legislators and law enforcement need to have a basic understanding of the various social media outlets. It would allocate their time toward finding a solution rather than attempting to understand the foundation of sites like Reddit and Twitter. Sarkeesian also brought up ways perpetrators are indirectly encouraged to continue their terrible actions. Due to the nature of being a victim of harassment people often don’t release their names in media like the news or even courtrooms in shame or simple rights to privacy. Because of this attackers are indirectly encouraged to see no wrong in their words or actions because consequences are few and far between.

With that said, Sarkeesian managed to wrap up her presentation nicely with an analogy to air pollution. Like she states, we may not all be contributors of these belittling deeds but we all need to work together in order to end the problem. It’s not only up to women and those who are victimized, but it is the responsibility of all genders. Sarkeesian declares, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”

 

Christine Chu

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