The moment I saw Anita Sarkeesian, I knew I was in the presence of someone great. Sarkeesian opened with a video posted on her feminist frequency channel. The video was on the portrayal of the damsel in distress in video games. I liked how in all her videos she calmly and thoughtfully points out the faults in video games. She is able to bring up a major issue in the feminist movement without taking on the raging feminist stereotype that, unfortunately, fits all too many people’s archetype. The most important message that I got from her video was that video games portraying the damsel in distress are incredibly disempowering to women. I never thought I was into gaming, but as a child I always wanted to be Princess Peach whenever I played super smash bros. This was mostly because she was the only girl character available. Looking back, all of the girl characters were given some girlish color. Sarkeesian’s video on the damsel in distress really caused me to reflect on my own experience as a young girl, and how impressionable those characters actually were. If there had been a wider variety of female characters in the mainstream games maybe I would have gotten more into video games and felt more empowered as a female, but alas, games are not made to be empowering for females.
Sarkeesian touched on her experience as a young girl who wanted to get into gaming. She begged her parents for a gameboy as a child. At first they wouldn’t buy one for her because it was called a gameboy, which her parents decided was a direct implication that this toy was not for girls. Eventually they gave in and bought her one. However, as her life as a gamer continued she was not so easily accepted into the community. The games she played, such as plants versus zombies, were not considered true gamer games because they didn’t portray men in a macho way or objectify women. This made me think: maybe I am also a gamer, and that what we consider to be a gamer is a horrible stereotype. Throughout my life I’ve owned several different gaming counsels, both hand held and stationery: gameboy advance, gamecube, nintendo ds, and an iPhone. On all of these platforms I have played various different games from Mario to Cooking Mama, to Just Dance. In the eyes of serious gamers I would not be included in their world, but after hearing Anita speak on her own experiences of a gamer I have come to the conclusion that I too am a gamer.
There are probably a lot of closeted gamers out there, but because of the negative stereotyping there is a failure to identify as one. Sarkeesian addressed several of the struggles she has had to battle in her endeavor at voicing feminist concerns in video games. All of the attacks she has faced have been overwhelmingly from gamers. These attacks have been in the form of everything from impersonation to conspiracy theories. One thing that really struck me was the picture of her with the quote, “is calling a bitch, ‘BITCH’ sexist?” Sarkeesian was so poignant in saying that asking this question in itself is incredibly sexist because it already confirms that the asker already views women like Sarkeesian as bitches. In this case the attack was an impersonation. Other forms of impersonation have been pasting her head onto pornographic images and a multitude of fake social media accounts. It honestly blows my mind that gamers could become so upset with Sarkeesian’s videos. All of her content is so eloquently delivered and full of truth. She has also been attacked with conspiracy theories in which viral rumors were spread that she learned to smile like a white person to become more liked and that she controls and manipulates her harassers on 4chan to gain more attention. It would take an incredibly inarticulate person to actually believe these lies and it is absolutely horrifying that so many people easily believe what they read and see on the internet when there are no facts to back these pieces up. Conversely, Sarkeesian uses well developed arguments full of support to help back her arguments against games that objectify women.
I, along with my piers, was incredibly lucky to have the privilege of hearing such a thought provoking empowered women speak out on such a prevalent issue, and continue to voice her opinions even when faced with shattering life threatening attacks.