For me, Anita Sarkeesian speaking was the highlight of the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy Symposium. I was so pumped for that opportunity and to add to my excitement, my younger sister, Tessa, happened to be visiting and would be able to tag along. I of course sent her copious links to Sarkeesian’s vlogs and recent interviews with the likes of Stephen Colbert. Tessa is a senior in high school, an age when one is just discovering what it means to be a woman in our often screwed up society. The two of us had a chance to talk about feminism this past weekend and strangely enough she cited fiction character Junie B Jones as one of her girl-power role models and had even written an essay about her for a recent AP Lit assignment. That struck me as odd at first; the book series centers around a first grader after all. But Tessa explained that she admired Junie’s ability to tell it like it is, disregarding the patriarchy’s expectation that women are to always be nice and meek. Junie is also unapologetic and doesn’t say she’s sorry when she isn’t.
In many ways, Anita Sarkeesian embodies these Junie B Jones traits. In the midst of horrifying threats, she continues to speak out and says what need to be said on television, the internet, and in speeches like we saw Friday. She refuses to back down. As she responded to various accusations and conspiracy theories about her, she used logic laced with humor; her funny quips reminding that it is all pretty ridiculous. Sarkeesian also brought attention to the limitations of websites like Twitter in situations where thousands are suddenly attacking a single person. The current blocking settings are merely an inefficient band-aid. She offered a list of changes that could be very effective for anyone in a situation similar to hers. Additionally, Sarkeesian reiterated that women did not suddenly appear in the video game world, but have always been there. Women are not trying to take over, they merely are asking for a respectful environment in which to practice a hobby they too love. As Tessa nears college, she has decided she wants to pursue engineering. We walked IIT’s campus on Saturday and she observed that there were barely any women on the campus. This disparity in genders is pretty consistently true of math and science related fields and especially of engineering. Going into a male-dominated field is never easy, but I hope with role models like Anita Sarkeesian and Junie B Jones, Tessa will be ready to kick some ass.