Last June, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency launched a Kickstarter to fund a series of free YouTube videos about “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games“. What happened next was, sadly, all too predictable when any woman mentions the magic word feminism online. Some lovely people posted thousands of antisemitic and sexist comments on Sarkeesian’s videos, flagged them as “terrorism” in an attempt to get them taken down, defaced her Wikipedia page, made rape threats, and released a game which simulated punching Sarkeesian in the face. Ah, yes. That will convince people sexism is a thing of the past. But at the same time some gamers were being complete lunatics, other gamers were funding the Kickstarter to the tune of almost $160,000.
What happened after our last update is almost too ironic to believe. A Redditor named Optigal posted a fake tweet of Sarkeesian claiming to have bought a pair of $1,000 shoes with the Kickstarter money instead of making videos. Even though a moment of searching would show the tweet was faked, some were champing at the bit to believe Sarkeesian was a thief. Accusing a woman of frittering away money on shoes was just a nice bonus.
At the same time many were accusing her of mismanaging the money, some of her detractors started an Indiegogo campaign called “Tropes versus Men in Videogames”. They raised about $3000, and then they disappeared. Later they posted three receipts online to prove they donated the money to charities. At least one of those receipts, like the supposed shoe shopping spree, was a fake.
Here’s part of what Sarkeesian was actually buying with those voluntary donations:
Now Sarkeesian has released the first video in the series, part one of the “Damsel in Distress” trope. The video opens with a reminder that “it’s both possible, and even necessary, to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.” Which is a fancy way of saying you can like a game while still admitting the developers were jackasses about some parts of it. Having Princess Peach be kidnapped in 13 of the 14 Super Mario Brothers platformer games, for example, is pretty messed up. Especially when the only one in which she isn’t kidnapped, Super Mario Bros. 2, was a game not originally designed for the Mario franchise.
The video is below, and comments at YouTube are closed for sadly obvious reasons. The transcript is available here. My personal favorite takeaway from the video is this:
“In the game of patriarchy, women are not the opposing team. They’re the ball.”