I am a hero, and so is Anita Sarkeesian.

(Author’s note: Aside from being a world-renowned blogger, did you know I am also a writer of science fiction? Check out my free short stories by clicking the link above.)


 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a rambling post on whether or not video games are art. Someone linked to this post on Reddit, which drove the hit counter on my site to record-setting numbers. The WordPress stat-tracking tools indicated that less than one percent of the people who viewed that post bothered to click on anything else on my site. Couldn’t even look at my ‘About’ page. It’s a damn shame. I checked out the comments on Reddit, and quickly determined that most of those people did not read my post, and were simply commenting on the title alone (which wasn’t, on Reddit, my title at all, but the creation of whoever linked to my post). Some of the comments were amusing, but none of it seemed to be terribly profound. One guy claimed to have a “comprehensive” definition of art (which, I assume, he now keeps in a notebook on the shelf next to the album with all his bigfoot and UFO photos). I stopped reading the comments after the first dozen or so; almost none of it had anything to do with me anyway.

But I have to wonder: Why, after so many hits on my blog, did only one person reply in the ‘comments’ section of my “Are Video Games Art” post?

It’s probably because the comments section on my blog does not allow anonymity.

My post wasn’t particularly earth-shattering or controversial, but I was hoping for more of a discussion than I got. Granted, it got some attention on Reddit, but I’m really not interested in what anyone says when they insist on saying it under the protection of anonymity. I know that even under the best circumstances, there’s no way of knowing if anyone is who they say they are on the Internet. But you can get close. I put my name on my blog. My picture is on my Twitter profile. I expressed my opinion, and I did it openly. I didn’t use a throwaway username (you don’t even need an email address to use Reddit). I had, for the first time since starting my blog, some serious traffic moving through, and all it got me was one, lonely comment. That’s really sad, compared to the number of (albeit mostly unrelated) comments made on the trash-heap that is Reddit.

So maybe I’m just not interesting enough. I’m fully prepared to accept that. But I suspect that the problem is that none of those Redditors were willing to break their anonymity to post on my blog, or even to send me an email. The Internet is becoming a crowded, ugly place. Anyone can post anonymously on sites like Reddit and YouTube, hiding behind fake usernames and indulging in the pseudo-courage that could only be afforded by a fake identity.

And if no one knows who you are, why not be an asshole?

For me, posting as myself is kind of a big deal. I used to have a fake Twitter account, but I never engaged in what they’re calling ‘trolling.’ I was just too chicken to speak up. Things are different now. I’ve managed to get past my anxieties, and I’m not as afraid to speak my mind.

Because of that, and in deference to all the nastiness on the Internet, I think it’s important to recognize true bravery when I see it.

When I first heard about Anita Sarkeesian, her first “Tropes Vs Women” video was already live. I’d missed her Kickstarter, which I likely would’ve backed. I watched some of her other Feminist Frequency videos, and I really liked what she had to say. I think there’s plenty of room for discussion on this topic, and certainly plenty of room for improvement on the part of game developers (seriously, the whole ‘damsel in distress’ thing was getting tired long before Ms. Sarkeesian hit ‘record’ on her camera). I was happy to see the project getting so much attention, even if the attention was not entirely positive (any publicity is good publicity, so they say). I read about the flak she’d taken for some of her viewpoints, and actually saw some of the shit people were saying. It was nasty stuff, and almost all of it anonymous. People would later take issue with her disabling the comments on her YouTube videos, claiming she was stubbornly refusing to foster discussion (one person called it ‘discourse’) on YouTube.

Really? Discussion on YouTube?

Why wouldn’t she disable the comments? There’s really only so much hostility one person can take. Besides, it’s freaking YouTube, the troll’s haven, the place where anyone can sling all the racial and sexual and homophobic epithets they want without fear of consequence. It’s not exactly known as a forum for intelligent discussion. Her latest video was taken down shortly after going live, apparently the work of those same practitioners of intelligent discussion hitting the “flag as inappropriate” button. I watched the video. There was nothing inappropriate about it. This was a blatant attack by people who simply didn’t agree with her. And they did it without fear of consequence, under the protection of anonymity.

Ms. Sarkeesian’s name is on those videos. Her face is front-and-center. She’s expressing her opinions, and she’s doing it openly, in spite of all the hate being thrown at her by the turds of the Internet underworld. I like what she’s doing, and will continue to support her. At the moment, my own opinions and musings are not nearly as polarizing and controversial as hers, but when I have something truly important to say, I hope I can show as much grit as she does when I do it.

And maybe one day, the collective maturity and intelligence of Internet users will be at such a level that public, open discussion would be possible on a site like YouTube. I doubt it, but it’s nice to dream.

38 thoughts on “I am a hero, and so is Anita Sarkeesian.

  1. I watch Ms. Sarkeesian’s videos too and I admire the work she’s done. In fact, she’s probably made a positive influence on the stories I write. And I’d heard about the flak she gets for speaking her opinions, though I had no idea someone had forced it down because of some “Inappropriate” content. I hope they get it back up soon.

    Anyway, you’re right about people being afraid to comment because they want to stay anonymous. People love their Internet anonymity, but it’s the people who throw it away and speak their opinions freely who are truly brave. Unless they’re trolls, in which case we should ignore them to the best of our abilities.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yeah, I believe it was the second video in her “Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games” series that they’d managed to get taken down, very shortly after she posted it. Unbelievable. If only they’d unite and put that much energy into something good.

    1. Sounds right, but creating an account in Google, which gets you access to Google+ and YouTube, takes just a few seconds, and requires no verification of identity. So the comments may be tied to an account (and not technically anonymous), but the person is still anonymous.

  2. Anyone can be courageous online if they just comment despite what others might think. Just because someone doesn’t want to plaster their face and their personal information all over the web doesn’t mean their courage is any less real. That’s called being careful and many people would consider it intelligent.

    Also only some of Reddit is trashy. Most of it is generally very nice. It was probably just too much of a hassle. Not everyone feels like signing up just so they can comment on one post. Some people do that but those people are more often than not horrible and obsessive.

    1. I believe, in my post, I am addressing people who engage in abusive behavior on the internet, not anonymity in general. It may be better for someone to post something anonymously (being careful with their personal info, as you said), but hurling abuse and threatening people is never cool. It’s also not courageous.

      As far as Reddit goes, you’re probably right. I don’t spend too much time on it, but what little I’ve seen has been awful. It may have been unfair of me to impugn an entire website because of my narrow experience with it. If a pleasant, civil conversation can be had on Reddit, that’s great. Maybe I’ll check it out. Someday.

      1. It seemed like you were addressing anyone who didn’t comment but if you were just targeting the abusive ones that’s fine. Though technically by most definitions even a murderer can be courageous. It’s a bit of a romanticized word. It’s certainly not cool to do anything criminal but it can still be called courageous.

  3. > Why wouldn’t she disable the comments? There’s really only so much hostility one person can take.

    Actually she’s faced HUGE criticism from the gaming community and from anybody else who can spot a charlatan when they see one. She has raised a huge amount of money by ‘damseling’ herself (hello?… hypocrisy!) without ANY valid evidence or valid arguments to back up her claims of misogyny in computer games.

    Everybody who makes videos or is in the public eye gets hateful comments and rape threats from trolls. Most people just ignore them….or make fun of them

    **video removed**

    But Anita has made a career – and lots of money – out of portraying herself as a ‘damsel in distress’. As a general rule when honest people face serious threats to their safety they run to the police, not to the media.

    Anita has taken games where the whole point of the game is to smash a sex trafficking ring and free the sex slaves (that’s a good thing right?) and then found the one scene where it’s possible to punch a stripper in the face and then done than, recorded it and shown the footage as ‘evidence’ of promoting misogyny in games. In other words SHE is the one exploiting women to make money. This is a game where punching innocent bystanders (including women) means you LOSE POINTS. So in that game being randomly violent to men or women has negative consequences and ultimately means you LOSE the game. The whole point of gender equality is to treat men and women as equals, if the games only allowed you to punch men, but not women THAT would be sexist. THAT would be portraying women as mere ‘eye candy’ and not as real characters.

    She claims to be an avid and life long gamer, yet she has been caught on camera talking about how she hates games and never plays them. She comes across as just another feminist/ social justice warrior who knows how to portray herself (and all women) as poor victims in order to MAKE LOADS OF MONEY from idiots who are suckers for a ‘damsel in distress’ (oh the irony).

    **video removed**

    **video removed**

    1. Interesting. When I click on the link to your identity, I get “Nothing Found
      It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching can help.” Kinda proves Roy’s point, doesn’t it?

      1. Fair enough. I posted the videos because I didn’t want to make accusations about Anita lying and being a complete charlatan without backing it up with evidence.

        The information is out there for anyone interested in the truth.

  4. The situation goes even darker than comments, though. Some people, angered that they can’t just stew vitriol at her in comments, are tracking her down and unleashing torrents of death threats at her on twitter. One particular charmer posted her address and announced they were going to show up and kill her. Then added, “Your parents, too,” and listed their address. She had to call police and leave her home for a time over the backlash.

    Speaking out about systematic issues in gaming, especially as a woman, is a risky and terrifying move. I wouldn’t have the courage to stay with it. I have a huge amount of respect for her.

    1. Yes. At the time I wrote this post (over a year ago), things hadn’t gotten that bad. It’s shameful and disgusting.

      And I agree wholeheartedly. It definitely takes a lot of courage to do what she does.

  5. We still struggle with real dialogue so it is no surprise that we have issues when we enable buffers between the parties having the conversations. Congrats to u for simply putting yourself out there…

  6. I completely agree. I admire Sarkeesian’s courage and drive and laugh with derision when gamers say she has no real evidence except for the evident she puts in her videos. Who cares if its just one aspect of the game? Or one scene. It exists and you don’t see men getting treated that way in games. They think she’s trying to destroy video games, but I’d much rather see games with strong female characters than sex toys.

    I am also not a reddit user but I do find that those I know who frequent reddit do so for the anonymity of it and the ability to do pretty much whatever they want. They tend to be the “lax bro” call of duty playing types. Not real connoisseurs of media. But that’s just my experience with college age men that use reddit. I know of of no women who ever speak or reddit. When people mention it, its generally some trashy joke or nerdy post. Nothing substantial.

    1. Yeah, I’m not sure how someone could think that pointing these things out in videogames could possibly destroy them. I just can’t wrap my head around their logic. And I, too, would love to see more strong, well-written female characters in games.

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. I don’t know who Anita is. I couldn’t play the videos either due to some reason. And I stopped following feminism a while back.
    But that doesn’t mean I disagree with you. Or what Anita must have said
    You are right, internet is nasty. I just read another blogger post who is also freshly pressed comments. The way he is being criticised for making a analogy is like wow!
    and if anonymity is offered, people get nastier.
    Love this post!!

  8. I do think Sarkeesian makes some good points. And as someone else has pointed out, if gamers are going to push video games as art, then they’ll have to hear a feminist perspective on video games as one way to examine them, just as there’s a feminist perspective on other art forms.

    However, I’m not sure how much I buy into the “anonymous = cowardly” idea. Certainly, people who fling racist, bigoted, or misogynist comments from behind the safety of an internet handle are assholes. But I value my anonymity, both as a commenter and as a blogger. I discuss subjects on my own blog that I don’t really care to have friends, family, or future employers know about, and not for any sort of cowardly reasons – I just don’t want them to know how much of a depressing nerd I am. I’m sure many other people – even some people on Reddit and, God forbid, on 4chan – feel the same way. Naturally, though, these don’t include the racist/bigot/misogynist etc. people. They can go to hell, anonymous or no.

    1. Indeed, anonymity does have its advantages, as another commenter pointed out (especially the “future employers” bit you mentioned. I always forget about that).

  9. This is all pretty new to me Roy, and I’m glad to see posts like this. Regardless of what she is doing, who she is or how she’s acting, the video is an observational point of view that you can’t refute. Yes all of this is happening and has happened, but it doesn’t mean we should abide by these tropes anymore. Cultures change all the time and I’m glad to see that we are moving closer to something without things like the aforementioned trope.

    Give it a few years, how ever many ‘few’ is, and I bet people will look back on all of this and think the tropes (and use of them) are all just a little too silly.

    1. > Regardless of what she is doing, who she is or how she’s acting, the video is an observational point of view that you can’t refute.

      But that’s just the point. Thousands of gamers and other rational people HAVE refuted her supposed ‘observations’ and the conclusions she wants everyone to come to. Thousands of people have explained why her theory is not based in logic, reason, evidence and lacks consistency – (ie is riddled with double standards).

      The wave of intelligent, constructive, rational, fact-based criticism which appeared in the comments sections of her videos – much of it from gamers themselves – was quite simply overwhelming. And that is presumably WHY she chose to shut down comments and disable ratings.

      I’m sure if she’d had mostly praise and a lot less valid and painfully obvious criticism in her comments she would have left them open and tolerated the inevitable internet trolls, just like most normal people do.

      I myself posted video evidence (which got removed) which showed how she took a game who’s entire purpose was to smash a sex trafficking ring and free the women and depicted it as a game which objectifies women. She showed footage of the player punching women – which the game allows you do do, just as it allows you to punch men too – but she forgot to point out that you lose points for behaving in that way. So the ‘message’ of the game was to save women and to not punch women (or lose the game) …. and she managed to twist that into being a game about objectifying women and punching women! Why would she do that? Well perhaps the large sum of money she has managed to raise from suckers like you (no offence) might have something to do with it…

      What kind of campaign is this if it involves Anita recording footage of herself deliberately punching women in a computer game and then using that footage with a dishonest explanation which makes everyone view woman as ‘damsels’ in need of rescue … before asking for lots of money (and getting it) so these damsels can be rescued?

      She is everything she claims to oppose… SHE is the one objectifying women, and portraying women as helpless victims (damsels) and SHE is the one encouraging society to treat women as pathetic ‘objects’ controlled by men.

      And when people point this out, rather than act like an adult and engage them in a debate she closes comments and then portrays HERSELF as a ‘damsel in distress’ and waits for a thousands ‘white knights’ to come to her rescue………which they do. And they do it without ever questioning her money making scheme, her thesis or her motives, which is itself disrespectful and sexist.

      If we view Anita as an adult rather than an innocent princess who needs to be protected and rescued then we will want to know what the criticisms other adults have made towards her theory are, and why there are so many people criticising her theory. This is especially true if we don’t know much about the gaming world ourselves (and most of Anita’s supporters don’t).

      If you take ANY subject which most people don’t know much about (gaming, horse racing, rock climbing, furniture polishing) it’s pretty easy to construct ANY narrative and then convince people it’s the truth….. and then start demanding money to help ‘raise more awareness’ of this ‘problem’.

      It’s the familiar scenario of (1) feminist makes claim (2) feminist receives intelligent and thoughtful criticism of claim which needs to be addressed (3) feminist portrays criticism as personal attack to avoid addressing criticism (4) feminist portrays criticism as an attack on ‘all women’ (AKA misogyny) and shuts down all comments (5) public rally around feminist (ie chivalry) after she quotes a few random trolls on the internet and does the whole ‘damsel in distress’ routine.

  10. I have a bit of a different take on all this, but I really appreciated reading your post so I linked to it.

    “…maybe one day, the collective maturity and intelligence of Internet users will be at such a level that public, open discussion would be possible…”

    We can always dream ;)

  11. Regardless of how you feel about Sarkeesian’s work, no one deserves to get rape threats and verbal sexual harassment. As she says in the beginning of her videos, “It is entirely possible to be critical of some aspects of a piece of media while still finding other parts valuable or enjoyable.” If people want video games to be viewed as a respected medium, then allowing other people (both in and outside of the industry) to be critical of the work is necessary for that achievement.

    Great piece! I am now going to go read your post on video games being viewed as art.

  12. I enjoyed reading this. It’s been awhile since the whole gamergate debacle, but that doesn’t mean these same people have stopped being a**holes. I see nothing wrong with being yourself and actually putting your name out there. I can also understand wanting to tackle a difficult subject but not wanting to open yourself up to viscous attacks and trolls. I can only hope we can do more to have intelligent discussions and ignore the rest.

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