Comprehensively addressing the stupid, intellectually dishonest critique of Anita Sarkeesian

I’m pretty sure the games are political whether she “politicizes them” or not. Most things are political and full of unchecked assumptions, especially those that involve the power of a privileged group over another as entertainment.


That the characters are male is not a point I am disputing–note that male is the default gender–but their being male is not definitive to most of the baddie characters. Their masculinity is not particularly important to their function in the game. This is a matter of character and setting design, not game design.

How is their being male particularly important? If you remove the word male from that, would that somehow change the game any truly significant fashion? They are definitely presented as dangerous antagonists, but their gender is not central to that role–they do not need to be male to be dangerous antagonists.

Not a bad question.

As for what “male is the default” means: in general, when a game presents a character in any role, that character is most often male unless there is some specific reason for them not to be. This is what you are observing with the hordes of male characters you kill in these games: they don’t need to be female, so they’re male. Their being male is not important to their character, because they generally exist as nameless targets for you to pick off. It’s not particularly misandrist to kill them, because their masculinity has nothing to do with why they are your targets.

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I’m pretty sure the people being accused of hating women are the ones who decide the only way to communicate their intellectual critiques of Sarkeesian’s work is by shopping genitalia on her photo, defacing her accounts and producing a seemingly endless supply of vile comments including threats of violence and rape directed at her and her family, followed by the predictable litany of “well what did she expect” apologia about poor, misunderstood, socially awkward gamers who never really hurt anyone.

I’m just not buying that there are all these examples of people having reasoned, intellectual discussions about the IDEAS in Sarkeesian’s videos that are being unfairly assaulted by hoards of posters screaming WOMAN HATER!


Most people are wrong.


It is easy (and no more dishonest than most such arguments) to make the counterargument that enemies’ masculinity is used and accentuated to establish them as threatening. “Big muscly dude with a deep voice and a temper” is also a trope that uses socially constructed conceptions of gender to shape your perception of the character. The male enemy isn’t empathetic, he’s cold, he’s hostile, he’s probably a sociopath, and we know it because he is hypermasculine.

We use tropes because they’re evocative. We should be aware of what we’re doing when we do it, but it isn’t inherently a bad thing. To use a gender-free example, we don’t need much exposition to figure out the Combine Overwatch in Half Life 2 are bad guys because they are designed to invoke popular images of fascists from our shared past.

Edit: To be clear, the reason I qualified my argument is because I think there is also a lot of male by default going on, and there are other interesting conversations about why that is.


ValerieSolanisBot sez: But, shooting men is the only good part of these games!

Previously, on Lost:


I’m not sure how prevalent it is, but I’d guess that in those cases, it’s a combination of begging the question, and cognitive bias. Neither of these are necessarily bad, per se, but they can cloud a person’s judgement.

I’m fairly certain, for example, that this is why Steven Moffatt is seen as some sort of misogynist devil because a.) Peter Capaldi is an old white dude and b.) female characters rarely hold a conversation that doesn’t involve the Doctor, while Joss Whedon is hailed for his strong women while doling out the misogynist bullcrap liberally, and George R. R. Martin is hailed for his “I see women as people” sentiment while leaving a sea of rape victims all over Westeros.

Why? Are animal shelters powered by logical fallacies?

Or, it could be that the person who has pointed out the strawman is tired of pointing out how the repeated strawman is a strawman, because the strawmen used in this are used over, and over, and over.

That happened to me too. They held me down & pinched my nose til I drank it, like Indiana Jones being forced to drink the evil magic blood.


Then just come into the conversation and say, “You are wrong. It’s been explained over and over why you are wrong and I am not going to explain it again here.”

What is a strawman? It’s when one person, instead of taking on the real substance of the opposing points, argues with an easy-to-argue with version or a caricature. It would be pretty easy for those who support Sarkeesian to simply say all of her critics are arguing against strawmen themselves.

The point of learning logical fallacies like the strawman is to try to do a better job in your own thinking, not to learn a list of buzzwords to use against other people in arguments. Might as well just say, “I disagree,” for all the weight it has.

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If it doesn’t matter, then why is it pervasive? I’ve played plenty of games where the non combatant civilian characters are portrayed in game as male and female characters - submissive, hiding from confrontation, curled into the fetal position, crying. It plays into the ‘And ONLY YOU can save them from this abomination!’ element of the games. A sophisticated version of the ‘bang, bang, you’re dead’ that we played as children (or more tellingly … played as boys - I don’t remember ever playing this type of child game with girls).

In addition to FPS games, I sometimes also play role playing MMO fantasy games. In these games, you are just as likely to confront female antagonists as male. I’m guessing that this is primarily because of the fantasy element of these games. And the large numbers of female MMO game makers and players.

FPS/TPS games are usually built on the real life army/marine model. Not many western armies have women on the front line. Plenty in the background but the grunts are always (Israel excepted) male. So the media reports that ‘the men and women of the armed forces are protecting us against the dangerous gunmen.’ Despite the fact that the number of women fighting on the front line of the enemies forces should be acknowledged and reported as ‘the dangerous gunmen and gunwomen.’ But it never is. (As an aside, ‘gunmen’ passed through the spell check on this page. ‘Gunwomen’ was tagged as incorrect.)

So games portray protagonists as exclusively male. They portray non combatants as male and female. Sometimes the female non combatants are portrayed salaciously. It’s okay to portray men as cannon fodder baddies, and consider it not worthy of comment. But portraying women salaciously is outrageous and should not be allowed?

Sorry, but I don’t buy into this.

Gimme games that have strong male and female leads, male and female baddies, and remove the tits and bum. I’d be happy with that. Until then, don’t get all worked up about one, while ignoring the other.

Sorry, I used some bad wording there. I was being very careful to keep her isolated from her project, and apparently I missed one. Oh well, teaches me to try to reply to stuff on a tablet without a sufficient amount of caffeine.

I do wish people would address my points, and not just try hard to make me seem like I’m somehow attacking her personally. I AM NOT. I don’t know her, I can’t really say anything about her, but I’m sure she’s a very nice person, doing what she thinks is right, which is admirable. Beyond that, I don’t know or care one bit. To be abundantly clear, my intention was not to say anything about her at all, only the project, no amount of picking through my language is going to change that.

My intention in that snippet was more pointing out her public image. I don’t know (or care) if she is intentionally doing it, or not. It doesn’t matter, really. Its true now, in public, whether she wanted it or not.

Its really depressing that no one cares enough to actually address anything I said, and just want to try to paint some picture about me “blaming victims”, or attacking her. For the last time, I’m NOT ATTACKING HER. If you read my comment like that, you’re reading it wrong, and I apologize for not being clear enough. Can we please move on to talking about interesting things now?

Odd how in her own words she says she enjoys the games she critiques. Using the word seems does show how you put your own feelings and thoughts into her argument instead of… you know - actually listening to what she is saying.

[quote]You mustn’t have women in computer games unless they are strong lead
characters. You mustn’t have female characters portrayed negatively.
Etc, etc.[/quote]

I haven’t heard that once from any of her videos. I have heard her deride a game for not having any female characters except those that are sex objects or victims. That’s not even close to the same thing.

Odd how you missed that the game uses sexual assault against the lead character - and has a female ‘buddy’ (Sam) get kidnapped - seems that it has it’s own share of issues that could be critiqued - but it was still a great game and managed to have female characters that were more than just for titilation or victimhood - and again… it was still a great game - imagine that - a game that gets a bunch right - still uses a bunch of tropes - and somehow manages to be good - pretty much par for the course in video games.

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My personal POV, which is that the sexist exploitation of game media became an unhelpful, unartistic rut about 20 years ago, is much more compatible with Sarkeesian’s critique than Thompson’s. Thompson just hated all things not-Christian. He was a culture warrior more sexist and repressive than even the sexist exploitation. Also he thought that video-game violence had a more direct expression in the real world, relying on essential magical expression of fundamentalist morality.

At the time Thompson was active, the main threat to fandom was his Christian ilk. Right now the main threat is the artistic cowardice of secular commercial exploitation. Saying that one thing is just like the other doesn’t make it so, and peeling the two things apart does illuminate what’s different:


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Think about that statement - then re-examine this

So she’s only ‘human flamebait’ because ehs’s talking about video games? If nothing else that pretty much proves the point that ‘video game’ culture is chock full of very crappy people that seem to think they are entitled to get away with acts that wouldn’t be tolerated in another setting.


You said

One thing I dislike about her project is that it brings out the whole “you dislike Israel the country, therefore you are an antisemite and your argument is invalid” school of fallacy.

This suggested to me that (a) you thought that fallacies being slung around was a bad thing, and (b) that you thought that her project was the cause of such fallacies being slung around. As an example of such fallacies, in this thread we’ve seen people repeat the argument that since she doesn’t like certain games, she clearly isn’t a gamer and should be ignored.

She is obviously responsible for her project. Hence it seemed to me that you were claiming that she was (indirectly) responsible for all the fallacies being slung at her (along with the death threats). If you still can’t see how that’s “blame the victim”, I’m not sure how I can make it clearer.

Her supporters don’t enter into this discussion.


You know those two points are almost exactly what Anita keeps saying in these videos - if you bother to listen. Change your first line to: “No, but you are killing them because they are presented as dangerous female antagonists” and leave the rest of your comment as is and it’s spot on.

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The “because realism” response seems a bit shallow in that it’s an extremely selective form of realism. Other elements of real war are routinely excised or given a facelift because they’re boring or not fun. To pick out the presentation of gender roles as an important element of realism but ignore pretty much anything else looks more than a bit arbitrary. It appeals to a certain idea of verisimilitude, perhaps, but is that genuinely realistic or just pandering?

No one is saying you must. In fact, no one* is even saying that the presentation of women salaciously is necessarily outrageous or to be disallowed. The point is that these tropes are extraordinarily common–it’s not rare or occasional, it is most of the time, even in games where there’s no justification for it.

*Yes, there are some people who really are saying this, that’s hyperbole. The point is, they’re rare, and they don’t include pretty much anyone actually involved or surrounding this discussion, including, so far as I know, Ms. Sarkeesian.


In fact Sarkeesian went to town on this in her most recent video. The argument apparently goes that while we can suspend our disbelief for almost anything (dragons, magic, a soldier who is able to take ten bullets and kill hundreds of people) it is just too unrealistic if women aren’t being sexually abused. Personally, I think the laws of physics are harder to violate than cultural realities, but it would seem that many people disagree.


For what little it’s worth, I can’t see that at all in the things you’re talking about. Your argument doesn’t make the slightest sense to me, and it appears that you are engaging in a diversionary personal attack because somebody politely made a point you disagree with (this is derailing 101).

I expect you may be outraged that that’s my perception of your posts, and immediately believe that I am deliberately distorting your words or some such: perhaps that experience will afford you some insight.