Comprehensively addressing the stupid, intellectually dishonest critique of Anita Sarkeesian


Wait, we can get points!!! :wink:


That is precisely what I’ve been thinking and saying lately, and not just about this one issue. People “choose” all sorts of stupid bullshit to tie their identity to, and get deeply threatened when that identity is challenged. The resulting defensive behavior is, almost by definition, dangerous and irrational. Will Storr’s The Unpersuadables is a recent fun (popcorn philosophy) treatment of the idea with a slightly different bent, or if you’d like something more serious, Jodi Dean’s work on the topic is pretty much the standard. Her Solidarity of Strangers: Feminism after Identity Politics is almost a first cause for the model (and, like most of her ideas, something I slowly transitioned from being unsympathetic to to thinking is one of the best available tools for contemplating self and society).


There is a heavy, heavy dose of audience privilege involved in this silliness. I really think that the ridiculous first-world consumer privilege nonsense would have been avoided had trade never invited consumer to participate in trade conferences.



I feel like certain game genres yield less anger here, but I would be shocked if anyone has done any kind of quantification of it. My guess is narrative games versus action games yield less vitriol.


“it was actually created by feminists to refer to a certain kind of undesirable behavior from ostensibly feminist men”

No it wasn’t. I refute you thusly:

Seriously, though, if you can find evidence that contradicts every other reference to “white knighting” on Google, I’d like to see it.


Good points. Plus everyone involved in these seems to have a very short memory.

  1. The perception is that she is saying very similar things to what Jack Thompson was saying. Thompson also claimed he received death threats and harassment. Many of the folks who egged on the shitstorm around Thompson seemed to have flipped when it comes to Sarkeesian making largely the same points (though, obviously, Sarkeesian is much more cogent and coherent than Thompson was).

I mean, are we just going to pretend posts like this didn’t happen? Is it cool to criticize video games for excessive sex and violence if you’re a feminist, but not if you’re a conservative Christian? (and not the slam on feminists in the excerpt Xeni posted there…)

  1. The gaming media’s position in this is a bit weird. You are seeing a lot of gaming journalists closing ranks behind Sarkeesian’s criticisms of video games, and openly deriding “gamer culture.”

Which is fine, except these are the same folks and sites who have enabled this for so long.

Take Hitman: Absolution which Sarkeesian goes to town on in her recent video (as far as I can tell, rightly so). So when that game came out, it was given rave reviews by the same sites that are now posting rants about how awful the people who defend these games are.

It’s like “hey, Hitman: Absolution is awesome, go buy it and play it…and when you do, we’re going to call you a neckbeard man-baby for not realizing how misogynistic it really is.”


Dee Snyder, John Denver, and Frank Zappa testified at those hearings. John Denver was the guy that got dropped by his record company. Zappa’s records had the dreaded “Explicit Lyrics” label, including the album “Jazz From Hell,” which has no lyrics.


The reason it’s so hard to get traction on this issue is that the guys anger is displacement of anger towards something safe and away from the dangerous thing that they really hate. In other words, they have “mommy issues.”


Well aware, friend. Great album, Jazz from Hell.


I’m afraid I did not ‘know my meme’. I was simply trying to point out (to the choir - I know) that supporting the protagonist in this fight was not difficult because I believe she is (largely) in the right – not that I was looking for Brownie points and/or a shag.

Now that I know what White Knighting is I will STFU.


I wonder how much of this is a hetro version of fag-bashing, violence where a repressed homosexual is terrorized by his desires and thus lashes out at the apple of his eye for tormenting him so. Anita is attractive, intelligent, well spoken, and actually involved in the same passion as these gamers, for a small number of the community it is so close yet so far away their dream partner. If only they could subdue her to their will like a final boss, submissive love by night while continuing to torment their gamer foes by day.
She is their 'net dream girl right up to the point where she breaks their heart.
Some of this seems to be a dismal equality where they treat a female as badly as a male doing the same thing, analyzing any way to insult or hurt and taking the shot.
But obviously also a big entitled pile of petulant frustrated, how dare a woman.
This is both gender rage and just ordinary troll rage.


That’s exactly right; this thought has occurred to me several times. Pointing out that a trope is present in a game is not an outright condemnation of the entire game as sexist, nor a call for censorship. It’s describing a pattern and how pervasive it is.

In “Women as Background Decoration: Part I”, for instance, she shows a clip of gameplay from Mass Effect I to illustrate a trope she was describing, the seedy bar with hypersexualized women dancing, and how the player is usually presented with the option to participate in the exploitation of women. Mass Effect 1 is often cited for its relatively good handling of gender roles, in particular because of how thoroughly well-executed is the option to play the protagonist as a woman. But, the point wasn’t condemning Mass Effect 1 as sexist. The point was that this trope was clearly present in Mass Effect 1.


This is a good point.

Naked dancing ladies work as shorthand for seedy bars because, hey surprise! Even in 2014, seedy bars exist all over the place with naked dancing ladies.

Depictions of strips clubs in games I don’t find problematic, unless they are overtly pervy. It’s hard to write down the criteria for this, but obvious when the line is crossed. Even if criteria aren’t written down, I think game dev’s basically know when they are crossing the line (i.e. my previous post on Farcry 3).

We just need to keep calling them out on it is all. Strip clubs aren’t necessarily problematic in games, it’s the treatment.

Yessir, that means Duke Nukem 3D was over the line in its day. =)


[quote=“brian_carnell, post:27, topic:40229”]Take Hitman: Absolution which Sarkeesian goes to town on in her recent video (as far as I can tell, rightly so). So when that game came out, it was given rave reviews by the same sites that are now posting rants about how awful the people who defend these games are.

It’s like “hey, Hitman: Absolution is awesome, go buy it and play it…and when you do, we’re going to call you a neckbeard man-baby for not realizing how misogynistic it really is.”[/quote]

What Sarkeesian has to say about the point you’re making:


I’d disagree, and think that using Freudian theory to explain the response is reaching a bit. Besides the fact that most of his approach to psychoanalysis has largely been discredited (particularly the “blame the parents”/oedipal/“mommy issues” approach for pretty much everything), I think that PAPP hit the nail on the head by noting that this anger is a response to a perceived threat to identity (i.e. feeling personally threatened by the “if you like gaming, and these games in particular with negative female imagery, you’re a mysogynistic part of the problem” argument).
I think it’s a lot easier to explain that the angry guys, who likely already belong to a “social outcast” caste to some degree, are defending their refuge from society/reality than to argue that they’re all angry because each and every one of them has “mommy issues”.
It’s only been a relatively recent thing that “gaming” has been cool. For a long while, it was the realm of the “nerdy” “computer guys”, i.e. the guys playing D&D or gaming on a saturday rather than playing football and hanging out with cheerleaders. I’d even argue that “gamers” have, up until recently, been social outcasts to some degree. When you feel that society already has you backed into a corner, if someone comes in and attacks one of the few things that is truly “yours”, people will act out in (perceived) defensive anger.

And I’ll note that none of this excuses the outrageously offensive/violent behavior exhibited by the asshats threatening Ms. Sarkesian, but it certainly makes it a bit easier to understand where it’s coming from. Dismissing it as “mommy issues” oversimplifies and makes light of an important social phenomenon. (after all, you certainly can’t ensure that each “gamer” has a positive relationship with his mother, whereas you could possibly take steps to encourage more female positive games, and female involvement in gaming at all levels from players to game developers etc…)


She’s young, smart, articulate, popular, and attractive. What’s not to hate?


“I’m not saying she deserved to get raped, but… you have to be really stupid to not know it was coming, getting drunk at a party with a bunch of guys…”

Maybe you want to back up and try again?


Sorry, but so much for intellectual. Here’s what people mean but have a hard time articulating:

Why her supporters insist she’s criticized

  • because they hate women [in video games]

Why she’s actually criticized

because they feel she…

  • is a demagogue
  • is sensationalist
  • politicizes video games
  • makes generalized charges against everyone who plays video games, esp. males
  • contributes nothing to the medium of games except for accusatory criticism
  • interprets gaming motifs not through traditional critical techniques, but through filters
    invented by noted radical feminists
  • creates the illusion of sexism through suggestion
  • draws conclusions about gaming content which is misleading, caring only to validate her points
  • vilifies all of her own critics as misogynists or as part of a conspiracy to slander women in tech
  • imposes self-righteous, personal viewpoints on the industry, medium, and society

Ta da! Not so hard after all, huh?


#6 The Straw Feminist (Tropes vs. Women)


Has anything been written on the geographic distribution of the man babies? I don’t especially want to invoke #NotAllGamers, but I’ve never encountered this kind of behaviour from British gaming communities. Admittedly, not gone out of my way to look for it either.
Is it an American thing? Am I just lucky in my not having come across such sad little people at home?