Image via gameranx.
I first became conscious that my opinions and values prompted others to categorise me as a feminist in my mid-twenties. I paid it no more mind than I had the continual references to my ‘tomboyish-ness’ when I was growing up . If my choice of clothing and compulsion to collect vinyl, play videogames and write peculiar stories caused others to tag me thusly, I paid it no mind.
Lately, I’m beginning to feel that is a luxury I can no longer afford.
Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist. She commentates on cultural issues on her blog, Feminist Frequency, and earlier this year set up a Kickstarter project to explore and deconstruct the five most common representations of women in videogames.
The lead image of this post is a still from a videogame created by a comic book hero named Ben Spurr, in response to Sarkeesian’s project. The game invites players to repeatedly click on an image of Sarkeesian and watch as bruising and cuts develop on her face. The page on which the game was available now displays a eulogy for it, while the creator claimed he “was not advocating violence against women”.
This game was just one of many low points in the huge online backlash against Sarkeesian’s project. Aside from being sent hundreds of threats of rape, murder, sexual assault and torture, Photoshopped and hand drawn images of her being abused by computer game characters were circulated on the internet and her social network accounts were repeatedly hacked in an attempt to get her Kickstarter funding cancelled.
I know many of you out there don’t necessarily define yourselves as feminists. Many might actively recoil from the word, steeped as it is in culturally perpetuated myths of man-hating and underarm hair. That’s fine. I reserve the right to choose what I consume in the media, so why shouldn’t you?
But there are some things that transcend personal opinion. A widespread, persistent campaign of implied violence against Anita Sarkeesian for having the temerity to comment on an issue that matters to her, cannot and should not be dismissed as the isolated behaviour of a few immature gamers, or indeed, a matter for feminists to get in a lather about.
Look at the still from the ‘Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian’ game at the top of this post. Watch the video, shot at the TEDx Women conference earlier this year, in which she describes the abuse she received after setting up her Kickstarter campaign. This could happen to anyone of us, for simply voicing an opinion that does not fall within the socially acceptable limits of OUR culture. Or one of our friends, colleagues, or even our children if they choose to stand up for something they believe in.
It affects all us all.