Anita Sarkeesian on Sexism in Gaming Culture

Anita Sarkeesian on Sexism in Gaming Culture

Feminist cultural critic, Anita Sarkeesian (Feminist Frequency), appeared on the Colbert Report to talk about the so-called “GamerGate” sexist campaign. As a background, GamerGate started when game developer Zoe Quinn’s disgruntled ex-boyfriend wrote a long vitriolic essay claiming Quinn had exchanged sex with a journalist for a favourable review of her game. While it was quickly revealed that no such thing had happened, thousands of mostly White male gamers descended abusive threats upon Quinn, which escalated to the point where her personal details were publicly leaked, and she had to move from her house.

Anita has also been forced to move from her home under similar threats, not just connected to GamerGate but extending from the past couple of years, since her successful Kickstarter campaign to fund her cultural critique of sexism in video games, Tropes vs Women. The past abuse included an online game where you can “bash” Sarkeesian’s face to a bloody pulp. More recently, as GamerGate gained momentum, Sarkeesian has received even more death threats, and some of her public events have been cancelled due to bomb threats.

In this video below, Sarkeesian answers Colbert’s shtick (“Why don’t you just have a separate game? Have separate but equal games”). Demonstrating sharp intellect and good humour, she says:

“I think women are perceived as threatening because we are asking for games to be more inclusive. We are asking for games to acknowledge that we exist and that we love games… They’re lashing out because we’re challenging the status quo of gaming as a male-dominated space.”

What is GamerGate Really About?

Sarkeesian tells Colbert that while men indulging in GamerGate are trying to frame their attacks as “ethics in gaming journalism,” the fact is that it’s a sexist attack aimed at women who speak out against inequality.

A Newsweek analysis of tweets about GamerGate supports this position, with women like Quinn getting 10,400 tweets, up to 14 times as many abusive and sexist tweets when they post about GamerGate. Writer Leigh Alexander, a woman, got eight times as many tweets as her male counterpart (13,300 tweets). Brianna Wu, another game developer who spoke out against GamerGate as sexism received 39,000 tweets and Sarkeesian received over 38,000 tweets.

If you’ve tweeted this hashtag, you’ll experience this yourself – as I have, with a few men coming to argue with me after I posted Megan Reilly excellent article, saying Reilly was biased because feminism and politics have no place in the discussion. As other gamers have shown, however, politics is always present in gaming, even by omission. Gaming writer John Walker explains:

“Choosing to mention this [sexual stereotypes] specific feature of the game is a political decision, whether to condemn or celebrate. And crucially, choosing not to mention it is a political decision too. Not thinking it worth mentioning, also, is born of a political position on the matter. Indifference to something of importance to others is, of course, a political position. You cannot ‘leave the politics out of games coverage.’ Politics are inherent.”

As a nice coda, Colbert ends the interview by asking Sarkeesian about feminism:

Colbert: As a man, am I allowed to be a feminist?

Sarkeesian: Do you believe that women should have equal rights to men…

Colbert: Sure!

Sarkeesian: …and that we should fight for those rights?

Colbert: Sure!

Sarkeesian: Great! Then you’re a feminist.

Learn More


Feminist Frequency: Tropes vs Women series:

Zoe Quinn on her experience of online abuse during GamerGate:

Newsweek data on GamerGate tweets:

Megan Reilly on sexism and entitlement in gaming culture:

John Walker on GamerGate politics:

#sociology #socialscience #feminism