A Game You Can’t Win

Mar 14, 2013 | Video Games


Ever heard of Anita Sarkeesian?

Long story short, she’s a medic critic of popular culture as it relates to feminism and the effects of sexism. Her Tropes Vs. Women series on Youtube is still once of my favorites, because it actually does a very good job of breaking down aspects of feminist theory that might seem really abstract into nice little bite-size chunks. Anita is polite, articulate, and obviously very passionate about what she does.

She decided to Kickstart her newest series, called Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games, and asked for $6000 to make it. Reasonable enough, I would have thought.

Certain sections of the Internet did not agree.

So, let’s be clear again: this is an instance of a woman, on the Internet, with an unpopular opinion. In fact, it’s even more silly – she just wants to talk about her opinion. I’ve posted before about what happens to women with opinions on the Internet, and this was no different. A massive backlash against Anita took shape, and it took the form of the most vile kind of sexism imaginable.

Rape threats. Death threats. Trying to get her videos labelled as terrorism. Vandalizing her Wikipedia entry with hardcore pornography. Then there’s the usual low-grade comments on her appearance, her supposed imperative to get to the kitchen for sandwich-making, her Jewish heritage (with bonus anti-Semitism), and the wishing of various anonymous people that she would be murdered, assaulted, raped, or anything in between.

Again, this all because she wants to talk about her opinion of sexism in video games. Because she’s a media critic. Because she’s been talking about movies and TV series up to this point.

Thankfully, the rest of the Internet responded with support, and she got far, far more than she had originally asked for. Then there came accusations that she was going to take the money and run, that she was a scam artist, that she was a criminal…

Once again, I want to remind you – because a woman has an unpopular opinion, and she’s on the Internet.

So, after much work, she posted the first of her new series:

…which I found to be much in keeping with her other stuff, in that it’s a good primer and a good way to start a discussion on the subject.


The video has comments switched off. Now, considering what’s already been thrown at her, I am not at all surprised by this. Who wants to see that level of utter awfulness? Who wants to put up with more death threats, rape threats, and casual misogyny? It’s understandable at least.

And once again, some sections of the Internet do not agree. And they think that her disabling comments means that she’s shutting down criticism.

Because, you know, her disabling comments on one video means that no one else can discuss it ever, on any of the million other websites out of her control.

Because there is a woman on the Internet with an unpopular opinion, and she has the temerity to express that opinion politely.

There is no way to win this game. There’s no way to get it to stop. No matter how illogical the argument, no matter how vile the threats, there will always be someone who thinks that she deserves it, that she’s a malicious bitch. They ascribe to her motives that make no sense, unless…

Think about it. They want her to stop talking about sexism in video games. That’s what all of this has been about – anything to shut this woman up, this bitch who dares to have an opinion on their pet medium that isn’t all sweetness and light. But she won’t shut up, in spite of all their efforts. What’s the next best plan? Well, they need to stop people from paying attention to what she says.

So they discredit her, any way they can. Accuse her of being dishonest. Accuse her of being fascist. Accuse her of outlandish things that might possibly convince people who don’t really know the story around her. They don’t want to hear about how their favorite games are sexist, and they want to make sure that no one else can hear it either.

It’s shameful, really.

But it’s okay.

It gets better, doesn’t it? Anita got a huge chunk of money from people who didn’t want to be a part of the witch hunt. The parts of the Internet that are better than that put their money on the line and made their opinions known, to the tune of over a hundred thousand dollars. Plenty of games developers, like the most excellent Cliff Bleszinski, talk about inclusion, and learning about how to make good games that are not racist and sexist. I really do believe that the big studios are trying, because they want a part of the massive market of female gamers. Follow the money, and all that…

Right now, Anita’s in a game she can’t win. But I’m hopeful that a woman will win it someday.