anita sarkeesian

Feminists in Games Meet in Vancouver

Emily and Anita Sarkeesian

Emily and Anita Sarkeesian

by Emily Yakashiro

This past weekend I attended the second annual Feminists in Games conference here in Vancouver. I’m personally not much of a gamer (although I spend a lot of time encouraging murderous plants to take down zombies), but I attended out of interest in supporting feminist media. Furthermore, I was keen to hear about the many gendered and sexist aspects of the gaming community, most infamously highlighted by Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian, who was a keynote speaker at this two-day event.

Unbeknownst to me when I registered for the event, the conference had a mission of not only supporting feminists already involved in the games industry, but to also show to those who don’t identify as feminists the importance of this philosophy and movement when doing this type of work. As such, discussions of what feminism is, and its significance to the creation of interactive media were at the forefront of many conversations over the weekend.

Of particular interest was the apparent tension between different understandings of feminisms across the generations of conference attendees. The opening of the second day saw an inspiring reminder that while yes, differences exist, intergenerational dialogue on experiences with sexism and workplace discrimination are integral to maintaining sustainability of this relatively small community.  Read more

Posted on by Emily Yakashiro in Can-Con, Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

#1ReasonWhy: Truths from Women in the Gaming World

by E. Cain

#1reasonwhy exploded on twitter late last month in response to a question tweeted by videogame designer, Luke Crane, who asked:  “Why are there so few lady game creators?” Using the hashtag, female game developers, writers, critics, and journalists have been sharing their stories of sexism and exclusion in and by the video game industry.

I was put onto this by a friend who promised it would blow my mind. And yes, mind blown.

Once you weed through the trolls (and there are many, unfortunately) you will find stories of senior female game developers being paid less than their male colleagues and passed over for key positions; women at game conferences/conventions being mistaken for a “real” developer’s girlfriend; and no shortage of women who are tired of making games about war, cars, and football.  For highlights, see this link here.


And, if you find yourself needing a pick-me-up after perusing these posts, check out a complimentary tag created by author Rhianna Pratchett:  #1reasontobe. It collects reasons women have for working in the games industry. For highlights, please see this link.

This isn’t the first time misogyny in the video gaming industry has been making headlines, just google the name Anita Sarkeesian. A feminist journalist originally from Toronto and an avid video gamer, Anita launched a fundraising campaign last year to produce a series of free online videos on female stereotypes in video games. In response, she faced horrific cyber-bullying from gamers online, including the creation of a disgusting game called – if you can believe it – “Beat up Anita Sarkeesian.” At the time, much attention was focused on misogyny as a troubling theme within gaming culture, and Anita did raise the money from her videos (can view here), but otherwise little changed.

According to Mother Jones, 88% of employees in the gaming industry are men and that the perceived core audience is young men aged 18-25. But here’s what some may find surprising – according to a study by the Entertainment Software Association, young men make up only 18% of actual game players. In reality, 47% of game players are adult women and they represent industry’s fastest-growing demographic.

In this light, not only is it unjust that there are so few “lady game creators” – as Luke Crane put it. But it’s also bad from a business perspective given that women are the actual target audience. Now that we have thousands of women coming forward and sharing their experiences, it’s time for the industry to take steps to rectify the problem.

(photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Posted on by E. Cain in Feminism, Pop Culture 1 Comment

Geek Girl Con: Building a More Positive Geek Culture

Geek Girl Con Cosplayersby Jarrah Hodge

This is Part 2 of my Geek Girl Con posts recapping the panels on online sexism and harassment. To read part one, click here.

If you found Part 1 depressing, know Part 2 is more action-oriented. Even though what’s going on online in an attempt to silence and intimidate women speaking out on feminism and geek culture is terrible, Geek Girl Con panelists did have some suggestions. I’ve broken it down into two areas: suggestions around dealing with the online misogyny directly now, and suggestions about how we can work to change systems to build a more positive, feminist online culture for the future.

Dealing With the Current Situation – Protecting Yourself and Your Communities:

Having gone through this the most recently and most publicly, Anita Sarkeesian had concrete tips for anyone who’s experienced online threats and harassment or who is considering creating content that might be subject to these kinds of attacks: Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture 2 Comments

Geek Girl Con: Speaking Out on Online Sexism

Anita Sarkeesian and Maile Martinez

by Jarrah Hodge

(trigger warning for misogyny and language)

This past weekend I headed down to Seattle for the second annual Geek Girl Con, which I’d been to the year before. Last year I really enjoyed the Con but found there was a bit of a lack of panels taking a really critical look at sexism and misogyny within geek culture. This year was a huge improvement on that front, and since I went to a whole bunch of panels in this general vein, I’m not going to recap every single one. Instead I wanted to broadly share some of the problems/issues the various panels identified in this post, then do a follow-up looking at panelists’ tips and suggestions for change (as well as posts on some other issues/topics covered at the Con).

On the issue of the sexism, harassment and misogyny that exists in geek culture, there were no shortage of truly appalling examples presented. Anyone who went to the panel: “Go Make Me a Sandwich: Barriers in Online and Fan Spaces”, would not have been able to argue that there was no sexism online. On the panel were Regina Buenaobra, a Community Manager at Arenanet; Colette Vogele, an attorney involved with the group Without My Consent; Feminist Frequency vlogger Anita Sarkeesian; and Grace, Co-Founder of fatuglyorslutty.com.

Even having followed the blogging and reporting around Anita’s recent experience with violent sexism in the gaming community, it was disturbing to see examples of some of the YouTube comments and tweets she received projected on the big Con screens. She broke down what she saw as the main factors in this online harassment, noting that it is: a manifestation of real-life privilege, designed to silence, violently defensive of the status quo, rooted in entitlement and male privilege, and involved in the policing of masculinity and performing misogyny through invites by community members to others to “one-up” each other through more extreme forms of harassment. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 4 Comments

Don’t Feed the Trolls

Some trolls created an online game inviting players to “beat up Anita Sarkeesian”

by Alicia Costa

As I was stopped at the light today one of the young men in the SUV next to me leaned out his window and screamed, “Now THAT’S a great ass!” to a young woman crossing the street. She looked clearly startled and not at all flattered by the outburst.  It literally made me recoil as I know exactly what that girl feels like. In fact this exact same thing happened to me last week while walking to meet a client. And I’m sure if you are a woman reading this you can relate to this situation.

This got me thinking about how much sexual harassment women are receiving and internalizing on a daily basis and I’m tired of it. Many men seem to think by hiding in their cars and shouting out the window- or behind a computer screen they have full license to do and say whatever they want about our bodies.

In previous weeks feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian  of Feminist Frequency came out and laid out all of the harassment she was getting in response to a project she created about the lack of well-rounded female characters in video games.  Everything from the defacement of her Wikipedia page, to continued threats of sexualized violence, to a video game where the player can virtually punch a picture of Anita until her face in it turns black and blue.

While trying to process Anita’s experience and reconcile my own experiences of misogynist hate emails and nasty comments on things I’ve written over the years I started to think about other forms of harassment I’ve received on the internet. Read more

Posted on by Alicia Costa in Feminism, Pop Culture 3 Comments

Geek Girl Con: Media Literacy, Criticism, and Production

Anita Sarkeesian Leah Wilson, and Kristy Guevara-Flanagan at Geek Girl Con

Anita Sarkeesian Leah Wilson, and Kristy Guevara-Flanagan

“For me the only dangerous media is the unexamined media.” That was the sentiment, expressed by Leah Wilson, behind the Geek Girl Con panel on Media Literacy, Criticism, and Production. I was particularly excited about this panel because it featured the awesome Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency as well as Kelsey Wallace and Kjerstin Johnson, who were my editors when I was writing the Revenge of the Feminerd series for Bitch Magazine blogs. The other panelists were Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, director of The History of the World as Told by Wonder Woman as well as Wilson, editor of Smart Pop Books. The panel was moderated by Maile Martinez, programming director at Reel Grrls.

So what is media literacy?

Kjerstin replied that media literacy helps us see media as more than just entertainment: “It’s not just a comic but something that’s affecting people’s lives.”

Kristy said media literacy for her has been a tool that’s helped her learn from what others have created when creating her own things.

Kelsey pointed out that media literacy is about asking who made the media and why. It involves looking at the financial and social interests behind the media you’re consuming. But Kelsey said she feels media literacy has an “unfortunate bad rap of just about hating on something,” when actually in her view it’s about loving something so much that you’ll get into it to that level.
In a similar vein talking about the bad rap that media literacy can get, Anita added, “I think about it as being a fan from a marginalized community.” Anita continued that media literacy can happen in simple and everyday ways: “I think we are being media literate when we have conversations with our friends.”

Another question that was asked was about the potential for feminists and others discontented with mainstream media to be producers of alternative media. The panelists could all think of examples of great indie comics, webseries, and other positive alternative media, but Kelsey cautioned that we shouldn’t give up trying to change mainstream media: “Taking equipment up and doing it yourself is one way, but it also puts onus on consumers instead of corporations. We also need to demand more from companies to make stuff we like,” she asserted.

After discussing some debatable “strong woman characters”, the panel closed with some recommendations for how to respond to the lack of representation of marginalized bodies (specifically people with disabilities, people of above-average weight, and people of colour) in the media. One panelist pointed out a big problem is that when marginalized bodies are portrayed, the whole focus seems to be on the person’s difference.

“I don’t have an answer. It sucks. And I think it’s important to be angry about it. And to be vocally angry. Tweet about it and write about it,” Anita replied.

“It’s really important to recognize your privilege and position as a consumer and challenge yourself to seek out media from people who come from marginalized experiences,” Kjerstin suggested.

If you want to re-live the whole panel, you’re in luck! Kjerstin Johnson did an audio recording that you can find on Bitch Radio.

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture 5 Comments