It’s been an interesting week for women in America. Michigan says you can’t say the word ‘vagina’ on the congressional floor, even when talking about reproduction legislation. The creators of Tomb Raider act a bit shocked when they’re called to answer for their “not rape” scene. And internet commenters prove yet again that anonymity brings out the worst in people. Let’s get to it.
It started when Anita Sarkeesian started a (now fully funded) Kickstarter campaign for a video series – Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. This is a companion series to her Tropes vs. Women series. Both series are free-to-use “video commentaries focusing on representations of gender, race, class, sexuality and ability in pop culture”. In order to get her message to more people, she uploaded her project video to YouTube.
If you know anything about YouTube, you know it’s populated by a large percent of hate-commenting tools and a small percentage of really brilliant people. The really brilliant people said nice, constructive things. The tools made comments like these Ms. Sarkeesian published on her site. (Warning: language, hate speech, and ignorance.)
The point of the whole matter is… simplistically complicated. Most of the comments accuse Ms. Sarkeesian of being a feminist, with all the negative connotation that word has come to have. Whether she is a feminist or not is irrelevant, especially since most people don’t understand what that actually means. Her goal with this video series isn’t to spread some female agenda – it’s to expose and discuss the tropes most commonly found in video games. Just like it says on the tin. Because tropes (and women’s issues, for that matter) are complicated, the discussion is complicated. The best thing we can do with complicated issues is talk about them – as mature adults. This base language just reinforces the prevalence of the issues Ms. Sarkeesian is set to discuss in her new series.
I highly recommend keeping an eye on her website for further information, starting with this great post about the funding of her Kickstarter campaign and all the media attention she’s received as a result of the harassment she’s faced. A few articles to take a look at:
– Dear The Internet, This Is Why You Can’t Have Anything Nice at the New Statesman
– Tropes Vs. Women In Video Games Vs. The Internet at Rock, Paper, Shotgun
In strange coincidence, all this harassment was going on at the same time Crystal Dynamics was debuting the latest incarnation of Tomb Raider at E3. According to executive producer Ron Rosenberg, the reason you’ll most want to play the new Tomb Raider is because you’ll “want to protect” the main character, Lara Croft. Especially during the attempted rape scene. Crystal Dynamics released a contradictory statement a few days later, shifting focus from the touchy subject of rape to the less threatening subject of murder. Here is the original statement (said in interview to Kotaku) and the updated statement.
Jim Sterling wrote a very good, very detailed article discussing what he terms “The Tomb Raider scandal” on Destructoid. Well worth a read.
Alyssa Rosenberg wrote a great article over on Think Progress tying the two incidents together: Anita Sarkeesian, Video Game Rape Culture, and Why Online Harassment Is Not a Joke.
And as usual, Kate Leth sums everything up beautifully.
What bothers me the most about this situation is the necessity to justify why these things offend us, and how off-handed the rejection of that justification. Why does 51% of the population have to defend its opinions when the other 49% doesn’t? How does having a penis make someone superior, or having breasts make someone inferior? The discussion is infuriating, but at least we’re talking.
To make up for all the seriousness – bunnies.
Find something I missed? Leave the link in comments or on Twitter. And as always, DFTBA!