The Sarkeesian Effect: How Anita Sarkeesian is Changing the Game for Women in the Video Game Industry

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Social media has been an incredible tool for any woman (or person for that matter) with access to a computer to actively engage with the media she loves and share it with the world. One such woman, Anita Sarkeesian, climbed the ranks of Youtube fame with her successful show “Feminist Frequency: Tropes vs. Women” which dissects the stereotypes that plague the video game industry. With a total of 175,425 subscribers and garnering 15,771,390 views since 2009, Sarkeesian has used her webseries to promote her expertise, and she is a frequent lecturer at universities, conferences, and game development studios internationally. Boasting a BA in Communications and a Masters in Social and Political Thought, it is easy to see why so many respect Sarkeesian as an authority on pop culture tropes. Here’s an example of one of her webisodes, which all focus on the problematic representation of women in video games and push for more fair and equal treatment :

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With just under half of the market share for video games composed of women and over half in social/mobile gaming (see above infographic), many women  feel a strong sense of solidarity with Sarkeesian, who stands as a beacon of inclusion and support in what may women feel is a “boy’s club.” Not everyone is happy about Sarkeesian’s well-researched and well-supported critiques of the industry, however, and while social media makes it easy for women like Sarkeesian to spread their message of social equality, the flipside of that coin is that it is all too easy for her opponents to bombard her with hate-filled backlash. This trend echoes the victimization that many women users and content creators complain they face in the video game industry, especially in light of the sustained refusal of industry leaders to step in. Most recently, a radical faction of the group GamerGate has been harassing women online with rape and death threats, specifically through the use of #GamerGate on Twitter. Sarkeesian has been on the receiving end of such hate, which she casually refers to as #hatemail (WARNING: content contains graphic language and is highly disturbing):

Sadly, such abuse has followed Sarkeesian off the World Wide Web and into the real world. For the first time in her career as a lectuer, Sarkeesian was forced to cancel an appearance at Utah State University when she received an e-mail threatening a mass shooting. Here she is discussing the incident (which was itself controversial) along with her views on sexism in video game culture on The Colbert Report:

So what next for Sarkeesian? Well, she has made it clear that she will not be intimidated, and she refuses to back down. She will no doubt continue to be a trailblazer for women in the video gaming industry, using social media as a way to connect to her vast audiences and Youtube as a platform to share her thoughts. She has also been featured on several traditional media outlets, including CNN and the New York Times (linked above and below, respectively).Overall, her attitude is an optimistic one: she insists that despite the hatred of select groups the future of women and gaming is bright. Until then, you can catch this anything-but-a-damsel-in-distress on her Youtube Channel or on Twitter.

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One response

  1. Pingback: Who Has the Last Laugh? How Women on Social Media are Fighting Abuse Through Humor | Carina Blanco

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