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Anita Sarkeesian’s TED talk and the predictable response

This talk by Anita Sarkeesian at the TEDxWomen 2012 event was posted with its ratings and comments disabled. While ordinarily I would consider that the mark of an attempt to stifle debate, this was done because she is the target of an ongoing hate campaign because she’s a woman talking about sexism in a traditionally male-dominated territory: video games.

The comments and downvotes would wreck this talk’s chances of being seen, normally. In this case, knowing that she’d be censored by the same haters she’s talking about, I’m okay with disabling the ratings and comments. We can post it to our own sites and let her speak, then offer constructive criticism in spaces where we can moderate away the haters. This deprives them of a space to vent, and allows her message to enter the marketplace of ideas to live or die by their own merits.

But the haters found an easy way around this: upload the identical video elsewhere, so they could downrate it to shit and talk about rape all they want. It may not remove the original video from the public discourse, but it sure makes them feel better about their tiny and insignificant lives.

This is one of those places. It is only a day old, so the misogyny isn’t quite knee-deep yet where there’s only thirteen comments when I wrote this. But the comments are certainly representative of the best arguments they have to offer:

ThorkellTheTall doesn’t understand gendered insults:

WHY IS SHE SUCH A FAGGOT

ThorkellTheTall 28 minutes ago

vaifen is unaware of the limits of poetic license (protip: saying “literally” means it should be at least theoretically possible):

I literally want to rape this bitch in half.

vaifen 1 hour ago

billytamer shows us how to eschew surplusage:

rape

billytamer 1 hour ago

And the no-prize for zero self-awareness and zero sense of irony, with five upvotes…

Not only does she talk at TEDx events, TEDx went out of their way to close comments as soon as anecdotal evidence about her terrible masters dissertation, inability to create videos despite being paid a handsome sum for that reason, her radical views on what feminism is, etc.. begin to arise.

Apparently critical discussion or disagreement with her standing there for ten minutes painting herself as a victim is a ‘concentrated attack’

tHeWasTeDYouTh 1 hour ago 5

Not that there’s much nuanced argumentation in what I left out. If there’s a legitimate argument against what she has to say about the common tropes that paint women as either helpless or fucktoys or both in the video game world, I’ve yet to hear it. And these tropes are playing to an audience of malcontent misogynist fuckstains who are dissatisfied with their own social standing and so take it out on any woman they see (digitally, from a distance, never in person, no), so no wonder she’s developed such a hate following.

Reminds me of someone else I know in the skeptical community.

Update:
Nope, still no misogyny. To wit:

I want her dick up my ass

DailyDoseDoc 7 hours ago

YAY FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH

JESUS FUCK I HATE HER SMIRK

I WANNA PUNCH HER WITH THE EQUAL STRENGHT I WOULD USE TO HIT A MAN

Joel5656 8 hours ago

Comments

  1. says

    I really love the last quote. Despite being a long comment (by youtube standards, anyway) and despite mentioning several points of criticism (bogus credentials, apparent fraud and radical political opinions), he fail to give a single example, argument or link to any of these things.
    He wants to be able to present “critical discussion” yet also shows himself to be utterly unable to say anything of any merit. He has the opportunity to say what he wants, but instead of taking advantage of that, he prefers to spend his time complaining that he didn’t get the opportunity at the specific venue he wanted.

  2. robb says

    @LykeX: i am sure the author of the last quote meant to write more, but his mom called him out of the basement to eat dinner.

    p.s. Jason, where is the WordPress log in button? i see FB, google and yahoo, but he wordpress button asks for a URL and not my username/PW.

  3. says

    robb: I don’t think that button actually uses WordPress user/pass, but instead connects to the WordPress oauth (which I believe requires you’ve signed up for a blog). I could be wrong. I’d have to experiment with it — it’s been a while and a few version upgrades on the SocialConnect plugin since I’ve tinkered with it.

    Also, apologies everyone, thanks to the deluge of spam that Akismet was letting through, I had to turn on first-comment moderation. If you’ve never had an approved comment under your current username, even if you’re logged in, you’ll hit the mod trap til I release it. Trust me, I hate it more than you.

  4. says

    Added a new pair of comments by twits who don’t get it. But here’s one for whom the point-missery is thick:

    I don’t understand.

    Does she want uglier women in videogames?

    if so, why?

    All the males in games have 6 packs, and perfect appearance, yet we don’t complain.

    Why should the female npc’s have smaller tits?

    TylerDurden362 9 hours ago

    It’s not just about ‘tit size’. It’s not just about appearance. The males in these games are not designed to appeal to women; they’re designed to look like power fantasies for men. They are avatars for how we want to be, not how women want us to be. Meanwhile, the women are not avatars for how women want to be; they’re how we want women to be.

    And I use “we” very very loosely there. In almost every case, the desire to be strong and powerful and the desire for women to be lithe and busty and in a permanent state of semi-undress is enculturated into us by the same damn media we’re talking about. Fighting that media for depicting women unrealistically has the side effect of fighting the depiction of men as six-pack-wielding chiseled square-jawed cro-magnon throwbacks.

    And for every impossible male avatar, there are ten totally possible male avatars. For every hundred possible male avatars, there’s maybe one female avatar who isn’t a MacGuffin — a prize tucked away in the last castle.

  5. left0ver1under says

    Sarkeesian is brilliant. She’s insightful, provocative and has more spine than any “big” media mouthpieces. And she’s not the slightest bit afraid of trolls and misogynist idiots, anyone can post there. She’s got thicker skin than most people in the face of so much hostility.

    TED? Not so much. It doesn’t impress me at all. Mano Singham talks about it in length:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2012/05/30/behind-the-scenes-of-ted/

  6. says

    Yeah, agreed. TED is infested with singularitarians too. Luckily, TEDx is apparently separate — like a spin-off of the original. I don’t know how money-soaked it is comparitively.

  7. says

    You picked a good one here, Jason:

    I don’t understand.

    Does she want uglier women in videogames?

    if so, why?

    All the males in games have 6 packs, and perfect appearance, yet we don’t complain.

    Why should the female npc’s have smaller tits?

    TylerDurden362 9 hours ago

    His comment is absolutely correct at the very first sentence; “I don’t understand.” He should have stopped there.

  8. randomweirdo says

    “i am sure the author of the last quote meant to write more, but his mom called him out of the basement to eat dinner.”

    This is pretty silly and trivializing in its own way too. Why, only “basement-dwelling nerds” could write that kind of comment!

  9. says

    randomweirdo mentioned:

    This is pretty silly and trivializing in its own way too. Why, only “basement-dwelling nerds” could write that kind of comment!

    That’s a good point, too. The behavior and attitude exhibited aren’t limited to the people often seen as “nerds” or “geeks”, no matter if they live on their own or not. The misogynists, racists, homophobes, trans-phobics, etc., aren’t all part of a single demographic. They’re our next-door neighbors. They’re our brothers and sisters and cousins. They’re the person who signs your pay checks or assigns your grade in class. They’re everywhere.

    For myself, I think the best thing we can do is to keep pointing out the behaviors and why we see them as harmful. It’s definitely not easy to do, and in itself can sometimes be dangerous; physically, financially, etc. By simply speaking up we can put our well-being, our jobs and our relationships at risk. I’m ready for the day when that shoe is on the other foot.

  10. JohnnieCanuck says

    take it out on any woman they see (digitally, from a distance, never in person, no)

    Wouldn’t the world be a much better place, if only this were true. I see no reason to conclude that none of these misogynists ever abuse women; verbally, physically or sexually when they are away from the computer.

    Maybe some of them get it out of their system this way, but the way they egg each other on, I’d believe it if studies showed that participating in online misogyny made things worse In Real Life.

  11. says

    JohnnieCanuck: I was trying for heavy sarcasm, thus the “no” at the end. I have no misapprehension that people like this are *only* asshats virtually, the way people claim repeatedly that they’re “just trolls” and that we shouldn’t feed them.

  12. says

    Does she want uglier women in videogames?

    I love how this person appears to be utterly incapable of comprehending the difference between “existing for no other purpose than to be sexually titillating to straight male players” and “ugly.”

  13. Craig M. says

    Yes, any organization can do a TEDx event if they follow the guidelines for length and set design, etc. I gave an education TEDx talk with my school district’s event and it was very challenging, but rewarding. We practiced with speech coaches, worked laboriously on the sequence, smoothness, and A/V technical issues, and it was great. We feel proud of our event and the opportunity to share our innovations and triumphs with peers and the world.

  14. X says

    Since this talk is focused on the gaming community I’ll focus on that.

    The gaming community is one of the most brutally insulting communities you can possibly be a part of. If you don’t want to be insulted for your gender, don’t announce it and instead be insulted for a myriad of other things.

  15. says

    X: Yeah. Every time someone on an online video game figures out I’m a guy, they totally insult me for it. I should stop picking nicknames like “PenisHaver” and “James”, or even “nickname” or “videogamer”, because those are all dead giveaways as to my sex and gender and I’ll get raked over the coals for it.

    Riiight.

  16. maudell says

    Now there are *tons* of messages. So many of them cry “fraud!”. I’m sure they all donated.

    The weird thing about it is the strawman they’ve built with her. I haven’t followed every single thing she’s done, but I’ve watched her video game videos, and I’ve never heard her say “all games must be censored and have only unattractive feminist female heroes with no breasts”. But I think that’s what these guys hear. I think they might not understand that a trope is not about each individual case, but an aggregate of cases that indicate a trend. Interesting: the “she asked for it” is making a comeback.

    Dumb me, I’m still thinking there’s a rational discussion to be had with those winners.

  17. misogynist asshole says

    Anita Sarkeesian is a fraud, and any criticism towards her is met with claims of misogyny.

    Predictably, comments and ratings on the original video are disabled, perhaps because she was being slammed in the comments for not actually following through with her promises on her project that cost thousands of people a total of $150,000, and her failure to present her radical views on feminism, which is mostly what she comes under fire for by rational people, and not trolls that will always be trolls.

    Here’s a copy of the video with comments and ratings enabled, so you can see viewers’ responses and criticisms before they were censored to further perpetrate a false narrative. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVPWMAVSBQo

  18. left0ver1under says

    Self-correction: when I said “anyone can post there” I should have said, “anyone can post on her blog/website. That was an editing mistake.

    Another thing: before AS, every person I had heard of studying “communications” was a college football player, whick made me wonder what exactly is “communications”. AS has shown me that BAs in communications have some value.

  19. misogynist asshole says

    except i’m right. Glad to see you support a fake feminist with no integrity that does nothing to help actual women’s issues. I’d rather be a ‘fucking tool’ than delusional.

  20. Suido says

    Predictably, comments and ratings on the original video are disabled, perhaps because she was being slammed in the comments for not actually following through with her promises on her project that cost thousands of people a total of $150,000, and her failure to present her radical views on feminism, which is mostly what she comes under fire for by rational people, and not trolls that will always be trolls.

    I feel obliged to ask for verification of this statement.

    Just because, you know, I watched the video. Odd how increasing the number of videos she plans to make is somehow ‘not following through’.

    PS Previews keep being messed up in interesting ways. Keeps me on my toes.

  21. says

    Doesn’t it say, right below the video, on youtube, why the comments are disabled? I’m at work right now so I can’t check but I did watch and I recall seeing that.

    It’s not exactly something that needs an academic paper to lend it credibility. Are you really skeptical that a video by Anita Sarkeesian would not, at this point in time, be deluged with hostile misogynist comments?

  22. Lazer says

    What was wrong with the last (pre-edit, so #4) comment on the list? Unlike the other idiotic and unacceptable comments, this one was not at all abusive or inappopriate.

  23. Joel says

    Feminism and misogyny aside, the bottom line is that Anita Sarkeesian told backers that she expected to deliver DVDs with all of the web episodes of the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games by December 2012.

    It is now December 2012, and not a single video has been delivered. Anita Sarkeesian received close to $159,000 in June of this year. It has been over six months since the funding period for the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Kickstarter closed.

    When I say that Anita Sarkeesian is a fraud, it is not because she is a woman. It is because she’s an experienced video blogger that received a good deal of money under the assumption that she would make videos, who then decided to not make any videos in the promised amount of time but instead did a TED talk and obtained consultancy jobs on the publicity generated by the promise of delivering videos.

  24. says

    No; she asked for money to do a production, people mistreated her, other people gave her significantly more money than she asked for in response. As a result of that, she has said that she has stepped up production values and has expanded her plan. People now calling her a fraud are almost certainly welcome to ask for their money back — but I’m pretty damned sure there’s no overlap between the “fraud criers” and the people who donated. There’s much more probably overlap between the people who want her to shut up, and the people now crying fraud.

    So how much did you donate? Have you asked for your money back? Or are you just trying to convince people who rallied to donate to her to ask for that money back by pretending that she’s breaking her promises when she really hasn’t?

  25. Joel says

    Jason, are you serious?

    Here’s an article from three months ago:
    http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Stephanie+K/damsel-in-distress-the-sarkeesian-dilemma-234680.phtml

    Anita Sarkeesian literally banned a backer from her Twitter for asking her how production was going.

    And there still are no videos. It does not take an experienced video blogger six months to make a single 10-20 minute video. Even if the production values were so great that it did take six months, Anita Sarkeesian sure doesn’t seem to show it – as she’s clearly been busy doing other things.

    I don’t want Anita Sarkeesian to shut up. I want her to make her videos and release them soon. That’s not the issue here. The issue is that Anita Sarkeesian is giving TED talks and consulting for Bungie while she’s extremely behind schedule on the $159,000 project that gave her the publicity in the first place.

    PS: No, you can’t really get your money back. Kickstarter doesn’t enforce refunds. No one, not even that Twitter-banned backer – got his or her money back.

  26. says

    Read this. http://www.theverge.com/2012/12/18/3780296/eight-of-top-50-kickstarter-projects-shipped-on-time

    16 of those projects have not yet shipped, ever. They may never ship. They may be a sinkhole into which the end product never appears because the project was a money pit to begin with. Kickstarter backers have to understand that their investment may never result in anything — they’re funding someone’s attempt at a dream, not pre-paying for a video game that’s due to release in X days. And yet, she’s a public figure who can be contacted relatively easily as long as you don’t trigger her “oh no, another paranoid hater” triggers. Which isn’t hard to do — just don’t be a paranoid hater. So I’m sure identifying yourself as a backer who donated X amount on day Y and would like a refund would net you a telling result.

    I’d love to see that video too, and sooner, rather than later. I think that she didn’t need to take a sample of 300 games to make a 15-20 min format she went with previously, but I strongly suspect she’s expanded past that 10-20 mins, and that she has expanded the scope to include the video gaming world that attacked her so viciously for daring to talk about it in the first place. I strongly suspect she’s bitten off a lot more than she can chew at the moment, but I’d be happy to see her try, because it would silence asshats throughout the intertubes when she releases something in proportion with her Kickstarter response. But even if she released something that was just 10 mins and contained just the same nonsense that people point out about video games on, say, Twitter rather than doing the research herself, that wouldn’t shut anyone up. They’d still scream fraud. They’d scream fraud if it became a major two-hour documentary released to the internet for free. They’d scream fraud if she personally came to people’s schools pro bono and delivered the entire show live. It simply wouldn’t matter what she produces. And frankly, when you’re drowned in hatred like this, I’m very much for withdrawing from the medium used to produce the deluge. That she’s not updating Twitter or Facebook with progress reports is not telling of anything except that it feeds people’s paranoia.

    Blocking someone on Twitter is easy. Very easy. Most clients, it’s one click. And judging by the hatred she gets, I would be surprised if she doesn’t have to block a dozen haters a day.It’s well possible that, without some more proof of this anecdote about how nice and polite this backer is, and what twitter handle he went under, that he’s entirely making this up. It’s well possible that she blocked someone totally unreasonably, but without evidence, it’s difficult to pass judgment on that. Especially in an internet full of assholes willing to lie about people to wreck them.

    And if you really think that the entire Feminist Frequency series was one big Long Con so that Anita could put up a kickstarter — and that part of her plan was that it would get funded for one hundred times what she asked for when assholes started attacking her for going after their sacred cow (e.g., the primacy of men in the video game world) — then you’re getting into conspiracy theory territory there bud.

    I’d still like to know whether you donated. If you did, I’d love to see what happens if you emailed her and asked for your money back.

  27. Donald Myers Jr. says

    I know I shouldn’t be surprised by the misogynists who are still after Sarkeesian for being a woman who wants to talk about games from a feminist perspective. . . but I am. I don’t understand it either, a lot of them seem to begrudge the fact that she A) made a lot of money from her kickstarter, B) gets to buy a lot of games for research material, C) has something they will never have access to: developers and publishers. If they had just left her alone she might have just made enough for how she originally wanted to produce the series, and maybe a little more.

    Thanks to them though, her project became much more ambitious and hopefully if her curriculum is adopted by a lot of philosophy and communications classrooms we can talk about gender studies and video games in a much more institutional and constructive way. Which will be awesome.

  28. Dustin says

    I’m severely disappointed by the fact that the trolls have, ironically, made Anita immune to any real criticism. By shoe-horning every dissenter into misogynist, anti-semetic, violent idiots, intelligent commentary has all but dispersed, and, yes, there are examples of intelligent dissent in this case. http://missmauslovesmuffins2.blogspot.com/2012/06/guest-column-critique-of-anita.html

    My personal issues with Ms. Sarkeesian’s project are not that she is exploring a valid point, but the way she’s chosen to go about it. A lot of my opinions are similar to the article that I linked above, but I’d like to just reiterate them in my own words.

    1. Male enjoyment of attractive females is being viewed negatively, and the fact that there are attractive men in videos games is simply discarded as ‘also for the men.’ I don’t understand why idealized, fantasy women are sexist while idealized, fantasy men are male power trips. Also, why is so much attention being paid to the appearance of the women? Their personalities are almost instantly discarded by this line of reasoning, and women who are admittedly unrealistic but also have real personalities number in the highest ranks of gaming characters. Tifa Lockheart, Lara Croft, Samus Aran, these are all extremely attractive women who also have personality and skill, and are sometimes dismissed for being ‘too objectifying.’

    2. Anita has kinda backed herself into an awkward corner by including two conflicting archtypes, the Sexy Villianess and Ugly Equals Evil. For a villain to be non-sexist, she must refrain from being too attractive but also must refrain from being too ugly. I can’t be the only one whose wondering how she intends to make sense of this, as it makes sense for a leader of an evil syndicate to be either charismatic or intimidating. It’d be a bit difficult for an Average Jane to rally the masses, just as it would be hard for Joe Schmoe. This shows a bit of bias on Anita’s part and makes me question exactly the quality of video we’ll be seeing.

    3. Mrs. Male Character and Man with Boobs are separate tropes. I’m not sure if they have differences, but the main issue here is that Anita has defined what a woman is and what a woman is not by using these tropes. She has stated that women are not violent, do not enjoy masculine hobbies, and do not enjoy heavy weapons, and this is sexist against women, clearly. I know Anita isn’t a misogynist, and insinuating something this ridiculous would instantly discredit me, but the irony is almost tactile when a feminist is stating that women who act like men are negative stereotypes and that real women do not act this way.

    4. This is more of a general issue I have with the feminist stance, but isn’t it in the least bit offensive to women to state how a woman’s body should or should not be used or portrayed? I don’t think that something as archaic as the idea that women shouldn’t flaunt their attractiveness by wearing skimpy clothing or else they are reduced to ‘Fighting F*** Toys’ really has a place in a series of educational documentaries that will someday be aimed at being part of the college classroom curriculum.

    Finally, I’d like to take a moment to chastise the trolls. If these videos really bothered you that much, you should have left Anita Sarkeesian alone. Your abuse of here has generated more money than my childhood home costs to be used on the very things you despised, and the women you hate is now thrust into the national spotlight. Next time maybe think these things out before causing such idiotic attacks and hatred.

    Sincerely,

    Kingtrace, using his real first name but preferring to be identified by his screen name for some reason

  29. says

    Thank you for your reply, Kingtrace. I disagree with you on a number of your points, but I’m probably going to make any reply a top-level blog post. Your criticisms are indeed about feminism itself, moreso than the more unique ideas that Sarkeesian put forward, so I’m glad you brought your objections here where they can be heard and discussed.

    I too hate that there’s so much vitriol that real criticism is lost among it. Without testing our ideas against criticism, we’d never improve. So an environment so venomous must be directly challenged so we can get back to vigorous discourse and refine our ideas. I appreciate that you took time to tell the abusive asses to back the hell down.

  30. Joe Bob says

    Well, thank you very much for the polite response. I’m wondering what you mean by a top level blog post, but I’m looking forward to seeing your points of view on my critique of Anita’s work. Thank you for making my points of view feel welcome, even if they oppose yours.

  31. Bob says

    People are pissed off at her NOT BECAUSE SHE IS FEMALE but because SHE IS A FRAUD. Her Kickstarter campaign has received a shit ton of money yet NO RESPONSE. FOR EIGHT GODDAMNED MONTHS. Amazing.

    Oh well, it’s amazing at how she can deflect legitimate blame with ‘OMG THEY’RE BEING SEXIST’ and that’s the end of it.

    Please.

  32. says

    People are pissed off at her NOT BECAUSE SHE IS FEMALE but because SHE IS A FRAUD. Her Kickstarter campaign has received a shit ton of money yet NO RESPONSE. FOR EIGHT GODDAMNED MONTHS. Amazing.

    Duh, I’m wondering why those guys don’t go and take Randi’s million dollar challenge. Because clearly they were already outraged 8 months ago because they obviously knew what was going to happen now in Feb 2013…

  33. says

    And as I said up at 29, funding a Kickstarter does not guarantee a damn thing. You aren’t preordering a video game, you’re giving funds to a person so they can take a stab at something. If you agree to those terms and give them money, you’re *gambling*. In some cases it’s a safe gamble, in others it’s not.

    In this case, so many people were sick of the misogynist bullshit she got, that a lot of them gambled. And she expanded the scope of the project. And told her backers exactly what was going on the whole way. The haters are just fucking ridiculous with their narrative. Just completely unhinged.

  34. Zach Estle says

    In her video, she specifically mentions Star Fox Adventures. She states that Fox McCloud takes the titular character status away from Krystal. However it was originally a two character story with Krystal and Sabre, a male protagonist that bore a very striking resemblance to Fox McCloud. They decided to change Sabre to Fox as this game was a launch title and generally a launch title does better, and there for the console does better, with name recognition. Sabre and Krystal were nobodies, yet Fox was a fanboy hit and therefore made the titular character. Granted, there’s no reason Krystal couldn’t have been a main character, but many games change in production, its kind of a running joke to video gamers. And during the changes during production it may have been decided it was best to keep the focus on the new titular character Fox and use Krystal as a possible love interest. Which to an extent is understandable because this was a game that had history with fans who were generally boys. And this is also the most recent game Anita mentions. A game that is a decade old. Why not mention a game that was a huge hit with critics like Beyond Good and Evil that had a strong female lead that was not over sexualized? Anybody wanna debate these points? And I’m not saying women shouldn’t be treated better in games, they should, but she is referencing games that were hardly able to process any story, but watching a happy male and female walk around, then all of a sudden the female get kidnapped, well its a story that can be easily portrayed without words or text to a young audience where most of its consers are male, not all MIMD you, but most. And especially in the 80’s when games really took off. Aldo, this is a bussiness, make no mistake. That’s why copycat games are so prevailant as well, whatever earns money is what producers will make, not what’s “right”.

  35. says

    I would say she didn’t mention Jade from BG&E because this is about a specific trope, is the first installment in a series, and Jade is one of maybe five strong female leads I can think of in ALL OF GAMEDOM. Patience please, apologists.

  36. Zach Estle says

    This still doesn’t explain why she didn’t give the whole story on Fox and Krystal, only using what sounded good and worked for her piece. I’m all for strong females but this video series simply omits what doesn’t help the cause she is for. Jade, wasn’t even given an honorable mention?

  37. says

    You have to realize that a trope isn’t a description of every single instance of a piece of art, it’s like a trend. Surely the existence of a counter example doesn’t negate that there’s a clear trend. Beyond that, Jade is one of, again, five strong female characters I can think of in a field of hundreds of examples of damsel’d women characters in the video game world.

    As for the fuller history of Starfox 64, I don’t know off the top of my head of you’re right that she omitted mitigating facts in her video. She may well have. I can’t speak authoritatively as to whether you’re right or not. I can say, though, that you’re splitting some pretty fine hairs.

  38. Zach Estle says

    Not really splitting hairs. If you want to be fair, it must go both ways, not telling the story the way you want it to be told. I’m all about equality, but lying does not help the cause in any way.

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