I believe other people have blogged about this fairly recently. Part 2 of this series came out last week, a friend sent it to me, I watched parts 1 and 2, and have now formulated opinions about this, then remembered that people might’ve already spoken about this. So wa hoo, I get to add my voice to the mix!
Frankly, anyone who finds fault with anything that Anita Sarkeesian has said in any of her videos are not thinking critically enough. I’ve been binge watching her whole channel now (spoiler alert: I love it) and I can’t recall if it’s in her tropes video or an earlier video, but she points out how just because we critique something doesn’t mean we don’t love it. I think some critics may have missed that Sarkeesian loves the classic games she picks apart in her part 1 of the series. She says she was raised on Nintendo. It’s not that I don’t love video games, but it’s undeniable they need to step up their game in regards to equal treatment of women in narratives.
And I love her point that they need to step up their treatment of men in narratives. It’s weaksauce to pin character development on the loss of a loved one, and obviously so hackneyed. Do more for your Hitman, your Max Payne, your male protagonist!
Her evidence is unshakable – there are way too many damsels in distress in video games, and way too many “killing women to save them,” and all of the other points she brings up. I think people get defensive about video games and this issue because no one wants to be labeled as a misogynist for playing these games or for not noticing earlier. If I was insinuating that, I would be indicting myself as well. I never noticed these things before Sarkeesian’s videos brought them to my attention.
That doesn’t mean I’m an idiot for not noticing, it means someone has given me some new, good information that can improve the future of video and the future of my video game involvement. That’s to be celebrated, not balked at! It also doesn’t mean these things didn’t exist before, or that because you didn’t notice they aren’t there. It’s just a testament to the pervasiveness of patriarchy in all media outlets.
Finally, lots of people like to argue that the developer didn’t want to say that so it’s taken out of context, and she’s digging to meaning that’s not really there. Here’s the thing about that: it’s not about what you recognize, it’s about what you subconsciously absorb. Anecdote: I worked with a guy who let his 4 year old son play Red Dead Redemption. The kid killed a prostitute in the game, then the next day drew his toy sword on his mom’s throat and said something to the effect of “I’m a cowboy like the game!”
I would bet cold hard cash it wasn’t a conscious decision to think “Oh, I have to commit violence against women to embody this new exciting game that I played” but subconsciously, that’s exactly what happened. We’re absorbing and learning behaviors about how to treat women based on the entertainment we consume. That’s why the rest of Sarkeesian’s videos about a broader spectrum of pop culture are equally valuable and fascinating to me. People try to debate this EVERY DAMN DAY to me and while I try to be really open-minded 100% of the time, everyone who disagrees with me is incorrect. We all absorb what we see, consciously or unconsciously. Often these don’t mean we’re going to go out and kill prostitutes (but for some horrendous people in really extreme, unlikely circumstances, it does) but it does mean we just moved the water level of respect of women one millimeter lower in our subconscious. Because people don’t see that in everyday interactions in the minute scale it occurs in, it is ignored, scoffed at, and dismissed.
Here’s the take away: People will make you uncomfortable by pointing out biases you didn’t know you had, and pointing out some of your favorite things that might have really unsavory aspects to them (e.g. I absolutely love Red Dead Redemption, but yeah . . . there are problems in it on a social level, most definitely). So, if you previously ranted against Sarkeesian for her cold hard facts about how women are treated in video games, reassess what made you so defensive in the first place, swallow some pride, and acknowledge your discomfort so you can have an honest conversation with yourself about the content you love (and that I love too) and how it treats women and minorities and how that affects you or others who play the game. It doesn’t mean we have to abandon the games we love. It means we have to be informed consumers of a culture we love and participate in, and perhaps, when given a chance to vote with our dollar or internet comments, we can lean towards making choices that support/further positive women roles in video games, and help others do the same.