Awful Things Happen When You Try To Make A Video About Video Game Stereotypes

Awful Things Happen When You Try To Make A Video About Video Game Stereotypes

Anita Sarkeesian thought it would be a good idea to make a video series called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. It would be about, well, the tropes developers resort to when portraying women in video games. Stuff like armour that doesn’t actually cover anything.

To help market the idea, she set up a Kickstarter page and made a YouTube video. What follows is, sadly, about as awful as you’d expect.

Look, I know, this is YouTube we’re talking about. Of all the terrible places moron commenters congeal around on the internet, it’s one of the worst. But the hateful YouTube comments left were just the start.

Next stop, her Wikipedia page, inserting pornographic imagery and links to porn sites, the aftermath of which had her top Google search result returning the sentence “Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist video blogger and cunt”.


Once Wikipedia locked the page down for repeated vandalism, the morons then moved onto the Kickstarter page hosting her project, spamming the company with reports in an attempt to have it shut down.

There’s disagreeing with someone’s point of view. There’s vehemently disagreeing with someone’s point of view. Then, about 17 levels past that, there’s this shit. Over someone who wanted to make a video series about girls in video games. It’s enough to make you want to go dunk your head in a bucket of rainbows just to wash the taste out.

Harassment, Misogyny and Silencing on YouTube [FF, via Pikigeek]


  • Yeah… I don’t run around shirtless being angry at stuff like God Of War, or can I carry a massive gun with a chainsaw on it for a long time like Gears of War these games don’t offend me? Bayonetta is one of the games she showed as an example in that video and I’ve played it and thought she was a total bad ass, my fiancée’ doesn’t find most games sexist at all (TERA Online being the exception). .

      • And the characterisation of men in video games is always top calibre. Poorly developed characters are pretty much a staple of video games, regardless of gender. I get it when you have the male ‘leads’ getting a full backstory and motivation and they just shoe horn some tits in, but the majority of games that actually develop their characters do it pretty even handedly. You can climb down of your high horse now.

    • She wasn’t even saying she was offended, she wants to make a doco exploring the portrayal of women in games. Did you even read the article, or did you just go straight to butthurt: “WHAAAH GUYS IN GAMES HAVE MUSCLES AND I’M NOT OFFENDED THEREFORE YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO QUESTION ANYTHING!!!11!” Do you have any other squares in the sexism in videogames bingo you’d like to fill?

      • It’s not that hard to read between the lines.
        You don’t suddenly feel the need to catalogue every inappropriate portrayal of women without having some kind of significant distaste for it in the first place.

      • Sorry, the point I was trying to make is that it shouldn’t be an issue. Males are portrayed in over-top fashions and sometimes sexist macho ways. The point I was trying to make is it should be a non-issue, and people who look deeper to find ways to be offended are only searching for ways to be offended. This just shows that both sexes still aren’t on the same playing field which sucks.

        • To this, sir, I reply:

          While depicting men in an incredibly muscled and macho way could definitely be considered sexist, in that it creates unrealistic expectations, women are done so in a particular way that makes them appear as an object, submissive and there for male consumption. The same is not true of men. While the characters in Gears of War for example are hulking masses of muscles, they are still powerful actors in their own world, and the camera does not linger over them in a sexualising way. Compare that to Bayonetta who spends most of the game performing for the camera, with the assumption of a male audience. While she is powerful, she is there primary for men to look at.

          Mind you, I still don’t think Bayonetta is the worst example, at least she is still powerful. Compare that to the Hitman Absolution trailer and she may as well be a feminist icon. But the fact remains that the best female protagonists I can think of exist in Bioware games where you choose your gender, and that in itself is a problem: no one makes games with female protagonists where she isn’t there mostly to look at e.g. Tomb Raider.

    • Eh. (some)Guys have very fragile little egos and are easily offended if their worldviews are challenged by someone with a vagina.

      Goes without saying that they’d never be capable of saying any of this shit to her face, so it demonstrates the extent of their manliness. (not that it is ever manly to abuse a lady in person or otherwise, just pointing out what pussies they are)
      When your life has gotten to the point at which you are sending rape threats to some girl then you sir, are a failure as a man. If you’re insecure in your masculinity and feel the need to vent your frustrations, wipe the cheeto dust off your fingers and take a boxing class. Or fencing. Fencing is fun and awesome.

  • This is quite an extreme response, there are plenty of examples of feminists who cross the line however this lady made quite a rational and inoffensive video.

    To be fair I don’t really care enough to read all her other stuff to see if its just as rational.

    • It is rational. The problem is, she’s not doing anything new that other women in other industries haven’t already. So nothing will change. Maybe we’ll get 2 or 3 more new IPs of women being portrayed in a “more appropriate way” next generation, but the so called ‘tropes’ will continue to exist. Beleed dat.

      What amounts to an appropriate portrayal of women in her eyes is likely the Jades (Beyond Good & Evil) or the Alyxs (Half-Life) of the world. Again, nothing we haven’t already heard, and certainly nothing that requires over $50,000 to bring attention to. Does Kickstarter not allow donations to cease once it’s reached it’s intended goal? Or perhaps she didn’t feel like it needed one?

      Ultimately, it renders the entire thing just an indirect way of inciting a reaction she already expected men would have so she can rally more women to her cause. Now, had this money been used more creatively, say, to donate to a developer who is willing create a female lead protagonist (well, of course she has to be the LEADcharacter! Otherwise it doesn’t count, right?) that fits the feminist criteria… then I’d happily donate.

      • I agree with this 100%, I wanted to type something similar to this along the lines of her pointing out the obvious but I came down with a massive case of laziness.

        The main point was that I don’t think she deserved death threats :p

        • I really don’t see why everyone’s cheering about her getting $50,000. It’s not going to charity, it’s just going into her pocket. There was no need to even do the donation drive for a series of reviews either. Most of the topics she discusses can be found from gameplay footage on youtube, or the various articles that already exist (as references to track down games with examples so footage can be found, etc, etc) As for her reviews, they frankly ring of “oh poor feminists, we”. Yes, I’m for gender equality. That means I’ll treat everyone the same, regardless of gender, religion or ethnicity. “Oh, we should be treated special because we’re women” isn’t feminism. It’s ego-driven arrogance pure and simple. Real, proper feminism was the movement in the 60’s wanting equality. They got it because it was a valid issue.

          Now, as an example, let’s look at her review on Lego. She complains about the way they’re marketed to boys and their dads. Well, yes. Those are their lowest common denominators and their main market. The sets shown are still the same creativity-based ones she states her preference for, so what’s stopping her from buying them regardless? If it’s about some sort of stigma, then wouldn’t buying them regardless work to act against it in a positive manner instead of sitting in a huff and doing nothing?

          She adds that the sets are ‘male-centered and male-identified’. Well… yeah? The sets shown as an example were a pirate ship and ninja castle. What would you expect?

          After that, she complains that there are very few female minifigs. Again; yeah. Most of them are from historically male roles, or the standard neutral smiley face. Nothing stopping you from shuffling heads about yourself to make them whatever you like. You know. BECAUSE IT’S FREAKING LEGO!

          An addendum on the ‘female minifig’ remark was that the movie tie-in sets lack them. So? They tend to be based on the main cast, so whoever was in it is what you get.

          A big part of her argument is the focus on conflict over creativity. Yeah, boys toys AND LEGO have been that way for the last twenty years. It’s not new. Her argument on the “you create” part of the supposed ‘boys’ sets versus the girls sets being prebuilt is flawed too. There is no gender indication in the trailers. It’s always “you can build” with only arms shown reaching from offscreen to construct the kit. Any gender imagery can found in the viewers opinion. It also contradicts her statement at one point by clearly showing the girls set she calls out specifically being built the same way as the supposed ‘boys’ sets were.

          She discusses the lack of ads with ‘boys and girls playing together’ and cites the limited gender roles of the seperate ads instead shown now. Some fair points, but they’re simplified without noting that this isn’t anything new, nor has it been. Ever. Furthermore, she discusses how ads work to manipulate people. Yes, that’s their point. Again; Aside from the girls lego sets, there’s still no gender references implied in the basic “you can build this” ads she shows.

          Most importantly; at the end of the day, it’s just goddamn lego. Buy the kit you like, build it, then take it apart and mix it with everything else to make whatever you like. Like we’ve all done since we were kids.

          • The ‘what do you expect’ and the ‘it’s not new’ is the issue here. WHY do we expect this? Why shouldn’t we be questioning it? The advertising industry conditions girls to want pink dolls and boys to want Lego, and playing with Lego leads to much more cognitive benefits in later life. She does a great job of making videos on interesting topics – they’re not exhaustive, because a 10 minute video cannot be. But they are great introductory videos into various aspects of feminism and pop culture.

            I’m also wondering what she’ll do with the extra money – perhaps fund another web series? I hope so. Or donation to charity. The point is, she hasn’t announced what she’ll do with the rest of the money yet, so there’s no point in suspecting her motivations when we don’t know anything about what she’s planning to do with it.

  • Anita Sarkeesian is awesome, intelligent and seems lovely. But regardless of what she’s like, no one at all deserves this kind of abuse. We might expect the YouTube trolls, although I think we should be doing more to combat them, but this was a coordinated effort to make her feel as threatened as possible. I can’t believe that anyone, let alone so many people, have such an extreme hostile reaction to the very idea that a feminist might have a few (IMO completely valid) criticisms of videogames. No one at all should have to be barraged by threats to their safety or well-being for simply critiquing some pop culture media.

  • On the plus side, I’d have never heard of her, and now I watched a few of her videos. Didn’t agree 100%, but they were still pretty good.

  • There was an article in the Related Stories section that lead to some art featuring girls in skimpy clothing. Oh, how i lol’d at the irony.

    In all seriousness, this seems like an interesting watch as long as its not just an entire series of one-sided blatant vilification of “Everyone is a misogynic” and rather portrayed in a informative and when possible, unbiased critique to get people chatting . I don’t think there will be any mention of Dixie Kong tho.

    As for the unhappy chaps, they must be pretty bored if they are sending these comments, but they have successfully got her kickstarter project up to the goal because of the publicity.

    • Her goal was only $6000 which she met in about a day. This publicity, however, has seen it about double; it was on $25000 last time I checked and now it’s up to $55000! And based on her previous videos they should be thoughtful analyses, although one or two perhaps take a little more negative stance than I myself would take, but she never fails to get me thinking!

    • Art featuring skimpy girls? Just ban it all. If you get in quick maybe you can get the church to replace the fig leaves on Michelangelo’s work.

  • Did mum drink while pregnant with you or drop you on the head as a child? Does nuance, subtlety and openness anger you? Are you threatened and insulted by a sad and amusingly long list of things? Do the social platforms of both the Australian Liberal Party and the American Republican Party make a tremendous amount of sense to you?

    Then come on over to youtube comments! Everyone here is at minimum as stupid as you are, and often far, far more stupid! All those anti-semitic rants you were planning have a far better place to be extolled than public transport, my friend! Exclamation!

  • Typical /v/…

    The sooner journalists can stop mistaking that small group of lonely, miserable neckbeards for the general video gaming community, the better.

    • Seriously? The very first comment on this very article was a guy defending Bayonetta, which is incredibly blatant about its titilation factor, as not being sexist. The very first comment. Read anything on this website that is about gender politics or sexism and you will always find guys either calling the authors ‘reverse sexist’ or killjoys or the ever-popular ‘I kinda sorta agree with what’s being said, but gosh, can’t they be *nicer* and *less shrill* about pointing out sexism? I think I’ll just ignore them until they do’. On this very site, which caters to gamers and gaming culture, and other similar sites are no different. And yet, people still act as if this prevalent, common attitude that crops up everywhere is somehow rare, and just the ‘lonely, miserable neckbeards’ are contributing to the problem; so what’s to worry about, right? Why try to be better when you, the non-loser, is not part of the problem, right? And that’s how nothing gets changed.

      I am sorry about the long rant Sam, but your comment made me snap. I’m sick of seeing women othered, both in this hobby I have and so many others, and I’m really, really sick of seeing women punished for speaking out and expressing their opinions. It’s too common, and it’s not just the neckbeards, and no one deserves what Anita went through *for making a video on the internet*.

      • Whilst I’m all for equal opportunity etc. All this feminism talk in the past few weeks has been tiresome. Only a feminist can complain about Lego being sexist. Really.. It’s just Lego for god’s sake. She doesn’t deserve all that money just to make videos. That money would be much better spent on medical research or something that could save lives. To me, it just seemed like she was asking for pity donations posting those comments up.

        At the end of the day, shit happens and we have to deal with it our whole lives. Complaining and nagging doesn’t fix anything. Either have some concrete and harden the f### up or make a difference. That money can easily go into the development of a game. I don’t see that happening anything soon. She’s still young so she could even possibly study and get into software/gaming development too. It doesn’t seem like she’s interested in that. At the end of the day, like I said, all she does is complain that the world has turned against her and women.

        • It’s not about deserving the money – people willingly gave her the money because they think she’s doing a valuable job. She wasn’t asking for pity, she was showing how absolutely necessary it is to stand up and critique video games, because certain factions and aspects of the culture around them are unfailingly and violently sexist. Complaining is the only way to change things – making sure that people are aware of this abuse and discrimination in the community. You can’t tell me that you think what she has faced in the last week has been anything less than atrocious abuse. And there is further stuff that has happened that she hasn’t disclosed.

          Pop culture critiquing is a valuable job because it shapes so many of our perceptions and opinions, and I think she does a fantastic job, and should be applauded for her persistance in the face of death and rape threats bombarding her inbox.

  • It must be hard to be a woman. As a guy I have a pretty simple image put in front of me, to be dependable, sensitive, hard working and faithful. A guy can choose to live in many ways and not expect critique over his image. The more power and respect he gains the more praised he is. But a girl is torn between being sexually powerful and desirable or being intelligent and independent. For every female role model that is strong and wise and respected there’s another flaunting her body like a product to a bunch of salivating guys. The more sexual power she has the sluttier she is and the less respectable she becomes. Yet the more intelligent and successful she becomes the more her looks are judged, if she has strength and confidence shell be a lesbian or a bitch.

    Being a guy is SO much easier. It’s something we take for granted.

    • I forgot to end with my original point which is that until we can figure out what women are supposed to be, objects of sexual power or symbols of resilience and wisdom, we’ll continue to see women in video games that look like both.

      • Why are they mutually exclusive? Well not OBJECTS of sexual power, but you know what I mean. Seems to me like there’s too many black and whites in these sorts of discussions when all there should be are shades of grey.

        • I actually agree with you fully. I think sexual power can co-exist with strength and integrity. It’s just that the media constantly represents sexual power cheaply, they represent it as being a slutty temptress. I personally think sexual power is linked to the nurturing and maternal side of a woman but we get the Charlie’s Angels version instead.

    • because you should be feeling bad about something. games aren’t meant to be enjoyed nowadays, theyre to be disassembled and analysed.

  • I would probably disagree with some of the things the documentary-maker advocates, but nothing justifies the kind of hideously offensive screeching she’s getting in response.

    If you disagree with someone, debate them calmly and rationally. Being a douche is BAD FOR YOUR OWN CASE.

  • Well, it was forseeable (unfortunately) , there are a lot of idiots out there amoungst the gaming community that never grew up and can’t handle any oppinions that don’t agree with theirs….
    I’m not sure if I’d enjoy the video as a whole but there might be a lot of fun silly things in it that could amuse, if its still on I’ll ante up. It has been a joke for a long time now that the armour seems to get better the less the female character wears, in reality (I would hazard the guess) a chain mail bikini would be almost useless and very uncomfortable (I know I wouldn’t want to wear chain mail jocks).

    • Possibly the most infuriating weapon in the pseudo-feminist arsenal, the “false-equivalence fallacy”.

      Any claim that male characters are power-fantasies cannot be made without the same being said of female characters. Because both, wrongly, make grave assumptions about the viewer’s desires and tastes. A woman with stereotypically “hot” looks can be said to have as much power as a man with rippling muscles. They are two different kinds of power. The kinds of power that separate a homeless man with incredible physical strength from a far meeker millionaire in a first world country. They each have power, without having the same kind of power.

      A sexualised female character has power over the male characters (if any of them were written correctly) because female sexuality is essentially the reason why men, on a biological level, do EVERYTHING. But this is assuming, as many online feminists do, that the overly inflated bimbos in video games are pushing all my correct buttons as a male viewer. And if they can make these assumptions of me, then why can’t I make same assumption of them in regards to male characters.

      Being a sexy, impossibly proportioned babe is a female power fantasy. It has jack to do with what a male such as myself finds attractive.

      • Dude that’s pretty sexist against men. Men aren’t neanderthals that do everything for sex. And no one is assuming that the “overinflated bimbos” are pushing YOUR buttons; but someone is assuming that they are pushing someone’s buttons.

        I can only speak for myself here, obviously, but I personally don’t want to be a sexy, impossibly proportioned babe. And if anyone does, bombardments of depictions of women as such is going to do nothing to help that person’s self-esteem. And more to the point, I /really/ don’t want to be one in skimpy armour in the middle of a combat situation. It’s not a female power fantasy at all. The designers are marketing to what they THINK men want – surely you should be angry at them for thinking so little of you? They’re not marketing these games towards women. They think that all men want teh boobz.

        • I never said they were neanderthals I am saying that as much as many third-wave internet feminists want to believe we (as in both genders) are no longer a slave to biological impulses, and that we have risen above the cavemen-era societal systems and desires that perpetuated the human race, the truth is, we haven’t.

          I know you don’t want to be a sexy impossi-babe, Luthienanwamane, the last line of my comment was the exact same thing as what was said in the comic but directed towards women and their video game cliches instead of men who take issue with theirs. It makes you go, “Um, no, that’s completely wrong” doesn’t it?

  • Poor lass. I’m glad she’s talking about mysogeny; it’s an issue concerning more than just developers it seems. I didn’t know *fans* could really be this horrible, in these numbers. Personally I find getting treated by games developers as a simple route to my wallet via my penis horribly demeaning and insulting. If more people like the lady in this story talk about this sh!t, game developers may just realise having a soul is important too. Maybe too much to hope for? At least *I”m* a decent man; hard to swallow that I might be a minority. Glad to see Kotaku telling it like it is on this one :).

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