The threats against Sarkeesian have become a nasty backdrop to her entire project — and her life. If the trolls making them hoped for attention, they’ve gotten it. They’ve also inexorably linked criticism of her work, valid or not, with semi-delusional vigilantism, and arguably propelled Tropes vs. Women to its current level of visibility. If a major plank of your platform is that misogyny is a lie propagated by Sarkeesian and other “social justice warriors,” it might help to not constantly prove it wrong.
Adi Robertson, at The Verge, on Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Tropes vs. Women’ and the backlash she’s had to face for drawing into stark light the way women are portrayed in video games, the misogyny and sexism that abounds in those portrayals, and, in doing so, providing what is a compelling and ultimately eye-opening and thoughtful presentation of an incredible imbalance in some of the leading cultural products of our time.
I’ve rather enjoyed Sarkeesian’s series, and I’m not a gamer at all. Still, I can see the resonance of the points she raises in the area of scholarship I do swim in, and in the cultural products I choose to consume, and her work and its insights cause me to pause.
To pause, not to fire back.
Not to troll.
Not to attack.
Not to suggest that because Anita Sarkeesian might not have played specific games I’ve played, or as many, or any, that her points are invalid. I don’t see this as a necessary relationship: I needn’t have cancer to want to seek a cure, I needn’t be hungry to want to solve problems of hunger, I needn’t have written to analyse text, and I needn’t be a gamer to look at the content of games.
What worries me most about this backlash is what no longer surprises me about it: Internet trolls (and their old media counterparts) seem to have an annoyingly consistent habit of suggesting they are infallible and no one outside their experiential realm has anything worth offering. They also tend to trend towards sexist and anti-woman attacks, and this is overly abundant with television.
I might suggest an alternative mode of thinking: Someone who wants to spend their days labouring over the content of a game and games (and this goes for lots of media content types) is probably someone who wants the best of games (or TV, or movies, or magazines, books, newspapers, radio, comic books, and Bazooka Joe cartoons for that matter), and wants them to reach the broadest audience, and wants them to represent the world outside and allow it to better inform the pictures in our heads (h/t Lippmann).
Trolling Sarkeesian won’t change that drive of the people who do this sort of work, but it will probably turn people away from that thing you hold dear, and that thing you hold dear will seem less significant in time.
In the best of worlds, trolling won’t draw you a following, but will repel one. In the best of worlds, this behaviour won’t convince people that you’re more right than they are, it will convince them of your stubbornness.
In the best of worlds, such attacks will alienate people and reveal your insecurities and angst for what they are.
At least I hope it will, and I hope we live in the best of worlds.