More on Sarkeesian: Transparency = “Harassment”

by W.F. Price on December 8, 2012

As Anita Sarkeesian goes jetting around the world, questions about her project remain unanswered, disgruntled supporters are banned, and rather than address concerns, she resorts over and over again to accusations of “harassment.”

After looking into the Anita Sarkeesian matter a little more closely, her first video is supposed to be coming out right about now (she switched deadlines after getting more money). She says it will be based on the so-called “Damsel in Distress” trope. However, following some confusion amongst backers a couple months ago, Sarkeesian has absolutely clamped down on any potential leaks about what’s going on, banning financial backers from accessing information about the project if they cause her any trouble.

The latest comment on her Kickstarter project site, posted several weeks ago by someone who goes by Schnide, suggests that not all is well amongst the backers:

schnide on November 21
I was very careful to word my concerns in a respectful and considerate way. I meant no offence to you, but was expressing my concerns as someone who’s donated money to your project. If there is a shortfall in my understanding (and I’m certainly open to the idea that I’m sometimes wrong), I wanted to suggest to you that it may be a communication issue on your part and that how things were being presented weren’t doing your efforts justice. That was just as much for your benefit as for mine. If you’re in a position to know better and educate me, but your response instead is to get snarky and patronising, that says far more about you than it does about me and only serves to further my disappointment in what is a very noble and worthwhile cause.

Back in September, Anita posted a response to a critic that blamed him for exposing her to a “sustained harassment campaign” as well as “anger, vitriol, and misogyny”:

Anita Sarkeesian on September 6
Hi Michael (@theLEOpirate),
As one of our nearly 7000 backers you could have, at any time, asked me your question about the timetable or survey either in the comments or via private message here on Kickstarter. But you did not do that. Instead you decided to take a screen-capture of our backers-only update and immediately posted it publicly. And even worse, you uploaded it directly to the very gaming boards that have been organizing the sustained harassment campaign against me and this project. Predictably, that action ignited a new torrent of anger, vitriol, and misogyny from users of those sites which they directed at me via all my social media channels. The reason for making the project updates backers-only is to try to minimize this kind of vitriol while we are still in the process of making our video series. I even specifically asked backers to please refrain from sharing our in-progress reports publicly for exactly this reason. You ignored that request and as a consequence I received yet another round of threats…

This is the last we hear from Anita in the Kickstarter comments.

The best rundown on the trouble in Tropes in Video Games land is an article written for Destructoid. Stephanie K exposes some of the communication problems that have plagued the project, almost since its inception:

The Kickstarted launched on May 17th of this year. In less than twenty-four hours, it reached its $6,000 pledge goal. Backers continued to grow over the month resulting in Sarkeesian raising nearly $160,000 for the project by June 16th. From there, all updates were promised to be available only to those who backed the project; she went on to publicly display her research materials, over 300+ games, and provided an official update expressing her excitement. “I can now commit full-time to Feminist Frequency and to this video series which is truly a dream come true for me”, she writes. “I can now also hire my producer full-time for this project. Plus we are in the process of bringing another writer/researcher on board part-time.” With such passion and staffing, one would think that Feminist Frequency crew would be ready to tackle their production with full force.

Then there was silence…And then there was insubordination.

Nearly a month followed where no updates were given. Backers began posting comments on the Kickstarters’ page and reaching out to her Twitter account asking for some confirmation that the project was at least underway. Most questions, however, went unanswered. One backer mentions in the comments that he captured a screenshot stating an estimated date on one of the Kickstaters’ goals and Tweeted it to Sarkeesian asking for some explanation as to why the paid backers were being kept in the dark. The backer was then blocked from her Twitter and was ignored as a result. “I would be absolutely fine if she just responded to my tweet with a simple ‘Still working and capturing footage’,” wrote “Mike”.


After discovering the weeks of silence and apathetic responses, I did some research on the progression of her full-time commitment. Her web site has sat untouched since her last Tropes vs Women update on August 1st. At the time of writing this article, her YouTube channel had not been touched since August 12th with no new videos being uploaded since the initial promotional video for the Kickstarter. Up until a week ago, there had been no updates since the pledges were closed. However, she – or at least Feminist Frequency staff members – frequented Twitter (@femfreq), Facebook, and Tumblr regularly. While there is no doubt that such a project is difficult and time consuming to produce, she still had plenty of time to discuss Doctor Who with fans, promote other feminist blogs, and post pictures of herself with gaming memorabilia. Despite all of this activity, she was unable to provide any sort of update regarding the Tropes vs Women production.

“If she can’t take 10 minutes a fortnight (seeing as how it has been 19 days since the last update) to update her backers, then wtf,” commented backer “Bryan” on the Kickstarter comment page A statement that I can agree with even when being an outside viewer of the documentary.

Sarkeesian has been getting around — a lot. Just this week, she flew to Washington DC to give a ten minute talk at TEDxWomen. In October, she was in Sweden holding a “workshop” about her project at HUMIlab (Umea University). Sarkeesian insisted that video from the workshop not be made public due to fears of “online harassment” (could she mean questions from her backers?).

In the meanwhile, she reassures us that her “Tropes” project is “in production.” It appears that she edited her most recent post on Feminist Frequency yesterday or this morning (unless I missed the paragraph at first glance, and I don’t think I did), adding the following:

Also don’t anybody worry, my Tropes vs Women in Video Games series is currently in production, we’re working hard make these new videos as comprehensive and expansive as possible. And I’m pleased to say that progress is coming along nicely! As always, project backers will be the first to know of updates and details on the project so if you are backer make sure to regularly check the Kickstarter page!

Sarkeesian may yet come out with a product (the quality of which remains to be seen), but unless she can do it soon, questions will continue to mount. Her shabby treatment of male backers suggests an attitude of entitlement and privilege that is all-too-common amongst feminists, and if she ends up stiffing them I hope the guys get the message.

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