Prompted by a baffling comment from a troll, who said that Anita Sarkeesian has already produced her videos on time (I can find no evidence of the existence of any of the promised Tropes vs. Women videos — if anyone has a link please let me know), I did a bit of looking around to see if I could find anything. Although I couldn’t find her first promised video, the “Damsel in Distress” trope, I came across an article written by a feminist Google engineer named Yonatan Zunger, who is apparently a big fan of Anita Sarkeesian. Zunger is a prime example of the sort of SWPL geek who doesn’t care much for the rest of America, young men in particular.
Zunger is a strange fellow. He says he is Israeli, yet he has a strong interest in quasi-jihadi movements such as the Arab Spring, and puts serious effort into defending Islam. He also boasts of being related to Karl Marx, and defends irrational wars abroad through convoluted reasoning, although I suspect his real motives are somewhat simpler and more personal than he lets on. Perhaps most relevant to us, Zunger has written for the Good Men Project, which is a bit odd, but makes sense given his interest in Sarkeesian.
There’s something a bit ominous in the lessons he draws from Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter campaign and TED talk. Zunger suggests that Sarkeesian is destroying a certain aspect of gamer culture through her deconstruction of games, and then goes on to say that we ought to apply this to society in general:
In network theory, we often study the ways in which networks fail. Sometimes this is in order to keep networks alive more effectively – such as telecommunications networks – and sometimes it is in order to destroy them more efficiently – such as disease transmission networks. But the study of games has been mostly limited to how to make games better, for fairly obvious reasons. But if Sarkeesian’s analysis is correct, and I strongly suspect it is, then perhaps we need to think about various aspects of society which can meaningfully be modelled as games – and then apply what we know about game design to deliberately sabotage them, make them not fun to play, and lead people to abandon them. Think of it as community curation by anti-engineering.
Although he doesn’t come right out and say it, it’s pretty clear that the “various aspects of society” he is referring to are the supposed misogynist gamers — essentially boys and young men who release their aggression through gaming. Given that allowing young men to have a pressure release valve in the form of gaming is a great way to prevent aggression and resistance in the real world, sabotaging that outlet strikes me as a particularly poorly-conceived idea for eliminating sexism. However, for guys like Michael Kimmel and Yonatan Zunger, only unconditional surrender on the part of the enemy (most men) will do, so they will tolerate no resistance, no matter how inconsequential.
Whether or not that’s one of his goals, it’s pretty disturbing to see a guy in charge of social network engineering for Google suggesting we play God with society through “deliberate sabotage.”
Perhaps this provides Zunger’s motivation for supporting Sarkeesian: he sees her as a useful tool for “community curation by anti-engineering.” Although it’s unclear whether Zunger had anything to do with recent career moves on Sarkeesian’s part, he suggests in a comment that she should consult with game producers, slyly adding a smiley face to the end of the comment:
…right now, she seems to have gotten the ears of a lot of the studios, and those studios are thinking seriously about how to attract more female gamers.
Consulting could be a very effective move.
Other commenters on his post also support deliberately sabotaging games; one fellow named Lionel Lauer suggests adding Jar Jar Binks to all of them:
She’s raised the cash legitimately, so as long as she at least fulfills the original goal, she can do what the fuck she likes with the rest of it. Personally, I’d use the extra to really piss off all the haters, like maybe bribe every game company to put Jar Jar Binks in every release this year.
So perhaps we now know why Sarkeesian hasn’t produced a single video for her “Tropes” series yet — she’s too busy consulting for game development companies and deliberately sabotaging society for Google’s Yonatan Zunger, who apparently fancies himself the Machiavellian genius who will bring about a brave new world where Google engineers get all the girls (or boys — I’m not sure what Zunger’s preference is in that way) and the rest of us stop playing because it isn’t fun any more.