Most readers are not all that interested in Anita Sarkeesian, because they are not avid gaming enthusiasts. I am not a serious gamer either (although I enjoy gaming), but I find the Sarkeesian saga a very instructive case study for how feminism works and rewards “activists” like Anita Sarkeesian. It also demonstrates how feminism is not actually hostile to power or the establishment, but works with it. This is why I’m keeping this story alive to its conclusion.
A few days ago, Sarkeesian told Kotaku that her first video is coming out this month, and she has already been releasing bits of it on Tumblr:
Anita Sarkeesian, the controversial feminist critic whose plans to produce a crowdfunded video series about female tropes in video games led to someone creating a video game all about punching her in the face, is almost ready to show her work.
Sarkeesian quietly launched a Tumblr called “Bits of Tropes Vs. Women in Games” this week. It shows images from one of the tropes she’s certain to explore in the series: the damsel in distress.
The site’s “about” page states that the image collection is “a work in progress and not meant as a complete comprehensive list but hopefully it can help to demonstrate the scope and history of this problematic trope. Plus, you might just find some interesting bits of classic video game nostalgia here.”
Ironically, the “damsel in distress” trope is exactly what Sarkeesian has been using since launching her project. It has netted her a great deal of money and sympathy, and she’s played the damsel in distress in several media and academic venues since, highlighting the awful, nasty things people said to and about her. So, Sarkeesian should know a thing or two about it. We’ll see what she has to say in her video this month, or whenever she gets around to it. I do think she’ll eventually produce it, and gamers might want to thank (or blame) me at least in part for putting the pressure on her to do so over the last couple months.
However, this will not be the end of the story. You see, Anita Sarkeesian was involved in something interesting before launching her tropes fundraiser. She was “engaging” with game developers, having been invited on at least one occasion to speak to them last year in Bellevue, WA. While it is unclear whether she was paid to do so, she obviously saw an opportunity in the industry, and thus was born the Tropes vs. Women project. The smashing success of her fundraiser sparked a lot of interest, and while she put the video project on hold, she went around the world talking at events, handing out media kits and so on.
Although Anita may not have been making much money giving talks before her Kickstarter campaign, since she grossed $160,000 she has been hired by Electronic Arts as a “consultant.”
In a screen grab of a gamer discussion posted on Mundane Matt’s Tumblr, an anonymous commenter responds to a question about what EA and Sarkeesian’s cooperation is all about. According to the commenter, she has been paid to praise a game called “Battlefield 4,” and to declare it feminist friendly. Her job is to provide political cover and perhaps bring in a few female gamers.
This may or may not be true, but there’s little doubt that Sarkeesian is in fact working for EA, which is an enormous company with billions in revenue. This being the case, how could she possibly give her Kickstarter backers an objective critique of sexism in video games?
She can’t, and now it becomes a little more clear why she has been so secretive over the past months. She’s been playing a double game. On the one hand, she’s taking on those big bad sexist capitalists, and on the other she’s working for them. It’s a classic conflict of interest, and in the end one side is going to get stiffed.
So who will get stiffed: her little fans who each gave her a one-time donation to complete an ill-defined project about “tropes,” or the multibillion dollar international corporation she works for now?
I think we already know the answer.
So, to those who supported Anita Sarkeesian, I’m sorry to say it, but if she was taking money from the gaming industry before releasing her “Tropes” video, she’s already betrayed you. There’s no way you’re going to get an objective series now, because Anita Sarkeesian works for the video game industry.
You’ve all been had.