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Anita Sarkeesian is a pundit, videoblogger and media critic best known as the host of Feminist Frequency, a web series in which Sarkeesian reviews and analyses common tropes in popular culture from a feminist viewpoint. In 2012, she was introduced to a larger audience after launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new web series exploring the negative tropes surrounding women in video games.
Anita Sarkeesian’s first Feminist Frequency video was uploaded to YouTube on May 20th, 2009. Titled “Dollhouse Renewed? Why not Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles?,” the video discusses Fox’s decision to renew the “Dollhouse” series and cancel “Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles,” comparing the misogyny found in the former to the empowered female characters found in the latter. Sarkeesian’s YouTube video was later reposted to the Feminist Frequency blog on June 22nd, 2009.
In March 2010, Sarkeesian launched a Facebook fan page for Feminist Frequency, which has gained more than 24,000 likes as of January 2013. In March 2011, Feminist Frequency paired with Bitch Media for a six-part series titled “Tropes vs. Women” in which Sarkeesian analyzes different tropes found in pop culture and the negative female stereotypes they perpetuate. In the premiere video, Sarkeesian analyzed the trope Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
Sarkeesian has seen strong opposition online, as many viewers have criticized her feminist viewpoint as being too radical. On October 23rd 2011, YouTuber TheAmazingAtheist released a video titled “Everyone’s a Cry Baby” (shown below), in which he argues Sarkeesian’s viewpoint as extremist. Other bloggers have shared criticism of the series on their personal blogs as well as in comments on gossip blog Oh No They Didn’t and Yahoo! Answers.As of January 2013, there are nearly 50 search results on YouTube for “Feminist Frequency criticism.”
Kickstarter and Harassment
On June 4th, 2012, Sarkeesian announced a spin-off series that would focus specifically on video games, along with a Kickstarter fundraiser to finance the series. The proposal of the series instantly elicited hateful responses, with Sarkeesian receiving death threats and hate mail from angered members of the video game community and other anti-fans. On June 7th, she published a selection of the thousands of hateful comments left on her Kickstarter video. Three days later, she documented the vandalism that appeared on her Wikipedia page, which was defaced with pornographic images.
Throughout June, the overwhelming amount of hateful comments and harassment targeted at Sarkeesian was documented by the Daily Dot, Carbon Games, Destructoid, the Mary Sue, Wired, 16×9, the New Statesman and Kotaku. On July 5th, 2012, Newgrounds user Bendilin Spurr posted a flash game titled “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian”, however the game was taken down from the site on the following day. Despite all the negativity, the Kickstarter proved to be a success, raising $158,917 over the course of a month. Sarkeesian was then invited to video game studio Bungie, as well as TEDxWomen 2012 in support of the project.
On September 4th, 2012, a Redditor submitted an image to /r/Gaming pointing out the fact that the Kickstarter-funded web series didn’t launch on time and accusing Sarkeesian of soliciting backers for information relating to games using damsels in distress, which the poster perceived as doing the ground work for her. The post generated more than 1,200 comments regarding the web series as well as the the general failure of Kickstarter projects launching on time as originally promised. On the following day, the gaming news site Gameranx responded to the Reddit post, noting that the series was still in production and that Sarkeesian anticipated the launch of the first video in late fall or early winter. However, by mid-January, none of the videos had been released. A discussion of the Kickstarter’s failure to follow through appeared on the Escapist forums on January 17th, 2013.
2010 Lecture Video Leak
On September 15, 2013, the Youtube channel Flying Turkeys uploaded a video detailing and showing a lecture that Anita Sarkeesian gave at Santa Monica College in California in early 2010. In the video, Anita states that “She isn’t a fan of video games” and that she “actually had to do research”. This was met with outrage from people who questioned and criticizes her. The same day, YouTube uploader MundaneMatt uploaded a video where he asked why Anita “keeps getting a free pass”. On September 16, 2013, Youtube uploader InternetAristocrat uploaded a video where he criticizes her defenders and fans for still supporting her after learning this information.
On August 25th, 2014, Sarkeesian released the second episode of “Woman as Background Decoration” in her web series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games which focuses on the recurring portrayal of women in defenseless roles, such as sex workers or victims of hostage crises, as plot devices to keep the narrative interesting and little more. Similar to the previous episodes in the series, many viewers and critics of Sarkeesian began harassing her on Twitter and some even threatened her via phone, while one individual created a fake Twitter account under the handle @kevindobsont to send a series of threats against Sarkeesian. In response, Sarkeesian says she contacted law enforcement and is staying with friends.
Anita Sarkeesian was born in Toronto and grew up in California. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a master’s degree in social and political thought, during which she completed a thesis titled “I’ll Make a Man Out of You: Strong Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy Television.” In 2011, Sarkeesian coauthored an essay comparing the main female characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight for an anthology titled Fanpires: Audience Consumption of the Modern Vampire. She maintains a personal Twitter account and Flickr account.
Feminist Frequency – Dollhouse Renewed? Why not Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles?
New Statesman – Dear The Internet, This Is Why You Can’t Have Anything Nice
Feminist Frequency – Buffy vs. Bella: The Re-Emergence of the Archetypal Feminine in Vampire Stories