Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist, Internet badass and holy, are we crushing hard. The American-Canadian media critic is the producer of Feminist Frequency, a web-series that analyzes the representation of women in pop culture—be it movies, video games, or even toys (her two-part series on the gendered marketing of LEGOs is an eye-opener).
Sarkeesian, who often lectures at universities and conferences, was recently in the media spotlight when she had to cancel her talk at Utah State University after some people threatened to bring guns to the event, inciting safety concerns for her as well as attendees.
She is no stranger to facing intimidation. Sarkeesian has received an astounding amount of hate from (mostly) male gamers and Internet bottom-dwellers (4Chan, anyone?) for her videos and commentary, including threats of murder and rape. Her series, Tropes vs. Women, looks at the common representations of women and the roles they play in video-games and other forms of popular media. Her channel on YouTube has more than 15 million views, and the like-to-dislike ratio on the majority of her videos (if the feature is even enabled) is 50/50. To say she is a controversial figure on the Internet is an understatement.
But let me explain why we love her so much. Her videos are interesting, educational and well-researched. You might click on one that’s longer than 10 minutes because you’re curious, thinking you probably won’t even watch the whole thing because who has the attention span for that nowadays? But then, to your surprise, you can’t look away. Next thing you know, she has carefully dissected the representation of a female character in your favourite movie that you didn’t even know was sexist. And BAM, there it is—the veil has been lifted, the angels sing, and your eyes can’t unsee the pervasive patriarchal treatment of women in pop culture. Knowledge is a beautiful thing, really.
Here are some Feminist Frequency videos that we think you should watch:
Fan of the Super Mario Bros? The Legend of Zelda? Sarkeesian points out the ‘damsel in distress’ trope so prevalent in video games. That’s right—most of your favourite Nintendo games managed to banish female leads into passivity. It’s videos like these that have incited the rage of ignorant gamers online.
In this video, Sarkeesian explains that women are often portrayed as the muse that helps the emotionally restrained and depressed man get through his troubling times and achieve great things. Really empowering stuff. I honestly enjoyed most of the movies she mentioned in her list, but it’s always good to be aware of the pervasiveness of sexism in mainstream media.
And this one is probably my favourite, although it’s not from her channel. Sarkeesian does a talk at the XOXO conference in Portland and it’s pretty shocking. She takes the vile hatred spewed at her online and uses it to further analyze how women are treated in the gaming industry and on the Internet. It’s fascinating and ultimately solidifies her status as a fearless, feminist, Internet warrior. Go Anita!
By Prajakta Dhopade