Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Anita Sarkeesian At The “How To Be A Feminist” Panel, Was It All About Women?

I feel I should make it clear that this post is very much centered on feminism and has very little to do with gaming, aside from connecting with Anita Sarkeesian’s self imposed role as pop culture and gaming’s feminist critic.

All this month, March 2015, the All About Women Festival has been taking place at the Sydney Opera House. The festival is a series of panels and events with guest speakers designed to, as the website puts it, “invigorate discussion on important issues and ideas that matter to women, and to bring global and Australian perspectives to the stages of the Sydney Opera House.”

allaboutwomen

On Sunday 8th March the ‘How To Be A Feminist‘ panel took place, a discussion of feminist guest speakers Clementine Ford, Roxane Gay, Germaine Greer, Celeste Liddle, Tara Moss, and Anita Sarkeesian on “what feminism can be and achieve in 2015 and beyond”

I hadn’t really meant to pay attention to this but I stumbled across Anita Sarkeesian’s contribution to the panel, a written treatise that she read out loud on her discovery of feminism and what she believes is the correct way to be a feminist. The video of her speech is available here but it is this particular section that caught my attention

anita (600x305)                                                    Wait…what?

Women having choice is a bad thing because it could be bad for other women?

I have been a feminist for some years now. As much as I have critisised some of the tenets and priorities of modern feminism I have always very much believed in the first basic principle of feminism, that is is first and foremost about equality.

feminism

When Anita speaks in the context of ‘How To Be A Feminist’ about how the concept of women empowering themselves as individuals through personal choice could be a bad thing for women in general I can’t help but be concerned. It particularly worries me that she made this speech at an event concerned not with gaming or pop culture but with mainstream feminism. Anita’s area of influence is moving outside of her niche of entertainment and into the sphere of modern mainstream feminist consciousness. When I listen to her speech in it’s entirety she seems to be saying that women must think about the choices they make, and be careful not to support systems considered to be patriarchal even if it is to her benefit to do so, because other women may not like or agree with those choices. This fits in with the modern feminist theory of patriarchy, the assertion that male created systems dominate society and oppress women. A common misconception of patriarchy is that it is all about men subjugating women but though the systems we have based our society on were created by men they are currently maintained by men AND women. In essence Anita’s assertion connects with the concept of patriarchal gate-keeping, the sense that if you are happy for the most part with the staus quo of society as a meritocracy based upon capitalist structures then, no matter your gender, you are perpetuating patriarchy.

How does that fit in with equality?

The term ‘Sisterhood’ is used by some feminists to express solidarity among women, expressing what they see as a unique bond between them. This can be especially true of women that participate in the feminist movement. My interpretation of Anita’s speech is that she is trying appeal to women, in particular those that are not inclined to call themselves feminist, to consider how the choice not to support feminism affects other women. This puts me in direct odds with Anita since I believe one of the most important aspects of intersectional feminism is that women should have the same freedom of choice as men.

Do men have to worry about whether or not their choices affect every other man? No

Now some feminists would argue that that is a privilege that men have as a result of patriarchy, yet if this so then why are feminists such as Anita not striving to offer women that same freedom? That same privilege? Doesn’t trying to end what these feminists see as the patriarchal gate-keeping of society mean leveling the playing field for men and women, granting freedom both of choice and expression? I don’t believe it is liberating or empowering to women to tell them that they are responsible for what happens to every single other women in existence, in fact I think that idea is oppressive and an ideological imprisonment.

I have seen this recently with feminist anti-porn campaigners. Feminists that sell the idea that, in order to be true feminists, women are expected to limit themselves and their ability to make free choices for fear of upsetting other women. Yet isn’t that just ending one system of oppression and replacing with one that they are comfortable with? Isn’t that substituting perceived patriarchal gate-keeping for a matriarchal system of societal gate-keeping instead? In my opinion this is taking authoritarianism and disguising it as feminism, trying to convince women that limiting the choices that they have is necessary, and for their own good.

womancompetition

greatergood

As a feminist I have never really had much time for patriarchal theory, I detail why in this twitlonger. Forgive me if I don’t feel the bonds of ‘sisterhood’ with women that would curtail my choices and silence me. This is especially true of Anita since her response to me and women like me, those that disagree with or even question her assertions about gaming, is to pretend that we do not exist and remove any avenue to discuss or engage with her about her ideas. If Anita believes that, as a feminist, she should consider what consequences her choices have for other women then perhaps she should talk to female gamers that are now experiencing men refusing to game with them because those men fear being labelled as sexist if they win. Maybe Anita should speak to developers that are now afraid to include female characters in their games for fear of being branded misogynists.

Anita’s appearance at the ‘How To Be A Feminist’ Panel was followed almost immediately by this speech at the ‘What I Couldn’t Say’ segment. The thing is Anita, if you have your way there will be MORE women with things that they couldn’t say. This is because the supporting of patriarchal systems will almost immediately include disagreeing with and criticising areas of modern feminism. This is something that we are already seeing in gaming, you disagree with a woman? You’re sexist and a misogynist. Anita’s principles for ‘How To Be A Feminist’ come off more as method of shielding herself from criticism, not just from men but from women that support equality while not supporting feminism.

Now it is worth remembering that this is only Anita’s segment of the panel. Hence it is, for the most part, her opinion alone. I have not yet watched the panel in full to hear what the other feminists have to say. However if Anita and those like her are successful in making the stifling of women’s freedom and poorly disguised authoritarianism the criteria for modern feminism then myself, and no doubt many other feminists, will be handing in our feminist cards for good. Yes, that would mean me having to change the name of this blog. No matter how you try to sell it to me I’m just not buying the brand of feminism that you’re selling, you see Anita, I’m still in it for the equality #SorryNotSorry

Thanks for reading

Angela

Find me on Twitter at @Angelheartnight

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17 thoughts on “Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Anita Sarkeesian At The “How To Be A Feminist” Panel, Was It All About Women?

  1. Meh, I feel like I am stalking you now. Interesting post. A few questions though (too lazy to listen to a whole speech ^^) but is the position that women should not support systems they consider patriarchal or that someone else considers patriarchal?

    And should people not consider the greater picture when making decisions? Seems to me to be a sensible idea. As a normative statement it seems fine, as long as everyone remembers that we are all human and don’t always reach our ideals. I suppose it depends on whether she means *should* or *must*… Damn my laziness.

    And yeah I think that definitely not having to worry at all about how one’s behaviour effects the perception of your minority/oppressed group is a privilege of being the majority whether you to let it affect your behaviour or not.

    1. Bear in mind there’s a difference between being aware as people that our actions affect others and trying not to do any harm and actively limiting yourself in your decisions because you’re perceived to be somehow responsible for anything negative that occurs in the entirety of your gender. Trying to be considerate to others is not a gendered concept and nor should it be. Gender feminists consider all male created capitalist systems to be patriarchal. Patriarchy is a gender feminist concept, not a scientific theory. So to answer your question the position is that women should not support systems that gender feminists, such as Anita, consider patriarchal which is any capitalist societal structure. As for privilege, men are judged by their peer groups, they have just never found it necessary to consider that their decisions may have negative effects for their entire gender and in my opinion that is no bad thing. It is an unfair and unrealistic expectation to expect anyone to limit their abilities or their choices because it may inconvenience someone else of their gender. Consideration and awareness of potential consequences for everyone? Yes. The responsibility for the feelings and convenience of half of the human race? No

      1. “Gender feminists consider all male created capitalist systems to be patriarchal.”

        Out of curiosity, which system are women supposed to support then? Communism was male created too.

      2. I would have to say that my lack of knowledge of feminist theory makes a meaningful discussion on these matters somewhat difficult but I have interrupted my reading on the Feminist Sex Wars (really should be more interesting than it is – I would totally watch that film Feminist Sex Wars starring Lynsey Lohan. Maybe I should pitch it to a studio… but I digress) to try and read up on the subject.

        Sadly I have not really found that much to help me understand the concept #googlingonthetoilet. From wikipedia, it would suggest that patriarchy is now used in place of ‘ institutional sexism’ or discrmination to better convey that systems and cultures can oppress women instead of only malicious men. Such as until recently only women would get paid maternal leave, which helps force women into child rearing as well as normalising it. Which does not really fit with your term of capitalist male created system. Does that include Kickstarter and YouTube, for example?

        Really I should listen to her speech…

        Reading your reply about privilege, it seems I am missing the point. Minorities do not choose to care about how their actions reflects on the whole, it is forced. A woman in esports is looked at differently than men and that is not through the choice of the women, but of the men, heck, of everyone. They are special different, and therefore subject to more scrutiny both positive and negative. They can be both hate-figures and role-models, but never just one of the guys.

        Caring about how your actions affect the feminist movement as a whole I don’t see as caring about the feelings of every other woman. Indeed why refer to the goals of feminism as about emotions and convenience at all? Equality is a simple matter of convenience?

        Finally let me share this hilarious link

        http://www.returnofkings.com/27852/why-patriarchy-is-the-greatest-social-system-ever-created

        I found while searching for info about patriarchy.

        The sad thing is that in a debate in which one of the main components is about gender representation in computer games, you have chosen to side against those that have the same goals as you (equality for everyone) and with those that think that women should be given (or indeed only have the choice) of #backtothemud or #backtothekitchen over some really quite minor details of execution.

        Anyway, sorry for so spamming your blog, I realise that it does not exist for me to expound my views, but for you to yours. But sadly I seem unable to resist at the moment.

        Thanks for your reply and thanks for an interesting read. Look forward to reading more.

  2. Great article! You should definitely hang it out on the Gamergate.me. I know it is not much gamey oriented, but still… I saw the gg people arguing about feminism (whether the generalization is bad towards an ideologic movement, and whether the feministic maistream could be saved) in the youtube comments section and this could really help them to find some common ground…
    I really despise the course of feminism that suggests that a woman can be considered strong, opinionated and responsible only when she supports/learns about feminism. Smells pretty much like totality to me.

      1. I’m aware. Those are wonderful either. 🙂 I’m watching Liana Kerzner thanks to you. She’s fine, but sometimes just too kind and cautious to say things as openly as you. The quarrel I mentioned happened under one of her videos. It was two gamergaters, where one had “feminism is good” and another “feminism is evil” burned into their minds. Both kind of disliked Anita and liked Liana.
        I just felt so much agreement, when I read this article. I believe they would both benefit from reading it too.

      2. Have you read Liana’s 5 part article on why she almost stopped writing about games because of Anita Sarkeesian? It’s a fantastic breakdown of why the current methods of critiquing video games are inaccurate and misguided. Feminism, like any ideology, is not in itself good or bad. That idea is dependent on how people that choose to claim the identity of feminist behave. This is a problem, many feminists are not understanding why some (including women) are choosing to reject feminism. The answer is simple, people judge feminism on the behaviour of modern feminists. Feminism has some great ideas (I wouldn’t claim to be a feminist if I didn’t think that was true) but it should be subject to the same scrutiny and yes even mockery as any other ideology. Women should be able to say they are not feminists without being judged and lambasted by feminists that see that as a personal attack. To be so set in an opinion, without being open and willing to listen to or understand the perspective of others, is no good thing no matter what you believe in.

  3. Finally got around to listening to the whole thing-should have cheeked how short it was-and just wow. I really cannot see how you could come up with such a summery of a speech that emphasises compassion for yourself and others I and paints feminism as lifelong learning journey as some kind authoritarian “do what I say or else!”

    Ms. Sarkeesian was clearly addressing those that were arguing that anything a feminist does is feminist. Her position is that feminists should work towards equality for all, not simply act as if there is no inequality which appears to be your argument. It is sad that you are so misrepresenting her speech, and somewhat undermines my trust in any impartiality from your blog. Very sad indeed for me.

    1. I made it very clear in the above post that this was my interpretation of the speech that Anita Sarkeesian made, obviously you interpret it differently but that doesn’t make it any less an interpretation. Also I’m not entirely sure why you would think this blog is impartial? It’s called ‘Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer’ making it very clear these are my thoughts and opinions. There is nothing impartial about this kind of writing. It is a blog, not journalism or news reporting.

      1. By impartial, I meant fair and unbiased treatment of facts, such as what people actually say. Your interpretation largely ignores what she actually said. At no point did she ever say, as far as l noticed, that anyone should have their personal choice limited, but that that choice should not be aimed at personal goals at the cost of feminism and women as a whole. l don’t really see how someone could self identify as a feminist and not agree that there should be more to it than simply calling yourself one and acting purely in self interest.

        And yes this is a blog, but had thought it was one by someone who was interested in discussing the issues in gaining today instead of demonising their “opponents” and fuelling the hate on the internet. If this genuinely is not your intent, perhaps you should go over what she said again. Or not, if my ideas or discussions are not welcome here, that is of course ok. I did not come here to argue but to educate myself.

        thanks anyway for your time and responses, and my apologies if I have crossed any line of hospitality,

        Best of luck with everything.

    2. As a ‘choice’ feminist? Trying to define what is and isn’t “Equality” for all women is a sweeping style of rhetoric that devalues the personal and cultural experience of a lot of people for the sake of some ill-defined ;’greater good’. It’s the exact opposite of equality. I mean equality is not defined by committee. What more needs to be said? Taking that very position is inherently anti-equality and sexist. Actual equality is celebrating all gender traits equally to shatter cultural stereotypes and promote less exclusion, more awareness and more respect for all. The personal empowerment aspect to feminism is the keystone to equality. It’s about appreciating diversity in the gender. It’s about celebrating more, not less. To dismiss that element is to devalue feminism as a whole. We all come at this position from different perspectives. The experience of oppression in gender is so subjective, so personal, so subtle, and so diverse. It spans different people,countries, traditions, ethnicity and sexuality and it can be so nuanced. Trying to proclaim some kind of ‘status quo’ for how all feminists should behave or trying to pretend that one woman’s goal and definition of ‘equality’ for all women is the same as actual equality is loaded with privilege and intellectual dishonesty. It massively decontextualizes societal, gender, cultural, racial and personal problems and white-washes them for an ideological end. Which is exploitative and manipulative. It robs women of their agency and objectifies them. It pretends that one person’s barometer for what makes a ‘good feminist’ should be used as the measuring stick for all. Yes you can be a feminist and work in pornography or make violent video games. Just because Anita Sarkeesian has a personal revulsion to such things and certain people are emotionally affected by such things, doesn’t mean their perspective is some how universally more constructive for all women. It isn’t and to presume that it is, frankly, is Patriarchal. It’s an attempt to dismiss the lifelong experiences and perspectives of women who have different gender traits and approaches to culture and it promotes social exclusion of them for the sake of perpetuating a ‘gender norm’. That kind of thinking in a culture where women are discriminated against for their sexuality and for having different interests that are stereotypically ‘not woman’ is regressive and yes, oppressive. She’s normalizing it so that certain women can be dehumanized just for their interests or sexuality. How is that not oppressive? I believe feminism is a discussion. Not a religion. It asks the questions and in doing so, exposes the problems to the light of day. Which is inherently constructive. Assuming you have all the answers to problems with gender oppression is to immediately discount and devalue the personal lived in experience of millions of women. It is inherently regressive.

  4. A fantastic read! I agreed with almost every point – I’d have to dig in and really cherry pick to find something I disliked. Anita’s brand of feminism sounds a lot like socialism or marxism. In fact a lot of the big name feminists are selling a similar brand, and smaller feminists like yourself are beginning to wake up and smell the matriarchy brewing. I use this quote a lot only because it’s completely relevant every time I talk about modern feminism: “slaves don’t seek freedom, they seek to become the new masters for it is all they have ever known.” The publicly visible feminists, Jessica Valenti, Hillary Clinton, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, and many others, don’t want equality – they want to replace their supposed “patriarchy” with a “matriarchy”. Only then will they be satisfied. Only when women have absolute and total control will they be satisfied, but I can guarantee you….they will still find SOMETHING to complain about.
    History of man:
    living in caves – women complained about wildlife eating their young
    living in midevil times – women complained about neighboring kingdoms and serfs being lazy
    living in victorian europe – women complained about the gentry and being in poverty/gentry women complained about not having enough stuff and the poor being smelly
    industrial revolution – women complained about men being away from home so long working/children working in factories
    WW1&WW2 – women complained about having to pick up the slack of men while they were at war.
    Modern times – they complain about being cat called on the street.
    Tomorrow – “A man was thinking lewd thoughts. I could see the thoughts on my male mind reader! Seize him!”

  5. I really enjoyed how Germaine Greer was looking at Sarkeesian as one would the warts of a cane toad when Anita started attacking Greer’s entire body of work (and that of the entire concept of feminism for the past 200 years) of encouraging individual empowerment alongside political empowerment as a whole as sexist, racist, and patriarchal. Notice she didn’t clap for Sarkeesian. Anita is such a idiot.

  6. An excellent assessment, which echoes the reasoning through which I became a supporter of women’s rights, in the first place; this evolved from the opinions of Greer, Friedan, Steinem and their ilk.

    However, as I’ve recently stated, elsewhere, it seems to me that many modern feminists are perfectly OK, with the way a patriarchal society treats women, except insofar as the whole thing is the wrong way round. Theirs seems not a quest for equality, nor is it humanistic; it smacks of revenge and vindictiveness.

    The net result is that, as a man actively supporting equality for women, I must spend an inordinate amount of time trying to discern if the groups I look to support are truly seeking equality, or are they striving for preference; worse still, would they prefer dominance. This strikes me as a retrograde step. This should be collaboration, rather than a battle.

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