Sarkeesian in 2011
|Born||1983/1984 (age 31–32)|
Anita Sarkeesian (//; born 1983 or 1984) is a Canadian-American feminist media critic, blogger, and public speaker. She is the founder of Feminist Frequency, a website that hosts videos and commentary analyzing portrayals of women in popular culture. She has received particular attention for her video series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, which examines tropes in the depiction of female video game characters.
In 2012, Sarkeesian was targeted by an online harassment campaign following her launch of a Kickstarter project to fund the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series. Supporters donated almost $160,000 to the project, far beyond the $6,000 she had sought. The situation was covered extensively in the media, placing Sarkeesian at the center of discussions about misogyny in video game culture and online harassment. She has spoken to TEDxWomen, XOXO Festival, the United Nations' Broadband Working Group on Gender, and appeared on The Colbert Report discussing her experiences of harassment and improving gender inclusivity in gaming culture and the media.
Sarkeesian was born in Canada and grew up near Toronto. Her parents are Armenians from Iraq who emigrated to Canada in the 1970s. She later moved to California, and identifies as Canadian-American.
She received a bachelor's degree in communication studies from California State University, Northridge, and then earned a master's degree in social and political thought from York University, graduating in 2010. Her master's thesis is titled I'll Make a Man Out of You: Strong Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy Television.
Sarkeesian launched her website Feminist Frequency in 2009, while a student at York University. She created the site in an effort to create accessible feminist media criticism. Videos created for the site analyzed social and cultural gender structure and popular culture from a feminist standpoint, such as applying the Bechdel test to pictures nominated for a 2011 Academy Award and highlighting Lego's role in reinforcing cultural norms.
In 2011, Sarkeesian partnered with Bitch magazine to create the video series Tropes vs. Women. The series examined common tropes in the depiction of women in media with a particular focus on science fiction. The series comprises six videos dedicated to tropes such as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Women in Refrigerators and the Smurfette Principle.
In 2011, Sarkeesian co-authored the essay "Buffy vs. Bella: The Re-Emergence of the Archetypal Feminine in Vampire Stories" for the anthology Fanpires: Audience Consumption of the Modern Vampire. She spoke at conferences and workshops about media criticism and video blogging, and was interviewed by UK Sunday newspaper The Observer in March 2012 about modern media culture, stating: "I think to the extent that it could be creating authentic, human female characters, it is a push towards a more feminist media."
In March 2012, Sarkeesian and her blog were listed in the journal Feminist Collections's quarterly column on "E-Sources on Women & Gender".
Sarkeesian was inspired to start a video series on female representation in video games after she was invited to speak to developers at Bungie. On May 17, 2012, she began a Kickstarter campaign to fund a series of short videos that would examine gender tropes in video games. This was featured as a campaign of note on the official Kickstarter blog, and reached its funding goal of $6,000 within 24 hours. The final amount raised was $158,922 from 6,968 backers.
Sarkeesian initially planned to release the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series in 2012, but pushed it back explaining that the additional funding allowed her to expand the scope and scale of the project. The first video in the Tropes vs Women in Video Games series was released on March 7, 2013.
The first three videos discuss examples of the "Damsels in Distress" trope, in which passive and often helpless female characters must be rescued by the male hero. Chris Suellentrop of The New York Times referred to the first four videos of the series as "essential viewing for anyone interested in video games", and cites it as the reason why he asked Nintendo producer Shigeru Miyamoto about the themes of damsels present in his games, to which he responded "I haven't given it a lot of deep thought over the years".
In January 2015, as part of a $300 million effort to increase diversity and inclusivity in the technology sphere, Intel announced it would partner with Feminist Frequency and other groups to help promote increased career opportunities, engagement and positive representation for women and minorities in technology and gaming.
On January 23, 2015, Feminist Frequency issued its first annual report and announced they were planning two new video series tackling the "positive" portrayal of women in video games, as well as the "portrayal of masculine identities in games".
The Tropes vs Women project triggered a campaign of sexist harassment against Sarkeesian. Attackers sent Sarkeesian rape and death threats, hacked her webpages and social media, and distributed her personal information. They posted disparaging comments online, vandalized Sarkeesian's article on Wikipedia with racial slurs and sexual images, and sent Sarkeesian drawings of herself being raped by video game characters.
One attacker created the computer game Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian, which prompted players to bloody a picture of Sarkeesian by clicking the mouse. Toronto feminist Stephanie Guthrie received death and rape threats for criticizing the Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian game. The criminal trial against critic Gregory Alan Elliott is regarded as having significant implications for online freedom of speech in Canada. Sarkeesian responded to the threats against Guthrie in a statement to the Toronto Standard, condemning the widespread harassment she and other women have faced online.
In March 2014, Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak and receive an award at the 2014 Game Developers Choice Awards. The organizers later revealed that they had received an anonymous bomb threat and that San Francisco police had swept the Moscone Center hall before the event proceeded.
In August 2014, Feminist Frequency issued a new Tropes vs Women in Games episode. This coincided with the ongoing harassment of Zoë Quinn as part of the Gamergate controversy. The increased volume and specificity of the harassment (including death threats) prompted Sarkeesian to leave her home. San Francisco Police confirmed that they had passed the case file to the FBI for investigation.
On October 14, 2014, Sarkeesian and Utah State University received terrorist threats pertaining to her planned lecture at the university the following day. The threats, one of which was issued by a person who claimed to be affiliated with Gamergate, specifically cited the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal, Canada as inspiration. The university and police did not believe the threats were credible inasmuch as they were consistent with others Sarkeesian had received, but scheduled enhanced security measures nonetheless. Sarkeesian canceled the event, however, feeling the planned security measures were insufficient given that the university could not prohibit handguns in the venue per Utah state law.
In an August 2015 interview with The Guardian, Sarkeesian remarked of dealing with the pervasive harassment (her "new normal") that older mentors and feminists told her "We were dealing with that, but they were throwing rocks at us".
Reception and public appearances
Sarkeesian and her work have come to much greater public attention following the announcement of "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games" and the harassment she subsequently faced. These events helped bring the issue of pervasive sexual harassment in video game culture to mainstream media attention. Discussions occurred in a range of publications and outlets, including The New York Times, The Guardian and New Statesman.
While noting that the support Sarkeesian has received "stands at a counter" to the harassment, Sal Humphreys and Karen Orr Vered suggest that ultimately the campaign may serve to discourage other women from following Sarkeesian's lead for fear of being subjected to similar attacks.
Speaking at the XOXO Festival in September 2014, Sarkeesian described the allegation that she and other women fabricated harassment as itself being a form of harassment. "Harassment is the background radiation of my life," she later remarked in a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story on her work and the video game industry.
The Utah State University threats resulted in public attention to misogynistic and violent harassment on the Internet, along with the propriety of concealed weapons on university campuses. In an editorial, The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that the threats "would seem to support Sarkeesian’s point about a link between some video games and violent attitudes toward females" and called on the state to allow universities "to ban firearms from venues where they are not just inappropriate, but destructive of the mission of an institution of higher learning."
On October 29, 2014, Sarkeesian was interviewed on The Colbert Report where she discussed the harassment she suffered at the hands of GamerGate and her views on making video games more inclusive. She told Colbert that video games often portray women in a manner which "reinforces the cultural myth that women are sexual objects" and that her goal is not to censor video games, but to raise awareness of how women can be portrayed in more realistic, less stereotypical ways.
The harassment of Sarkeesian and other women in gaming were featured in the January 14, 2015 edition of Nightline. When asked by ABC News why there was so much anger, she responded "I think it comes from this idea that gaming is a male-dominated space, and that games are for men by men...it's a very misogynist backlash". She appears in the 2015 documentary GTFO.
Awards and nominations
Sarkeesian's Feminist Frequency blog was highlighted by Feminist Collections and Media Report to Women. In 2012 Gamasutra considered the harassment and success of Feminist Frequency a catalyst that led to new attention on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the gaming culture and industry. They named this call for inclusion one of the "5 trends that defined the game industry in 2012". In 2013, Newsweek magazine and The Daily Beast named Sarkeesian one of their "125 Women of Impact". She also received an Honorary Award at the 2013 National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR) Awards for her "Damsel in Distress" videos.
In 2014, Sarkeesian received the Ambassador Award at the 14th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards for her work on the representation of women in video games, becoming the first woman to receive the award. She was also nominated for the Ambassador Award at Microsoft's 2014 Women in Gaming Awards for her work.
After the Utah State University death threats, Rolling Stone called her "pop culture's most valuable critic," saying that "the backlash has only made her point for her: Gaming has a problem". In December 2014, The Verge named her as one of "the 50 most important people at the intersection of technology, art, science, and culture". In April 2015, Sarkeesian was chosen to be in the Time 100, Time magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In May 2015, Cosmopolitan included her in its list of the "50 Most Fascinating People on the Internet".
- The State of Play: Creators and Critics on Video Game Culture (October 2015, Seven Stories Press)
- Nathman, Avital Norman (August 6, 2012). "The Femisphere: Video Bloggers, Part 1". Ms. Magazine. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- Greenhouse, Emily (August 1, 2013). "Twitter's Free Speech Problem". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- Filipovic, Jill (June 8, 2015). "Anita Sarkeesian Is Fighting to Make the Web Less Awful for Women – And Getting Death Threats in the Process". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- Moore, Oliver (July 11, 2012). "Woman's call to end video game misogyny sparks vicious online attacks". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved March 13, 2014.
- Rivas, Jorge (December 13, 2012). "Watch Anita Sarkeesian Deconstruct Sexism in Gaming". ColorLines. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
- Sarkeesian, Anita. "About". Feminist Frequency. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
- Kolhatkar, Sheelah (November 26, 2014). "The Gaming Industry's Greatest Adversary Is Just Getting Started". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
- Dean, Paul (May 31, 2013). "Tropes vs Women in Video Games: Why It Matters". IGN. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
- Barthel, Michael (February 25, 2012). "The Oscars’ woman problem", Salon. *Sarkeesian, Anita (February 15, 2012). "The Oscars and The Bechdel Test", YouTube.
- Johnson, Derek (2014). "Chicks with Bricks: Building Creative Identities Across Industrial Design Cultures and Gendered Construction play". In Wolf, Mark J.P. LEGO Studies: Examining the Building Blocks of a Transmedial Phenomenon. Routledge. pp. 90–94. ISBN 1317935454. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
- Williams, Mary Elizabeth (June 14, 2012). "Lara Croft battles male jerks". Salon.
- Singal, Jesse (June 22, 2013). "Taking on games that demean women". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
- Jenson, Jennifer and Sarkeesian, Anita (2011). "Buffy vs. Bella: The Re-Emergence of the Archetypal Feminine in Vampire Stories", in Gareth Schott and Kirstine Moffat. FANPIRES: Audience Consumption of the Modern Vampire. New Academia Publishing.
- Hoby, Hermione (March 25, 2012). "The slacker is back – and this time she's female". The Observer. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
- Duggan, Padraic (March 4, 2012). "Feminist Frequency comes to SOU". The Siskiyou.
- "'I'll Make a Man Out of You': Redefining Strong Female Characters". Sewanee Today. Sewanee: The University of the South. February 15, 2011.
- Hoby, Hermione (March 25, 2012). "The Slacker Is Back - and this time she's female". The Observer (London, UK).
- Cohn, Jacob (January 11, 2013). "Feminist Media Critic and Blogger Anita Sarkeesian to Present Convocation". Carleton News. Carleton College.
- Lehman, JoAnne (Spring 2012). "E-Sources on Women & Gender". Feminist Collections (University of Wisconsin-Madison) 33 (2): 13. ISSN 0742-7441.
- Marketos, Cassie (May 21, 2012). "New Projects Are Sci-Fly". Kickstarter.
- "Tropes vs Women in Video Games". Kickstarter. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
- Maguire, Matt (March 6, 2013). "Sexism in games series debuts this week". stuff.co.nz.
- Feminist Frequency - "Damsels in Distress (Part 1)"; accessed May 28, 2013
- Suellentrop, Chris (December 13, 2013). "In the Footsteps of Lara Croft". The New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
- Intel CEO Outlines Future of Computing. Intel, January 6, 2015
- Nick Wingfield, 'Intel Budgets $300 Million for Diversity", nytimes.com, January 7, 2015; accessed November 11, 2015.
- Jenkins, Ria (January 30, 2015). "When will gamers understand that criticism isn't censorship?". The Guardian. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- Dredge, Stuart (January 27, 2015). "Anita Sarkeesian launching new video series focused on masculinity in games". The Guardian. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- Heron, Michael James; Belford, Pauline; Goker, Ayse (2014). "Sexism in the circuitry". ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society (Association for Computing Machinery) 44 (4): 18–29. doi:10.1145/2695577.2695582. ISSN 0095-2737.
The simple launching of this project resulted in a staggering and continuing campaign of harassment, defamation and real life threats spectacularly out of proportion to the triggering incident.
- O'Leary, Amy. "In Virtual Play, Sex Harassment Is All Too Real", The New York Times, August 1, 2012.
- Kyle, Catherine Bailey (2014). "Her Story, Too: Final Fantasy X, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and the Feminist Hero's Journey". In Jones, Norma; Bajac-Carter, Maja; Batchelor, Bob. Heroines of Film and Television. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 131–32. ISBN 978-1-4422-3149-8.
- Cupaiuolo, Christine (June 21, 2012). "Not Just Playing Games: The Benefits of Failure and the Power of a Supportive Community". Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
- Humphreys, Sal; Vered, Karen Orr (September 5, 2013). "Reflecting on Gender and Digital Networked Media". Television & New Media 15 (1): 3–4. doi:10.1177/1527476413502682.
- Watercutter, Angela (June 14, 2012). "Feminist Take on Games Draws Crude Ridicule, Massive Support". Wired.com.
- Das, Sarmista (2014). "Leveling (Up) the Playing Field: How Feminist Gamers Self-Identify and Learn in Online Communities". In Venkatesh, Vivek; Wallin, Jason J.; Castro, Juan Carlos; Lewis, Jason Edward. Educational, Psychological, and Behavioral Considerations in Niche Online Communities. IGI Global. p. 82. ISBN 1466652071. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
- Fernandez-Blance, Katherine (July 10, 2012). "Gamer campaign against Anita Sarkeesian catches Toronto feminist in crossfire". TheStar.com.
- O'Meara, Sarah (July 6, 2012). "Internet Trolls Up Their Harassment Game With Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian". The Huffington Post.
- Magi, Kim (November 21, 2012). "Man charged with harassment after Twitter attacks". The Toronto Star. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- Blatchford, Christie. "Christie Blatchford: Ruling in Twitter harassment trial could have enormous fallout for free speech". National Post.
- Nadeau, Jean-Phillippe. "Procès pour harcèlement criminel sur Twitter" [Trial for criminal harassment on Twitter] (in French). ICI Radio Canada.
- Lyonnais, Sheena (July 10, 2012). "EXCLUSIVE: Anita Sarkeesian Responds to Beat Up Game, Online Harassment, and Death Threats on Stephanie Guthrie". Toronto Standard.
- Lyonnais, Sheena (July 9, 2012). "Toronto Tweeter Causes Uproar Over Violent "Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian" Game". Toronto Standard.
- "TEDxWomen - Anita Sarkeesian". Archived from the original on February 9, 2014. Video on YouTube.
- Staff (October 12, 2012). "Feminist website creator to speak at LLCC Oct. 10". The Breeze-Courier. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
- Staff (October 24, 2012). "Critic assails portrayal of women in video games". The Daily News. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
- Chipman, Bob (November 7, 2013). "The Most Dangerous Woman in Videogames - Anita Sarkeesian". The Escapist. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
- Myers, Maddy (November 13, 2013). "Hyper Mode: Anita Sarkeesian vs. The World Part II". Paste. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
- Bomb Threat Targeted Anita Sarkeesian, Gaming Awards Last March, Stephen Totilo, Kotaku, September 17, 2014.
- "FBI investigating death threats against Feminist Frequency creator Sarkeesian". Polygon.
- Stuart, Keith. "Gamergate: the community is eating itself but there should be room for all". the Guardian.
- Erin Alberty (October 16, 2014). "Anita Sarkeesian explains why she canceled USU lecture". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
After the mass shooting threat was sent to the school late Monday, a second threat arrived Tuesday. That one, USU spokesman Tim Vitale confirmed, claimed affiliation with the controversial and sometimes violent online video gamers’ movement known as GamerGate.
- Feminist cancels speech at USU after terror threat. Neugebauer, Cimaron and Ben Lockhart. Standard-Examiner, October 14, 2014
- Feminist games critic cancels talk after terror threat. Hern, Alex. The Guardian, October 15, 2014
- USU students, faculty protest terrorist threats against critic of video games. Wood, Benjamin. The Salt Lake Tribune, October 15, 2014
- Peckham, Matt (October 16, 2014). "Fixing Everything That's Wrong with Gamergate Starts with You". TIME.com.
- Ahmed, Saeed; Marco, Tony (October 15, 2014). "Anita Sarkeesian cancels Utah State speech after threat - CNN.com". CNN.
- Wingfield, Nick (October 15, 2014). "Anita Sarkeesian, Video Game Critic, Cancels Speech After Threats of Massacre". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
- "BBC News - Feminist video-games talk cancelled after massacre threat". BBC News.
- McDonald, Soraya Nadia (October 15, 2014). "‘Gamergate’: Feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian cancels Utah lecture after threat". The Washington Post.
- Valenti, Jessica (29 August 2015). "Game Over". The Guardian (weekend magazine supplement (London). pp. 36–40. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
- Settle, Amber; McGill, Monica M.; Decker, Adrienne (2013). "Diversity in the Game Industry: Is Outreach the Solution?". SIGITE '13: Proceedings of the 14th Annual ACM SIGITE Conference on Information Technology Education (Association for Computing Machinery): 175. doi:10.1145/2512276.2512283.
- Zerbisias, Anita (January 28, 2013). "Internet trolls an online nightmare for young women", Toronto Star.
- Casey, Paul (December 10, 2012). "Why should Anita Sarkeesian have to work for free in return for misogynistic abuse?", New Statesman.
- Cross, Katherine. (2012). "Why Gaming Culture Allows Abuse... and How We Can Stop It". Bitch. Issue 57; retrieved February 1, 2013.
- Steadman, Ian. (2014). "Tropes vs Anita Sarkeesian: on passing off anti-feminist nonsense as critique". New Statesman.
- Humphreys, Sal; Vered, Karen Orr (September 5, 2013). "Reflecting on Gender and Digital Networked Media". Television & New Media (SAGE Publications) 15 (1): 4. doi:10.1177/1527476413502682. ISSN 1527-4764.
- Newton, Casey (September 13, 2014). "Anita Sarkeesian shares the most radical thing you can do to support women online". The Verge.
- "The Gaming Industry's Greatest Adversary Is Just Getting Started". Retrieved November 11, 2015.
- Editorial: Utah's laws place gun rights over free speech, The Salt Lake Tribune, October 15, 2014.
- "Axed speech sparks US gun debate", Irish Independent, October 15, 2014.
- Feminist Speaker Questions Utah's Campus Gun Laws. Whitehurst, Lindsay and Alina Hartounian. Associated Press, October 15, 2014
- Game critic Sarkeesian avoids Utah due to foolish gun laws. Utah looks bad in global media.... Pyle, George. The Salt Lake Tribune, October 15, 2014.
- Stephen Colbert takes on Gamergate with Anita Sarkeesian. McCormick, Rich. The Verge, October 30, 2014.
- When Jumping into Gamergate Turns into Fearing For Your Life, abcnews.go.com, January 14, 2015; accessed November 11, 2015.
- Ito, Robert (March 6, 2015). "In the Documentary ‘GTFO,’ Female Video Gamers Fight Back". The New York Times. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
- Staff (Spring 2012). "Briefly". Media Report to Women 40 (2): 19–21. ISSN 0145-9651.
- Graft, Kris. "The 5 trends that defined the game industry in 2012". Gamasutra. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
- Staff (March 29, 2013). "125 Women of Impact". Newsweek.
- "Women In The World: 125 Women of Impact". The Daily Beast/Newsweek. March 29, 2013. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
- Staff (March 24, 2014). "Horror, Fantasy Rule NAVGTR Awards". The Business Journals. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
- Suellentrop, Chris (March 20, 2014). "The Last of Us Claims a Top Video Game Prize". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- "Anita Sarkeesian, Riot co-founders win GDCA 2014 Special Awards". gamasutra.com. Gamasutra. February 11, 2014. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
- Parker, Laura (March 20, 2014). "A Day of Honors for Women in the Video Game Industry". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- "Anita Sarkeesian, more up for nominations at Women in Gaming Awards". gamasutra.com. Gamasutra. March 19, 2014. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- Collins, Sean T.,Anita Sarkeesian on GamerGate: 'We Have a Problem and We're Going to Fix This', Rolling Stone, October 17, 2014.
- "Anita Sarkeesian - The Verge 50". TheVerge.com. Vox Media.
- "Anita Sarkeesian - The 100 Most Influential People". Time. April 15, 2015.
- "The State of Play: Creators and Critics on Video Game Culture". Seven Stories Press. Seven Stories Press. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Anita Sarkeesian.|