The Problem With Feminist Frequency

I think that a lot of what Anita Sarkessian says may be right. While I have disagreements with how she presents it, and her… how should I put it… creative use of facts … I think she has a fundamental point. There is a problem with how women are portrayed in video games and how female gamers are treated in the video game community as a whole. Though I suspect that’s a touch narrow. There seems to be a problem with how females are treated in a lot of geek culture. Look no further than female cosplayers for this one. I’ve heard way too many stories of cosplayers being accused of not being real fans and knowing next to nothing about the character they are cosplaying. That’s fracking insane to me, but it happens.

Steampunk-Joker-Duela-Dent-Cosplay

This is Duela Dent

Female gamers suffer a special type of hell. Go to the site Fat, Ugly, or Slutty to get a taste of it. And before you say something like, “yeah, people get insulted online all the time,” go take a close look at what is being said. Female gamers are being attacked for the crime of being a female gamer.

And there’s no way that I’ll be able to understand it. I mean, truly understand it. I’m a guy. What’s going on with females is happening to females. Not to me. While I have had circumstances where someone goes after me because of a physical attribute I may have, it’s not as universal as what’s going on with female gamers. And I honestly believe it would be arrogant of me to pretend that I understand it.

I think this fits, somewhat

I think this fits, somewhat

Here is the problem with Feminist Frequency. I’ll ask two questions, then come back to the same questions at the end, to better explain what the heck I’m trying to say!

What is she trying to do? According to her, she wanted to “create a space where feminism was easy to engage with in an accessible way.” (source = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efA1PGMA6sY). Pop culture is a way we learn about the world . It’s okay to engage with pop culture stuff (comics, video games, TV, etc) because it is a reflection of society. The media helps perpetuate stereotypes that reinforces social norms. I suspect her ultimate goal is to inform people of the systemic hostility toward women present in pop culture and hopefully make a meaningful change in people’s lives on some level.

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Who is her audience? Realistically, other feminists and people who agree with her. She’s popular enough to attract a ton of trolls as well as industry people, but it is the feminists and people who agree with her already that’ll pay close attention to her.

But what about the people who don’t see it as a problem? I know hundreds of people who played the same games that Sarkessian talks about and does not see a single problem with it. Let me reframe that differently to try to explain why this is a huge problem for Sarkessian and why she has to do more for her product to be relevant. If two people are watching the same thing, and they both give somewhat different accounts for that same thing, that difference is attributed to perception. People perceives things differently.

People’s perceptions are, by their very nature, relative. They differ from person to person based on biological and social factors. By biological, I just mean our senses are not all the same. Some of us have better eye sight. Some of us may have a learning disability. Some of us may just be blind. Hell, our sex may play a factor.Either way, our own biological make-up plays an important role on how we perceive things. If I have a learning disability, I may end up not understanding some complex idea (like something in a video game that Sarkessian says reinforces negative social norms). So that would mean I can watch exactly the same thing and not get the same thing out of it.

Social factors plays an important role as well with perceptions. Where we were taught and who taught us are two big ones. Our upbringing. Our gender. Our socio-economic status. Where we grew up. When we grew up. Our friends. I mean, I can go on and on. But with this, I’m hoping is a touch more self explanatory.  Our perceptions… how we understand things is influenced by our own experiences.  It is influenced by our past.

perception-2lcemo0

Who is  Sarkessian’s audience? People who have the same perceptions as her. These are the people who already agree with her and will mostly likely interpret the video games and other pop culture things the same way. At best, her work serves to help give shape to other people’s thoughts who were already leaning in her direction. At worst, it’s an echo chamber.

What is she trying to do? Make feminism far more accessible to people. But she’s not doing that. She has her own perception (one that I want to emphasize that I think she has good points and is right on several things) and does videos applying her perceptions to video games. To make feminism more accessible, she needs to explain why her perceptions are the way they are. This is vital in order to convince anyone on why they should view things differently, or at least consider another perception rather than their own.

gamer-girl

It’s not enough to just point to a collection of clips and then ascribe a perception to it. Someone else can (and I’ve seen youtube videos which argue against Sarkessian very well that did this) show why there are other reasonable ways to interpret the clips she presented. You have to first show why the feminist perspective is a reasonable one to have.

Like, for example… look at the site that I posted on top again. There are a lot of horrible things said to females. Those comments were very clearly anti-female rather than just simple trolling. I gotta say that if I received comments like that and I was treated very differently because of my sex, that would eventually start to get to me. And that doesn’t seem right. Why target one sex? Is that because the person may feel their own sex is somehow superior? I know I’d feel that way if I was targeted constantly.

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You see what I’m doing? I’m trying to take something and introduce it in such a way to create some empathy. That’s what is needed for anyone to consider a new perspective. This is a far softer approach, one that is far more effective with perceptions. Would this always work? Nah. I’m sure there are a lot of people who would tell me to “suck it up Nancy”… but that’s because they are stuck in their own perspective to such an extent, they cannot even conceive that their perspective may not be the only one out there.

And that’s my problem with Feminist Frequency.

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3 comments on “The Problem With Feminist Frequency

  1. I want to tell you that this might be the first time I have read anyone criticize Fem Freq and do so by attacking the arguments that she made, rather than with thinly masked misogyny. So thank you for that!

    You seem to be really driving home the point that her videos are accomplishing nothing more than banging around the inside of the echo chamber. I would have to disagree with that point. Before watching her videos I had not taken the time to thoroughly examine sexism in video games. I was aware that it was there but i did not have a way to express it very articulately. Fem Freq gives me that opportunity with ease now.

    This has allowed me to just sit down with my friends, some in the indie game design world, and watch these videos. It led to some good discussions, which is the whole point. I agree with you that messaging is important, and there Anita has room for improvement, but her videos have sparked a global debate in the video game world. That is definitely worth something.

    Thanks again for the article, I enjoyed reading it.
    Brest regards,
    BG Carter

    • Thank you for your kind comments.

      I think she has interesting points, and I’m glad she opened your eyes to the underlying problems of female portrayal in video games and in the larger gaming community. There really are serious problems that are ongoing which are easily dismissed.

      I’m hoping to see video games with much more mature narratives rather than falling back on tropes and stereotypes. I think we’re starting to see that.

      Thank you again!

      Michael

      • I would agree. I think that she makes some good points about how relying on played out tropes is just lazy writing. As a life long gamer, I would love to see video games become a more elevated art form. But so long as it stays mired in misogyny it will never get there.
        BG Carter

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