by Laura Davis
When the threats of violence – including rape and murder – began, Anita Sarkeesian got much more than she bargained for. Sarkeesian, author of the blog Feminist Frequency, recently announced a Kickstarter campaign to raise $6,000 to produce a 5-video series entitled “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” The campaign surpassed its initial goal within 24 hours. The threats and derogatory remarks against Sarkeesian and her project that began flooding the Internet, along with the “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian” online game posted by a detractor, brought so much attention to the project that its Kickstarter campaign exploded to include 6,967 backers who contributed nearly $160,000.
I asked Dr. Jeff Gardere, clinical psychologist and chief contributor for Healthguru.com, about the social dynamics and the psychology behind such deplorable behavior as threatening and creating a video game depicting violence against a complete stranger.
Dr. Gardere says, “Ethically, nothing justifies that kind of mob or bullying action. From a psychological point of view, what happens is that one person may make a negative comment because they may feel emotionally threatened. Though the writer of the comment uses an Internet handle/name/identity, they are in effect anonymous and, therefore, have no psychological filter. They operate strictly from the Id (that part of the mind that is total aggression, sexuality, and primary urges). This then opens a window for other like-minded individuals to give hateful and hurtful comments.
“Now, why would certain people be so threatened by [Ms. Sarkeesian’s] efforts? Could be that these are the individuals who play these violent games (way to much and way too long) in which women, among others, are brutalized. Their threshold has already been lowered when it comes to violence against women and they make an easy transition from the video games to hateful comments towards Anita.”
Sarkeesian was unavailable for interview for this article. She wrote on Feminist Frequency, “I am truly and sincerely honored by the outpouring of support for this project. It gives me great hope to see that so many people of all genders are concerned about the way women are represented in gaming. I’m also deeply moved by the fact that so many of you are standing with me against this staggering tidal wave of hate and harassment.”
Thanks to the over-funding of the project , “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” will now be produced as a 12-video series, including a classroom curriculum. The series will examine the negative roles in which women are cast in video games, such as: the Damsel in Distress, the Sexy Sidekick, Man with Boobs, Background Decoration, and Mrs. Male Character. One segment will examine positive female characters, and another will investigate the 10 most common defenses of sexism in video games. Each video will be 10-20 minutes in length, and they will be distributed free of charge.
The final score in this mad match-up? Anita: 160,000. Trolls: 0.
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