Tropes vs. Women in Video Games (Part 1) & Youtube Comments

It’s finally here: Part One of Anita Sarkeesian’s series about Tropes versus Women in Video Games! Many of you may remember the vast amount of hate Anita received while fundraising through Kickstarter for this series. At that point Anita hadn’t even stated any of her views on sexism in games, but she nonetheless received threats of murder, rape, and sexual assault, revealing just how strongly a video series like this was needed.

The first installment in the series discusses the well-used Damsel in Distress trope. Anita starts by tracing its roots back to ancient Greek legends to show just how deeply this trope permeates our culture. I won’t say any more about the video. Anita does a much better job of explaining the trope than I could ever do so you should really just watch the above video and check out the Tumblr blog for the series.

What I do what to address, however, is Anita’s choice to disable the YouTube comments for this video.

When I heard that the first video in this series was coming out I was super excited to watch it. I clicked on my YouTube tab and was about to search for the video when I froze in the middle of typing. It was then that I realized I was scared to watch the video. Not because of the video itself. I knew I would love that, but I knew I would be inevitably tempted to scroll down and read the comments on the video. I read the comments when Anita announced that she was going to begin making this particular series, and I have read the comments on many other videos discussing feminist topics, and the comments have all been some of the most violent, vulgar, disgusting things I have ever read in my life. If there is one thing I have absolutely learned from the internet, it’s that you should never read the YouTube comments on any video.

Feminist videos and really any video discussing social justice and civil rights tend to have pretty horrible and disgusting comments, but even random videos can’t escape these awful and ridiculous comments. Just a couple days ago I watched the Supernatural cast’s Harlem Shake video and was amazed to find the comments accusing the cast of worshipping Satan (Mark Pellegrino made no comment on the issue).

Now, you might think that if the comments on YouTube videos, while horrible, are often so outlandish, why would you even worry about them? Well, it’s true that YouTube videos pretty much all get awful and ridiculous comments, but the comments on videos about feminism can often be rather triggering, especially for victims of rape and sexual assault. Personally, I wanted to watch the video to learn something and to enjoy some good feminist critique. I knew if I saw any hateful comments on the video I knew I would not enjoy Anita’s video that I had been so looking forward too. So instead I went to the Feminist Frequency website to watch the video and hopefully avoid the whole issue.

Eventually, I discovered that Anita had disabled the comments on the video and that immediately criticism had risen up against her because of this. Most comments that I have seen on places like Tumblr or Facebook all accuse Anita of shutting down dialogue.

First of all, anyone has the right to disable comments on their video, no matter who they are or what they are saying. Anita especially has the right to do so after the sheer amount of threats she received online for even suggesting she wanted to talk about sexism in video games. But I don’t think that was the only reason. I think Anita knew that there would be people like me that would not want to be exposed to those types of comments. By disabling YouTube comments, Anita has protected her viewers from triggering and vulgar language to which they otherwise would have no choice but to be exposed.

Furthermore, disabling comments on YouTube in no way stops discussion. Many people are right now talking about this video on various different social networking sites and blogs. The only difference is that instead of being forced to view hateful commentary, I will only see it if I specifically want to go look for it. And I just want to thank Anita for actually giving her viewers that choice.