This year has been filled with some highs and lows for feminist geeks everywhere, but as we enter into 2015, I would rather dwell on all the great feminist geek moments we got this year. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here is Lady Geek Girl’s Top Ten Feminist Geek moments of 2014!
(Trigger warnings for the Holocaust and sexual violence)
I don’t usually get recruited to join hate groups.
Being a Jewish guy, I’m out of consideration for the most of them. And on the other side, my secularism and interfaith marriage means that the extremist elements within Judaism don’t want anything to do with me.
So I’ve got a special kind of agita from Gamergate today. Because these guys don’t care about my bar mitzvah, but they could have looked at the geeky thirteen-year-old boy reading from the Torah and seen a potential recruit.
On some broad, unsettling level, these are guys like me. They’re men. They’re straight. They’re white. They’re about my age. They’re middle-class, educated, Americans. They like fantasy novels, comics, sci-fi, and Game of Thrones. They claim to speak for me. The hatred, rage, and violence espoused by Gamergate emerged out of my same world. Why is it them and not me?
This is going to sound like hyperbole, but to really answer that question, you have to walk back through the history of the Third Reich. I’ve heard of Godwin’s law—Internet arguments may all turn to Nazis eventually, but it doesn’t mean that it’s never warranted.
I don’t intend the comparison to be literal. You don’t have to tell me that Gamergate has yet to commit any genocides. But there’s a lot more to Nazi Germany than just our shorthand characterization of “the worst people ever”. They were, yes. But they had to get that way—a sophisticated, modern nation collapsed into Hell in just a decade. It happened for thoroughly human reasons, and there has never been a guarantee that it would never happen again. Much of the same psychology that turned Germans into Nazis turned geeks to Gamergate.
Gamergate is now a part of geek culture, and of our cultural legacy. We need to know that it is not unique, that it is working through a playbook that’s been handed down many times before. When we can follow those plays, we can keep ourselves—and our friends—from being sucked in.
I’ll begin in the thick of it: a week ago, feminist video blogger Anita Sarkeesian (@femfreq), notable for her Tropes vs Women in Video Games series, left her home in fear for her safety in the wake of violent threats against her and her family. You probably already know this. You probably already know that Sarkeesian has long been the target of threats and harassment, including a 2012 game entitled Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian. I will not link to it, but suffice it to say that it is self-explanatory. She has documented some of it here. You may even know that this most recent bout of threats of violence, sexual and non, came from an individual who made it clear to Sarkeesian that they had acquired her address, and that of her parents. This individual declared their intent to murder them.
If there was any of that you did not know, please take a moment to sit, mouth agape, in rage and horror. However, if you’re barely surprised, no one could blame you. Not after thousands demanded that Carolyn Petit be fired for so much as suggesting that GTA V’s treatment of women is problematic, to say nothing of transphobic threats and harassment. Or after Miranda Pakozdi was harassed into quitting a video game tournament by her own team’s coach. You could probably name a million other incidents where someone in the gaming community has been abused, threatened, demeaned, or had their privacy invaded. All those events, recent and more distant, are tied together by the fact that the targeted persons dared to criticize or declare real the once-troubling-now-terrifying misogyny of “gamer culture”. Or they simply dared to be women in that culture.
Unfortunately, this is not a real movie.
We don’t often do fan videos, but I figured that something that managed to make both The Last Airbender and Ghost Rider movies look cool deserved some credit. I originally found this trailer here on the Mary Sue, who found it here on Vimeo from Behind The Epic.
Essentially, this six-minute long trailer for an epic movie that you’ll never get to see is comprised of clips from dozens of Sci-Fi and fantasy movies, some bad, some good, and quite a few that I’ve never seen before but now want to.
When watching it, I had a lot of fun trying to remember where I’d originally seen the parts that I recognized, but I was also struck by how much work had to go into this thing. And as I said, there are a lot of terrible movies that made it into this trailer that don’t look so terrible anymore. I almost feel disappointed that I can’t go watch the live-action The Last Airbender movie and be just as wow’d.
I’ve seen a bunch of trailer mash-ups before, but as of right now, Eterna is definitely my favorite. Unfortunately, while watching it, I did notice that the movies used are disproportionately more about male characters than they are about female characters. And to be clear, this isn’t any fault on the part of the makers of this fan trailer—that’s just unfortunately how most movies are.
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.
So back during college, I found myself replaying Final Fantasy XIII while my roommate’s friends were over. And to my everlasting annoyance, these twenty-some-year-old men felt the need to fake orgasm and talk nonstop about all the nasty things they wanted to do to Vanille, whom everyone thought was fifteen, based solely on the fact that she has “perky boobs”. And according to them, her voice sounds as if she’s in the middle of an orgasm too, apparently. They treated Vanille as if she was no longer a character, but as a sex object whose sole purpose was to please them.
I didn’t have a lot of fun playing that day.
But this experience does bring to mind something that should be addressed. While Vanille is actually at least nineteen, I believe, and video games and plenty of other mediums tend to objectify grown women to titillate male audiences, many things in geekdom tend to do the same with underage girls as well. And even more surprisingly, not many people seem to have problems with this.