This week the wonderful Popcritic Anita Sarkeesian posted her latest in a series of videos, Tropes vs. Women, exploring the history, ideology, and gender-directed mechanics/narratives of the video game. Luxuriously insightful, aboundingly knowledgeable, historically intriguing, and with the marvelous quality of being huggingly accessible, the series looks at the history of the video game and the gender mechanics which informed the medium from its early formulations up to the present moment. A Gamer herself Sakeesian interrogates the ideology of the video game as she sees a viable critique of the media becoming a means to free the trajectory gaming for the future of the medium and for the gamers themselves.
A love letter with an edge.
Here is the first in the series, but take a look at her site Feminist Frequency for the rest, and other perceptive videos on popculture and feminism:
However, since this crowdfunded series had even begun , Sarkeesian had been attacked by the most misogynist amonst us with even a limited access to the internet. The newest video in the series, as opposed to tappering off in the fog of time, has triggered even more abuse from those who see themselves as owners of our words, culture and institutions. From the Verge: “Since the project launched on Kickstarter way back in 2012, the gaming community has been treated to an incessant, deeply paranoid campaign against Tropes vs. Women generally and Sarkeesian personally….now, she’s apparently spent the night with friends after contacting law enforcement about “some very scary threats” against her and her family. She’s published a page of extremely violent sexual threats from the person who apparently drove her to call the police; in it, the user mentions the location of her apartment and threatens to kill her parents, who the user names and claims to be able to find.”
Abuse like this is meant firstly towards the individual person, but further this type of abuse is meant to intimidate an entire section of the (systematically disenfranchised) populace, i.e.women. This abuse is a vast and immeasurable pressure displayed to the outside, and typically already disempowered, group to vacate the public sphere. This exclusion from the public sphere of the already disenfranchised is a further means towards eliminating its voice and a mechanism to leaving only the privileged to determine public space of conversation and ideas. Though I would mostly like this post to focus on the great body of work Sarkeesian (and the two other women below) is developing, it is important to lend our voice to those abused in the public sphere for both thier protection and to show that the terroism of abuse will never push those of less priviledge from the public conversation and political discourse.
Classist Scholar, Mary Beard, also a focus of this misoginist abuse, looks at small public space alloted to the culturally and politically disenfranchised populace of Ancient Rome in the Games of the Colleseum. Beard looks at the popculture venue of ancient Rome, the Games as played out in the Colosseum, and how it, though minimally, was a Space of interactions and cultural education for all of the living populace of Rome.
Rebecca Mead, in the New Yorker looks at Beards discussion about the historical pressures of exclusion towards the disenfranchised (again, women here) recently on BBC : In February, Mary Beard, a classics professor at the University of Cambridge, gave a lecture at the British Museum titled “Oh Do Shut Up Dear!” With amiable indignation, she explored the many ways that men have silenced outspoken women since the days of the ancients. Her speech, which was filmed by the BBC, was learned but accessible—a tone that she has regularly displayed on British television, as the host of popular documentaries about Pompeii and Rome. She began her talk with the first recorded instance of a man telling a woman that “her voice is not to be heard in public”: Telemachus informing his mother, Penelope, that “speech will be the business of men” and sending her upstairs to her weaving. Beard progressed to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Tereus rapes Philomela & then cuts out her tongue so that she cannot denounce him. Beard alighted on Queen Elizabeth and Sojourner Truth before arriving at Jacqui Oatley, a BBC soccer commentator repeatedly mocked by men who were convinced that a woman couldn’t possibly understand the sport. A columnist for The Spectator, Beard noted, currently runs an annual competition to name the “most stupid woman” to appear on the current-affairs show “Question Time.”
Finally, Beard arrived at the contemporary chorus of Twitter trolls and online commenters. “The more I’ve looked at the details of the threats and the insults that women are on the receiving end of, the more some of them seem to fit into the old patterns of prejudice and assumption that I have been talking about,” she said. “It doesn’t much matter what line of argument you take as a woman. If you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it—it’s the fact that you are saying it.” Such online interjections—“ ‘Shut up you bitch’ is a fairly common refrain”—often contain threats of violence, a “predictable menu of rape, bombing, murder, and so forth.” She mildly reported one tweet that had been directed at her: “I’m going to cut off your head and rape it.”…
In the Slam poem “Fantastic Breasts and Where To Find Them”, Brenna Twohy shows us a personal world which is an argument for the understandings of feminism to give equality and humanity to the world. Like Beard and Sareeskian, Twohy uses popculture and shows us that when we explore and critique that which is presented by the culture it becomes a means to free and enable all of us.