Thoughts on the “Tropes vs. Women” situation
In case you’ve been under a rock for the last two weeks, you may not know that Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter entitled Tropes vs. Women in Video Games has kicked up a torrent of ridiculous backlash and stirred up a whole lot of debate, with misinformed statements on both sides, but good arguments only on one. Many blogs and gaming news sites have thrown their hat into the ring or at least reported it, including Rock Paper Shotgun and Kotaku. And now Comic Booked is going to say something about it too.
I first heard about the Tropes vs. Women Kickstarter on Google+ well before the brunt of the backlash tsunami crashed on the shores of the internet. At the time I thought it was a very great idea, but I had already contributed to so many projects already this year, so thought to myself maybe I’ll leave it to other people to help out.
It is not as though I was dismissing the project either. As a male, I have to admit first and foremost that I do enjoy the attractiveness of female characters, rescuing princesses, admiring the “advances in games’ physics engines” and various other admittedly “fan servicey” elements in games. But as this “story telling mechanism” is repeated ad nauseum, and the constant pattern of how female characters are treated in games becomes a bit less exciting, a bit too routine and obviously catering to the base nature of the male gamer. Should we not, as a community, be seen as more than drooling fanboys and given more respect that the crutch of femsploitation is not the choice method used by game studios? Given the corporate business model and the general gamer demographic, I can certainly see why it is done.
But in a more ideal and equalized society, stories should be more diverse, female characters should be given more dynamic stories, more realistic armor, and a general movement towards a slightly more equal chance for protagonist excellence across the sexes should be taking place. Looking at the titles of mainstream games, it would be pretty difficult to claim that big game publishers have taken significant strides in making headway on any of these fronts. So while I understand reasons for the status quo of imbalanced treatment, it takes a special kind of person to say that Anita’s project does not have merit. From a philosophical level at least, I was certainly on board with Tropes vs. Women from the start, if not precisely from a pocketbook level.
Extremely naively, I thought this project was well thought out, fairly hard to argue against, it would be get funded perhaps barely, and continue on without incident. So naïve, so blissful were my thoughts.
Then *it* happened. I had no idea there were just so many special people on the internet. A wave of unfiltered, uninformed and outright ignorant hatred and vitriol poured out like thick toxic waste from a spigot the size of Pennsylvania onto the already untidy but at least manageable shores of the internet.
Don’t get me wrong, the internet has always had its share of trolls, malcontents, bums, fools, chumps, and nincompoops. Whether on YouTube, Facebook, or some other internet forum, it is difficult to take a moderate jog through online content without stumbling across something or another. But in this case it has been truly surprising how many people not only disagreed with the Tropes vs. Women’s initial premise, but also had the brass balls and lack of shame necessary to voice their poorly formed opinions on the matter, exposing unforeseen levels (to me anyway) of self entitlement and almost tangibly willful lack of understanding. Everything from saying that men were stereotyped too (they are in a way, but in a way that misses the point entirely) poorly thought out economic theories down to of course, pure misogyny were well represented across the board.
My faith in humanity was diminished considerably for a time looking at a mere four pages of youtube commentary.
But in this case, the backlash received a reaction of its own, and my faith in humanity was restored by a healthy margin. While the YouTube comments are not the best place to look for the good discussion, there are signs are everywhere that the backlash was being actively attacked, like an infection being pounded relentlessly by white blood cells. White blood cells fueled by justice.
Many prominent bloggers, gaming and mainstream news sites have taken up the torch and have stoked the conversation. Many have leapt to Anita’s defense, with opinions both well thought out and some admittedly a bit more knee jerk. And Anita has stayed strong, not backing down from the onslaught, and indeed using it as a means to heighten the discourse.
(Totally awesome doodle by CatieMonster and posted on Anita’s Update #6)
From a purely monetary perspective, support can be counted in the order of, as of this writing, over 133 thousand dollars, from over 5800 supporters. It is truly touching to see how many have stepped up to the plate for discussion and against self entitled misogynistic ramblings.
In addition, in great likelihood this surge in the discussion has yielded some immediate if possibly half hearted results. Both publishers of Tomb Raider (sexual assault as primary character development method) and Hitman (stripper nun massacre) have both expressed at least a measure of apology over their recent stumbles, and to say that the Tropes vs. Women discussion did not have an impact on those would have to yield more than a sideways glance.
In full disclosure, in case you have not noticed I am absolutely biased, I am now a backer to the Anita’s Kickstarter and greatly want to see it succeed. I think the discussion of the double standards in video games is worth exploring. I want to see more positive female role models in gaming, and I do not understand why other people are so hell bent on opposing a discussion trends in video games, and how things can be better than the status quo.
If you want to support Anita’s project, take a look, you’ll be in great company. Keep in mind, time is running out! If you don’t have the money to contribute, don’t feel bad (she’s met her goal by 2200%) but do keep talking about it. That is after all, what will have the most impact in the long run. Hopefully, with Anita’s help and the vibrant discussion we are experiencing, these changes will take place at a much faster clip.
6/15/12 1:12 PST Update: As of the publishing of this article, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games has gained over 700 supporters to the tune of $15,000. Coincidence? Probably!