The F Word
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Anita Sarkeesian didn’t plan to become the example that exposes toxic misogyny within gaming – and tech – culture. When she started her web series Tropes vs Women, cataloguing how women are often reduced to decorative or sexual objects in pop culture, the self-described ‘big geek’ says her aim was to expose feminist theory to a wider audience.
But after she focused the series on video games’ depictions of women as princesses and sex workers, she was beset by a torrential backlash from reactionary pockets of the internet under the hashtag #GamerGate. Death threats, hate mail and vicious personal attacks have become part of her daily life … but instead of cowering, she’s used her experience as an opportunity to highlight the targeted harassment of women in online and gaming spaces.
Sarkeesian’s graceful defiance under fire – and her brand of no-BS cultural criticism – are a beacon to women who want to see themselves reflected in the art they love. She’s explained GamerGate to Stephen Colbert, broken records on Kickstarter and been profiled by everyone from Rolling Stone to the New York Times. ‘Creating new stories with new perspectives is going to make games more interesting,’ she says. ‘We can be critical of the things we love.’
Anita Sarkeesian will discuss the #GamerGate firestorm, Feminist Frequency and her award-winning work at the crossroads of technology, art and pop culture – and then join Sophie Black in conversation.
Anita Sarkeesian is presented in association with Sydney Opera House’s All About Women festival.
Anita Sarkeesian is a media critic, blogger and the creator of Feminist Frequency, a video web series that explores the representations of women in pop culture narratives. In particular, her work highlights issues surrounding the targeted harassment of women in online and gaming spaces.
‘Women have many reasons to be wary, depressed or downright terri ed of the internet. No guaranteed safe space exists for a woman online. Especially a lippy one. And yet ... as a tool for social change, the internet, to the extent that we can still refer to it as a single entity, still offers immense possibilities.’
Sophie Black is head of publishing at the Wheeler Centre where she has worked on projects such as the national to writers scheme The Next Chapter, the multi-award-winning podcast, The Messenger, and the ABC RN program, Talkfest. Previously she was editor-in-chief at Private Media, where she headed up titles such as Crikey, Women’s Agenda, Daily Review and SmartCompany. In 2013, she delivered the Adelaide Festival of Ideas as Director. She sits on the advisory board for Melbourne University’s Centre for Advancing Journalism and the human rights publication Right Now.
The official fight for equal representation for women is over a century old. You might think the battle would be won by now, but in 2015, the ‘f’ word is as personally and politically charged as ever. And despite great leaps forward – equal pay (on paper), paid maternity leave, our first female prime minister – we’ve still got a long way to go, baby.
The F Word asks where feminism is at, in culture and society, with a series of events that question our assumptions (Can romance be empowering? How can you be a religious feminist?), and highlight areas for change and inclusion, like disability and science.
We begin the series with ‘Bad Feminist’ Roxane Gay, who argues that feminist values can co-exist with contradictions: nursing a childhood affection for Sweet Valley High and wearing heels that hurt your feet doesn’t weaken your dedication to ending domestic violence.