Anita Sarkeesian: role model for International Women’s Day

Anthony Haynes writes: To mark International Women’s Say, we blog today about two female entrepreneurs and leaders. First, Anita_Sarkeesian_headshotAnita Sarkeesian.

Sarkeesian is best known as a critic of video games. Her criticism focuses on the representation of women, with particular attention to the role of stereotypes and tropes.

Her work is not, however, limited to that focus. She also comments on popular media more generally, on feminist history, on how the gaming industry works — and, because she faced appalling abuse and harassment, including threats of rape and murder, on online culture, trolling**, and misogyny.

Though I don’t agree with every word I’ve read (or listened to, on YouTube) by Sarkeesian, I do think her arguments are often both strong and important. In fact, I suggest the violent irrationality of the responses to her and the feebleness of many corporate apologias issued in response to her criticism, themselves provides a prima facie case for taking her work seriously. Her work matters.

That, however, doesn’t fully explain why I think of her as a creative model. There are hundreds of creative people whose work I admire — but I come to think of them as models only when they way in which they work also appeals to me.

Sarkeesian seems to me not only highly creative and productive, but also astonishingly enterprising. She runs Feminist Frequency, a not-for-profit business that supports a website and YouTube series of videos. The business has become the centre of something like a movement. It certainly provides an example of highly energetic and effective agenda-setting.

I don’t feel Sarkeesian has received sufficient credit for her enterprise. Support for her tends to focus, like her opponents, exclusively on the content of her arguments. Though that content deserves attention — and gaining such attention is one of Sarkeesian’s greatest achievements — the focus on it shouldn’t prevent us from recognising Sarkeesian as a model example of creative entrepreneurship. Especially when we consider she’s still only in her mid-thirties — think how much more she might achieve.

I even wonder whether there is a general theme here — that even when a female creative’s output is acclaimed, their entrepreneurial activity tends to be downplayed — but that is a theme for another post.


** Though I use this word, I agree with Sarkeesian’s view that it is an inadequate word, because its tone is too childish.

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