Anita Sarkeesian & Crit Theory Insanity

I don’t know WHY I did it, but I actually found and read Anita Sarkeesian’s grad thesis. And wow. I used to just think that she was wrong about some stuff, a hypocrite on others, but she is either crazy-go-nuts for real and/or (as is implied in her acknowledgements) Jonathan McIntosh’s sock-puppet.

Before I found out more about who she was and what she did, I was initially interested in the Tropes vs. Women project, but I was also interested in hearing others’ opinions on it before I made my own. After watching all of her videos, listening to the opinions of others and doing some of my own research, I cannot possibly be convinced that she actually wants to “fix” anything or make anything better; she only wants to profit and raise her own profile on the back of pointless deconstructionist semantics.

Because ‘positive’ traits are labelled as being ‘masculine’ rather than simply being considered (gender neutral) positive traits, no women possessing these positive traits can, in fact, be positive representations of women because they are embodying masculine ideals.

Women in positions of leadership are simply emulating men.
Women with physical prowess are simply emulating men.
Women who are cool-headed are emulating men.
Women who are courageous are emulating men.
Women who are rational are simply emulating men.

If you choose to label all ‘positive’ character traits as ‘masculine’ OF COURSE you’re going to see women characters as replicating traditional male hero archetypes.

While I’m of the “More awesome women characters in video games, please!” opinion, the stances that Anita takes and ideas she puts forward prevents ANY sort of successful or pleasing (under her criteria) portrayal of women in video games or any media. Feminine characteristics are negative because oppressive male patriarchy has reduced women to those (motherhood, nurturing, blah blah blah), but masculine characteristics are negative because they are masculine.

table of traits

(Sarkeesian, p46)

table of traits 2

(Sarkeesian, p47)

Now, you’ll note that many of those traits listed as “masculine” ARE portrayed in media as either positive OR negative given the context of the situation.  Even with how traits are rearranged in the second table, you still have the issue of most of the positive traits people look for in characters being considered “masculine” and therefore failing to address her initial qualms with masculine women protagonists. 

Interestingly, her own video game proposal does not meet her own criteria and its protagonist falls into the trap of being an example of “many masculine identified traits” (using violence to accomplish her goals, for one). Long Live the Queen is probably more feminist than the game she proposes.

So if it’s bad for a character to possess masculine traits and it’s bad for a character to possess feminine traits and bad for a character to possess a combination of these traits, what the hell could she possible want? It’s not a problem to me for someone to say “I want less of this” or “I want more of that”, but when what you’re saying is “I want none of anything!” you’re not actually asking for anything at all other than to be pointed to and laughed at.

Go ahead. Destroy the patriarchy by bitching about how female characters who have their shit together are embodying masculine traits. I’ll be waiting.

In regards to gaze theory, like most critical theory things, is more fun to play around with and see how far down the rabbit hole you can actually go rather than take it seriously. Oh, crap, people are looking at people in a visual medium! Gasp! You can’t have a woman on a screen and men in the audience without those men looking at her. But the same goes for men on the screen with women. One of the reasons why I liked Pacific Rim so much was that in it Del Toro played with the idea of using female gaze; the male character existed as a thing for the female lead to oggle, and invited the audience to oggle with her. But the only way to eliminate male gaze would be to banish men from the audience or banish women (especially attractive ones) from the screen.

In regards to the academy awards and the stories and people they choose to honor, it’s been known for ages that the academy is decades behind public, who have been making women and minorities wealthy stars by going to see their movies, in terms of race and gender.

In the end, I think that what would actually make some sort of positive change would be to de-gender both postive “masculine” traits and negative “feminine” traits and allow them to just be considered traits. But that’s not what academic critical theory is for. Critical theory is jumping through enough hoops of obsequiousness that you can ultimately reach any point or any conclusion you want given any bit of media. And doing that is fun, it really is! But it’s not a useful tool for constructive change and a horrible way to come round to a rigid ideology, especially since theory exists to destroy rigidity and meaning.

Show me a successful woman, and I can use theory to destroy her validity as a female character. She’ll either be too masculine or too sexual. When people say “feminists will never be happy”, they are in part correct, because theory exists to nitpick things to the point of exasperation, not to actually create anything positive.

Final thoughts:
The real answer to the question “Why was Sarah Connor Chronicles cancelled?” was that the second season had lousy pacing, not because it had too many good female characters.

Addendum: I like how in her appendix, she considers the asexual blue plant lady and the bisexual blue-grey lady from Farscape as white heterosexual characters.  While she states in her conclusion that she wants to see ” people of colour… (not) killed off more often then their white counter parts”, her own numbers show that % wise they are statistically identical within her sampling.

Addendum II: If you’re too lazy to actually read her thesis, Thunderf00t gives a few highlights here along with his normal snarkiness interspersed with clips of shrill ideologues:  

But I still recommend you reading it for yourself and drawing your own conclusion, as he doesn’t really dig all that deep into it.