Anita Sarkeesian on Sargon of Akkad’s Harassment

I’m pretty sure that this has been talked about elsewhere, but the most complete summary — if you can call it a complete summary — that I’ve seen myself is this one at Pharyyngula. P.Z. Myers has a tendency to, well, not properly interpret almost anything he actually reads, but he’s on Sarkeesian’s side here, and so I think I can probably take it as presenting her side in the most flattering light possible. Which is good, because the only quote of hers that I can find is his direct, unreferenced quote, and so I guess I can rely on him to quote her accurately and not, say, use a direct quote as a parody of what she said.

Anyway, Anita Sarkeesian was at a convention of youtubers, and had a panel. As everyone who has been paying any attention at all to the matter would know, there are a lot of youtubers who have been criticizing — she and others would call it “harassing”, but more on that later — Sarkeesian for a while now, and a bunch of them got together and deliberately say in the front row at her panel. This is almost certainly an attempt to, at least, intimidate her. And, of course, Myers takes exception to that:

They smugly took over the first couple of rows of seats, and even proudly posted videos of themselves filling the front row. Oh, boy, an opportunity for real-life harassment!

So … them doing that — and, as far as I have heard, even from Myers, doing nothing else to disrupt the panel — counts as “harassment”. Funny, but I don’t recall Myers being bent out of shape over the incident at Middlebury College during a speech by Charles Murray, where protestors loudly interrupted and drowned out Murray and then turned into a physical mob when they tried to move the speech elsewhere. The closest he gets to saying anything about it condemns them injuring the professor who organized it, but still calls those doing that “protestors” instead of “harassers”. Surely what they did was just as much an attempt to intimidate as what those youtubers did, and it certainly seemed to have much more of a disruptive impact on the event since, as Myers put it, Sarkeesian decided to “fire back” by showing an image of Sargon of Akkad and making a number of disparaging remarks about him. And the remarks are … interesting:

If you google my name on YouTube you get ****heads like this dude who are making these dumbass videos that just say the same **** over and over again. And like I hate to give you attention because you’re a garbage human. Whatever dude.

But the fact that these dudes are making endless videos going after every feminist over and over and over again I think is a part of the issue. Why do we have these conversations? We don’t just get to be online. We don’t just get to participate like everyone else.

1) But … you are participating like everyone else. It’s the way the Internet works that you get people harping on and on about things that they dislike until either they or their viewers/readers stop caring. Shamus Young, one of the most polite and respectful of commentators that I’ve ever seen, has written a novel length criticism/dissection of the first Mass Effect trilogy after going over the games in the “Let’s Play” analysis of Spoiler Warning — which he is no longer a part of — and after writing a number of posts on things like the Mass Effect 3 ending. And they were popular because many of the readers and fans still cared enough about it and wanted to talk about it. If Sarkeesian and those other feminists weren’t getting those repetitive videos making similar or the same points over and over again, it would mean just one thing: nobody cares anymore. So since Sarkeesian presumably thinks that her points are important and meaningful and things people should care about, people are going to dissect them over and over again. Thus, she is getting to participate just like everyone else, and doesn’t like it.

2) It’s also not like Sarkeesian herself has stopped talking about those issues and points and isn’t bringing them up again and again. Her “Tropes vs Women” series on video games has just wrapped up, and you can see from my analysis of it that she tends to bring up the same points over and over and over again. It’s not like Sarkeesian or the other feminists have stopped talking about all of this and people are still talking about them. Sarkeesian is still talking about her points and still wants people to take her and her ideas seriously. So if people were criticizing them before, they’ll criticize them again. That’s what happens when you want to be and stay in the public eye for your ideas.

So, at this point, it really sounds like what Sarkeesian is really tired of and what she calls them garbage human beings over is the fact that they keep criticizing her. This, according to Myers and possibly Sarkeesian, is harassment, and is terrible and needs to be stopped. If Sarkeesian, in general, had ever seemed to respond to reasonable criticism directly — which she does rarely, if at all — then we might be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and simply say that she’s tired of those repetitive criticisms and comments overwhelming all the good criticisms and productive comments that people make on her work, but since she’s never really ever tried, seemingly, to find a good criticism and respond to it directly it really looks like she just wants these people to stop criticizing her, and is trying to appeal to protection from harassment to get that to happen.

Yeah, the world doesn’t work that way. If you say things that are controversial — and she isn’t stupid enough to think that her comments aren’t controversial — people will comment on it, often angrily. They will comment on it ad nauseum, on any platform they have access to. This happens whether you are male, female, or from an invited transgender species. What Sarkeesian is getting is, at least in terms of critical videos, what you get when you do what she’s doing. If she can’t handle that, then she should stop doing what she’s doing. Since she doesn’t want to do that, she’s either going to have to learn to deal with it or else retreat into her commentless echo chamber at Feminist Frequency and keep ranting about how her critics are evil people for criticizing her in the way they criticize absolutely everyone, because they are singling her out. Somehow.

In a sense, it’s a shame, because I think Sarkessian would do better — and the Internet in general would do better — if she gave more attention to the reasonable critics than to the ones she finds unreasonable. But despite her own statement that she hates to give those evil critics attention, she’s always spent much more time talking about the purported harassers than about those who are taking her work seriously and commenting on it. If these people are being driven by attention seeking, giving attention to reasonable, non-insulting criticisms is the fastest way to ensure that they stop driving their criticisms by insults and threats, and the quality of debate will be much improved regardless. That being said, that’s hard to do for anyone; we tend to react angrily to insults and tend to be motivated to respond to the things that make us angry … which explains many of her critics, too.

At any rate, Sarkeesian seems to be conflating constant criticism with harassment and insisting that therefore the constant criticism must stop. But that’s not the case, and the world does not and ought not work that way. If Sarkeesian is getting bored of her critics, then she should simply ignore them.

(Note: Sarkeesian has responded to the events here.)

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