08.1.12 // GeekGirlCon ’12 Preview: A Q&A with Anita Sarkeesian
I have two words for today’s GeekGirlCon ‘12 preview: Anita Sarkeesian. We are incredibly lucky to have her at our convention this year. If you didn’t know her name prior to this year, it is likely you have heard about her by now. She’s been busy lately.
For those who need the introduction, Anita is a feminist pop culture critic who produces an ongoing web series of video commentaries from a feminist/fangirl perspective at FeministFrequency.com. She explores representations of race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability in popular culture.
Recently, Anita posted a Kickstarter project to raise money for a video series, “Tropes vs Women in Video Games,” that explored female character stereotypes throughout the history of the gaming industry.
Despite the fact that she had yet to even produce one of the videos, the trolls deployed in full force. They left hateful comments on Anita’s YouTube video, repeatedly vandalized the Wikipedia page about her, and sent a number of threatening messages that went as far as threats of violence, death, sexual assault, and rape. This New Statesman article (Major trigger warning: there are some very disturbing examples) provides perhaps the most detailed look at how Anita was treated.
Anita didn’t back down, and neither did her supporters. You see, despite the horrible treatment, there is some good news to share. While she only asked for $6,000 to create this video series, Anita ended up raising over $158,000! Geeks and pop culture fans of all types came together to show their support for her project. Now that’s a movement we can all get behind.
We had a few moments to catch up with Anita and chat about this project, as well as the panels she’ll be participating in at GeekGirlCon ‘12. Enjoy!
1) Let’s talk about something positive! Tell us what it’s like to have a community rally behind you and support you, as many did with your Kickstarter project.
I’m actually not sure how to describe the feeling, but it was pretty incredible especially considering I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to raise my initial funding goal. In the midst of all the horrific (and at times scary) harassment, I received an outpouring of support by way of comments, private messages, video responses, and even fanart from both my long time supportive viewers and also from folks who had not heard of my web series before the Kickstarter. I feel inspired and tremendously lucky to have so many wonderful people defending and supporting me in the face of all the trolling, hate, and abuse.
2) What messages are you hoping to share at GeekGirlCon ’12?
This year I’ll be participating in a few different panels and workshops. In “Go Make Me A Sandwich: Barriers to Women’s Participation in Online and Fan Spaces,” I’ll be sharing my experiences with online harassment, as well as some strategies other women can hopefully use to protect themselves online.
During “Let’s Get Critical: Fans, Creators, and Social Justice,” I’ll be talking about the complexities of being a fan within a media landscape that is largely created for (and by) straight, white men and how we can love our fandoms while simultaneously being critical of the more problematic aspects.
Lastly, I’m co-facilitating a video making workshop called “Really Make Your Own Videoblog” with Reel Grrls. We are going to teach the basics of how to record a captivating and engaging video blog. We’re bringing filmmaking equipment and all participants will be invited to make their own videos during the workshop.
3) Aside from your panels, are there any panels or special guests you are particularly looking forward to seeing at GeekGirlCon ’12?
I’m excited about everything, and I’m trying to figure out a timey-wimey way to be at every single panel! I’m thrilled about the “Once More, with Feeling Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sing-Along” (I still believe it is one of the best hours of television, ever).
I’m looking forward to hearing Greg Rucka talk about “Why Men Write Women Poorly, and How to Get a Clue” and learning about Corrinne Yu’s experience working in the video game industry. I’m also really happy to see the subject of harassment in geek culture as the focus on a number of panels this year. I’m looking forward to learning about other women’s experiences and sharing strategies on building stronger communities to fight against sexism in geek spaces.
4) What sort of things are you geeking out about right now?
I am a big fan of the Portal video game series so I was anticipating the release of Kim Swift’s latest project this year. Quantum Conundrum is endearing and quite challenging, plus the whole game is narrated by John De Lancie giving it that extra geeky charm.
I also recently read a book series called The Steerswoman’s Road by Rosemary Kirstein. It’s such a great example of a captivating, creative and brilliant fantasy novel that stars a genuinely complex, interesting, female protagonist. I don’t want to spoil it for those that haven’t read it yet, but it’s now one of my all time favourite books which I recommend to everyone!
Thanks for your time, Anita! We look forward to hearing more from you at the convention.