For more than four years, the YouTube channel Feminist Frequency has published new entries in the essay series Tropes vs Women, carefully breaking down the many tired conventions about how women are portrayed in video games. 18 videos and millions of views later, the regularly controversial Tropes vs Women came to an end yesterday, with a video examining lady sidekicks.
Throughout its entire run, Tropes vs Women was hosted by feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, who unexpectedly emerged in the wider public consciousness in 2012, after asking for $6,000 to produce the video series. Sarkeesian (and her project) became a target of grotesque harassment, prompting others to show their support by financially backing Tropes vs Women. It raised $158,922.
In raising that money, she endured waves of misogynistic attacks.
"What's most ironic about the harassment is that it's in reaction to a project I haven't even created yet," she said at the time. "I haven't had the chance to articulate any of my arguments about video game characters yet. It's very telling that there is this much backlash against the mere idea of this series being made."
It would only get worse in the years to come. In 2012, the term GamerGate hadn't been coined yet, a colorful label for a phenomenon that existed long before the start of a campaign to harass and discredit a woman who designed a game to help people who were depressed. Women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and others had been targeted for years, it was just that people like me didn't notice.
It took me too long to pick up on that. It took most of us too long.
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