Anita Sarkeesian: How To Be A Feminist Panel


Anita Sarkeesian: How To Be A Feminist Panel

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[Anita Sarkeesian: How To Be A Feminist Panel – Highlights]

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
So, I wrote some things. Can I just share this because I think it answers the question?

You certainly can, you certainly can.

[Anita Sarkeesian:] Source: L Y B I O . N E T
If you bare with me. So, how to be a feminist? I had to learn how to be a feminist. So throughout high-school and college I was involved with clubs organizing against wars in the Middle East, raising awareness about climate change, and demanding gay and lesbian rights. So I was heavily involved in social justice causes but I still didn’t call myself a feminist, at the time, I may have even uttered the dreaded phrase, I believe in equality but I’m not a feminist.

Yeah, not a high point in my life. So like most people who grew up immersed in the neoliberal ideology of the West, I saw the world largely as a series of individuals making their own personal individual choices. And here I was, a young woman making my own personal choices about what to wear, what to buy, what to study and what I wanted to do every day. Within that narrow individualist framework feminism seemed like a relic of the distant past. Back then, I thought sexism basically boiled down to a few bad apples with misguided personal beliefs born out of ignorance or overt hatred.

So it wasn’t until I was in my early to mid 20s that I began to realize my impression of feminism had been completely wrong. With the help of some amazing mentors and by reading a lot of feminist writing, especially the words of women of color and queer women from around the world, I learned to see through a sociological lens and understand the world as it really exists, as a series of intersecting social systems. Once you have a systemic and institutional framework, you see how oppression manifests in many subtle ways under the systems of what Bell Hooks — calls white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

So not only did I have to learn how to be a feminist, I also had to learn how to be a feminist who understands systems. I had to learn how systems of oppression are maintained by our participation in them, but are also self-perpetuating via paths of least resistance. And as such are larger than any one person’s choices.

Okay. So this is the part where I say things that may ruffle some feathers, but I think it’s a critical discussion to have. Over the past few years I have become increasingly worried about the direction mainstream Internet feminism appears to be headed at least in the west.

Unfortunately many contemporary discourses in and around feminism tend to emphasize a form of hyper individualism which is informed by the neoliberal worldview. More and more, I hear variations on this idea that anything that any woman personally chooses to do is a feminist act, this attitude is often referred to as ‘choice feminism’. Choice feminism posits that each individual woman determines what is empowering for herself, which might sound good on the surface but this concept risks obscuring the bigger picture and larger, fundamental goals of the movement by focusing on individual women with a very narrow, individual notion of empowerment. It erases the reality that some choices that women make have an enormous negative impact on other women’s lives.

So it is not enough to feel personally empowered or be personally successful within the oppressive framework of the current system. Even if an individual woman can make patriarchy work for her, it’s still a losing game for the rest of the women on the planet. The fact of the matter is that some choices have ramifications beyond ourselves and reinforce harmful patriarchal ideas about women as a group and about women’s bodies in our wider shared culture.

And because of how systems of oppression intersect and compound one another, it’s women of color, indigenous women, women living in the global south, women with disabilities, queer women, and transwomen who bare the brunt of those ramifications.

Choice feminism also obscures the fact that women don’t have a real choice. We have a very narrow set of predetermined choices within patriarchy. Women can choose from a pre-approved palette, but we cannot meaningfully choose liberation, we cannot choose a way out from our constraints, at least not without ending these oppressive systems that limit our options. So when we talk about free choice in today’s world, we’re really talking about a very narrow spectrum of choices that are amenable to patriarchy.

So when we talk about how to be a feminist, for me that means being committed to something much larger than ourselves. It’s understanding what role you play in our collective movements for liberation. It’s reexamining our desires and interests and understanding how those are often shared by capital — I’m sorry – how they’re often shaped – maybe shared who knows – by capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy. It’s understanding our own intersections of privilege and oppression and how that will fundamentally change our behaviours and attitudes and values. It’s realizing that being a feminist is a life long learning endeavour and that we will make some mistakes on the way and we should be compassionate to ourselves when that happens. It’s realizing that others will make mistakes and we should extend that compassion to them as well. Feminism is not about striving for perfection, its about striving for justice.


We are all connected, we are all bond together under the oppression of patriarchy and as such our personal actions or inactions do have a harmful effect on other women, especially those from the most marginalized communities. I realize this is not a popular thing to say, but feel – I can’t say it apparently, how bad it is, but feel good personal empowerment is not how to be a feminist.

In order to be a feminist we have a responsibility beyond ourselves, we have a responsibility to each other, and we have a responsibility to work for the collective liberation of all women. Thank you.


[Anita Sarkeesian:]

I look down I was taking notes from it. So the personal growth is not good enough, – for your – so your personal development is because there could be people here who are listening to that, who really don’t want to be political activist in anyway, does that discount their feminism?

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
I think feminism is a movement. It’s a social justice movement that we participating to end the – you know – oppressive social systems. So to me feminism is more one step of feminism is believing in a quality, the other step is actually doing something to get there. I think that’s really important.


And even in that…

I’m intrigued by Anita. I’ll come back to you Germaine. I’m intrigue by Anita saying, she had to learn about systems. You had to learn about the sociology of systems and structural change. And that was obviously quite a journey for you.

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
Yeah, absolutely. I sort of joke about how it was the most liberating thing that ever happen to me and also the most frustrating for everyone around me, because like when you start learning about systems everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic and you have to point it all out to everyone all the time, so there is a good year of my life. There is a good year in my life where it was just most obnoxious person to be around. And then you settle into it, you start to understand like oh people they can living within the systems and it was just sort of liberating movement for me and you learn how to pick and choose your battles and that sort of thing. But I think that that’s the critical piece here is that we have to understand this is systems and I really like what you’re saying cause that’s fundamentally challenging power dynamics.

Its challenging – we don’t want like, we don’t want a quality within these oppressive systems, we want to create actual real equity, so its not just replicating what currently exists and what power dynamics currently exist right.

And that also…

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
Like so in the U.S., so I disagree with one other things you said earlier about how being women is being a feminist, because in the U.S., we are – are reproductive rights are regressing real fast. And so there are conservative women who are claiming the title feminist who are opposed to women’s reproductive rights like I don’t think you can be opposed to reproductive rights and be a feminist those things are not, they do not align in anyway.


[Anita Sarkeesian:] Source: L Y B I O . N E T
And I think that like these practical on the ground issues of like its startling to think that the decade that we’re in and we still like hey, we’re like still trying to hold on to abortion rights. We’re still trying to hold on to giving act like; child-care access and having like birth control, like these should be givens and we’re sort of stuck still trying to fight these fights that have been going on for decades to just hold on to what we already gained. And that is very limiting to the movement in a lot of ways, because we have to legitimately putting so much energy to just save the little bit that we already have.

Yeah. Now, your work, so you’ve moved into this, the new digital world depiction of women. So I mean again, you are entering the new which is a very old debate and you are paying incredible price for that too. You’ve got this great line that harassment is just the background radiation of your life.

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
Yes, me and many other women.

So what drew you into that, what was it – was there a tipping point moment, when you just thought I can’t – was it you are understanding of structures or because you love your gaming and but you moved to the something that tipped you into activism.

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
In terms of the harassment, you mean or in terms of the representation work.

In representation of women.

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
So I actually started the feminist frequency in grad school, because I was really frustrated with about – how alienating feminist theory was an academia that this idea of feminism should be – is a liberating idea and should be available to all people, but an academia you have to be privileged to attend, you have to be privileged to read the books, you have to be privileged to access scholarly text, you have to learn how to write in certain way that no body else can understand; like that’s not why would we trap these concepts in this space. And so I actually started feminist frequency heavily influenced by Bell Hooks who talked about how pop cultures where the pedagogy is happening.

And I was like so I’m going to marry these two ideas and create an accessible free show, which is not reading, because I was in grad school and do not want people have to read anymore. That was able to talk to people about feminist theory with the texts in their lives with the work that is influencing them and influencing their values and attitudes every single day, and celebrating the things that are working well talking, critiquing the things that are not working well, and so that’s why that how that all started is to be able to just talk to people where they are at with these ideas of feminism.

But that what you stirred up is much more than that, you…

[Anita Sarkeesian:] Source: L Y B I O . N E T
I just talk about video games. I don’t know what every one’s problem is…

You are – you don’t know what their problem.

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
I don’t know what their problem is I just talk about video games.

Very serious.

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
I know – right – yeah–so it is about I know, God, I should just cave right now. Yeah, I mean it’s the – this sort of goes to show how important the media is in a lot of ways, right, that like what are you talk about in representations its actually has an impact on our society and its not a monkey see, monkey do relationship, but that the media is one of our socializing as, one of our socializing components. And games are really bad to women, they just represent women really poorly across genres, across platforms, across like indies and triple A’s and now that’s not to say that there aren’t games that are great and have great representations, but it’s pretty awful. Source:

And so the backlash of very entitled men to attack women who dare say, this is not good for us. This is not okay. We want to be included in this environment and them pushing back and saying no this is our space, how dare use, how dare you challenge us. Is I think part of this struggle that we’re all trying to figure out how to do this feminism thing right, and how to push back against systems that are constantly telling us to stop. I’m told everyday for three years or more to stop doing this, right, that I’m not…

Who told you to stop?

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
The internet.

The internet.

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
Right. And I think that’s…

They don’t request that you stop. You know – –

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
A massive chilling effects, so women who see what happens to me don’t want that to happen to them and I don’t want that happen to them, either but that it scares them from participating and speaking up and it has this massive chilling effect. So we just had in California and San Francisco a big game developers conference, and there were a lot of back channel conversations about women being like do we need to be worried, being in public in a gaming space as women like what is our, or we going to have like how are we going to protect our safety if something happens and I’m just like I can’t believe that we have to have these conversations about women who are going to do their work, right, who are going to do their trade, right. Its unbelievable and the fact that challenging, the status quo results in threats of violence and acts of violence is unbelievable.


It probably was [ever us] though, wasn’t it – I mean that’s what political activist through our history.

[Anita Sarkeesian:] Source: L Y B I O . N E T

Have confronted, so it’s not in a way, it’s not surprising…

[Anita Sarkeesian:]
It’s not new, but that’s also horrifying, right, like that’s still the response to saying something like hey, maybe you should tone down the boobs in your game like right like that should not be a statement that is leads me to three years of death threats and bomb threats and…


[Anita Sarkeesian:]
All kind of things. I think intersectional structural feminism fundamentally changed my life in every regard. It changed the – who I was friends with, it changed my relationships with my family, it changed how I talked, it changed how – what the choices that I made, education and career choices, it just it changed everything for me. And I think that I – to me feminism is incredibly empowering. So when like the big first harassment wave hit in 2012, when I launched my Kickstarter, feminism is what empowered me to continue, because I understood how systems worked. I understood that this isn’t about me as an individual because I could be any women in this place and I used feminism to determine how I was going to react, how I was going to respond and that I was going to persevere through this and take that role to talk about this larger issue, right.

So feminism to me is very liberating and absolutely crucial even if it is difficult and challenging and complicated and messy, but I think that’s really important and its really important to own that.

So we have that progress.

[Anita Sarkeesian:] Source: L Y B I O . N E T
Obviously, like without a doubt and just to make up of the room and as being on this panel, having these conversations and there is all kinds of things that we could list over the decades where progress is happened. My concern is that it’s not enough, and that if we just think that progress is this magical thing that happens on its own then people aren’t going to actively do the work to make that progress happen. So I think that its important that we’re kind of cynical in some degree like….

Anita Sarkeesian: How To Be A Feminist Panel. My concern is that it’s not enough, and that if we just think that progress is this magical thing that happens on its own then people aren’t going to actively do the work to make that progress happen. Complete Full Transcript, Dialogue, Remarks, Saying, Quotes, Words And Text.

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April 23, 2016

Ernest Bobb @ 10:25 am #

Feminism: PMS working itself out. Everything is wrong with everything, and I’m feeling compromised, oppressed, and whaaaa.

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