By Monét Muñoz
Generation YW Youth Specialist, YWCA Greater Austin
Video gaming has often been seen as a world dominated by a male audience, viewership, and consumership. However, more recently there has been a surge of women who are consuming this form of media at a rapid rate. In the late 2000s, Anita Serkeesian came onto the scene and changed the way we look at video gaming today. Sarkeesian is a media critic whose work focuses on “deconstructing the stereotypes and tropes associated with women in popular culture as well as highlighting issues surrounding the targeted harassment of women in online and gaming spaces.” In 2009, Sarkeesian began a video web series titled Feminist Frequency as a thesis for her Masters Degree at York University, in which she discusses how women are sidelined in the realm of video games.
Through this web series, Sarkeesian largely focuses on women’s roles within the video games and brings new light to the old world of video gaming. Sarkeesian states that Feminist Frequency “largely serves as an educational resource to encourage critical media literacy and provide resources for media makers to improve their works of fiction.” Sarkeesian proposed a web series that would place a focus on women in games through crowd funding on Kickstarter. Initially asking for $6,000, Sarkessian actually raised $158,922 from a total of 6,968 backers — an unprecedented amount for the kind of content proposed. However, not all was well after the large amount of money was raised. Although there were many backers, there were just as many, if not more people who did not agree with the mission and goal of the Feminist Frequency web series. Sarkeesian has received numerous death threats and constantly gets harassed online by those who see no issue in the world of video gaming.
However controversial Sarkeesian’s web series may be, it is bringing a much needed dialogue within the world of video gaming and the media at large. Sarkeesian raises awareness for those who do not like how video games are reinforcing negative and problematic gender roles and the ways women are represented within them.
Monét Muñoz is a staff member of the Generation YW indicated prevention education program for youth at the YWCA Greater Austin. Muñoz obtained both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in History, with a focus on Central American Revolutions and human rights, from the University of Texas at El Paso and continued her graduate studies with postgraduate work at The University of Maryland at College Park with a focus on gendered identities in Central America during the Cold War. Through her studies, Muñoz been an advocate for women’s rights in Latin America and has done extensive research on women’s roles in conflict zones within Central America.
Cross-posted with permission from YWCA Greater Austin’s blog.