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LONG BLOG

Damsel in Distress: The Sarkeesian Dilemma

   0

Sarkeesian and her research material

Feminist Frequency has been an ongoing web series for nearly three years. Consisting of nearly thirty-two videos, the series explores sexist, racist, and religious representations in fictional media and advertisements. Though Anita Sarkeesian's claim to fame has spawned from her recent Kickstarter to gain support for her mini documentary series, Tropes vs Women in Video Games. The project's page provides a rough outline of the twelve videos that will make up the documentary series as well as rough information regarding their contents. The description states that each video will be anywhere from ten to twenty minutes long and will be available to the general public for free. It also states that "a lot of time and money" will be needed for the production; Sarkeesian states that she will personally be "researching and playing hundreds of titles" and ensures that all pledges would be used to cover the cost of equipment, production, and research material (games and downloadable content).

The Kickstarted launched on May 17th of this year. In less than twenty-four hours, it reached its $6,000 pledge goal. Backers continued to grow over the month resulting in Sarkeesian raising nearly $160,000 for the project by June 16th. From there, all updates were promised to be available only to those who backed the project; she went on to publicly display her research materials, over 300+ games, and provided an official update expressing her excitement. "I can now commit full-time to Feminist Frequency and to this video series which is truly a dream come true for me", she writes. "I can now also hire my producer full-time for this project. Plus we are in the process of bringing another writer/researcher on board part-time." With such passion and staffing, one would think that Feminist Frequency crew would be ready to tackle their production with full force.

Then there was silence...And then there was insubordination.

Nearly a month followed where no updates were given. Backers began posting comments on the Kickstarters' page and reaching out to her Twitter account asking for some confirmation that the project was at least underway. Most questions, however, went unanswered. One backer mentions in the comments that he captured a screenshot stating an estimated date on one of the Kickstaters' goals and Tweeted it to Sarkeesian asking for some explanation as to why the paid backers were being kept in the dark. The backer was then blocked from her Twitter and was ignored as a result. "I would be absolutely fine if she just responded to my tweet with a simple 'Still working and capturing footage'," wrote "Mike".


"Mike"'s sceencap of his banishment

The screencap had then been leaked, and rumors began to spread that the Kickstarter was a scam with no real intention of ever being completed. Only then did Sarkeesian take the time to respond.

Four days ago she took the time to clear up the rumors and tried to rebuild the trust that she was beginning to lose amongst her supporters. She debunks the claims that her research was being taken from backer surveys instead of independent investigations, while also tackling other accusations. I can understand the frustration and anger that arises from backer's leaking information, but in their defense, neutral inquiries were being ignored. An unintentional drastic measure had to be taken in order to receive any form of response which leads me to ask: Why has it taken this long to shed some light on the situation?

After discovering the weeks of silence and apathetic responses, I did some research on the progression of her full-time commitment. Her web site has sat untouched since her last Tropes vs Women update on August 1st. At the time of writing this article, her YouTube channel had not been touched since August 12th with no new videos being uploaded since the initial promotional video for the Kickstarter. Up until a week ago, there had been no updates since the pledges were closed. However, she - or at least Feminist Frequency staff members - frequented Twitter (@femfreq), Facebook, and Tumblr regularly. While there is no doubt that such a project is difficult and time consuming to produce, she still had plenty of time to discuss Doctor Who with fans, promote other feminist blogs, and post pictures of herself with gaming memorabilia. Despite all of this activity, she was unable to provide any sort of update regarding the Tropes vs Women production.

"If she can't take 10 minutes a fortnight (seeing as how it has been 19 days since the last update) to update her backers, then wtf," commented backer "Bryan" on the Kickstarter comment page A statement that I can agree with even when being an outside viewer of the documentary.

Leaking information is not appropriate behavior - especially when the benefit to being a backer is that you gain access to these restricted updates. After the discoveries regarding failure to provide adequate updates, I cannot help but feel that the actions are justified to an extent. Supporters are entitled to the details that are being withheld from them even while reaching out to the producer. I am not encouraging future leaks but nonetheless, the backers have right to have become suspicious. After all, if Sarkeesian was capable of going into detailed arguments against negativity and harassment against her...Why has it been so difficult to share some insight on the documentary's progression?


Sarkeesian's Tumblr photo

Backers are obviously not looking for full outlines on Tropes vs Women's production, but just want some acknowledgement to calm their fears that their donations might be wasted. She claimed and promised that these games were going to be personally played for research, right? If so, then why could she have not taken thirty seconds to Tweet, "Playing <insert game> for TvW!" or "Filming has begun"?

Perhaps this outburst and backlash will be an eye opener on how the production team needs to handle their project. It is their responsibility to keep their backers informed. I give them credit for engaging their followers and allowing them a chance to personalize their experience by sharing their own opinions. I forewarn that if they continue to shun the backers, these generous efforts will mean nothing to them and ultimate lead to a continuation of disapproval from the gaming community. If disorganization is making it difficult to even give small updates, how can these supporters have faith that their funds are being used effectively?

After all, if Sarkeesian wants to keep this project in positive light, then a certain degree of professionalism needs to be constantly demonstrated, certainly more than is currently being shown.
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About Stephanie Kone of us since 10:00 PM on 02.07.2010


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Note: I'm mostly on my PC so if you add my on PSN or XBox Live, send me a message hear so I can be sure to sign in and accept your request. I'm also always looking for new players to recruit in FFXIV. Let me know if you're interested!

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Name: Stephanie (Steph)
Birthday: Oct. 16, 1989

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