Feminist video game blogger Anita Sarkeesian to visit University
Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist video game blogger and media critic, will visit the University on Feb. 9 as the speaker at the Martin Weiner Lecture in Computer Science.
Sarkeesian is widely known for her video series Tropes vs. Women and Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, as well as her website Feminist Frequency. She also received national attention for multiple hacking attempts and rape and death threats for a 2012 Kickstarter campaign to fund Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. The Federal Bureau of Investigation started investigating the case when Sarkeesian was forced to leave her home due to the threats.
Prof. Jordan Pollack (COSI) spearheaded the effort to get Sarkeesian to come to campus and told the Justice in an email that he wants the University to “expand its teaching and research efforts into video games,” which he claims has become “a larger industry than books or films.”
Pollack also wrote that Sarkeesian is a valuable person to bring in for the lecture due to her experience in the field. He noted that her perspective on the “misogyny displayed by video game fans … and the treatment of women programmers and journalists in the industry” is a critical issue facing this new medium and is one that should be discussed.
The lecture has also received support and interest from other University departments. Prof. John Plotz (ENG) told the Justice in an email that the English department is “interested in seeing how new narrative forms emerge in the 21st century,” and video games are very much a part of this new culture. “When offered the chance to co-sponsor [a speaker with] interesting ideas that shed light on how the new gamer culture relates to the art forms of the past, [the English department] generally accepts,” Plotz said.
Prof. Sue Lanser (WGS), who served as the interim chair of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department during the event’s inception, also noted Sarkeesian’s significance to the feminist community.
“[Sarkeesian] is an important voice in challenging media images of women and patterns of gender representation in gaming,” she wrote in an email to the Justice.
Lanser also added that the threats Sarkeesian has faced in recent years “testify to the entrenchment of gender discrimination in online gaming cultures … and social media more generally” and should be combated.
The lecture has already faced some initial difficulty, due to a recent incident that occurred at Utah State University. According to an Oct. 14 article on Forbes.com, Sarkeesian was forced to cancel a speaking engagement there after a threat of a mass shooting was emailed to the university, which promised “a mass shooting targeting [Sarkeesian] and anyone attending the event.”
Meanwhile, Pollack said that he discussed possible threats with Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan. After discussing arrangements for high-profile speakers such as former president Jimmy Carter, Noam Chomsky, and, most recently, John Dramani Mahama, president of the Republic of Ghana, Pollack wrote that he feels “confident Brandeis has the right security protocols in place” due to the successes of these previous events.
To facilitate these safety protocols, the event will not be open to the public, according to Pollack. Brandeis identification cards will be required at the door, and all attendees will pass through a metal detector before entrance is permitted.
The lecture is scheduled for noon on Feb. 9.