Anita Sarkeesian is an award-winning Canadian-American feminist media critic and blogger. She is the creator and executive director of Feminist Frequency, an educational not-for-profit website that explores representations of women in popular culture narratives. Committed to deconstructing the stereotypes associated with women in pop culture, she also works to highlight issues related to the targeted harassment of women and other marginalized classes of people in the online space. Holding a master's degree in social and political thought from York University, Sarkeesian is also a much sought-after public speaker and she has delivered speeches at TEDxWomen, XOXO Festival, and the United Nations' Broadband Working Group on Gender. Interested in issues concerning gender identity and feminism from an early age, she launched her website Feminist Frequency in 2009 while still a student at the university. The ambitious lady planned to launch a web series examining gender representation in video games and found herself the target of an online harassment campaign. However, the attack could not deter her; instead it only strengthened her resolve as a feminist media critic. She has won numerous awards in recognition of her many prominent contributions to the field of feminism.
Childhood & Early Life
Anita Sarkeesian was born in 1983 in Canada. Not much is known about her family except for the fact that her parents are Armenians from Iraq who emigrated to Canada in the 1970s. She later moved to California, USA. She pursued a bachelor's degree in communication studies from California State University, Northridge, before enrolling in the York University for her master's degree in social and political thought. Interested in issues of gender equality from a young age, she launched her website ‘Feminist Frequency’ in 2009 to share articles and videos on feminist media criticism. She graduated in 2010 with her thesis titled ‘I'll Make a Man Out of You: Strong Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy Television.’
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Anita Sarkeesian originated the idea of creating a video series ‘Tropes vs. Women’ to analyze common tropes in the depiction of women in media with a particular focus on science fiction. For this, she partnered with ‘Bitch’ magazine and planned to launch a six-video series covering troupes like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Women in Refrigerators and the Smurfette Principle. She initially thought of launching the series in 2012, but later changed her idea as she first decided to raise enough funds to create a series that would be truly meaningful from the feminist context.
In May 2012, she began a Kickstarter campaign to fund the ‘Tropes vs. Women in Video Games’ series. The campaign reached its initial funding goal of $6,000 within 24 hours. The final amount raised amounted to almost $160,000! Motivated by the response, she released the first video of the series on March 7, 2013. The series proved to be a massive hit and earned Sarkeesian much appreciation. Soon she gained international fame and started getting invited to speak at feminist events.
As a public speaker, she has spoken on sexual violence and gender equality at several high profile conferences, such as TEDxWomen, XOXO Festival, and the United Nations' Broadband Working Group on Gender. She has also appeared on ‘The Colbert Report’ where she talked about her personal experiences of online harassment and discussed how gender inclusivity in gaming culture and the media can be improved.
While Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Tropes vs. Women’ series was mostly met with positive reception, her growing stance as a feminist media critic did not go well with certain sections of the society who launched a bitter online harassment campaign against her. She was sent rape and death threats, and her webpages and social media accounts were hacked. This situation received wide-spread media coverage, bringing to fore the rampant online abuse and harassment that many women suffer at the hands of anti-social elements. The way she bravely tackled the situation added to her popularity and cemented her identity as a courageous and outspoken feminist and a perfect role model for other women to look up to.
Awards & Achievements
Anita Sarkeesian is the recipient of several awards and honors. In 2013, she received an Honorary Award from the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR) for her ‘Damsel in Distress’ videos. She received the Ambassador Award at the 14th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards for her work on the representation of women in video games in 2014. The same year, ‘The Verge,’ named her as one of "the 50 most important people at the intersection of technology, art, science, and culture." In 2015, ‘Cosmopolitan’ included her in its list of the "50 Most Fascinating People on the Internet."