Gamergate got the Stephen Colbert treatment Wednesday night when feminist blogger Anita Sarkeesian, 30, visited the show to discuss the scandal that’s pitting gamers, journalists and developers against one another.
Colbert came armed with his usual wit and satire, professing his love of video games and questioning if in-game actions actually affected real-world behavior.
“What I do in a video game doesn’t reflect how I act in the real world,” the 50-year-old host said before Sarkeesian took the stage. “I love ‘Mario Kart,’ but I don’t go around throwing banana peels out of my car.”
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) October 30, 2014
Sarkeesian, who’s been at the center of the media frenzy surrounding the gamergate scandal, spoke with Colbert about her feminist views and how they apply to various forms of media. The critic has been producing and filming YouTube videos about sexism and misogyny in the media since 2012, and she’s regularly been the focus of sexually charged harassment and vitriol. Sarkeesian is especially critical of how women are depicted in video games, which has pulled her into the gamergate controversy, an incident that began with the harassment of female game developer Zoe Quinn.
“There is something going on, and what it is is women being harassed and threatened and terrorized,” Sarkeesian told Colbert. “One of the problems with that is that it actually reinforces this cultural myth that women are sexual objects and sexual playthings for male amusement, and we’re not.”
Sarkeesian also discussed the cancellation of her speaking engagement at Utah State University earlier this month. “There was a threat that someone emailed to the school, saying they would commit the biggest school shooting massacre if I was allowed to speak.”
Sarkeesian refused to name specific games that she felt were especially harmful to the depiction of women in media, but questioned why women were often portrayed as “damsels in distress.” “I think it’s a bigger issue to talk about the industry as a whole and how it perpetuates these ideas of sexism and misogyny,” she explained.
At the close of the interview, Colbert adopted a more serious tone. “Why do you think women are being threatened in gamergate? It’s almost entirely women. Chris Kluwe has talked about this, he hasn’t been threatened. Other men haven’t been threatened.”
“Women are perceived as threatening because we are asking for games to be more inclusive,” Sarkeesian said. “We’re asking for games to acknowledge that we exist and that we love games.”
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) October 29, 2014
The critic also addressed the number of gamergate supporters who claim the movement is about ethics, not about sexism or harassing women. This issue gained online attention after it was revealed that developer Quinn had a relationship with Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson.
“Ethics in journalism is not what’s happening in any way. It’s actually about men going after women in really hostile and aggressive ways. That’s what gamergate is about,” she said.
At the close of the interview, Colbert asked Sarkeesian how to know if you’re a feminist. “Do you believe that women should have equal rights to men and that we should fight for those rights?” Sarkeesian asked. “Great, then you’re a feminist.”