Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Criticism of Feminist Frequency

In general I like Feminist Frequency. It’s an intelligent video series, and I like having a geeky feminist presence on YouTube. Its video on homophobia in Caprica actually influenced me to create a YouTube channel through showing that that kind of video could work. So, understand that this criticism comes from a place of respect.


My main issue with Feminist Frequency is that it comes across as too authoritative. Anita Sarkeesian speaks like a reporter stating absolute verified fact, as though she is the voice of feminism. This makes it appealing to listen to, like a segment of a real news channel, and I imagine she received some top-notch schooling that taught her to deliver like that. It’s problematic for what she’s actually doing, though, which is in effect just a vlog like Going Rampant for her to share her personal opinions. She is a single human, and she should represent herself and her channel as fallible and limited like the rest of us. Like her, I am a solitary feminist, but when I disagree with her, I feel as if I’m disagreeing with a politician because of the way she holds herself with such authority.

If you do represent yourself as an authority on feminism, you should take care to represent it properly. This means going outside your personal familiarity to cover issues of all sorts of feminists including persons of color, queer folks, and differently abled. She tries, but there are instances where I think her analyses are flawed because she can only speak for herself and her experiences being cisgender and neurotypical and such. This makes it problematic when she speaks with absolute authority that the media item is flawed because of X when people outside of that perspective might disagree. I believe a strength of online third-wave feminism is in the way people of various minorities whose voices wouldn’t usually be heard are given legitimacy. The way Feminist Frequency does it just perpetuates the status quo.

Anita Sarkeesian has a problem mixing political feminist criticism and normal film criticism that’s more Ebert’s realm. This is seen most overtly in “True Grit, Mattie Ross and Feminism?”, where most of her criticism is devoted to the script not being written up to narrative standards. While this is a legitimate criticism, it doesn’t really belong in a video nominally about why the protagonist doesn’t count as a feminist character. The issue also shows up in “Dollhouse Renewed? Why Not Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles?” where she criticizes Joss Whedon’s ability to tell a story and why she personally doesn’t care for Dollhouse’s story in the middle of slamming Dollhouse for being misogynistic, and the two forms of criticism become indistinguishable so that it seems like her dislike of the Alpha character is cited to support her claim of Dollhouse’s misogyny. There’s also a sense of conspiracy given to the whole thing, like that Fox considers Dollhouse more successful because it is less feminist than Terminator.

It’s possible that her video style could derive some inspiration from the Nostalgia Chick, a video reviewer with feminist slants. In “Tropes vs. Women #3: The Smurfette Principle”, she features a clip from the Nostalgia Chick’s video “The Smurfette Principle” also linked in the video description. Though I’m also critical of the Nostalgia Chick for employing a style of morbid humor similar to that of Red Letter Media, from what I’ve seen of her videos, the Nostalgia Chick does a good job of blending general film criticism and feminist criticism. The Nostalgia Chick’s manner of review is simply as a film critic who gives a feminist perspective—in addition to fictional shenanigans akin to Red Letter Media—while Anita Sarkeesian’s entire channel is called Feminist Frequency, which gives the implication that everything she publishes on it will be of a feminist nature. The videos she then makes give no separation between what is and isn’t feminist criticism and thus everything comes across as feminist criticism.

She sometimes goes off track to promote political ideologies she personally connects with her feminism but isn’t strictly feminist. In “Toy Ads and Learning Gender”, for instance, she encourages people to support banning advertisements aimed at children, which isn’t necessary to include. I know there are tons of variants of feminism out there, but it seems to me that a neutral stance is best for when the show is presented as general information to be taken as fact.

Well, those are my thoughts.

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