Social media brings us millions of stories, but few resonate more deeply with our cultural history than Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency YouTube channel. Founded in 2009, Feminist Frequency advances critical, complex conservations about popular culture, an antidote to the emphasis on simplicity and curtness that characterizes so much of contemporary discourse on social media. Sarkeesian and her collaborators probed representations of gender in media, particularly in “geek” and gamer culture. Her lightning rod series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, which ran from 2012 to 2016, exposed the persistent denigration of women in one of the most popular media forms in the world. In robust, sometimes multi-part half-hour episodes exploring tropes like the “Damsels in Distress” and “Women as Reward,” Sarkessian showed the nuanced ways women were marginalized in games and the consequences of this symbolic annihilation to the largely male gamer demographic. That demographic targeted her with a vengeance: sending death threats to places she was scheduled to appear, forcing her to leave her home, defacing her Wikipedia page and issuing a never-ending torrent of abusive tweets and emails in what became known as the #GamerGate scandal. As her work threatened her very life, she continued to tell stories in service of manifesting a better world for women, queers and other marginalized people.
After several seasons of Tropes vs. Women, she produced a series on unsung women in history and her channel also distributed the series Queer Tropes. Today, Feminist Frequency still publishes a regular podcast on gender, intersectionality, and the media. Sarkessian’s bravery and vision is a shining example of not only of how we need to reform social media to be safe for historically marginalized communities but also how it can transform all forms of media and the culture at large.