Anita Sarkeesian Unmasked: Feminist Icon or Con Artist?

 

 

 

Anita Sarkeesian has recently entered the public conscious as something of a new Sandra Fluke, riding the wave of controversy to her fifteen minutes of fame and assuming the role of a de facto representative of feminism in the GamerGate controversy. Her participation has mainly been as an impressively successful foil, redirecting the narrative away from one of a consumer base betrayed by media collusion and portraying them as potentially violent misogynists, with what has been so far the most persistent messaging.

Anita Sarkeesian is quite possibly the closest thing to a “face” that feminism has had for a generation, if one discounts Beyoncé’s over-sized sign onstage at the VMAs and Emma Watson’s United Nations’ “HeForShe” hashtag launch. Sadly, her fit for the role is reflective of the superficial aspect of feminism in recent years, that it often comes across as a “name” for the Hollywood crowd to drop more so than an egalitarian movement for social equality. Anita Sarkeesian, for all of her recent flirtation with fame, is definitely a person with skeletons in their closet.

The story, in terms of the earliest event supported by evidence, begins in January of 2005. It is from that time that Anita Sarkeesian’s name appears as the contact for a press release [1] published by PRWeb entitled, National Handwriting Week Jan 23-29th Brings Attention To Your Signature. The document appears to be a sham advertisement disguising itself as a press release, which is a familiar annoyance to many journalists. The most relevant element of this document is that it serves to chronicle the first indication of a relationship between Anita Sarkeesian and an individual known as Bart Baggett, a B list actor (possibly lower; he appeared in at least three films rated 2.5 or less out of 10 by IMDb.com) [2] and self-professed handwriting analysis expert.

I use the characterization “self-professed” because of the startling complications in regards to his professional education. On Handwritingexpertusa.com, a site which appears to be promotional in nature for Mr. Baggett, an odd pdf document [3] in the style of a third-person hyperbolic resume purports to list Baggett’s education, qualifications and experience. At a cursory inspection, Mr. Baggett (no professional title claimed) appears to have founded more schools than he has attended. Also of concern is that the primary education he does claim comes from undocumented “apprenticeships” with persons who have been deceased since 1994 and 2000 respectively, and are therefore unable to either refute or corroborate Mr. Baggett’s claims. [4][5] Coincidentally, claiming apprenticeship would provide convenient cover to explain the appearance of any potential plagiarism between books published by himself and his “mentors.”

I cannot effectively express to the readers of this post how deep this rabbit-hole goes. Suffice to say that I spent an entirely sleepless night chasing links between seemingly endless abandoned clone sites, all with permutations of handwriting expertise or education related phrases forming the URLs. This post simply cannot encompass the entirety of Mr. Baggetts’ adventures, but I do encourage readers to follow up on their own. His broader story involves fascinating and peculiar intersections with Judge Judy and the case of Jon Benet Ramsey. [6][7]

Returning to the matter at hand, Anita Sarkeesian’s professional relationship with Mr. Baggett seems to have lasted at least into the later part of 2007, as a phone number registered to Sarkeesian appears on multiple websites created to hawk Mr. Baggetts’ wares. On her own early site, Neonandchrome.com, [8][11] Anita lists a “Curriculum Vitae” of her experience in event planning, consisting of being a Seminar Manager/Coordinator for events tied to Mr. Baggetts’ snake oil sales in 13 out of the 15 entries. Allow me to clarify the “snake oil” remark; the handwriting analysis that Bart Baggett sold with Anita Sarkeesian’s help carried at times the claim that teaching people to pay attention to the way they wrote could improve their love lives.Mr. Baggett was even listed as an author on a Pick-up Artist directory. [9] Strange company for an ardent feminist like Anita Sarkeesian to keep, in consideration of how concerned she is over the potential of animated, fictional women in video games being objectified.

Why the lengthy, years-long professional relationship with a man who wrote books on how to use things like the oft-debunked Neuro Linguistic Programming pseudo-science to convince women to sleep with people in the absence of meaningful consent, while referring to them as “sluts?” [10] Why would Anita Sarkeesian manage and coordinate seminars on the topic?

Further collaboration between Baggett and Sarkeesian appears in the form of both their relationships to a man named Alex Mandossian, evidenced by their video testimonials in support of Mandossian’s web seminars. [11][12] While there is doubtlessly more to the Mandossian angle, I doubted the necessity of pursuing it further. The business relationship between Sarkeesian and Baggett seemed damning enough, and it takes a toll on a person to spend that long neck-deep in internet scam marketing.

In an effort to correlate her past in shady marketing to her approach in representing feminism, I will borrow from and paraphrase a post made to Medium.com by contributor @cainejw. [13] The user’s post was, in fact, where I became emboldened to characterize Anita Sarkeesian’s contribution to modern feminism as “snake oil,” by means of becoming convinced and co-opting the language of the article. @cainejw discredits Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency videos in one regard by speaking of “conceptualization,” or the process in the academic discussion of a subject where an author defines terms and jargon to familiarize their audience with the subject matter. Sarkeesian, along with her “partner” John McIntosh, [14] routinely forgoes defining ubiquitously recurrent terms such as patriarchy and sexism in her videos, despite claiming the opposite, while she has expressed the intent to be used as educational materials. [15]

While topically convincing her audience that she is providing a valuable educational experience, under scrutiny it appears instead that Anita Sarkeesian is applying her extensive experience in marketing to gain exposure, successfully I might add, by weaponizing feminist rhetoric to undermine and demean first video games, and then the people who play them.

Of further interest is how her Kickstarter project to fund the production of 12 videos met its funding goals on June 16, 2012, and appeared to suggest a completion date for the videos of Dec. 2012, although to date only videos one, five and eight are now complete. This is in spite of the fact that her project vastly exceeded the $6,000 it originally sought, ultimately raking in nearly $160,000 before closing, [15] and that she did not actually need to use that money for as much “research” as she claimed, due to unlicensed, unpaid use of copyrighted artwork and other intellectual property. [13]

One might fairly question where, exactly, the six-figure sum has gotten off to. I am getting seriously tired of tacking on addendums to the litany of tasteless offenses committed by Anita Sarkeesian, but here is another one for my intrepid reader, for making it this far into my post. Despite the claims of Feminist Frequency being a non-profit that were made in the introductory video on her Kickstarter project page, which officially closed the funding for the project in June of 2012, a search of the IRS website reveals that it only received 501(c)3 status in May of 2014.

I am just going to wrap it up here. If the above has not succeeded in convincing a reader to use a skeptical eye towards Anita Sarkeesian, several more paragraphs would not either. I would like to leave off on this thought: If the equality of genders is an important principle that you care deeply for and are willing to fight for, is Anita Sarkeesian who you want as your spokesperson? For feminism to regain a status deeper than occasional flashes across the zeitgeist it is going to have to vet its representatives better.
Read more at http://guardianlv.com/2014/11/anita-sarkeesian-unmasked-feminist-icon-or-con-artist/#oj4jtRSlFUwtzgPm.99

 

 

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