After years haranguing both players and developers in service of forcing identity politics into the realm of video games, infamous grifter Anita Sarkeesian has now found herself unhappy with the fact that the very concept of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) she has built an entire career upon pushing “is working as intended.”
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Taking the stage at the 2023 Game Developers Conference on March 23rd, Sarkeesian asserted to the attendees of her ‘Your DEI Initiatives Are Making Your Culture Worse‘ panel that though “Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are framed as attempts to transform workplace environments into a space that is welcoming for all people, especially those historically under-represented,” they are in fact having the opposite effect than intended.
“I’m not here to tell you that DEI is broken; I’m here to tell you that DEI is working as intended and that that’s the problem,” said Sarkeesian, as per a recap of the panel provided by Gamesindustry.biz.
However, rather than outright admitting that the problem with DEI is the inherently-racist, skin-color focused lens it demands everyone view the world through and the constant vicimization it demands that non-white individuals put themselves through in order to appease their coworkers who majored in liberal arts, Sarkeesian declared that the actual issue was how “It seems like DEI has been co-opted – or created – by the powerful to become a shield against criticism and real change.”
“A DEI manager I admire told me ‘DEI is often a panacea. It is the corporate embodiment of a watered-down liberatory movement. It is an attempt to produce equity in a system that is fundamentally inequitable and resists equity,'” she then recalled.
Expounding upon her argument, Sarkeesian claimed that DEI initiatives were failing wholesale because not only are companies organized in such a way that is resistance to change, but also because the entire concept was incompatible with corporate measures of success such as ‘How well was a project managed?’ and ‘What is this project’s Return on Investment?”
“The cynical take is that DEI work is a hamster wheel that executives can throw all the troublemakers on who keep nagging about change,” the Feminist Frequency founder declared. “It keeps the agitators running in circles until they burn themselves out, but rarely actually provokes leaders into handing over the keys to affect meaningful institutional change.”
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To this end, she then noted that “the slighty less cynical take is that executives have the will to change, but also the fear of change.”
“They are stuck in a corporate system that is resistant to this change,” added Sarkeesian. “This is baked into the structures of corporations regardless of who is in charge.”
Unsurprisingly, despite the entire concept calling on white people to serve as ‘allies’ in helping promote identity politics-based changes among their own environments, Sarkeesian took issue with both the fact that DEI departments were roughly 76% white and that men in these roles were allegedly payed more than women (It does not appear that Sarkeesian provided specific citations for these figures during her presentation).
“This is so obviously replicating the exact problems of the system itself,” she said. “The path of least resistance here is hiring more white people and paying men more because that’s what we know, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Sarkeesian than presented attendees with what she believes are four principles that need to be adopted industrywide in order to promote the appropriate (and of course unspecified) amount of DEI-related change deemed neccessary for a company to be looked upon favorably by the concept’s ever-changing standards
1. Harm does not happen in a vaccum – Companies must dedicate themselves to rooting out the exact circumstances that allowed a moment of harm to occur
2. We need to break cycles of harm and prevent future violence – Employers must work to prevent any such harm from ever happening again
3. We must support the people who were harmed in their healing and the people who caused harm in their accountability – Sarkeesian argues that offering care to those who were harmed and education to offenders, the latter to ensure that someone can learn how “to truly offer substantial acknowledgement, apology, and repair to those that they have harmed.”.
4. This is about all of us – According to Sarkeesian, “The current systems are failing us and to break out of those cycles, we seriously need to skill ourselves up” by “creat[ing] stronger ways of being connected to each other, healthier relationships, de-escalation skills, communication skills, expressing feelings in non-destructive ways, and put the work in to unlearning toxic narratives and beliefs.”
“Every little decision you make, every case you handle, you’ve got to look at it through all of these lenses,” she added.
In addition to these principles, Sarkeesian called on companies to take an ‘active stance’ in acknowledging their failings, arguing that “You can’t say sorry without naming what you did wrong. You can’t make things better while pretending nothing’s wrong.”
“Instead of zero tolerance policies or ‘We don’t tolerate harassment’,” proposed Sarkeesian, “what would it feel like to hear, ‘Harassment, abuse, and assault has happened here. People were hurt and treated in ways that are not acceptable. The individuals are responsible, but so are we as the culture and community that allowed it to happen. Here’s how we’re going to start changing the way we talk about and look out for these things’?”
Drawing her session to a close, Sarkeesian ultimately called for the industry to provide more “transparency” in regards to incidents of harm.
“We have to talk about what’s happening,” she stated. “The isolation, the confusion , the rumors, the misunderstandings that come with keeping everything quiet is not helping.”
“There’s a lot of nuance here with balancing confidentiality, respecting privacy, as well as not leaning into public shaming,” Sarkeesian concluded. “But somehow, some way, we need to find a way to hold narratives together as a group so there’s a collective accountability in addressing that what happened wasn’t okay, and that we all want to support in the healing, changing, and cycle-breaking that’s needed.”
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