Anita Sarkeesian Unmasked: Feminist Icon or Con Artist?

Anita Sarkeesian

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 an advertisement in the style of a press release, a familiar annoyance. 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, an actor (somewhat less than famous; 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 difficulty I had in regards to finding information on his professional education. On Handwritingexpertusa.com, a site which appears to belong to Mr. Baggett, a document [3] in the style of a third-person resume purports to list Baggett’s education, qualifications and experience. At a cursory inspection, Mr. Baggett appears to have founded more schools than he has attended. Also of note is that the primary education he claims comes from apprenticeships with recognized handwriting experts. [4][5]

I cannot effectively express to the readers of this post how daunting it has been to follow the trail online, when so many leads end in dead links. Suffice to say that I spent an entirely sleepless night chasing online apparitions of seemingly endless sites, many appearing inactive and all with permutations of handwriting expertise or education related phrases forming the URLs. This post simply cannot encompass the entirety of Mr. Baggetts’ story, although it is riveting. In terms broader than this article intends to cover, his story contains fascinating and peculiar intersections, including an appearance on Judge Judy and his commentary on 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 promote Mr. Baggetts’ business. 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’ handwriting analysis in 13 out of the 15 entries. 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, and 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 for him?

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 pertinence of pursuing it further. The business relationship between Sarkeesian and Baggett seemed enough, and there was less evidence pointing to a substantial relationship with the latter party.

In an effort to correlate her past in arguably 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 convinced that Anita Sarkeesian’s contribution to modern feminism was a negative influence. @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.

UPDATE: Mr. Baggett has since contacted me and wished certain points to be amended in this article. I agreed, as the original draft failed to represent his viewpoint or portray him with adequate balance. He wished to clarify that the seminars Anita Sarkeesian assisted him with were self-help oriented and primarily [65% or more] attended by women over the age of 40, and not events purporting to offer strategies to pick up women. In regards to his qualification as a handwriting expert, Mr. Baggett states that in excess of 45 judges, from the state and federal level, have confirmed him to be a handwriting expert and held his testimony admissable in court. Further, this article points out that Bart Baggett was at times an actor, and an author of a book which purported to help teach men to use graphology to gain an advantage in pursuing women. In regards to both, Baggett wrote me:

“And, yes, being in any movie is a bunch of fun. Honestly, you usually don’t know they are going to be [redacted] when you make them. It’s like trying to funny in books. What I wrote 22 years ago seems [sic] funny and light at the time. Upon reflection, I was immature and used insensitive language in an attempt to make the lessons more interesting. I have much more compassion and class now… Lessons learned.”

Blog by Brian Whittemore

Sources:

1. PRWeb

2. IMDb

3. Handwritingexpertusa.com

4. Findagrave.com

5. Davidmattingly.com

6. Ark TV

7. The Denver Post

8. Neonandchrome.com

9. Pualib.com

10. Nlpinfocentre.com, .pdf of Baggetts’ book, “slut” reference page 157

11. Youtube (Sarkeesian testimonial)

12. Youtube (Baggett testimonial)

13. Medium.com

14. Genderacrossborders.com Article refers to McIntosh as Sarkeesian’s “partner” in the first paragraph

15. Kickstarter.com

Photo by Melanie Klein – flickr License

70 Responses to "Anita Sarkeesian Unmasked: Feminist Icon or Con Artist?"

  1. Icyfrill   June 28, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Finally, thank god for real journalists.

  2. seanwafer   May 5, 2015 at 3:16 am

    This was an investigative masterpiece. Wonderful exposé on the grand fraudster.

  3. TMaster   January 31, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    She is a con artist and has no idea what she is talking about… Fabricating evidence and dramatising her life to get in the public eye so she can con them. She is a criminal and should be treatd as such.

  4. Reason   January 16, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Her testimonial sounds like the crowd is dubbed in from a sound track and she’s obviously reading a script. Is she a psycho fake? Wouldn’t surprise me. Nothing has proven her otherwise.

  5. jtveg   December 18, 2014 at 6:11 am

    Sounds like she’s in it for the money. She doesn’t even like video games, she said so herself. Her criticisms are always very biased and her ‘research’ doesn’t seem thorough or scientific. Her videos have a telemarketing feel in their presentation. (The few videos that she has done).

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