Thursday, May 30, 2013

How to not hate Anita Sarkeesian

Feminist writer and media critic Anita Sarkeesian has a well-known name in gaming circles. She was less known before she launched a Kickstarter to raise money to make a series of videos examining tropes and women in videogame culture. She aimed to raise six grand and got $158,000 instead. She also got harassment of every type via every venue, including a game called "Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian" where you clicked the screen to punch her face until she appeared bruised and bleeding.

It's important to note that this uproar took place before Sarkeesian even started talking. This was the reaction to her saying she was planning to discuss these topics.

Her second video just came out in the series that her Kickstarter funded, and even though she chose to disable the comments on the video, it was pulled from YouTube for "violating community guidelines." It has since been restored.

Anita is not perfect. Her arguments are not flawless. Sometimes, certain approaches she takes are not the same as the approaches I would take. I'm less concerned about Anita as a role model and more about what it is she is trying to do. Shining a light on something ugly and frightening is something humans characteristically avoid in all things, not just in cases involving women's issues. But revealing those things, and drumming up the courage to look at them and potentially make a decision to alter our actions to do something about them, is essential for any kind of growth.

In a thread on my Facebook today, Sarkeesian was called "A shrill woman who keeps harping on the same topics." These words made me instantly envision a young boy whose mother was asking him to do something he didn't want to do. Then the voice doing the talking becomes "shrill" and discussion becomes "harping."It's easy to see how simple it would be to become angry and sarcastic in response to words like that -- they are critical and meant to hurt feelings.

So perhaps you hate Anita, or what she's saying, or both. But somewhere in you, there is some twinge, some tiny feeling that maybe you are missing out on something. Or maybe you don't want to fight back, but you don't know what else to do. And you sit in front of your computer feeling not so sure about any of it anymore.

This is the ideal time to try a different approach.

Separate the words from the person.

Let's just say, for a moment, that instead of watching Anita's video series, you're reading the same ideas in a book (and there are dozens on the subject of feminism, and a handful on women's role in games as well). Are you still angry about them? You may be. If so, you can focus your hatred on the author of that book, or any of the other books. But notice how you feel when you're angry: insulated, seething, closed. If that feels bad, consider that there are other options, and other ways to react.

Be aware that anger means you are no longer listening.

Anger has an effect on us, as described above -- it limits our ability to process information, makes us say things we shouldn't, and physically alters the body by raising our blood pressure. Be aware that when you are angry, your ability to discuss an issue mindfully has significantly dropped.

Ask yourself what is triggering you.

If you get angry when you watch Anita's videos, what about her approach triggers you? If you're like "She's a bitch!," there's a reason why you think that (and see above). Try writing it down. If your reaction is "She is wrong because..." write that down too. If you're angry, there's another feeling behind the anger. If you're feeling brave, you could take a look and try to see what that feeling actually is. Do you feel that she is talking to you when she talks about men? Do you feel offended that you are being generalized? Knowing your real stance is a foundation you can stand on. Lashing out wildly is not a solid foundation.

Know the history.

"Why are all these women so mad?"Start here. Still interested? Try here. Want to know how it feels to have lived in this culture your entire life? Open an OK Cupid account, use a photo of a pretty woman as your profile pic, and read your inbox. Sit by a construction site and watch women get catcalled. Pretend that woman is your sister or your mother. By the way, it's happened to both of them hundreds of times already and you just didn't know about it. Rinse. Repeat.

Consider the source.

Anita holds a Master's Degree with credentials in Social and Political Thought and a Bachelor's in Communication. What that means to me is that she has a more structured approach to those topics than I do, since I have never been educated in those topics. That does not mean her every word is gold, but it does mean if I am open minded, I may learn some things from her that I did not know. Some of them may help me to form more of my own ideas.

This rule also goes for the commenters, the "haters," and even the men that made the game where you beat her. Before you react to any of them, consider them. Who are they? What are their backgrounds? Do they have the ability to participate in discussions with rational discourse? If not, why are you engaging with them?

Be kind to each other.

You can, even on the internet, be kind. To others, even when they get angry, by choosing not to respond or to gently end the dialogue if both or all participants are not open. If you need to block someone, that can be a kindness too -- it's how you protect yourself when a situation has gone too far. But if you can abide in a difficult situation or discussion, stay in it, learn something from it, by all means, you should. Putting aside anger and listening can cultivate compassion and make you realize you really don't know everything. And that's a wonderful state to be in. It makes you open.


Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Something similar to this should be posted on all forums of discussion. But sadly, the people who need to read this the most will not want to.

I wonder if Sarkeesian actually wanted a degree of negative feedback. It certainly got her name out there. And it's pretty common among Youtube personalities to make people emotive in some way, as this bolsters views.

Dr jebus said...

Turning off anger so we can turn on our ability to learn is super-important. Realizing that we *don't know everything* (and that it's okay, too) does tons of good for our willingness to be receptive.

Are we afraid that "not knowing" means we're less human in some way? I certainly hope not. Are we afraid of being proven wrong, so we lash out in response, desperately clinging to habits (shun the woman who wants to talk about harrassment) simply because of their habitual nature? I really hope not; it's logically unsound.

Anonymous said...

@ Dr jebus:

Sure, but that goes both ways. I think a lot of the backlash against Sarkeesian's videos comes from the way she acts a judge, jury, and executioner, and comes off as if she decided her conclusions long before she started gathering evidence.

I've only watched the first video and don't plan on watching any more, but that first video contained a lot of what I read as deliberate, self-serving misreadings of game characters and themes, and some kind of bizarre (and really, speaking as a male, kind of sexist) characterizations of male thought patterns.

For better or worse, Sarkeesian has become the face of this issue, and people who are generally supportive of her views would do their cause a lot of good by constructively criticizing her rather than operating with a "if people are attacking her, we must be right" siege mentality.

I'm someone inclined to support women's issues, and I think the games industry has some problems (though I wouldn't necessarily characterize them as hugely sexist or misogynist so much as manifestations of problems in society as a whole). That said, I can't bring myself to support Sarkeesian because, frankly, I have an education in philosophy and critical thought, and a lot of her arguments don't hold water. I was torn a new one by professors when I was in first year university for trying to present the kind the emotional, pandering arguments she leans on, and I deserved it.

I don't think she's a "bitch", and I don't hate her -- I just think she's wrong, or at least making the wrong arguments for a valid issue. It's terrible that she's been savagely harassed, but it doesn't make many of her arguments any less fallacious. I wish more people would acknowledge that last point in particular -- way too much of the discussion of this issue has come to be framed by the behaviour a small number of trolls and crazies.

daehyun said...

People are angry for a good reason. Most of what Anita complains about feels like much ado over nothing, just nitpicking to spite men. In fact, that goes for pretty much every kind of feminist "cultural criticism".

These people have devised an entire art dedicated to seeking out and exaggerating victimhood over the tiniest things, it's become hard for those who aren't already indoctrinated to take them seriously.

Eskas said...

Another large issue is the reaction some of these content producers get when trying to discuss topics like women in video games. It's often received with something that goes along the lines of "Ugh, we're still talking about this?" or "Is this still a thing?"

To me, the larger problem isn't how the matter is being discussed or poorly people may treat those who discuss it. The problem lies within the idea that some still feel this topic is worthless, or shouldn't be discussed. You can see it in discussions of Sarkeesian's video and you could see it when Leigh Alexander and folks were trying to get Objectify a male writer going. Some people feel this issue should be done, or we should ignore it. I wish the issue could be done, I wish people would see both men and women equally in games, maybe then we could be discussing video games instead of the people playing or talking about them. However, until that happens we will see both jerks and nice people hate and love those who discuss the matter.

Tim said...

I think that this is a well thought out presentation on how to view any potentially misunderstood material, but I think in this case it's very poorly misplaced. Ms Sarkeesian has not shown that she deserves this sort of positive attention any more than she deserved the negative attention she received.

Her pieces so far have been poorly researched and deliberately biased. She only pulls out of context examples support her positions while discarding any evidence that weakens her case. It's pushing a position, not searching for the truth.

Does violence occur against women in games? Certainly. More often than against men, or more brutally? Not even close. Are more male characters protagonists in games than women? Definitely. Are more players of games male? You betcha, not exactly a coincidence that the characters in games would most often represent the people most likely to be playing them. If the protagonist character is a straight male, then chances are his significant other will be female, and losing ones significant other is a perfectly reasonable impetus.

If women would like more female agency in games, it doesn't start with posting biased screeds on the Internet, it starts with buying more games. If women made up 50%+ of the audience that buys AAA titles, then AAA developers would certainly spend more times making games targeted at them. So long as the majority of the games are bought by young men, you can't fairly criticize developers for targeting them.

The people who made stupid and insulting comments about Ms. Sarkeesian that did not directly relate to the incompetent nature of her work were out of line, but just because some people are ignorant trolls does not automatically validate the position of their opponent. In an online debate, the enemy of your enemy doesn't have to be your friend.

Expligatory said...

Let me preface this by saying that I rarely post comments on the internet because I often find it only leads to utter aggravation, but this comments section seems like a safe place to speak.

I absolutely will not disagree with anyone saying that Sarkeesian's videos are very biased, but I do have a problem with dismissing her overall points as being irrelevant, untrue, or generally unhelpful.

Like she says, nothing happens in a vaccuum---least of all her videos, which are, in generic terms, very unusual. I can't honestly say that I know of many other people doing anything similar to Tropes vs Women of comparable popularity anywhere. I think that's telling of the larger systemic problems whose observation by Sarkeesian became the genesis of this project.

Watching the deconstruction of many of my favourite games into simplistic depictions of misogyny is overtly annoying because I understand them in wholly different ways, yes, but my perceptions of art are not the only "right" ones---even if they tend to be along the lines of what I perceive the majority of other people's beliefs are. And even worse still, to claim that the beliefs of the majority or "most powerful" are the only, or most valid ones is precisely how humankind finds itself abusing itself over and over again (e.g. Japanese American internment, Atlantic Slave Trade, European colonization of Africa, British Imperialism, Crusades, etc.)

I know we're talking about video games here, no shit. But video games are as much a product of our society as domestic abuse and rape are. I don't think our conversations need to be about Sarkeesian at all. It's about the bigger picture of continuous discrimination against half the human population for as long as we've still continued to do it.

Don't be upset with Sarkeesian for shedding light on a troubling topic because you find her to be hackneyed and biased. Be upset by the fact that she's the best representative we've got out here making a case for women in video games. There are so many people that care about solving these issues that just don't speak up for whatever reason, but you don't have to come in with pitchforks and fire to be honest with your opinions about the community.

Don't be outrageous; be courageous.


Jake McKenzie said...

The more I follow Anita Sarkeesian's work the more I can't help but Feminist Frequency has left academia and entered into a new form of entertainment. You can't help but go read her Facebook page & she's showered with people overjoyed with people who probably gave generously to the Kickstarter. I think this is completely fine/healthy response, and it's allowed me to come to terms with what this form of entertainment serves. I would not deny my grandfather who's conservative the right to watch Bill O'Reily at night just because I know he exaggerates. It entertains him, so where's the harm in that? But it's not news, and what Anita does is not academic.

That's all I have to say about this.

Brandon Cimino said...

I've separated the person from the words, and unfortunately here's what I've come to:

The person - disagree with some aspects of her persona, but no PR is bad PR, so I'll write off whatever bad judgements I have as "if it gets views"

The words - unfortunately weak, and the flaws discredit her overall argument

The message - absolutely needs to be said. It's just a shame that, of all the people to become "the voice" of a problem, it was someone who I don't think does a very good job of it.

And I don't know if I agree that starting with Damsel in Distress is the best thing to do. The Damsel in Distress is a chivalrous fantasy for sure, but chivalry, like most philosophies, isn't inherently wrong, it's just wrong when taken to the extreme (where it becomes chauvinism). But, Anita's videos (most of the time) focus on trends, not extreme cases, which is good, because focusing on extreme outliers almost always weakens an argument. The trend of chivalry, however, while stale and uninspired, is not creating chauvinists, and when you focus on "look at how many things do this!" at some point you lose track of "when this is actually a problem."

I guess, in short; she renders a trend, but doesn't analyze it.

Tom said...

I'm a little late to the party here, I know. First, I want to address something said by the third Anonymous poster.

You stated that you watched one of Sarkeesian's videos and have no intention of watching any others, later said that you have "an education in philosophy and critical thought," and finally you malign that the conversation is being ruled by the "trolls and crazies" rather then people who want to make strong, well-informed points. It seems as though you're presenting yourself as someone who is in a good position to comment on her views, and yet you choose to proclaim your intention to not only not comment, but to not watch the videos at all while commenting on a post asking people to comment civilly. You're doing exactly what you're maligning, albeit in a gentler way. Rather than comment on the points raised or even giving examples of what's wrong with her arguments, you're merely saying that she's wrong and you know because of your education. How is that going to advance the discussion in any way?

To the original article: This is something that really needs to be understood in most forms of communication, and well done in laying it out here.

To the whole situation: When a few videos of someone presenting an argument in a reasoned tone with structured examples results in such intense and unquenchable vitriol the question of "why aren't there more/other people dealing with this?" answers itself. People will say that they would like the issue to be approached in a different way or presented more holistically or with better and more comprehensive examples but so often they do this while avoiding actually engaging the issue in an intellectual way. "I don't like how she does this" is not an articulated argument that deals with the question at hand - it is an emotional response and it stinks of that word that's been thrown around so much lately - privilege.

Certainly no one is compelled to answer an argument - you are more then able to just go about your day. However, when you do choose to respond and that response amounts to whining that the argument was not crafted in a manner that meets your standards followed by nothing else, you are not engaging the issue, you're just being petulant.

ATBro said...

This is a reply to Dr. Jebus

My biggest issue with those who so vehemently disagree with and argue against Sarkeesian's videos, and I believe that it was addressed a bit in the original post by Ms. Bennett, is that every one claims that there are serious problems with the points that she is making without ever stating specifics. I have read countless comments on multiple treads on a series of sites, and have yet to find one person say anyhting to the effect of, "she said this and it is incorrect because of x, y and z." I have engaged in a few different conversations in which every single argument against her has been completely superficial and easily debunked with little effort or research, and when called upon it they immediately shut down.

Everything you said in your post reeks of just another kid who doesn't want to hear something negative about there hobby, so they are shutting out the source if information. The most troubling bit about it is that you say you have an education in philosophy yet you do not want to absorb the information that you argue against, you just know it's wrong and that seems to be enough for you. If you are a critical thinker, what are you basing your criticism on?

You can't just claim to be above the argument because of reasons, and walk away from the discussion secure in the thought that you "won." You can walk away but your point is every bit as superficial as the rest of the internet kids crying out for her to be raped and beaten because she is a "bitch."

So I am going to challenge you now. Use the education you have in philosophy and critical thought, and tell us where the problems are with what she is saying. As a critical thinker, you should want to.

Connor Alexander said...

Thanks for this Colette. I'll throw a second hand thanks to Anita as well for taking the time to craft and put together something that is obviously important to her and a lot of other people.

I really enjoyed her second piece (I'm about to watch the first and I'm looking forward to the third). It's not perfect, but as you said, it opens up the dialogue.

My disappointment comes in her disabling the comments. In general, loud mouthed, rude, obnoxious commenters rule the day on the internet. In this case though, it's to her advantage. In many ways, it's displaying the after effects of much of the misogyny she talks about. Internet comment sections are NEVER going to cure a problem or even be a good forum for discussing a weighty topic, but they can serve as a great example of some of the problems.

I feel like it's much better to lift the rug and see the cockroaches, as it were. For example, the comments on an article on racism is a great place to see people exposing their own ignorance or lack of thought. I think it's the same here.

I do understand you moderating here though. To me, it's like in real life when someone is shouting in a group argument just to be heard at top volume and all they are doing is raising everyone else's volume. It's filtering out the noise. Kudos to you for taking this on.

luminozero said...

I, unlike many people on the internet, do not have the educational background to sufficiently debate about this point. I'm a 28 year old Navy Veteran in school to be a Chemical Engineer, not a whole lot about understanding Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology. That said, I still think I have something worthwhile to add to this conversation.

I think the big issue people are having with this is that they misinterpret what she is aiming for. As she stated in her video, the fact that many of the games that promote this behavior justify it in terms of their narrative (Having to fight Princess Zelda because she is possessed) does not excuse it from the act of using such a plot device. She also does not villain the game developers, saying that the only reason this is so prevalent is that people don't think about it. That is all the video is intended to do, make you think about it.

And when one sees how much attention, debate and consideration the topic is getting now, one must stop to consider. Even if you disagree with her views, it's the TVTrope effect. Once you KNOW something is common in fiction, you will notice how often it appears. It is my belief that was her intended effect. Not to change the minds of others, because the only thing that changes someones mind is their own choice, but to make people recognize these things when they see them, and for those of us who create (through game design, writing, art, or whatever else) to see it when WE do it.

Ever had someone you knew in real life lash out at you for doing something constantly, while never saying anything about it before? My token response to that explains this situation quite well.

"I don't choose to do things that I think are wrong. If I am doing it, I don't perceive it as wrong. If you do, then you have to tell me if you want me to change it."

Most people in this world actually believe in what they are doing, and are unlikely to change their behavior unless they are given some reason to. Newton's First Law, I suppose. :P

This video is effective not because of what she is saying, but because she is saying it. At least that is my take on it.

Tim said...

@Tom, She does use a "reasoned tone" and her examples are "structured," but that doesn't mean that her argument is actually a rational one that deserves attention. You can make a very reasoned sounding an structured argument in favor of 9/11 denial, or aliens building the pyramid, that doesn't mean that you deserve to be taken seriously.

I don't think it's fair to fault Ms. Sarkeesian on the delivery of her message, she is a very capable media manager, what is most often faulted is the actual message she's delivering, which is terribly flawed. I have seen some counterpoints to her videos floating around, many of which are far superior to hers in terms of actual substance, but none that are quite as cleverly presented. If we're only to grade this effort on terms of delivery then I have to give her very high marks, but if we're trying to consider the content of the message she's delivering, then it's a complete mess.

@ ATBro, I've tried more specific breakdowns of each point she's made in the past, but they are often enough ignored. The problem is that it's hard for a reasoned counter-point to get anywhere near the attention of her original videos, mainly due to the media hype that surrounds them.

@Connor, the problem with the "lifting the carpet" theory is that it isn't actually representing a true face. Internet trolls will troll. Those that troll in a misogynistic way aren't necessarily misogynists in standard practice, they just understand that misogynistic terms are the most effective way to get attention in those particular circumstances. They might also be racist on a racism topic, and then tern around and be perfectly nice to their multiracial friends and their girlfriends. Trolls are horrible for being trolls, sure, but they don't really provide much of an example of humanity in a general sense, one way or the other.

@ Lumizero, you said " As she stated in her video, the fact that many of the games that promote this behavior justify it in terms of their narrative (Having to fight Princess Zelda because she is possessed) does not excuse it from the act of using such a plot device." This is true, but at the same time, it's not something that NEEDS to be "justified." It is not a problem in the first place.

Is Zelda possessed, forcing you to defeat her? Yes. But why not? Could that role have been filled by a male character? Sure, and that exact scenario HAS been played out with a possessed male character in plenty of games (Soul Calibur, for example). That's the main problem with her second video, that she highlights numerous examples of violence against women, but could have as easily provided twice as many examples of the same scenarios being played out with male characters. Males are far more often the targets of violence in games than women are, and a truly "just" and equal society is not one in which men are the only targets of violence, but one in which men and women are interchangeable in that role. That a female character is a target of violence in a game that involves plenty of violence against men is not something that needs to be "justified" from a gender relations standpoint.

Anonymous said...

I think she does a fantastic job. She's thorough about explaining all points, defines terms, and goes into great depth of history and detail with numerous examples. She's familiar with more games than myself, which is certainly something.

just some guy who enjoys killing bad guys in video games, and is desperate for some diversity in my games. Also: don't worry fellas, it's not like this will result in a dearth of classic, manly, kill 'em up games for our future enjoyment!

Roger said...

Since I am someone who vehemently disagrees with and argue against Sarkeesian's videos, let me start out with asking you how these videos:

are not specific?

I don't even understand how anyone with a heart and a working brain can not be angry with her "statements". It's so over-the-top, bottom-of-the-barrel, below-the-belt malicious backstabbing slander that I wonder from what planet you are from.

I have to take one of her opinions to be correct though. I overheard her once saying that you ATBro have been increasingly been violent towards little children. Apparently you've been telling of kid he stinks all day. Children do not stink all day and it's harmful towards children to tell them that. Adults traumatising children is the number one cause for mental diseases like depression, anxiety, low confidence and poor results at education. Children are our future and should not be harmed in any way. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of the things I've heard you've been doing with kids lately.

Anonymous said...

I'm never stop empathizing and I'll continue to learn, but Anita is not the bridge we need; she is a wall. I'm sympathetic to her cause, but she's the Richard Dawkins of feminism; even if I may agree, the patronizing delivery and anger-filled condescension repels me. Most frustrating part is I can't blame Anita; if I were a woman, I'd be furious too. As a minority myself, I understand the seething rage all too well. But I'm still waiting for the bridge to feminism that our culture so desperately needs and I'll never stop looking. Sadly, Anita isn't our bridge. She's not our champion. She's a throwback to the angry feminism of the 1970s. But Anita's arrival upon the stage of popular culture does tell us something; it tells us that we are regressing and all our fears about losing female progress are true. There wouldn't be a need for Anita to speak if there weren't something terribly wrong with our society. That's the real tragedy.

Anonymous said...

Let me provide you a hypothetical example in real world context. Bear with me, ok?
Let's say for instance you are renting an apartment, and you notice your refrigerator is broken. You come to me, your landlord, and tell me that is needs to be fixed. I look at you and say that it is not broken. This goes on for a week until you physically drag me into your apartment and show me that it is not working. In which I respond to you in one of three ways:
1. This refrigerator was not made for you.
2. There was nothing wrong with this refrigerator until you pointed it out.
3. I can name at least 40 other people who have working refrigerators in this apartment.

Here are the facts--according to a 2011 by ESA 43% of gamers are women. That is a high percentage. High enough that there is an untapped market. Anita, Bennet, or myself do not have to prove to you that misogyny and sexism exist. Because she has work to do, and no time to backtrack.
The death of men and games, and women in games are usually comprised as two different components. Albeit, it is improving, it is still noticeable. When men die in games it is usually viewed as noble or necessary. Not so much with women. If you can name a view games where men die deaths such as Angel from Borderlands 2, Aerith from Final Fantasy 7, or anyone's girlfriend ever. Then we might have an argument. It is not the fact that they are dying. It is how they are being portrayed when they do so.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous above

"Anita, Bennet, or myself do not have to prove to you that misogyny and sexism exist. Because she has work to do, and no time to backtrack."

They exist, but it falls on Anita's hand to prove if videogames actually do promote them. Are gamers more prone to be misogynists or sexist? Are the number of domestic violence/rape cases in this first generation of adults who grew with games greater or fewer than the last one? To date there is still no evidence on the "games promote violence" issue, and it holds much more water than Anita's case.

And yes, it IS her job to do it, it IS her "work to do" and she was already quite well-paid for it.

About your exemples, I don't really get what you are implying with Angel. Angel makes an huge effort to sacrifice herself to stop her father from ruling the world. Roland dies a surprise death 30 seconds later by being shot on the back.

Tim said...

@Anon above,
In regards to your refrigerator example, it would come down to what "broken" means. To me, a "broken" refrigerator is one that does not cool things to an adequate temperature, I think most would agree with that. In that sense, videogames are in no way "broken," they do what they do just fine and please the majority of their audience, male and female both.

The problem here is that the "broken" that's being reported to the landlord is one of preference, it's not that the fridge is not adequately cooling things, but it's that it's a side-by-side model instead of a freezer-over model, or that it lacks an ice marker.

It's the landlord's job perhaps to make sure that the fridge he provides works, and most games work just fine, but it's not necessarily his job to provide the exact fridge that you might want, unless it's in his interests to do so.

In regards to your ESRA stats, it is true that a lot of women play games. Have they released how many of them play AAA releases, because there are an awful lot of iOS and social game players in that mix. Even so, it's not that these customers aren't relevant, or even that they aren't relevant to core games, but just that if you're producing a game, you want to aim for the larger audience, the 57% rather than the 43%, and if you get some of that 43%, more the better. It's worth targeting some products at a niche, directly at women (like Hakuoki), or directly at men (such as Duke Nukem), but if you're targeting a broader mainstream audience, you want to aim for the men, and try not to piss off the women too much if you can. I don't defend the games that are overt in their sexism, but I think it's ridiculous to lump Mario and Zelda into that argument.

As for the "girlfriends die" argument, it's not that they die because they are girls, it's that they die because they are important to the hero. The hero, since the target audience is straight male, is more likely to be male, and therefore their significant other is more likely to be female. It's not about misogyny, it's just an inevitable outcome of that simple equation. In games that do have female protagonists, male characters do die similarly, such as when you play a female hero in Fable III and your male childhood friend is dragged off to be killed, or how Tidus is the "damsel" of FFX-2.

The instigating factor in the problem you highlight is not that developers are hungry for female blood, it's that they more often cast males in the lead role, but since their goal is to identify with the majority of their audience (who even if it were 51/49 would still be men), then a male lead is going to be more likely unless they have a compelling reason to do otherwise (and no, gender equality is not a compelling reason from neither a story nor economic standpoint).

Long story short, if you want more games with less female characters used as damsels, play more games featuring female leads, because their damsels are more likely to be male. Remember Me came out a couple months back and hit the market like a lead brick. Tomb Raider didn't do a whole lot better. If the market, male and female both, were to show developers that games with female leads outsell comparable titles featuring male leads, then you can bet that we'd see a flood of female-led games in the next development cycle. When female led games seem to flop badly far more often than they succeed, how could you possible blame a profit oriented business from being hesitant to make more at potentially astronomical expense?

They aren't out to promote an agenda, they are out to make a product that people enjoy and that will pay itself back. wagging fingers at them won't change anything, buying games will. Vote with your wallet, not your Youtube account.