Nominee Threshold Award Social Practices & BA Research Award
Meet Hannah Sterke! Hannah was nominated for the 2021 Threshold Award Social Practices and the 2021 BA Research Award with her graduation project ‘Go Back to the Kitchen’. In this interview, Hannah tells us about her work and future plans.
Can you tell us a bit about your graduation project and how it came about?
My graduation project is called ‘Go Back to the Kitchen’ and is inspired by one of the comments I heard the most when playing online video games. Online gaming can be a very sexist environment in which women are mistreated purely based on their gender. This is something that has happened to me as well. One of the most memorable moments was when I spoke in voice chat (an online communication tool in gaming) while playing a game, and someone started shouting things like, "Oh, we have a girl on our team, we are going to lose.” or “Why are you here? Girls do not belong here.” and “Gaming is for boys". Other times I have even been sexually harassed and called names. And no one stood up for me. This ended up taking the fun of gaming away from me.
Now, years later, I decided to research where that sexism comes from. And if more female gamers experience this. So I started interviewing professional gamers and old gamer friends. I documented these interviews and created a short documentary. This is part one of my graduation project. With the documentary I wanted to, on one hand, offer the stage to female gamers to talk about their experiences, and, on the other hand, inform the ‘outside world’ about sexism in gaming.
Part two of my graduation project is a series of game weapons inspired by the insult “go back to the kitchen and make me a sandwich". I noticed that a bullet sort of looks like a Subway sandwich and thought “maybe I can turn these insults into weapons.” Now, if someone would insult me in such a way, I could literally shoot them with a sandwich! So the project is all about female empowerment. I turned the insults into weapons for female gamers to use to reclaim their power.
Which themes or societal concerns are you addressing in your work, and how?
The central theme is sexism, because in online gaming women are being treated as inferior to men through comments like, "you belong in the kitchen". It exposes how gender roles—even though we see them as old-fashioned—are still used as hurtful stereotypes. There is a big difference between being insulted because you suck at video games and being insulted because you suck at video games because you are a girl. It suddenly becomes much more personal and hurtful. I noticed that a lot of women simply stop speaking out in voice chat or just quit gaming altogether. I think a game should be for everyone, and everyone should feel safe. I want to address this problem and empower female gamers by giving them the tools to fight back.
What will you be working on in the near future? What are your next steps?
I definitely want to continue expanding the project. Besides the weapons, I also created designs that can be used within the game itself in the form of stickers and graffiti. In the future, I would like to integrate the series of designs into an existing game called 'Counter-strike'. A lot of harassment and sexism takes place in this game. It has a feature called the ‘steam workshop’ that allows gamers to contribute items. If your item has received enough votes, it will be featured in the game. So I would love to start a campaign and promote my weapons in order to get as many votes as possible!
In terms of my future career, shortly after graduation I got a job offer from an advertising company, which I accepted. It is the industry that I aspire to work in and the place, in my opinion, to create impact. Media is the way to reach the masses and get your message across. If I can have an influence on what the public sees, I can actually make a difference.
To read more about Hannah’s work, pay a visit to her Graduation Catalogue Page. Furthermore, her journey can be followed on Instagram and her Website. The winner of the Threshold Award Social Practices will be announced during a festive ceremony as part of the Graduation Show. Keep an eye on our Graduation Show page for more information.