….not. As you know, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency released another video in her Tropes vs. Women in Video games series this week. While it has been met with surprising support from various celebrities, the backlash to the current video has prompted Anita Sarkeesian to speak out about the threats she is facing because of it.
On August 27th, Sarkeesian posted the following:
Some very scary threats have just been made against me and my family. Contacting authorities now.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) August 27, 2014
An hour or so later she posted the she was safe, the authorities had been notified, and she would be spending the night with friends just to ensure her continued safety. So people on the internet (I’m mostly going to assume men here) feel so threatened by Sarkeesian’s video series that they force her into physical hiding?
My mind just wants to explode. Attempting to harass someone into silence is not the technique of a group that genuinely wants to have dialogue and prove their points by civilized means. Using scare tactics, doxxing, and physical threats to silence someone is for one illegal, and two terrorist/guerilla tactics.
Sarkeesian further went to share some of the harassment she receives on a normal day.
This is basically my worst nightmare, and why we’re not seeing many other lady games critics stepping up to be the next Anita Sarkeesian. Sadly, this might also be par for the course for many female journalists, in gaming and other categories.
The Huffington Post reports that a new study by think tank Demo found that famous or well-known men receive more negative messages on twitter than their female counterparts, in every category except one. Guess which one? Journalism.
More than 5 percent of all Twitter messages sent to female journalists are unfavorable, according to the study. In every other category of distinguished females, however, the number is much lower, at 1 in every 70 tweets.
It’s not just on twitter. Jezebel recently reported that they had been subject to large levels of harassment by individuals creating burner accounts to leave comments of a violent pornographic nature on various articles. While Jezebel’s parent company, Gawker, has made moves to address the situation, the fact that women and women-centered websites are subject to this sort of attack is horrifying in and of itself.
Adding the word games to lady journalist seems to compound this problem. Women in the gaming community have been subject to gross amounts of sexism over the years, from everyday lady gamers, to professional players, and even the devs themselves. Briannu Wu, the head of a gaming development studio recently shared some of her, and her other women’s harassment experiences in the gaming industry.
My name is Brianna Wu. I lead a development studio that makes games. Sometimes, I write about issues in the games industry that relate to the equality of women. My reward is that I regularly have men threatening to rape and commit acts of violence against me.
According to the article, Wu has not been out to her car alone since January, due to the fear inspired by random harassers. For female games journalists, the experience is similar, as people around the internet attempt to cow them from speaking their minds and sharing new perspectives. One only has to look briefly at the comments on articles by female games journalists to get the picture.
Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to find a female games journalist in the first place if you aren’t already entrenched in the community. I can only name three female journalists that work for major gaming publications off the top of my head (Patricia Hernandez for Kotaku, Danielle Riendeau for Polygon, and Cara Ellison for Rock, Paper, Shotgun), which makes them easier to single out for hatred of a large magnitude.
You don’t have to search for long to find images like this from users on Tumblr, Reddit, or 4chan:
I personally get a little freaked out when I receive the odd comment or two telling me to “eat shit”. I can’t imagine being afraid to Google my own name, for fear of seeing images and threats of this nature. Let’s be clear: this is not okay. Nor is it productive.
Sure, perhaps there are women who will think twice about getting involved in the gaming community. Sometimes I sit at home and think to myself, “Man, I need to get new hobbies where people won’t harass me”. But that shouldn’t be my problem, that shouldn’t be a female game dev’s or female games journalist’s problem. The problem, sadly, is with a small minority of the community itself, who is not content to let anyone attempt to change their rigid definition of what gaming is.
Guys: we’re not coming for your games. We just want to make the community a better place for everyone – you included. Driving Anita Sarkeesian into hiding, hacking Zoe Quinn’s Skype account, and all the other various and sadly mundane forms of harassment that are perpetrated against women in gaming only proves how much harder we need to work. We might be afraid (I am), but your attacks only help others realize how much things need to change.