By Aaron Ynclan, Staff Writer
“This harassment of women in tech must stop!”
This was tweeted by feminist Anita Sarkeesian mere hours after being driven from her home by death threats back in August.
This was merely the latest in a very long line of attacks that the famed critic has encountered over the past couple of years for her critical examination of women in video games.
For those who frequent the Internet on a daily basis, online abuse is nothing new.
Vulgar insults, beratement of contrasting opinions, and threatening messages have all become commonplace within the online community. And while many websites such as YouTube or Twitter employ regulations and policies in order to mitigate online attacks, they’re unable to
discourage the truly determined from their mission.
“The perpetrators do not see themselves as perpetrators at all. They see themselves as noble warriors.”
This was said by Sarkeesian at the XOXO Festival in Portland this past September, where she gave a speech on her documentary series “Tropes vs. Women in Games”, and the “vitriol” she experiences from detractors.
Released in 2013, “Tropes vs. Women in Games” is an ongoing webseries that analyzes the roles and patterns of female characters within video games. After speaking with
Bungie (Halo, Destiny) about developing female characters in video games back in early 2012, Sarkeesian was inspired to create the docu-series and took to Kickstarter to fund the project. Almost immediately, Sarkeesian faced an onslaught of attacks from opponents.
“I have been running a web series on YouTube for a few years now that both deals with questions of sexism in the media and also has ‘feminist’ in the title, so I’m certainly no stranger to some level of harassment,” Sarkeesian told Wired magazine back in June 2012. “I knew that
delving into video games might provoke a bit of a misogynist backlash … [but] this level of organized and sustained harassment, vitriol, threats of violence and sexual assault in response to a project that hasn’t even been made yet is very telling.”
During this period Sarkeesian’s website was subjected to denial-of-service attacks, her Wikipedia page was vandalized with images of sexual acts, and her email accounts as well as social media pages were repeatedly hacked and issued threats of rape.
Despite the severity of her attacks, the continued harassment, and eventual media coverage soon worked to her benefit. Within 24 hours she reached her Kickstarter goal of $6000, and by the end her project accumulated over $150,000 in donations from almost 7000 backers.
As a result of the overwhelming support, Sarkeesian expanded her original concept of Women in Games from five episodes to twelve.
Since then, Sarkeesian’s series has continued to draw as much critical acclaim as voracious persecution. On Aug. 26 she tweeted that she and her family had been forced from their home because of threats issued towards her.
“Some very scary threats have just been made against me and my family. Contacting authorities now,” she wrote. She later took to Twitter to announce that she and family were safe, and the following day shared a thread generated by one abuser along with a trigger warning, saying, “I usually don’t share the really scary stuff. But it’s important for folks to know how bad it gets.”
The thread was incredibly vulgar, with the writer threatening Sarkeesian with rape and the murder of her family.
Online abuse may be more common and destructive in this generation, but that doesn’t make it different from any other form. Oftentimes it’s trivialized, with many rushing to its
defense on the grounds that abuse is committed in jest, or should never be taken seriously.
Others claim that it’s just a way for people to blow off steam, or even that it’s so ingrained in our culture and society that it should be accepted as a norm for expressing
Citizens have a right to voice dissonance with another’s outlook. But when that voice changes to assault, violent or otherwise, it’s no longer a fight for an argument; it becomes a fight for another person’s right to be.
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