A quick glance at popular Twitter hashtags will show you that #GamerGate has been been a trending topic for weeks. It is no longer an underground issue—it has entered mainstream media. What is GamerGate? In short, disgruntled, women-hating video gamers started a movement to combat feminist dialogue surrounding the world of video games. These men feel that women are taking away what is theirs even though 40% of gamers are, in fact, women. Spearheading the feminist critique of the sexism in video game culture is Anita Sarkeesian, a wildly popular pop culture critic who is best known for her YouTube series “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” Sarkeesian is no stranger to online threats. Feminism-friendly journalists have been reporting on her unrelenting online harassment for years at this point. Despite being one of the most despised people in the gamer world (for merely pointing out the obvious), she has never backed down and continues her rigorous work in combatting sexism in video games and beyond. That is, until recently, when she had no choice but to stop talking.
After receiving extremely graphic rape and death threats via email, Sarkeesian was forced to cancel her highly anticipated talk at USU.
Anita Sarkeesian was forced to cancel her talk because neither law enforcement officials nor the university did anything to address this tangible, real-world threat. Because of Utah’s open carry laws, the police would not provide safety precautions at the university; no pat downs would be taking place, and anyone with a licensed firearm would be granted access inside. The threat was deemed by law enforcement to be “consistent with ones Sarkeesian has received at other places around the nation” and “not out of the norm” for her. So since it was “normal” for her to be threatened, we shouldn’t worry?
The man who sent her threats clearly indicated that her gender was the issue, the reason for his proposed take down. He wrote, “She is going to die like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU … I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”
The outrage that so many women are feeling right now is the same hopelessness we feel when the police turn their eyes to rape and other forms of gender-based violence. Again, we are being ignored. Not only threats against women but also actual, violent action against women are so deeply threaded into our culture that the response by too many of those in authority continues to be to shrug it off.
But the desire for equality is not some pipe dream women all have, and feminism is not some game we are playing to feel powerful, or to convince men that they are bad and that women are “victims.” In basic terms, this is was a gender-based terrorist threat, and misogyny kills. Must we mention Elliot Rodgers once again?
All of our lives women are taught to diminish ourselves—to be coy, to be quiet and to “brush off” the often real threats to our everyday safety walking around the world. And that doesn’t end when we log on to the internet. There is no question that online threats towards women far outnumber those of men. The underlying issue from a cultural perspective is clear: Misogyny, plain and simple, is as present in our virtual spaces as it is in our physical world, and these virtual spaces have become an integrated part of our existence. It’s time we make loud and clear that gender-based terrorist threats and hate crimes—even when they’re “only” online—will not be tolerated.