Anita Sarkeesian, whose excellent Tropes vs Women in Video Games series is an important contribution to the discussion of gender and games, has been driven from her home by enraged male gamers whose stalking, and explicit, credible threats of sexual violence against her and her family convinced her to go into hiding.
In so doing, these men have ably demonstrated the point Sarkeesian sought to make all along: that gaming is riddled with misogynistic violence, and that this violence reflects a real-world misogyny rampant within the gaming world.
From Sarkeesian’s twitter feed, she seems to be basically ok (she’s still tweeting). You can see a selection of the violent threats against her on the Feminist Frequency tumblr here, and below are some of the tweets about her experience:
This is the latest Tropes vs Women in Video Games video:
“Women are the [n******] of gender,” the email said. “If you killed yourself, I wouldn’t even fuck the corpse.”
I blinked at my phone, fighting simultaneous urges to hurl my phone across the room in anger and cry. Later that day, someone texted me my address — telling me they’d “See me when I least expected it.”
I haven’t been out to my car at night by myself since January 2nd.
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.
If you are a woman working in the games industry, especially in a public way, you’re going to experience harassment. I imagine telling my 12-year-old self that fulfilling my dream of making games would lead to constant threats. Would she still do it? Would any woman?
The problem with sharing these stories in broad terms is that people think men and women receive the same harassment online. They do not. I’m not writing this piece to evoke your sympathy. I’m writing to share with you what prominent, successful women in the industry experience, in their own words.
I’ve personally never heard of a man in the games industry getting rape threats for having an opinion.
A male friend of mine that develops AAA games told me, “When a woman criticizes me, it goes to a different part of my brain than when a man on my team does. I get defensive really quickly. I’m trying to get better about it.” I don’t think his is a unique experience.
We live in a society that’s sexist in ways it doesn’t understand. One of the consequences is that men are extremely sensitive to being criticized by women. I think it threatens them in a very primal way, and male privilege makes them feel free to lash out.
This is why women are socialized to carefully dance around these issues, disagreeing with men in an extremely gentle manner. Not because women are nicer creatures than men. But because our very survival can depend on it.
Women in the industry are told by men what is valid for us to feel. The conversations tend not to recognize the reality of the situation, and the very real threats that can occur at gaming events or in our day-to-day lives. We’re told it doesn’t matter, to grow a thicker skin, and that men go through the same thing.
I have yet to talk to a man who has had to call a police officer due to a stalker, only to be told nothing can be done until they are physically assaulted. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be at a gaming event, cornered by someone who claims to be a fan, and to be physically kept from leaving by someone holding you in place or putting their body between you and the exit.
The comments on stories about lived experiences of women tend to ignore these stories, or claim the issue is as simple as nasty messages on videos or news stories. The words and experiences of women are shouted down, or ignored.
I didn’t understand this until I read Leigh Alexander’s excellent piece, “But what can be done: Dos and Don’ts To Combat Online Sexism.” One quote was so great, I made an inspirational poster out of it.