QotD: “Anita Sarkeesian cancels talk at Utah State University over threats of ‘the deadliest school shooting’ in US history”

The feminist pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian has been forced to cancel a talk at Utah State University, after a threat of a “Montreal Massacre-style attack”.

Sarkeesian, who is best known for her YouTube series “Tropes v Women in Video Games”, assessing various anti-feminist trends in gaming, was scheduled to talk at the university on Wednesday, when the unsigned email was sent.

The author of the email threatened that if the talk was not cancelled, they would carry out an attack in the style of the 1989 Montreal massacre, when Marc Lépine murdered 14 women, claiming he was “fighting feminism”.

“I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs,” the letter said. “This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I’m giving you a chance to stop it.”

“You have 24 hours to cancel Sarkeesian’s talk … Anita Sarkeesian is everything wrong with the feminist woman, and she is going to die screaming 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.”

Initially, Sarkeesian stated her intention to hold the talk despite the threat, but was forced to back down after discovering that it was impossible to prevent guns being taken to the event.

“Forced to cancel my talk at USU after receiving death threats because police wouldn’t take steps to prevent concealed firearms at the event,” she tweeted. “Requested pat downs or metal detectors after mass shooting threat but because of Utah’s open carry laws police wouldn’t do firearm searches.”

Full article here

Previous writing on Sarkeesian here

It is amazing sometimes how much men hate women, and how terrified men are of even the small gains women have made. Men see anything other than women’s complete subjugation as men loosing out, as men being oppressed; they don’t even want meager ‘equality’, they want total domination.

7 responses

  1. While absolutely no one deserves the kind of harassment that Anita Sarkeesian gets, its remarkable to remember that Anita has done nothing whatsoever that should scare even the most misogynistic gamer. She has not called for regulation, hasn’t proposed any industry standards or policies, hasn’t asked for anyone to be fired or any company to be singled out. She hasn’t ever even suggested that anyone who makes or anyone who plays these games is misogynist or should “feel bad” about what they are doing. She has literally just given some talks and made some videos saying “here is some stuff I see happening in games.”

    And yet she is harassed with such violence and persistence, you would think she somehow hides inside of every game console in the world, nerfing male characters and screaming feminist rants and electrocuting the testicles of any boy who looks at boobies.

    A great way to tell that oppressive structures are real is when the privileged group goes bat-ass crazed any time their targets take even one small step outside of their assigned box.


  2. If you don’t know what gamergate is, I’d suggest you Google it, because I’ve tried and failed to explain its roots in person to people I consider patient grownups, each of whom pulled a face like I was describing the plot of a terrible high-school teen drama. It began with a blogpost written by the disgruntled ex-boyfriend of a female games developer, and somehow ballooned into a bitter online culture war bristling with gruesome personal threats. Both sides of the argument have flaws and strengths, nothing that couldn’t normally be hammered out in a few hours of civil debate. But there’s something in the water: gamergate has dragged on for weeks, growing increasingly toxic. And now, in 2014, women have been forced into hiding – for voicing an opinion about videogames. That’s a sentence that should only ever appear in the opening chapter of an implausible dystopian sci-fi novel, moments before you toss it in the bin.

    There seems to be a small yet vocal core of maniacs bafflingly resistant to the notion that women should have any say in the games industry at all. Even recent statistics indicating that female players now outnumber men can’t sway them, thanks to a lazy assumption that most of those women are playing Candy Crush or other, equally non-taxing “casual games” apparently un worthy of being called “games” at all. I don’t think that’s true, and even if it were, I wouldn’t blame women for voluntarily choosing to play something soothing and non-threatening in their free time, since they spend so much of the rest of their time being forced to play a terrifying survival horror MMORPG colloquially known as “The Internet”. Women are the hardest hardcore gamers there are, by miles.

    Charlie Brooker

  3. Gamer and actor Felicia Day has had her personal details posted online just minutes after making her first public statement about Gamergate – in which she expressed fear about saying anything at all, in case she was targeted as a result.

    The publicising of her details was fiercely criticised by a former American football star Chris Kluwe who also criticised the group in the strongest possible terms this week, who pointed out the gender imbalance among those targeted.

    The publication of Day’s details is being seen as further strengthening the criticism that Gamergate’s partcipants are pursuing an anti-woman agenda, which has seen female game developers and journalists harassed and threatened, while male critics have been almost untouched.


  4. Sarkeesian also points out that explicit abuse is just one way women are harassed online: some are targeted with conspiracy theories, or social media accounts that impersonate the victim. One person fabricated a tweet from Sarkeesian claiming she had spent her Kickstarter funds on designer shoes (with a picture of Gucci flats alongside a caption reading, “Buying 1,000-dollar shoes”).

    Women are much more likely to be harassed in online spaces than men, and the harassment is much more likely to be sexually violent. A 2006 study by the University of Maryland found that when the gender of a username appears to be female, the user is 25 times more likely to experience harassment. That same study found that those female-sounding usernames averaged 163 threatening or sexually explicit messages a day.


    She is frustrated by the way GamerGate has been covered in the media. “All the stories kept decentring the fact that it was domestic violence,” she says. Indeed, the movement was born when a 25-year-old software developer named Eron Gjoni posted a 10,000-word blog about his ex-girlfriend, video game designer Zoe Quinn. In the blog, he recounted the minutiae of their relationship and outlined her supposed wrongdoings and infidelities. Quinn has said, “It is domestic abuse that went viral, and it was designed to go viral.” (Gjoni linked to the blogpost in forums such as 4chan, well known for vicious online harassment.)

    And it did go viral. Quinn was inundated with rape and death threats, her accounts were hacked, her address, phone number and even some nude photographs were made public. She subsequently went into hiding. What horrible truth did Gjoni’s post reveal to make Quinn one of the most hated women in gaming? It depends who you ask.

    To GamerGaters, Gjoni’s post laid bare how female game designers get preferential treatment from the media – leading to the movement’s much-mocked mantra, “It’s about ethics in journalism.” (Quinn allegedly had a relationship with a journalist who wrote about one of her games; in fact, the journalist wrote about its existence, never offering a review.) But to others, it was a natural extension of sexist harassment and the fear of female encroachment on a traditionally male space.

    Besides, as Sarkeesian points out, if this “movement” was about journalism, why wasn’t it journalists who had to deal with a barrage of rape and death threats?

    The truth, Sarkeesian says, is that GamerGate existed for years before it had a name: the same core players, the same harassment, the same abuse. The hashtag just put a name on this “loosely organised mob” that attacked women in gaming.


    Sarkeesian is also fond of calling GamerGate a “sexist temper tantrum”, because “it does have that feeling of the kid screaming and you don’t know why”. When I point out that temper tantrums are generally thought of as harmless rages, and that the abuse she and other women have faced is much more serious, she agrees.

    “That’s the reason I don’t like the words ‘troll’ and ‘bully’ – it feels too childish. This is harassment and abuse,” she says. But still, she says, GamerGate is a temper tantrum: “It’s just a scary, violent, abusive, temper tantrum. It’s an attack and an assault on women in the gaming industry. Its purpose is to silence women, and if they can’t, they attempt to discredit them.

    “These dudes fling shit. They’re throwing things out there and trying to get something to stick. This worked,” she says of the Quinn incident. “It stuck because it sounds good – there are actual issues with the way the games press works. So that idea resonated with a lot of people. And it swelled their ranks.”

    I mention that I’ve noticed an uptick of younger online abusers. Ten years ago, the harassment I received (not uncommon for feminist writers) was mostly from middle-aged men. Today, I get comments calling me a “cunt” on Instagram from boys too young to grow facial hair.

    While Sarkeesian is careful to point out that the stereotype of teenagers in their parents’ basement is a dangerous one (much of the most dangerous harassment is perpetrated by grown men) she shares my concern that a younger generation is growing up with harassment of women not just as the norm, but as a way to impress your peers.

    “There’s a boys’-locker-room feel to the internet, where men feel they can show off for one another,” she says. “A lot of the harassment is tied to this toxic masculine culture of ‘Look how cool I can be.’” Someone will send a woman a death threat and screencap it, posting it on a forum, which in turn inspires another man to do something even worse in a horrifying game of misogynist oneupmanship.

    Sarkeesian’s strategy for dealing with her most persistent harassers is largely to block and ignore them. “There are men who make videos about me regularly. Some are just screaming; some hold guns while they talk about hating me. I don’t engage with them, as I don’t want to amplify their voices.”

    Many of these men will insist it’s all for fun, or just a joke, but whether the intent is to harm, or simply to do some chest-puffing for friends, “it still perpetuates all of the harmful myths attached to that language and those words,” Sarkeesian says. Besides, it’s not as if this harassment ends online. She can’t just shut her laptop and get on with her life; the threats have made an indelible impact on who she is and how she lives.

    The day before a planned speech at Utah State University last year, the university’s administration received an email threatening a mass shooting: “This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history, and I’m giving you a chance to stop it,” it read. The sender used the name of a man who killed more than a dozen women in Montreal in 1989 after calling them “a bunch of feminists”. Sarkeesian cancelled the speech after event organisers refused to install metal detectors.

    “I’ve been threatened before, and done events, but they were not going to stop people from bringing guns into the audience,” she says. (Utah has “open carry” laws, meaning it is legal openly to carry a gun in public.) “This isn’t just about me, but the students’ safety as well.”

    Also in 2014, when Sarkeesian was due to be honoured with a gaming award in San Francisco, an anonymous email was sent promising to detonate a bomb unless the award was revoked. This time, Sarkeesian says the event organisers worked with her to ensure everyone’s safety. The police bomb unit found nothing and the awards ceremony went ahead as planned.

    “Yeah, it’s really weird that I try to sit at the back of restaurants, or have my back to windows so no one recognises me,” Sarkeesian says. “Or if someone stops me on the street to ask for directions, I feel as if I’m going to have a panic attack. I’ve had to learn not to trust people, not to be friendly with strangers, because you never know if it’s going to be a threat.”

    After a recent talk she gave at New York University, a young man came up to talk to her, with his hands in the pockets of his hoodie. “The whole time I’m thinking, ‘Does he have a knife in there?’ and he’s oblivious because he doesn’t have to think about it.” It turned out the young man was just extremely nervous, but after all that’s happened, you can’t blame Sarkeesian for being fearful.

    “It sucks,” she says. “It really sucks, and I don’t want to think too much about it, because I can’t do anything about it. It’s my new normal.”

    Part of the problem, as Sarkeesian sees it, is a historical one. “I’ve talked to mentors and older feminists and they say, ‘We were dealing with that, but they were throwing rocks at us.’”

    When the internet began, Sarkeesian says, the idea was that it was going to be the “ultimate democracy”. When I wrote about online harassment for the Guardian in 2007, postgraduate student Alice Marwick – now a professor at Fordham University in New York – told me, “The promise of the early internet was that it would liberate us from our bodies, and all the oppressions associated with prejudice. We’d communicate soul to soul, and get to know each other as people, rather than judging each other based on gender or race.” But because the default, assumed identity was white and male, anyone who brought up their race or gender – or dared to complain about bias – was seen as disturbing that dream.

    “We didn’t build up this technology [while] understanding the power dynamics and the very real systems of oppression that were just going to follow us online,” Sarkeesian says. “One of the profound things the feminist movement and the civil rights movement did was to change the systems we live in. They didn’t stop every individual being sexist or racist, but they changed the systems that we participated in, so you couldn’t be that way in certain environments.”


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