I had the pleasure of attending Anita Sarkeesian’s talk on Friday. Ever since we had talked about her in class and read those articles about her I’ve been following her online like when she appeared on the Colbert Report. Anita talked mainly about her experiences with Gamergate and about the numerous threats she received. I wish she had talked more about her work with Feminist Frequency but regardless, her talk was still amazing and I am so glad that I attended. As she spoke I thought it was crazy how people tried to impersonate her in order to make her seem more ridiculous or to put words in her mouth. What I thought was even more crazy however was that these hackers would break into some of her personal accounts (like flickr) and steal her personal photos to make it more believable. In my opinion, if you have to make up things to prove your point that she is asking way too much, then your argument is pretty much invalid.
What was going through my head the entire time was “Wow. Nothing she is saying right now seems crazy at all. Are people really upset that she said that games like Grand Theft Auto negatively portray women? Because the game obviously does.” I didn’t think any of her points warranted the amount of backlash she received but never the less she still receives death and even rape threats. What is even more concerning is that for a lot of people who have sent these threats, they are still not found and haven’t received any punishment for their actions.
After, she lead into discussing what she thought needed to change in order for these online communities to be a safer place. Anita said that states needed to increase their laws against stalking to protect user’s opinions and stop the harassment that will come with expressing those opinions. She also said that states need to begin punishing the spread of non-consensual explicit images. This was one of the tactics Gamergate used against Anita by photoshopping her face on to explicit images to try and defame her. Lastly, she also spoke about how these crimes against her are also hate crimes. They stem from her comments regarding women and they attack her based on the fact that she is a women. She says, and I completely agree, that these are gender based hate crimes.
Anita also gave suggestions on how to fix some issues within social media atmospheres and I think they are some of the best ideas that I have ever heard. She mentioned that as of right now it is impossible to block messages based the content. Anita suggested that social media websites should include an option to be able to block these message using a feature that can detect back-listed words and then delete the message. Also, she brought up the point that some members of Gamergate will just create new accounts if she blocks them and continue to harass her. Instead, Anita suggests a feature that allows you to block anyone that does not meet certain criteria such as follower count or amount of posts.
Over all, I was blown away by Anita. She was amazing and I was even fortunate enough to talk with her and get a picture after her speech. Sadly, while I was talking to her I realized that she is actually just a regular person like all of us, but she is made out to be a villain. It’s hard to imagine what I would do if I received these threats for posting my opinion on something I truly cared about.