Watching Anita Sarkeesian enter Regents Hall was a surreal moment. Seeing a woman who has been in the center of much controversy and news take time out of her busy life to be the keynote speaker for the Fourth Annual International Symposium on Digital Ethics at the University I attend was amazing!
Anita seemed calm and collective as she stepped up to begin her speech about her research on women being portrayed in pop culture narratives. She began by stating that the gaming is a bigger industry than the movie industry and that gaming does include misogyny. She gave her personal story about the amount of threats and harassment she undergoes which proves her point further regarding how woman are treated/portrayed in these games. The aggression she deals with daily comes from men who believe that the gaming industry is a “Boy’s Club”. These individuals look down on other video games such as Guitar Hero or WII and don’t consider those “real video games” or the players who use them as “gamers”. That is not accurate.
She continued to explain the online harassment she has endured. These have taken in forms of 1) online impersonation and 2) creation of conspiracy theories. The online impersonation has been hoaxes created by men who view her as a threat to the gaming community. They create fake Facebook and Twitter accounts and state absurd comments in order to try to cease Anita’s Feminist movement. The conspiracy theories created about her have blurred the lines between what is true and false, which unfortunately create a false portrayal of her. This causes her work to be ignored and a false representation of her is out in the web. The individuals that create these elaborate and straight out crazy theories are doing this because they are aware that there is a change in the gaming community cycle. They become paranoid and alarmed and thus act in this terrible manner in order to try to be “heroes”. The information cascade they create causes Anita to repair the false information created about her and unfortunately once the false information reaches a certain mass, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing she can do. Her trying to repair the information cascade makes her look like an “irrational feminist” who is justified in the amount of harassment she endures.
So what can we do as a society in order to stop women from being harassed online? Anita suggested legislation change needs to be implemented in order for the harassment to cease. Stalking laws need to be updated to include harassment online. This can be done by updating civil rights to criminalize threats online. A Cyber Civil Rights needs to be added to criminalize sexually intimate images as an invasion of sexual privacy. Civil Rights is not only a racial bias, but also a gender bias.
Anita Sarkeesian’s speech really hit home when it comes to the harassment women have experienced on the internet and how the law has really done very little in order to stop the violation women feel online. She brought up an excellent quote that really made sense, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train”. I certainly realized that my view on feminism could no longer be neutral after seeing all that Anita has done to educate others about women in popular culture.