Finally, after all the talk about her, I got to see Anita Sarkeesian speak in person! She has been the topic of discussion in a few of my classes so I had been excited about this event for a while. This being the second session of the day I went to for the symposium, it was much more crowded than the first one I went to! The whole room was filled and it was nice to see many of my fellow students there. There were good security measures taken (check in, metal detector), so I felt safe in the crowded room even after all the buzz from her cancelled speech at a previous school.
She was first introduced and then got right into her speech, aided by a powerpoint to go along with it. She gave a quick overview of Feminist Frequency, which challenges how women are portrayed in video games, and the current state of the gaming industry. She talked about how the gaming industry is changing to include people of all age, race and gender, straying from the young white male domination. Yet, many young white males are extremely angered by this and by Anita’s views and have gone to extremes to try and “defend” their gaming worlds. They have formed a cyber mob, specifically called “gamer gate”, that fight against her and other women like her who stand up for women and their portrayal in these games.
Before the speech, I knew she was being harshly harassed via online, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until she showed examples and told us herself. They assault her on twitter, get her websites taken down, give out her personal info, flag her pages, threaten her violently and sexually, use pornographic images against her. She showed us examples and I was shocked at just how graphic some of the harassment was. She then went into detail about the conspiracy theories (white washing, brainwashing, con artist, etc.) and impersonations made about her. People make these up to taint her reputation and to try to get others to accept it as fact and see her as some evil “villain.” And not just her either, it’s an effort to discredit all women and to try to break them down so they can’t have say in the gaming industry.
Some of the things seem crazy to any normal person, but there’s plenty of evidence out there of all these people who believe these things, and that is frightening. Anita, at the end of her speech, tells us ways that we can help to stop this kind of stuff. There needs to be more of a call for enforcement of cyber civil rights and cyber laws, because crimes online need to be taken more seriously. We need to listen & believe victims of these cyber crimes, because as anyone there could see, they are very real. The systems we currently have online to deal with these issues is a joke and isn’t enough. In a world where our online identities become more and more apart of us, we need to start taking much better precautions. We all need to help fix this situation, because as Anita said “you can’t be neutral on a moving train” and I completely agree. Women have come a long way in the real world and the virtual world is a big part of our world now, so we need to continue to make forward progress and not let this push us back.
How would you compare feminist struggles in the real world vs the virtual world? What were your reactions to the harassment of Anita based on what she showed us, if you attended her speech?