I should have known as I emptied my pockets, handed over my bag, and stepped through the buzzing metal detector, something wasn’t right.
Why in the world does a woman speaking on a college campus about video games need this much security? Every other on-campus talk I had attended had the security risk of zero: filled with professors, students furiously jotting notes for desperate extra credit, and others taking a nap in the back chairs.
This was different. The room was buzzing as campus safety officers patrolled the perimeters of the room.
So why the security? Because she is a woman. Talking about video games.
It sounds ridiculous, and most certainly is, but #gamergate has spiraled quickly from a frank and honest discussion about women’s (as well as LGBT and POC’s) sexualized, inferior, and/or nonexistent roles in the gaming industry, to a violent storm of “trolls” sending death threats. All of this is happening in the name of protecting a traditional “space” these usually white, heterosexual males have held dearly for so long.
As Anita Sarkeesian took the stage, I had no clue what she would talk about. Would she focus on the topics of her videos? Would she talk about #GamerGate? Or, gasp, would she address her threats and harrassment?
I’m pleased to say all three were addressed at least a little. She began the presentation with a short snippet of one of her videos on game tropes for women, and how most video games with strong female protagonists don’t make it to store shelves. One in particular was re-written so the female lead became a feeble princess who needed to be rescued by the male character, now going on all of her adventures.
Sarkeesian didn’t spend too much time on her videos however, mostly for what I assume is time reasons. It’s hard to explain everything wrong with how women are treated in the gaming industry in an hour.
What the bulk of her presentation focused on was her personal experience with her harassers.
She showed the disturbing tweets, photoshopped images, doxxing, and what looked to be like ridiculously large pizza orders used to harass and intimidate her in every way.
The fact that she was unafraid to stand up and speak about this, and even able to laugh about certain ridiculous conspiracies, was pretty astounding to me.
As the talk continued, like any good journalist given the opportunity, I made sure to livetweet some of her more interesting quotes (one of which @femfreq liked!):
I didn’t think I was important enough to feel the wrath of the gamergate trolls. I was wrong. Quickly my feed filled with the likes and retweets, but also comments. Many were positive, others were not. I was so surprised how quickly these “activists” started to reply. Honestly, they must follow the #gamergate tag all day.
To the tweet about how we must listen to all women, I received this reply:
This #NotYourShield movement is defined by CinemaBlend.com:
As noted on KnowYourMeme, #NotYourShield was a collective movement of minorities of all ages and types, stating that they were not oppressed by a straight, white male patriarchy; that they had their own voice and that they were not a shield to be silently used in order for gaming media – and those that gaming media represents – to push an agenda.
To me, it sounds like another #WomenAgainstFeminism twitter movement. In other words, people wishing to disassociate themselves from an issue they believe does not involve them, via misinformation usually. In my opinion, these women should be heard, and just like #WomenAgainstFeminism has been a force that only seems to strengthen feminist thought and prove important misconceptions in society
While what I experienced was little, it felt exhausting. I did not want to get in an argument with these tweeters. I couldn’t imagine how Sarkeesian felt. I’m sure its depressing to talk in circles with those who don’t want to listen, only defend their point of view.
I think my favorite part of the presentation was how she tried to provide concrete ways to prevent harassment like she has suffered. One quote really stuck out to me:
She’s right. While the web is essentially “the wild west,” in terms of legal protection law enforcement needs to start finding out how consequences can be enforced for those who abuse the web.
Overall, I enjoyed the talk and hope it opened some eyes to the true issues pervading this community, as well as exposed simple (and not so simple) solutions to this problem.
Here’s to hoping that soon, she will not need security like this again.