During her talk at the 4th annual symposium on digital ethics, Anita Sarkeesian admitted that the gaming world is going through a paradigm shift, a metamorphosis, in which the demeaning character of how women are portrayed in games is slowly improving.
While listening to her talk, I was truly shocked at the incredible amount of abuse and harassment she has received over the years for only speaking out against something she believes is wrong. Do we not live in the United States, which was built on the belief of freedom for all? The idea that she is “personally responsible for the change,” fueling anger from prepubescent male gamers, which then proceed to attack and harass her in very immature and scary ways, is quite ridiculous and unnecessary if you ask me.
Sarkeesian expressed it best, saying that this outrage is just a “sexist hyper tantrum” and “sociopathic misogyny.” Of course, online harassment isn’t something new, but to the extreme to which the abuse towards her has accelerated is truly surprising.
The very reactions of crazy conspiracy theories, death and rape threats, impersonation hoaxes, and release of personal information seem like a lot of effort to stop this inevitable change.
Why do women still need to fight for women’s rights? Why can’t we also be allowed to play games or be called “gamers”? The gaming world isn’t just a male privilege, but apparently lots of people seem to think it is.
But another even sadder truth is the lack of established legal protection people – specifically women in this case – have from online harassment. Our justice system seems to also be behind on the changing times. Threats online should also be punishable, because the online world is just as relevant nowadays as our real world is. There are fundamental structural flaws with social media platforms and online spaces, which make it easier to harass someone and harder to avoid the harassment.
Maybe the reason for the extremity of Sarkeesian’s abuse is because people online feel shielded behind the computer screen with the ability to remain anonymous and with the support of a large “hate” community. I think they feel more empowered in online spaces and possibly lose some sense of self identity, changing into something I think is even inhumane – because this abuse that Sarkeesian has needed to endure is completely immature and sociopathic.
Sarkeesian is an incredibly strong and iron-willed person to have received so much hate, but still continue speaking out for what she believes in. These immature male gamers need to get over themselves, and accept the fact that the times they are a-changin’ and it’s going to happen whether they like it or not.
Just as Sarkeesian concluded her talk, I agree that we all have the responsibility to come together to support and rally for this cultural shift in order for women to freely be active participants in digital spaces.