Sexism, Cyber Harassment and Gaming Culture: The Kickstarter Incident

In case you haven’t heard, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency recently started a Kickstarter to fund a video series on sexism in video games. It’s an important topic that I think anyone who legitimately enjoys gaming and cares about equality can agree needs addressing. I love Feminist Frequency. Anita always says well researched, smart and insightful things about women in the media. Her series on gender and LEGO offered tons of awesome historical information, and I directed anyone interested in SPARK’s LEGO campaign to the series, as it served as a fabulous overview of the issue. I have occasionally disagreed with Anita’s points, but that’s fine, because she’s awesome and funny and 99.9% of the time, dead on accurate. As for a Feminist Frequency series on video games? Sounds like a great idea. And I’m sure it’s going to be balanced and well thought out. But I’m going to talk about something that happened to Anita after she launched the campaign. You can read all about it here and here, but to summarize, some disgusting shit went down.

Anita was subject to a targeted campaign of threats and online harassment organized by several online gaming forums.

I have two things to say about this. The first is that Anita, myself, and just about any women who lets her opinion be known online, especially in matters concerning gender and feminism, is at risk of being a target of misogyny and sexual harassment. I’ve been blogging about feminism for over a year now, but I didn’t personally experience this unfortunate reality until very recently, when press on my work around LEGO Friends was bombarded by misogynist sexual harassment specifically targeting myself and several of my fellow SPARKteam activists. I had always heard that women speaking online should prepare to be harassed, but you can never be fully prepared for the experience.

So the first thing I have to say, though it’s been said before, must be said again. Anyone who doesn’t think sexism is still a problem need only look at the cyber-harassment phenomenon to see how far we still have to go. The internet is the primary medium for information and communication today, and yet it is a place where women are still systematically silenced. Anonymity fueled cyber-bullying can target many people, not just women. But we need to stop brushing the phenomenon off as “trolls will be trolls” and “don’t read the comments.” Harassment and silencing are serious issues, and they should be taken seriously.

The second thing I have to say is about sexism in gaming culture. It is telling that while Anita previously experienced “normal” levels of harassment leveled against women online, the instant she merely announced that she was doing a series examining gaming, she was subject to a vicious, organized and targeted campaign of online harassment. I really don’t believe that the majority of gamers are hateful misogynists. I believe that it is only a small minority, not just because I know many gamers, male and female, who are rational and kind hearted human beings, but also because I like to believe the majority of just about every population doesn’t think harassing a complete stranger is a productive use of their time. But that this attack did occur specifically in response to a gaming focused Kickstarter, I think I need to share this video. It’s from way back in March, but it says smart things, gets all the applause from me, and won’t embed properly. So please click through the link.