These targeted hate campaigns are common enough that they’re a risk I and everyone else have to contemplate when we consider speaking out against the men’s rights groups or simply sharing a feminist opinion online. Making it terrifying to speak out discourages women from doing so, limiting our ability to participate fully in the digital public square. It’s not hyperbole to say that this kind of terror campaign prevents women from participating in our democracy on equal footing with men.
Online Harassment, What Drives it and How it Lowers Visions
Media Evolution: The Conference is an international conference organized annually in Malmö, Sweden. On August 21st 2013 Anita Sarkeesian, Kate Miltner and Laurie Penny spoke at a session entitled Online Harassment, What Drives it and How it Lowers Visions.
“The Great Debate" by The Escapist’s Cory Rydell and Greg Carter
Of all the criticism thrown at Anita Sarkeesian, the bitching about her decision to disable YouTube comments in the face of an an organized campaign of harassment is the most misguided. It’s a dumb position for a couple of reasons. First, it implies that anyone who makes a video is honor-bound to lend their credibility and popularity to the opposing argument, they are not. Second, it implies YouTube comments contain anything that could remotely be called criticism, they do not. “I hope you get raped,” is not criticism. “Feminazi whore,” is not criticism. “Make me a sandwich,” is not criticism, nor is it funny.
I recently spoke with CNN International about online harassment. I have to say I was a little taken aback by how terrible the interviewer was. Predictably they tried to frame me as a “victim of trolls” but I did my best to try to re-direct the conversation to a more systemic big picture understanding of the problem.
Note: As always don’t read the comments on YouTube.
In this New Statesman article, Helen Lewis discusses some of the hate & harassment I have faced since launching my Tropes vs Women in Video Games Kickstarter including a flash game where players are invited to “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian”.
Here are a few follow up posts by various bloggers about the “game” and its creator:
- Man Disagrees With Woman, Makes Game About Punching Her
- The “wit” and “wisdom” of the guy who created that “beat up Anita Sarkeesian” game
- Storify: Why is this conversation necessary?
Note: I think its important to keep in mind that this domestic violence “game” and its creator are only a symptom of the much larger cultural problem called misogyny. The problem is a society-wide epidemic that reaches far beyond the vile actions of one individual.
Harassment via Wikipedia Vandalism
As some of you may know a harassment campaign is being waged against me because of my Tropes vs Women in Video Games project on Kickstarter. This coordinated attack was launched by various online video game forums and has included attempts to get my accounts banned, a torrent of hate on YouTube, plus countless threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape. As part of that intimidation effort the Wikipedia page about me was vandalized with misogynist language, pornography and racial slurs.
I went back and forth about whether or not to share this publicly because I don’t want to inadvertently encourage this kind of behavior or scare other women into staying silent out of fear something similar may happen to them. But ultimately I’ve decided I’m going to document and strategically share what is happening to me because these types of online harassment tactics are used against women, feminists and people from oppressed and marginalized groups every day.
About a year ago I noticed someone had made a Wikipedia page about me. It’s a simple stub in the Women’s Rights Activist category and contains two short paragraphs mostly pulled from my online bio. Very little had changed on the page since it was created, that is until last week.
The image below shows the result of the vandalism that took place over the course of June 5th and 6th, 2012. This was not done by just one or two trolls but was a coordinated cyber mob style effort involving a whole gang working together. The screenshot below was downloaded directly from one of the internet forums organizing the harassment. They were proudly posting this image as a trophy to boast about what they were doing and to encourage others to join in.
Click to see larger version - NOTE: I’ve blurred out the pornographic drawing
The vandalism included changing the text, changing the page categories, changing the external links to re-reroute to porn sites and adding a drawing of a women with a man’s penis in her mouth captioned with “Daily Activities”. One extra imaginative troll added that I was actually Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler in disguise (Hepler has also recently been viciously attacked for her opinions on modern video games).
This second screenshot was also downloaded from those same internet forums and again was passed around on various threads as evidence of their attack. Since my name is rather unique, the Wikipedia page about me comes up first when searching for my name. This is what a Google search for my name returned for several days even after the vandalism was removed.
NOTE: I added the red arrow and text
On the evening of the second day the page was officially identified as the subject of persistent vandalism and was finally locked by Wikipedia moderators so that only those with registered accounts could make further changes. From the IP addresses logged in the revision history it look like a dozen or more different people were working together to vandalize the page. I want to extend a big thank you to all the dedicated Wikipedians out there that helped remove the vandalism and continue to monitor the page!
I am certainly not the first woman to suffer this kind of harassment and sadly, I won’t be the last. But I’d just like to reiterate that this is not a trivial issue. It can not and should not be brushed off by saying, “oh well that’s YouTube for you”, “trolls will be trolls” or “it’s to be expected on the internet”. These are serious threats of violence, harassment and slander across many online platforms meant to intimidate and silence. And its not okay.
Again, don’t worry, this harassment will never stop me from making my videos! Thank you all for your support!