Anita Sarkeesian just perfectly explained the problem with how we talk about Internet trolls
You may know Anita Sarkeesian for her smart-as-heck site Feminist Frequency, which hosts videos that analyze the portrayal of women in popular culture. Her most notable series is her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. Which brings us to the other reason you would probably know Sarkeesian- she was one of the main women attacked in the Gamergate controversy.
The Guardian recently did a profile on Sarkeesian in which she dropped major truth bombs re: the violent harassment she’s been subjected to online.
She starts out by explaining that she doesn’t believe the threats she’s received are really about her work as a cultural commentator.
“It has less to do with the actual content of the work than with ‘How dare a woman say anything about our toys’ – especially a feminist,” she tells The Guardian.
Though Sarkeesian is in the habit of calling Gamergate a “sexist temper tantrum” (“It does have the feeling of kids screaming and you don’t know why.”) she also the first one to say that it would be mistake to label this movement as schoolyard squabble.
“That’s the reason I don’t like the words ‘troll’ and ‘bully’ – it feels too childish. This is harassment and abuse,” she says. Still, she does think Gamergate can be called a mass tantrum. “It’s just a scary, violent, abusive, temper tantrum. It’s an attack and an assault on women in the gaming industry. Its purpose is to silence women, and if they can’t, they attempt to discredit them.”
Sarkeesian believes that Gamergate is just one of the many ways “toxic masculine culture” operated on the internet.
“There’s a boys’-locker-room feel to the Internet, where men feel they can show off for one another. A lot of the harassment is tied to this toxic masculine culture of ‘Look how cool I can be.’”
The sad truth is that the relentless abuse Sarkeesian has experienced online now profoundly affects her IRL.
“Yeah, it’s really weird that I try to sit at the back of restaurants, or have my back to windows so no one recognizes me,” she admits. “Or if someone stops me on the street to ask for directions, I feel as if I’m going to have a panic attack. I’ve had to learn not to trust people, not to be friendly with strangers, because you never know if it’s going to be a threat.”
Still, all the abuse has not silenced her.
“How can I give up now?” she asks. “I’m not going anywhere.”
And, that said, she wants all of us who care to take a stand alongside her.
“What are you doing?” she asks of her sympathizers. “Because what is my work if you’re not going to do something about it, too?”
The entire profile is excellent and well-worth a read. Thank you so much, Anita Sarkeesian, for not only reminding us of how hard this battle is to fight, but how important it is that we stand up, are counted, and don’t back down until things change for the better.
Image via YouTube