Gun violence threats against feminist Anita Sarkeesian send strong message about male power

When calling out sexism in the gaming community is met with virulent misogyny, the necessity of said criticism seems obvious.

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Virulent misogyny

Sarkeesian is not the only woman who has been subjected to this kind of treatment from the gaming community. Game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu were also forced from their homes due to threats and Jenn Frank, a gaming journalist, and Mattie Brice, a game designer have withdrawn from the industry on account of the harassment they've been subjected to. 

Much of this stems from what's called "Gamergate," essentially "an internet culture war" some have tried very hard to present as a "movement" calling for greater ethics in gaming journalism but is more accurately defined by Deadspin writer, Kyle Wagner, as "a relatively small and very loud group of video game enthusiasts who claim that their goal is to audit ethics in the gaming-industrial complex and who are instead defined by the campaigns of criminal harassment that some of them have carried out against several women."

Frank, herself, was bullied for pointing out, in an article for The Guardian, that Gamergate seemed to be simply about attacking "anyone who has ever questioned the patriarchal nature of the games industry or the limited, often objectifying depiction of women."  

Lewis' law seems apt here. Journalist Helen Lewis' point that "the comments on any article about feminism justify feminism" is easily transferrable to the reaction from gaming community to efforts to talk about sexism in the gaming community. That is to say, when the response to those who challenge misogyny is virulent misogyny, the necessity of such challenges is obvious. 

Those who believe they are entitled to the power and privilege they enjoy aren't likely to relinquish said power and privilege easily. All Sarkeesian had to do was explain, clearly and simply, how objectification and depictions of violence against women create a toxic environment for female gamers and perpetuate gender inequality in order for a bunch of internet warriors to threaten her with rape and death, taunt her with pornography (it should be noted, here, by those who defend pornography as neutral, that pornography is frequently used to harass women…), and do everything in their power to silence her.   

Feminists fighting for women's equality "ruin" a man's life?

"Feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge," reads the email sent to the director of Utah State University's Center for Women and Gender. The man (I am going to make an educated guess that the person responsible for the threat is male…) goes on to call Lépine "a hero to men everywhere for standing up to the toxic influence of feminism on Western masculinity." 

If challenging representations of women as sexualized objects "that exist to be used and abused," violence against women, and gendered stereotypes that make women into helpless, subservient, passive victims that need rescuing by powerful men is such a threat to "masculinity" than perhaps the problem is not with feminism, but with society's notion of what it means to be a man.

 That these kinds of threats are expected and continue to go unaddressed sends a powerful message that says men are, in fact, entitled to their unearned power and privilege, and that violence against women is a given. It tells women that they will be punished for speaking out against such things and those around us – our supposed protectors, our "knights in shining armour" – will turn their backs on us the moment we step outside our prescribed roles ands ask to be seen as more than background decoration.

 

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