In the first episode of The Scarlet Letter Reports, I sit down with feminist media critic and founder of Feminist Frequency, Anita Sarkeesian.
In 2012, Anita launched a Kickstarter to fund a web series examining sexist portrayals of women in video games, called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. This trigged a massive, coordinated harassment campaign against Anita, led by an anonymous, online community of gamers. The barrage of harassment coincided with the Gamergate campaign against Zoe Quinn, which only intensified the amount of doxing, threats, and online abuse.
Anita faced horrific levels of harassment—from bomb and death threats at events to having her face and the faces of family members photoshopped onto pornographic images. While most women have not experienced the intensity of harassment that Anita endured, she is also the first to say that none of this is unique to her—it’s an extreme version of what most women and girls deal with just by existing on the internet. The difference is in degree, not kind. Men claim a majority stake in the internet and gaming community, and women—especially young women—encounter sexist and sexualized online abuse at much higher rates than men.
But despite years of harassment, Anita decided not to let anyone else take away her voice. She still runs Feminist Frequency and continues to speak out on issues around sexism, video games, and online harassment. “I’m still going through it, and I’m choosing to be a human again. I’m choosing to live again,” she said.
As someone who has also received numerous death threats, and is subjected to daily harassment by anonymous trolls who shower abuse on me as vigilante punishment for a crime I didn’t commit, I know what it’s like to face a grueling uphill battle just to have a presence, like everyone else, on the internet.
Games and the internet can be a liberating, creative outlet for many. The question is: how can we make sure it can be that way for everyone? How can we be free to express ourselves and be free from harassment? And, what is the cost of having a voice?
You can watch the full episode of The Scarlet Letter Reports now on Facebook Watch.