Feminist Frequency Takes a Hard Look at Online Harassment

On Thursday, Feb. 28, Southern Oregon University hosted a guest lecture in the Rogue River Room of the Stevenson Union on the subject of gendered online harassment, specifically in the video gamer community.

The lecture was given by Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic and creator of the video blog “Feminist Frequency” and the video series “Women vs. Tropes”. The series examines the use of tropes to depict women in video games and movies.

The lecture focused on the experiences that Sarkeesian had while launching a campaign on popular online fundraising website Kickstarter for a new video series titled “Women vs. Tropes in Video Games”.

Sarkeesian describes the video game industry as the fastest growing and most influential medias today; an industry that boasts the most gender stereotypes and harmful images of women.

After the launch of her Kickstarter campaign, Sarkeesian became the target of an extensive harassment campaign by what is known as a “cyber mob”. Her social media portals were hacked, her Wikipedia page was vandalized with pornographic images and her website experienced numerous “denial-of-service” attacks.

When these attacks failed to stop Sarkeesian, the mob attempted to discredit her. “I don’t portray the role of the ‘man-hating’ feminist, most feminists don’t,” said Sarkeesian. The mob attempted to paint her into that role by creating fake social media accounts impersonating Sarkeesian.

The group gamified misogyny, using unmoderated forums as a “home base” and creating a loose reward system for attacks. Sarkeesian describes the attack as an “overt display of misogyny on an enormous scale”.

“It works to silence women,” said Sarkeesian. “It sends a message to other women who want to enter these male dominated fields that ‘you better not’”.

However, the story does have a silver lining. Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter campaign for “Women vs. Tropes in Video Games” received approximately 25 times the amount she asked for and she has seen an influx of support. The video series has expanded from six episodes to 13 with a classroom curriculum.

Sarkeesian hopes to get people to think differently about gendered online harassment. “We need to stop thinking about it as an individual thing,” she said. “It’s systemic”.

The major thing Sarkeesian wanted to point out was that women and allies need to speak out against online harassment. Having another male voice speaking up against the harassment can cause the harassers to second guess where they consider a safe space to speak in misogynistic ways. Support is the most important component.

Sarkeesian’s videos can be found on FeministFrequency.com as well as on her Youtube channel. You can also follow her on Twitter @femfreq. The first video in the “Women vs. Tropes in Video Games” will be released Thursday, Mar. 7 and will focus on the damsel in distress trope.

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