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EXCLUSIVE: Anita Sarkeesian Responds to Beat Up Game, Online Harassment, and Death Threats on Stephanie Guthrie
We have no idea how many women have been scared into silence, deleted their blogs… or simply refrained from saying anything on the Internet altogether


Anita Sarkeesian holds her final Kickstarter pledge number for the project that fueled the “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian” game

Anita Sarkeesian has written a statement for Toronto Standard regarding yesterday’s article, “Toronto Tweeter Causes Uproar Over Violent “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian” Game.” To recap, Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter campaign to generate funds for a video series that explores and deconstructs common tropes and stereotypes of female game characters. Ontario resident Bendilin Spurr accused her of using her gender to scam people out of money and reacted by creating a game where players punched her in the face, causing lesions and horrifying bruises. Local political tweeter Stephanie Guthrie called him out on it on Twitter. Toronto Standard wrote about it. Shortly after, Guthrie began receiving death threats and the police had to be called. Publications across North America have since picked up the story.

****

It’s important that individuals who engage in hateful behavior and threats of violence don’t go unchallenged and do face some measure of accountability – that said, its also critical to remember that this ‘game’ is a symptom of our deeply misogynist culture (both online and offline).  In far too many online and gaming spaces, sexist behavior is still unfortunately considered normal, acceptable or expected.  This particular domestic violence ‘game’ is just one of the more extreme manifestations of the sustained cyber mob style harassment campaign directed at me which has been perpetrated by hundreds if not thousands of (mostly) anonymous Internet users over the course of several weeks.

The attempts to silence women (and members of other marginalized groups) go far beyond just my experience.  Women who speak out on all sorts of topics, from politics to entertainment, face the threat of cyber mob harassment as recently experienced by Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler, British columnist Laurie Penny, gamer icon Felicia Day and Shakesville blogger Melissa McEwan, just to name a few.  In the last couple of days alone, there have been alarming online threats made against videoblogger Laci Green and Toronto-based organizer Stephanie Guthrie (who was attacked for exposing the creator of the domestic violence ‘game’ targeting me).

The online harassment epidemic also affects a great number of women who don’t have as much public recognition or support.  We have no idea how many women have been scared into silence, deleted their blogs, removed their videos or simply refrained from saying anything on the internet altogether – but I am certain its a significant and depressing number.  That has to change.

Additionally, online services and websites need to do a much better job of creating safer, better moderated spaces and provide the tools and functionality that empower those being harassed and abused via their systems.  In short, online harassment and abuse needs to be taken seriously by the companies and institutions that provide the infrastructure for our lives online.

~ Anita Sarkeesian

____

Sheena Lyonnais is Toronto Standard’s Tech and Business Editor. You can follow her on Twitter at @SheenaLyonnais.

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