Feminist critique greeted with thousands of abusive comments. This is our surprised face.

UPDATED July 10, 2012 (profbigk): Although she’s now received an amount of viciousness that surprises even those of us who thought we were cynical, Sarkeesian has raised about $160,000, an amount well over her goal.

What’s that computer game called where a woman makes a feminist argument and then the other players respond with violent, misogynistic, abusive remarks? Oh, yeah. The internet.

The most recent (well, we can’t guarantee something worse didn’t happen 30 seconds ago, but we live in hope) instance of this phenomenon surrounds Anita Sarkeesian, whom you will surely know for her wonderful YouTube videos in which she applies the Bechdel Test to recent films. Earlier this week, Sarkeesian made a pitch for Kickstarter funds to research misogyny in video games.

The response was immediate, overwhelming, and sadly predictable — thousands of abusive comments inpugning her in the most racist, violent, misogynistic terms. (One term, beginning with “c” was especially popular.) The great news is that Sarkeesian has, so far, garnered ten times the financial support she was seeking. Here’s the full story from New Statesman.


Sarkeesian decided to leave the comments on her video, as proof that such sexism exists. I think it’s important that she did, because too often the response to stories like this, “Come on, it can’t be that bad”. There are two reasons for this: first, that if you don’t experience this kind of abuse, it’s difficult to believe it exists (particularly if you’re a man and this just isn’t part of your daily experience). Secondly, because news reports don’t print the bad words. We’ve got into a weird situation where you have to get a TV channel controller to sign off a comedian using the word “cunt” after 9pm, but on the internet, people spray it round like confetti. We read almost-daily reports of “trolls” being cautioned or even jailed, but often have no idea what they’ve said.

As the (male) gamer who pointed me to this story observed, ” I’ve gotten into my fair share of heated discussions on the internet, but I think the worst I’ve been called is an idiot. No one seems to dig out Billy Bob’s Big Book of Rape Threats for dudes, but remember, that’s not privilege…”

Thanks, JT.

Addendum: By popular request, here is the link to Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games project page.

8 thoughts on “Feminist critique greeted with thousands of abusive comments. This is our surprised face.

  1. It’s really frightening and sad that this kind of things happen.

    I move in a small world where everyone whom I talk to (and I don’t talk to that many people) is relatively non-sexist or at least tries to be so.

    So these reports from far-off reality shock me.

  2. Whatever made anyone think misogyny is any less prevalent. Society is less tolerant of it, but it finds other ways to come out.There was an article in The Independent about the surprisingly high percentage of women in London who have been subjected to comments, catcalls, groping etc. Even on the comment thread a few trolls didn’t get it. One guy said he thought that a woman should take “nice arse” as a compliment. It’s never far beneath the surface and the internet is a handy facilitator.

  3. Good to see the Streisand Effect in full force on this one at least – she’s just about to break $100k.

    You might want to change the Kickstarter link in the post to the actual Kickstarter project, as it took me a little while to find it in order to donate.

  4. I intended to link Kickstarter in general to raise that org’s profile, but you’re right that it would be useful to have the project link too. Your wish is my command. I’ll add the link forthwith.

  5. Hey, I was just about to post this on my own site:

    Games for Girls (Seriously? In 2012?)

    Okay, so I went to bored.com, clicked on Games, then clicked on Girls.

    Mostly because I was irritated that there even was a separate section for Girls (and surprised there wasn’t a separate section for Blacks)—alongside Popular, Animations, Stickman, Shooting, Escape, Puzzle, Action, Skill, Walkthru’s, Mobile, and More. Why do girls need a separate section? Are they not interested in any of the other sections? Are none of the other sections ‘for’ them?

    Anyway, so what do I find when I click on the Girls tab? This:

    Sugar and Spice and everything Girl! Play celebrity, dress-up, cooking, sports, and puzzle games designed just for little ladies young and old alike! Like to run restaurants? Become a princess? Go on a hot date with the boy of your dreams? It’s all here!

    Seriously? In 2012?

    I’m a girl, or at least female-bodied, and I have to say I’m very interested in Action. Specifically, Shooting. Failing that, Escape.


  6. “What’s that computer game called where a woman makes a feminist argument and then the other players respond with violent, misogynistic, abusive remarks? Oh, yeah. The internet.”

    Also, pretty much every multiplayer game I’ve ever played. I’ve gotten abusive, misogynistic, harassing, and sometimes even violent comments just in response to the fact that there’s a female present in the lobby. The response to Sarkeesian has obviously been incredibly and depressingly extreme, but there is so much misogyny in the gaming community it’s not that surprising. In fact, there’s a website dedicated to sharing harassing messages women are sent (the URL/site name comes from the three themes common to gaming harassment; if you play games and you’re female you must either be fat, ugly, or slutty): http://fatuglyorslutty.com/

    I get the sense that most gamers don’t share these attitudes (or at least, not in such blatant and obvious ways), but unfortunately, those who do are often far more out spoken (there’s also lots of homophobia and racism).

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