This week Anita Sarkeesian released yet another installment of her Tropes vs. Women series of videos detailing how women are portrayed in gaming and why exactly it's a problem that needs to change. In response, the internet did what the internet usually does and hurled insults and threats so brutal and specific that Sarkeesian actually left her home to stay with friends just to be safe.
This harassment of Sarkeesian has been going on from the day she first launched a Kickstarter campaign for her series and has continued unabated. It's given birth to a Law of the Internet known as Anita's Irony that states, "Online discussion of sexism or misogyny quickly results in disproportionate displays of sexism and misogyny."
In other words, literally every hateful comment and harassment campaign proves Sarkeesian right time and time again.
Over the course of the series Sarkeesian has a basic premise: that violence and objectification of women in media is common and leads to the normalization such practices. Whether it's women as prizes to be won, possessions to be lost, or decorations to titillate the end result is that we spend hour after hour in interactive media feeling perfectly comfortable watching strippers get shot in the head, replenishing health from hookers, and just all around acting in ways that are illegal for a reason.
I'm not saying that just because you can beat up a prostitute in Grand Theft Auto 5 it means you're going out for some prostitute-beatings or even that such attacks become more common place, and Sarkeesian isn't saying that either. What is being said is that if you see and do these things time after time in game after game it is definitely going to color the way you view women.
Which is hard to argue with. Here's a quick question. One of these quotes is a tweet to Sarkeesian, and the other is a line said in the game Red Dead Redemption that she highlighted in her latest video. Which is which?
"Stinking whore. I'm going to cut you a new hole."
"I'll drink blood out of your cunt after I rip it open."
The second one is the tweet, but look at them there together. They are functionally identical, and this sort of thing happens in so many games that is it any surprise that gamers who enjoy these scene feel perfectly justified in using the same language to attack a critic of the practice?
You can split hairs on the subject as someone like Thunderf00t does and claim that each instance of these harmful tropes make up a tiny portion of the overall game experience just as each sexist comment and threat of sexual assault makes up a relatively small portion of a woman's total life experience. You could do that, but it's sort of like saying you should ignore a tumor because it's on the small side. The problem isn't one instance in one game. It's the trend and how widespread it is. Sarkeesian offers too many examples for us to say that such a trend does not exist. It clearly does.
And all she has to do to check out the consequences of that trend is open her Twitter feed. Clearly, gamers think it's OK to threaten to rape her. In fact, that was actually prominent Men's Right's blogger Karen Straughan's reasoning that Sarkeesian was just playing up her victimhood for cash and career advancement. Her theory was that the members of 4chan didn't threaten and harass her enough for any of this to be taken seriously.
Because of course a certain amount of objectification and sexual assault are to be expected when girls and games come together... which I'm pretty sure was the point Sarkeesian was sadly trying to make in the first place when she began her campaign for change.