Anita Sarkeesian was forced to leave her home after receiving online death threats

Her latest video sparked even more hostility, forcing her to call authorities.

 

Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Published Aug 28, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 4:49 pm CDT

Anita Sarkeesian, host of the webseries Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, was forced to call authorities and leave her home after she received death threats against her and her family.

Earlier this week, Sarkeesian released the latest video in her Tropes series, which looks critically at women’s roles and how they’re portrayed in video games. The video, clocking in at over 28 minutes, is the second episode to focus on female video game characters’ role as background decoration, and how the women are used as “both sexual playthings and the perpetual victims of male violence.”

Sarkeesian’s videos are often met with criticism. Ever since she started the Tropes vs. Women vlog series, the episodes have been pulled down from YouTube (and reinstated) after people abused the flag function. She’s been forced to disable comments, and she receives a slew of threats and misogynistic comments on social media over virtually every move she makes online.

For many women in geek and tech culture, the onslaught of sexism is nothing new. But with every episode Sarkeesian posts, more people are starting to take notice of the problematic elements in video games.

Watch the @femfreq #TropesvsWomen vids. Even if u think u get it, the sheer tonnage makes misogyny seem newly appalling.

— Joss Whedon (@josswhedon) August 27, 2014

I watched a bunch of women get sliced up in video games and now I’m watching it on my twitter feed. @femfreq is just truth-telling. Deal.

— Joss Whedon (@josswhedon) August 27, 2014

“Women as Background Decoration: Part 2” went live on the heels of another controversy in the gaming community, in which feminist developer Zoe Quinn and her family are facing harassment from gamers after an ex-boyfriend wrote a lengthy blog post alleging that Quinn slept with other professionals. The controversy has left her “temporarily homeless.”

The video sparked even more backlash than usual, and Sarkeesian received so many threats that she published a couple of the worse ones, something she normally doesn’t do.

“Go ahead, screen capture this and tweet it you piece of shit” ummm… ok. I’m not afraid of strawman “rebuttals”. pic.twitter.com/8B74uYJOOU

— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) August 27, 2014

I usually don’t share the really scary stuff. But it’s important for folks to know how bad it gets [TRIGGER WARNING] pic.twitter.com/u6b3i0fysI

— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) August 27, 2014

One user created a Twitter account (which has since been suspended) specifically to send Sarkeesian threats against her and her family and posted personal information. No longer feeling safe, she contacted authorities. She later updated followers that she was safe and was staying with a friend.

Some very scary threats have just been made against me and my family. Contacting authorities now.

— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) August 27, 2014

I’m safe. Authorities have been notified. Staying with friends tonight. I’m not giving up. But this harassment of women in tech must stop!

— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) August 27, 2014

The backlash against women in geek and tech culture is something people deal with all the time, something Sarkeesian acknowledges, and even now with the screenshots posted online, there are critics who will still call foul. But she’s determined to make more videos to continue her series, which will inevitably receive misogynistic comments yet again.

Photo via feministfrequency/YouTube

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*First Published: Aug 28, 2014, 2:27 pm CDT