Society and Culture

#GamerGate Takes Misogyny to a Whole New Level

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Hey folks! How many of you are big video game players?

Probably a decent number of you. I, personally, don’t really get the whole video game thing, mainly because I didn’t grow up with them. My parents had really strong opinions about what kinds of activities made children’s “brains melt out of their ears.” Melodramatic, Mom.

But! I’m in the minority here. You guys totally like to relax with a cold beer and a few hours of Madden, am I right?



Yeah I am.

So! If you know anything about video games, you probably — hopefully — know about how insanely sexist the industry is. Really, it’s depressing.

Only about 21 percent of video game developers are women. Giant Bomb, the largest online video game database, exclusively employs white, straight men. And the characters in video games? They’re rarely, if ever, women — and when they are, they tend to be hypersexualized sidekicks with insane amounts of T&A.

On every level, from who designs the video games, to who distributes them, to who’s featured in them, the video game world sends one message loud and clear.

This is a place for men.



But the thing is, it’s not. Forty-eight percent of video game players are women. That’s nearly half. The world of video games is absolutely a place where women are hanging out, passing time, and spending money. Yet they’re almost unilaterally shut out of every aspect of the gaming world that reaches beyond their personal playing console.

Enter women like Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu. A feminist cultural critic and a video game developer, respectively, these women are two among a community of feminist gaming critics. They speak out against the sexism and misogyny that runs rampant in the video game industry, and on Wu’s part, she develops games that feature corporeally realistic and empowered female characters.

As a result, they both receive violent, sexualized death threats almost constantly. Because obviously, advocating for the video game industry not to be a weird club of circle-jerking white dudes is something that merits murder, right?



Apparently so. This week, those depressingly routine threats of violence reached such a fever pitch that Sarkeesian was forced to cancel a speaking engagement at Utah State University, and Wu was driven from her personal home.

What happened, exactly? We’ll start with Sarkeesian. She was scheduled to give a speech at Utah State University on Tuesday, but the day before, university administrators received an email threatening that a gun massacre would happen if they allowed the event to go on.

Now, keep in mind that bomb threats are par for the course when it comes to Sarkeesian’s speaking engagements. So she’s used to fearing for her life every time she steps out in public, as are the folks who choose to book her to speak at their establishments.



But this time was different. The dude who made this threat sent it out under a pseudonym referencing Marc Lépine, the Montréal shooter who killed 14 women and himself back in 1989. His email reads like something straight out of Elliot Rodger’s diary. And, most importantly, because of the concealed-carry laws in Utah, the folks at USU refused to prevent anyone from bringing a firearm into the event.

So, faced with the prospect of giving a speech to a crowded room full of concealed guns — one of which might be attached to the deranged misogynist who threatened to make sure that all the life-ruining feminists on campus were killed (he literally said that) — Sarkeesian made the obvious decision.

She canceled the event. The lack of security USU was offering left her with no other real choices.


She did.

She did.

And this Marc Lépine character isn’t alone. He’s part of a vast community called #GamerGate, which is essentially an online club of gamer boys who haven’t learned yet that girls don’t have cooties. But they aren’t little boys; they’re grown-ass men. And that means that they aren’t just taunting the girls on the playground; they’re threatening to rape and murder all the women in the gaming community who dare open their mouths.

This week, #GamerGate didn’t stop with Sarkeesian. They also attacked feminist game developer Brianna Wu. Frustrated by the boys’ club’s temper tantrums, Wu tweeted a meme poking fun at them.

The response?

#GamerGate started battering Wu with crazy-train subtweets, threatening to anally rape her until she bled, castrate her husband and choke her to death with his severed penis, and murder all of her future children. Because they were going to grow up to be feminists anyway, so clearly that means they should die, right?

After the threatening Twitter creeps revealed her personal address, Wu was forced to leave her home.

Folks, this shit is batshit insane. The gaming world isn’t the only place where women — and feminist women, specifically — are targeted with a violence and vitriol that’s truly disturbing. Sexism is rampant in the tech industry in general. Just take a look at the wildly sexist (albeit nonviolent) comment Microsoft’s CEO made last week about closing the income gap.

But this week’s events have put the gaming community’s particular brand of misogyny in the spotlight. It’s seriously time this crap stopped.


stop it

The men of #GamerGate are threatening to kill women like Sarkeesian and Wu simply because they dare to speak and to work within their universe. They play video games. They make video games. They ask that video game companies hire more female developers and design games with more realistic and empowered female characters.

These are reasonable, nonviolent, nonthreatening requests. They’re only asking for women to be more positively represented in the gaming world.

And yet, somehow, that’s a goal that merits a sexually violent, vengeful death.

This shit’s unacceptable. People of the world — especially you, men of #GamerGate — stop treating the women in your worlds with violence and aggression. We have every right to be here and to demand respect. And if you can’t handle that, we’re kindly asking you to GTFO.

Hannah R. Winsten
Hannah R. Winsten is a freelance copywriter, marketing consultant, and blogger living in New York’s sixth borough. She hates tweeting but does it anyway. She aspires to be the next Rachel Maddow. Contact Hannah at



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