“We all have a thirst for wonder. It’s a deeply human quality. Science and religion are both bound up with it. What I’m saying is, you don’t have to make stories up, you don’t have to exaggerate. There’s wonder and awe enough in the real world. Nature’s a lot better at inventing wonders than we are.” ― Carl Sagan, Contact
When Anita Sarkeesian announced plans to do a video series exploring the portrayal of women in video games, she became the victim of a massive online attack choreographed by members of the gaming community who cast her as the “villain” in their online “game” to ruin her life. It did not go well for them. But for Anita, things ended up going very well indeed.
You definitely want to watch the whole thing, but here are some highlights: at 1:00 she talks about why she loves video games, at 2:02 just try to imagine yourself in her shoes, at 3:45 she sticks the people attacking her under a microscope, and at 8:15 she doesn’t just win the game, she absolutely destroys it.
When anyone points out that it is intolerable for women to be expected to put up with threats of rape and murder simply for being in public, the cry goes up of “free speech!” This is a free speech issue, we are told. We cannot trespass on the sacred right of anyone to express their Great Thoughts on the subject of a famous classicist’s vagina, or speculate about the sound a notable journalist would make as she choked to death. Free speech is such an unalienable right, and such an absolute value, that it cannot be infringed, even to the extent to enforcing current laws against hateful and threatening language. This situation, is it endlessly repeated, is a free speech issue.
As it happens, I agree. Rape threats are a free speech issue. They pose a deliberate and carefully calculated threat to women’s freedom of speech. The relentless barrage of obscenity is designed to shut women up, to force them out of the public square and to keep them from contributing to our shared culture. Men who send rape threats to female writers and broadcasters are attempting to put a price on speech. They’re taxing women who won’t be quiet and submissive, trying to impose a toll on entrance to the public sphere. They don’t need to have a better argument, or discredit a woman’s views. They just need to make it too costly to be part of the discussion. One threat might not have that effect, but twenty or fifty might, and publishing her address might tip the balance.
In an effort to re-build my online presence after taking a break while in school full time, I am largely posting over on my real name tumblr these days. I will probably keep my interesting reblogs here at HNR, and may post some original stuff too, but mostly you should be reading my main tumblr if you are so inclined.