Why We’re Not Talking About GamerGate

Content warning: stalking, harassment, threats, violence–GamerGate, basically.

Geek Feminism’s lack of a statement about the GamerGate hate campaign has felt conspicuous to me. We’re a community dedicated to promoting justice and equality within geek communities. Documenting harassment and abuse in geek communities is one of our biggest projects. GamerGate is on our beat.

But while our fabulous team of linkspammers has been on top of the story, we haven’t put up a statement.

I spoke to some of our other bloggers about ways we could respond. The conversation we had was pretty illustrative.

Here are the ideas we had, and why we discarded them:

1: A “Seriously, Fuck GamerGate” Post

Why we didn’t:

“Fuck GamerGate” is a fairly obvious statement from us. It might be satisfying to say, but it adds little to the conversation.

And women who’ve said it before us have been stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–some to the point of fleeing their homes.

2. A statement of support for GamerGate’s victims

Why we didn’t:

Telling folks we support them is nice, but it doesn’t provide the victims of these terror campaigns with the practical support they need to protect themselves. Talking about them has a very high chance of exposing them to even more abusers. When you’re the target of an organized campaign of terror, the last thing you need is more attention.

And women who’ve made statements of support have been stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–some to the point of fleeing their homes.

3. An Ada Lovelace-style celebration of women in gaming, where we encourage folks to blog about games they love by women, and women in gaming who inspire them.

Why we didn’t:

We didn’t want to paint a target on anyone’s back.

Women in gaming who’ve gotten positive attention have been stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–some to the point of fleeing their homes.

4. Present an iron hide and dare them to bring it.

Some of us feel guilty for not telling GamerGaters exactly where they can shove the horseshit they have the temerity to present as discourse.

Why we didn’t:

We want to live in a world where terror campaigns like this are ineffective; where that which does not kill us makes us stronger; where good triumphs over obtuse, selfish, cowardly evil. But wanting to live in that world doesn’t make that world real. In this world, oppression and injustice have built a system whereby that which does not kill us often leaves us personally and professionally damaged.

The fantasy that bravado would win the day is appealing, but daring abusers to come for us won’t do anything constructive. As much as we might want to put ourselves between GamerGate and its victims, we can’t. There are too many of them to successfully draw their fire.

We’d just end up getting stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–possibly to the point of fleeing our homes.

By now, you’ve surely noticed the theme here.

It’s tempting to offer cheap platitudes to the women who’ve been the focus of these abuse campaigns, or those who might become them. To tell them to be brave, to speak their truth, to not let violent assholes scare them.

Platitudes won’t keep the cesspits of the internet from backflowing into their homes and workplaces. Platitudes won’t secure their computers and personal information; protect their families from detailed, sexually-explicit death threats; walk their kids to school; or stay at home to protect their pets while they’re at work. Platitudes won’t explain to their bosses why their companies’ websites are being DDOSed. Platitudes won’t stop bullets.

So before you lament how terrible it is to ‘let them win’ by being silent, please stop and think of a better way to phrase “I want to live in a world where the victims of abuse campaigns have a winning move.” Don’t ask women to sacrifice their names, careers, and safety to the fantasy that life is fair.

Telling women to be brave and speak up is telling them to face a violent horde unarmed. We don’t have an effective defense against these terror campaigns. We desperately need one. We’re going to follow up and see if we can develop any effective strategies.

In the meantime, I’ve already painted the target on my back, so I might as well say it.

Fuck GamerGate.

20 thoughts on “Why We’re Not Talking About GamerGate

  1. David Bitterbaum

    Thinking about how more and more people are afraid to speak out against Gamergate for fear of being targeted by it says a lot about Gamergate and how their “style” is reminiscent of terrorists. Yet they are supposedly the victims and its all about, “Ethics in Journalism.” Fuck GamerGate indeed.

  2. Megan Rivera

    This discussion needs to happen. The more people that come out to speak against the bigoted campaign of harassment and threats that #GamerGate is using, the better.

  3. lizhenry

    Fabulous post. Thank you. Yes, I hear from people every day who would like to speak up more, but are already unnerved that they may be targeted too for whatever else they’re doing.

    I would add to the list “We’re all exhausted and working many jobs already, and speaking out about this in other areas like on Twitter, Facebook and in the rest of the world, just not in a big old blog post — until now”. So, yeah, fuck “Gamergate”. It is ridiculous.

    Another area where people can give good support is in being emotional support for, or donating to, women who are targeted for this type of large scale misogyny, threats, stalking, and harassment.

  4. Tassie Gniady

    Thank you for this post! I ventured onto the Twitter discussion in mid September and got the “you don’t understand GG” and “it’s all about journalism” line. While I want threatened or even cussed at, I was definitely mansplained at and flooded with responses by sock puppet accounts pretending to have reasonable discourse with me. Yet none would step out from behind these bogus accounts or address the fact that women keep getting harassed and doxxed for coming out against GG. They just kept repeating the tired party line. So, yeah, fuck Gamergate.

  5. Bart J Helms (@bjza)

    This is the post that needs to be shared with everyone reasonable who may have jumped onto the GG bandwagon. Whatever they believe or hope to accomplish, allying with that hashtag has consequences.

  6. DameB

    I have nothing to add but a tired and heartfelt, “Thank you.” You’ve summed it up well.

  7. quixote

    “We don’t have an effective defense against these terror campaigns. We desperately need one.”

    This.

    If you go way back to first causes, it’s a free speech issue. Hate speech is being used to stifle political speech. That’s exactly what is *not* supposed to happen, political speech is exactly the kind that is supposed to be protected. But because people are desperate to avoid the value judgments in “okay” versus “not-okay” the issue is being ignored in the hope it’ll go away.

    (The powers-that-be would really like us to help by just suffering in silence.)

    The thing is, though, that the value judgments are too overwhelming only when women are being silenced. The old “yelling fire in a crowded theater” was declared out of bounds way back in the 1920s (1930s?). This level of abuse against a race would never be tolerated in recent times. But when it’s aimed at women, somehow it doesn’t matter / it’s just a joke / free speech!

    I can’t help thinking that once women matter, the effective defense will be much less of a problem. Which, I know, is a big Debbie Downer thing to say.

    1. Annalee Post author

      I agree with your overall point, but I want to push back on this:

      This level of abuse against a race would never be tolerated in recent times.

      A stroll through the twitter mentions of activists of color will reveal that people of color do indeed face this level of abuse in recent times.

      Suggesting that we wouldn’t tolerate this if it was racial discrimination also erases women of color, and the ways that race and gender oppression combine to hit them both harder and differently than those who don’t stand at that intersection. They don’t just face racism + misogyny; but rather racist misogyny, and it’s not only tolerated but widespread in our society and in activist communities. To ally with them, we must acknowledge that the hatred and abuse they face is neither a thing of the past nor a fair comparison to the abuse that white women face.

      1. quixote

        I agree with your point about the crap ladled onto women of color. I also think we have to keep our eye on the crap ladled onto women, of any color, which includes people of color. I know your priority is everybody’s rights, but too many people use the rights of any group except women as a way of telling women that “their turn” will come after everyone else is taken care of. Which of course forgets that half of almost every group is women.

        Obviously, we’re either all free or nobody is free. But the attitude of wait-your-turn is actually an example of what I was trying to say. I haven’t seen people on the progressive side point out that women’s rights aren’t being explicitly included in discussions of racism. I’ve seen many examples where people object that discussions of sexism aren’t doing enough to consider racism. I am NOT saying that’s what you’re doing. What I’m trying to point out is the air out there, so to speak, where women’s rights don’t even register. And I’m trying to say that’s at the root of ignoring the criminal harassment women face on the web.

        1. Annalee Post author

          I haven’t seen people on the progressive side point out that women’s rights aren’t being explicitly included in discussions of racism.

          I’ve seen a lot of this, actually–mostly from women of color, who are often being told to ‘wait their turn’ when it comes to discussing the sexism they face. They’re often explicitly told they they shouldn’t call out sexist behavior from men of color because they should be focusing on racism.

          I’ve seen many examples where people object that discussions of sexism aren’t doing enough to consider racism.

          Where we differ is that I wholeheartedly agree with this criticism. To fight sexism, we have to take into account the many different forms it takes, and that means considering racism. It especially means considering the ways mainstream feminism perpetuates racism and uses it to silence and abuse women of color. When women of color criticize us for not giving them a place at the table, we’re the ones telling them to “wait their turn.”

          We’re far afield of the topic here, so I’m going to close down the topic of race in feminism. I strongly recommend you seek out and pay attention to women of color who’ve written extensively on this topic, including Sojourner Truth, Audre Lorde, Jessica Yee, and Hood Feminism.

  8. Andrew Williams

    Superb writing. A very perceptive view of the difficulty of addressing gamergate’s hate campaign.

  9. Annalee Post author

    Just a note that per our comment policy on “adding nothing to the conversation,” I will not be approving any comments about how “It’s about ethics in games journalism” or “not ALL GamerGaters!”

    Slut-shaming a female game creator is neither ethical nor a legitimate point. That’s how all this started. It wasn’t about ethics then, and it’s not about ethics now. And frankly, derailing conversations about hate campaigns against women because you’d rather talk about how the media talks about toys is pretty messed up.

    If you don’t want to be associated with a hate group, don’t join movements started by notorious racist sexist douchecanoes. You sound like the KKK prattling on about “heritage not hate.” Their heritage is hate. GamerGate’s is virulent misogyny. Trying to pretend it isn’t just minimizes the very real harm it’s doing in the name of soothing your ego. If you don’t want people thinking you’re an asshole, not joining hate groups is a much more effective strategy than butting into conversations to declare that even though you’re part of a hate group, you’re not really an asshole.

    1. Tinu Abayomi-Paul

      First, I just want to thank you for this post, and all of you for this site, so much. It is Oxygen. Secondly I want to thank you for your push-back about race and women of color. I don’t believe the poster was malicious in their assumptions, just unaware, and some people would have jumped on that, and fallen into a heated diatribe of belief defenses. Which would have helped no one.

      Third, you talked about strategies to combat harassment. I think that is the key point: what are the effective actions to take beyond all the platitudes by people who TRULY don’t understand what is happening. I was one of those “just ignore the bully” types until I first came to internet news groups. At the point I escalated to don’t engage with trolls.

      Then it happened to me. Multiple times. Back then I was simply a woman of color in tech and marketing. I had not made any political stances, or challenged the norm in any way outside of… being I guess. And in talking to other women and some men, I adopted the belief that this is just what happens when your visibility raises above a certain level. And I backed away from offers of actual fame and material success because of my short-lived but horrible experiences.

      I think at the very root of the problem is this muddied awareness. People know that there’s a problem. But they think we’re overreacting. They think we’re overreacting because people like me were lulled into the acceptance that this is what happens to everyone. It didn’t occur to me that it happens to men less and on a smaller scale. I know lots of men that are harassed and hated on just for being famous (not internet famous, actually famous) or popular. I know zero that have received rape threats.

      So while I agree with you that there’s absolutely no reason why any of us should be painting targets on our backs or jumping in front of bullets, we could be more open with the people in our immediate vicinity about the fact that these threats, even when they aren’t real (and in my case they have been) are hugely disruptive to the ability to do business, to live, to be a free sovereign person in the world.

      We have some tactics to fight back, and a great many have failed upward, to the point that these groups are able to affect the advertising budgets of even companies that fight back. But we have no strategy. And you are so, so right. I’d like to include you in some conversations I’m having about this, and I’d love to join yours if it exists. Thank you all for your great work.

  10. NoSuchThingAsAntiGG

    It’s not “reminiscent” of terrorists, it *IS* terrorism, straight-up. I tried to engage some of GG around the idea that maybe it would be good to use their pooled resources to identify the people who were making the rape and death threats, and before I knew it I had a baying mob at my door. There’s no way to have a discussion with people whose idea of one is mobbing you with negative attention :P

    The sad thing is that, as my handle indicates, I don’t think there are actual “anti-GG” organizations out there. It’s just normal, ordinary folks reacting to their terrible behavior and denials in normal, ordinary ways. But they’ll never allow themselves to believe that…

  11. Patrick Benson

    Thank you for this. I am a skeptic, and on my blog I wrote an article about how I used skepticism to conclude that GamerGate is bullshit. In the same article I also pointed out that the threat of Ebola becoming an epidemic in the United States was nonsense, and how skepticism is sorely needed during an election year with all of these misleading campaign ads playing.

    Immediately a GamerGater called me out on how ironic it was that I dd not apply skepticism to GamerGate. I made my case, again, and then asked if he had any evidence that I did not know of that I should consider. Even if you tell me that the Earth is flat I will still ask for your evidence and review it before outright dismissing your claim.

    His response was to “ask the tag”. The irony of having this person accuse me of not practicing skepticism was laughable. I was supposed to believe the “ethics in video game journalism” propaganda spread under at that hashtag while at the same time ignoring the misogyny spread by that hashtag. The evidence for my conclusion in the article was the tag!

    What is truly ironic is that because of GamerGate I now subscribe to and follow the tweets of the women they are attacking. I now realize that because I want all people treated equally and fairly that I am a feminist, and that being a feminist is synonymous with being a humanist. I am looking at my own behavior much more closely now in order to treat others better.

  12. audreyr

    Wonderful post. Annalee, thank you so much for writing this, and for your thoughtful comments on race & intersectionality as well.

  13. Pingback: I'm Tinu. My name means Love. | #Voldemort: How do you not talk about something you’re talking about?

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