After Online Misogyny Goes Too Far, the Internet Rallies Around Its Feminist Gamers

After Online Misogyny Goes Too Far, the Internet Rallies Around Its Feminist Gamers
Source: AP
Source: AP

Can GamerGate be stopped?

The loaded term and hashtag campaign may have finally met its match with #StopGamerGate2014, which blew up on Twitter after increased media attention on sexism in the gaming industry. The massive groundswell in attention came courtesy of a violent threat that forced Tropes vs. Women creator and feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian to cancel her talk at Utah State University on Tuesday.

The history: Actor and non-Baldwin-Brother Adam Baldwin is credited with coining the term "GamerGate," which was originally represented as a platform to critique the journalistic integrity of feminist critics of the gaming industry. As he told the New York Times, "GamerGate distances itself by saying, 'This is not what we're about ... We're about ethics in journalism.'" 

Indeed, not all women oppose GamerGate, with some who vocally support it. Gamer Jennie Bharaj, for example, in an Oct. 15 Huffington Post Live segment, claimed that GamerGate is "not a social revolt against women or minorities" but is "essentially a consumer response against corrupt journalism in the gaming industry." As Vox frames it, GamerGate is the critical response to "the generally left-leaning online gaming press focus[ing] too much on feminism and the role of women in the industry, to the detriment of coverage of games." 

But if actions are the guide, it seems the objective of GamerGate, especially on the hashtag, are to both silence critics of the sexism in the gaming industry and, more dangerously, encourage the continued, vitriolic online harassment of women. The history of GamerGate, detailed variously by countless media sites like VoxDeadspinMother Jones and the Washington Post, prove that journalistic integrity is actually code to cover violence against women gamers and those female gaming critics — primarily Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian — whom supporters of GamerGate oppose. Indeed, the impetus for the hashtag was a baseless and long-since debunked accusation impugning the reputation of developer Quinn. 

Women make up 48% of the gaming industry. Within this percentage exists a large number of gamers who are tired and disgusted by the sexist tropes pervasive in gaming culture. Yet, Sarkeesian told CBS News, "[w]omen who are asking for more diversity and more inclusivity in games are being attacked in really vicious ways. It's almost like they're afraid we're going to take their toys away."

Many of the tweets tagged #StopGamerGate reiterated Sarkeesian's concerns, effectively unmasking the movement as a misogynistic closing of ranks against a more inclusive gaming culture.

From notable gamers to celebrities, #StopGamerGate unleashed a torrent of sharp, incisive commentary about sexism in gaming, as well as support for Sarkeesian.

Even non-gaming fanatics like comedian Patton Oswalt voiced their surprise and frustration at the wrath exhibited by GamerGate supporters:

Seth Rogan took on Adam Baldwin himself in a series of pointed tweets that culminated in one rather unambiguous gesture:

"Does someone have to actually die before GamerGate calms down?" asked Mike Diver at Vice earlier this week. While no part of the story has escalated into death, lives, reputations and livelihoods have already been affected in very large ways. Now that the Internet has finally awoken to this reality, it's not just feminists and gamers jumping on the #StopGamerGate2014 wagon anymore. This diversity of support may signal a watershed moment for a controversy that has already been allowed to go on far too long.