Web Only / Features » October 29, 2014
The Vicious Attacks of GamerGate Are the Norm for Women on the Internet (cont’d)
Consider: When Gawker Media writer Max Biddle Tweeted an off-hand joke about GamerGaters deserving to be bullied, GamerGate responded by harassing Adobe into pulling its advertising contract with Gawker. “I've been told that we've lost thousands of dollars already, and could potentially lose thousands more, if not millions,” Gawker editor Max Read wrote. Intel was also harassed into pulling its ads from trade site, Gamasutra, after Leigh Alexander incurred Gater ire for writing that “gamers are over.”
In other words, they’re now targeting corporations, and men. GamerGaters are encouraged to contact the superiors of any journalist who crosses them and demand the axe, meaning that even those who aren’t feminist-identified and therefore trained to expect this treatment are finally seeing what it’s like to have to fear for your livelihoodif you speak too freely in your latest piece. And marketers and advertisers hit by the GamerGaters are reportedly baffled by the experience of the kind of dedicated harassment that feminist writers have been getting for years. “Advertisers don't know what the fuck this is,” one anonymous publishing sales executive told Ad Age.
Well, they wouldn’t, would they? GamerGate’s biggest mistake—the reason it’s getting so much coverage, and so much corresponding pushback—is that its drive to wipe women off the face of the Internet has targeted folks with real power. When a feminist blogger gets hit with a flood of hateful e-mails, it’s business as usual, time to grow a thicker skin, an opportune moment to lecture everyone on not feeding the trolls. When an Adobe executive gets hit, it’s war.
I’m glad that GamerGate is getting so much press. The chances of the targeted women surviving with careers and mental health intact get higher the more people know what is being done to them. It’s frustrating to see it treated as a new or unique problem—it seems like all of the writing and speaking on the existing problem has been forgotten, or just ignored—but maybe, in the future, we’ll be able to explain these incidents as being “like GamerGate”
Yet we can’t treat this as an isolated event. We can’t treat it as an random blow-up. It is an unusually visible instance of something that happens every day. And its impact can be best measured, not in the number of women driven out of their homes or threatened with mass shootings, but in the silences: In the number of women who don’t speak, or who speak more softly, or who simply shut up for good, knowing that one wrong word or one wrong move can burn their lives down. That fear has been with us for as long as women have been engaging online. Too many of us already live with it.
As for everyone else: Welcome to the war, boys. Buckle in, because it won’t stop any time soon. And it doesn’t get any less bloody from here on in.
Sady Doyle is an In These Times contributing writer. She is the author of Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why (Melville House, 2016) and was the founder of the blog Tiger Beatdown. You can follow her on Twitter at @sadydoyle.