Feminist blogger Anita Sarkeesian is no stranger to violent threats. She’s been receiving them ever since she began critiquing forms of mass media and entertainment—specifically video games. These comments have never deterred Sarkeesian from her purpose, but she has never had to cancel a planned event because of them. On Oct. 14 however, Sarkeesian had to cancel a speech for the first time due to extreme threats made against her and anyone who participated in her event.
Sarkeesian had originally planned to speak at Utah State University, but the day before the speech was scheduled to take place, members of the university administration received mail threatening “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if Sarkeesian was allowed to speak. Due to Utah’s conceal-carry laws, the police were unable to set up any kind of security check at the event. And Sarkeesian, was unfortunately forced to cancel her appearance.
While we can say that such extreme acts and threats of violence are relatively rare, women who are involved in male-dominated fields frequently face unwelcome situations ranging from aggravating and misogynistic comments to aggressive actions. What’s worse still, is that women who speak out against misogyny, whether in the video game industry, STEM fields, or just everyday life, often find little support from those around them.
Overt discrimination against women has always existed, but with the advent of the Internet, social networks, and the relative anonymity these mediums grant users, the harassment of women who speak out against the status quo has increased dramatically. Many people see themselves as living in a society that no longer needs feminism, but these people are, however, incredibly mistaken. Incidents like the one at Utah State indicate a broader and deeper cultural problem light-years away from being solved.
Girls are discouraged from going into tech, engineering, and science fields from the time they first express an interest in going into science. Parents, teachers, executives, even peers all contribute to this by perpetuating the stereotype that science and engineering are too dangerous for women, and those that do get their foot into the door in college often leave due to harassment from male colleagues. A study from the Center for Talent Innovation found that a woman is 45 percent more likely to quit her first STEM job than her male counterpart.
This sexist, alpha-male culture is poisonous not only to the women of today, like Sarkeesian, who speak out against misogyny in various walks of life, but also to the future generation of girls who wish to participate in traditionally male-dominated areas.