This is a guest post by Nadine Santoro. Originally published in “the paper.”
If you received an anonymous email threatening “the deadliest school shooting in American history” unless a feminist speaker scheduled to visit your university cancelled her trip, do you think it’s a message you would take lightly? The Utah State University staff certainly seemed to. Feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak about the portrayal of women in video games at USU on October 15th, 2014, until the university received this threat.
“If you do not cancel her talk, a Montreal Massacre style attack will be carried out against the attendees, as well as students and staff at the nearby Women’s Center,” the message warned. “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs.” The writer signed the email under the pseudonym of Marc Lepine, a shooter who took the lives of 14 women in 1989 at École Polytechnique in Montreal before committing suicide. Lepine’s suicide note explained how he “decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined [his] life, to their maker.”
Like the real Marc Lepine, the alleged USU student behind this threat directs his anger towards feminism in a graphically violent way. The email reads, “I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.” The writer also added that “there are plenty of feminists on campus who won’t be able to defend themselves” even if USU prevented the shooting by introducing security measures at the entrances. “One way or another,” he wrote, “I’m going to make sure they die.”
Sarkeesian was initially hesitant to cancel the talk and give in to the threat’s demands, assuming the university would provide security in the form of metal detectors or pat downs at the doors of the venue. On October 14th, however, USU released a statement officially terminating the event. Apparently, upon asking if weapons would be permitted on the premises, “Sarkeesian was informed that, in accordance with the State of Utah law regarding the carrying of firearms, if a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue.”
Just before this statement was released at 7 P.M., Sarkeesian tweeted, “Forced to cancel my talk at USU after receiving death threats because police wouldn’t take steps to prevent concealed firearms at the event.” She continued, “I’m safe. I will continue my work. I will continue speaking out. The whole game industry must stand up against the harassment of women.”
Days after the event was cancelled, Sarkeesian was still tweeting her outrage and disappointment in USU staff and law enforcement. “Irresponsibly dangerous for USU/police to say online threats are ‘the norm’ and ‘not real’ because I haven’t yet been physically assaulted,” she said on October 16th. “Remember Elliot Rodger used the internet to make threats ahead of his misogynist rampage. Schools must always take online threats seriously.”
Although Elliot Rodger’s anti-feminist shooting at UCSB occurred not six months ago, killing 6 people and injuring 13 others, America seems to have already forgotten (that is, if they ever recognized) how dangerous these young misogynists can be. The public remains somehow blind to the fact that our society promotes male entitlement, teaching these jilted boys that the girls who rejected them owe them love or sex in return for kindness and infatuation. Coupled with a skewed perception of justice and violent tendencies, male entitlement can drive boys to murder, sending a twisted message about how the feminist movement, which so radically demands equality for all people, has “ruined” their lives.
Unfortunately, Sarkeesian is only one of many female video game critics and developers forced to take drastic measures to protect their lives in recent weeks. Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu also fled their homes when death and rape threats along with their addresses were posted online, according to an article on Forbes. As shocking as it is that anyone would threaten violence over the prospect of equal representation in video games, this climate of extreme hostility is nothing new for females in the industry. As twitter user @Hello_Taylor sarcastically said: “Should women be allowed to create and play video games without fear of being murdered in real life? Let’s hear both sides of the story.” Disturbingly, this topic has been approached in the media in exactly that manner.
Is it revolutionary for women to expect not to be murdered, raped, and harassed when they voice an opinion? Whether or not you agree with Anita Sarkeesian or feminism in general, these threats of violence and the casual dismissal of their danger must stop. How many people will have to die at the hands of anti-feminists until society accepts that these aggressors are the problem, rather than the people they attack?