I can’t even bring myself to embed it here: some trogolodytes have created a game that lets players beat up Anita Sarkeesian, the feminist video blogger who’s been subject to an unremitting campaign of harassment since she created a Kickstarter to support a project to explore tropes of female characters in video games. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: anyone who thinks that feminists who push back hard against online harassment are being oversensitive needs to understand that we’re all trying to keep ourselves from becoming Anita Sarkeesians. No matter how strong you are, and no matter how much support you have, this kind of concentrated campaign of harassment affects the targets of it. And the goal of these campaigns is to terrorize people into silence. It’s not disagreement. It’s not creative trolling. It’s deployment of a weapon.
And even though it’s frightening, ugly stuff, the campaign waged against Sarkeesian illustrates the fundamental cowardice and weakness of the people attacking her. If you so lack confidence in your ideas, if you’re so uncomfortable defending your appreciation for problematic things (which, by the way, is tricky but not that tricky) that you can’t even put your hands over your ears and sing loudly and ignore them, that you have to actually go out and try to prevent anyone from from saying anything that could make you remotely uneasy, you are a coward. That’s cold comfort to folks like Sarkeesian who have to go through this now. But it’s why, long-term, angry, petty sexists are going to lose, and why it’s important to throw up bulwarks against trolls who try to venture out of their holes and take over mainstream conversations. These ideas don’t stand-up to discussion and debate. And sexist trolls can’t shut down all of those debates, no matter how hard they try.