She started with a YouTube account and wound up on the front page of theNew York Times. In between, all that the Canadian-American feminist cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian did, via her video series Feminist Frequency, was calmly, comprehensively collect and explain examples of the shoddy portrayal of women in video games. Titled "Tropes vs. Women," her series on gaming pointed out that the roles most often available to women — from princesses to be rescued to prostitutes to be murdered — are both sexist and unimaginative. If these roles were rethought, diversified and expanded, Sarkeesian argues, gaming's creative class and audience would be diversified and expanded in turn, and games would become more fun to boot.
Hardly controversial stuff, you'd think. But for this, Sarkeesian has been treated like Public Enemy Number One by a reactionary community of hardcore gamers who've gathered under the "#GamerGate" hashtag. Under the guise of pushing for journalistic reform and anti-censorship in gaming, GamerGate has targeted prominent women critics and designers like Sarkeesian, Zoë Quinn, Brianna Wu and Leigh Alexander with a relentless campaign of threats and harassment. Sarkeesian has been driven from her home by the threats; just this week, she canceled a speaking engagement at Utah State University after an anti-feminist detractor threatened a mass shooting when police refused to search attendees for weapons, citing the state's concealed-carry law.