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Anita Sarkeesian: “What I Couldn’t Say”


Anita Sarkeesian discusses what it’s like to be under constant scrutiny, what it’s like to be harassed, and how women respond to harassment. It’s moving without being maudlin…yet still inspires so much haaaaaaate.

UPDATE: The original video appears to have been removed by the user. I’m replacing it with this video (link supplied by The Temporary Name. Thank you, Temporary!). advocatethis says she comes in at 26:00.

Thanks to SophiaNOTLoren for the transcript:

So, it looks like “Ideas At The House” has all of the individual speakers from this panel — the one with Anita Sarkeesian is here if it makes a difference for updating the post.

(It’s been ages since I commented on anything at LGM, I vaguely recall seeing a post about commenting policy changing… has it really been so long?!)

Anyway, here’s a transcript I typed up. Hope it’s useful to someone else out there.

What I couldn’t say is “Fuck you!” ~laughter and applause~ To the thousands of men who turned their misogyny into a game; a game in which gendered slurs, death and rape threats are used to try and take down the big bad villain — which in this case, is me.

My life is not a game. I have been harassed and threatened every day for going on three years, with no end in sight, and all because I dared to question the self-evident, obvious sexism running rampant in the games industry. Nothing about my experience is a game.

What I couldn’t say is “I’m angry.” When people who know what I go through on a daily basis meet me in person, they often act with some surprise, saying things like, “I don’t understand how you aren’t more angry!” Because I’m just being me, I’m usually kinda charming and nice to people… but I respond saying that I am angry; in fact, I’m furious! I’m angry that we live in a society where online harassment is tolerated, accepted, and excused; where web services and law enforcement are not taking responsibility for the abuse women suffer every day online. I’m angry that I’m expected to accept online harassment as the price of being a woman with an opinion.

What I couldn’t say was anything funny. Most of my friends would describe me as a little bit snarky, and pretty sarcastic, and you can occasionally glimpse this part of my personality in earlier criticism videos, but I almost never make jokes any more on YouTube. Even though humor can be humanizing, and I like using it, I don’t do it because viewers often interpret humor and sarcasm as ignorance, especially if those viewers are male, and the ones making the jokes happen to be female.

You would not believe how often jokes are taken as “proof” that I don’t know what I’m talking about, or that I’m not a “real gamer,” even when those jokes rely on a deep knowledge of the source material. So as a result, I intentionally leave that more humorous side of my personality out of my current video presentations. I rarely feel comfortable speaking spontaneously in public spaces, I’m intentional and careful about the media interviews I do, I decline most invitations to be on podcasts or web shows, I carefully consider the wording of every tweet to make sure it is clear, and can’t be misconstrued.

Over the last several years, I’ve become hyper-vigilant. My life, my words, and my actions are placed under a magnifying glass. Every day I see my words scrutinized, twisted, and distorted by thousands of men, hellbound on destroying and silencing me.

What I couldn’t say is, “I’m a human being.” I don’t get to publicly express sadness, or rage, or exhaustion, or anxiety, or depression; I can’t say that sometimes the harassment really gets to me — or conversely, that the harassment has become so normal that sometimes I don’t feel anything at all. The death threats come through on my social media, and it’s just become a routine: screencap, forward to the FBI, block, and move on.

I don’t get to express feelings of fear, or how tiring it is to be constantly vigilant of my physical and digital surroundings. How I don’t go to certain events because I don’t feel safe, or how I sit in the more secluded areas of coffee shops and restaurants so the least amount of people can recognize me, and see me. I don’t show how embarrassed I am when I have to ask the person who recognized me in my local grocery store to please not mention the location where they met me.

Somehow we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that by expressing human emotions, it somehow means that the harassers have “won.” This false belief is largely because in our society, women are not allowed to express feelings without being characterized as “hysterical,” “erratic,” “bitchy,” “highly emotional,” or “overly sensitive.” Our expressions of insecurity, doubt, anger, or sadness are all policed, and often used against us. But by denying ourselves the space to feel and to share those feelings, we’re just perpetuating this notion that we should all suffer alone. That we should all just toughen up, and grow thicker skin — which we shouldn’t have to do!

What I couldn’t say is, “I don’t even want to be saying any of this!” Largely because I still fear that expressing human emotion publicly will make me seem insecure. The truth is that women who persevere and retain some measure of their humanity are not expressing weakness; they’re demonstrating courage. In all the different, messy, honest ways that we respond to harassment, we actually demonstrate how much we all still have in the face of such cruelty and injustice.

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