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1 September 2015

Anita Sarkeesian: “I don’t like the words ‘troll’ and ‘bully’”

The media critic and GamerGate target tells the Guardian that online harassers need a rebrand.

By Barbara Speed

Anita Sarkeesian has been under attack for an entire year. She has received bomb threats, rape threats, gun threats, and threats that events she was due to speak at would be attacked. Her home address was circulated in online gaming communities. Her crime? She started a Kickstarter campaign for her YouTube channel, Feminist Frequency, to fund a series called “Tropes vs Women in Video Games”, which catalogues the sexist stereotypes and attitudes in gaming. 

So overall, it’s pretty unsurprising that Sarkeesian doesn’t call her attackers “trolls” or “bullies”, with their comfy associations of schoolyards and fairytale bridges. 

Speaking in an interview with Jessica Valenti, published in the Guardian this weekend, Sarkeesian explains her reasoning:

“I don’t like the words ‘troll’ and ‘bully’ – it feels too childish. This is harassment and abuse.”

She also implies that these words tie into a delusion entertained by some of the men themselves – that the abuse is just a bit of fun. Yet whatever the intent, Sarkeesian argues, “it still perpetuates all of the harmful myths attached to that language and those words”.

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The interview also covers GamerGate controversy as a whole and Sarkeesian’s rise to prominence as someone willing to speak publicly about the abuse she has receved. As she points out, however,

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“There are a lot of people who are being targeted who don’t get the attention I do. Women of colour and trans women, in particular, are not getting media attention and not getting the support they need.”