Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How Yoga, Video Games, Environmentalism, Feminism and Online Harassment Matter

Anita Sarkeesian has been living with constant threats of rape, assault, bombing and violence on her person, forcing her in August of this year, after a threat on Twitter shared her home address, to leave her home. Anita Sarkeesian is not a yoga blogger (who knows if she practices yoga), nor an environmental blogger. Anita Sarkeesian is a media critic and creator of Feminist Frequency: a video webseries that explores the representation of women in pop culture narratives- with a focus on sci-fi and the gaming industry. In the past five years she's been speaking out against sexism and tropes in the video gaming industry.

(Damsels in Distress Part 1)

 So why should threats against her person matter to you: the yogi, the environmentalist, my reader whatever your sex, gender, interests or background may be?

The majority of these threats have been from the online community.

(I could add, because she is a human, because it's wrong, because it's a symptom of a larger, more insidious and still relevant social issue... but more personally because you are reading this as a person of the online community at large and as such that places implicit participation whether ignorant or not in this conversation).

As more of our lives are spent living, communicating and interacting online, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify separating our online circles and spaces, staying quiet in the face of harassement or choosing to turn the other way when the very real and serious threats are not pointed directly our way or in our own online neighbourhood.

Threats of violence against women (and yes this includes the very real crime of non consented sharing of nude photos of women) in the online platform affects all of us.

And how we (women) are portrayed in popular culture, I would argue particularly in the gaming and sci-fi industry, an industry that has grown considerably in it's ubiquitousness and general popularity, affects how we (women) are perceived in our every day lives and social structures.

We talk about this often in the online yoga community. Discussions abound in various online spaces how yoga is portrayed by the young, lithe, beautiful and white female body perpetuating body myths and objectification in a philosophy that should, by all rights, be above such sexist and hurtful imagery. (It's all yoga, baby , Carol Horton, to name a few). Speaking out for a respectful, non objectified representation of women in the popular media (or video games) isn't unreasonable in a society where supposedly women hold equal rights under the law.

Nor does speaking out against misogyny warrant a very real barrage and onslaught of violent (and often sexist) threats without any real consequence. As Ms Sarkeesian points out in her TedxWomen talk(above):
"It's not a game. It's an overt display of angry misogyny on a massive scale. It's not just boys being boys, it's not just how the internet works and it's not just going to go away if we ignore it... and whether it's a cyber mob or a handful or hateful comments, the end result is maintaining and reinforcing and normalizing a culture of sexism".
Just the act of being an online voice (via my blog, Twitter and other social media accounts) means that how we use the internet and digital world to communicate affects me, personally and directly. The fact that I am a female voice means that all attacks on those speaking out simply because of their sex and gender is an attack against myself.

So. This is me not staying silent and explicitly supporting the work of all the courageous people who speak out against misogyny and sexism in our digital world. Including Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn. (GamerGate).


  1. This is wonderful!

    I mean, it's horrible, but the fact that you wrote this is wonderful.

    Excellent job.


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