As some of you may know a harassment campaign is being waged against me because of my Tropes vs Women in Video Games project on Kickstarter. This coordinated attack was launched by various online video game forums and has included attempts to get my accounts banned, a torrent of hate on YouTube, plus countless threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape. As part of that intimidation effort the Wikipedia page about me was vandalized with misogynist language, pornography and racial slurs.
I went back and forth about whether or not to share this publicly because I don’t want to inadvertently encourage this kind of behavior or scare other women into staying silent out of fear something similar may happen to them. But ultimately I’ve decided I’m going to document and strategically share what is happening to me because these types of online harassment tactics are used against women, feminists and people from oppressed and marginalized groups every day.
About a year ago I noticed someone had made a Wikipedia page about me. It’s a simple stub in the Women’s Rights Activist category and contains two short paragraphs mostly pulled from my online bio. Very little had changed on the page since it was created, that is until last week.
The image below shows the result of the vandalism that took place over the course of June 5th and 6th, 2012. This was not done by just one or two trolls but was a coordinated cyber mob style effort involving a whole gang working together. The screenshot below was downloaded directly from one of the internet forums organizing the harassment. They were proudly posting this image as a trophy to boast about what they were doing and to encourage others to join in.
The vandalism included changing the text, changing the page categories, changing the external links to re-reroute to porn sites and adding a drawing of a woman with a man’s penis in her mouth captioned with “Daily Activities”. One extra imaginative troll added that I was actually Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler in disguise (Hepler has also recently been viciously attacked for her opinions on modern video games).
This second screenshot was also downloaded from those same internet forums and again was passed around on various threads as evidence of their attack. Since my name is rather unique, the Wikipedia page about me comes up first when searching for my name. This is what a Google search for my name returned for several days even after the vandalism was removed.
On the evening of the second day the page was officially identified as the subject of persistent vandalism and was finally locked by Wikipedia moderators so that only those with registered accounts could make further changes. From the IP addresses logged in the revision history it looked like a dozen or more different people were working together to vandalize the page. I want to extend a big thank you to all the dedicated Wikipedians out there that helped remove the vandalism and continue to monitor the page!
I am certainly not the first woman to suffer this kind of harassment and sadly, I won’t be the last. But I’d just like to reiterate that this is not a trivial issue. It can not and should not be brushed off by saying, “oh well that’s YouTube for you“, “trolls will be trolls” or “it’s to be expected on the internet”. These are serious threats of violence, harassment and slander across many online platforms meant to intimidate and silence. And its not okay.
Again, don’t worry, this harassment will never stop me from making my videos! Thank you all for your support!