‘What I Couldn’t Say’ Panel at All About Women

March 21, 2015

I was invited to speak on several panels about feminism and the impacts of online harassment at the 2015 All About Women conference taking place annually at the Sydney Opera House. Here is a video of my speech for the panel entitled, “What I Couldn’t Say.”

Full transcript below.

What I couldn’t say is fuck you.

To the thousands of men who turned their misogyny into a game. A game in which gendered slurs, death and rape threats are weapons used to try and take down the big bad villain, which in this case is me.

My life is not a game. I’ve 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 am angry.

When people who know what I go through on a daily bases meet me in person they often react with some surprise saying things like “I don’t understand how you aren’t more angry” because I’m just being me, I’m a fairly charming and nice enough 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 that women suffer everyday 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 is anything funny.

Most of my friends would describe me as a little snarky and sarcastic, you can occasionally glimpse this part of my personality in my earlier criticism videos, but I almost never make jokes anymore 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 joke happens 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 comfortably 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. Everyday I see my words scrutinized, twisted and distorted by thousands of men hell bent 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. A death threat comes through my social media and it’s just become a routine: screencap, forward to FBI, block, 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 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 have 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 are often used against us.

But by denying ourselves the space to feel and to share those feelings, we are 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 emotions 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 are demonstrating courage.

In all the different, messy, honest, ways that we respond to harassment, we actually demonstrate how much humanity we all still have in the face of such cruelty and injustice.

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