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Sarkeesian Addresses Feminism at Symposium Event

Anita Sarkeesian getting ready for her presentation at Loyola University Chicago. / Photo credit: William Tolan

Anita Sarkeesian getting ready for her presentation at Loyola University Chicago. / Photo credit: William Tolan

By Will Tolan

Feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian advised against neutrality towards misogyny in the video game community Friday afternoon at Loyola University Chicago’s Lewis Towers.

“As women, we are told by marketing that they’re not for us,” Sarkeesian said. There is a “general culture in games that is alienating towards women.”

Sarkeesian, the creator of Feminist Frequency, gave the keynote speech as a part of the Fourth Annual International Symposium on Digital Ethics to a large crowd filled with students, alumni and other professionals. The event was sponsored by the university’s Center for Digital Ethics & Policy.

According to the center’s website, their goal is “to foster more dialogue, research, and guidelines regarding ethical behavior in online and digital environments.”

“There is a notion that gaming is supposed to be the domain of young men,” Sarkeesian said.

This notion has led to what Sarkeesian describes as a “misogynist cyber mob” which has responded aggressively against her feminist activism. Sarkeesian described the level of cyber abuse she had had to endure including harassment, online impersonation, death threats and even conspiracy theories.

This controversy has become known as GamerGate. It recently escalated to threats of a school shooting when Sarkeesian was supposed to give a presentation at Utah State University on Wednesday, Oct. 15.

She later stated on Twitter that she did not cancel her speech out of fear, but because of Utah’s concealed carry law which would not have prohibited anyone with a concealed weapon from entering the building.

Sophomore advertising and public relations major Erin Cullen is one of many attendees who was aware of what happened at Utah State University.

“It’s a little disconcerting just to be here, but it is a completely different state,” Cullen, 19, said. “I never felt unsafe at Loyola, I never felt they put students in harm’s way.”

Loyola University Chicago took many precautions during the presentation including preregistration, bag searches and visible security guards throughout the building. Many guests, such as sophomore English major Sean Mackey, believed in Sarkeesian’s cause, even with the controversy that has surrounded it.

“GamerGate is literally nothing more than people harassing women,” Mackey, 19, said. “They’re fighting to keep this stupidly archaic thing alive.”

“Sexism is a big, toxic cloud we are all breathing,” Sarkeesian said towards the end of her speech. She said that even if people are not the cause of this cloud, there is still a responsibility to help out.

According to Sarkeesian, “one of the most radical things you can do is believe women when they tell you about their experiences.”

“You can’t be neutral on a moving train,” Sarkeesian said, quoting Howard Zinn.

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.