Anita Sarkeesian cancels university appearance following mass shooting threat

15 Oct 2014

Anita Sarkeesian, media critic and creator of Feminist Frequency

Feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian has cancelled an appearance at Utah State University (USU) due to security’s inability to prevent attendees carrying weapons following a violent threat.

Sarkeesian is best known as the creator of Feminist Frequency and host of its web series Tropes vs Women, which examines how women are depicted in pop culture, particularly video games.

The series has been the subject of unwarranted levels of criticism for what is, essentially, one woman’s analysis of gaming and pop culture, and threats of violence, rape and death are repeatedly directed at the show’s prominent feminist creator.

Sarkeesian had been invited to speak at USU today by its Centre for Women and Gender. However, a threat promising “the deadliest school shooting in American history” was sent via an email to several USU staff members yesterday morning, with the sender claiming to be a Utah State student.

Utah state law permits concealed firearms

Due to the threats directed at Sarkeesian in the past, USU police were already making preparations for added security at the event and they initially decided to proceed with the event as planned but to prohibit any backpacks or large bags.

However, Sarkeesian decided to cancel her appearance when it was revealed to her that, in accordance with Utah state law, anyone with a valid permit for a concealed firearm would be allowed to bring this weapon into the venue.

Sarkeesian clarified via the Feminist Frequency Twitter account that her decision to cancel was based on these inadequate security measures, not the threat itself.

GamerGate continues

According to Sarkeesian, multiple specific threats were made on her life and the lives of others attending the talk, with one threat claiming affiliation with GamerGate.

The GamerGate movement has become a campaign of harassment against women in the gaming industry, which began when the ex-boyfriend of a female game developer posted numerous allegations against her character and professional credibility on his blog.

Last weekend, Revolution 60 developer Brianna Wu, who was critical of GamerGate, was forced to flee her home in Boston following death threats from abusers who had confirmed their knowledge of her address and also threatened her husband.

Sarkeesian was similarly forced out of her home earlier this year, demonstrating that this has become a typical tactic of an online community reacting violently to feminist critique.

Meanwhile, USU police have been investigating the threat made against the event in conjunction with state and federal bodies, including the FBI, and has determined that there is no ongoing threat to students and staff.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.