If the women won’t do what the harassers tell them to, maybe there are other methods – like going after the advertisers. Amanda Marcotte at Slate:
Gamergate, a diffuse but relentless online anti-feminist movement aimed at drubbing feminist women out of game development and criticism, continues to expand the scope of its attacks. First it started as a traditional anti-feminist campaign, targeting individual women in hopes that they’d quit the industry rather than suffer any longer. When that didn’t work, they moved into targeting advertisers of websites that hire feminist women. They were sadly successful when Intel pulled its advertising from a website Gamasutra, which had offended the Gamergaters by running a piece that argued video games should be for everyoneinstead of just for angry white guys. Now the circle of victims has expanded even beyond just the gaming press, as the website Gawker is being threatened with the loss of its Mercedes advertising after Mercedes got a deluge of emails from Gamergaters who take offense at the multiple pieces Gawker and its sister sites have run criticizing Gamergate.
So…what is Mercedes thinking here? That the people behind Gamergate are very very likely to rush out at any minute to buy a Mercedes, unless they decide not to because Mercedes advertises on Gawker? That the kind of people who buy a Mercedes – which is people with many tens of thousands of dollars to squander – are the kind of people who spend all day hassling women on Twitter?
Really? Does that seem like sound consumer research? I think people like that are way too busy either making the money that buys them a Mercedes or playing golf by way of post-money-making fun and relaxation.
Marcotte thinks much the same thing; she finds it “confusing to see companies like Mercedes, Intel, and Adobe give any credence to a bunch of squalling from an online army of mostly teenage boys and social maladepts who are worried that girls are going to ruin the experience of playing Call of Duty.”
Seriously. People who spend all their time doing that don’t have the cash to buy anything besides an occasional bucket of fried chicken. So why are the advertisers squawking and running away?
The likely truth is they don’t want the hassle. Most of these big corporations desperately want to be perceived as floating above the ugly fray of politics. Intel pulled its advertising from Gamasutra and then issued a mealy-mouthed apology after the fact, saying, “Our action inadvertently created a perception that we are somehow taking sides in an increasingly bitter debate in the gaming community.” Adobe pulled a similar stunt, rushing to agree with Gamergate attacks on Gawker while claiming some kind of general anti-bullying stance.
Yeah that’s horseshit, that claiming to be against bullying while you’re in the very act of enabling or even encouraging bullying. We’ve seen a lot of it in these parts, and it’s horseshit.
Gamergate doesn’t have good arguments, which is why they dissemble and hand-wave rather than engaging in honest debate about the role of women in gaming. But the power they do have is what a colleague of mine characterized as “asymmetrical warfare”: Gamergaters, particularly since they recruit so heavily amongst teenagers and young men, have nothing but time and nothing to lose, making it relatively easy for them to target advertisers with these campaigns.
Many feminist writers know this phenomenon very well, having been targeted for over a decade now by an online guerrilla campaign of “men’s rights activists” and other anti-feminists who dogpile individual women with harassment in hopes of driving them to quit writing.
But now they’re making economic war, and that might do the job.
Which is why Gamergate is so worrisome, because it represents a shift away from targeting individual women and towards targeting notoriously skittish advertisers. It does mean it will be harder for the harassers to deny that they’re actively working to silence feminists online, but the tradeoff is, as we’ve seen with Intel and possibly Mercedes, it might just work.
If the advertisers are supine enough and cynical enough and self-protecting enough to do the “we oppose bullying but we’re withdrawing our ads from anti-bullying sites anyway because no reason just because” thing, then yes, it might just work.