Anita Sarkeesian and “What I Couldn’t Say”

11 Jun, 2015

The transcript and video of Anita Sarkeesian at the 2015 All About Women conference in Sydney got me right in my gut. She’s someone I am in awe of – a media critic willing to be on the very public front lines with her analysis of the representations of women in pop culture narratives.

Anita is also the target for brutal harassment, rape and death threats for her efforts.

“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.”

As for many other activists, this work takes an immense personal toll. In her speech at the panel, Anita revealed some of the many ways her life and self-expression is impacted and curtailed. For example, she can’t express any of the normal range of emotions that all make perfect sense in response to the hatred spewed at her: anger, sadness, rage, exhaustion, anxiety, depression. She can’t use humor as she usually would and she can’t expect to be recognized as a human being. She experiences hyper-vigilance and is uncomfortable in public spaces. She is careful about speaking, as her words are “scrutinized, twisted and distorted” by those who monitor every public utterance.

One of my greatest hopes is to have Prepare programs reach a massive level of impact in our community. One of my greatest fears is what that would do to my life.

There’s already a lot I can’t say publicly, even with all my relative privilege and from a far less visible position. I am fortunate to live without daily fear of bodily harm, grateful to have a circle of friends and colleagues I trust completely so I have a place where I can speak and act freely. I hope she does too.

The expression “What I couldn’t say” got me thinking … what would we hear if we asked people to share this:
What I couldn’t say as a rape survivor,
What I couldn’t say as an abused child/partner,
What I couldn’t say to my straight friends,
What I couldn’t say about my disability,
What I couldn’t say to my boss, and more?

Anita, I am sorry this is happening to you. I appreciate that you opened up and said what you couldn’t say before. Activists everywhere, I am sorry this is happening to you. And thank you for persevering anyway. I will do my best from this end to educate a new generation from our platform at Prepare who can join with your voices to make essential change.

Karen

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