So this week one of the many things flying about on the feminist internet is the fact that Law and Order: Special Victims Unit has more or less decided to feature internet harassment against Anita Sarkeesian (with a little Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu thrown in) as the subject of its Feb. 11th episode, entitled “The Intimidation Game” (clever, SVU, I see what you did there). (Video link – SVU: The Intimidation Game)
The Washington Post did a write-up of some of the similarities and differences, conflating Sarkeesian’s experience over the last few years (yes, we’re at “years” now) with GamerGate, and suggesting that L&O is offering “the final word on GamerGate.”
My thought on that sentiment is “If only.” If only this were the last we would hear about GamerGate or harassment of women online. If only women in the games industry would now be able to blithely go about their lives and businesses without fear of repercussions in the form of threats, harassment, doxxing, and even violence. Because while none of the real women involved in GamerGate have been abducted or physically assaulted, that is the fear that has been created – intentionally – by those engaging in online threats and harassment.
Sure enough (and in its defense, the WP piece does talk about the “thoughtful” nature of the comments which appeared immediately after the episode aired), the episode is far from the “final word” on the subject, as Quinn’s twitter today contained the following:
Are my mentions done being a post-SVU sewer yet? No? Ok i am going back to bed. pic.twitter.com/AogNlOl74O
— sighborg (@TheQuinnspiracy) February 12, 2015
And Sarkeesian had this to say:
Predictably this week’s Law & Order SVU was sickening. They trivialized and exploited real life abuse of women in gaming for entertainment.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) February 12, 2015
So no, it wasn’t the “last word” on GamerGate, not by a long shot.
Ars Technica, on the other hand, characterized the episode with the phrase “everyone loses.” From where I’m sitting, that seems more accurate.
I watched it. And it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten this angry at a television show. And I mean legitimately angry, not “How could they do that to X character?!” but “That was irresponsible, disrespectful, and undermines progress” kind of angry.
That episode just eroded years of work being done by the games industry to see its products recognized as valuable contributions to culture that influence the way people think, it undermines the work being done by women and other minority voices for recognition and respect in the industry, and it completely negates the difficulty of the struggle many feminists and other activists face every day by turning it into nothing more than a headline. It trivializes the difficulty of daily harassment by transforming institutionalized misogyny and exclusivity into a fringe spectacle that impacts only the important or infamous.
It’s disgusting and depressing to sit at this keyboard and watch years of effort at recognition be disintegrated in forty-two minutes and change. Thanks for that, NBC. That’s the last Law & Order I will ever watch.