Online Harassment of Women

Online harassment of women is not new. In fact, it is devastating that we are still fighting the same battle, still trying to convince the same people that this is a problem, and still calling for change. 2012 was a banner year for the harassment of women, especially online, and in the last few months the issue seems to be gaining some visibility.

Most recently, here in Canada, Diamond Isinger has begun to document the online harassment and hate speech hurled towards the six female premiers that currently hold office in Canada on the blog Madam Premier. The media has taken notice—the blog has been written up by The Globe and Mail, the Metro News, The Vancouver Sun, the CBC, and has been mentioned on CBC radio and TV as well as BC’s Global News Hour. Details and links to these stories are available on the blog. (Check out the Metro article for a quote from FiG’s own Prof. Jennifer Jenson:) ). Most notable in the Metro article is Isinger’s statement that most of the abuse is targeted at women’s sexuality and appearance. Author Simcoe gives the example of Maurie Sherman’s question to Kathleen Wynne about how she will win over the public with her fashion if she only wears pantsuits. Although there was a fair amount of backlash to the question, shockingly, The Metro reported that Kathleen Wynne’s spokesperson commented that reception for Kathleen Wynne has been “overwhelmingly positive.” After listening to countless hours of radio shows asking the question, ‘Is Ontario ready for a lesbian premier?’ and reading criticisms (and abuse) of Wynne that have nothing to do with her political record, I am appalled that Wynne’s office is more concerned with convincing the public that she is loved (no doubt their eyes are on the next election) than about dealing with misogyny and hate speech.

The Huffington Post’s Soraya Chemaly wrote a fabulous post on the topic of Online Harassment  bringing together a wealth of information that includes more writing about the issue including summaries of the twitter campaigns #MenCallMeThings and #silentnomore, and links to some activist resources. Chemaly went into some detail about her own experiences of harassment as well as some recent cases in the media such as the attack on Anita Sarkeesian, and more recently Mary Beard, who was attacked after an appearance on a BBC1 tv show. Unlike Sarkeesian, who’s campaign for money to fund a series of videos that will provide a feminist critique of female tropes in video games, Beard’s attack was not related to a feminist comment, but a comment about immigration in the UK. Both women have gone public, and while what they have been through is horrifying, they agree that it is important not to be silenced, as so many women have been. One of Anita’s most recent appearances was at TEDxWomen 2012 where she summed up some of what happened, and ended with the support that she has received and the importance of speaking out. Mary Beard has been interviewed by the BBC news since and posted about it on her blog A Don’s Life. Both The Guardian and The Observer included pieces about the incident at the end of last month. The abuse hurled at Beard included insults about her appearance (comments which The Guardian and Observer pieces deal with extensively) as well as offensive pictures and statements about Beards’s pubic hair, a picture of her face photoshopped onto a labia, statements about shoving penises in her mouth… This is all nothing new, but it is still completely unacceptable and just as shocking as when it happened to Jennifer Hepler and Anita Sarkeesian last year, and the countless others before them.

So what is our take-away here? We know there is a problem, but what do we do? We keep talking about it, keep refusing to live with it, and we make people change. Hepler, Sarkeesian and Beard have all taken a huge step by speaking out for all the women who are silenced or harassed by trolls and misogynists. There have also been initiatives to prevent online abuse, such as Take Back the Tech’s CyberStalking and How to Prevent it, and Ms. Magazine blog posts How Some Men Harass Women Online and What Other Men Can Do to Stop It and Students Speak Out: 5 Ways to Stop Online Harassment. As long more resources become available, and more women (and men) speak out against online harassment, we will share them. For now we must keep fighting, admitting that there IS a problem, and that it MUST be confronted.

FiG 2013 Abstract Deadline Extended!

We have extended the deadline for abstracts for the Feminists in Games Workshop to February 28, 2013. Please circulate widely to all of your networks.

Open Call:

We are inviting submissions for participation in the 2nd Annual “Feminists in Games” workshop to be held in at the Center for Digital Media in Vancouver, B.C. from May 31- June 2, 2013.

Participation and attendance at the conference is free. There is a limited amount of money allotted to assist presenters with their travel costs. If you wish to apply for this funding please include a short statement (no more than 100 words) with your abstract describing your financial need.

1) New Participants

We invite young and up-and-coming scholars and aspiring game designers as well as established practitioners in the field (including researchers, educators and industry professionals) to submit a presentation abstract of no more than 1000 words addressing the challenge of advancing gender equity in relation to the following areas:

– game design and development;

– game content;

– socio-cultural constructions of “gamers”;

– player communities and online play; and

– the games industry

– critiques of media treatment of girls/women/gamers

Proposals will be peer-reviewed, and applicants whose submissions are accepted will have the opportunity to bring their work into conversation with established feminist scholars and activists during a two-day invitational workshop.

2) Past Participants

We invite participants of FiG 2012 who received seed funding from FiG to present the findings/outcomes of their projects in a paper (maximum 3000 words) and/or multimedia presentation.

3) Observers

We invite members from the general public, the games industry and academia to attend keynotes and

workshop roundtable sessions, and to lend their voices, perspectives and experiences to conversations and

emerging initiatives that support feminist purposes and processes in games education, research, design and

development. Although not required to submit/present formal papers, each observer is requested to participate in a ‘lightening round’ observer panel and will have five minutes in which to describe their an interest/challenge/question/project/game, that specifically engages with FiG’s mandate, the advancement, through all possible means, of feminists in games.

4) Other/s

The conference will include an opportunity to participate in a roundtable session aimed at generating a collaborative research project between scholars and industry professionals.

Those interested in presenting may send abstracts of no more than 1000 words, outlining their research question(s), project/s and approach, to Rachel Muehrer ( or Jennifer Jenson ( by February 28, 2013. Those wishing to attend as ‘observers’ (this includes the industry round table) are invited to reply by March 31, 2013 with a description of your ‘lightning round’ submission short statement about how attending might be of benefit to you (250 words).


FiG Content

We always like to keep the public informed about the projects that are happening in the FiG network. Two attendees at last year’s workshop have shared this work with us and we would like you to check it out.

Rebecca Phoa recently completed a 3 part module built in NWN’s Aurora Toolset. For anyone interested, play it here. Feedback is welcome!

Heidi McDonald participated in the Global Game Jam where she and her team created this game called Ultrasounds.

Finally, Alison Harvey wrote a great piece for the IGDA newsletter titled, #1reasonwhy and #1reasonmentors: Alliance, Collaboration, and Action for Change.

FiG funded projects. Check them out!

About a month ago we had a get-together in Toronto and we received an update on the status of a few of the projects that we were able to fund. FiG folk have been working hard and have done some amazing things!


Dames Making Games:

Jennie Faber and Cecily Carver ran another successful incubator over the summer, Jeuxly. Their final report with all the details is available here.

AND you can play some of the games from the incubator on the DMG blog here.


Hannah Epstein:

Check out the links below to Hannah Epstein’s game-in-progress, PsXXYborg:

• YouTube
• Pinterest
•Twitter: @HawnzEppy



FiG is funding another game incubator, this time in Montreal. Pixelles, run by coordinators Rebecca Cohen Palacios and Tanya Short, began on January 14th. Embedded researcher Tamara Shepherd and long time FiG member Alison Harvey will keep us updated on the happenings. Check out what they have been up to here.