Until recently, gamer and actress Felicia Day largely avoided wading into the tumultuous waters of #GamerGate, a widespread internet movement that’s about ethics in journalism or bullying women — depending on who you ask. Within minutes of writing a candid, heartfelt post about her experiences as a gamer and her feelings about the controversy, her private information was posted as a form of retribution. Sounds ethical, right?
Supernatural‘s Felicia Day captured the hearts of gamers with her award-winning web series, The Guild. Her smart and funny series followed a group of online gamers. It struck a chord with gamers by representing them as normal people — men and women — not the stereotype of a creepy basement-dwelling man glued to his headset and pounding Mountain Dew.
Yesterday, she spoke up about #GamerGate after walking toward a pair of gamers in the street. Before the recent vitriol toward women in the gaming industry, Day would have gladly greeted them. “A small voice of doubt in my brain now suspected that those guys and I might not be comrades after all,” she wrote. “That they might not greet me with reflected friendliness, but contempt.”
The experience prompted her to share her perspective on the #GamerGate movement despite her previous silence on the matter. “Why have I remained mostly silent? Self-protection and fear,” she wrote. While those who support the movement, including actor Adam Baldwin of Firefly, insist that #GamerGate is about ethics in gaming journalism, the tone of the discourse is heavily misogynistic. Many high-profile women in the gaming industry and fandom have had their personal information posted publicly — a practice known as doxxing. Originally a weapon of online vigilantes looking to expose corruption, doxxing has become a cruel form of cyberbullying.
In her post on #GamerGate, Day specifically brought up her legitimate fears of having her personal information posted, citing previous issues with stalkers and a very real threat to her safety. “I have tried to retweet a few of the articles I’ve seen dissecting the issue in support,” she wrote, “but personally I am terrified to be doxxed for even typing the words ‘Gamer Gate.'”
Within minutes of her post, a user hiding behind a pseudonym posted what they claimed to be Day’s personal info.
Redditors in the #GamerGate movement have openly condemned the attack on Felicia Day, but the fact remains that every time a woman speaks up on the subject, she is attacked with gendered language and threats. There’s a deep problem with the discourse when women cannot express opinions without fear of attack. Despite posting a profanity-laden rant about #GamerGate, former NFL player Chris Kluwe wasn’t attacked using the same strategies — violations of privacy meant to intimidate and create a real threat to safety.
And for the record, none of you fucking #Gamergate tools tried to dox me, even after I tore you a new one. I'm not even a tough target.
— Cassandra, Pudgy Nobody (@ChrisWarcraft) October 23, 2014
#GamerGate shows no signs of slowing down. Day herself shared that she knows how good it feels to be part of a movement, part of a group. But becoming part of a group has the side effect of being associated with everyone in that group — and some individuals within the #GamerGate movement are making the group as a whole look like bullies who hate women. Considering the original allegations of unethical journalism at the heart of the #GamerGate movement stemmed from a jilted ex-boyfriend getting back at his girlfriend, it’s getting harder than ever to see the moral high ground.
“Think through the repercussions of your actions and the people you are aligning yourself with. And think honestly about whether your actions are genuinely going to change gaming life for the better,” Day wrote. “Or whether they’re just going to make someone cross the street away from you. And away from something, ironically, that we both love.”