University threatened with ‘massacre’ if it lets Anita Sarkeesian speak
Anita Sarkeesian, creator of the popular Tropes vs. Women video series, is at the center of yet another death threat. The Standard Examiner reports that the director of Utah State University’s Center for Women and Gender, along with several other people, received an email promising a mass shooting if they didn’t cancel a speaking engagement for Sarkeesian, who is scheduled to talk at the center on Wednesday morning. A member of the Center for Women and Gender confirmed to The Verge that the threat was real, although she and campus police declined to provide more details.
The Standard-Examiner has printed what it says are excerpts from the letter, in which the unknown author (who claims to be a Utah State student) claims to have “a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs.” More specifically, they threatened to carry out a “Montreal Massacre-style attack” against Sarkeesian and anyone who attended the talk. “Feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge,” reads the email. The Montreal Massacre, carried out in December of 1989, was a mass shooting directed at engineering students in Montreal’s École Polytechnique. The killer, who also claimed that his life had been ruined by feminists, singled out women and murdered 14 before killing himself. Today, its anniversary is commemorated in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
Two things I want to say about this:
1. This is horrifying. But it contains an interesting little sub-thread: We are scaring them so much that they feel they must now kill us to shut us down, because telling us to shut up and go back to the kitchen isn’t working anymore. Oppressive groups react with violence when they really are in danger of losing their power. Which means - we’re succeeding somewhere.
2. I posted this on facebook and a college professor of mine responded with “If they give in they will continue.” And yes, I think that’s true - and there’s a part of me that wishes Sarkeesian had refused to cancel her symposium. But the important things to note here are these two points: 1. the College was threatened with a MASSACRE, not just Sarkeesian’s life, and 2. When Sarkeesian’s team asked for increased security, the college declined their request.
What do you do, in that instance? It’s clear from Isla Vista that MRAs will actually kill people because “feminists ruined their lives” so it’s not to hard to imagine that such a thing might happen again. Would Sarkeesian have been responsible for the possible deaths if she’d continued with her symposium, given that the college (that hired her) refused to increase security? I don’t think so. Would people have held her accountable? Yes.
I don’t have any good answers here. I think if the threat had been against her life alone, I would have wanted her to give the speech still - and I believe she would have. She’s shown before that she will always act in the face of threats against her life.
But other people’s lives were threatened. So - what do you do? I think in a way she made a responsible decision - NOT BECAUSE SHE IS RESPONSIBLE - but because the educational institution that hired her to talk refused to increase security around her event, and she felt it was not safe to continue. That, I think, was responsible.
But in a way, it was giving in, because now MRAs know that the best way to get us to shut up is not to threaten us, but to threaten the people around us. The innocent bystanders.
It’s terrorism, honestly, but how do we deal with it?