My high school was at the top of a big fuck-off hill, and many of us who didn’t live on any of the school’s bus lines got to walk down that hill every afternoon to catch the SamTrans. Next to us as we walked, a procession of students who owned cars would form, inching its way downstream to get backed up at the intersection below. One student in the procession stood out to us. We later learned, when one of us met him at a party, that his name was Jack. Jack was notable for three reasons. First, though he looked just like himself from head-on, sitting in profile in his car, he looked exactly like our friend Colin. Second, his car was a blue 1960’s Volkswagen Beetle, but with a glass pack installed to amplify the noise from the tailpipe. So when you turned your head expecting a Hell’s Angel to come up behind you, it was just Jack in his baby blue lovebug. And third, because he glared at us. Jack was the angriest stranger I had ever seen. Once again, out of his car and at a party, he was apparently a pretty nice guy. But at 2:45 in the afternoon, stuck in traffic in what was clearly his mom’s old hippie car, he would look out his window and sneer at us. Eyebrows knitted and furiously blasting his Bengal tiger of an engine at anyone who made eye contact, and as he pulled ahead, making his way down the hill towards the stoplight, we would call after him, “Why are you so angry?” When I spend too much time on the internet and see people, mostly young men, spewing and weirdly directing an incomprehensible anger, I remember Angry Jack. Anita Sarkeesian created the website “Feminist Frequency” in 2009. It doesn’t even seem that long ago. The site was created to host video critiques of popular culture, primarily geek culture, through a feminist lens, following in the nerd feminist traditions of Buffy Studies and the work of Lindsay Ellis, with early videos being largely critiques of sci-fi fantasy TV shows. Then, in 2011, in conjunction with Bitchmedia, she produced the series “Tropes vs Women”, analyzing 6 roles commonly played by women in television, movies, and comic books. Though the videos met with some expected resistance, they found their audience, and otherwise the internet, by and large, left her alone. She made several more videos for Feminist Frequency, including a look at the marketing history of Lego, and then in May of 2012, Sarkeesian ran a modest Kickstarter campaign to do another round of Tropes vs Women, this time focusing on video games. I warn you, if this is the first time you’ve heard of Anita Sarkeesian, it’s about to get really ugly. And by necessity, this is only a very abbreviated account. But there’s a full bibliography in the notes below the video. The campaign successfully reached its original goal in under 24 hours. By early June, it was 800% funded, had reached all of its stretch goals, and hadn’t posted an update since the end of May. I say this because many have argued that what was about to happen was, in some way, deliberately provoked to create a success. So I’ll clarify: Tropes vs Women in Video Games was already a success. It had exceeded all expectations and seemed prepared to just wait out the rest of its campaign. What happened next, it’s been suggested, began on a subforum of the anonymous and largely unmoderated website 4chan, though it’s hard to find patient zero on this. But somewhere on the internet, a finger was pointed at Anita Sarkeesian, and during her campaign’s final weeks, she began receiving thousands of angry tweets and YouTube comments. She had her site DDOSed, had her Wikipedia page vandalized with porn and racial slurs, and saw multiple attempts to have her campaign defunded and removed from Kickstarter. Many of these things were done by coordinated groups of people working together. This was unexpected. After a few days of this, Sarkeesian chose to document the harassment and post about it on her site and on her Kickstarter. Starting around June 10th, several news sites began writing articles about Sarkeesian’s experience using her posts as a primary source. This led to a huge uptick in exposure, and by extension, backers, and the campaign tripled its money before closing on June 16th. The combination of a large scale attempt to silence Sarkeesian and her decision not to be silent about it made her a minor feminist celebrity, and she closed the 6 thousand dollar campaign with just shy of 160 grand. In the three years since, this cycle has repeated and amplified dozens of times: an attempt to silence, followed by exposure of the attempt, followed by news articles and increased attention. And every time her detractors go off and plan more elaborate efforts to make Sarkeesian disappear, essentially creating next week’s Sarkeesian talking points. They’ve repeatedly tried to hack her personal information, they’ve sent her hundreds of highly specific death threats, some including the home addresses of her and her family, which she now dutifully screenshots and forwards to the FBI. In the reactionary web’s tendency to assume that anyone you hate must be a minority of some kind, many let loose with a torrent of anti-Semitism, dubbing her “Jewkeesian”, which, when her true heritage was determined, flipped to anti-Armenian commentary without skipping a beat. One created a video game about assaulting her. One threatened to blow up the game developers’ conference if they gave her an award. One threatened to shoot up a school if she was allowed to speak. They abuse YouTube’s flagging systems every time she posts a video and send her over 100 abusive tweets every week. I could go on. I can’t speak to the human cost this has had on Sarkeesian personally, so I’ll just let her speak for herself. “I don’t get to publicly express sadness or rage or exhaustion or anxiety or depression. I can’t say that sometimes the harassment really gets to me, or conversely that the harassment has become so normal that sometimes I don’t feel anything at all. I don’t get to express feelings of fear or how tiring it is to be constantly vigilant of my physical and digital surroundings. How I don’t go to certain events because I don’t feel safe. Or how I sit in the more secluded areas of coffee shops and restaurants so the least amount of people can recognize me.” Outside of these haters, the videos have been well-received and seen by a whole lot more people than had she simply gotten to wrap her campaign and make her videos in peace. The primary function is to critique a medium that hasn’t seen as much feminist analysis as the rest of pop culture. It is, in a roundabout way, a sign of gaming’s growing cultural legitimacy. Sarkeesian coins new phrases and puts forth new ideas, but the bulk of her work is compiling. Most of her views are shared by contemporary feminists, whom she quotes in her videos, and the interest in how women are portrayed in popular media goes back to the 60’s or earlier. Today much of this is taught in freshman level women’s studies and media literacy courses. This rhetoric is not new, and by most definitions of radical, it is not radical, and Sarkeesian is hardly the first person to apply it to games. All prompting the question of: Why? Why her? And why now? Sarkeesian herself has described it as being cast as the supervillain in a war against what she represents. The people who hate Anita Sarkeesian think she’s wrong. They think she’s lying. They think she hates men. They think she hates games. They think she cherrypicks information to skew opinions. They think she cheated people out of their money. They think she wants every game to be a walking simulator about lesbians and feelings. They think she wants to ruin games. And you can, if you squint and tilt your head, see how a person might possibly believe these things, but this can only explain that they are angry, not why. What is the nightmare scenario we’re supposed to live in if Sarkeesian simply makes her videos? So what if she did want to ruin games? So what if I wanted to ruin games? That doesn’t mean I’m capable of it. Can all of this be explained as wanting to stop a heretofore largely unknown woman on the internet from being wrong about something? Why are they so angry? For ease of conversation, I’m going to call this inexplicably furious person “Angry Jack”. And there is no single answer to this question. Jay Allen has described it as the spilling out of chan culture into the rest of the internet, and those thoughts have been expanded on by Lana Polansky. Katherine Cross has written about the gamers’ fear that some authority figure is going to take the games away, stemming from childhoods where games were controlled by parents and censored by politicians. Kom Kunyosying and Carter Soles have written about the appropriation of minority politics and terminology to describe geekdom as a sort of simulated oppressed ethnicity. Don’t read anything I’m going to say as debunking or overwriting these arguments; I agree with all of them. This is just one more log on the fire. The internet is full of Angry Jacks, and Jack is not exclusively, but is typically, male. He’s also commonly white and/or straight and/or cis and/or raised middle class, which is to say, he usually looks like me, and it is largely people who look like me in at least one of these ways that I want to speak to right now. To people who look like me, Jack is often a nuisance. To people who don’t look like me, Jack is frequently dangerous. And I don’t feel it’s my place to tell people for whom Jack is a danger, how they should think or feel about him. Though minoritized people are absolutely welcome to view this or any of my other videos and to hold me accountable to anything I fuck up. Also, Jack, if you’re watching, I’m afraid I’m not here to talk to you either. I’m here to talk about you. Though, if you made it this far, do please stick around, because our question “Why are you so angry?” is probably something worth asking yourself. To answer that question, I’m gonna have to talk about a whole lot of other shit, but bear with me. I am going somewhere with this.