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Feminist Frequency shuts down after years of misogynist abuse

Feminist Frequency, the gaming not-for-profit organisation that has faced relentless misogynist harassment campaigns for more than a decade, has revealed that it’s closing down.

Founder and co-host Anita Sarkeesian announced the closure of the feminist gaming outlet – which made podcasts, videos and other online content with a feminist and queer take – in a blog post on Tuesday (1 August).

The organisation’s main goal during its 14 years online was to end “toxicity and abuse” in the games industry through grassroots campaign work and videos designed to pick apart misogynistic and bigoted tropes in the media.

“With my heart stuffed full of a million different emotions, today I share the news with you that Feminist Frequency is closing,” she wrote.

“It feels like taking a deep breath and jumping off a diving board to communicate this message to the countless people who have turned to Feminist Frequency, supported our work and buoyed me up over the past 14 years.”

Anita Sarkeesian, wearing a white dress, smiles during a red carpet event.
Feminist Frequency was founded by Anita Sarkeesian in 2009. (Getty)

Sarkeesian said that she had made the decision with board members after becoming “exhausted” with the harassment she has received as a result of her position, as well as experiencing burnout from the organisation’s growth and workload.

“I know that it’s not unusual for non-profits to have a life cycle shorter than a lot of people would like, but there are unique challenges when they’re so entwined with an individual – me – who has become a symbol, for better and for worse.

“I’m hoping that it will be valuable to share the reality of the bone-deep burnout that comes from consistently saying yes to the growth of Feminist Frequency, often at the expense of protecting my personal boundaries and the workload of our team.”

Operations will gradually cease until a complete shutdown in early 2024, while she will step back from the project with immediate effect to prioritise her personal health, Sarkeesian added.

Projects jump-started by Feminist Frequency, such as the Games and Online Harassment Hotline will continue to operate and eventually be handed over to associated organisations.

Recurring donations from crowdfunding websites will also cease with immediate effect, and donations received following the announcement will go toward remaining Feminist Frequency operations prior to the total shutdown.

“The work our community has done to affect change in the games industry and communities made a difference,” Sarkeesian said.

“All of us at Feminist Frequency and the Games and Online Harassment Hotline are hopeful to see improvements continue to be made.”

Feminist Frequency faced harassment for years

The organisation was established in 2009 as a way to create accessible feminist media criticism for video games, at a time when misogyny and lack of female representation were ripe in gaming spaces.

After an incredibly successful crowdfunding drive, Sarkeesian released the first episode of Tropes vs Women in March 2013, where she discusses the “Damsel in Distress” trope and how it is used in video games.

However, the success prompted a widespread harassment campaign against Sarkeesian and anyone associated with her, which came as part of the right-wing Gamergate controversy of the early 2010s.

Gamergate was a harassment campaign and conspiracy theory against several women in the gaming industry. Claiming to be loosely concerned with “ethics in games journalism,” the campaign was little more than an excuse for right-wing trolls to target feminist gamers with misogynistic attacks.

Sarkeesian recalled being sent thousands of death and bomb threats, and hackers leaking her home address.

In 2014, Sarkeesian and Utah State University received several terrorist threats after she had planned a guest lecture, which was subsequently cancelled.

One threat claimed affiliation with Gamergate and cited a mass shooting in Quebec as inspiration.

Several similar threats were made in the years that followed, prompting her to tell The Guardian that the abuse had become her “new normal.”

Despite all this, Sarkeesian continued to make waves in the gaming industry, creating comprehensive reviews and analysis of movies, games and internet culture, that has worked as an inspiration for many.

“To you, the human being reading this letter to the very end, who’s been along for the ride and supported me… and the mission… thank you,” she wrote.

“Words fail me when it comes to talking about every single individual who made wonderful things come out of the [past 14] years.”

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