A talk by a feminist video games critic at a US university was cancelled after a threat to carry out "the deadliest school shooting in American history".
Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak on the topic of harassment and abuse in video games culture at Utah State University on Tuesday evening.
UTU said that before the talk it received an email outlining specific threats of violence against the school. According to the Utah-based Standard Examiner, the email said:
"Feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they've wronged… I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs."
“I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America."
Initially the university said the event would go ahead, with security measures in place, adding that the email was (depressingly) consistent with other threats made against Sarkeesian at various other talks.
But Sarkeesian cancelled the event after UTU confirmed concealed firearms would be allowed into the school, as per Utah State law.
To be clear: I didn't cancel my USU talk because of terrorist threats, I canceled because I didn’t feel the security measures were adequate.— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) October 15, 2014
I’m safe. I will continue my work. I will continue speaking out. The whole game industry must stand up against the harassment of women.— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) October 15, 2014
The school said it was intending to allow firearms onto the site in order to stay within state laws.
“Sarkeesian was informed that, in accordance with the State of Utah law regarding the carrying of firearms, if a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue,” the school said.
Sarkeesian has become hugely controversial since she successfully crowd-funded a Kickstarter to investigate misogynistic tropes in video games in 2012. But the controversy surrounding the ideas she outlines has been overshadowed by a tidal wave of abuse and threats of violence.
The latest threat comes in the context of a wider cultural crisis at the heart of video games culture known as #Gamergate, which incorporates everything from widespread misogynistic abuse, right-wing reactionary politics, concerns about journalistic ethics and several other issues which are outlined in detail here and here and here. Sarkeesian said that one of the threats made against her specifically referenced Gamergate.
"GamerGate could very seriously drive most women out of the industry," developer Brianna Wu told the BBC in a recent interview.
"I realise that's a very strong statement and I absolutely mean it. I don't know a single woman in this field who is not asking herself if she wants to stay."