Having Thick Skin – Harassment in the Industry


Note: This article contains graphic language. You can find the original Polygon article here.

I try to avoid the pieces on sexism and harassment mainly because I think I fear attracting that kind of vicious attention, and maybe because sometimes I’m just tired of hearing about it. There comes a time when it becomes exhausting to hear about the brutality that exists in this (and every other) field, to the point where I simply turn my head and focus on something else. Frankly, it’s wrong, and I know that. I compare it to refusing to watch the news because of the negative impact violence and other horrific highlighted stories have on me. It’s not that I’m purposely ignorant; I understand the travesties that take place, particularly against women, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.

I think I’m finally getting to the point where I can acknowledge it, call people out on it, and tell them that this is wrong. That maybe if more people become aware of the destruction, more people can stand up to it. Maybe women damaged from this can reclaim their confidence and strength.

An editorial by Brianna Wu on Polygon focused on the harassment women in the gaming industry receive, beginning with a shocking introduction:

“Women are the niggers of gender,” the email said. “If you killed yourself, I wouldn’t even fuck the corpse.”

Wu leads a development studio that makes video games, but she also writes about issues that focus on the equality of women. In her Polygon article, she comments, “My reward is that I regularly have men threatening to rape and commit acts of violence against me.”

“If you are a woman working in the games industry, especially in a public way, you’re going to experience harassment. I imagine telling my 12-year-old self that fulfilling my dream of making games would lead to constant threats. Would she still do it? Would any woman?”

As someone just really starting out in this community with the intent of (hopefully) turning it into a career, these reports are downright terrifying. As a woman just trying to do what I love, this is absolutely depressing… which is probably exactly what the disgusting predators hope to inflict on the internet.

Wu continues her article by highlighting other women’s stories in the industry, beginning each section with a known “myth” that is effectively countered by reality.

The Myth: Everyone in the games industry experiences harassment. Women are just too sensitive about it.

The Reality: If you are a woman in the industry with a critical opinion, you will get a disproportional amount of criticism, hostility, and scrutiny compared to men.

This section, or Case Study, focusing on a woman named Nina explained, “We live in a society that’s sexist in ways it doesn’t understand. One of the consequences is that men are extremely sensitive to being criticized by women. I think it threatens them in a very primal way, and male privilege makes them feel free to last out.

“This is why women are socialized to carefully dance around these issues, disagreeing with men in an extremely gentle manner. Not because women are nicer creatures than men. But because our very survival can depend on it.”

I can remember countless times where I’ve rebuked the unwanted advances of men online with a timid joke. There are several messages I’ve simply ignored, and I’ve pressed the block button numerous times because I didn’t want to deal with it. Sometimes men need to understand one thing: We don’t always dance around subjects because we don’t know what we want. We simply don’t want to be attacked and degraded for saying no. You’d be surprised how often this happens!

I remember a while back when I was focusing on YouTube videos. This was before I had started strictly focusing on PhoenixDown, and I was becoming more popular as a personality. I had a voice that could be heard and a face that could be seen. There was this one guy that had subscribed and followed me. He left thoughtful comments that would positively ignite conversation, and I thought it was incredible. It eased the nervousness and fear that I felt going into video-making, especially considering I mainly focused on Call of Duty (which can be absolutely cancerous).

So when he began sending personal messages pertaining to gaming, I was eager to reply. And then suddenly they changed. They grew more personal, more demanding, to the point where if I didn’t answer, I was cursed at and called names. It was an eye-opener to me as I learned that anyone, anywhere could inflict such vulgarity on someone.


It sounds downright silly and makes us looks extremely insecure when we dance around subjects… but it’s fear that stems from it. Not always… I know many women who dance around subjects because they just don’t know how to speak up and say no. But each situation is handled differently. If I get weird vibes from you, you may just end up ignored.

The third Case Study kind of mirrored what I received, granted in a more vicious way. This focused on Elise who was getting fanfiction that focused on sexual content between her and the anonymous writer.

She added, “The worst part is not knowing who the guy is. Is it someone I talk to on Twitter? Someone who emails me for advice? I could be interacting with this guy all the time and not know it. Everyone’s a suspect.

“Every time I’m interacting with an enthusiastic fan, I’m wondering in the back of my mind, ‘Is it you? Are you doing this to me?’ And then I feel uncomfortable with the interaction. It taints any sense of ease or honest connection.”

And it’s true: You don’t ever recover from this kind of abuse. You just change.

Having a thick skin beneath such magnified attacks–not criticism–is nearly impossible when your entire being is being mangled. Thankfully, I’m very grateful that the majority of the attention I receive is positive and inspiring, but maybe it’s time to stand up and acknowledge that horrible things are happening to people–to women– who are simply doing what they love. I wouldn’t want people to turn their heads if the same was happening on here (and I know most of my readers wouldn’t). And for that, I say thank you!


8 thoughts on “Having Thick Skin – Harassment in the Industry

  1. Glad to see your willingness to take on such an important and misunderstood issue! As much as we like to pretend that our culture is truly equal, there are still major hurdles ahead. Good luck and keep your thick skin, it will serve you well!

  2. And I think I heard my heart shatter into a billion pieces reading this, we as a community and as an industry have some MAJOR work to do about harassment and sexism because this is just appalling 😦

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    I think one of the reasons this lewd, crass, harrassing, and disrespectful behavior continues to pervade internet discussion is that men aren’t condemning this loudly enough EN MASSE. There’s still a vague, but well-understood overtone to male outrage about this and it’s that “hey that’s wrong but …” There’s always a “but” and that’s why it keeps happening. We send the message that this is OK somehow.

    We need more than just a few celebrities who see this as problematic and aren’t afraid to call it out. We need more than a token comment from “im a male …” and more of the pointedly calling out and reporting this kind of behavior. Some the threats I see around the net are nothing to take lightly. that’s why you see more men up in arms about having the police called for “internet comments” than you do guys making a big deal out of the threats themselves. Men are afraid that our shitty behavior will get us in trouble. So I’d like to see the community speak more loudly and act more boldly to confront this. And specifically, more men. Call these dudes out, make them unwelcome in your neck of the woods.

    It’s really not enough to have men be out-raged about hearing this stuff after the fact. More proactive men need to nip this sort of thing in the bud on the spot when it happens.

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  5. Good post, just sad the topic is true and this is how it is. Only experiences I have on this subjects is in online games, not on blogging or anything as I’m not a known persona. But as a female I have experienced really creepy and sometimes scary things. Thankfully most of the time I have had people backing me up and helping me get rid of the problems I have met. And often those who have helped me have been men and they have spoken up and been by my side. But if I did not have them around, I am not sure how things would have gone as men’s voice get’s more respect then a female once.

    As I have gotten older I have learned to block and move on as soon as I experience something I feel is uncomfortable, screw it if I am wrong about the person, I listen to my spider sense if it tingles. Unfortunately Real Life is not as easy.

    I did have a person stalking me and constantly calling me once , which was super scary, all I could do was block his calls and report it to the police. He was reported by a handful of people and suddenly one day he was just gone, thank god. Was an experience I could live without.

    Can not imagine how it would be to actually work in this industry, and don’t think I want to find out for myself.

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