Back in 2015, something went down which eventually led to me creating A Woman on the Internet as a place for women to talk about their experiences online. Since then, AWOTI has grown and changed in countless of ways, and I have grown and changed as well in the process, this is what I published on the AWOTI WordPress back in 2015 around the time AWOTI was created, to share what I experienced. I soon will be deleting that WordPress but I felt it would be important to keep this up somewhere where people could find and read it. Thank you for your time. Aurelie Sanhaji aka A Woman on the Internet.
Published on May 11th 2015
On March 8th 2015 I decided to post a comic strip from Camila Torrano which depicts, although in a slightly dramatized way, one of the very many interactions between a male gamer and a female gamer.
To give a little bit of background, I am a gamer. The first time that I played a video game I was probably around 7 or 8 years old. Having an older brother, who was five years older than me, made it so that even thought I was forced to deal with very stereotypical views of what being a girl is or should be, I had access to “boy’s things”. Although I hated receiving Barbies and Barbie houses, makeup, jewelry making kits and the sort, when the house was quiet, my mother busy, and my brother out of the house and so out of the room that we shared for a few years, I had access to video games, which he had because he was a boy. I think my first video game experience was with Sonic the hedgehog, and it was an experience my child mind will always cherish.
Jump back to me being around 14 years old, my brother had received Diablo II either at a birthday or some other occasion, and I was able to sneak a few minutes here and there with the game, but because my computer time was limited, unless my brother’s, I was never able to truly enjoy the game for as much as I wanted until I was much older. Interestingly enough, my brother was never a gamer. It was interesting to see that even though he was the one receiving these sorts of things, my brother preferred being outdoor surrounded by his friends while I longed for video games and their stories.
Now as a 24 years old, I game nearly full time. I prioritize gaming above nearly any other sort of activities besides perhaps reading, I have worked with Ubisoft and Eidos, I have helped friends with their own video game projects and studied programming for a while just in case of a mid life crisis and possible change of heart -But I am still a writer and will most likely never work on a video game in the technical way. And so, the comic made much sense to me. It was a familiar situation that I have experienced all of my life anytime a man finds out that I am a gamer. I am questioned, asked to prove “how much of a gamer I am”, if I’d fail to have played a specific game or prefer a genre to another, I’d fail his entire test and would either be called a “fake gamer” or the detested “gamer girl” which is wrong for so many reasons, but I won’t go into why right now.
So, on March 8th 2015, I posted the comic strip, very aware that I would probably get some sexist, misogynistic and angry responses from men who somehow want female gamers as girlfriends, but claim that there isn’t such a thing, and when there is, they will call the women fake or attention whores.
Within the hour I was bombarded with comments, mostly negative, many violent, and mostly angry, I was called names, had my existence as a woman put into question, and when some women dared to step out of the shadows, they received the same treatment.
But by the end of that afternoon, I received an anonymous comment.
The comment contained my name, where I live, and where I work, and was accompanied with a death threat; that if I didn’t stop talking about this, I’d be visited by a knife, and so killed. At first, I tried not to think too much of it, but it was hard. I wasn’t very familiar with 9gag’s policies, I couldn’t report the account, I tried to contact the site twice but never got a reply, and because my information was within a comment and so made public, I simply reported it. The comment went away, I’ll never be sure if it meant it had been removed, or if it simply was that only I couldn’t see it. I was worried.
I deleted whatever information I had on my 9gag account, first name, country, even changed my sex/gender from female to male in order to be “careful”, something that made me feel enraged beyond words.
Much later that night, on my personal facebook, I received another message.
Of course I was accused of lying.
The person took the time to remind me that they knew where I worked, and they also insulted me in French, which is my native language as well as the language largely used where I live. Now I was truly afraid. I sat in my room, staring at my computer screen. My partner, who was at work, was aware of what was happened since I had felt the need to talk to someone earlier that afternoon, and when I told him what had just happened, he, too, got worried.
This is when I remembered all of the stories of women within the gaming community and not even, who after receiving so many death and rape threats, as well as having their personal information plastered on the internet, are forced to move out of their homes for their own, and their family’s, safety. And so, I reluctantly called the police.
The man on the phone wasn’t very understanding, or worried, but after insisting, and for some reasons being transferred to another person, they sent a cruiser to my house.
Two very tall white men arrived, filling me with anxiety and, somehow, shame that towered over me as I let them in. They asked me what had happened, and I explained. They stared at me with something in their eyes I still can hardly explain, or even understand. A lot of what seemed to be there, as they looked down at me, was a mix of confusion, annoyance (at me of course, for wasting their precious time, apparently), and the rest seemed to be a kind of look that was so filled condescension that my feelings of anxiety quickly turned into frustration and later that night, anger. They asked me if I knew the person, I replied that I didn’t. They asked me if I had done or said anything to the person that would have angered them, I replied that I hadn’t, and as they shared looks of disbelief I thought: “Is there anything that I could have said that would have given reason for rape and death threats?” I knew the answer to that, but I wasn’t sure if they did.
They asked to see the messages, and when they did, they had me explain where they were from, the website, the purpose of the website (which only seemed to confused them further), and even when they saw the messages I’d gotten on my own personal facebook, they stayed unfazed. They asked few questions and each of them only serve in making me feel angrier, and like I was wasting my time with people who didn’t seem to understand the situation I was in. My least favorite of the two men, the tallest one, had a look on his face that made me choose to look at the other man when replying to their questions in order to avoid more condescending looks.
“What do you want us to do?”
I knew that I was wasting my time, but to be asked by two police officers, paid to protect and serve people just like me, paid by my taxes, trained, and yet asked what it was that I wanted them to do as if it was my job to tell them what to do, my response was quick;
‘’Well, you can track their IP address, figure out where he is, and then do something?”
I would have never expected that a police officer in 2015 would actually ask me what an IP address was, and that I would have to explain it to them. I explained in my own words once and then a second time while attempting to ignore the fact that I was talking to two police officers, in charge of my current situation, in their mid 30s, in Canada, in 2015.
As I’m sure most of you have already assumed, nothing was done, I was told that it was most likely a joke, and even after I explained that many women, especially in the gaming industry (more confusion from them) had been forced to move out of their homes under the very real threat of rape, death, or other terrible things that women on the internet deserve for being women. I was told that if the threats continued for long enough, that I was to give them a call so they would know. It did, and I did call, but no cruiser was ever sent to my house again, nor have I ever received calls to ask me how my situation was going. It was obvious that I was alone into this, and as my address kept popping up here and there on various sites, I avoided them for a bit even though I wanted nothing less than to take it into my own hands and defend myself.
This whole thing left me feeling unsafe and threatened on the internet, a place where I have been playing video games or discovering movies and books, and people, since the day we first received a computer at our house. This feeling still pops up inside me sometime, and some days when I get a threat from an unknown person on the internet, I catch myself wondering “is this the same man?” “Is this him?” and even though it probably wasn’t and maybe never will again, a part of me sadly feels like in some way, it IS the same man.
Today, this incident is far away from me that I’m able to talk about it online without worrying too much about the repercussions that it often entails. My partner is the one, now, who is often filled with worries and anxieties in regards to my safety. And although it comes with good intentions, it only serves to make me hate this whole idea of accepting what women have to go through on a daily basis, and what men supposedly are. I will not hide my opinions of beliefs, I will not experience these instances of bullying and scare tactics, and I will not receive threats of rape or murder and just sit on my couch and feel sad and angry at the same time. I am a woman, and I am proud to be one, but I also am a woman that has love for the internet and for the gaming community, where I will take and keep my rightful place where a man likes it or not.
And so should you.
Note: Writing this on May 23 2016. Nothing was ever done to help me, reach out to me or offer me counsel or support. I have received many rape, death, doxing threats and have successfully been doxed as well between the time this happened and now that I am writing this, the police always was completely useless, the officers entirely incompetent and always demonstrated an utter lack of support or empathy towards me. Needless to say, I rarely think of actually calling the police when these things happen because they only seem to be there to waste my time and remain me of what it means to be a woman on the internet.
Note #2: Writing this on October 29th 2020. LOL nothing ever came out of this, thanks SPVM for gaslighting me, ignoring me, basically telling me somebody needs to harm me first before you think there's anything here potentially dangerous, and overall just being useless.