Feminism activist and gamer Anita Sarkeesian discusses online inclusivity in Vancouver

When Anita Sarkeesian spoke out about the portrayal of women in video games by launching her website Feminist Frequency in 2009, the gaming world changed.

Its aim was to present accessible feminist media criticism and while the project was a success, Sarkeesian herself took a beating from online harassers who rejected the idea of women entering the male dominated gaming scene.

After threats reached a high in 2013 following the release of a video series examining gaming gender tropes, she said she had to find a way to manage the stress and emotional toll of the attacks in order to continue the work which she is so passionate about.

"Here's the really sad thing that people don't talk about. You get used to it … That is a really enormous task that we're asking women and marginalized folks online to pay in terms of losing our humanity."

She has shifted the scope of projects, found support networks and in some cases, has felt the need to step away from it all.

In the past she had immersed herself in the comments and emails, reading them all, but now she has drawn boundaries and permitted herself "to do things that remind you of the world and humanity and the good stuff."

'We exist'

Sarkeesian is most well known for her feminist activism in what is now known as "Gamergate," a controversy around issues of sexism and progressivism in video game culture that began with the public online harassment of female game developer, Zoe Quinn.

"Their complaint was that we exist … that we want games to be more inclusive for everyone," she said.

The internet can be a battlefield as much as it is a safe haven, and Sarkeesian says it has become a predatory landscape for men's rights activists and hate groups that succeed by targeting vulnerable men and boys who feel disenfranchised and entitled.

"I think that there is a deep sense of entitlement that comes with living in a society that prioritizes men's stories ... It's very much like that little rascals boys club, of that no-girls-allowed mentality."

Same oppression, new tool

Sarkeesian will be speaking as the closing keynote speaker at The B.C. Library Conference Friday afternoon to discuss her experiences and promote online inclusivity.

"I think we need to fight to create an online world just like an offline world that is inclusive and supportive and gives everybody opportunities, not just those who can afford it or just those who are born into certain levels of privilege.

"It's not like it came out of nowhere. Misogyny and racism and sexism existed before the internet was invented. A lot of this is just new tools for the same old oppression really."

With files from the CBC's On The Coast.

To hear the full interview listen to media below