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How we treat women in the IT industry

Some time ago I discovered the video series "Tropes vs Women in Video Games" created by Anita Sarkeesian. I found these videos very interesting as they show in an entertaining way how women are depicted in pop culture in general and in video games specifically.

Unfortunately, Anita has faced online harassments since the start of the Kickstarter campaign for Tropes vs Women in Video Games. It seems like some persons feel threatened by someone who just wants to expose how the entertainment industry presents women in movies and video games (the "damsel in distress" trope is the most common trope, that probably everyone has seen in a movie or game). To make it very clear: Anita does not campaign for any video games to be abolished. She just shows, how many (or even most) video games present a distorted image of women. Obviously, the gaming industry suffers itself from this fact, because many gamers (regardless of gender) are annoyed by the lack of strong female characters in most video games. In acknowledgement of her work, Anita has received the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award.

During the last days, a yet unknown person harassed Anita on Twitter in an unprecedented way: The person not just insulted her but actually threatened to murder her and her family. The reactions to these threats are nearly as disturbing as the threats themselves: In the discussion boards of Heise Online (German only), many people argue that there is no systematic discrimination of women in the IT industry. However, even if one ignores the current example (and argues that Anita is not part of this industry), women are obviously discriminated in our industry: I recommend reading an interesting article written by the founder of a Silicon Valley based startup trying to find investors: Many of those investors are more interested in her than in her business and it is more routine than exception that they hit on her - even when she shows clearly that she is not interested.

We should all reflect on how we treat women in our industry and people like Anita Sarkeesian help us in doing so. Therefore, today I donated some money to her project "Feminist Frequency". I had already planned this for a long time, but the most recent events made sure that I did not wait any longer. When, if not in this troubling times, is the right time to show support? I can only ask everyone in the IT industry to also think about how we treat women and to support those that are courageous and speak up.