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Feminist Frequency’s Ordinary Women Campaign Keeps Kicking Ass Despite Harassment

Two weeks ago, Feminist Frequency launched a crowdfunding campaign for Ordinary Women, our new video series about incredible, defiant women throughout history, and we’re pleased to say that we’re on our way, having raised over $73,000 from more than 1,200 supporters so far. Your generosity and enthusiasm mean everything to us, especially in light of the pushback we get every time we speak up or speak at all.

My team and I are making Ordinary Women in part because we were so inspired by the stories of these incredible women, who defied not only the social norms of their time but also the abuse, harassment and threats that inevitably greet women whenever they step out of the limited roles that have been assigned to them. While some things have changed over the years for women in some places, we know firsthand that this has not.

When we launched the project, we knew that it was going to put a target on our backs, and that the online harassment directed at us was likely to spike again. Unfortunately, it has. Being the target of a sustained harassment campaign over four years, I can see the patterns; their playbook is always the same. I’ve talked extensively about how harassers think attacking women is a game, and how they weave convoluted conspiracy theories to try and sow dissent or how they work up a mob into denying women’s experiences and professional expertise.

This time is no different.

In response to our new project, a very vocal, known harasser who has spent years attacking feminism and individual feminists on YouTube, has launched a counter-fundraising campaign specifically designed to both discredit me and mobilize his viewers to abuse me further on social media. I’m greeted every day with new digital diatribes laced with conspiracy theories that call me a fraud or a con artist and spin elaborate fictional stories about my supposed schemes to manipulate and cheat people. One gentleman decided to email every one of my campaign backers individually to tell them his theories on why I am a horrible individual and they should not support my work (Seed&Spark has to temporarily shut down their messaging service for the duration of my campaign). Another man with far too much time on his hands has contacted my friends, peers, colleagues, people I haven’t talked to in over a decade, and anyone he thinks might listen with what appears to be an ebook of smutty erotic fiction that he authored starring…me.

While I have no interest in driving more traffic to this harassment by linking to it, there’s nothing surprising about this behavior. It has become the background radiation of my work—and for some women, our entire lives—and that’s a reality that we think is worth acknowledging and understanding not just because it is terrible, but because it’s exactly why it’s so crucial that we keep going. Much like Lewis’s Law, which says that the comments in every article about feminism justify feminism, the vitriol that we encounter simply for being visible, outspoken women is the surest sign that this work is necessary and important.

We believe that context is important—that in order to make meaningful, structural changes in the world, we need to both celebrate the successes and accomplishments of women and acknowledge the disproportionate barriers and abuses they had to face to achieve them. That’s how we wrote about the women in this series, and it’s how we want to talk about ourselves as well.

If I’ve learned anything from the stories at the heart of this project, it’s that small-minded, insecure people have always trailed behind women who want to change the status quo, and tried to tear them down. The women in our series lived in different times and accomplished very different things, but all of them achieved greatness because they refused to give up when faced with slander and intimidation. When told to be smaller, quieter, and more submissive, they decided to make themselves louder, bigger and more defiant. So will we. And we hope their stories will inspire you the way they’ve inspired us.

Learn more about our new video series Ordinary Women: Daring to Defy History at Seed&Spark.

Anita Sarkeesian is an award winning media critic and the creator of Feminist Frequency.

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