On Monday, SXSW announced they were canceling two panels on violence against women in gaming after receiving threats of violence from gamers.
The irony alone is enough to make a person want to scream.
Members of the “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” panel featured women panelists who had previously been targets of harassment, including Randi Lee Harper, Caroline Sinders, and Katherine Cross.
The other canceled panel, “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community,” included Perry Jones, Mercedes Carrera, Nick Robalik, and Lynn Walsh, who had been previously involved with the Gamergate movement, which seeks to end harassment of women in gaming.
SXSW Interactives Director Hugh Forrest said in a statement Monday.
“We had hoped that hosting these two discussions in March 2016 in Austin would lead to a valuable exchange of ideas on this very important topic. However, in the seven days since announcing these two sessions, SXSW has received numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming. SXSW prides itself on being a big tent and a marketplace of diverse people and diverse ideas. However, preserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful. If people can not agree, disagree and embrace new ways of thinking in a safe and secure place that is free of online and offline harassment, then this marketplace of ideas is inevitably compromised.”
Now, obviously, the festival must make safety a priority.
But, gamer-boys making violent threats against women in gaming because they were going to talk about violent threats against women in gaming seems to underscore the whole need for the panel!
As you can imagine, Twitter lit up in response.
SXSW has always maintained its cool “for-the-people” brand, even as it has grown into a massive corporate event.
But, now, it seems they may have gone too far. Because not only are “the people” making their anger known about this online. One of the festival’s biggest and most influential sponsors, is now pulling out.
In a letter to SXSW, President of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures Ze Frank, BuzzFeed Publisher Dao Nguyen, and BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith wrote,
“We will feel compelled to withdraw … if the conference can’t find a way to do what those other targets of harassment do every day — to carry on important conversations in the face of harassment.”
Here’s the full message BuzzFeed sent to Director of the SXSW Interactive Festival Hugh Forrest:
SXSW is now left scrambling under the threat of more sponsors walking out the door. I will keep you posted on what happens next.