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Ashley Judd: ‘Profiteering off misogyny in video games must end’

Actor calls out hypocrisy at high levels within the industry without naming names

How online abuse of women has spiraled out of control, a TED Talk by Ashley Judd.

Actor Ashley Judd singled out the games industry as part of a TED Talk that confronted the abuse of women online. Although Judd made the speech in October, the talk just made its way to YouTube a few days ago. She scorned the industry for its callous treatment of women, and specifically for its hypocritical stance on GamerGate behind closed doors.

In the 15-minute presentation she spoke out loud the abuse thrown at her online every day. She tried to explain the effect those words have on her, while offering solutions to help curb what she characterized as the daily trauma of being a woman online.

At one point she derided the games industry as a whole, saying that “profiteering off misogyny in video games must end.”

“I’m so tired of hearing you talk to me,” Judd said, pretending to rebut a seemingly private conversation she recently had with an industry professional, “about how deplorable hashtag-GamerGate was when you’re still making billions of dollars off games that maim and dump women for sport.”

Judd’s very personal presentation was based on her experiences on Twitter and other social media platforms. She explained how she has at times encountered a “cyber mob” that sends rape and death threats at her en masse. As a survivor of sexual assault and abuse, she said, these messages have had an effect on her.

Rather than retreat, Judd said she has hired someone to scrub her feed for her on a daily basis.

“This distinction between virtual and real is specious,” she said. “What is seen goes in. It is traumatic.”

She went on to explain how there are quantifiable physiological responses to the kinds of abuse she encounters, and that individually and in the aggregate they are damaging to women and girls “personally, economically, professionally and politically.”

Judd offered solutions that seemed at times as challenging as the problem of online abuse itself. Digital media literacy, she contends, should be taught with a “gendered lens.” The tech industry itself must create a “critical mass” of women across their organizations, while legislators and law enforcement alike must revise comically outdated laws.

Judd is the chair of The Women’s Media Center Speech Project, an advocacy group that seeks to raise awareness about online harassment.

“We are committed to the creation of a robust and safe public commons,” reads its mission statement, “that will expand freedom of expression and engagement in the public sphere instead of limiting it.”

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