Empress Wu, the star of the #GamerGate hashtag, is a woman in her 40s who’s lived her entire life under a cloud of suspicion for her gender.
In a piece for TIME, Wu says that “all the women I know have been in fear for their lives and their careers,” because “the system has failed them.”
Wu is also the author of a new book about her experience with gender identity and gender expression, the #BeMyWoman, which is being released on August 1st.
“When you’re a woman, you feel a tremendous amount of power,” Wu told TIME.
“You feel like you can control your body, your speech, your body shape.
But when you’re female, there is such a pervasive stigma about your sexuality and gender identity.””
I want to be the most powerful woman on the planet.
I want to make sure that I have the best possible body.
I have a long journey ahead of me.
And I want this to be a source of inspiration for other women.”
In her own book, Wu explains the #gamergate movement began in late 2012 when the hashtag began to trend on Twitter, with a hashtag campaign asking gamers to “stop harassing women and minorities” in video games.
A “gamers for diversity” movement started in response to the hashtag, Wu told me.
“We were seeing these conversations happening in video game communities all across the country.
But it didn’t seem like it was happening in any way that was taking place in the mainstream.
We just didn’t see it.”
Wu says the hashtag was started to show gamers that “it was okay to be gay or trans or whatever.
It was okay for us to not like each other, but we didn’t think about that as we played games.”
Wang also says #Gamergate was the impetus for Wu’s activism.
“When I saw the hashtag being used in so many different ways, I just started seeing more and more women being targeted and harassed online,” Wu said.
“And I was like, ‘I’m gonna get my own hashtag, too, because I’m a woman.'”
Wu started #BemyWoman on August 16th, and by October she had garnered more than 1.2 million followers on Twitter.
She says she’s received many positive comments and comments that are “positive, supportive and in the spirit of #GamerGaters,” a hashtag that refers to the online harassment and threats against women and gamers.
Wu is now launching a “support group” called #BTM for women and people of color on August 24th, where women of color can “talk to other women of colour and share experiences.”
“The only way to really get to know each other and build a strong community is to have a place where we can share experiences, share our stories and make our voices heard,” Wu says.
“I’m not saying that we can’t ever discuss these issues in public spaces.
But I’m saying that it needs to be in a safe space, where people of colour can share their experiences and understand that we are all different and that we all have different needs and experiences.”
Wiu says she feels a great responsibility to her community to share their experience and understand why other women feel like they’re being harassed.
“The people I work with have never felt comfortable with their gender,” Wu explained.
“They’re afraid that they’re going to be labeled a misogynist, a homophobe, an asshole.
They’re afraid they’re not going to get the support that they need from the mainstream media.
I believe that if we can help people understand that this is not OK, that there is a safe place for them to come together.”
Wawu says she plans to continue working in gaming journalism, especially gaming culture, even as the #Btm hashtag continues to trend.
“The internet is a space that is so fragile, so sensitive, and so vulnerable.
And so when you see it in the world, it can really make you feel so powerless and insecure,” Wu added.
“So I just want to keep fighting to be able to be myself, to be strong, to do my own thing, because that’s what I believe in.”