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Anita Sarkeesian forced to cancel Utah State speech after mass shooting threat

  • She was supposed to give a speech on women in video games
  • Someone e-mailed a threat to her and those who would attend
  • School says it can't stop anyone from bringing guns per state law

(CNN) -- Anita Sarkeesian is no stranger to graphic threats.

Her vocal criticism about the misogynistic representation of women in video games has invited more than its fair share of hate from defensive gamers and Internet trollers.

On one occasion, for instance, she's had to temporarily leave her home. She's continued speaking out.

Gaming culture war raging

But what happened at Utah State University gave her even more pause.

The academic and critic was supposed to deliver a speech to students Wednesday on the portrayal of women in video games, when someone sent an e-mail to several school staffers threatening "the deadliest school shooting in American history" if the event wasn't canceled.

According to the Standard-Examiner newspaper, the e-mail author, who claims to be a student, wrote, "Feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they've wronged

Sarkeesian asked whether the school will forbid guns from the speech or do pat-downs. The school said it couldn't.

State law allows the carrying of guns in public places, it said.

"If a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue," the school said in a statement to CNN.

So, Sarkeesian says, she had no choice but to cancel.

"They were going to have security, and they weren't going to allow backpacks. But they weren't going to have metal detectors," she told CNN.

Sarkeesian said she learned of the threats through media reports after she arrived in town.

"I feel like the organizers of previous events had my safety as a top priority and keeping me informed was a top priority. I didn't feel that way in this case," she said.

"There were other things that made me feel uncomfortable too, but allowing concealed weapons made me cancel."

Intel pulls ads of sexism in video game drama

The school says campus police is investigating the threat along with local and federal officials.

"After a careful assessment of the threat, it has been determined it is similar to other threats that Sarkeesian has received in the past."

Sarkeesian runs a video blog, "Feminist Frequency," and has come under attack several times. In 2012, she was the target of a vitriolic harassment campaign online after she launched a Kickstarter project to finance a Tropes vs. Women Video Games series.

Her experiences speak to a larger issue of a polarizing debate online about video game culture and the presence of women. Those speaking out against the sexism have started an online conversation with the Twitter hashtag, #stopgamergate2014.


CNN's Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report

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