Brianna Wu has been a public figure for roughly four years now. You may remember her particularly from the colossal Gamergate mess in 2014. Gamergate, a dangerous harassment campaign focused on women in the video game industry, was a trying time for the gaming community. It had a ripple effect both inside the industry and out, as many game and tech companies began paying more attention to diversity and inclusion, while online harassment became a larger issue in political circles.
Back then, Ms. Wu was purely a game developer. She co-founded a company called Giant Spacekat and headed the development of Revolution 60, a mobile game noted for its all-female cast of characters. In 2014 she went so far as to fight back against Gamergate, criticizing the controversy over Twitter. Almost immediately, her personal information (including home address) was released and she began receiving horrific death and rape threats. Multiple threats were so specific, and graphic, that Ms. Wu was subsequently forced to flee her home over safety concerns. Now, she’s using this harrowing experience—and her tech industry knowledge—to fuel a run for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.
Immediately after the results of November 2016’s Presidential election, Wu decided she would run for Congress in the Boston area. She made the decision to switch districts in order to avoid running against Rep. Katherine Clark, who shares Wu’s support for anti-online harassment legislation. Instead, Ms. Wu is facing off against Democratic incumbent Stephen Lynch. While a Democrat, Mr. Lynch is comparatively more conservative than Ms. Wu, whose progressive ideals are similar to those of New York’s surprise victor, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory also raises the question: does this herald a string of victories from up-and-comers against more established Democratic incumbents? Ms. Wu’s battle has always been uphill, as campaigns against long-time incumbents are. Newcomers to politics commonly have to pack an extra punch in their campaigning just to pull even with their opponents, and the same continues to be true for Ms. Wu. However, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory—while it didn’t appear to definitively affect future results on other races—did give Ms. Wu’s campaign an extra bolster in both fundraising and hope. According to a New York Times piece mentioning Ms. Wu, the campaign enjoyed one of its best fundraising days directly after Ocasio-Cortez’s win. The victory has also been invigorating, leaving Ms. Wu’s. campaign team “unbelievably energized.”
Time will tell if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the first in a domino effect throughout the Democratic Party, but Ms. Wu, for one, appears determined. She’s already clarified that even if she comes up short in this election, she’ll be back for 2020. “The thing Gamergate taught me is that there’s nothing I can’t handle. What is someone going to do: Call me ugly? Threaten to kill me? I already deal with all of that on a daily basis,” she told the New York Times back in 2017. “I don’t know what else to do other than get involved myself.”
Brianna Wu’s Massachusetts district is holding its primary elections on September 4, 2018.