Friday, July 7, 2017

On the Laci Green Fiasco

Laci Green's turn to the dark side, to be deliberately dramatic, happened a while ago now, back in May. Some people acted like it was some huge blow to the social justice community (whatever that is), particularly those who label themselves "anti-ess jay double yoos." Of course, feminists and social justice activists were understandably upset. Laci Green had been an advocate for victims of online harassment by anti-feminists, white supremacists, and other bigots for years. It is nothing short of betrayal for her to turn around and start parroting the language of these harassers, calling online abuse "dissent" and claiming that victims are "overstating harm."

I can't remember exactly when I first learned of Laci Green, but she really landed on my radar when the harassment of women in the gaming community started to ramp up, around 2012. She was a victim of harassment herself and was a leader in creating harassment-free communities and promoting anti-harassment tools. I never watched her YouTube videos, but I respected her for her work against the rise of online abusers.

In the years following, Green began to get some heat for her use of cissexist and sometimes outright transphobic language. She even used the t-slur in one of her videos, for which she received harsh criticism. She offered a weak apology and continued to use cissexist language despite attempts by many people, cis and trans, to educate her on why that language is harmful and how to change it.

Her response to criticism is what makes her switch to anti-feminism unsurprising to me. She did not take criticism well at all. In one incident, she responded to underage students approaching her with questions about language she used that made them uncomfortable and that they felt may have been misleading by getting upset, calling it harassment, saying it reflects badly on the entire school in a public tweet, and being utterly sarcastic in an "apology," saying "I’m truly sorry for using the actual name. I regret it given how monstrously it’s been construed."

This because there were concerns about her using the word "d*ke" in her talk, a word reserved for lesbian women, and saying some confusing things about trans men. She said they were "looking to start a fight" and interrogated her about her sexual orientation. The students say that she accused them of accusing her of being homophobic.

This is key. I cannot tell you how many times privileged people have reacted with intense horror and anger at the idea that I might be insinuating that they're racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or what have you. That privileged fragility and the hair trigger when it comes to the thought of being "accused" of being something so horrible as a bigot, because to them, homophobia means they must want all gay people dead, and racism means they go to weekly Klan meetings. They can't even grasp the idea of internalized or subconscious bigotry, partially because they have not done even the most basic work to educate themselves on issues that don't affect them because of their privilege.

Green is pansexual and identifies as genderqueer, but as a white, highly visible YouTube star who has made plenty of cash from her fame, she has a lot of privilege. But like many privileged people, she has been unable to acknowledge this privilege or how it gives her an advantage and a platform that she needs to treat responsibly.

And it goes beyond cissexism. She has demonstrated fat hatred, anti-semitism, racism, ableism, whorephobia, the list goes on. She has long been the epitome of the privileged and problematic feminist. I wrote her off years ago, lumping her in with Lena Dunham and the rest, and basically forgot about her while paying attention to much better feminists.

So when news came out about her talking about being "red-pilled" and dating a public, rabid anti-feminist YouTuber, my first thought was "which one is she again?" and I had to Google her. Then I was basically "oh right, so, not surprising." I'm still angry about it. It still disgusts me. But the reasons for it are pretty clear to me.

The right, with its white supremacy and anti-feminism and general bigotry, is seductive to the privileged. The right whispers "the people criticizing you and making you feel bad about yourself are the real problem. You're not doing anything wrong, they're just victimizing themselves for attention. You're the real victim here, and they're abusing you." Anti-feminists told her that she was right to be angry at the trans people criticizing her. White supremacists told her that freedom of speech meant she had every right to talk over people of color, and that people criticizing her for it were bad people who only wanted to hurt her for being white. The right told her that she was allowed to say whatever she wanted, and people who talked back were trying to silence her and were therefore the enemy. She was Right, and they were Wrong. She never had to feel bad or guilty for anything, or take the time and effort to educate herself, or fight against injustices that didn't affect her.

Sounds great, right? Meanwhile, feminists, anti-racist activist, trans people, and leftists are telling her that she needs to do work, she needs to acknowledge that many of her advantages are unearned, that her white privilege helped her gain her fame, that she needs to apologize for things and actually change. All of these things are hard. Just looking at yourself critically is hard. It's not fun. It's unpleasant. And it's all necessary to end the massive injustices that make our world so much shittier for some people than it is for others.

That's why this happens. She's not the first one to be seduced by the sweet promise of lack of responsibility and introspection offered by the right. Remember the guy I encountered after the March for Truth who said he was a socialist-turned-libertarian? Same thing. He had his feelings hurt by people afraid he might be a Nazi, and the right told him that it was the responsibility of those threatened by the current rise of neo-Nazism to risk their safety, and that it was no way on him to work to prove himself safe.

This has happened before and it will continue to happen as long as this seductive message is so tolerated in our society. As long as our school continue to fail to teach about how much harm marginalized communities endure and what the privileged have done to them over the centuries. As long as we fail to teach our children that people different from us matter, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and that everyone has a responsibility to help those who are suffering. Laci Green is no loss to the social justice community. We're better off now that she's revealed who she truly is rather than disrupting the movement by being shitty and hiding behind a feminist label. Laci Green is not an anomaly, she is an inevitability in our current social climate.

This is why personal work is so important. It needs to be paramount in the social justice activist's mind. Do not prioritize your personal fame and follower count over this, or you risk becoming the next Laci Green.

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