Too Girly Part 2: Owning the Fuck Up(s)

Today I was in a class on facilitating restorative justice. It's something I'm passionate about and something that I've been wanting to do for a long time. This class was particularly on point as we discussed community involvement in breaches of trust or in harm caused within the community. This is the part that interests me the most. In gaming, we see a tonne of breeches of trust. Of hurt and of harm. We see people fuck up, really hurt people, give up, walk away, or just forge ahead like nothing has happened and try to continue their work. We all have our own unique responses to it.

In a later post, I'm excited to talk about how we can do better with those breaks as a community overall. But today I need to talk about my most recent post, Too Girly, and the backlash I received against it. Or more specifically: the feedback I saw on the internet. I specifically say feedback because while it was definitely backlash, and I can't support threats of violence, there was and continues to be very valuable and important points people have brought up.

For those of you I've seen race to my defence, please stop. I am not the victim here and there's no need to defend me. People are allowed to feel hurt and call my article into question. I am not a paragon and I have fucked up. For those of you who have seen but remained neutral as though what you know of me means I couldn't have possible screwed up, well, thank you for your confidence but I assure you I have.

The blog post I wrote failed on multiple fronts. Between poor communication, bad word choices, and unclear statements, I managed to make a lot of people feel like their femme wasn't good enough, that high femme lessened other femme presentations, and that white femme was the only acceptable form of femme. I also presumed to speak on behalf of trans, non-binary, and gender-fluid folks rather than clarify that those who I had spoken to this issue about had also felt the same. I'm a white, cis woman. I don't get to speak for anyone but me.

Beyond that, the narrative was that of a white feminist, because my experience of femme has been and always will be through the lens of a white woman. That doesn't excuse my actions or lack of intersectionalism when I didn't state that clearly. I didn't take into the account the experiences of women of colour, or recall my own experiences of trying to do high femme as a person well below the poverty line.

The Watch, by the incredible Anna Kreider, celebrates skills and playbooks associated with women and femme folks. The game completely celebrates the experiences of women, trans, and non-binary folks in a dark fantasy setting as they fight the Patriarchy and is extremely important. I'm sorry if I suggested otherwise, as it's a game I love, fully support, and wish we had more of.

I failed on multiple fronts to communicate effectively and reduce the harm I could do through writing and it resulted in the othering and invalidation of people I value and cherish, along with strangers I would never ever wish to harm. While my intentions were to explore my own alienation and isolation because of my adventures into high femme, all I ended up really doing was being hurtful to the community on multiple fronts.

Intentions don't matter. I say that over and over again. They don't matter here, either. I'm so painfully sorry that I hurt people, that I silenced people, that I made them feel less than and invalidated them and othered them. I'm sorry I failed as an ally and as a friend and as someone with a voice in the community. I'm sorry I spoke for others when I never have a right to. I'm sorry I wasn't clearer and didn't do more work to ensure I was speaking for me, my limited experiences, and no one else.

I never want anyone to suffer or be harmed, and while I have worked hard to do that, I have failed dramatically in this case and only hope my continued learning and work will one day instil some sense of the trust I have broken. No one should be made to feel lesser for who they are or how they look, which was my attempted message that instead became a battering ram to hurt others.

Thank you for everyone who took the time to write their thoughts and feelings about the article online. Thank you to those who spoke to me about it, for your labour, time, and energy in helping me clarify my own thoughts and questioning my perceptions and words. I really couldn't have understood the depth of my misstep without you. And thank you to those who will take the time to read this and to the community for allowing me a space to enter an apology for the harm I've caused.

I specifically want to thank Misha Bushyager for her posts, her compassion, and all the labour she did with me at Pax Unplugged to layout how deeply I had hurt people, help me question my thoughts, and give me the space to get it right. She's an incredible human being and I can't even say how I grateful I am to know her, and for all she does to make our community better.