Approved Feminisms. (Or: It’s Easy to be Edgy When They Love You.)

I’m a loudmouth. I always have been. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I go to war to defend it. I’m also really unfortunately good at saying vicious things that hurt people without meaning to. This isn’t a talent I’m proud of, but when you’re born with a big mouth and a lot of opinions, it’s easy to get it wrong.

I’m passionate. Intersectional Feminism is my fucking jam, and that means that I have a duty to the things I believe in to stand up for the people I see getting hurt and shit on. Combined with the fact right above this, that means I say a lot of stuff that has the potential to make me a very unpopular person. (Believe it or not, I don’t have a lot of friends, for just that reason…)

In that past couple of years I’ve become part of a vibrant community online of indie game designers, players, and aficionados. It’s a wonderful community that, on its face, seems very accepting of people who are progressive, loud, and striving for a better place. We have sessions at conventions to discuss the queer theory inherent in story gaming, for just one example.

And yet. I still don’t feel at home. It’s hard to feel comfortable in this house. I am often reminded that these people are not my family, and many of them aren’t even my friends. And sometimes that hurts, when I stand on the edges looking in. Not because I need everyone to love (or even like) me, but because I’m standing in a group full of people who theoretically agree with me that the world is not a good place and that we should work to make it better…but I am told repeatedly that I am doing it wrong.

(And just by writing this entry? I will hear I am doing it wrong. That I shouldn’t call out this kind of behavior, that I should be the one to bend myself to fit inside the lines drawn. I know I will, because the last time I said something like this, it happened. And the time before that. And the time before that.)

There’s an attitude in the larger community that if you want to be loud, if you want to be controversial, if you want to Say Things, you better do it in the frameworks approved by those higher above you on the social scale. (Oh, hello High School Cafeteria! I did not miss you at all!) All the story games about being a genderqueer person exploring romance are great, but don’t you dare say they don’t encompass your experience or that they’re not there for you.

Be edgy, but not too edgy. Have criticism, but only of the right things. Be hurt when those who are beloved are hurt, but don’t side with people who don’t have enough weight.

These are all attitudes that have been subtly expressed to me.

And the problem is that I am not the only person. See, if it was just me, I’d think I was doing it wrong. I’d sit down and shut up and listen and try to figure out how, exactly, I pulled my pants down to show my ass in public. Because I genuinely don’t want to hurt people. I genuinely don’t want my pain to spill over and cause them pain.

But I’m not the only one. Just like there’s a network of people who pass along which people to avoid because they’re creepers? There’s a network of people who’ve reached out to each other to check in. To make sure they’re not doing it wrong. To get a reality check about whether or not they’re really, genuinely bad people for not being the right kind of controversial, for being too loud or critical or angry.

We’re all afraid, at some level or another, to be authentic. Because when we’re authentic we’re too much. We’re not helping. We’re controversial and angry and can’t we just sit down and let the good progressive work move forward already?

I don’t want to stand on the pedestal. I don’t want to be a movement “leader” or to sit at the head of the “popular” table, or anything like that.

I just want there to be room for me to live my reality as an intersectional feminist Jewish nerd girl, without it meaning I have to live on the margin of the community in quietness and contrition. I want there to be room at the table for me, for the people like me, and yes, even for the people whose opinions I cannot stand.

I don’t know how to wrap this up with a neat little bow. I don’t have a tidy conclusion. Right now I just have a small pain in my heart and a vague hope that someone out there reading this knows what I mean.


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