On Eating Our Own: The Problematic Feminist History of Laci Green's 180

I was thrilled when I discovered the YouTube channel of Laci Green back in 2013. The first video of hers that I saw was an explanation of what a hymen is and why it doesn’t have to break during penetrative sex. She had great visual aids (a cardboard tube with a balloon over it) and explained things in an understandable way.

I followed her for a while during my phase of being a fan of various YouTubers. I kept some tabs on her over the years, and was familiar with previous kerfuffles about her work. She was an ex-Mormon, which colored her views on religion altogether, and she didn’t have a great grasp of Muslim feminism as a white lady living in the US. She was bad at those topics, but was generally decent at things that were in her wheelhouse—sexual education and talking about feminism.

But this year, something has shifted. She started dating a man who identifies with the conservative/libertarian alt-right, and has begun exploring “the other side.” She wants to, it seems, develop an open mind toward the positions of oppressors, and has unfortunately begun using some of their arguments about speech and language as their own. While commenting that she still affirms transgender identity, for example, she is insistent that we cannot change or challenge language about people with penises having “male reproductive systems.”

One area of this “fallen feminist hero” narrative that has stuck in my craw is one that aligns with my upcoming work on PROBLEMATIC. You see, we feminists are partially at fault for the choices Laci has made in the past few months.

Ever since she became a pretty damn famous YouTuber, there has been a contingent of the Internet that has insisted on bringing up her past mistakes in any discussion of her work. While she was facing harassment that actually forced her to move houses, feminists online were also continually reminding her of how she had fucked up in the past. She felt, as she’s said openly on Twitter, that she could never live up to this perfect image of a feminist. She wanted to be part of it, and she struggled as a white feminist, but instead of finding a community that understands that we make mistakes, she found the end of a sword pushing her off the plank.

Now, this isn’t to remove Laci’s agency from the decisions that she’s made. Instead, it is to point out that current feminist culture that uses “problematic” as a shorthand for “bad, not worthy, evil” has played a role in making those decisions possible.

I think—and expound at greater length about this in my forthcoming work—that it is possible to hold people accountable without also harassing them. This feels like it should be a simple statement, but in feminist culture, it is anything but. We have become too reliant on other people’s judgments. We have fallen into a pattern of criticism that destroys the things we love. And we have become lazy in our criticism, allowing a past grievance to dictate everything about our present. We have allowed our designation of “problematic” to do all the work for us, and that is simply unsustainable.

Dianna Anderson