Mistakes, Apologies, and Loving Problematic Things


I will not tolerate abusive or harassing behavior on my site. My site, my rules. Don’t like it? GTFO.

This is to serve as both a trigger warning and a warning about NSFW language and/or images.

What happens when you mess up? Is an apology enough? Can you make a mistake and recover from it? As a feminist, a sex educator, and someone who basically lives their life on the internet and in a public forum, I am often overcome with anxiety about these questions. In fact, if there is anything about what I do that is most exhausting, it is the fact that I am consistently afraid of messing up. You see, I am human, and as such, I make mistakes. I offend people, I hurt feelings, I say things I don’t mean, or I say things in ways I don’t mean them. I am prone to say things in anger that I do not mean, mostly because I am unable to truly verbalize what I’m thinking or feeling in ways that make sense.

It isn’t that I want to be offensive, or that I want to hurt someones feelings, it’s simply that I am human and I make mistakes. When I do in person-as I have, I typically am confronted and told that what I’ve said wasn’t appropriate. I apologize, ask what the appropriate thing would be, and then move on from it with the knowledge that I need to ensure that I won’t upset someone else in the future.

As someone who spends quite a lot of their life on the internet, and as such has a lot of their private life on the internet, I am also aware of the problems that exist when someone openly states an opinion that others think is wrong.

Laci Green- driven from her home by death threats over the use of a word she used without knowing why it was wrong, even after she apologized.

Anita Sarkeesian- Simply talks about a topic that gamers disagree with, and was driven from her home after receiving death and rape threats.

In fact, if you look anywhere on the internet, you will find that a number of women (and trans* folk) who have been threatened, harassed, stalked, or abused because they said something that others didn’t agree with. So being a woman on the internet, I am terrified of saying something wrong, and I’m not even someone who is in the limelight.

In fact, I’m not just terrified of saying something wrong, I’m scared of liking something wrong. When I’m not getting frisky and talking or writing about sex and sex education, I spend a lot of time listening to music. Naturally, as music is wont to do, some problematic themes exist. For instance, the cultural appropriation in Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” video is problematic, as well as the body shaming and sexism in Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”. On one hand, I recognize the problems within these two super popular songs, on the other, they’re incredibly catchy and I enjoy the way they sound, and the way they inspire me to dance around my apartment like a fool.

I listen to music, because I enjoy it for the sound, or for the way the songs make me feel. I love some songs that are incredibly problematic because of one simple line in the song that means something to me, or one bar of catchy music that speaks to me in how it’s arranged. I watch movies and read books that aren’t wholly feminist because they’re fun and light to me. The whole time I do it, I worry that my enjoyment of problematic media is perpetuating the social problems in society. I worry that I will be taken less seriously because I enjoy problematic things, even though my enjoyment of problematic media doesn’t mean that I don’t critically think about the media.

It’s hard to feel as though you cannot do, say, or exist without criticism. It leads to an unnecessary amount of stress in how you think, feel or behave when you are constantly worried that saying something wrong won’t end in education but rather in threats.  So why can’t we all accept that no one is perfect? Not our educators, not our celebrities. People make mistakes. They accidentally offend people, they hurt feelings without meaning to, they say something offhand as a joke and don’t realize it’s offensive until afterwards. The important thing is that people learn from their mistakes and move on.

I would like to challenge people in a few ways. The first is that when someone prominent says or does something problematic, instead of issuing a death threat or a rape threat, consider how you would tell them that their words are problematic if they were your best friend, or someone close to you. If you find a piece of media that you enjoy think about it critically, talk with others when they say they feel it’s problematic, or discuss how you feel that it’s problematic, but do so with the understanding that you still can love that piece of media. When someone apologizes, let them know you accept their apology, give them a way to learn from their mistake, and then let them move on. Don’t bring up something they said three years ago that was problematic when they’ve apologized and learned from their mistakes. Finally, when someone disagrees with you on whether or not a piece of media is enjoyable, recognize that if everyone had to like the same things, we wouldn’t have so many genres.

We can all learn how to be a bit more kind, myself included.

Until Next Time!
-The Frisky Fairy

2 Replies to “Mistakes, Apologies, and Loving Problematic Things”

  1. I think as important as learning from one’s mistakes and doing better in the future is *owning* them, and apologizing.

    At the same time, just because someone offers an apology does not obligate the person who was hurt to accept, or to provide education. It’s nice when someone feels up to offering education, but there’s a ton of education readily available online, and the trope that a hurt person should educate the person who hurt them is in and of itself toxic.

    But everyone fucks up. We’ve all been indoctrinated with toxic concepts, for decades, and continue to be subjected to further indoctrination even after we begin to become aware of the toxicness. It is the work of a lifetime to fight this toxicness in ourselves and society, a battle that does not end so long as we draw breath.

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