Last week, Twitch announced the new Twitch Safety Advisory Council, a group made up of online safety experts and creators who have a “deep understanding” of the streaming site. This Safety Advisory Council covers a broad spectrum of Twitch content creators, with the platform selecting members “based on their familiarity with the Twitch community and their relevant personal and professional experiences.”
Steph ‘FerociouslySteph‘ Loehr is one such member, with her being one of the first transgender streamers to ever be partnered on Twitch, along with the first to introduce the transgender pride flag. As described by Twitch, FerociouslySteph’s “fight for inclusivity includes creating a competitive team composed entirely of marginalized gamers, and vehemently opposing non-inclusive mechanics such as voice chat.” Steph’s opinions regarding diversity — and, depressingly, her simply existing as a transgender woman on Twitch — have led to her being a divisive choice for the Council, with criticisms of her increasing this week due to two Twitch clips lifted out of context and spread across social media.
The Safety Advisory Council will advise on various topics, from the drafting of new policies and policy updates, through to promoting healthy work-life balances for streamers and protecting marginalized streamers. Twitch states that it will work with this group to improve its community — it’s essentially Twitch’s city hall, with the members sharing their opinions and concerns based on their unique skillsets and backgrounds, with Twitch then listening and potentially factoring their viewpoints into their decision-making.
However, less than a week after the Twitch Safety Advisory Council was announced, two Twitch clips of Steph were captured and spread online. The first ostensibly sees Steph threatening to abuse her power as a member of the Council, targeting her detractors. The second sees her claiming that “a lot” of gamers are “white supremacists.”
“There’s a lot of people that are really fighting me”
But both Twitch clips have been taken out of their initial context. In the first, Steph is addressing the individuals who reportedly doxxed her, with her discussing the situation to her viewers and the vehement backlash she received after Twitch’s unveiling of the Safety Advisory Council.
“There’s a lot of people that are really fighting me, it’s aggressive attacking trying to take me down and hurt me. But it’s not most people… I feel like most people are in the middle, I feel like they’re maybe upset with one of my opinions, or they’re on the dogpile, or they’ve been given the wrong information,” she said. “It’s really tough to feel like some people are clearly out there to hurt me, harm me, and take me down. I’ve been doxxed today. Fortunately, I’m safe. They don’t know my address, for now, but they have a whole profile, they found out what high school I went to and what my deadname is… it’s really spooky and scary. It’s rough.”
This clip can be viewed below:
However, only the following comments were clipped by her detractors, before being circulated on Reddit and Twitter:
“But I’m hanging in there, and I’m not going anywhere. I have power, they can’t take it away from me, and honestly, there are some people that should be afraid of me. And they are, because I represent moderation and diversity, and I’m going to come for hurtful and harmful people. If you’re a really shitty person, I’m going to stand up against you, period. And Twitch is endorsing me to do that, so.”
Watch this clip — which is currently the only one being shared on social media in any substantial capacity — below:
Lifted from out of the original context, it looks like Steph is suggesting that Twitch is giving her the moderation power to go after her detractors. But it’s clear from her original comments that while she understands that many people have been critical of her appointment on the Safety Advisory Council — and she doesn’t exactly appear to be too opposed to those individuals, instead acknowledging that they may simply disagree with her opinions — she is specifically referencing the people who doxxed her when she describes the “power” she has, and how their actions won’t take that away from her. The clip that has been widely shared has amassed over 270,000 views at the time of this writing, while the clip showing the context of her comments has 3,000 views.
In the second clip, Steph was responding to a viewer who commented “cis people are valid” during her stream. Steph noted that her stream was inclusive of people of all backgrounds, but that she wasn’t “cool” with white supremacy.
“Yes, cis people are valid,” she said. “You can be cis! You can be white! Someone thinks I’m super racist against white people, no, I’m just not cool with white supremacy. I think a lot of you gamers are actually white supremacists. Sorry! Just a fact, of how I feel… which is an opinion…”
Steph later clarified her comments on Twitter, saying that she has “never and will never say most gamers are white supremacists”:
I have never and will never say most gamers are white supremacists.
White men have the most privilege when it comes to voice chat communication.
This statement has riled more than a few white supremacists.
Remember having privilege does not invalidate your hardships.
— FerociouslySteph (@FerociouslyS) May 16, 2020
The Voice Chat debate
The final point of contention from FerociouslySteph’s critics is her opinion on voice chat in competitive games. Steph believes that the only way to have a level playing field for competitive gameplay is to remove voice chat, given the harassment often faced by women and minority voices in video games. Essentially, Steph is arguing that the “trash talking” seen in competitive games can stifle the performances of players who aren’t cisgender, white men, and that the necessity of voice chat in competitive play can dissuade marginalized people from trying to compete altogether.
Twitch staff has completely lost it
>Remove voice chat from the highest level for giving unfair advantage, VOICE CHAT IS UNFAIR pic.twitter.com/sxjlB7PU1m
— Hac1 (@DonHaci) May 14, 2020
It’s a controversial point, sure, but here’s the thing: FerociouslySteph is working on Twitch’s Safety Advisory Council to offer opinions from her perspective as a marginalized person. She isn’t “Twitch staff,” as has been erroneously claimed by her critics, but rather an advisor that offers input on Twitch’s decisions based on her knowledge of the platform.
Twitch is well aware that she disapproves of voice chat in competitive play — the platform even includes it in her bio on the Safety Advisory Council announcement page — and considering that it’s host to huge tournaments such as the Overwatch League, the League of Legends World Championship, and CS:GO‘s Majors, it’s unlikely that its executives would agree with her. But the point of the Council is to offer viewpoints from across Twitch’s broad spectrum of experts and creators, not to reaffirm the Twitch status quo.
Many of those criticizing FerociouslySteph are doing so due to the misinformation being circulated around her comments, but plenty of the backlash is rooted in transphobia. Searching through discussion of this controversy on Twitter, Twitch, and Reddit reveals detractors misgendering her, personally attacking her, and attempting to see her removed from her position based on thinly-veiled bigotry. It remains to be seen whether or not Twitch will placate the mob coming for Steph by removing her from her position, or if the platform will defend her from the misinformation being circulated around her. Hopefully, it will choose to do the latter.