Femslash

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Synonyms: Femmeslash, Alt, Altfic, Yuri, Saffic, f/f slash, girlslash
See also: Slash, Yaoi
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Contents

Femslash is derived from 'female slash', and refers to a genre of fan fiction featuring female characters involved in a romantic or sexual relationship. In English, it is the most common media fandom term for homosexual relationships between female characters.[1]

History

This article or section needs expansion.

The history of femslash most likely dates to early Star Trek fandom.

80s Femslash

Fandom's interaction with the properties they love is still relegated to fanzines. As most fandom activity is still centered around "genre" properties this leaves femslashers and queer women with few opportunities. Femslash is virtually non-existent in mainstream fandom, but young fic writers are already experimenting by watching shows like The Facts of Life and Cagney & Lacey.

The 90s

The rise of the internet, and particularly Usenet sees an explosion of creative output in mainstream fandoms. However a lack of female characters in genre shows still leaves femslash fans with few opportunities.

Enter Xena

Xena: Warrior Princess premieres in 1995. It's the first popular genre show that features two female leads that regularly interact with one another. An active femslash community quickly develops around the show. Particularly after the lead characters share a (confusing) kiss in Season 2.

In the Season 2 episode "The Xena Scrolls" alternate universe versions of the principle characters appear. This leads to a whole subgenre of Xena fanfiction known as uber. It's one of the first incidents of a fandom embracing the AU and is especially notable as many of these AUs/uber fics are later converted into original works that are then published as lesbian romance novels.

Buffy and Faith vs Willow and Tara

Everybody Dies

The early 2000s were a horror show, with Xena and Tara Maclay being killed and leaving many lesbians and femslash fands despondent.

Brittana

Brittana becomes the first slash couple ever willed into canon by the activism of fans. It would go on to create the Brittana Effect were slash fans presume the can simply demand creators put their preferred couple together because it is in the name of "diversity."

Mainstream Lesbians

In 2011 Arizona Robbins and Callie Torres get married in the Season 7 episode "White Wedding." It's the first serious lesbian wedding on mainstream television that occurs between two regular cast members of a show.

Femslash Renaissance

Between Korrasami and Clexa things are coming up femslash for canon lovers. Peggy Carter and Angie Martinelli moving in together helped. A lot.

The Femslash Herd

The femslash community is small enough that it tends to move in a herd, migrating from fandom to fandom as it seeks the promise of sweet sweet canon lady kisses.[2]

Terminology

Due to the insularity of the femslash fandom there are many femslash specific terms rarely found outside the fandom.

The Terms

Alt
Alt or Altfic, short for 'alternative fiction', originated in the Xenaverse where it is the preferred term for Xena/Gabrielle fiction. When some XWP bards started writing Janeway/Seven, Willow/Tara and other f/f fiction, the term followed these authors to Star Trek: Voyager and BtVS fandom where it coexisted with other terminology such as femslash and femmeslash. In 2000 one of the oldest multifandom f/f sites, The Pink Rabbit Consortium, moved its archive to altfic.com. For a variety of reasons alt didn't catch on and femslash became the dominant term for f/f fiction.
Brittana Effect
A fandom's presumption that claims of diversity will make a showrunner will their favorite slash pairing into existence.
F/F Slash
F/F Slash is used by some fans to indicate the continuity between f/f and m/m slash and probably is the oldest of the media fannish terms for this type of fiction.[citation needed]
Femmslash
Femmeslash is an alternate spelling that some people prefer for its visual appeal. Others dislike it because it brings up Butch/Femme connotations; they perceive the term as reinforcing those stereotypes.
Girlslash
Girlslash is used by some fans, as in the name of the Harry Potter community hp_girlslash. Usually it is accompanied by the m/m equivalent boyslash in an attempt to denormalize the assumption that all slash is m/m. Sometimes fans will request 'womanslash' as a specific contrast to 'girlslash', especially in fandoms in which the majority of the female characters are teenagers or young girls, as in the Harry Potter fandom.
Ladyslash
Ladyslash was used for a while in the late 90s. The dominant term for female/female fanfic in TV based fandoms was f/f slash in media fandom and alt or altfic in the Xenaverse. ScullySlash was the term used in X-Files fandom and the stories were usually either Scully/OFC or Scully/f crossovers that paired Scully with female characters from other shows, like for example Scully/Miss Parker in Hth's Pretender crossover Thank You For Not Smoking.[3] There were other character specific terms (the rare Highlander f/f story was usually AmandaSlash) but these depended on the fandom. The term femslash probably existed[4] but was first mentioned on the Ladyslash mailing list half a year after it was created on April 4, 1999, and the first mention of femmeslash was more than a year after creation. Whether intentional or not, "ladyslash" wasn't so much a new term as it was an umbrella for all those FemaleCharacterNameSlash f/f stories in all those different fandoms. Despite a Lady Slash WebRing that was created in 1999, a Lady Slash Site, and a LadySlash zine, the word "ladyslash" didn't impact the f/f slash terminology. The mailing list simply offered femslash fans a place where they could connect, share their f/f fanfiction, and discuss the f/f subtext of their favorite shows.
Sapphic Fiction
Some fans use words or phrases associated with the mainstream lesbian community. For instance, the Harry Potter fansite Sapphic_HP, like the term "saffic," references the association of the Greek poet Sappho with contemporary lesbian relationships and culture.
Saffic, a portmanteauish pun on sapphic fiction, is used by a few fans. According to the userinfo of the LiveJournal community Saffic, saffic includes:
Femmeslash (or yuri and shoujo-ai) and erotica[...], as [well as] gen stories that focus on other strong female bonds such as friendship, sister, rival and mother-daughter relationships.[5]
Yuri
Queer women content related to anime and manga. A term originating in the anime/manga community. There is shockingly little crossover between western femslash fandom and yuri fandom.

Controversy

Some fans object to the way the term "femslash" seems to suggest that m/m slash is the norm and slash involving women is the exception. A few alternatives are in common usage:

  • The term "slash" is used equally for m/m and f/f fic, with "f/f" or "m/m" appended where more specificity is needed.
  • "Slash" is rarely or never used generically; instead, fans refer to "boyslash" and "girlslash" or "femslash" and "maleslash" or some other combination of alternate terms.

Fans may argue for the general application of these usages, but they remain in the minority. In common fannish discourse (for instance, on the Fanlore wiki), "slash" is used to refer primarily to the male/male version.

Original Fic

See Uber

A shockingly large percentage of femslash authors go on to be published. Often their first published works are fanfic works that have been edited to become original fiction.

Until Fifty Shades of Grey many of the most successful instances of filing off the serial numbers were found in the femslash community.

Prevalence

How common is it?

Statistically speaking, femslash is generally uncommon. destinationtoast did an analysis of AO3 relationship tags, and found that 3.53% of fics were tagged as F/F; however fics with multiple relationship tags were seperated into different categories.[6] centrumlumina also did an analysis of AO3 relationship tags, and concluded that 5.0% of all fics were tagged as F/F, including those with multiple relationship tags.[7] The analysis also showed that of the most common pairings in fandom, only 4 were F/F, [8], and that in the most popular fics tagged with each of those F/F pairings, 43% of the time the F/F pairing met the definition of a side pairing. [9]

Some fandoms have more femslash than others, and destinationtoast also did an analysis of AO3 to examine which these were.[10] The analysis includes both which fandoms have the highest proportions of femslash, and which had the most F/F works altogether. Genderswap was also factored in to account for inconsistencies in tagging.

Why?

Some fans have wondered why f/f slash is less common than m/m slash for twenty years or more; others think it is no great mystery and focusing on the question enforces a hierarchy where f/f is seen as less. Theories about the perceived lack of femslash include:

  • There aren't a lot of shows with two interesting female characters, demonstrated by results on the Bechdel Test, and they were even rarer in the '80s and '90s.
  • Where there are two female characters, they don't often have a relationship, especially a buddy or enemy dynamic which is regarded as shippable.
  • Straight women aren't as turned on by the mechanics of f/f, so there is a smaller audience.
  • F/f is more common than m/m slashers think, but as there is not much overlap between the m/m and f/f communities, the only parts of f/f fandom that m/m fandom sees are those where the female pairings are minor compared to the main m/m pairing. M/m slashers rarely participate in fandoms that are primarily f/f.
  • Femslash is usually written by and for queer female authors, which means there are different identity politics involved; f/f slashers are more likely to already have a like-minded community outside the fannish context (and therefore less likely to seek out m/m-dominated slash fandom?)
  • Writing femslash can force female writers to deal with gendered issues that hit close to home, whereas slash can be a form of escape from them. [11]
  • Less pre-existing audience, fewer examples, and fewer resources mean writers have less community and are more likely to be discouraged by more critical feedback or less feedback overall. [11]
  • Misogyny in Fandom

Notable Femslash Personalities

  • Melissa Good is a very well known Xena/Gabrielle writer who was eventually hired by the show as a writer. She went on to write three episodes of the show, two produced and one, a romantic queer musical, that is unproduced.
  • Ralst has maintained the largest exclusively femslash archive for more than ten years. The site, Passion & Perfection is particularly notable as it includes many femslash works not found on more mainstream archives like Ao3.

Archives

Directories

Recommendation Communities

Multifandom Communities

Ficathons and Exchanges

Other communities

Further Reading/Meta

Some relevant Fanlore pages:

References

  1. In August 2008, there were about 223,000 hits for femslash and about 100,000 hits for femmeslash in Google.
  2. officialcommanderlexa, Tumblr, February 2015 (Accessed March 24, 2015).
  3. Hth. Thank You For Not Smoking, originally published 25 June 1998.
  4. The original ScullySlash list was founded June 25, 1998 and the title read: ScullySlash • dedicated to FemSlash in The X-Files.
  5. saffic - community profile, accessed 2008-09-30. Written by KannaOphelia.
  6. a closer look at fanfic relationships, numbers found in the second image.
  7. Stage 7: Panfandom Overview.
  8. Stage Four: Summary, see also the original data here, and how the pairings were selected here.
  9. Stage 9: Side Pairings. A side pairing was defined "as those which a) are not the sole relationship tag present... and b) do not have any of the characters in the relationship mentioned by name in the summary."
  10. Which fandoms have the most femslash on AO3?.
  11. 11.0 11.1 A chart illustrating all of the possible explanations people have suggested for the lack of femslash in my AO3 ship stats survey.
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