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]

Terminology

Femmeslash

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.

Yuri

For an anime/manga fandom equivalent of the term see yuri.

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]

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.

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.[2] 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[3] 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.[4]

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.

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.

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.[5] 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.[6] The analysis also showed that of the most common pairings in fandom, only 4 were F/F, [7], 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. [8]

Some fandoms have more femslash than others, and destinationtoast also did an analysis of AO3 to examine which these were.[9] 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 about the question 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. [10]
  • 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. [10]
  • Misogyny in Fandom

History

This article or section needs expansion.

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

  • Early femslash stories in zines?
  • F/F zines?
  • Early internet stuff?

Some relevant Fanlore pages:

Archives

Directories

Recommendation Communities

Multifandom Communities

Ficathons and Exchanges

Other communities

Resources

References

  1. In August 2008, there were about 223,000 hits for femslash and about 100,000 hits for femmeslash in Google.
  2. Hth. Thank You For Not Smoking, originally published 25 June 1998.
  3. The original ScullySlash list was founded June 25, 1998 and the title read: ScullySlash • dedicated to FemSlash in The X-Files.
  4. saffic - community profile, accessed 2008-09-30. Written by KannaOphelia.
  5. a closer look at fanfic relationships, numbers found in the second image.
  6. Stage 7: Panfandom Overview.
  7. Stage Four: Summary, see also the original data here, and how the pairings were selected here.
  8. 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."
  9. Which fandoms have the most femslash on AO3?.
  10. 10.0 10.1 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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