Your Vagina is a Bigot; My Vagina is a Saint

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Title: Your Vagina is a Bigot; My Vagina is a Saint
Creator: Franzeska
Date(s): April 25, 2016
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic:
External Links: Your Vagina is a Bigot; My Vagina is a Saint, (AO3, need to be logged in to read)
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Your Vagina is a Bigot; My Vagina is a Saint is a 16218-word meta essay by Franzeska that was posted to the AO3 under archive-lock in 2016. It received a lot of criticism.

Author's Summary: Bullying and the Co-opting of Social Justice Activism in Fandom: A discussion of bias in fannish meta, m/m vs. other pairings, shipping of POC, vidding characters of color, what it means to ship, and problems in Stormpilot fandom.

It is quoted here on Fanlore with permission from its creator.

Some Topics Discussed

Chapters/Sections

  • Fandom Will Eat Itself
  • Why Write This Essay?
  • Why Gender and Race are Not the Same
  • Won't Somebody Think of the Het?
  • Who Started A03?
  • Why are All of the Slashers Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
  • Life Outside of AO3
  • Ye Olden Dayes When Fandom was K/S
  • But Why is there No Femslash?
  • Race and Shipping
  • Background Radiation Racism
  • How White is Fandom?
  • How American is Fandom?
  • How White are AO3 Ships?
  • What's the Goal Here?
  • Holding Out For A Megafandom
  • The Little Red Hen
  • Festivids: A Case Study in Diversity in Fanworks
  • How to Vid More POC
  • Srs Bzns Vids
  • The Problem of Clint/Coulson
  • If You Don't Ship Tony/Rhodey, You're a Racist!
  • Why POCs are Hard to Write
  • Fuck Cinnamon Rolls! Vodka for Breakfast! - Why Kylux is More Popular than Stormpilot
  • Indoctrinating Your Vagina

Excerpts

Like most meta in fandom, this essay has an agenda. In this case, it is to call out anti-slash bias that is disguised as activism. The second part discusses fanworks about people of color: why are there so few, what can we do to encourage their creation, avoiding self-defeating hypocrisy in activism.

The kind of pseudo-activism I am talking about turns up in meta posts, fandom secrets, fic comments, and many other places. It takes forms like:

"Slash is the majority of fandom because fandom hates women!"
"Slashers are all racists who ship nothing but ATG whitecock."
Conflating gender preferences in shipping with race preferences
Numerical analyses of AO3 fics with no mention of other platforms
Blaming the lack of femslash on the prevalence of slash while ignoring het and gen

Why Write this Essay?

First, I am calling this anti-slash bias out because I don't like bullies, and this kind of parasitic "activism" typically goes after the most vulnerable, easily-cowed targets. Second, I am calling it out because much of it depends on an ignorance of fandom history, and I love fandom history and want to share it with everyone. Third, I am calling it out because it backfires: It does little or nothing to stem the tide of so-called "whitecock" juggernauts while making it unpleasantly fraught to write about people of color. It prioritizes the "safety" of fictional women over that of real women. And it encourages the writing of joyless dutyfic, not any of the fic we'd actually like to read. This makes it as pointless as it is cruel. Enough is enough.

I intend this essay to be a rallying cry for civility and tolerance. I also intend it to educate by providing historical perspective and non-AO3 context that is missing from most of the frothing rants on this subject.

I would like to propose two ideas:

1. Effective activism has an objective. If you can't define an objective and explain how your activist activities will help achieve it, you need to rethink those activities. If you can't explain why you're seeking the objective, you need to rethink that as well.

2. If your goal is "If you would just consider [why you slash, why you like so many white guys, why you don't ship much f/f, why you don't write this pairing]," rejoice, for we have already achieved that goal! In the 60's. And the 70's. And the 80's. And the 90's...

Fandom has been self-analyzing since there was fandom: Don't try to teach your grandma to suck eggs!

Why are All of the Slashers Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

Here's the thing, a lot of those slashers were on Livejournal, following astolat, because we were unwelcome elsewhere. We ditched Fanfiction.net over the porn ban or because of anti-slash trolls. (Personally, I didn't like the porn ban because I like explicit sex scenes, but there is also the consideration that m/m content tends to be rated higher, inside and outside of fandom, than m/f content of equivalent explicitness. A porn ban is always going to hit m/m harder.) Some of the other multifandom archives didn't allow underage or had other restrictions that made them unsuitable for certain big, popular slash fandoms. Most of us never knew about Media Miner because it's primarily an anime fandoms archive.

People of like tastes congregate together.

One of those tastes is for categorizing all fic according to the type of ship it contains. That's a top-level category in the brains of AO3's userbase and in AO3's labeling structure. This is the case for virtually no other multifandom archive of any size. Specific pairings are often a top-level category in single-fandom archives. Genres, including "Romance", are top-level categories on Fanfiction.net. But if you want to read all of the bakery AUs starring all of the men from everything ever and be sure they're bonking other men in the process, AO3 and AO3 alone has the site architecture for you!

This means that meta analyses of fandom shipping trends disproportionately draw their data from AO3 because those data are easy to acquire.

Analyzing AO3 is fun. I don't want to discourage anyone from doing it if they like geeking out over fandom statistics. But when those analyses are used to complain that there is Too Much Slash, I get mad. Of course there is a lot of slash here: AO3 was founded by slashers so we would have a safe place to post our kinky porn. Quit trying to take that away! AO3 already allows all types of fic; it doesn't need to become more hostile to slash just to make other things welcome.

What's the Goal Here?

I think that the whiteness of popular ships is a symptom rather than a cause. Looking at your list of ships and calculating what percent contain white people, then getting up to some arbitrary quota of non-white ships will do nothing of importance. That approach by itself leads to writing dutyfic or reading things you're not actually interested in.

No doubt, a certain number of people are going to be hatereading this essay. Just for you, I have calculated that about 20% of my fic and 30% of my vids are about POC. You can go calculate your numbers and feel smug. Or not. I'm betting not.

If there's one pattern I have seen over and over, it is that people who get up in my face about race and shipping do not produce many fanworks about non-white characters themselves. So why the aggro?

I think the answer lies in the gap between what it means to know that I ship something and to see that you ship it. In the gap between consumer and producer. In an unspoken assumption that fic defines "fandom". In a need for juggernaut pairings and megafandoms and a community to join. In a fear of being wrong and being attacked.

My goal is to pick apart all of those unspoken assumptions to show how and why we don't pay fannish attention to characters of color and what happens when we do. If you wish you shipped more non-white pairings, maybe this will help you understand what's missing in your current fandoms and where to look for something different instead of just feeling guilty and moping. If you're a bullying asshole, maybe this will help you direct your energy somewhere more productive.

Indoctrinating Your Vagina.

One final note: So you don't like your shipping tastes? You wish you were attracted to different people? I don't think you owe it to anyone to find them hot, but if your general trend is towards white, white, white, nothing but white, and that bugs you, it's fixable.

Personally, when I was 14, I was attracted to guys who looked like young, blond, uber-WASP-y James Spader and to anime characters. In my 30s, my taste is epitomized by Oscar Isaac in beardy phase and every hot black guy from everything ever. Is one objectively better than the other? IDK. It would be a lot easier to use whitebread OKC [1] if I still had my 14-year-old tastes. But the point is that tastes do naturally change over time. They change with positive exposure to new stimuli.

If you want to find more characters of color to ship, you need to consciously seek out media that feature people of color playing roles you would already be interested in. If you're like most of us, that means space opera or crime thrillers full of hoyay or something fun, not a depressing, realistic drama about social issues. Look around: these media exist. Media that feature no major white characters work best: POC will be playing the square-jawed hero, and the funny sidekick, and the scenery-chewing nemesis, and the love interest, and whatever role it is you normally like. But any media with a prominent person of color playing a type of role you normally like are good. Spend a couple of years watching a steady diet of that instead of all-white media, and I guarantee you'll develop some new tastes. It's a fun project if it's something you want to do. Don't do it out of guilt: don't make it un-fun. Your subconscious is a wily beast, and it will resist all efforts of that kind.

If you're more of a reader than a writer… well, you may need to become a gif-maker or a vidder or a fanmixer. If you wait around for fandom to deliver you a perfect POC pairing, complete with lots of fic and other people who already ship it, it's not going to happen. Unless it's stormpilot. Because that's been handed to us on a silver platter.

And now, if you'll excuse me. I have some dubcon tentacle porn to write.

Fan Comments

The meta itself hosted a lot of the discussion around the meta. As of 10 May 2016, there are 344 comments on the work at Archive of Our Own. You need to log in to be able to read them.

The Vagina Meta was posted around the same time as two other pieces of meta that raised similar questions about popularity of the Stormpilot pairing.

The first meta essay was written by destinationtoast and was titled So What's Been Going On In Star Wars Fandom Lately? and dated April 26, 2016 and posted to tumblr.

The second meta essay, also written by Franzeska, Why Isn't Stormpilot Remaining Popular, was dated April 27, 2016 and was posted to AO3.

Because the topics and discussions were so similar, and the fandom reactions ranged over multiple platforms (Tumblr, Twitter, AO3, and Dreamwidth), it became increasingly difficult for the participants to accurately track who they were responding to. Communication grew garbled and on several occasions, people became confused and the essays as well as fan identities were conflated with one another.

As a result, there may be significant errors below in terms of attributing quotations as well as attributing identities. In addition, some of the comments below are presented anonymously. If the owners of the comments wish to have themselves identified, please leave the information on the talk page.

An Early Series of Conversations Between Fans

destinationtoast:

...I know this meta isn’t directed primarily at me, but I do hope I haven’t come across as anti-dudeslash in any of my analyses of AO3 or femslash. If so, I’d like to clarify that I’m not doing those analyses to hate on dudeslash or to issue judgments that things should be different… I’m doing them from a perspective of neutral curiosity and also part of an effort to help F/F and rarepair fans find good stuff (because I know how to find it better than most people do, and I like helping people find what they’re after). However, whatever my intent, I know some people have used some of my stats to harangue dudeslashers, which pains me in general and as a someone who writes a lot of M/M.

I really appreciate the extra historical context, though… I knew AO3 was founded in the wake of rule changes on other sites, but I thought it was primarily a place of safety for explicit fic, RPF, etc. – not advertised in large part as being a haven for bullied slashers. This is helpful additional perspective! And yay for building the places we want to see in the world........

.....Kylux also dodges the shaming that Reylo shippers get for being allegedly supportive of abusive dynamics (even though there are so many reasons that they shouldn’t be shamed: many fans like kinky/”wrong” shit in fantasies; don’t bully real people to protect fictional ones; you can write fictional bad dynamics without approving of it IRL; it’s okay to not like fictional things, but don’t be a dick about it; etc. etc.). People generally seem to feel a need to protect Rey, Finn, and Poe – but not the villains. Very interesting.

BTW, I definitely recommend reading the full context of any of these quotes if you want to respond to any of them – I’ve only selectively highlighted from a much larger piece, and a lot of objections or thoughts that occurred to me while reading some bits of the meta were at least partially addressed elsewhere in the essay. (E.g., “but what about Clint/Coulson [and similar pairings]?”) I’m not saying the meta is perfect – but I did not perfectly represent it here! [2]

destinationtoast again:

Let me also add that I DON’T mean to imply that we should all stop discussing race or gender or how they intersect with fandom. Or that we should all quietly accept the status quo re representation and stop questioning anything. Hell, no. More conversation is something I am basically always in favor of, and I really appreciate and have learned a lot from hearing other fans’ perspectives & experiences on these topics. Nor do I think that all discussions of the lack of diversity in fic or brainstorms about how to improve that are joyless demands for duty fic.

The percent of people I experience being bullying or haranguing each other in these discussions is fortunately pretty low. But I do witness some real knee-jerk condemnation and nastiness toward some groups of fans in the notes to some of my stats posts, with a few fans being quite awful to one another. And I don’t think that lack of kindness or nuance is good or an effective way to change others’ minds. Which is probably not news to anyone who’s been following me long. :)

Anyway, keep talking, and I’ll keep listening and providing relevant data where I can. [3]

anarfea:

Wow Toasty! Your analysis totally makes me want to read this! But a 16K word, multi chapter meta definitely goes into the “mark for later” category.

#star wars meta #sjw activism masking bullying #writing poc #bookmark [4]

stitchmediamix:

I have um… Thoughts about this.

Especially when you add in that the author of the storm pilot meta OP links to is basically “I don’t think fandom racism is as big an issue as fans say and here is proof”

It’s a dismissive and reductive post that takes legitimate comments about racism and racist tropes that are present in every fandom and dismisses them as kink shaming with the addition of “proof” to make their point. Black people in fandom (especially queer black women) have been vocal about how that meta felt dismissive and how it’s not something that they feel okay with people sharing uncritically. Several of them bring it up on reblogs of the OP’s original stats post.

And here we have the OP sharing another meta from the same author and like… How can Black fans trust this author who has already dismissed comments about fandom racism as an unlikely reason for stories shipping the main trio? How can we even trust the OP here who’s giving them a stage and validating what they’re saying?

I can’t even bring myself to click the link because I don’t know what I’m going to read and I know I can’t handle another nonblack fan continuing to make excuses for fandom’s racism.

But I read the quotes that the OP copied and Oh boy am I not feeling this. Because the author continues to dismiss the valid feelings of fans of color and the realities of what it’s like to exist in fandom when the people around you come up with excuse after excuse about how the ONE character that looks like you is the one fandom can’t bring themselves to ship. And the OPs responses to those quotes make me so uncomfortable…

I don’t even know how to parse this as someone who has written extensively and angrily about fandom’s race problem and their issues with how it’s not an issue with dudeslash (because many of us slash critical folks ship dudeslash ships of all kinds!!) but with fandom as an institution jumping hoops to focus on white dudes all the damn time and saying that we’re policing them for pointing out the racism inherent in erasing or decentering characters of color from their own narratives so they can focus on two white dudes fucking.

And okay OPs comments do not help like… There are so many things that are not okay with the shipping discourse around Star Wars and this is one of them. Because the post and the meta writer linked to up there? It’s something that fans of color talk about and have explained time and time again why that mentality is harmful and renders fandom spaces even more unsafe than they already are.

# FANDOM RACISM # LIKE... ARE YOU SEARCHING FOR AND BOOSTING THE VOICES OF BLACK PEOPLE # WHO TALK ABOUT FANNISH RACISM # TO COUNTER STUFF LIKE THIS? [5]

destinationtoast in response to stitchmediamix:

"And here we have the OP sharing another meta from the same author and like… How can Black fans trust this author who has already dismissed comments about fandom racism as an unlikely reason for stories shipping the main trio? How can we even trust the OP here who’s giving them a stage and validating what they’re saying?"

I don’t think I should be trusted. I don’t think anyone should; I don’t think that’s how meta should work. Even decent people can say really thoughtless or ill-informed things sometimes, and nobody can be trusted to be safe. People should let me know when I am saying something they disagree with, or I’ve gathered my data wrong or analyzed it in a biased way (that’s why I try to be as clear as possible about my methods and share my data).

A lot of the time I consider just not saying anything about any topics that anyone might disagree with me about, because I really hate confrontation and making people unhappy with me. But then I generally tell myself to toughen up and participate in public discourse, because sharing my thoughts and getting feedback is the best way I know of to grow. And then when I say things that others think are dumb or offensive, I listen to the response, and I try to learn from it. Thanks for speaking up.

STAR WARS STATS #SHIPPING META #FANDOM DYNAMICS #FANDOM RACISM #PUBLIC DISCOURSE #SO #IN TRYING TO BE THOUGHTFUL AND RESPECTFUL #AND TALKING TO SOMEONE I DON'T KNOW #DO I END UP SOUNDING PATRONIZING? #UGH #I CAN'T TELL #BUT IF SO #MEA CULPA #:( #SERIOUSLY # ALL THE THINKINESS [6]

destinationtoast in response to stitchmediamix:

“I don’t think fandom racism is as big an issue as fans say and here is proof”

Is this what you took from the main meta I linked to, or the stormpilot one? I haven’t actually read all of the meta that’s mostly about stormpilot. I (a white person) did not take the main meta to be making the point that racism isn’t an issue in fandom, and that’s not something I endorse. If that’s the point you took, I’ll critically reread with that in mind.

(I think it’s very possible – in fact undoubtedly the case – for fandom to have a lot of issues around race and sex and also for some of the criticism of various fans (including slashers) to be overly reductive and ineffective. That’s what I got out of the meta that I liked. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t blind to some other issues with it.)

One reason I enjoyed the meta’s use of data (besides it tickling my data geek fancy) is that it did actually include a bunch of relevant numbers so that it wasn’t purely speculation or opinion, which I feel like so many conversations are, and which always frustrates me. I thought it was a useful starting point where we could all argue about whether those were the right numbers to look at, etc., but at least there were some numbers to ground things. But if the use of data in the meta – or in my original Star Wars stats post – rubbed you the wrong way and felt like an attempt to silence others, then I’d really like to hear more about that, if you (or others) feel like sharing.

"Black people in fandom (especially queer black women) have been vocal about how that meta felt dismissive and how it’s not something that they feel okay with people sharing uncritically. Several of them bring it up on reblogs of the OP’s original stats post."

I haven’t seen these but would like to. Tumblr has been frustratingly bad about actually retrieving all the reblog notes since their latest update, and the post has over 5K notes so I’m probably missing a lot of great reblog conversations.  :( [7]

destinationtoast in response to stitchmediamix:

''#like… are you searching for and boosting the voices of black people #who talk about fannish racism #to counter stuff like this?''

I admit I am not. (I didn’t seek out the above meta, either; it was sent to me.) And the fans of color I follow are not ones writing meta on Star Wars or its shipping wars right now – or, also likely, I am missing it on my dash because I haven’t been on Tumblr much in a while. I appreciate you letting me know that I’m missing a lot of critical takes, and if you or anyone want to send them my way, I’ll read them. (no obligation, obviously – but I’ll read stuff people send.) [8]

stitchmediamix in response to destinationtoast:

Now here’s something about being a fan of color that you wouldn’t know: sometimes we designate people as “safe”. Someone (like you) who many people would hold up as reputable and knowledgeable, stops being “safe” forus when you share and essentially uplift posts basically saying that people of color are too sensitive and blaming us for fandom’s racism.

Anyone can fuck up in fandom though. I’ve messed up loads of times and I’ve had people put me back on the right path with only minimal whining (on my part and in private) because it’s not about me or my intent. It’s about the impact it has. And that seems to be something that you’re aware of which is awesome [9]

stitchmediamix in response to destinationtoast:

In the start of F’s StormPilot meta, she dismisses the fact that racism is the big issue keeping fandom from writing StormPilot. She puts her list of three points with racism at the top, kink shaming at number two, and then “too much boring fic” as number three. And then she says that she thinks that racism is probably not the reason for the lack of StormPilot stories as much as 2/3 are.

Except that’s wrong and there’s a whole lot of racism at play here.

There’s the racism that fans (of all kinds) receive in response to their stories centering Finn and Poe (“this would’ve been better if you focused on [white character] instead”).

There’s the racism fans of color are faced with when they go to read a stormpilot story and are confronted with stories where finn having a big ole black cock and performing stereotypes of black masculinity in a galaxy far far away is the norm. (Something that F kind of brushes off as kinkshaming because ~people like size kink~ when John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are the same freaking height.)

And there’s also the racism of fans like F whose response to “fandom is racist” is “let me tell you why you’re wrong with an essay made to paint detractors as defensive sjw bullies”. Their response was wrong and it was short sighted and it absolutely intended to portray people who say that the fandom’s lack of/waning interest in StormPilot is due to how white fans’ racism are wrong and that what it really is related to, is how the ships happen to be boring or white fans are so worried that they’ll be yelled at for writing characters of color wrong......

.....The silencing aspect isn’t necessarily the data, but how its wielded against people. Because the data isn’t the be all and end all of this thing because you’re dealing with actual people’s lived experiences with racism. Data doesn’t trump that. It doesn’t mean that what we experience and see and receive in our inboxes isn’t real. [10]

destinationtoast:

• I also felt like I learned things from parts of the essay (e.g., I know nothing about vidding culture, and less about AO3 history than I thought I did, and I felt like there was some useful criticism in there about stats), and was trying to be open to the critical parts that applied to me and also learn things from my fandom elders. But if others have differing opinions/experiences, I really want to hear those too........

•Fandom exists within this larger context and certainly also has a ton of racial bias. There have been fewer (no?) scientific studies of this in fandom, but I am absolutely sure it exists, and I sometimes ponder how to start to try to find relevant aggregate numbers.

•As someone who trained as a scientist, I often feel compelled to point out that we can’t scientifically tell how much racism (or sexism, or any factor) was responsible for a given character/fandom/ship’s popularity in any particular case – we can only quantify bias in aggregate. (Which makes me feel a bit sheepish about having asked, “what happened to stormpilot?” in the first place – I don’t think we can really apply science or stats to fully figure that out. Sorry.) But that doesn’t mean that I doubt the existence of bias or am skeptical that it’s a factor in most individual cases.

• I generally believe that the answer to “why X” is almost always, “well, it’s complicated – there are many factors involved, though some are more important than others.” And it troubles me when anyone tries to reduce an answer to to “it’s obvious that X happens because of [just] this one factor.” But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think race is a big factor I think that race and other factors including gender and narrative all tie together into a complicated knot when it comes to explaining a give fandom or ship… but race intersects with a lot of those other factors and contributes a lot.

• With stormpilot, race is almost certainly a very big factor in why it fell off in popularity (even if I can’t scientifically prove it). That’s what I’d expect to be true a priori, and a bunch of the reader responses I got to my stats post mentioned a lot of different ways that race could negatively impact the ship popularity. But I also think it has to be a bit more complicated than “Fans always do exactly this because racism…” in part because the ship didn’t behave exactly like most ships with POCs at first; it got really popular (sadly, that’s uncommon). So race alone doesn’t fully predict the ship’s trajectory, and that’s also interesting to me.

• I hope I have not come across as saying that race isn’t very relevant in conversations about Star Wars or shipping. Or that people should be quiet and stop complaining about bad behavior toward POCs in fandom. Those are not views I endorse. [11]

cupidsbower in response to stitchmediamix:

This is the kind of commentary I thought was missing from Franzeska’s post. Definitely worth clicking the read more. [12]

The Use Of Statistics

stitchmediamix expressed her unhappiness that statistics are being used to discuss racism and bias:

The thing I hate most about (for example) white fans talking or starting shit about racism in fandom is that they always come at it from a numbers/data point of view as if that suddenly invalidates the actual experiences of fans of color dealing with racism. Like their numbers and (whitewashed) history trumps our lived experiences…

I’m also annoyed at how these people couch their racism in pseudoscience, erase people of color, and then, once people get pissed at them , they have the luxury of disengaging or not engaging in the first place. [13]

She was not alone. ad0rableedgel0rd said:

"Listen, if this list (which you get from clicking “relationships” on the AO3 ST:TFA tag) doesn’t show how much fandom prioritizes white dudes over writing relationships featuring women and POC (even when women and POC are the THREE LEADS OF THE MOVIE), I don’t know what to tell you" [14]
I kind of wish discussions of fandom racism with Star Wars TFA didn’t center so much around shipping statistics, relevant as it is, because you just know people misinterpreted that as “having a person of color in your OTP makes you Not Racist” and that’s why we have weird threesomes like Finn X Rey X Kylo and Kylo X Hux X Finn or Poe going around. And preexisting Finnlo or Darkpilot shippers probably think they’re totally progressive, nevermind the power dynamics. [15]

From timdrakedotcom:

... that particular chapter wasnt as bad as i expected, basically just saying “well if you DO feel guilty about not wanting to write poc characters then just watch more things that have them to get used to it” but its an aggravating reductive title and the thing as a whole has such nastiness. they do make interesting points about how different types of fanworks are made, consumed and responded to differently, but their goal with it is 90% just to undercut people being angry over ao3 statistics, which is basically a strawman tactic bc theyre purposely ignoring the existence of discussions specifically around non-fic areas of fandom lmao. good luck w/ reading [16]

One FFA nonny tried to analyze the statistics on her own and realized that due to the number of possible pairings, the statistics were meaningless:

Well, since all the villains are white men and all the white men are villains (in this sample) you can't really conclude that their popularity is equal.

Also, Rey is one person and Kylo Ren and Hux are two people, so directly comparing the raw number of fics including Rey to the number of fics including Kylo, Hux, or both isn't going to produce something sensible. Cutting that 6439 in half is going to be wrong in the opposite direction, since fics with both Kylo and Hux are only counted once.

Frankly, I think the thing to do would be to take each character, count the number of fics they're in, calculate the average fics per [insert category here], and then throw it all away because your sample size is five characters and their demographics and roles in the movie are massively correlated.[17]

Ownership of Social Justice Terminology

jawnbaeyega on who owns the language of social justice activism:

That a white woman like Franzeska can sit down and type out “the co-opting of Social Justice Activism in fandom” to describe actions of actual women of color using the language we by and large created to address the systematic oppression we and our people experience is WILD and a textbook example of Columbusing and erasure. If the language of Social Justice Activism belongs to anyone, it belongs to women of color.

#franzeska #yviab #fandom racism #sw fandom drama #like this shit is WILD #i wonder yt that is #shit like this is why white women are the gatekeepers of white supremacy #mine [18]

Fandom Safe Spaces (Many Definitions)

For some fans, a safe space is one where they feel empowered to write their favorite pairings, without bullying. From downthepub:

READ THIS if you are worried about the future of Stormpilot or racism in fandom

A quote:

In my experience, writing POC is an experience defined by fear: fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of seeming racist, fear of accidentally being racist, fear of being bullied. There is no upside: Write white characters, and you can hide in a sea of other people doing the same thing. Write characters of color, and your every move gets scrutinized.

tags:

#stormpilot #we need to welcome people to the fandom not scare them off #ship wars don't help #encourage fic by being positive about it and don't get angry at people who don't write it 100 percent right #basically you can have a big fandom or you can have the perfect fandom #if you're bothered by too much hux maybe stop shaming people who don't write POC correctly#because then it's up to a few people who are good enough to decide what counts while other ships are happily churning out everything etc #also it sucks when there are a few people who determine what's allowed# i love stormpilot and the sweet stuff but you have to let people write what they want or they will go away [19]

For others, a safe space is one where they are not confronted with the racism and sexism in fannish works. From thekinkawakens:

“Make fandom stressful or boring, and people will leave.

Make fandom fun and relaxing, and people will show up in droves.”

You know what is not fun and relaxing for people? Reading racist shit. You know what is stressful for people? Reading racist shit. People who regularly deal with racism are writing to say that reading things that offend them makes fandom not fun for them. People who don’t enjoy racist shit in general are saying that the trends in stereotypical and offensive portrayals of characters is making fandom less fun.

The people making things not fun for you because they’re calling out racism? They’re doing that because things have been made not fun for them by racism. And they’re calling that out just like you are calling them calling that out. Except dealing with racism is a bit worse than being accused of being racist.

Making the fandom a better place doesn’t fall on the people who are calling out stereotypical hurtful things. Those complaints wouldn’t exist if people weren’t making such stereotypical hurtful things. If you want fandom to remain a fun place the simple solution then is to take several moments to read what is making things not fun for people and stop putting them in your stories.......

tl;dr if there’s something that’s difficult for me as a white finnpoe shipper it’s the second hand embarrassment I get from reading shit like this. Instead of writing manifestos about why people shouldn’t be offended by stuff they can’t help but find offensive how about you work on making fandom a more inclusive and fun space for everyone, not just people who are part of the majority. [20]

FFA in response to Anhamirak claiming that fans should make fandom a safe space:

Yep, and completely overlooking the reality that fandom, by it's very nature, is not a safe space for anything except fandom, and that different fans are going to have very different ideas of what constitutes a "safe space" for them. [21]


jawnbaeyega, a Tumblr fan, decided to set up a forum as a safe space only for black fans. Answering an anon ask:

anonymous writes: omg im so tired of white fandom, so so so tired. every time you think it cant get much worse and they just prove u wrong. I want a safe space to enjoy my black characters, free from racist stereotypes and anti-blackness sentiments, were they arent de/hypersexualized, where their every action is not attributed to inherent EVIL!!! do you think its possible do arrange such community within tumblr, a mass tag for our fave black characters! im just exhausted, fandom is supposed to be an escape!!!

[jawnbaeyega]: Literally working on [a safe space for Black fans only] right now :) But it won’t be on Tumblr. Tags are never safe. Making a special private forum where we can enjoy our Black characters and be Black and happy and nerdy in peace.

Please IM or send me an ask off anon if you’d like an invite once it’s up and running. We won’t be publicly advertising it or where to find it on here bc I’m serious when I say I don’t. want. to. be. bothered. by klandom.

For any Black fan who’s tired of klandom, feel free to message me too. Initially the forum will just focus on John/Finn, but we’ve got plans for expansion based on which other fandoms/actors y’all want included :) [22]

FFA nonny:

To fans like Franzeska, talk of social justice issues is an unnecessary addition to a "fun" activity that doesn't have to merge with that. To fans who deal with social justice shit regularly as part of navigating daily life, these things don't necessarily sap away all the fun and -- what's more -- you're actually telling us that to maintain a fun fandom environment for you we have to ditch some our perspective at the door.

I agree with much of what you've said, but I would ask you not to automatically characterise people who prefer fandom to be a fun space free of serious issues as people who never have to deal with serious issues IRL. There are plenty of minorities of all strokes who deal with oppression and prejudice daily who nonetheless view fandom as a bit of escapist fun that doesn't need to be taken that seriously. I'm not defending Franzeska - I don't really know who she is, so I have no idea if she falls into that category or not - but I really really dislike the "Minorities think X, Privileged people think Y!" equation, because no one is a hivemind, and the next logical step to that is calling someone a bad minority because they think Y and not X. There are different opinions and perspectives on these issues from alllll over the social spectrum. [23]

Whose History?

One of the issues that was mentioned frequently after the Vagina Meta was posted was whether it included what many fans felt were key fandom events in discussions of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Some fans pointed out that because fandom stretches across decades and geography, not all fans experienced fandom and the resulting conversations in the same way at the same time. Others disagreed and pointed out the essay's short-comings.

snarlfurillo critiqued the meta and its framing of fandom history and the OTW:

I want to highlight this thread of comments in particular because the “let me school you on fandom history” aspect of this meta is one of the most disingenuous, and it really reveals that the author’s intent is not to increase “civility and tolerance” in fandom but to erase fans of color because she finds writing and vidding about characters of color “joyless,” “defined by fear” and to have “no upside.” I also think it was incredibly shady to roll an “analysis” of slash opposition, the lack of femslash in media fandom and racism in fandom into one post, because arguments about one start to indirectly act as arguments about the other.

Franzeska goes deep into the history of AO3 to talk about why slash is represented heavily there, with lots of links and documentation and references to how she was there and “we” did this or that. Her stated intent in the very first chapter is “to educate by providing historical perspective and non-AO3 context that is missing from most of the frothing rants on this subject,” rants that she believes “[depend] on an ignorance of fandom history” and “[do] little or nothing to stem the tide of so-called ‘whitecockjuggernauts while making it unpleasantly fraught to write about people of color.”

But in 16,000 words over 13 chapters, there is not one mention of Racefail '09. Not a single reference to the time a popular Harry Potter LJ community used a racial slur as a prompt in 2007. Nothing about the Supernatural RPF Big Bang story that used the 2010 Haiti earthquake as a backdrop for a J2 love story (THAT’S A REAL THING THAT HAPPENED). Nothing about the time in 2006 that comics BNF Te (Te! Te of the roses, Te of my heart. Te is amazing. I don’t know her personally, but she was a fucking LIGHT ON A HILL in Smallville and DCU fandom) pointed out the marginalization black characters faced on two then-juggernauts of white m/m slash fandom, Angel and Smallville[24].

ALL of those things were happening roughly concurrently with the founding of AO3.* Going into extensive detail about the history of slash fandom without ONE SINGLE MENTION of the history of fandom racism, including in slash fandom, is an effort to erase that history for the comfort of white fans. Rewriting the founding of AO3 and ignoring this history paints slash writers and fans as victims who need protecting from other parts of fandom or fandom spaces (which, by combining this sexism and racism argument, can plausibly be said to refer to “non slash fans” but is in fact primarily fans who are women of color and their allies) and who shouldn’t be disturbed in their safe space while completely ignoring the many, many fans of color** who have made themselves incredibly vulnerable over the past decade to talk about how fandom generally and often slash fandom specifically has hurt them.

*Which Franzeska attributes to wanting “a safe place to post our [[kinky]] [[porn]].” I have a REAL problem with that, because while providing a secure forum for slash fiction and explicit fiction was one reason the archive was founded, it was not the only or main reason cited in early discussions about the archive. AO3 was inspired both by the creation of a for-profit archive run by non-fans who hoped to monetize and then profit[25] from the fannish gift economy and by a desire for fans to be at the forefront of any efforts to legitimize fanfiction], confirm its legality, and bring it into the mainstream. Not only was “protecting slash from the rest of fandom” not identified as a primary goal, in the post archive founder astolat links to in her call to found what would eventually become AO3, slash is specifically identified as one of the BEST possible test cases to establish the legality of fanfic as a transformative work, which was then seriously in question (you would not believe the disclaimers writers used to use). (The author of that post on legality, someone whose fic I read as recently as last month and who I had previously admired, commented approvingly on The Horrible Meta, proving that rewriting history is a group project, apparently, and that there is nothing white people won’t excuse from their friends).

**I almost linked to some of them here but then I thought…why would I drag this bullshit back to their door? It’s time for this problem to stay in the family. White people need to start taking responsibility for each other, and hey, change starts with me. Please no one bother Te. My ask box is open.

This entire piece completely erases fans of color and their contributions to fandom over and over and over. When Franzeska says that anti-racist activism in fandom “prioritizes the ‘safety’ of fictional women over that of real women,” she means white women, because women of color have been expressing for YEARS, in very personal and painful writing, that they are hurt by the way fan culture works and that they are withdrawing from fandom because of it. Those women are completely ignored in this calculation. The dichotomy is between fictional characters of color and white female fans. Women of color in fandom literally don’t exist in this argument.

Further, Franzeska dismisses objections to racist tropes or erasure in fanfic as “a flood of precious nonsense” and “concern trolling” using “social justice terminology.” She also says that “[if] there’s one pattern I have seen over and over, it is that people who get up in my face about race and shipping do not produce many fanworks about non-white characters themselves. So why the aggro?” By completely ignoring the last full DECADE of this discussion, she implies that all of these objections are coming out of nowhere from white people who want to score social justice points or fulfill their “duty” by crushing other people’s fun. In fact, women of color have been criticizing this for years, and leaving fandom over it (in the 2006 post linked above, Te discusses withdrawing almost completely from several fandoms with marginalized black characters). EVEN IF the majority of the criticism at this point were coming from white women (which IS NOT TRUE; Franzeska just ignores everyone else), we aren’t concern trolling. We are doing what women of color have asked us for years to do, which is to call out the racism in our own communities in the hopes that eventually we will make it safe for them to return and have as much fun as Franzeska has apparently been having for the last two decades without a second thought about the people she’s hurt." [26]

spaceoperafeerie wondered why her fandom experiences are not universal and acknowledged:

"I’m gobsmacked by everything left out in Franzeska’s meta. I just - how do you DO that? All those events, and more, shaped my experience and changed my *world* as a white woman in fandom." [27]

Some of the author's peers disagreed with the meta's premise that slash fans had been oppressed within fandom. From sol_se:

#fandom fail# again# meta #fandom #re-writing history #I am more or less the same demographics & fandom interests as Franzeska #and I strongly object to her pretending that makes *us* oppressed within fandom #get real"[28]

Other peers took a different approach and referred back to similar posts they had made during RaceFail '09. From stewardess:

"Franzeska and I have the same background fannishly and culturally. I have known Franzeska for several years, through appreciating her vidding, and through meeting her at fan gatherings. We follow many of the same fandom blogs. In 2006-2008, I wrote meta identical to Franzeska's, in my case defending racism in the Supernatural fandom/show. I was in my late forties (way older than Franzeska is now) before I made the decision to stop prioritizing the feelings of white women (myself included) over making fan spaces inclusive and safe for all fans. Racefail09 was a huge part of that decision.

Among the criticisms of Franzeska's meta is its lack of references to past discussions about racism in fandom, such as Racefail09, which is why I'm sharing my 2009 posts. My posts were unimportant to the Racefail09 discussions, but they and the comments to them demonstrate that the discussions were unmissable in my/Franzeska's corner of fandom, so I agree with the criticism that their absence from Franzeska's recent meta is an erasure of the years of struggle that fans of color have waged against dehumanization and silencing. There is not a single point raised in Franzeska's recent meta that was not addressed, at a huge personal cost, by fans of color during Racefail09."[29]

Is This A Shipwar In Disguise?

On Fail_Fandomanon, a nonny argued that in many cases shipwars are masquerading as social justice:

It's also important to remember that at least half the time, the "important! social! issues!" being raised is really just shipwarring and other wankery masquerading as ~discourse. The response to my inability to bite my tongue back then was overwhelmingly about how my ship in that fandom made me a bad person for technically legitimate sociological points. And I would be lying if I said that my lack of such restraint about raising said social issues against the original post had nothing at all to do with the fact that I didn't like the ship in question. Now, as both a woman and a queer person, I was genuinely annoyed by that post. But at the same time, some part of me also got a modicum of satisfaction from taking the wind out of their happy ship sails (lol). Likewise, in retrospect, I don't believe that most of the "retaliation" against me/my ship was actually about those technically legitimate sociological points being levied against my ship, even if those points were rooted in genuine feelings about those issues. There is just too much blatant hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance in SJ fandom if you take most of what is said in it at face value. [30]

Nonny 1: What is queer fetishization? traight women fapping to m/m slash?

Nonny 2:

Apparently. It seems to get used primarily as another weapon in the pseudo-SJ ship wararsenal.

There is potentially an argument that could be made about gay men (inside or outside of fandom) feeling like slash really misrepresents their experience. Also a parallel argument to queer women hating f/f porn movies.

But it the accusation never seems to get used in a thoughtful way."[31]

Others pointed out that ship wars can never be compared to the insidious impact of racism. From stitchmediamix:

Whenever people critique fandom/fanworks for like racism as it relates to shipping culture (because that’s what we’re dealing with right now in many fandoms) the negative responses tend to be “don’t harsh my squee” or “some people use fandom to escape, you can’t expect them to ruin their joy over this?”

And you know what?

I wish I could just go on Ao3, download a bunch of fic to my kindle for a fic reading spree, and not end up with any racism in the stories that deign to even use characters of color. Apparently, that’s asking too much though…

But I guess that it’s okay when fans of color get their squees harshed?[32]

From zorana:

"I really feel for non-white fen who are defending That Meta all WE LOVE OUR SHIP STOP SHAMING US.IT MEANS SO MUCH TO US.

I’ve been there man. I defended Kirk/Spock fanfic writers against the accusations of mysgnoir towards Uhura so hard and for so long because it was the ship of my heart and it gave me so much joy and they were MY BABIES. I was so caught up in that, in the community I thought I was a part of that I refused to listen to black fen for the longest time even though deep down I knew they were absolutely right and justified in their anger.

Eventually I calmed down enough to really listen to what they were saying and realised that it wasn’t aboutme. I could love and ship whatever I wanted but the deep harm that was being pepetuated by my co-signing the silencing and side-lining of Uhura was serious shit. I still love K/S but I’m a lot more aware of how I go about it because fuck if I want to make anyone feel like that again.

It isn’t about ship wars. It isn’t about people shaming you. Listen to why people are angry and why they have a right to it."[33]

In a possibly related tumblr post, one fan, perksofbeingawaifu, attempted to offer some humour:

Me, a humble fic farmer, tending her plot of land: neighbor john said there was a shipwar starting just over the hills. what do you think Ma, do you think we'll ever see a shipwar?

Ma, clutching her apron to her chest: oh dear, I hope not!

Pa, sitting in his rocking chair and smoking his pipe: hmph! there's always been shipwars and there will always be shipwars. you just keep your nose out of it and mind your own business. we ain't got no business messing around in shipwars. now step to it! i want that field of headcanons and plot twists plowed by morning! and keep those plot bunnies from getting at the smut, we can't afford anymore WIPs![34]

The conflation of social justice discussions with shipping wars was not unique to Star Wars fandom. Six months earlier, an anime fan, lady-minerva-orland, posted the following:

Shipping Wars (in a nutshell)

Person 1:I like my ship!

Person 2:My ship is better! You're ignorant!

Person 1:Please be polite; I'm not trying to start a fight here :)

Person 2:Well, by saying that you're a racist piece of shit with no manners. I find what you have said offensive and I hope that your day is miserable and that you are liquefied in the third layer of hell."[35]

Does Age Play A Role In Fan Reactions?

There were some comments about the difference between people who liked the meta vs. people who hated it. Age was brought up. Tumblr user uncontinuous believed that social media has emboldened the voices of marginalized fans:

You know someone made a great point about how the introduction of social media has changed a lot, and how it’s affected gaming dudebros. But it’s even affected fandom.

These old fans are bullies. They bullied the fuck out of anyone who tried to voice their discomfort with queer fetishization, sexism, or racism in fandom. But because individual fandom was niche with few crossovers to different fandoms they got away with it. And they patted themselves on the back for being “liberated”.

Now that social media has invaded even fannish spaces and has influenced the way we interact. I won’t say marginalised fans have gotten bolder, they’re fed up and taking no prisoners. Add to that there are some younger fans in the same spaces who are being taught that no you don’t need to be less for these women, if they make you uncomfortable you can talk. (I say some because a lot of us still don’t directly engage because we’re tired. We don’t have the mental energy for this wank.) So these shitbags being called out and made to face the fact that no, they’re not enlightened human beings, but yes they are shitty gross human beings who will be held accountable at mass for their shitty ways, and they hate it.

Hence, the term “SJW BS” and every pseudo apologia they can pull out of their asses. [36]

From out-there-on-the-maroon:

I’ve been watching the comments section for few days and the comments are almost all pretty cringeworthy “omg you’re so brave for posting this!” and a few people who are like “what the fuck” and talking sense.

I was under the impression this was an old fans vs. young fans thing, but apparently not, there’s some older fans getting angry about this too, so it’s not a case of “no, it’s the children who are wrong” here, it’s old school fandom racism and Second Wave (White) Feminism all jumbled together. [37]

Fandom Has Not Changed

phoenix-ace:

Yeah I saw the same arguments during RaceFail. If anything it shows that the current toxic environment is one white fans are invested in and HAVE been for a while. It isn’t incidental as much as it’s an environment they’ve actively cultivated using the exact same strategies. [38]

FFA nonny:

Like I hate this old school fucking bitch fandom type. I’m tired of them. They WERE there for the racefail (but on the wrong side of it) and had to be dragged kicking and screaming through the triggerwarnings culture changes and shit. These are the type of assholes that put me on that “FANDOM SJW LIST,” way back in 2007-2009. I wish younger fans knew how fucking SHITTY it used to be and how the shit we take for granted (THE DISCOURSE) didn’t even exist in fandom, but in pocket circles that were constantly attacked, harassed, and even ‘outed’ by people like this.

They’re awful and they just want to keep shit the same way it always has been: geared towards satisfying cis, often straight, white women.

lol no thanks."[39]

Fandom Has Changed - But It Needs To Keep Changing

FFA talked about how fandom has changed over the years. And how much more it has to change:

Nonny 1

Yeah, fandom culture around marginalized identities in general is fucked up now, but I don't want to go back to the days when I had to preface every comment on the subject with "I'm sorry, I know I'm being a total killjoy fun-ruiner, but..." or, you know, just not say it if I didn't feel like having that fight. And I know FFA has always had that reactionary element and is at least somewhat better now than it was in its earliest days, but it's definitely a similar environment.

Nonny 2

+1000

I remember how my LJ friends would so often be like, "but isn't the important thing that we all love this? ;)" as code for "please stop talking about this thing that you see as a problem (like yes! racism in con spaces!) you are ruining my fun."

And I still love some of those people, but thank fucking god we reached a point where I can find the people who will commiserate and try to help me find better spaces, and we're no longer stuck in the days when anyone who was bothered had to stay quiet or risk being told they were destroying the very point of fandom.

Nonny 3

I totally get that and am generally of the opinion that fandom is best when everyone can practice it the way they want. But while on one hand, you get people being called fun ruiners and buzz killers and wet blankets, on the other, you get public judgement and callouts and demands. One of these is far more... invasive. Neither culture is doing the fandom experience many favors (and I don't miss those days of yore tbh), but idk, I kind of feel like I'd rather be told to go away than that I need to do fandom a certain way to be a good person.

And this is really just a lame way of saying "the grass looks greener from here", though I know that's inherently flawed, because the grass over there was really just a bit less brown.

Nonny 4

I think you're forgetting just how toxic and stifling it could get? There were always people willing to attack you for doing fandom wrong; I don't think that has changed.

Nonny 5

Maybe. But I remember it* mainly being kept to a judgement about how you saw the canon or practiced fandoming or online socialization, unless more personal information is given otherwise. Nowadays, how you see the canon or practice fandoming is enough for people to make a judgement on who you are as a person, outside of fandom. And that really sucks.

*With a given value of "it" being shipwars and other disagreements about how one interpreted/celebrated/criticized the canon. Mind you, I hit LJ pretty late, so I definitely concede that my experience with that in particular is a limited scope.

Nonny 6

I got into LJ fandom around 2005 (that's not that late, is it?), and there's a LOT I miss about those days, but the treatment of social justice in fandom has matured a lot over the past decade, IME. It's had/having a rough puberty to be sure, and it's easy to take for granted the good effects because they aren't as showy as the bad effects, but there have been improvements, and hope to god there will continue to be. [40]

FFA talked about the Vagina Meta's concluding comments:

Nonny 1

I can only see Franzeska say that if you want to write f/f, or if you want to draw attention to rarepairs where one or both parts are characters of color, do that instead of whining that others don't. Which you seem to be doing? And complaining about canon is wildly different from complaining about fans and how they replicate problematic canon, instead of doing better than the entire world.

Nonny 2

Actually, Franzeska's entire essay closes with, Ultimately, the only rule of fandom is this: Make fandom stressful or boring, and people will leave. Make fandom fun and relaxing, and people will show up in droves.

And that very much ties into race dynamics and the issue of what is Srs Bizness and isn't. Subthread OP's point seems to be (I think) that racial stuff isn't necessarily automatically stressful or boring to everyone, but for some people is something they focus on as a matter of course thanks to daily experience. So it can feel shitty to have it lumped in as something automatically stressful.

Nonny 3

I think people don't always draw the line between harassing other fans and just...discussing flaws in the canon, and general trends in fandom (and how that reflects society), and so on. I've seen a lot of comments yearning for the days where race wasn't really discussed at all, or wishing that no one in fandom ever talked about SJ in any way. When for a lot of people, that's just part of their perspective and how they do fandom.

Nonny 4

Exactly this. The current tumblr callout culture is terrible and Franzeska is right on that point. But the days of no racial discussion period (which Franzeska isn't arguing for, but IA with the subthread OP that she has the general well-meaning assumptions of a fan from that era) were terrible too. It was just easy to ignore the terribleness if you had no reason to think about race in general anyway. [41]

impostoradult wrote about how fandom must choose to make the world a better place:

Look. I get being uncomfortable when someone questions your shipping behavior. HOO BOY do I get it, especially now. But there is a vast, vast difference between “stop shipping this” and “take a long, close look at yourself and recognize that you are part of the problem whether you intended to be or not”.

I’m reminded of the Jane Elliot post I reblogged yesterday: “I’m a racist. I was infected with racism at birth. I want to get over it. It is going to take me the rest of my life to get over it, but I can do it, but I have to choose to do it.”

As a collective entity, fandom can only get over our racism if we choose to do it. And choosing to do it means we have to first accept that we ARE racist. It’s 100% unavoidable in this culture. Saying you’re not racist is like saying you have no environmental pollutants in your body. You may not personally see/feel the effects, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Now is not the time for white fans to sit around congratulating ourselves on how not-racist we are because we wrote that one fic once, or to get defensive about acknowledging our own ingrained racism–cause you can’t fix a problem you’re insisting doesn’t exist.

Yeah. It’s uncomfortable, even painful, to acknowledge you’re not as good a person as you assumed you were, but it has to be done if you’re going to start making improvements. And those improvements are hugely necessary, not just to make fandom a better place for everybody, but to make the world a better place. [42]

cupidsbower:

I’ve already posted about the essay on slash fiction and race by Franzeska, and talked about my issues with it. The main one was that while I thought some of the points raised were valid, they seemed to be focused on letting (white) fans off the hook for taking responsibility for the things they make, especially if those things are called out as problematic. To be clear, I think working to make a better society is everyone’s problem; and we don’t get a pass just because we may fall into one or more marginalised groups ourselves.

Anyway, I don’t really want to spam you all with another long post about this on my blog today. But it’s an important conversation, and if you are following it, there’s an interesting thread with further criticisms here: http://impostoradult.tumblr.com/post/143796468326/this-meta-is-awful [43]

Defining Racism

A few fans on FFA wanted to know more about the racism in The Force Awakens:

Nonny 1:

Has there been a lot of racism against Finn or something? I haven't explored the fandom but I was under the impression he was really popular?

Nonny 2:

There has been a lot of fauxgressive handling of the character, i.e. people who insist that everyone must avoid stereotypes of black men by only writing him as a sexless perfect innocent. So it's "anti-racist" stuff that loops around back into being actually kinda racist.

Nonny 3:

Yeah, it's rather ironic. If you're gonna write him, you better read their goddamn minds and write it according to some guidelines nobody has given you or else. And these guidelines keep getting more and more restrictive. Then they'll turn around and whine about how nobody's writing Finn because fandom is racist trash.

Also, the people policing fandom the hard write thousands of words on meta but zero fic. Oh, but they're very good at telling other people how to write their fic.

Nonny 4:

There has been some, as there always is with black characters. But the people behind this new safe space, they have a very wide definition of racism. Even liking Finn but liking him the wrong can be racist. [44]

On tumblr, diversehighfantasy offered some specific examples:

A lot of people stepped away from Stormpilot when it became apparent that it was not going to be a safe haven from racism. Many fics dehumanized Finn and/or fetishized Poe. We saw things like the Finnpoe segregation AU where Poe was written as a white man and Finn was written as if he were a dog. All of this took the sheen off the popularity of a non-white M/M ship.

Apparently, when Stormpilot became seen as less of the cool and progressive ship, people dropped both it and an interest in the individual characters. Which suggests to me that the drop was not made up of people defending Finn and Poe from racist tropes, because those people for the most part have not lost interest in those characters.

I wish Finnrey was included more in this data, even with its comparatively low numbers. [45]

In the weeks before the Vagina Meta was written, several fans discussed a prompt that had appeared in The Force Awakes kinkmeme.

imburningstar141:

"Y'all are lucky the Kinkmeme is Anonymous.

Otherwise I would have called out every single last one of y'all who keep prompting shit about Finn’s “Big Black Cock” and how much Poe/Rey/Whothefuckever are so glad to finally have a dick big enough to “fill them up” or whatever.

Never mind the man attached said dick.

I’m only gonna say this ONCE:

STOP PROMPTING/WRITING ABOUT FINN’S SUPPOSEDLY BIG DICK. THAT IS A STEREOTYPE STEEPED IN RACISM SO COMPLEX YOU COULDN’T EVEN BEGIN TO COMPREHEND HOW DEEP THE RABBIT HOLE CAN FUCKING GO.

JUST. FUCKING. STOP."

See also Define What You Mean By Racism (List of Ways That Reylo Is Racist), Archived version by stopreylo2k4ever (April 30, 2016)

The Interplay Between Fandom and Mainstream Media

cupidsbower:

[In] The main area [of the essay] I think there is a weakness [which] is [a] fairly subtle thing. Let’s see if I can articulate it on the first pass.

Mainstream media has a lot of problems with representation and storylines about “minorities” which are full of negative tropes. So in one very real sense, to blame female-centred fandom for having similar biases in fanworks is mis-directing the blame. Fandom is the easy target. I see this over and over – people blaming fans for homophobia, racism or sexism in their fanworks, when those things are actually in the main text and have been replicated to a greater or lesser extent by the fans (depending on how far along their own road of growing self-awareness they have travelled). This is where complexity comes in. It’s not reasonable to entirely blame showrunners for what happens in fan works, just as it’s not reasonable to entirely blame fans for replicating problems actually present in shows. I think it’s good to point out when fans have produced something problematic, although I tend to think respectful discussion is a better approach than calling people names – it’s very hard to engage positively with criticism if you are also feeling attacked. But! And this is a really big but… when fans are singled out for problematic writing, but the showrunners are praised and given a pass even though that very same problem is present and where the fan likely got it from? That’s is a fucking enormous problem, and I see it a lot. It frustrates me immensely.

To get back to Franzeska‘s essay. What it does really well is talk about this nexus of the mainstream production of texts and how that influences fandom, and how fans shouldn’t bear the whole burden of those problematic elements being in fan works as a result. But where I think the essay is a bit too simplistic is at the end of chapter 5, where it basically implies that we don’t need to work on these issues – femslash people should just seek out femslash and the rest of us keep to our lanes, and there, problem solved. If I’ve misrepresented that bit at the end of chapter 5, I’m happy to talk that over more, but it’s the message I’m getting from it.

I think it’s more complex than that, and while fans shouldn’t bear the guilt of what is rightly showrunners’ mistakes, that doesn’t mean we get to be passive consumers who never interrogate the fandom biases which also arise. We are also making culture here, and so have our own slice of responsibility, small though it may be for each individual fan – collectively it’s large in terms of the influence fandom is starting to have now. And to be fair, Franzeska does point out that fandom has always self-analysed, but I think that message gets a bit lost in terms of slash and femslash shipping with how chapter 5 of the meta ends.""[46]

mayidrawyourattentionto:

"This begins to fall apart for me in Chapter 5 when F starts implying that fandom has limited responsibility for the racism in the works it creates because the media is itself racist. Fandom is and should be a critical body that does not blindly consume racist and sexist media just because “the [white] men [get] all of the plots that interest me.” So fandom can’t help it, because there are no good characters for women and POC? My response is to find better media."[47]

Positive Comments About The Essay

this-is-myomancy:

Good stuff here. Better than the attitudes I see too often in fanfic about “This ship is BAD, and you’re BAD for liking it!” and “Internalized misogyny is the reason why people don’t read/write femslash.” [48]

mcbangle:

I was literally just reading this meta. Interesting stuff! Thanks for sharing it! [49]

aprillikesthings:

Oh man I can’t wait to read this later–the bits you quoted resonate with me. [50]

cupidsbower:

I haven’t read the linked article yet (although plan to), but so much of this conversation is stuff I agree with or am interested in.

Apart from the obvious about how to be an effective activist in fan spaces without being a giant bully, I also find it easier to make fanworks of characters of colour in forms other than fic. I’ve made quite a few vids, for instance, and love and re-watch them after I’ve made them, and wish there were more out there that hit my particular interests.

I’m looking forward to what else the author says about that, as well as the shipping commentary. [51]

bettydays:

this is a really amazing piece on the dead dove vs cinnamon roll divide, which i am lovingly calling Trash Discrepancy Theory, and i plan on exploring further across a few fandoms, even though the most obvious example of this phenomenon is star wars right now. franzeska has some fantastic insights on the issue. [52]

saiditallbefore:

Franzeska continues to knock it out of the park with awesomeness. You’ll need an AO3 account to read it, but it’s so so worth it. [53]

solarcat:

This was an amazing read and addresses a lot of the issues I’ve seen arising out of Tumblr-generation concern trolling. Obviously there are plenty of people who are well-intentioned, but but so much of the way people are going about trying to “improve” fandom is non-effective at best, and counter-productive at worst. : [54]

Comments Critical of the Essay

solacekames had a problem with the title of the meta essay:

I noticed the phrase “your vagina is a bigot” or “your vagina is racist” being claimed as a sort of ironic motto by Franzeska and the numerous White Guard who agree with her.

Aside from being cissexist as hell, it’s a really stupid phrase. I assume they think it wittily underlines the strident extremism of their WoC opponents. “They want to regulate our vaginas!” “They’re the real fundamentalists!”

They lack the self-awareness to understand that the same “you’re not allowed to judge what I get turned by” is an argument used constantly by men harassing women. How many times have I heard something like, “What’s the problem with saying ‘Me So Horny’ at you? I like Asian women! My dick can’t help it! What are you, some kind of sexual fascist?” John Mayer famously said “I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock” complaining that his “white supremacist dick” just wouldn’t get hard for Black women and then got surprised at the backlash to his comment because, after all, he wasn’t being racist. Just his dick. How can you blame his poor dick?

Exact same figurative language as the title of Franzeska’s essay. Exact same strategy to deflect responsibility for both fetishization and desexualization of people of color. Except it’s even more hypocritical when used by these women who claim to be oh-so-progressive. [55]

thisisevenharderthannamingablog:

#b tries to understand fandom #reblogging to think about later maybe #mostly reading this makes me feel very alien to the entire endeavor of fandom #nothing new ther e#also i hated TFA so that may be coloring my immediate response [56]

sophia-helix:

"The worst thing about this disaster was recognizing so many names from my days in LJ fandom being approving in the comments (and Franzeska was someone in my vague larger orbit too). I’m not shocked that fandom is finally backlashing against social justice progression to “but I just want to write about the people I’m ATTRACTED to and not have to think about it and not be criticized by anyone!!” but I sure am disappointed."[57]

cupidsbower:

From chapter 6 onwards the essay considers race, and it does so with a lot more acknowledged ambiguity than in the earlier section. The approach taken is to consider how race impacts on partner preferences in the population at large, to give context about whether this is just a fandom problem, or fandom is reflecting a much wider problem – it’s much the same approach as the analysis of the interaction between the construction of media texts and fandom’s responses in the earlier section on slash and femslash. Most of this section on racism made me sad, actually. The problem is so enormous, and not just about fandom. I’ve had this experience Franzeska describes:

My feeling is that there is an underserved audience that would be interested in fanworks about characters of color. The problem is that not enough of this audience coalesces around the same characters of color and that there are other factors inhibiting fanwork creators that don’t happen as often with white characters.
This is epitomized by fanwork exchanges: When I request “diverse” things, I always match on the whitecock. When I offer diverse things, I match on the whitecock. Both I and my recipient like diverse things, but not the same ones. It happened most obviously a few years ago in Festivids… (chapter 7)
And as someone who has written fanfic, made vids, and tried their hand at fan art, a lot of the technical issues Franzeska talks about are things I’ve also experienced when making choices about where to spend my fannish time in making things."[58]

zorana:

"You know what’s the worst bit of this whole “we’re not racist it’s just that bullies make writing non-white characters too haaaaard”? Yes I’m talking about that fucking ~meta.

Is that it proves without a doubt, without one little bit of wriggle room that there is no combination of character type, writing, plotline or media type that will get fandom to truly get behind a non-white pairing.

I mean if a pairing stemming from STAR WARS with its massive in-built draw, two extremely charming actors who seem to be templates of fannish imprinting, fabulous chemistry, great writing, interesting worldbuilding, plenty of background to fill in, potential for exploring angst etc etc etc can’t be more popular than goddamn genocidal maniac with 5 lines then like what can you even do? Where can you go?

I’ve been in fandom for a long-ass time. I’ve lived through RaceFail ‘09. I saw the horrific J2 haiti business go down. I saw Teen Wolf fandom completely ignore Danny Maheleani. I saw Sam Wilson systematically made into a support character for Stucky’s grand love story. And despite all of that I really did think that this was the tipping point. That SURELY in a movie that only had one white dude in a major role we could have a nice thing. I was even excited.

Well joke’s on me I guess. Because how can you even try to participate in a space that has made it absolutely clear that it is never going to be about the stuff you can try to 'fix’. No version of heroes, anti-heroes, woobies or villains is ever going to 'work’ because of one singular reason.

I was angry but now I’m just tired. And I guess that is the scariest thing to feel."[59]

Middle of the Road Responses

viggorlijah:

I’m signal boosting this conversation because I’m not sure yet where I stand/think on it, except to listen and read more. [60]

ladyjanelly:

Interesting meta on race in fandom, with bonus intelligent commentary in the comments. A really good look at a problem that’s very hard to figure out a solution. It puts words to some feelings and frustrations I’ve had on writing non-North-American characters.

The discussions on the “rules” of writing Cinnamon roll/Cinnamon roll pairings were especially interesting, considering the incredibly harsh reactions some authors I know have received on their non-fluffy Sidney Crosby/Evgeni “Geno” Malkin fic. (I don’t put myself in this category since I got relatively little hate for my fics in the pairing, but I did get hate. I find it interesting that that was the only pairing that’s ever happened in. The hate did influence my not-writing some Sid/Geno fics that I might otherwise have attempted).

I would never suggest that not pointing out problematic issues with writing is a solution, but because everybody’s idea of ‘problematic’ varies so much, no matter what an author does with a character of color, they’re likely to get someone saying they did it wrong, in ways they wouldn’t have to hear if they’d written about white characters instead. I won’t say that crit should be more polite because tone-policing is a silencing tactic and not cool.

With fandom being such a social and recreational activity, with so many of us dealing with anxiety issues, depression, etc, I honestly don’t see much incentive to share work featuring characters of color and open myself up to feelings of failure I would not be forced to deal with when writing another pairing. I feel like the kinds of tropes and kinks that interest me as a writer become something else when the character I’m objectifying and/or traumatizing is less privileged than me (instead of more).

The only possible solution I can see is an effort to support and praise creators who are making the kind of content you want. It worked back in the days when slash was the hate-magnet of fandom. People found fic that they liked and gave the creators positive feedback. The creators made more content, got more praise. RPF used to be unpopular and creators heaped with criticism, until the positive feedback was enough to outweight the impact of the negative feedback and writers started feeling free to write, and free to write all kinds of stories. [61]

aralias:

a really interesting essay about how fandom stats don't necessarily mean what you think they mean if you don't think about the wider context, and about diversity in fanworks and what we can or can't do about it. (it's locked so you have to be logged in to read it)(N.B. you should also be aware that plenty of people are very angry about this meta, which i didn't know when i read it, but i guess i could have figured out. from my POV, it's very interesting, though, and i think... based on not being the people involved that it's actually quite respectful) [62]

unsentimental's comment responded to aralias:

I'm all in favour of personal responsibility (thinking about it, that statement might possibly be a lie) but the idea that cultural biases are best fixed by imposing some sort of moral obligation for diversity on individual fanfic writers is a little odd. I'm absolutely fine if people who don't know much about the various diversity issues I have experience of would prefer not to write stories about them and in exchange I promise not to write fics about subjects I don't feel informed enough about to do justice to. [63]

ironmyownpants offered middle of the road response on the Vagina Meta that she won't read:

"I won’t read the meta, it sounds like a train wreck that turned into the Titanic. But what I will say is that I think each Fandom is unique and cannot be qualified fairly by pairings. To me, and from what I’ve seen of very big/popular fandoms, there usually are one or two pairings that the majority of fandom love. Then you get into other pairings and so on and soon enough you can see what the least popular pairing is on AO3 due to the fics some have posted. I have been reading practically anything with Obi-Wan in the SW tags of AO3 and when I looked at Bane/Obi-Wan there are like three fics. I’m certain there are others.....

.....Basically, fandom is what we make it for ourselves and there is nothing wrong with being a woman who loves slash pairings. I used to think I was het and actually DID feel guilty about it because I mostly write slash pairings. But let’s look at it this way. All I have ever seen my whole life is het. SW you have Leia/Han and Mara/Luke. Indy is always getting with the girl of the movie. and almost every other show now has a het pairing unless you count Hannibal. In which Will had this weird Het scare when he kissed Alanna but whatever. There’s even a f/f pairing in that show.

So, now, as a bisexual woman who still write’s slash (and one f/f to my name on ao3) I have to say that it’s all about character. I don’t care if it’s the popular pairing or not. I only care if it’s a) super hot when these two have sex in erotic fiction and b) do these characters have a viable way to be together in RL? IF YES IS THE ANWER TO BOTH OF THESE QUESTIONS I AM THERE.

Also, it pays to be a multi shipper. I never run out of anything to read and I will tackle practically any pairing. Even het. Threesomes are nice for this reason. I get my slash, there’s a bit of fem dom ting going on and there’s a little bit of het. Or its gay gay gay and gay. It don’t matter. everyone is happy.

We basically have to do what we want and ignore meta like this because at the end of the day who does it encourage? If it ain’t encouraging to you? than I say fuck it." [64]

cupidsbower:

I’m not sure what to make of the rest of the meta. Still thinking about it. It’s largely an exploration of specific shipping cases, as well as about fear and bullying in fandom. I’ve seen some of these things go down, actually, and I’ve also been put off making stuff about characters of colour at times when I’ve been particularly tired because of this. I’d really like to hear voices of fans of colour on this part of the essay in particular though.[65]

Sample Textual Analysis

extra-penguin:

So, reading this. First of all, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t actually related to people using social justice as a cover for their bullying (see: Winterfox/Benjanun Sriduangkaew).

Valid points the meta makes:

  • AO3′s founder effect (initial population of mainly slashers, thus slash is overrepresented)
  • slash-het-femslash ratios vary by fandom and by cast gender breakdown (not quite stated: the more developed women, the more likely it is that the women’ll have fics about them)
  • the Little Red Hen principle
  • noting that the meta uses a US definition of race (hallelujah, some self-awareness from an USAian)
  • the OKCupid data was a good addition (even if it only showed that people are racist)
  • a lot of the megafandoms are very, very white

Where it fails:

  • in parts, a very very defensive attitude that makes it hard to read
  • excessive handwringing about racism
  • didn’t wrap up with the thesis of “fandom isn’t any more racist than general society, and the FinnPoe graph clearly shows that people are willing to write ships that include a POC main character, so how about let’s increase media diversity?”
  • (Also, the vidding advice part on what is easy to vid and what is hard would’ve been best in its own piece of meta, maybe. It was interesting to this non-vidder, though. The meta also overstayed its welcome with stating a lot of things many times.)

Stuff it should have said:

  • Placing people on a pedestal is also a form of objectification. This includes Cinnamon Roll Can Do No Wrong characterization – it is generally preferrable for characters to have flaws
  • a lot of stuff is best cured by increasing the amount of POC as main characters in fiction
#fandom #racism #I'd rather create canons with more women and POC #and fanworks about women and POC #than this handwringing and moralizing about all the 'where are all the women and POC?' #answer: they are tragically underrepresented in media #and if you'll excuse me I'll go write about some now [66]

Confronting One's Own Racism

gilajames:

I was born in 1970 and when I got into writing fanfic, I exclusively wrote about white dudes because that’s who the media had taught me to identify with. The most interesting characters, the heros with tortured pasts, the ones I was told were the ones who mattered most, were the white dudes. The very first time I wrote a black dude was Charles Gunn, and I stopped because I was made to feel scared about writing him “wrong”. That is, how could I, as a white person, write a black character? I was made afraid of being yelled at by fans of color, so I just stopped writing Gunn.

This fear persisted – based not on actual instances of being yelled at, but based on what were some very new conversations fans were having about racism, where white fans were just starting to hear fans of color speak up about the White Male Experience not being actually universal.

But I still wrote white men, because that’s what I had learned to identify with and I thought my emotional, instinctive attraction to white men was because that’s what I naturally liked. But it was what I’d learned to be attracted to - it was a habit, it was ingrained, because for 20, 30, 40 years the media I was consuming was telling me and reinforcing for me that the white man was the most intriguing character(s). (For the first 20 years of my life, I legit thought black men were either athletes or gang members or comedians (or Huggy Bear), because what else did they ever do?)

I’ve had to actively unlearn this. Not just tell myself ‘oh, yeah, I should look for more female characters to enjoy’ but actively unlearn the way I immediately and emotionally defaulted to liking the white male character. (In the same way, I had to learn how to enjoy women’s hockey, because it was different and new and my brain wanted to say 'this isn’t as good as the NHL.’)

So my message to white fans who focus on white male characters is: it isn’t enough to just acknowledge that there is racism in your media. You have to make the effort to seek out other characters and appreciate them for what they are, and yes, go read the fanfic featuring (not including, but featuring) characters of color and women, and make yourself write or draw or vid them, because media today is still trying to tell you that yes, the white man is still the default, still the hero, still the one we all want to be or be with. It doesn’t happen automatically because a black man shows up as a main character and you watch the movie. You do have an emotional reaction to a character, the one you fall in love with and want to torture – but ask yourself why you always feel that way about the white male characters. is it really because the woman isn’t as interesting a character? Or because you’ve spent your entire life being told that the really attractive, interesting, heroic and tormented character is the white guy?

And this is why we need more diversity in our media, so that the next generation grows up thinking that anybody can be the most interesting one, anyone can be the hero or heroine, anybody can be the focus of the fans, not just the white guy.

#AN ASIDE ABOUT HOW I STILL LIKE FOCUSING ON MALE CHARACTERS #BECAUSE IT ALLOWS ME SOME FANTASY OF PRETENDING I AM A GUY #BECAUSE I'M FEMALE BUT CLOSE TO THE VERY MIDDLE OF THE GENDER SCALE #AND SOMETIMES I WOULD JUST PREFER TO HAVE BEEN BORN A GUY

#FANFIC LETS ME PRETEND [67]

FFA wrestled with its own 'isms:

Nonny 1:

Meme is stuck in lowkey *ist LJ land

I'm the person they responded to and I get what they're saying but it's hard to define. To use Franzeska as an example, it's stuff like the attitude that any talk of -ism is srs bizness and will drive people away and so to do fandom you should be a fun creator who doesn't burden people with that.

A lot of people on meme would probably agree. Not All of meme, but enough that it's come up at least once every time I've engaged in discussions that touch on the purpose of fandom as people see it. And I really can't see fandom like that. I've been in fandom since I was eleven. I'm 28 now. Both pre- and post- racefail, I've been creating stuff in fandom that inevitably has some flavor of what Franzeska might identify as srs bizness (sometimes very poorly done! and I agree with her that fandom has stopped being a space where you ever get forgiven for that and that's bad!) because that's literally just who I am. That's the kind of thing I'm interested in. It's the kind of thing that affects me regularly. It even makes it into my lame PWP stuff, not in an issue-laden way, but in a "wow my choice of ship and/or presentation of this ship has a lot to do with power imbalance" way because my own race experiences have tapped me into that IRL. So actually addressing representation and power issues in fandom is not that far from the more fandom-y side of fandom to me.

Also, it's something I deal with so often and come across enough that to ask me to just shelve it because it's not "fun" makes no sense. Like, having a stomach isn't always fun. But you have it. The end. To fans like Franzeska, talk of social justice issues is an unnecessary addition to a "fun" activity that doesn't have to merge with that. To fans who deal with social justice shit regularly as part of navigating daily life, these thingsdon't necessarily sap away all the fun and -- what's more -- you're actually telling us that to maintain a fun fandom environment for you we have to ditch some our perspective at the door.

And then there are just things that feel like itty bitty microaggressions. Franzeska's aforementioned "I don't see black people at fan gatherings so there's another data point suggesting there are less of them here" bit bothers me a lot because there are plenty of reasons why black people might not feel comfortable at mostly-white fan gatherings. I'm light-skinned and still have had people flatly refuse to talk to me due to quirks of presentation that stem from my racial and ethnic background. So. You know. Franzeska, a pretty big fandom name, using her broad fandom experience to toss in anecdata about how she really doesn't see that many black people, like. This completely feels like a throw back to the LJ days when the unspoken assumption was that everyone in fandom was white.

Nonny 2 responded:

I really liked this comment. There have been a lot of times I've been frustrated and irritated by (and disagreed with) what makes the rounds as examples of cultural appropriation or how shipping certain people must be racism and what must be shunned if you're a good person, but it doesn't mean that every single thing that harshes someone's buzz by bringing race into it is somehow sjw overstepping, because it isn't. And there are a lot of things I'm grateful for where fans actually do something extra to bring in more representation or someone looks closer at something they might not have paid attention to before.

As much as I don't think anyone can demand someone else pay attention to representation, it doesn't mean it doesn't rock my world when media does do it, or other fans appreciate it and the way that can happen is if more people want it. I do fanart and I do create what I wish there was more of, but when people pay more attention to what's lacking, then other fans do it too and that's how things get normalized more easily. It doesn't mean that somehow has to be a chore, but bringing up something that could be srs bzns might be the difference between a number of people overlooking something or running with it of their own choice just because they hadn't thought of doing it before, but now they have. [68]

Gamergate, Racefail 09, and Racist Grandmothers

In the AO3 comments, one fan compared the writer of the Vagina Meta to Gamergate. This provoked several responses.

Nonny in the FFA thread, in response to a commentator claiming that the writer of the meta was no better than Gamergate:

Fuck that shit. I abandoned a years-long career in the video game industry because of Gamergate. Lives were destroyed. People I used to work with still live in fear that they'll be the next target, that their kids will be threatened, that their studio will throw them to the wolves.

A minor wank about Star Wars fanfiction is in no way comparable to that, and fuck anyone who says it is. [69]

FFA in response to the Gamergate accusation:

Nonny 1:

First Franzeska was a main player in Racefail 2009 (which she was not). Now she is as bad as Gamergate (which she is not). It seems like they are locked in an inflationary spiral, where you have to boost the evilness of your opponent more and more in order to make yourself and your struggle appear more heroic. Otherwise, you're just a small wanky voice crying out in the wilderness of Who Gives A Fuck?

Nonny 2:

Well, aside from the race thing, Franzeska dared to bring up that AO3 is full of m/m, but everywhere else with fic is full of m/f, so the usual party line that slash = secret masters of fandom doesn't fly. Some of the other stuff you can explain away by cooking the statistics in different ways. This, you can only counter by screaming about feelings. [70]

Comparisons were also made to racist grandmothers. From anhamirak:

#I engaged anyway because the need to at least try to make a teensy tiny dent was strong #I'm probably going to regret it #I definitely regret not swearing more but I actually want to convince this person #because other people are clearly listening to them #and that is not good #but it will probably be like talking to a brick wall #or my racist grandmother #why did I think it was a good idea again #oh right because someone said a thing I know to be incorrect and the balance of the universe must be restored #*headdesk* [71]

More Racefail 09 mentions. From snarlfurillo:

It’s a 16,000 word apologia for fandom’s racism and sexism with a bunch of extremely dubious “statistics” as evidence.....

“Why Are All The Slashers Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?”

....What made the author think this was a good idea. Slash writers are not an oppressed minority. This is pure white fragility and entitlement, to imply that your fan fiction tastes make you oppressed and then take the name of a book about black people to explain why you need a safe space. I understand THINKING of this line. I don’t understand PUBLISHING it....

.....There are also a bunch of weird-ass arguments about het and fem slash that are basically, “Fans should stop complaining that there’s no fem slash in Fandom A because there’s fem slash in Fandom B” and “Fans should stop complaining that female characters in media fandom are sidelined because girls in boy band fandom write a fuckton of self-insert fic.” So I guess people who want to read Natasha Romanov/Maria Hill fic should just go read Xena/Gabrielle fic and readers who want Abbie Mills gen fic should just go read a 1D romance?

This meta is a 13-chapter disaster, is what I’m saying.

Apparently this author has been online for like two decades, which means they should have been here through Racefail 09 and the great interracial pairing slur cockup of 2007, AT THE VERY LEAST, ie, they should know better. And yet here we are. I’m sorry, everybody. This thing sucks. [72]

Even fans who had not read the meta were critical, using the wave of anger to criticise the OTW and AO3 where the meta was posted. From an FFA nonny:

am I the only one not-amused by people not reading the meta and then condemning everyone in A03 for it having been written

Again, these are both NNFs so no linking:

"i didn’t read this but again fandom should be abolished and these freaks need 2 be shoved in lockers"

"I regret the $10 I gave the OTW"[73]

Klandom and Degrees of Racism

During the course of the discussion, the Klandom tag became popular among many dissenting voices on tumblr. One FFA nonny evaluated the essay's level of racism:

I am not surprised that meme mostly likes her, but I tried to read her "your vagina is a bigot" essay and my reaction to her went from mostly positive to really depressed if not wholeheartedly negative. Because I don't disagree with her that people use antiracism as a platform to bully, and that this makes fandom stressful, and that fandom mirrors the broader society, and that the broader society is racist. But there were a lot of little moments in that essay that actively did put me off because they made small, weird assumptions or conclusions that ring as low-key biased and bigoted. Not "klandom" racist. Just the same oldschool LJ well-meaning USA liberal kind of thing, where you assume that if you like enough hot black guys you're good and nonracist; and that if you don't see black fans at cons there probably aren't that many black fans to begin with; and that if you're shipping something, it's not because you identify with the characters and see them as easy vehicles for your story. It's just because you are Fun, and so you want them to rub groins and of course people will be racist about that, because racist people don't date hot black guys.

My main problem with her essay isn't that it's highkey racist, because it isn't. It's that it's a fucking mess and it time-warps me back to the days when, for the most part, you really did think that as a fan of color you had to put up and shut up because your white fandom friends meant well and also agreed with you that PoC are, like, totally hot. We're not in a good place right now but I don't think those were good days either. They just felt like good days if your worldview is Franzeska's. [74]

An FFA nonny reported on other tags appearing on the "This Meta Is Awful" reblogs:

"#oh fans #fans are disgusting #Gamergate is a front #so is this meta #space bees #racism #misogyny #fandom misogyny #fandom racis m#too many bedamned things to tag#harassment #vile analogies #bigot tears #wounded gazelleing"[75]
"#that whole meta is a shitshow #and franzeska is trash #she's of that certain segment #of white female slash fans that #can't stop banging the gong#of how oppressed they are #bcs of their shipping preference s#while refusing to recognize how #a) nobody gives a shit about their ship #and b) they're the ones doing the oppressing #they've been doing it for years #so yes let's drag them #bcs they deserve it #racism #fandom"[76]
"#klandom #racism #trigger warning #honestly fuck this whiteness #whiteness is a hell of a drug #sexism #disasters"[77]

Character Complexity Issues

[anon]: they see this pairing, Poe/Finn, and they board the ship because, why not? They're both awesome characters. But the thing is, their lack of *sustained* interested might still be because of unconscious racism that makes them more interested in white pairings.

No, it's because neither Finn nor Poe were allowed to have flaws, and that's BORING. I'm sorry, I know the trend on tumblr now is that flaws are terrible to give characters or and conflict means you like ships being "abysmal to each other" but good stories have conflict, and that can be motivated with characters having some type of flaw. It doesn't mean they have to suddenly be abusive, or bigots, or whatever. But it's like Finn or Poe being anything other than inspiring, perfect cinnamon rolls 24/7 is problematic. And that's just ridiculous, and it can result in characters you like because they represent good ideas, but not like because you're allowed to get into their heads.[78]

[anon]:

This trend for bland conflictless dreck can't go fuck itself soon enough. Some of us like actual plots. Same with flawless characters: you might think you can tell a compelling story about a spherical frictionless character in a vacuum, but you're almost certainly wrong. [79]
[victoriousscarf]: "One of the things that really stands out to me (And I’m not calling out this commenter in specific tho they phrased the issue above) is that Finn and Poe are seen as /fluffy/. They are seen as incapable of “darkness” or being as twisted as Kylo/Hux.

Which just seems to reinforce exactly the issue that POC aren’t capable of being seen as complex. They can’t be dark, look at them! As if Poe’s intense loyalty and protectiveness and idealism can’t be twisted and thrown snarling back into the world. Like Finn’s need for affection and desire to do right isn’t just begging not for brainwashing on a large scale but one wrong person to earn his need. I’m not saying they need necessarily to be broken and thrown back out as dark–because honestly if people can write Hank/Luke tentacle porn and Luke using the force to get Han off across the room I’m pretty sure Finn and Poe could get into some stuff. I’m just saying.

And don’t get me wrong I see the appeal of Kylo/Hux because of power dynamics and hate sex and the way they circle each other the whole film okay I get it. And it’s not about specific shippers. But I’m so disturbed that space nazis are a more popular ship."[80]

Femslash

While the bulk of the discussion centered on racism, a few fans discussed the chapters that focused on femslash.

From an FFA nonny:

I'm reading the meta, and her chapter on femslash being very popular if you seek out fandoms with lots of women is beautiful. Standing ovation from this can't-get-into-a-canon-without-lots-of-women nonnie who has an even amount of femslash and slash ships. I never understood why wankers spent all their effort bullying slash fans when they could just find canons with well-written women to ship (and more often than not, shows with lots of well-written women often have canon LGBT since the creators tend to care a lot about representation! Win/win!). If they want open canons, Once Upon A Time and Supergirl welcome them with open arms (except not really because who needs wankers?). I also hate that fics depicting minority relationships (even if not canonical minorities) are being wanked about as ruining fandom. Slash may be feature men, but it's also featuring gay sex which is often still warned for outside of AO3 because of homophobes. [81]

Another(?) FFA nonny:

But I agree heartily. The "boo hoo there is no femslash in my fandom where there's only three women and they never meet" is kind of surreal. The only het I ever ran into in magical girl fandoms was genderbent. I could spend all day searching and find either f/f or gen.

And cis gay men aren't ~evol privileged oppressors~ including white ones. This shit needs to stop. Yes, in the past some of the cis gay men have been assholes to other LGBT+ members, but they still risk getting killed just going outside. This hipster sexuality "yes, but I'M more oppressed than you, so you're a shitlord" is bullshit. [82]

cupidsbower on tumblr:

The first half of this very long meta is about slash and femslash fiction, and it unpacks some of the common complaints about slash fiction in a useful way. The kind of subtle homophobia Franzeska talks about is something I’ve experienced in fandom too, and become more aware of over time. I’ve found that with some of the more subtle forms of isms you need to live long enough to see them as patterns, rather than one-off events. You just don’t and can’t believe they are homophobia or sexism until you’ve been around the block enough times to know the patterns for yourself. You also need to unpack some of your own biases to understand why you thought things were commonsense, where now you see your own homophobia/sexism instead. So that part of the essay is fairly strong and useful...."[83]

sapphoshands on tumblr:

... think it’s hilarious that someone who is trying to defend boyslash against a critique of Any Two White Cocks is doing so by demonstrating her belief that femslashers similarly want Any Two [Probably Also White Let’s Not Pat Ourselves On The Backs] Women. Find me another fandom with a superhero ballerina spy in an uneasy hierarchy with the intelligence organization represented by one of her maybe-superiors and… well, I still won’t call it a trade for more Nat/Maria fic, because neither of those characters will be Nat or Maria. I’m sure as hell not going to shuffle over to Once Upon a Time as a consolation prize, because - gasp - I don’t like the text....

....this attitude of ‘onto which two Unmarked [Read: White] Slashable Men can we best project’ is one I have seen often in boyslash over the past twenty years. Anecdotally, I have not seen it in femslash. But logically speaking, to encourage femslashers to just go elsewhere in order to be perfectly satisfied with our lot in fandom, the author must be assuming that such interchangeability underpins the average fannish experience. For me, at least, that is decidedly not true. I want more stories about the characters I like, not about the next closest stand-in.

Maybe it’s different for fans who can say ‘well, THIS white-boy buddy-cop fandom isn’t giving me what I want, so I’ll try this OTHER white-boy buddy-cop fandom,’ but only recently have femslashers had the ability to join multiple large-ish femslash fandoms active at the same time, and fans invested in characters of colour often still don’t have even that available to them (not to mention the intersection there as well).[84]

Discussions of Racism In Vidding

Like with femslash, most fans did not comment on the Vagina Meta's discussion of race in vidding. However, cupidsbower did note:

Interesting too that Franzeska talks about my post on the whiteness of Festivids. I remember it differently, obviously. I was still coming to terms with my own complicity in perpetuating whiteness in fandom – something I’m still struggling with and always will, I suspect. What motivated me to make that post wasn’t race, either, it was homophobia and sexism, but as a result of doing it, racism slapped me in the face. The shut down she said I gave her… obviously not how I intended it, and in fact, it’s exactly the same criticisms I’m making here – that while women in fandom shouldn’t be bearing the blame for issues in the wider culture, shrugging off all responsibility isn’t helpful either. I don’t think that’s Franzeska’s intended message, but the emphasis in the meta keeps leading me to that conclusion.

Ironically, that meta I wrote about Festivids did increase diversity the next year. It was with that hope I made the post, in addition to wanting to explore my own complicity – so I guess the performative aspect was valid to some extent. I do find it interesting though, this criticism that I somehow make posts like that for kudos, when that is never what they actually bring. It’s not the first time the criticism has come up; something for me to think about. But I’ve tried quite a few ways of talking about race now, and it keeps happening, so is it really me, or is it the subject?

I do really like Franzeska’s practical suggestions for increasing diversity in vidding fests though. That would be helpful.[85]

From strix-alba:

I don’t have anything new to add, but I’m going to quote thingswithwings’ tweets about vidding non-white characters because it’s relevant to a couple of things here:

  • it’s really true that to make the slickest, most beautifully framed vid, you have to focus on cis white able-bodies male characters.
  • I’ve made many multivids now and I can’t express how much visual priority and preferential framing is given to those characters.
  • as much as queers/POC/disabled ppl are sidelined in narratives, they’re sidelined visually in a dozen ways. the camera slides past them.
  • I think of the time @eruthros was vidding Teyla Emmagan, and CARSON FUCKING BECKETT was in the shot between Teyla and her dying grandmother.
  • and now, clipping for this multivid, I clip all kinds of shitty looking shots just because they contain a minority character.
  • therefore I advise AGAINST prioritizing slickness in vids. the most beautiful shots you have to work with will almost always be white dudes.
  • if you want to make vids about underrepresented minorities, you’ll have to massage the footage and accept crappier shots. worth it.
  • but when you’re vidding, it’s easy to reproduce the aesthetics of mainstream culture. Those aesthetics are racist, sexist, homophobic.
  • we often reproduce those aesthetics even accidentally. if you think vidding is/ought to be revolutionary, you have to care about this.[86]

Futility of Badgering/Call Outs

Nonny 1:

My question is - what are they trying to accomplish? Do they really think that all that essays about how racist fandom is is gonna make people write POC characters? They're yelling at people who write it and then yell at people who don't, berating fandom because they're not doing research and all that.

Do they really think this will encourage people to write more fic about POC?

Nonny 2:

I think some of the people think this, yes.

Others probably just want to feel more enlightened because they reblogged a post about how racist fandom is.

Which is stupid, because this is one of the issues that spawned this meta.

Nonny 3:

This is what I've been wondering as well. At the end of the day if you truly want more of the fic you like, yelling at people about how they're doing it wrong really isn't going to solve it.

Nonny 4:

Yeah, but that's the conclusion the offending meta draws... which is the thing that is making them mad. [87]

FFA anon about the need to learn to ask ourselves whether something needs to be said before we say it:

I've started to feel lately, more than before, that I have to make that "do I want to have this argument" assessment before voicing any criticism of anything

TBH, fandom in general would be better off if more people were in the habit of asking themselves that question before voicing any opinion, social issue or otherwise. And it applies just as much when talking to people who earnestly want to discuss social issues in fandom, if not moreso. I can tell you my fandom life over the past 3 years would have been much more positive overall if I had bitten my fucking tongue 2.5 years ago before voicing my feelings about some fairly standard "my non-canon gay ship would be so much more ~meaningful to Character X than Canon Female Love-of-his-Life because gay" drivel.

Clearly, I still have feelings about that. And definitely, that attitude is not good towards women or gay men. But it was really, really not worth the months-long headache that followed. Now I'm in a place mentally where if I see crap like that, I just roll my eyes and maybe bring it here to meme to mock on-and-off for a few hours, and it is so much better for both my fandom enjoyment and overall mental health.

The thing is, there is no less apologizing for being a killjoy in SJ fandom. Only now you're apologizing for liking a thing, for being a person with ~privilege and ~issues you "need" to unpack. I'd much rather go back to the time of "sorry guys, I'm about to get heavy here but I'm not saying there's anything wrong with liking this" than be where we are now. [88]

solarcat in response to mamajuicebox:

[mamajuicebox]: "Reading That Bad Meta (you know), like: ‘slash is Important and Radical and Liberating! and must be protected from SJW whiners because my vagina can’t help what it likes and it’s not my vagina’s fault that white people and men people and white men people are just more interesting and no! I don’t need to self-reflect or support people who want to see more diverse representation Stop Persecuting Me!!’

And I’m like- oh my god it’s gamergate. People. White fandom people. From a fellow white fandom person let me say: your (our) enjoyment of a thing is not actually more important than healthy and active criticism of the thing. You can like problematic things and work to change them and support your fellow fans, and you can still like your dumb thing. Holy shit."

[solarcat]: "I’m not disagreeing with your point here at all, but I think it’s valid to bring up the fact that there’s this whole “call-out culture” thing where people ARE being attacked just for writing Ship X rather than Ship Y. I absolutely agree that we should criticize and identify things that are problematic, and I also agree that we can and should work to change those things AND that we can still enjoy our dumb shit while acknowledging that it’s problematic, but I also do have major issues with the part of fandom that’s basically going on the attack /just because/ of what ship someone chose to write. (I’m emphasizing that because yeah, holy shit stuff like J2 Haiti definitely deserved to be called out because woooooow, wtf; I’m just unhappy with the portion of fannish culture that goes after individual fans /just/ because they prefer one ship over another. That just sits wrong with me, since I’m very much on team “Your Kink is Not My Kink and That’s Okay.”)[89]

FFA Nonnies talk about the futility of badgering:

Nonny 1

DA Yeah, "Don't badger other fans over not doing what you want," whether the badgering is done in the name of addressing or avoiding serious issues, seems to be the word of the day. AYRT and OP should both get to have a good time in fandom without people being assholes about it.

Nonny 2

DA I'd just settle for the whole of fandom being a bit less presumptive about each other? Talk about whatever you want to talk about, ship what you want to ship, but don't presume to know or judge other people's motives for what they want to talk about or what they want to ship.

Seriously, I see no win for social justice or for oppressed fans in calling someone a racist because they ship the wrong ship. There is no net gain for social justice there, there is no meaningful point being made, it's just the same old ship wars fandom has been having since the days of yore, dressed up with new language. That's what makes it hard for me to engage in conversations about SJ in fandom, not that I find analysing texts from an SJ perspective inherently unfun or unworthy, but because the concept has been weaponized for a whole other war. I don't want to engage with people who are taking a serious issue like racism - which affects my life - and using it to try and win an argument about who is boning who in Star Wars [90]

FFA nonny says that fandom is best when everyone can practice it the way they want:

I'm generally of the opinion that fandom is best when everyone can practice it the way they want. But while on one hand, you get people being called fun ruiners and buzz killers and wet blankets, on the other, you get public judgement and callouts and demands. One of these is far more... invasive. Neither culture is doing the fandom experience many favors (and I don't miss those days of yore tbh), but idk, I kind of feel like I'd rather be told to go away than that I need to do fandom a certain way to be a good person.

And this is really just a lame way of saying "the grass looks greener from here", though I know that's inherently flawed, because the grass over there was really just a bit less brown. [91]

FFA Nonny wants to know how to tell fellow fans they're just into having fun without offending:

Nonny 1

Serious (earnest) question - how can a person who really does not want to discuss social justice issues in their fandom space politely indicate that this discussion may need to be taken somewhere that's not their blog/fic/DeviantArt, without sounding like they're dismissing the concerns of people who do want to talk about said SJ issues?

I'm of the "I have enough of this in my everyday life and don't really want to spend time on it in my escapism" camp, but I don't want to marginalize other people who can't help but engaging with the issues that make their escapism less fun.

Nonny 2

Maybe: "I'm using fandom for escapism from RL. If you find your discussions in my comments section get more political or heated in general, please take them to a different space."

Nonny 3

Well, the question wasn't "how to stop other people from being dicks," it was "how to manage things in my own space without being a dick to anyone else."

Nonny 4

It really depends. I've been nearby when wanks like "all (fictional) non-con is (real) rape!" went off in my fandom, but because I don't engage, don't invite and never publish stupid asks (and have anon turned off), people don't try to pull that shit with me. I have a statement up on my Tumblr about how it's only for fandom and not politics. I've seen call out posts flash past, but I don't signal boost, nor do I reblog "Like this or you're a homophobe!" stuff and - nothing happens. I'm not banned/blocked by those posters, they interact with me, I interact with them, but only about fandom. And I blacklist their political etc tags, and we're mostly pretty happy. [92]

FFA anon:

......(1) if you're not harassing people over their ships, she's not talking about you; and (2) you do not get to tell people what to ship. When people ship things you don't like, nobody is "actually hurt by this shit." [93]

myrandomthoughtsokay:

First Impressions Upon Joining Tumblr

Me: Wow! What a great place for people to share art/fanfic/etc. and celebrate their fandoms!

Tumblr: HATE! RACISM! HOMOPHOBIA! MY FAVORITE FICTIONAL CHARACTER IS AWESOME! YOUR FAVORITE FICTIONAL CHARACTER IS SHIT! YOU ARE SHIT! GO FUCKING KILL YOURSELF!

Me:

[94]

smol-hux answering an anon ask on tumblr:

Anonymous: there are ways to address the problems with racism in fandom without shaming and guilt tripping kylux shippers and people who like those characters. like every time i see one of those posts i feel bad about liking those characters. and the assumption that ppl who like those things are racist and hate stormpilot and finn and poe is just shitty

yeah me too. like there is definitely racism within the star wars fandom. finn has gotten so much shit even tho he is a perfect character and has the greatest qualities. i love him and will fight for him.

and i have never come across racism from kylux shippers? that isn’t to say it doesn’t happen, of course. i’ve just never seen it. most people i’ve come across have been a delight.

every ship has its problems. shippers are going to write and say some dumb ass shit sometimes.

but i don’t think kylux warrants this kind of hate? i think we can all think of a certain ship that’s actually more problematic ahem

kylo and hux are villains. so of course they are problematic. however. their relationship has not been shown to be more than bickering. they’ve never hurt each other. they’re (more or less) on the same side. they are equals. they compete with each other. this is why the trope enemies to friends to lovers exists.

don’t let them bring you down man. ship it. as long as it’s not abusive who gives a shit. [95]

themardia:

So I could spend time dragging the TFA fandom for its gross racism and how people are convinced it’s far worse to be called racist than to be caught out doing racist shit–or I could write more fic where Finn is a Skywalker (Skywalker-Jade, to be precise.)

I choose the latter. Not because people don’t deserve to be called out, but because I am not going to waste my breath or my energy defending my right to exist or to have representation in this fandom.

Tags: #racism #damn fandom back at it #again with the bullshit [96]

hansbekhart:

I agree that it’s not that complex, and honestly, I think we can boil all of the different theories and excuses why white characters are prioritized over non-white characters: white privilege makes us dehumanize people who are non-white.

Privilege blinds us to the depth and potential of non-white characters because we’re actually less able to empathize or see non-white people as complex as we see ourselves. It’s what leads to lazy characterization in fic, sure - but also to see real black people as literally less able to feel pain, for example.

Racism rarely plays out these days in direct ways - which is exactly why there are so many “theories” as to why Stormpilot didn’t take off and Kylux did, but that’s the simplest way to put it. We can come up with all the excuses we want, but most racist behavior isn’t conscious, and can’t be boiled down to, “Jeez, I really hate these brown people.”

Racism is systemic - a system that privileges some people over others. And beyond all of the ugly stereotypes, assumptions and the damage caused by discrimination, that also includes culture: whose story is “worth” being told?

Shift that question through the lens of your own experience, if that’s unclear: why stories about men worth more, or straight people, or able bodied people, or cis people, or rich/middle class people, or thin people, etc etc? Because at some point we started believing that the default human experience is a white man, and assigning depth and complexity accordingly.

We can’t tell when we absorbed all of these beliefs, because they’re pervasive, complex and often completely invisible if you’re not the one affected by them.

Sure, you’re not out there literally burning crosses, but that doesn’t mean you’re not making decisions based on racism. That’s the water we swim in; it’s impossible not to.[97]

Links to Further Reading/Meta

References

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