fanfiction writers are not exempt of the responsibility of creating diverse media representation

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Title: untitled
Creator: queerhawkeye
Date(s): June 6, 2014
Medium: Tumblr post
Fandom: general, Teen Wolf
Topic: responsibility of fan creators to intentionally include diversity in their works
External Links: http://queerhawkeye.tumblr.com/post/87607734734/fanfiction-writers-are-not-exempt-of-the
http://queerhawkeye.tumblr.com/post/87719208069/vorpalplatypus-queerhawkeye-fanfiction-writers
http://queerhawkeye.tumblr.com/post/87685668849/relenita-queerhawkeye-fanfiction-writers-are-not
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fanfiction writers are not exempt of the responsibility of creating diverse media representation nor are they incapable of reproducing harmful ideas and tropes is a June 2014 Tumblr post by queerhawkeye. The original post was short; it was later expanded on by the author in two longer responses. As of December 28, 2016 it has 1,133 notes.

The Original Post

fanfiction writers are not exempt of the responsibility of creating diverse media representation nor are they incapable of reproducing harmful ideas and tropes

fanfiction writers are media creators and should put as much thought and respect into their work as if they were doing it for money

Some Responses

relenita:
So what you’re basically saying is, instead of fanfiction writers to have fun, to have the chance to write what they want and, maybe and only maybe if they want to, use their talent to represent the society they live in, because wow, different societies have different realities; they have the holy duty to fulfil each and every minority, problematic issue because since the moment they decided to create anything remotely artistic they’re bound to represent a reality it may not be theirs, they may not agree, they even may not even know -because wowzers, we live in different cultural environments - and, since it’s aresponsibility, someone would

punish them according to the first definition,

find them guilty of something according to the second, or

unable to be a writer according to the third?

Fanfiction writers are people that can make media and they can write maybe for someone else besides themselves; but to go to make them responsible -one of the many - for the representation it’s a bit too far.

What you can make is to inspire fanfiction writers, to make them know each culture and their problems, to move them to write and always to invite representation; not demanding into fanfictions to write the very thing you want without even much thought that “it’s your duty, it’s your responsibility so go and write me a fanfiction fitting my needs”.

Writers always need to be respectful about what they write, there’s no doubt of it; but you must be as respectful with the writers and not demand something that isn’t on their shoulders to deliver to you. [1]

eightdollarwine:
it’s true that fanfiction is a form of media production and when you’re publishing media for consumption by an audience you can’t control you do have a responsibility to your audience as a creator

however, i’m EXTREMELY uncomfortable with the false equivalence behind this logic that holds fan creators and fan content up to the same standards as mainstream media because the circumstances behind their creation are very, very, very different

<snipped>

you have to get approved through a corporate machine to get a blockbuster movie/video game or tv show on a network like HBO made. in that context, there might be a team of writers and the end product is still subject to approval by the network, a network that, mind you, is run predominately by, again, privileged people

literally NOTHING is keeping me from publishing my fanfic on ao3 excepting my own fear regarding allowing people to see my writing and a bad internet connection (of course internet access is an issue related to classism and other systems of oppression but i’m going to assume that everyone on tumblr readily has internet access). fanfic and fanart is NOT subject to the same corporate control, editing and approval that mainstream media

THAT’S why the “if you don’t like mainstream media, produce your own!” argument doesn’t hold water: it’s hard to get a story focused on the experience of marginalized people approved through a corporate machine run by privileged people

however in a fan context, that doesn’t exist at all. in that case, “if you don’t see media that caters to your interest, produce your own” is a perfectly valid response if most fan creators are acting like me, and being self-indulgent

am i saying it’s NOT fucked up that when we take a step back and observe the demographic of fics on AO3 and see that even in this context, white cis m/m ships still predominate? no, of course not because it is! it’s genuinely disturbing that marginalized people still predominantly produce content that doesn’t relate to their experiences but that’s a symptom not the disease

(caveating this by noting AO3 is a biased sample due to its primarily anglophone user base)

it’s a symptom of the fact the media we consume is dominated by white cis dudes and we learn that stories should center around the experiences of white cis dudes instead of our own because that’s all we’ve been fed all our lives [2]

More Thoughts from the OP

In response to relenita:
Well, since I write fanfiction mostly for British and USAmerican media, being neither British nor Yankee, I think I’m pretty aware that I can’t perfectly cover ever single social, economical, political or racial complexity in the cultural context of what I’m writing. I still try my best to not erase characters of color (because guess what! writing characters of color is just writing people, so at most I’ll have to do a little extra research if they are, i.e., first gen. American-Japanese kids who live in the States but still hold Japanese traditions!), and not to uphold misogynistic tropes, and to avoid applying heterosexist criteria when writing same-sex relationships, and to steer away from cissexist and binarist ways of talking about sex.

Because I’m a media creator. I’m writing for myself? Yeah. But I’m also creating a transformative work that will be shared in the internet, existing the chance that absolutely none or millions of people read it. Guess what? My perceptions of both cishet and queer sex were 99% shaped by fanfiction when I was no more than 13 years old. And some of it was written responsibly and I’m still grateful for having read it, because it was funny and hot and also taught me great things about respect and exploration and sensuality. Some of it was written like shit, by people who had really fucked up ideas of how healthy relationships should work, and I had to unlearn that shit and unlearn that shit fast.

Writing responsibly is writing abusive relationships because you find the dynamic interesting and intriguing to explore, but making it clear in-text or out-of-text (glad most fanfiction hosts allow us to put on notes and put warnings to our works, right?) that abuse is wrong and you are in no way portraying romance.

Writing responsibly, in my case, is writing what I know. Writing trauma. I’m aware that using sex as a way to deal with trauma is shit? Yes. I’m aware that portraying sex as a healthy way to deal with trauma in my fanfiction is shit? Yes? Do I want to show that some people (me included) do still use sex as a way to cope and think it’s the best way, and sometimes it works for them? Yes, because that is my experience. But I try to make it clear that that is not an universal truth, that sometimes trauma means you don’t want and you can’t have sex and that is okay too.

Writing responsibly shouldn’t take the fun and the opportunity to create excellent works and represent our realities. We sometimes talk with Nazz about writing a crossover between Latino Mythology and Teen Wolf, about writing a big-ass crossover where the Pack fight el chupacabras and maybe get a gualicho pisses off and have Deaton teach them how to do macumbas. Because our cultures and our myths are important to us, because they feel closer to us than Celtic druids do. But if I’m going to write about macumbas I’m gonna make sure to read a lot on African-Brazilian mythology before going in, because (I repeat) even if I’m a shitty media creator I’m still a media creator and that means I have to put respect and hard work into what I write.

Fanfiction writers reclaim the 'writer’ part of their title constantly. We have entire essays written on why fanfiction writers and transformative works are just as important as commercial media. On how fanfiction writers are changing the world and the way we perceive media. On how fanfiction writers are the open door for young kids to explore their sexualities and their identities. But then, then, we refuse to take (since you don’t like that I use responsibility, we refuse to take) responsabilidad for our actions. For the consequences of our writing.

In response to eightdollarwine:

of course we’ve been taught to care more about cis white dudes. of course we’ve been taught to assume monosexuality, and that’s why all male/male pairings ignore the canonical attraction most characters have shown towards women and write them as plainly ‘gay’. of course we’ve been taught latinos are sexual, black people are violent, fat people are lazy and whatever other giant pile of bullshit! commercial media get approved and goes out only after being 'cleansed’ of the 'excess’ diversity, and most of it is written by people in positions of privilege who’ve had no reasons to unlearn these prejudices.

but the thing is, we as writers (even as self-indulgent writers writing hot guys fucking in our free time) have (i’ll insist on using this word) responsibility. as people, we must unlearn the prejudices and stereotypes and bigotry. and, as writers, we need to stop reproducing those harmful things.

fun and creative freedom don’t have to clash with thought and critique. joy and imagination don’t have to be self-awareness enemy. most important! writing for one’s self doesn’t have to mean 'writing the worst version of oneself’.

even if we are writing self-indulgent fics, even if we are not dealing with 'social issues’, even if we are not focusing on the canon poc, queer or disabled characters. even if we are writing about canon cis white able dudes and don’t headcanon them as any other than cis white able dudes. we can still write critically. we can still write responsibly. and we should, because we are writing for ourselves and we aren’t writing for profit, but we are still publishing.

ao3 has a search engine. ao3 has a most recent and a most read and a most liked category. maybe no one will read our fics, but maybe millions will. and we are gonna influence those millions. specially! specially! because we are just like them. most of us are under some form of institutionalized oppression. most of us are young and a little dissatisfied with mainstream media and publishing our works in a space meant for people that are just like most of us. that means a special kind of trust and a special kind of bond. the reach of our work can be as widespread as commercial media, but without the detachment of commercial media.

what i’m saying is: you are right. our work is not to be compared to the work done by white rich dudes living in their comfortable homes somewhere in the first world. our work is fundamentally different. but it is as valid and as important as commercial literature, and should be treated with the same respect and dedication not only by its readers, but mostly by its writers.