Femslash - Feminism, Women, and Potterverse

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Title: Femslash - Feminism, Women, and Potterverse
Creator: volsi
Date(s): September 26, 2005
Medium: post at hp-feminism
Fandom: Harry Potter
Topic:
External Links: Femslash - Feminism, Women, and Potterverse page 1 archive link, page 1; page 2, archive link, page 2
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Femslash - Feminism, Women, and Potterverse is a 2005 post by volsi at at hp-feminism.

Some Topics Discussed

  • Harry Potter
  • lack of femslash in fanfic, Harry Potter or otherwise
  • difficulty in choosing words for genitalia that aren't offensive, silly, or too scientific
  • is the lack of Harry Potter femslash due to the lack of interesting and complex female characters in the books?
  • comments about Xena femslash
  • using the excuse that there is little interaction or "screen time" for female characters in Harry Potter as the reason for little femslash, when fans write much fanfic about male characters with as little canon interaction

The Introduction

I want to ask you wonderful smart ladies about fandom and femslash. Now, notwithstanding the fact that maleslash far outnumbers femslash, and that one of the reasons given for this is that the writers don't know how to write female genitalia without being squeamish [ the validity or connotation of this is a noble discussion as well, but I fear would overshadow my point ], ignoring all that, what do you all think about femslash?

Excerpts from the Post

I primarily read femslash. This may be because, as a lesbian, endless cock has limited appeal for me. However, I'll read a good Harry/Draco story if its recced, or Het or Gen. I'm open.

In the femslash I have read, it seems disproportionately PWPW. I'm all for the smut [the one story i've written certainly had a lot of it] but it seems we have more trouble imagining the girls actually having a relationship than having sex. Well, sex does not orientation make.

When there IS a relationship, it is sometimes a heterosexual ideal with the gender being irrelevant. I've seen plenty of stuff where Hermione and Ginny are married and sharing each others names and waiting until their wedding night to have sex, etc. This seems to me to de-sexualize the characters more than anything else, because they seem to be so far from what we see as canon, or even fanon. Also, they are acting in concert with the christian heterosexual ideal despite being lesbians. What does this say about the role of lesbian relationships in a fairly non-christian HP world? [What I mean by non-christian is that religion is rarely or never mentioned, and thus we don't know if those mores apply]
The most disturbing sub-genre, for me, are the hurt/comfort stories. These usually take the form of Draco raping or trying to rape a character, usually Hermione. The character becomes a shell of her former self, and only another character can bring her out of it, though she is never assertive like she used to be. The other trend in those fics where one of the characters hates herself for having feelings for the other and hurts herself. This time the guy doesn't even have to do it for her.

So what is it about femslash that dissuades writers? We don't seem to have any novel-length femslash works like we have for maleslash. On hogwarts_today, femslash is rarely recced. Today, a Hermione/Umbridge fic is up there. I'm not even clicking.

This is less coherent than I meant it to be, but I think my main drift gets across. What do you think are the main problems facing femslash, how does femslash relate to the rest of fanon, and how do you (as feminists) feel about how the characters are portrayed in femslash?

Excerpts from Comments

[kethlenda]:

I've talked to a few female writers who find it difficult to write about female body parts. Personally, I find male slash the hardest (or for that matter, het written from the male's POV), as I've never experienced sex as a man. Only as a woman. So I feel like it's harder to get into a male's head--either one. ;)

Also, many fanfic writers are straight women who are not at all aroused by thoughts of girl bits but love fantasizing about boy bits.
[fer de lance]:

Well, for one, it's hard to write about body parts who have no decent NAMES. Anything you can call female genitalia is either:

1. overly scientific,

2. derogatory, or

3. outright ridiculous.

This is why I don't read het: I'm either overwhelmed by felines in the bedroom, or I'm trying not to choke on my snack over words like "cunny". (I particularly recall trying to read a novel in which the word 'labia' kept appearing; I found it about as erotic as those black-and-white diagrams of penile structure in my Bio textbook.)

As for writing femslash? I have those bits already, thanks; I don't need to write about what happens to them in my head when I could be doing them. :D (Being straight, I'm also not frequently turned on by f/f sex scenes, whereas anal sex? Hmm, yes, there's definitely an appeal.)
[a t rain ]:

I'm a gen writer with one pet (het, canon) pairing, and I'm with you -- I would be hopelessly clueless about how to go about writing m/m slash, but could probably manage f/f.

I agree that there's a bit of an "icky girl bits" vibe in the fandom, and also a lot of writers who claim that the female characters simply aren't "interesting" -- which I think is a self-fulfilling prophesy, since most of the characterization points that make the men "interesting" are pure fanon anyway. Why not write fic that makes the women interesting?
[magic at mungos]:

My main reasons for not writing any femslash is that I don't identify with the female characters in HP. I've written 6 one shots - 3 have been Remus/Sirius, two have been gen with het implications (James/Lily) and one has been het (Charlie/Hermione). I'm trying to write for the Girls Just want to Have Fun with Each Other challenge but it's difficult. I need to have a hold on the character's voice in order to write them.

I would love to find more good femslash in the fandom but it's pretty thin on the ground. I don't read much fic as it is, so I will tend to go with authors that I know are good or recs from people that I trust.
[laura m1]:
I have to agree with you on this one. I think it's a result of Rowling almost constantly reporting on Harry's emotions and activities that all the other characters, including the females, are slightly less developed than they should be. It's only been in the recent books that she really starts giving the female characters their due. It's almost impossible to identify strongly with any of them because until recently they have had so little character.... Fleur and Luna are the only two female characters I like very much; Rowling's weirdness with Tonks in the latest book put me on the fence. And it is true that Severus/Sirius is an easy mark, because their animosity is so important to the plot. But like I said, the history of the female characters is marginal, because Rowling has limited herself culturally (the muggle-verse is always kind of off-putting) and geographically (again, avoiding muggle culture); and of course this is an extension of the third person author omniscient babysitting Harry. I could go on, but its not really a feminist topic. Unless, of course, one compares the characterization of the women of Little Whinging to the women of the magical world. There are three significant female characters who are viewed in the muggle world: Petunia Dursley, Arabella Figg, and Marge Dursley (I'm not counting McGonagall's first book appearance). What can be said about the magical world is that its women are heterogenously nice/nasty, weird/normal, emotional/analytical, and even in their small volume, there are signifiantly more of them.
[a t rain]:

You know, after thinking it over, I'm starting to see a reason why femmeslash might be unpopular among female writers that has nothing to do with misogyny or squeamishness. I'm almost reluctant to voice it, because it may come off as sounding disparaging of slash in general. I hope people will understand that when I say a scenario is unrealistic, I don't mean that it makes for bad storytelling or that it shouldn't be written, just that things are unlikely to fall out that way in real life.

The thing is, most popular slash pairings involve characters who have an existing relationship in canon, and that relationship generally falls into one of two categories. Either the characters are canonically close friends (e.g. Remus Lupin and Sirius Black), or they're canonically enemies (e.g. Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy). And because people in the Harry Potter world meet their schoolmates at the age of eleven, these are usually relationships that have existed from childhood.

Frankly, neither of these scenarios is particularly realistic. The odds that any given pair of close childhood friends who have been sharing a dorm since they were eleven would both turn out to be gay or bisexual, that they would both be attracted to each other, and that they would choose to risk their friendship by acting on that attraction, are tiny. (Heck, Hermione and Ron haven't managed to take that leap yet, and it's a lot more likely that a small, tight-knit pack of friends would include two straight people than two gay people.) And Harry and Draco? Nope, they genuinely loathe each other, and it's for a reason. If they were real people, the chances that they'd hook up are approximately zero.

However, female writers of m/m slash, particularly the R/S scenario, don't necessarily perceive it as improbable. In fact, there seems to be a prevailing mindset in the fandom that two guys who are known to be good friends are just one tiny step away from being lovers. Since female writers have never been part of a male / male friendship and can only observe the dynamics from the outside, nothing in their personal experience is likely to contradict this assumption.

On the other hand, a female writer working with female characters is writing about relationship dynamics she has directly experienced. An author writing a Hermione-centered story is likely, at some level, to equate Ginny with her own best friend whom she's been confiding in about her love life for years, and Pansy with the girl she hated in high school, and she KNOWS that these are probably the two people in the world that she is least likely to have sex with, ever. So it's going to be hard for her to suspend her own disbelief long enough to write it. Whereas male relationships are totally unknown territory, and who knows what might happen?
[volsi]:

You actually have a good point here. The counterpoint to this would be that writers don't always write what they know, and fantasy in general is definitely away from the everyday world, thus requiring a certain amount of suspension of disbelief to even enter the world.

However, fanfic is a different thing. We're not being original, not entirely. We're taking characters that already exist in some way, either fairly complete personalities (Harry, Hermione), or as characters for whom we don't have much personal information, but have a lot of background information (R/S).

Your fourth paragraph in particular is really strong, and I agree.

Your final point raises question- I know at least some (ostensibly) straight female writers who have had some sort of same sex interaction (whether this was kissing at a party or experimentation, etc). Does their experience with other women result in more readiness to write femslash, and if so, is the result going to be more PWP than it would be if they were writing about men because their own same sex experiences were not in the form of a relationship? And what makes them less likely to write about f/f relationships than m/m relationships, if they are familiar with neither.
[shaggydogstail]:

I think a big part of the reason why slash is so much more prevalent than femmeslash is down to how the characters are portrayed in canon, both as individuals and in terms of their relationships. JKR writes men much better than she writes women--I find her male characters consistently more interesting, more engaging and more complex than her female characters, despite the fact that I'm generally more interested in female characters in literature than male ones (probably because I am a woman and can relate to them more easily). There are female characters that I like a lot, and I do think some of them are treated unfairly by fandom (Cho is a prime example), but I do think that she generally does a better job with the boys.

By extension, she also writes much more interesting m/m relationships, whether as friendships or animosity. Hermione and Ginny seem to be fairly good friends, but there isn't a great deal of drama in their relationship and we don't really get many emotional insights into it in canon, whereas there is absolutely masses of tension and drama with Sirius and Remus. There's no female counterpart to Harry and Draco either--Hermione and Pansy seem to dislike each other intensely, but the animosity between them doesn't seem particularly important to either character. The only really interesting f/f dynamic I can think of in canon is between Bellatrix and Narcissa, and that's only really down to one chapter in HBP.

The only slash ship I really love is Remus/Sirius, though I can see the appeal of many of the other slash ships. I like Hermione/Ginny, but it doesn't grab me as much, because their canon relationship just isn't as interesting. It's a shame.
[slytherincesss]:

However, female writers of m/m slash, particularly the R/S scenario, don't necessarily perceive it as improbable. In fact, there seems to be a prevailing mindset in the fandom that two guys who are known to be good friends are just one tiny step away from being lovers. Since female writers have never been part of a male / male friendship and can only observe the dynamics from the outside, nothing in their personal experience is likely to contradict this assumption.

I wonder if this is an unconscious extrapolation of the stereotype that gay men are promiscuous. My husband has at times expressed his discomfort regarding his gay friend D, thinking that D is going to hit on him or make a sexual advance on him . . . and I keep explaining that being gay is the same as being straight in that 1) a gay guy doesn't want to fuck every other living male just because he is gay, just as a straight female doesn't want to fuck every living male just because she is attracted to males, and 2) human beings in general are discerning, and we have friends for whom we have no romantic or sexual attraction to, for whom that will never change no matter what -- gay, straight, bi . . . it doesn't matter. Being attracted to someone sexually and/or romantically is a complicated process, and it really can't be planned. I mean, why do we like sexually who we like sexually? It's because of many things, not just because they are the right gender for our orientation. I have always been uncomfortable when I read fic that portrays gays -- male or female -- as promiscuous just by default, simply because they are queer. I think this is a stereotype, and it is so perpetuated in our fandom, IMO.
[lea hazel]:

However, female writers of m/m slash, particularly the R/S scenario, don't necessarily perceive it as improbable. In fact, there seems to be a prevailing mindset in the fandom that two guys who are known to be good friends are just one tiny step away from being lovers. Since female writers have never been part of a male / male friendship and can only observe the dynamics from the outside, nothing in their personal experience is likely to contradict this assumption.

I've heard slashers make similar arguments in the past. It ties in to this whole complicated theory I have about how our society perceives men, but do think the "invisible gender gap" plays a role in women writing slashfic. The idea of "male bonding" as such is strange to some people, and so the intimacy of a true friendship tends to leak into a romantic relationship very easily.

Of course, there are many reasons why people slash, and many different kinds of slash. Specific pairings can fall under many different categories, and people can write them for a lot of different reasons. To some people, friendship turning into romance is a natural and immediate step, and not without reason. This is one of the oldest and most effective designs for building up a romantic relationship in fiction -- we see it canonically with Ron/Hermione and, to a lesser extent, Harry/Ginny. With characters like Remus and Sirius, they have no close female friends (that we know of) and their strongest interactions are with a man who ends up being married, a traitor, and each other.

It's interesting to note that Hermione/Ginny, the most popular femmeslash pairing, often appears in conjunction with Harry/Ron, and often depicts Hermione and Ginny to be "best friends in love" (a characterization I rebel again; Hermione and Ginny are friendly in canon, but Hermione's best friends are Ron and Harry!)
[ulys]:

I'm glad you bring this up. I've often thought that the love of mslash in communities like this is because it's women, mainly straight women, and hey, two cocks, not just one.

It's like with Miller Lite bar guys and their Lesbian Twins fantasies. Hey, two pairs of panties, not just one.

As you've figured out by now, those girls may be twins, but they're not lesbians; they're straight girls having sex with each other. Lesbians would scare the bar boys snotless.

That's not to knock any of this -- fun is fun; and what ever gets you off is better than not getting off. But outsider views of insider sex is certainly not the only way to write insider (slash-type) sex, which I think is the point of this post.

So that's element A. Element B is that women write better porn than men, generally. Not always, but generally. The real renaissance in literary erotica starts, I think, with those Reagan-era (!) Women's Sewing Circle-type anthologies, which gave birth to the Susie Bright books, the My Secret Garden books, and so on. Even the PWP organ-grinder stories, here at the Bar-LJ Ranch, are more interesting (IMHO) than almost all of the stuff in print male venues like Penthouse Stories (ugh).
[volsi]:

I do want us to broaden our pallette, yes. I want more of a mix of romance and sex. I want fics that aren't just fluff, but aren't just plain smut either. I want the story, then the sex, then more story. I could even go without the sex if the story was worth it. I want someone to write a HP femslash "Fried Green Tomatoes." or something like it.

I think the problem with not seeing the possibility of the gay/bi feelings in a character is the continuation of the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. Hermione either needs to be broken out of her shell, or is a raging nympho. There doesn't seem to be a balance of female characters just enjoying sex, which does seem to be present in some of the maleslash I've read. (Though I admit my background in that is not that deep_

You have a good idea going about Luna. Her forwardness could propel discussions that could make her or other characters realize something about themselves, which in turn could be a very interesting turn of events.

I think Pansy could really be a lesbian. Luna, perhaps. Pansy because often people who lash out the most are also hiding the most. That's why I like Pansy so much, I think there is much to create from her character. Lots of the pureblooded women could also be lesbians, albeit without having had the choice to be themselves, and instead being forced to marry their spouses by tradition. Lots of possibilities there.
[wingwingslash]:

Like with women in popculture in general it's hard to find cool likeable plotty heroic characters and stories. Xena and the likes have shown that it is possible to write them, but there still are too few.

I really believe that (apart from the factors that the others have mentioned) the problem is that JKR is not really fascinated by her own female characters the way she is fascinated by her male characters. When you are fascinated while writing, the product will fascinate others too. There just isn't a female Snape. Or a female Remus. Bellatrix looked like she would turn out fascinating but she is somewhat pathetic at the moment, compared to Snape. Tonks might have been cool and have developed depth but at the moment...no. I'm really glad that I started writing slash before HBP came out. Because I wouldn't have been able to write on the female characters the way they are now.

"it seems we have more trouble imagining the girls actually having a relationship than having sex"

This is a highly intriguing thought, and I will certainly thought about it for a while.

My first thoughts: As I said above, fascination plays a major role. Two characters with a real relationship need to be fascinated by each other in some way. There needs to be some sort of enthusiasm (be it of the love and/or the hate variety)-- many slash writers don't seem to be too enthusiastic about female characters.

In the end I can't help thinking that this is proving that women find it much easier to enthuse about a male-- just as men find it generally easier too-- plain old patriarchy. I know I needed to put conscious effort into writing good female characters, an effort that i didn't need for writing male characters. And with male characters you can always fall back on a long tradition, with female characters/relationships it means actually inventing them almost from scrap.

F.e.: the authors of Xena had a hard time writing for her in a believable way, until the producers told them to write scripts for a male hero then just change gender. That turned Xena into one of the first well written female heroes, but it also resulted in some character traits that I didn't find believable in a woman, while omitting other traits that I would have expected in a woman (especially in the way the show deals with violence and sexual violence).
[reddrawfer]:

The reasons that I rarely write femslash are two-fold:

1. You don't see two female characters interact in canon and that is usually where I get my ideas on interactions/characterisations.

2. I loathe the terminology for female sex organs and most people find cunt offensive.

And a bonus:

I really dislike how JKR makes all her females male-dependant and it sucks. Tonks lost her identity over unrequited love.
[magic vindaloo]:

Have to agree to almost all your points.

I'm bisexual and at the moment mainly dating girls. So I read het, slash and femmeslash because all of that appeals to me.

However, femmeslash often lacks ingenuity. It's either plotless and occasionally pointless smut - or the stereotype h/c fic. Where's the 'in-between'?

I'm really searching for novellas without the 'Sob! Men are evil - now I'm a lesbian' cliché, but I hardly find any.

Why not let Hermione slowly fall for Luna? Let her learn to appreciate her weirdness, let them become good friends and slowly Hermione finds out she wants to be more than friends with her. It is possible after all to combine plot and to some pretty hot smut.

In my fics, I tend to let the characters be bisexual because I know how they think about the occasional attraction to the same sex. However, you do not, once you realize it, think "Cool, all those possibilities!", but you wonder what you really are and where you belong.

One of my favorite sub-genres is actually the 'I want to find out if I'm really attracted to girls' scenario - with the hunt for an appropriate partner for the mission, including a dash of humor, some realizations and a lot of realism.
[quivo]:
The reason I read slash is for hot men. Getting it on. I think, as a straight or slightly-bi person, I'd actually have to be really, really fascinated with the whole idea and with the characters involved and so on, because JKR hasn't really put up interesting women in the series so far. And, as I am, honestly, essentially uncomfortable with the idea of femmeslash, there's a whole other extra leap, for me.
[starrysummer]:

I definitely get frustrated with the lack of femmeslash (and hell, even here on LJ the aversion to het because ew girls), though I have very different preferences.

I really make next to no distinction between het, slash, and femmeslash (which I saw mentioned used to be referred to as "alternative" rather than femmeslash, and I'm really liking that term) in my writing and my reading tastes. It frustrates me that people feel the need to segment so harshly between them, and to see het as inferior and femmeslash as very much on the outskirts of fandom.

But in terms of content? I'm not really interested in relationships and romance and that sort of thing. I want from my femmeslash what I want from my het and my slash, which is the sort of power-imbalanced PWP you're complaining about finding. Which, my taste, what I like. I have no illusions that I'm in the mainstream, whatever the sex and gender of the characters.

What drives me mad? Okay, so I understand that for some people there really aren't interesting female characters. In some cases, it's a matter of people not clicking with the bits and pieces and potential we see whereas they read and write femmeslash and het by the boatload in other fandoms. But there's also this "the women that aren't interesting" sentiment that I want to respond to by saying "they're less valid because you choose not to validate them."

We're willing to take male characters who are nothing more than a name and devote fics, communities, archives to them. Which is fine. But then, why are there so few people who are interested in exploring a female who's only given a couple of scenes from which to invent and play? Why do obscure canon and original female characters get attacked as Mary Sues when poorly written barely-a-name male characters don't face that.

I feel like the same traits are glorified in male characters and decried in female characters. Sirius was mouthy and popular and a bully? He's teh sex. Ginny acts similar at the age of 15? She's a bitch and a Mary Sue. I'm not saying her characterization was something I really enjoyed, but she gets a much, much shorter leash from most of fandom than Draco or Zacharias or Fred and George.
[idleleaves]:

We're willing to take male characters who are nothing more than a name and devote fics, communities, archives to them. Which is fine. But then, why are there so few people who are interested in exploring a female who's only given a couple of scenes from which to invent and play? Why do obscure canon and original female characters get attacked as Mary Sues when poorly written barely-a-name male characters don't face that.

A-fucking-men. And amen to the last paragraph, too.

People do complain that the female characters aren't interesting enough and blame this on the author, but then there are crazy shippers for males who, in fic, are essentially original characters with canon names because of lack of source material and canon characterisation. I don't think the entire blame can fall on the author for her choices in characterisation, because if that was the main determining factor, a ton of characters with their own archives and whatnot would be sidelined.
[yamapea]:

On hogwarts_today, femslash is rarely recced.

This sentence, however, really bothers me, and I can't just click idly away from this page without saying something. HT editors volunteer their time every day to read excessive amounts of fic, discussions, etc, from all corners of fandom. They post what is, in their opinion, the best of the best. As the creator and one of the editors of girls_today, I can say that there honestly is not as much high quality femmeslash out there as there is maleslash, precisely because of its status as the neglected genre. HT probably doesn't mention a great deal of femmeslash because, if there is to be any sort of fair standard as far as fics go, het, gen and maleslash are oftentimes going to be high quality, for the obvious reason that it is more widely written and read.

I understand that it can be frustrating, trust me. I adore femmeslash, and I do my part to try to poke others into writing it, but it's just not fair to point the blame at the newsletters.
[projectcyborg]:
as another who only writes and mostly only reads femslash, I must say that I think the "why isn't there more femslash *sob*" question will never be answered. there are a number of theories that we rehash repeatedly, and each seems equally valid and unconfirmable. I don't understand the het or slash phenomena, so I'm certainly unqualified to speculate on why femslash is different. maybe if I read boyslash I would be more discontented with the fact that femslash isn't more like it. as it is I tend to be perfectly contented with the state of things. *shrug*
[souredpoison]:

I too see the absence of femmeslash. I've only probably read one or two stories, and those were horrid at best. I really don't understand why authors don't write more of it. A lot of people have no problem with m/m relationships, and openly support it, but when confronted with a f/f pairing, they're likely to turn up their nose.

I understand that a lot of these authors are randy teenage girls who, to be honest, are just exploring their own sexual fantasies. Hell, I'm one of those girls. However, this doesn't justify the lack of good f/f fics. It's not that there are bad fics (which is sort of a compliment, if you're looking at how many bad fics some of the most popular ships have), it's the lack of fic period that irritates me.

Although, I'm sure someone could tell me off for not writing f/f fics, (but I have an honest excuse- I'm not comfortable enough writing some of my long-time favorite ships, let alone anything newer).
[kennahijja]:

Yes, femmeslash *is* the neglected stepchild of fandom, I'd agree - which probably really has to do with the overwhelming number of female writers, most of whom seem to be heterosexual and therefore either inclined to write het (romance) or slash (hot guys). And then there's the number of interesting female HP characters as opposed to interesting male characters - there are simply far more males to write about and far more possible pairings.

[snipped]

I honestly wish I read more femmeslash, but I'm mostly into slash for conflict, and stereotypical as it may sound, that tends to be more provided by male slash. I enjoy writing femmeslash more than reading, though, even *if* I approach a story knowing that the feedback will be comparatively small.

I do experience the same problem writing explicit stuff that you mentioned - the vocabulary. I don't have any problems using the four-letter-words in male slash, but in femmeslash, they put me off, being either clinical, or insults, or entirely masculine-derogatory-ridiculous. While my *rational* side is aware that that's un-empowering, I prefer to be comfortable with what I'm writing.

As for the *message* femmeslash sends, it might sound heretic, but I don't care too much. No more than if male pairings reflect a realistic picture of gay life (whatever that may be). Because it's fantasy/escapism on the one hand, although I *hate* stereotypical 'feminine' role behaviour. The one thing that really matters to me is that the protagonists are in character. But then again, there is quite a bit of cliched stereotypical female behaviour in canon, i.e. Molly's attitude to sex, Tonks in HBP, Pansy fawning over Draco, etc.
[niav]:

I believe it's mostly that fandom is comprised majorly of straight (or bisexual but leaning towards men) females who like to see cock.

However I've always felt that there's a little bit of homophobia directed at femslash, much in the same way that some men love "lesbian" porn but feel sick at the mention of gay porn. The fear that, if I read femslash and enjoy it, does that make me a lesbian? I'm not sure how common that mindset is but I have noticed it, especially with the cries of "ew! het! girl bits!"
[anonymous/Naomi]:

I agree with a lot of people that femslash is less prevalent because of the straight-female factor; it's pretty obvious that a lot of fic (especially in HP I think, though I wouldn't like to make a blanket statement) is based round sexual fantasy, and if you like cock, you want it in your fic. Having said that, I think there are definitely issues of misogyny and eww-girl-bits around the under-representation of het and femslash in fandom generally.

Even so, there are fandoms where femslash is/was much better represented (from my own experience, Buffy and Star Trek Voyager spring to mind, though I know they're not up-to-the-minute current), and not only in quantity but in range - short character pieces and PWP had their place, but there were plenty of longer stories as well. HP writing in general does seem to be rather heavily PWP-based these days, but femslash in particular suffers. (In fact I don't really go in for novel- or even novella-length fic, I prefer short character-centric stories, but still.) I can see that the "the female characters aren't very interesting" argument does have something going for it, as there are far fewer female characters with, well, personalities in Harry Potter than there are male. But I agree with the people above who have pointed out that male characters with nothing beyond a name get masses of attention, thus the argument can only go so far.

I think that the main problem facing femslash writers, and a major reason for the lack of HP femslash, is the almost total lack of female relationships (in the non-romantic sense) portrayed in the books. Obviously we can't be shown the same depth/exploration of friendship, or for that matter enmity, between two women, than we can between Harry and his friends, just because of the Harry-narration. But it isn't just that; there really aren't female/female friendships portrayed in any kind of positive way in Harry Potter. Male/male friendships are generally presented as very important in the books, in keeping with a strong literary tradition of male bonding being placed ahead of relationships with women...

[snipped]

Women, on the other hand, just aren't allowed to have relationships with each other, and when they do, they're almost always seen as negative in some way, and in a negative way that is closely related to their femaleness. Lavender and Parvati are the closest female friendship we have in HP, which Hermione rejects implicitly in favour of the male atmosphere of Harry and Ron's friendship, and all three of the Trio often note and get annoyed by Lavender and Parvati's giggling, focus on clothes/makeup and boys, and general perceived superficiality. *All* girls in Hogwarts seem to turn into giggling wrecks when they're together, which Harry comments on in GoF; a fair few of them develop an added streak of desperate-obsessive-stalker-interested-in-nothing-but-getting-Harry in HBP. Cho's loyalty to Marietta (whether it's deserved or not) makes her an object of absolute contempt by everyone, in contrast to the privileging of loyalty as an essential virtue in m/m friendships (cf. Marauders). I've heard that there is a lot of Cho-hate in fandom generally, and that this loyalty to her best friend is one of the major reasons cited for it, which I'd be interested to know more about; might give an insight into whether this general disregard for female friendship is reflected in fandom. Lily doesn't seem to have any female friends. Ginny doesn't appear to have any real female friends, her main relationships being with her boyfriends and brothers; Luna is something of an exception, though they never really seem to be very close friends (she also has no other female friends - it seems she's closest to Neville now).

Even the usually sensible girls, ie Hermione and Ginny, seem to undergo a personality change when they're together. Almost every time Hermione and Ginny are together, there's some mention of their giggling, thus immediately associating their friendship with the negative stereotype of the gangs of Romilda Vane types...

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Personally, I like femslash, but the lack of available relationships to extrapolate from means I'm usually not that interested in HP femslash. I'd like to see more Hermione/Ginny which focusses on their dark sides - Ginny's former possession must have had some effect on her, and she can be pretty nasty, and Hermione has a pretty wide ruthless streak. I'd like to know what they could do together. But at the moment it seems all they do is talk about boys.
[sophia helix]:

I feel guilty replying to this, because I've run a Femslash Ficathon two years in a row now (femslash04 and femslash05), and yet I've only written two femslash pieces myself out of 40ish stories total, and I rarely seek out femslash to read (although to be fair I pretty much read only what I come across, without actively looking).

I started the Femslash '04 ficathon last year just because I was so frustrated at never seeing enough. I've had wonderful responses both years, ranging from funny/character pieces to straight-up smut, but of course a ficathon won't lend itself to long/plotty entries. I feel like I've done what I could to encourage more femslash (and I've had *fantastic* support from writers and just supportive pimping-friends), but it's still not enough to get femslash out of the ghetto.

I just don't think as many fans are interested in girls as they are in guys, to put it bluntly, because there are more straight fans than bi/lesbian fans. That includes guys in homosexual or heterosexual relationships.

So much of what draws fans to fandom/fanfic seems to be that it's a safe, fun environment in which to explore the opposite sex, both in getting into their heads and reading about getting into their pants, and I think that's the key here. Even writing about girls non-sexually (and again, writing sexually seems to be a big draw) isn't as interesting as writing about the guys.

For me, it's tough because I like reading about girls. I always liked girl characters growing up, and in any given media I can guarantee you my favorite character is a girl. (This is why it took me almost six years to get into m/m slash.) I liked het very much, and then I liked femslash, and then I started reading a lot of m/m because that's where the most interesting stuff was happening.

But...femslash that was written like m/m? Not just a one-shot smutty thing, or h/c, or "understanding," or otherwise lightweight? Oh, my god. I'd be in heaven. And you're making me want to write it, if I only had the time. *g*
[jacquez]:

Honestly, aside from fannish misogyny (about which I have waved my hands and shouted many a time), I think that a lot of the stupidity you see in femslash is not limited to femslash.

There's rampant dumbassery in all genres, and some of the same forms show up in m/m and m/f (or m/m/m or m/f/m or whatever) as readily as they do in f/f.

Sturgeon's Law is Sturgeon's Law is Sturgeon's Law...and this post has just reminded me to go check up on that Xena/Gabby WIP I've been following. :)
[parallactic]:

I have my own real life preferences, and it does influence what I'll read, but sex/gender isn't one of them. I'm used to reading sci-fi/fantasy, so for me, as long as everyone in a romantic/sexual relationship is humanoid, then I'm fine. What gets me reading is liking the characters, the character dynamics with each other, writing quality, having enough fic available, and being able to see it. So in former fandoms, I'll read femslash, in another it's het, and another it's slash. In HP, I'm primarily into gen.

Maybe because it's a textbased medium, but the technical aspects of m/m, f/f, and m/f read similar to me. The genitals are different, but they're still having sex, or romantic feelings for each other. I'm not sure if I'm saying that right. If I like a character, I'll read about them in gen, slash, or het. But there might be only one or two fanfic genres that I find plausible for the characters to be in.

I used to read femslash in another fandom a long time ago. But HP femslash doesn't appeal to me, because the only female character I like is Hermione. I don't see her interacting with anyone else, besides Harry and Ron, in a significant way
[laura m1]:

I read any *good* slash fic I come across, mainly because of a total aversion to het fic. It's a personal quirk, that I just don't understand hetfic; it makes an infinite amount of sense to me for people to nurture same sex sexual relationships, but I can't understand why members of the opposite sex would want to, aside from the procreative necessity of the species.

Of course, I completely understand that I am probably alone in this.
[sethdamien]:

The story is written from the perspective of Harry. Harry may not, and in all likelihood has not, thought about the complex undercurrents that are represented in most relationships, seeing as how he's had his plate full with trying to live up to Sirius's expectations, trying to survive the constant Death Eater/Voldemort attacks, and trying in the mean time to relax and be a boy.

But ultimately it is because there is relatively little fanfic on the subject of female relationships. Fanfic breeds like fanfic, and fanfic is ultimately bred from the story. And so, because the original story is constructed in such a way as to make it difficult to peer into the private lives of the female characters, there is little fanfiction about it. I'm not spurned by the fact that Harry isn't a big strong woman rolemodel, and instead is a character in a novel that is focussed around something bigger than the nuances of adolescent relationships.

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