Genderswaps in Fanfic - Looking For A Femslash Perspective

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Title: Genderswaps in Fanfic - Looking For A Femslash Perspective
Creator: havocthecat
Date(s): January 22nd, 2009
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic: Fanfiction, Femslash, genderswap
External Links: Genderswaps in Fanfic - Looking For A Femslash Perspective, Archived version
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Genderswaps in Fanfic - Looking For A Femslash Perspective is meta post by havocthecat on genderswaps within femslash.

Post

I'm specifically curious about the femslasher's perspective, but, even if you're not a femslasher, please feel free to hop in and tell me how you feel. Because, well, I'm curious. My one caveat is that, no matter what your opinion is, that you be respectful of others when commenting. (I don't think that's going to be a problem, but I state it as a Just In Case kind of thing.)

BTW, this is a public post. I know I friendslock a lot of things, but I'm hoping to solicit opinions off f_t.

Is everyone familiar with the fandom cliche of the genderswap? In case not, there are several iterations:

1. One or both characters (usually in a relationship) have their gender changed from male to female. This is either permanent or temporary. For example, John Crichton is on an off-world mission, and Random Misfiring Peacekeeper Technology has changed him from a man to a woman.

2. One or both characters has, in contrast with canon, been born and has always been female. For example, Meredith Rodney McKay is, in fact, a girl, has always been a girl, and, in fact, is totally comfortable with this fact.

3. Sometimes combined with the bodyswap, so that two characters have changed bodies. For example, Mulder and Scully encounter a creature of the week with Weird Powers, and wake up the next morning in each other's bodies.

I'm aware that #1 and #2 have been applied to female characters in fanfic, but, let's face it, this is not that common. In SGA, I've read five stories that involve female-to-male genderswap. I'll allow that there are probably more out there, but given that the SGA genderswap comm name is sga_genderfuck, I don't browse it that often due to NWS issues.

(abyssinia4077, can we please not talk about the eye-bleedy horror that Sam/Janet story was? I don't think it counts due to the sheer awfulness of the writing that was involved.)

Some people, who are on my friendslist, think that this is a wonderful way to explore gender and sexuality. Some other people, who are also on my friendslist, think that this is a way to remove the female characters from a story while painting a thin veneer of not having done so on there.

I AM NOT SAYING ONE OR THE OTHER VIEWPOINT IS CORRECT. OKAY? Because this isn't about me taking sides, or supporting one point of view over the other. I'm just really damn curious what The Fannish Intarwebs thing of the whole thing. It's about me wondering this: How do you feel that this genre falls on the spectrum of genre, specifically, with regards to femslash?

Does it count as femslash if Dean Winchester wakes up one morning as a girl and gets it on with Jo Harvelle? Or is it het?

What about if John Sheppard and Evan Lorne are (and have always been) Jonna Sheppard and Evelyn Lorne, and they're in a relationship? Is it femslash, or is it slash?

How about if Galinda and Elphaba wake up in the middle of Wicked and discover they've become boys due to the Weird Wondrousness of Oz? (I mean, jeez, don't even get me started on the canon gender-messed-uppiness that Ozma must feel. *loves Ozma*) What do Galinda and Elphaba do upon waking up as boys? (Aside from snipe at each other until they find common ground.)

Or is the entire genre a whole different thing entirely, with weird and nebulous definitions that don't quite fit anywhere else, and so you can't actually call it anything specific?

ETA: I have both read and written genderswap fic. Just so you know. (The allure of making John Sheppard deal with PMS was undeniable, okay? I should really finish that one and post it.)

Comments at the Post

[holdouttrout]:
Ooooh. Thinky thoughts. Personally, I think genderswap can be either a wonderful way to explore gender and sexuality, or a way to remove female characters from a story while painting a thin veneer of not having done so. It really depends on the author/story/characters. OR it can simply be done for fun--the chance to make a lighthearted joke, or show a character's unwillingness to serve as the butt of the joke.

I think genderswap of characters in slash pairings is usually created for that slash pairing's audience, and thus, isn't femslash as femslashers (usually) define it. Yes, there is female genitalia involved, but it's not as important as the characters involved.

Now I'm running into problems, because people do tend to define themselves as a slasher, femslasher, gen-er, or het-er, but many people have all sorts of different pairings, especially in different fandoms. I myself am gen in some fandoms, het in others, write girlslash on occassion, and have even been known to slash a couple of hot men.

I also have trouble because I think one of the questions genderswap is trying to answer is how essential gender *is.* How much change can a character bear before he/she is no longer the same person?

Oh, dear. I'm getting confused again.

[groovekittie]:
I would have to say it's femslash. Because that's the whole point to genderswap, isn't it? Because it's to explore the character as a female, and all aspects of that character and their relationships as that gender ... whether they be hetersexual relationships or not. How they would relate to their best friends as a different gender, would they be lovers? Or friends? Or what?

At least that's what genderswap was for me. I never really got into it a whole lot, but the idea of it was always really intriguing for me. :) I have a little girl!Rodney story that's always sat at the back of my head for years now. :P

[brightknightie]:
Thank you for posting this question. I've read all the comments, and learned a lot about what people think.

Fans do seem mostly to behave as if the classification of a story should depend on the original canon sex of the characters, regardless of what happens in the story. It's a classification guideline everyone can understand, anyway. I like some of the other possibilities -- especially classifying by the end product of permanent genderswap scenarios (not temporary ones) -- but I imagine they'd be challenging to get everyone to understand and observe in lists, archives and communities.

It seems in general as if m/m fans are perfectly happy reading their characters genderswapped to f/f, but many f/f fans recoil from the reverse. The reasons are sensible, of course, but it has interesting effects on readership, and many authors are influenced by what people seem willing to read.

As you know, Forever Knight has next to no genderbending fanfic. It's just not a scenario we do. I recall one instance of it in War 8 ("Cinderella's War") of course -- someone pulled up a Nichole Knight -- but that's all I can recall! I've been puzzling on that for a while, and I've concluded that we're a canon-bound fandom for many reasons, but not least is the time-scope. In FK, and HL, and some others, fantasy universes with characters who are hundreds (even thousands) of years old, the accumulated and compounding differences of a life lived as the other sex would become, in that time, so huge that the present-day character would necessarily be so very different, the entwined canonical history so very tangled, that perhaps it's just too much overall to tackle. A born-female Nick is just not going to end up as our Nick -- starting with not going to Wales, not being sent on Crusade, not meeting Janette and Lacroix...

The human characters could conceivably be genderswapped. It's not the same uphill climb through centuries of culture. And yet no one does it. And I'm not sure I want them to! (Male Natalie? Female Schanke? Male Tracy? No...) But it is very curious, how some fandoms have so many AUS of all sorts, while others have almost none further off the track than "this diverges from canon there."

[silvainshadows]:
Here via metafandom, and this is making me think. A lot.

I'm thinking genderswap just doesn't fit into the whole het/slash/femslash categories. It's sort of an inbetween, like... say TemporaryGirl!Dean/Jo would be somewhere inbetween het and femslash, closer to the het side of things because of how Dean thinks/acts- he's very much male and having girl bits doesn't really change that- but the bodies are female, so it's sort-of-almost-femslash to some people.

Really, though, I think it depends on why you read certain types of fanfic. If you read femslash because you want to read about girl-sex, then the girl!Dean/Jo example would be femslash-y enough for you, most likely. If you're interested in exploring the characters more, then it's probably more het than femslash to you.

AU was-always-other-gender type fics, however, fall into the het/slash/femslash categories a bit more neatly, though the downside to this is how much harder they are to write well. I can't really say much else on those, since I only read them on high recommendation.

Also, I would absolutely love anyone who writes that TemporaryGirl!Dean/Jo fic. You've gotten me intrigued just by mentioning the idea. (And I don't even read Dean/Jo, usually, so that's amazing.)