On Female Characters and Femslash in the Silmarillion Fandom
|Title:||On Female Characters and Femslash in the Silmarillion Fandom|
|Date(s):||26 January 2015|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
On Female Characters and Femslash in the Silmarillion Fandom is an essay by vefanyar, posted in January 2015 to The Fan Meta Reader. It reflects on the low prevalence of femslash in fanfiction for Tolkien's The Silmarillion, as well as ways of redressing the balance.
- Although 91% of Tolkien fanfiction writers were female in a survey by Dawn Felagund, guyslash is much more popular than femslash
- Number of stories on AO3 and tumblr appears positively correlated to complex, strongly-written female characters in current fandoms such as Orphan Black, Orange Is the New Black, Sleepy Hollow, Elementary, The 100, Carmilla & Legend of Korra
- Lack of female characters is one problem in Tolkien fandom, with only 18% of Middle-earth characters being female, and existing female characters are often:
- When all Silmarillion characters are archetypal, with substantial transformative work being needed to flesh them out, why do fans put the effort in for Figwit and not for female characters?
- The textual blank space can be viewed as an opportunity
The flowchart lists a lack of female characters in the source material as one of the factors, and I’d be lying if I didn’t think that was one of the major problems with Tolkien, both in canon and in fanworks. It comes supported, of course, by Tolkien’s propensity to not just seriously underwrite female presence (only 18% of Middle-earth’s known population are female, and there is a staggering amount of textual ghosts), but to background or fridge the female characters who do exist, in particular when they have “served their purpose” i.e. the men in their lives are dead or gone, or, as Éowyn puts it: All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. ...
It’s even more true for femslash. When – on the surface, at least – there is barely anything to work with for any given female character, and barely any other female characters for her to form meaningful interactions and connections with, the prospect of actually writing about them sometimes sounds like the opposite of fun. ...In fact, the often unhelpful narrative treatment of female characters and the relatively blank space that surrounds them can easily be viewed as a blessing in disguise: both provide fantastic material for a transformative effort and artistic license, rather than having to squeeze a character or plot into the nooks and crannies of existing text. Inferring from the social and cultural background of female characters as well as examining contradictions or missing information in their canon treatment can make for compelling questions and stories with female characters at their heart and center. I like to think that interrogating a text from this perspective and writing accordingly will actually make a story strongly connected to the Legendarium, even affirmative of it if the writer so desires, but without actively perpetuating Tolkien’s reductive view of female characters or being confined to the traditional roles the texts often present. Different possible answers to the same questions that arise from female characters’ stories also reduce the likelihood of arriving at precisely the same conclusion as another writer who got there first. Fanon is much less ubiquitous than with more famous male characters, making it much easier to write outside the fannish box.