Stitch Talks Toxic Fandom

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Title: Stitch Talks Toxic Fandom
Creator: Stitch
Date(s): 7 June 2018 (original Patreon post; published to her blog 9 June)
Medium: Podcast/audio post and transcript
Fandom: Pan-fandom
Topic: Fandom wank and toxicity, racism in fandom, curative vs transformative fandom
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Stitch Talks Toxic Fandom is an audio meta essay published to Stitch's Media Mix. The blog post itself contains both the original audio and a text transcript of the audio.

In the essay, Stitch (a black fan and author of critical essays about fandom) discusses issues of fandom racism, wank and fandom toxicity, and debunks the widespread idea that transformative fandom is somehow inherently less racist or problematic than curatorial fandom (also called curative fandom).

She then goes on to give examples of pervasive harassment within transformative fandom (directed towards actors of colour and also fans of colour who call out fandom racism) and of the ways in which members of transformative fandom (predominantly white women) can be racist, and discusses fans' dismissal of the existence of fandom racism, or their insistence that it only takes place in curative fandom (which is seen as predominantly being made up of white men).

The original audio post was first published to Stitch's Patreon on 7 June, before being published and transcribed on the Stitch's Media Mix blog two days later. The audio transcript also contains some additional notes and asides with links or follow-up thoughts.

Some Excerpts From the Essay Transcript

What I’ve been talking about on Twitter about toxic fandom, and that I want to bring here to Patreon to talk about, is the way that toxic fandom is viewed as something that only happens with white guys.

Many, many tweets that have gotten really popular in the wake of this, I mean thousands of retweets, maybe even millions, have been tweets that say things like, “The Star Wars fandom has a white dude problem”, or, “White nerds are the most toxic.”

There’s a tweet thread and I saw someone, I feel like maybe one of my mutuals on Twitter retweeted and was like, “Yes, this is the most aware thread I’ve seen on this.” That was like, “This is what happens in a curatorial fandom, not transformative fandom.”

And I think that’s really what I want to talk about:

This need that these fans have to distance themselves and their fannishness from the “toxic fans” or the not real fans.

A real fan isn’t someone that loves everything. It’s someone that loves a specific thing, or specific set of things.

Trying to reframe this whole conversation as, “Real fans don’t do X”, is unhelpful.

The difference between the two sets of fandom — and they’re not really two separate sets — because transformative fandom collects facts for use in something like cosplay or fan works.

Curatorial fandom collects for collecting, because they like having that knowledge because there are dragons hoarding it. What about like… I collect things, because I like collecting things, but I also use them.

It’s like this is binary either you’re — if you’re in fandom, you’re either collecting or you’re creating. That doesn’t really work for me, because what about us who collect to create.

In 2015 I wrote a post called Slash Shipping Pseudo-Progressivism or something like that.

It was about the ways that just because you ship a white dude slash ship, that doesn’t mean you’ve just ended bigotry. You can still be racist, misogynistic, whatever, and one of the ways that shows up is in these white dude slash shipping ships were women of color, or people of color and white women are erased, killed off, demonized, et cetera.

That got I think about 5,000 notes on Tumblr, the original post that linked to my website. It’s got a couple thousand hits, like people actually clicked through it. I also got a ton of anonymous hate. I got people linking to me, mocking me so I’d click the referrers, and it would be like, Fail-Fandomanon, or someone running an anonymous meme on their own Dreamwidth account, or someone mocking me on a Tumblr Ask.

These were people who were calling me– like they were really going off like insulting my intelligence. I saw a couple insult my looks, which aren’t even related because I’m really cute, but whatever.

[Note: I dropped a thought (possibly more than one) but when I bring up the direct and racist fannish response to my one post on slash shipping, racism, and misogyny, I was supposed to follow that up with how despite the fact that my first post on racebending was liked on TumblrInAction, hardly anyone actually interacted with me from the post despite getting between 3000-5000 views in a single day.

“Curatorial” fandom, mainly kept their shit to reddit.

Transformative fandom needed me to know how inferior it thought I/my ideas were and that my womanhood was less valuable than theirs (their need for slash fandom to explore their identities > my need for characters that look like me to not be erased or reduced to nanny figures, natch)]

Fandom is currently impacting reality and I hate that when we have these conversations about toxic fandom, there’s always this like, “Oh, well, so and so deserved it.” You generally get like with the Kelly Marie Tran stuff, people were like, “Well, her character was terrible.”

Doesn’t warrant harassment.

In fandom, um people make up stuff or they misrepresent stuff and then when that person gets bullied, they deserved it.

And it’s just — Toxic fandom is fandom.

If you haven’t noticed that fandom is racist you’re not looking.

Related Twitter Threads

Around the same time that the essay was published, Stitch posted two Twitter threads which dealt with some of the same issues that she raised in the essay: in particular the harassment from Star Wars fans directed at actress Kelly Marie Tran, and why the notion that "real fans" don't harass people is dismissive of the problems inherent within fandom.

Thread One: Excerpts

All the "fandom isn't racist"/"fandom protects its own" takes with KMT bug me because that's... never been true.

Fandom has always been racist. Both the collector side and the transformative side.

And both of those sides of fandom don't generally see WOC as part of "its own"

If you can't talk about how awful this is without

A) erasing that this is the reality for WOC in fandom who get in the way of what white fans want

B) acknowledging that fandom racism never has been just a white dude problem

You shouldn't be talking until you get it...

The star wars fandom has been toxic to people of color, both fans & performers (like have y'all see the comments John Boyega has been getting FOR YEARS)

And much of that harassment is coming from white fans. Dudes may seem to have the monopoly on it, but only in certain spaces.

Thread Two: Excerpts

"real fans are about loving stuff"

Yes, but what happens when they feel as though something (usually related to a marginalized person or character) is ruining, infringing on, or corrupting the thing they love?

Seems like they get intensely and irrationally angry.

"real fans" of nerdy content have historically done what they could to make sure the thing they love is put out in a way they want it to... and harassing content creators, media crews, and performers?

Has been a thing in both curatorial and transformative fandom spaces.

Like I keep saying:

Fandom has been shitty for a while on multiple levels and in different ways.

The idea that "real fans" don't harass people, don't get over invested, don't hurt people...

Is not going to mean much to people in fandom who've been harassed by the "real fans"