To what extent does femslash perpetuate the white gaze?

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Title: To what extent does femslash perpetuate the white gaze?
Creator: eshusplayground
Date(s): November 17, 2013
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic: Femslash, Race and Fandom
External Links: To what extent does femslash perpetuate the white gaze?
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To what extent does femslash perpetuate the white gaze? is a post by eshusplayground on "the extent to which whiteness impacts the way people write, respond to, and talk about femslash."

It has 315 notes.

Post

Standard disclaimer: If talking about race in fandom harshes your squee, please don’t be an asshole and leave commentary to the effect of, “Why do you have to bring race into this?”. Just don’t. If this is not something you care to read or talk about, please just keep that to yourself and let those who DO want to have that discussion do so.

Now that that’s out of the way, I want to talk a bit about the white gaze in femslash fandoms. I come with questions such as:

A. How does the white gaze manifest in femslash fandoms?
B. How does this impact femslash fandom in general and women of color femslashers in particular?
C. Is there a way of participating in femslash fandom without prioritizing the white gaze? What are some strategies and tactics for doing that?
D. [some other questions I can’t think of at the moment]

For the purpose of this discussion, I want to make it clear that the white gaze is NOT just the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of white people. It’s the way whiteness identifies itself as a subject and engages with non-white others as objects.

That’s the best way I can sum it up. For more about the white gaze, visit:

And for more about the oppositional gaze, about decentering whiteness in discourse, check out:

Responses

[witchpieceoftoast]:I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this and tossing some ideas around, and I think I’ve come up with some things to add to this (though I haven’t read as much of the links as I wanted to, so I may revisit this after I’ve done so).

The fandom I was most active in before ouat had a major femslash ship that involved a Black woman and a white woman, and there’s a lot of things I’ve been thinking about in terms of that ship since I’ve had some distance from it. The majority of the queer women who participated in that ship (especially in terms of fan work) were probably white women, though there were a number of QWOC as well and one of the critiques I heard about fic from them was that there were very few stories from the Black character’s point of view. At the time, my response to this was along the lines of “well, we tell it from the white woman’s POV because then it can be all about her lavishing the other woman with love and affection!” Which seemed perfectly logical then… but I think this is where white gaze comes in, and that’s not something I’d really been aware of at the time. I can definitely see where it becomes a problem to have so many works where a WOC is the object of a white woman’s love, when there’s so little devoted to her own narrative. Especially when even fewer of those stories told in her voice take race into account in terms of both her narrative and her relationship with someone who is in a place of power over her in terms of race. It starts to become objectifying and othering, and I have no doubt that it can become down right exotifying at times, because it’s never about her or what she feels.

It could be argued that the canon itself never really bothered to bring the Black character’s race into account - always making it more about her class than anything else - but even if this was the only fandom where being color blind in fic was a problem, it would still mean that we’d failed in creating transformative and revolutionary works in regards to this character. It’s hardly just this fandom though, as I’ve gotten into arguments with fellow white queer fangirls over whether or not Regina Mills is even Latina, or if it matters, or if it’s fine to write her with pale skin and pink nipples. A lot of white femslashers seem to be perfectly ok to adore and praise white femslash creators who think this way, and that’s really worrying to me. We like to hold up femslash as this revolutionary part of fandom that wants to reclaim these stories for the women who are left in the shadows or trampled on or thrown from love interest to love interest, but we’re completely neglecting this incredibly important part about some of the women we’re writing. Sometimes it seems that we (white femslashers) believe that just shipping an interracial ship is enough, that we’re doing our part to end racism or whatever because of who we ship, but never paying much attention to how we ship it and making sure that we don’t erase such a vital part of our ship.

[jen4850]:It’s pretty scary to try to write WOC POV when you are not a WOC. But at least get peoples’ appearances correct.

[undertheteacup]:First thing that comes to mind is just plain-old whitewashing of WOC when writing them in femslash: stuff like referring to Regina as having “alabaster” or “pale” skin, pink rather than brown nipples, and referring to characters by their hair-color (the “blonde” and the “brunette”) thereby making it seem like that’s the only significant difference between them. Like they are the same in all other respects, and race is an entirely insignificant aspect of the character or their experience.

References