Wank

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Synonyms: controversy, kerfuffle, discourse, fan war, fan feud
See also: Fandom Wank, SlashFic Hall of Shame, Social Experiment, Flame War
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Wank is a synonym for masturbation. In mainstream UK slang, wank means nonsense or rubbish. There are several fannish definitions for the term wank.

Also see kerfuffle and discourse.

Definition

1. A loud and public online argument, often involving many participants outside of the initiating members, and often devolving into side-taking, hyperbole, and personal attacks. Use of "wank" may especially indicate a debate which occurs over and over with nobody ever changing their minds, such as whether authors should use warnings, or write incest fic. Example: "There's another RPF wank going around. I'm staying out of it."

2. A catchall term for objectionable or contemptible fannish behavior. Plagiarism, character bashing, sockpuppetting, blatant self-aggrandizement, and trolling are all wanky behaviors.

3. Wank or fanwank can apply to elaborate canon-rationalization or theorizing.

Variations

Wank is used as a suffix to reference particular kinds of wank, usually based on topic or motive.

Grudgewank is wank where someone is stirring up trouble on one topic because they're upset about some other, unrelated topic. Grudgewank is often suspected or speculated rather than confirmed or admitted.

Controversy

Some fans have objected to the use of wank to describe discussions or arguments about serious issues like racism or sexism, in any given fandom or in fandom as a whole, as it is felt that equating these issues with lesser issues such as ship wars trivializes them. In 2007, zvi wrote:

There also appears to be operating a disconnect on the meaning of the words 'wank' and 'kerfluffle'. When I hear the word 'wank' applied to mediafandom meta discussion, I understand it to dismiss the discussion in question not only on the basis of it being too loud and emotional for the dismisser to participate, but also on the idea that the issue at hand is unimportant.[1]

A post by Same Old Hope published in the same year challenged the idea that fans speaking out on topics like body image and cultural appropriation should be classed as "wank":

But when it's the next shortsighted historical AU or offensive kink challenge, or skanky body issues or cultural appropriation- stand up if you can help, shut up if you can't, but always, actively remember that these strikepoints are moments when people can literally change the world for the better. … Whatever you call that, it's not wank.[2]

In a 2020 essay entitled 'What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Fandom Wank', Stitch wrote,

Labeling the posts that fans of color make about racist fanworks (from accidental issues of representation to purposeful content created to harm) and racism from fans (again ranging from “I didn’t know this was an issue” moments to sustained targeted harassment) as “wank” or “drama” actually does contribute to people writing off what we’re talking about and experiencing.

...

At the end of the day, if you use “fandom wank” or “drama” as your tags or terminology when you’re talking about folks talking about racism in fandom, you’re actively contributing to a culture of fandom that ignores that real harm is happening to fans of color in fandom because of the different levels of racism here.[3]

Suggested alternate terms have included imbroglio[4], debate[5] or discussion. From zvi's Pro-Character of Color/Anti-Racism Guide:

Talking about racism is not a stupid thing. So don't call it a wank, as if people are overreacting to something stupid. Suggested alternate vocabulary: argument, conversation, debate, fight, imbroglio, metastorm.[6]

Since around 2015, "discourse" can be considered to have fulfilled this role as a term that implies more serious debate and blurs the boundaries between meta, fannish discussion and wank, but it is disliked by many fans for this reason, as they perceiving it to be disguising the pointlessly masturbatory nature of wank and/or twisting the meaning of the term "discourse", which should by rights refer to something more worthwhile.[7]

As near as I can tell, [discourse] means “don’t call it wank, I am wanking about Very Serious Issues, you guys!" [8]
I know discourse is the word of choice in fandom nowadays but I kind of wish we would have stuck with “fandom wank” because it carries the implication that the anger involved culminated into effectively nothing and that the act was wholeheartedly masturbatory in nature rather than for any greater cause.[7]
Wants to tell others what they’re allowed to do in fandom, but doesn’t even know the good old term fandom wank. Which is, imho, a far better term to describe the utter ridiculousness going on instead of the overused “discourse”. That’s just elevating the fucking wank over “Wah wah wah you’re not allowed to write/draw/ship this because I want to pose as morally better than you on the internet!” to a pseudo-acaemic level by using vocabulary that simulates that there’s an actual debate to be had.[9]

For more on this, refer to the full article on Discourse.

Communities

Dedicated communities have sprung up around debating, spectating and commenting on fandom wank, the most notorious being Fandom Wank. Fail-Fandomanon is another which sprung up around a particular wank incident, the Vividcon warnings wank of 2010,[10] and developed into a broader community. Wank is a common activity on communities such as Fanficrants.

In the years following Strikethrough, every time LiveJournal staff posted an official update of any sort, there were been loud protests from some members of fandom; this caused a common attempt to post "In before wank!" in the first handful of replies. (Sometimes it was accurate, sometimes not.)

Some communities and forums are declared to be "wank-free," meaning the moderator staff will censor discussions that are becoming too heated, insulting or off-topic. Disemvoweling is sometimes used in these places.

Further Reading

References

  1. ^ News and Notes by zvi via LiveJournal, published August 4, 2007 (Accessed May 31, 2021). Archive link.
  2. ^ The original essay (Wanking Fandom, Saving the World) is offline at the original link and not archived, but this excerpt is preserved in zvi's Pro-Character of Color/Anti-Racism Guide, accessed May 31, 2021. Archive link.
  3. ^ What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Fandom Wank, Stitch's Media Mix. Published September 5, 2020 (Accessed May 31, 2021. Archive link
  4. ^ A little bit more about imbroglio (I am still retired, though) by zvi, November 1, 2007.
  5. ^ Untitled LiveJournal post by coffeeandink, October 29, 2007.
  6. ^ Pro-Character of Color/Anti-Racism Guide by zvi, LiveJournal, August 10, 2007. Accessed May 31, 2021.
  7. ^ a b https://web.archive.org/web/20170423171834/http://dirkar.tumblr.com:80/post/150327980536/i-know-discourse-is-the-word-of-choice-in-fandom
  8. ^ Other Worlds (caramelsilver: Dear fandom, WHAT THE FUCK does...), Archived version, reblogged 27 October 2016. (accessed 29 October 2016)
  9. ^ Response to me calling screeching over anthropomorphised cookies “wank”: by lordhellebore via Tumblr. Published August 31, 2019 (Accessed May 30, 2021).
  10. ^ Why FFA Was Started, sunnycamehome2u, April 12, 2012 (Accessed May 30, 2021).