Why Isn't There More Femslash
|Synonyms:||Why Isn't There More Femslash|
|See also:||Why Slash|
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Why Isn't There More Femslash? is a much discussed topic within fannish spaces when considering the prevalence of femslash. When fans are discussing this subject it is often in comparison to m/m slash, which is perceived to have a much larger presence in fandom than f/f slash.
Some fans have wondered why f/f slash is less common than m/m slash for twenty years or more; others think it is no great mystery and focusing on the question enforces a hierarchy where f/f is seen as less. One of the reasons often given for the higher prevalence of slash over femslash is the limited number of such characters. In a demographics study of fans, Jae found that:
There’s less femmeslash fanfiction than m/m slash (Heather, 2003b; Plotz, 2000; SapphicSlayer, 2003). One of the reasons for this discrepancy is probably the lack of strong, female characters. It’s hard to find a TV show or movie with not one, but two interesting female characters (Kadorienne, 2003). [...]
In the last ten years, however, the amount of femmeslash stories steadily increased along with the increasing appearance of female main characters in TV shows (Chonin, 1999).
Other popular theories about the perceived lack of femslash include:
- Where there are two female characters, they don't often have a relationship, especially a buddy or enemy dynamic which is regarded as shippable.
- Straight women aren't as turned on by the mechanics of f/f, so there is a smaller audience.
- F/f is more common than m/m slashers think, but as there is not much overlap between the m/m and f/f communities, the only parts of f/f fandom that m/m fandom sees are those where the female pairings are minor compared to the main m/m pairing. M/m slashers rarely participate in fandoms that are primarily f/f.
- Femslash is usually written by and for queer female authors, which means there are different identity politics involved; f/f slashers are more likely to already have a like-minded community outside the fannish context (and therefore less likely to seek out m/m-dominated slash fandom?)
- Writing femslash can force female writers to deal with gendered issues that hit close to home, whereas slash can be a form of escape from them.
- Less pre-existing audience, fewer examples, and fewer resources mean writers have less community and are more likely to be discouraged by more critical feedback or less feedback overall.
- Misogyny in Fandom
Some who already have an interest in fandom stats has taken to gathering quantitative data on the amount of femslash produced, mainly from sources such as Archive of Our Own, in order to track the growth of femslash. While Archive of Our Own is one of the easiest archives to gather data from it has been noted that it leads to a statistical bias. This is due to the archive still being relatively young within fandoms, and the initial pattern of adoption has led to it disproportionately favouring M/M shipping more than fandom in general. It has been found that statistically speaking, femslash is generally uncommon, however it continues to grow year on year.
In 2013, centrumlumina also did an analysis of Archive of Our Own relationship tags, and concluded that 5.0% of all fics were tagged as F/F, including those with multiple relationship tags. The analysis also showed that of the most common pairings in fandom, only 4 were F/F, and that in the most popular fics tagged with each of those F/F pairings, 43% of the time the F/F pairing met the definition of a side pairing.
Some fandoms have more femslash than others, and in 2013 Destination: Toast! also did an analysis of Archive of Our Own to examine which these were. The analysis includes both which fandoms have the highest proportions of femslash, and which had the most F/F works altogether. Genderswap was also factored in to account for inconsistencies in tagging.
In January 2015, Destination: Toast! compiled some statistics on the state of femslash fandom on Archive of Our Own. The most written-about femslash pairings at the time were Swan Queen (Once Upon a Time) (by some considerable distance), Brittana (Glee), Rachel/Quinn (Glee), Rose Lalonde/Kanaya Maryam (Homestuck), Laura Hollis/Carmilla Karnstein (Carmilla), Myka Bering/Helena Wells (Warehouse 13), Korrasami (The Legend of Korra), Rizzoli/Isles (Rizzoli and Isles), Alison/Lydia (Teen Wolf) and Jemma/Skye (Agents of Shield).
To celebrate Femslash February in 2016, Destination: Toast! compiled more femslash statistics from Archive of Our Own. They found that 9% of fanworks were tagged as F/F. This was an increase from the previous years and indicated that both the number of femslash fanworks created and the percentage of the archive that they took up were on the rise.
The most active femslash ships in the previous year were Swan Queen (Once Upon a Time), Laura Hollis/Carmilla Karnstein (Carmilla), Clexa (The 100), Korrasami (The Legend of Korra), Peggy Carter/Angie Martinelli (Agent Carter), Root/Shaw (Person of Interest), Historia Reiss/Ymir (Shingeki no Kyojin), Rose Lalonde/Kanaya Maryam (Homestuck), Chloe Beale/Beca Mitchell (Pitch Perfect) and Maxine Caulfield/Chloe Price (Life is Strange). Of those top ten femslash pairings, six of them were the most popular pairing in their fandom overall. Other fandoms inspired lots of femslash for a variety of pairings, with no one pairing dominating. The Teen Wolf, Dragon Age, Steven Universe, Supernatural and Harry Potter fandoms all created large amounts of femslash material in that year.
The AO3 Ship Stats Top 100 list for 2016 (the first of its kind) featured seven femslash pairings: Clexa (#6), Swan Queen (#23), Laura Hollis/Carmilla Karnstein (#50), Alphys/Undyne (Undertale, #59), Samantha Groves/Sameen Shaw (Person of Interest, #91), Kara Danvers/Cat Grant (Supergirl, #94) and Korrasami (#95).
The AO3 Ship Stats for 2019 identified just three F/F pairings in the top 100 most popular ships on AO3: Swan Queen (#35), Clexa (#38) and Kara Danvers/Lena Luthor (Supergirl) (#50). In a follow-up Tumblr post made in response to another user, centrumlumina noted that 8% of works on AO3 were tagged F/F, with 50% tagged M/M, 25% tagged F/M and 19% tagged gen.
Meta & Further Reading
- Some Thoughts on Femslash by Kadorienne (January 25, 2003)
- M/M vs. F/F by tehlils (January 11, 2005)
- Femslash - Feminism, Women, and Potterverse by volsi (September 26, 2005)
- Community, Identity, and Femslash by viciouswishes (August 1, 2006)
- Femslash - Readers, Writers and LJ by trancer21 (August 7, 2006)
- Why is there so little geeky academic discussion of femslash? by carmarthen (February 20, 2007)
- It’s complicated: possible reasons for the lack of femslash by centrumlumina (August 29, 2013)
- Femslash: Demystifying Fandom’s Gender Disparity by lierdumoa (2015)
- Young, Female, Single…?: A Study of Demographics and Writing-/Reading-Habits of Fanfiction Writers and Readers by Jae. Posted prior to September 2010. Accessed December 3, 2016.
- A chart illustrating all of the possible explanations people have suggested for the lack of femslash in my AO3 ship stats survey.
- Stage 7: Panfandom Overview.
- Stage Four: Summary, see also the original data here, and how the pairings were selected here.
- Stage 9: Side Pairings. A side pairing was defined "as those which a) are not the sole relationship tag present... and b) do not have any of the characters in the relationship mentioned by name in the summary."
- Which fandoms have the most femslash on AO3?.
- FF Stats January 2015
- F/F Stats Femslash February 2016
- AO3 Ship Stats 2016: This Year's Top 100 by centrumlumina via Tumblr. Published August 4, 2016 (Accessed November 23, 2019).
- AO3 Ship Stats 2019 Overall Top 100 by centrumlumina via Tumblr. Published July 24, 2019 (Accessed November 23, 2019).
- That’s interesting, but I’m doubtful of your methodology. by centrumlumina via Tumblr. Published July 26, 2019 (Accessed November 23, 2019).