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Still don't believe in male privilege in fandom?

I give you Exhibit A. Here we have a report on WriterCon from an articulate, intelligent-sounding man. An articulate, intelligent-sounding man who says this about slashfic:

"Taken in its rawest form, that situation would go as follows: the people who formed and maintained a fandom for years, purely from love of the world and its characters, find themselves invaded by a new crowd enthusiastically producing (and celebrating) a mass of stories built around a premise revolting to the original fandom group and glaringly OOC for the fandom characters involved [...] The fandom is being flat-out ruined for its builders by something utterly alien and utterly incompatible with everything they originally loved in it."

This casual dismissal of slash writers and readers exudes privilege.

-We were here first:
This man assumes that fandom was built by non-slashers - also implying, I would guess, that these non-slash fans are men. The problem is, slash has been around since the early days of Star Trek, and may have been the first form of mass-distributed fanfic (it's hard to tell, fanthropology being as slippery as it is). Women and/or slashers may not have been heard or given much credit, but they were there from the get-go. I would posit that this is true of nearly every fandom - at the very least, it's true of Jossverse fandom, which is the subject of the man's statement.

-My view is "normal":
"Glaringly OOC"? How do you figure that? Sure, slashfic can have unbelievable angst or shmoopiness, but such OOC-ness can be found just as often in hetfic. But he goes on to explain what he means by "out of character":

"Just as a matter of form, wouldn't attention to characterization include NOT habitually homosexualizing a major character who had been canonically presented as exclusively heterosexual?"

Just because a character isn't explicitly stated as being homosexual doesn't mean s/he can't be homosexual. Just because a character is in a heterosexual relationship doesn't mean that s/he can't be bisexual, or even end up being homosexual. Ignoring these possibilities, and assuming that everyone is consistently/immutably straight like you - and furthermore, assuming that different portrayals are incorrect - shoves your heterosexual experience to the forefront. In other words, it's privileged.

-You have to tolerate me, but I don't have to tolerate you:
The assertion that fandom is being "ruined" for the (supposedly) original group of fans ignores one very important thing: everyone else has had to tolerate being "invaded" by these so-called original fans all along. (Female) slashers have had to put up with being marginalized and often criticized for their fandom practices; by insisting that they are the norm and ostracizing others, non-slashers have been much more invasive in their attitudes than slashers. (I say this as a person who has been a member of both the slash and the non-slash camp, according to the specific fandom.) This writer is saying that the mere presence of slashers - regardless of whether or not they actually force slash on any other fans - is "ruining" his fandom.

This is a very common reaction among privileged groups who see their monopoly in danger: men interpret a 50% (or less) presence of women as women dominating a group. (I believe similar studies have been done on white people with POCs, but I'm not sure.) And that's privilege - when a loss in advantage by the dominant group is seen as unfair treatment, rather than movement toward equality.

So how about this?

"There's no denying that slash is a major current in fanfiction ... but, damn it, heterosexuality really is the human norm (not just a presumed standard, but the actual stance of the majority of the human race), and I'm getting almighty weary of having slash automatically assigned the default position in fanfic discussions."

I think this reply says it best: "Congratulations, you now know what it feels like to be queer."

Exclusive heterosexuality is not the norm. Again, this is treating a loss in advantage - a reduction in the assumption that everyone, everywhere is straight - as something that's wrong and ought to be fixed.

Homophobia intertwines so beautifully - or should I say, hideously - with sexism. Fear of being like a woman = fear of being gay. Both represent a 'loss' in masculinity, such that the presence of homosexuality is treated like an offense, whether or not it actively 'threatens' the straight men. And the fact that the prevalence of slash correlates with the prevalence of women - well, that's twice the blow to straight male dominance.

Or how about this?

"And, even if the slashers in Buffyfic maintain that they're not motivated by the smug satisfaction that comes from rubbing someone's face in something that appalls him, it still feels, to those subjected to it, exactly like gleeful oppression."

If you think women talking about buttsex is the extent of oppression, I invite you to switch places with me for a day. Seriously.

Now here comes the gem of the post, and the real expression of privilege:

"Imagine Buffy fandom being swamped by hordes of fifteen-year-old males who thought rapefic was the swellest thing ever, especially when the women — Buffy, Willow, Dawn, and let's not forget Tara — discover they had actually wanted it all along."

SLASH IS NOT RAPEFIC. Reading about gay characters - or, in this man's case, hearing other people say that they like reading about gay characters - is not the same as seeing a group of people indulge in fantasies about controlling, abusing, and violating you. A group of people who are part of a dominant population that often does control, abuse, and violate people like you. Jesus H. Christ.

But, you know, I almost can't get mad - because that statement wasn't malicious so much as ignorant. It's not that he was aggressively trying to make women disturbed and fearful by bringing up the idea of rape - it's that he didn't think it was a big deal. I don't think he understood how egregious the comparison was.

And that's just it. I see, all the time, men dismissing the impact of rape - its prevalence, the fear that women have of it, the effect it has on a survivor. I've seen men say that it isn't a big deal that women are afraid to go out at night/alone/with strangers/wearing attractive clothing/to a bar/to a party/on a date. I've seen men talk about how much worse it is for men who have to fear false accusations of rape, because that's so much harder than 'just' being raped. They think they're being fair and logical, but they just have no idea what any of this actually feels like.

There, right there, is the heart of privilege. This man said something horribly offensive - and a lot of other things that were just offensive - without really meaning to. He wasn't trying to be rude or malicious. He just ... didn't notice.

That's how privilege works in fandom. This man isn't actively oppressing women by attacking them or pushing them out of his chosen hobby. Most men aren't. They just exploit the advantages they already get every day in the rest of the world, without being aware of it. This straight man is used to having his fear of the Other - male homosexuality, especially as depicted by women - accomodated. He expected the same in his fandom.

Too bad for him. Fandom is a place where the Other gets to try to reclaim some of its space - privilege can take a back seat.


( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 2nd, 2006 03:02 am (UTC)
Well, yeah, they want women to join geekdom in order to become their girlfriends - essentially, to become geeks because it benefits men. They don't want women who become geeks just because (gasp) they want to. And then maybe these women will ... do things that men don't like.

To be fair, I don't think this guy was saying all that. But he did show himself to be highly uncomfortable by people challenging straight/male dominance (to the point that he thought women enjoying a slash vid were being "hostile" - did you see that?).
Aug. 1st, 2006 10:14 pm (UTC)
This is a very nice break down of the privilege inherent in what he had to say. Thank you!
Aug. 2nd, 2006 03:02 am (UTC)
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it!
Aug. 1st, 2006 10:53 pm (UTC)
There's a lot said in this and that other article that I've witnessed for years in fandom. Good points all around. And I'm thankful for the space of fandom being so easy to express myself in. I'm also thankful for the men I know in fandom, 'cause they're totally cool and go with the flow without feeling threatened. Hell, I've specifically asked some of my straight male fans why they like my art, which is usually aimed at women. And they said it's 'cause they simply like my art, and if they ran across one of my yaoi pics and didn't want to see it... then they just wouldn't look at it. They had no reason to stop watching me entirely just because some of my interests didn't match their's, or some of my interests could have even been offensive to them. They said they liked that I draw what I want to, and they enjoy seeing me express my personality no matter the subject. I thought that was way cool.

On another topic: a random observation about a certain fandom--Wrestling. Yes, there's a pretty active fandom for it.

I find it really interesting to note that not only is the show itself pretty equally oversexed for both genders (we see just as much naked man ass, man groping, and dumb buff guys as we see big blonde boobie airheaded gals kicking each other in the face). It's equal exploitation of all, with raging testosterone AND estrogen... which I find entirely wonderful (if only they would get a female announcer to make comments on the side about how hot the guys are, there would be a damn state of zen). ^o^ Girls will fight for their own honor, they'll fight for guys' honor, to protect their men, or fight as equal partners with men, etc. It's a rare case when a guy is trying to protect a girl on that show, and the women characters are always smarter (with exception to one, but each gender has a "slow" character).

And dude, wrestling has a HUGE straight male audience. They like strong women just as much as strong men. Hell, there's more guys fighting to protect other guys, and really touching close male alliances that go deeper than friendship... there's even been male on male kissing. And there's STILL a huge straight male audience (it boggles my mind). Yes, wrestling in general is there for the entirely shallow purpose of eyecandy and violence, which is a really male-oriented genre. Perhaps that's why there's not as many female wrestling fans--they think it's all just fighting. But all the guys who watch it seriously can't be overlooking some of these more (IMO) women-friendly themes. Hell, it's a damn dramatic and emotional soap opera during the plot scenes. ^^

Anyway, as far as the fandom goes, it's the same. Because there are more male wrestling fans in the world than female, the fandom has more guys than normal fandoms. Which actually makes the fandom pretty actively 50/50 guy/girl (at least the places where I've been). And the guys are great with tolerating the gay slash, and they like lesbian slash, and everyone likes het slash... and I've seen no one get up in arms about any of it (the only bickering that goes on is over who wants who to win next week--lots of character bashing, not fan bashing). Everyone just posts what they fancy and there's really a wide variety of types of pairings. And yanno, even the uglier wrestlers get just as much praise as the pretty ones, and there's lots of equality where race is concerned too. It's only too bad that they're all the worst fics ever written, but that's another thing altogether. ^^

Maybe everyone gets along so well tho because the majority isn't women, I dunno. Maybe the guys would feel more threatned if too many girls came into the fandom... but they haven't been offended by the girls thus far. All I know is that this is my first live-action non-anime fandom and it's WORLDS different. Maybe Harry Potter and LotR and other live-action TV shows have fandoms closer to this, but anime is a really different beast. It's refreshing for the variety, anyway.
Aug. 2nd, 2006 03:13 am (UTC)
Those male fans sound awesome. It's not like they're being inhumanly tolerant or generous, they're just being ... not-assholes.

You know, I have to admit that I'm ambivalent about wrestling. This might be because when I watched it (2002-ish) it wasn't what you're describing - there was female homoeroticism, but no male homoeroticism (and more gay male bashing). Also, women "fights" would be as much about women getting stripped down or humiliated as it was about them actually fighting. :/ If it's improved since then, that's great.

It makes sense that guy fans would be less hostile if women aren't the majority ... The only fandom I've been in that had that kind of ratio was comic book fandom (several years ago), and it was similar. There was a lot more tolerance of slash of both kinds. It might also be because the fans were generally older than anime fans, too.
(no subject) - sjen - Aug. 2nd, 2006 03:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sigelphoenix - Aug. 2nd, 2006 05:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sjen - Aug. 2nd, 2006 05:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sigelphoenix - Aug. 2nd, 2006 06:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sjen - Aug. 3rd, 2006 06:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sigelphoenix - Aug. 3rd, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 2nd, 2006 12:15 am (UTC)
pour vous
Oh. Fandom.

Really, I could stop there, but I won't. 8D

If this was just another 'zomg! stop making them all ghei! D:' thingit, well I could almost write it off as yet another person not understanding that fandom, whether they like or not, has a lot of people with very different interests and points of view and backgrounds. Kind of like REAL LIFE.

What did get me, as it got you, was the whole slashfic = rape fic in terms of squickness and general NO! Another thing he's forgetting about rape fic, is that women write it too. Some women do actually have rape fantasies and I'll bet some of those women use fic to explore it or what-have-you. Other times rape is used as part of the plot, or a fan's guess at what happened when the camera panned away, and I have on occasion seen it done well. Somehow I doubt, however, that fandom would notice an influx of poorly written rape fic written by 15 year old boys and opposed to 15 year old girls. [/tangent]

But still, to say that consentual sex acts between two characters of the same gender is the same as rape. WHUT? Maybe we should have privilage alerts, like proximity alarms. Klaxons and red lights that go off whenever someone doesn't realize they're being dumb.

Though this: Fandom is a place where the Other gets to try to reclaim some of its space interests me. And it's right. The Other is accepted, and not so much the Other but the norm in some fandoms. That's really neat and I hadn't thought of that before.
Aug. 2nd, 2006 03:24 am (UTC)
Re: pour vous
I would use that icon again, but I'm out of space. D: Alas, free account with only 6 icons.

Actually, your point about rape fic brings up an interesting aspect of the guy's post. He wasn't referring to grown women's rape fantasies, but to 15 year old boys' rape fic - so his analogy implies that slashfic is also self-indulgent masturbatory material written by adolescents, when all the slash writers at the con he went to were adults (the con has an 18+ policy), and he gave no evidence that the slash was all mindless PWP. I hadn't realized how much he was infantilizing slash writers. :/

Privilege alerts would be teh awesome. XD Seriously, though, he thinks that the mention of homosexuality is as violating as rape? Hello, homophobe.

Fandom really is a place for the people who don't fit into the status quo. I remember online fandom was the first place I met gay people, polyamorous people, pagans ... all sorts of people who would have made the rich little suburb where I grew up go boom. XD
Aug. 2nd, 2006 07:28 pm (UTC)
Good response- makes a lot of sensible points, and as a generally not-for-slash person (not necessarily anti-slash, I just don't like it), I can't see anything that needs to be argued against. Well, I take that back- I keep seeing the Kinsey Scale brought up all over in these arguments, but a look at the studies on that same site about the prevalence of homosexuality seems to indicate that instances of something outside of "totally straight" or "totally gay" are rather rarer than some fans try to make them out to be.

I'd say I know how the guy feels, except that he seemed shocked that slash exists, whereas I've been haunting the corners of the interwebs that're almost predominantly slash, so it's not really a surprise, just kinda sad to me that most of the cool kids like it and I don't. (That and, um, being female, I don't feel my masculinity threatened.)
Aug. 3rd, 2006 02:22 am (UTC)
Point taken on the Kinsey bit - I don't necessarily think everyone has a nebulous floating sexuality, and it's valid to say that's unrealistic in slashfic. It's when people like the OP insist that straight is the default, without the possibility for change, that I get annoyed.

I think you're right on in your response to slash. You have every right to say that you don't like it, and even to be disappointed that many fans like/write/read something that you don't. I would imagine if the OP had said something similar he wouldn't have had the response that he's gotten - it would just be another case of okay, you don't like slash, let's move on.
(no subject) - furikku - Aug. 3rd, 2006 02:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 3rd, 2006 01:10 am (UTC)
Word! I'm actually kinda grateful to this guy, because thanks to metafandom, I get to read a bunch of incredibly lucid and forthright dissections of this sixteen kinds of idiocy ... and thereby discover some awesome people like you who like to write about privilege, and the Other, and yow, I'm in love. Actually what it is is, I'm in Idaho and academia and so not conservative het-loving, so I'm lonely ... and yep, I belong on livejournal don't I?

So I friended you - hope you don't mind. (Dump me if you do. I'm easy and it's your lj!)

This: Fandom is a place where the Other gets to try to reclaim some of its space. YESSSS! Damn. Makes me want to go work on my dissertation, well almost, I'm putting off during these hot days of summer... I am writing about soil (yeah the environmental, soil conservation, agriculture kind of stuff) versus "dirt" -- what we call women, Others, we don't like. And why the fuck soil, this helpful friendly physical fertile stuff, gets tagged as dirt oooh evil. What isn't explained by science elitism (dirt = disorder and whitemale science is all about Control), is explained by gender (earth=women=dirtysexywildbad), race (evident) and class (working people ooh, dirty).

So -- see, slash and fandom and livejournal are all about sex, knowledge, and liberation! Very dangerous. You win!
Aug. 3rd, 2006 02:27 am (UTC)
Yes, you do belong on LJ. :D

My friending policy is: do whatever the heck you want. I take being friended as a compliment, and I'll friend you back. There are far too few of us talking about privilege, so I'm glad to find new people.

Also, if you ever feel the desire to write about your dissertation, I'd love to read it. Ecofeminism is one of the arenas of feminism that I'm least familiar with, but this sounds really interesting.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC)
Brava. This is a wonderfully clear exegesis of the privilege thing, and I felt privilege to read it. You express yourself beautifully.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC)
*bows* Thank you!
Aug. 3rd, 2006 03:14 pm (UTC)
This man assumes that fandom was built by non-slashers - also implying, I would guess, that these non-slash fans are men.

To be fair (I agree with your post) he was talking in his example about a specific fandom arena, which did have a primary foundation of male, non-slashers. So that remark is a little out of context, not related to all of fandom.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC)
Okay, I see now that he was talking about DC. (I knew he was referring to a single specific fandom, but I thought it was Buffy.) Thanks for the heads up.

As a long-time comics fan who's known several older women who have been reading since the beginning, I still find the comment disingenuous - because women have always been there, just in smaller numbers. He can claim majority, sure, but not any sort of justified authority.
(no subject) - boniblithe - Aug. 3rd, 2006 09:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sigelphoenix - Aug. 3rd, 2006 10:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 3rd, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you for saying so.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 04:52 pm (UTC)
I am here courtesy of herself_nyc.

"..such that the presence of homosexuality is treated like an offense, whether or not it actively 'threatens' the straight men."

Thanks for this interesting analysis.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 08:53 pm (UTC)
Certainly, and thanks for the compliment.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 06:39 pm (UTC)
Here via herself_nyc. Great post. You really hit the nail on the head with this guy's mindset; the idea that he was being offensive just really hadn't ever occurred to him. The whole tone was that of "I'm reasonable, and they weren't," which is just about the definition of assuming privilege.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 08:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, definitely. :/ I'm glad you liked my analysis of it!
Aug. 3rd, 2006 09:32 pm (UTC)
Interesting and beautifully thought out, and the last bit makes me even happier to have recently joined the legions of Fandom.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 10:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you! And welcome to online fandom!
Aug. 4th, 2006 12:14 am (UTC)
>>>The problem is, slash has been around since the early days of Star Trek, and may have been the first form of mass-distributed fanfic (it's hard to tell, fanthropology being as slippery as it is).

The first slash story was published in 1974; the first slash zine was published in 1976. I got into fandom in 1975, and either own or have read most of the Star Trek fanzines that have been published over the years.

Recently, a group of people have taken on the project of writing the history of K/S (Kirk/Spock) fandom. I'm one of the co-editors. We have definite dates for everything.

The first gen Trek zine was published in 1967. The first K/S story was written in 1968, but wasn't actually published until years later.
Aug. 4th, 2006 12:25 am (UTC)
I've never been able to get specific dates on that. Thanks!
(no subject) - catalenamara - Aug. 4th, 2006 12:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 4th, 2006 12:35 am (UTC)
Thanks, glad you liked it!
Sep. 5th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
Wow. How terrifyingly typical. I'm guessing that, oh, say, not reading slashfic hasn't occured to him? I must be an idiot, because I fail to see how someone else's view of the world threatens his. Is someone holding him down and forcing him to read slash?

This reminds me of the argument that civil unions sully marriages.
Sep. 5th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
Right on. It says a lot about a person's sense of entitlement when the mere presence of a different opinion or lifestyle offends him.
( 36 comments — Leave a comment )