Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fangirl Feminism

Remember way back when I said I didn't want to talk about what fandoms I love? Yeah well, This happened.

I have so much rage about this I can't even think straight, and we all know what happens when I rage, so yeah, kids, parents, future employers, look away now. I have so much rage, I was just a few minutes ago telling my mother about it. My mother responds, "and when did this happen?" and I replied, "last night."

"Oh my God, your fingers must be sore." (My mom is so awesome.)

There are several things I'd like to talk about this, but it's been pretty decently dissected by other people. And there's a whole lot of supportive awesome on Tumblr about it. So yeah. Basically Google "Caitlin Moran" it'll cover the whole mess.

Okay, so first thing's first. I have my problems with Stephen Moffat's Sherlock. In the first place, like with everything Moffat writes, the roles for female characters are pretty pathetic, by and large (though admittedly played by some awesome actresses.) There's his long-standing discomfort with anything that reads as asexuality, which I have written about before. There's also the fact that every fandom has it's toxic elements. There's a lot of general dislike of women in any fandom.  And while I think it's lovely that girls and women have places on the Internet to revel in their sexuality with pretty much ZERO judgement, and nothing but hearts and cookies, the fact is that it's usually slash, and so removes a lot of actual female sexuality from play. And that does sort of rub me the wrong way. *cough* sorry.

But there's a lot I like about fandom culture, and about the Sherlock fandom in particular. In the first place, a lot of people there are older, so I feel less creepy, and they're a bit more aware of my aforementioned issues. In the second, there are a lot of fics where Sherlock is asexual, or demisexual, and some of them represent really well. Which you get in pretty much no other fandom. It's also a fandom that actually does make room for new characters, and because of Moffat habits of writing goddawful women, it is also a fandom that rewrites those women into something more complex, and generally more awesome. Basically, if you're looking for a fandom that really does write the world as they want to see it, Sherlock is where you wanna be. And you know what?

A whole lot of people want to see John and Sherlock having sex.

I mean honestly. It's been like 200 years of writing 2 men, at least one of whom is sexually ambiguous, who deeply love each other and pretty much shun the whole rest of the world, and you're going to tell me that before the 21st century you really never considered the fact that like a whole lot of people want to see John and Sherlock having sex? I mean really? The show has been accused of queerbaiting, surely it has occurred to some of the people who make that show that "OMG SUBTEXT!!!!" runs a bit rampant. To be honest, Holmes will always be asexual to me, but those are some damn pretty faces this time around, and while journalists delight in finding fic they can make fun of, there is plenty of well-written stuff to be found. (Including the author of the fic that was read out, who is actually incredibly talented.) I mean, Martin has gone on to say that he reads it. (I think he was kidding? He's pretty much got the best face ever, so I can't actually tell.) And really, they're pretty good sports about the whole thing, given the number of people who just really really want them to hate their fans.

Because let's be honest, that's all this is, isn't it?

I don't know why that is. I'd like to say we can blame E.L. James for putting badly-written fanfic into public consciousness, but the fact is, we can't. Because this fangirl's been around. I remember when it was bandslash with real boys (which is, incidentally, something a lot of people in the Sherlock fandom get squicked out by. You don't use real people's lives.) and "journalists" would point out these things, and said bands would laugh it off. (Or kiss, depending on your listening pleasures.) Plenty of authors encourage fan fiction. People giving interviews routinely want actors, musicians, even authors (sometimes especially authors) to be disgusted at the idea that women or girls are turning what they've done into sexual tension and then some. They are routinely not. (ETA: By which I mean that most laugh it off, encourage it, or at the very least, quickly change the subject.) I'm not sure how this keeps getting missed. But seriously, Graham Norton, Caitlin Moran, whoever else?  


There is fan fiction for every imaginable fandom. There are negative people in all those fandoms too, the kind of people who send our new Mary Morstan death threats. That is awful. There are plenty of fandoms not welcome to anything outside of established ideas, and that is terrible. I was part of a fandom that actually had a group with a special name, which showed that they were real fans, because real fans understand these boys have girlfriends, and it's disrespectful to make up girlfriends for them, because everybody knows real fans make them have sex with each other. And yeah, there is some horrible fiction written, and there are places where fans go to mock it. Those places are not in front of the subjects themselves. Those people don't want to do that, it would be alienating people who admire them. By and large, fandom is a safe place to explore ideas and thoughts you might be ashamed of, either because they're all a naughty good time, or because they make you giggle (I will never understand why journalists don't have nearly so much fun with crackfic as they do with slash. I mean, why is it weirder that women write dirty sex between men than it is that women occasionally write dirty sex between men who might sneeze and turn into a unicorn, or suddenly suffer an affliction that causes them to speak only in song lyrics?) This is a part of being a fan. It's part of loving stories. It's part of learning to write. When did it become such a big deal? As people have pointed out, there is zero difference between Irene Adler being made into a sometimes-lesbian-dominatrix-but-in-love-with-Sherlock-because for an hour and a half, and a 221b-is-for-blowjob about John and Sherlock.

I want to talk about Caitlin Moran's "feminism," which includes the kind of sex-shaming that only twelve year olds still think is funny.  I want to talk about the good fandom has done, the way it brings creators together, the way it offers them a safe space to do what they love, and to love what they love wholeheartedly, while still being utterly, joyfully ridiculous about it, which is something Moran supports apparently on a theoretical basis. I want to talk about her own fangirling over Benedict. And I would love to talk about every other stupid question she asked that panel, which apparently included cracks at Amanda Abbington getting the role because she's Martin's real life partner, and nitpicking over a mistake that was made in the episode. I'd like to talk about how Mark Gatiss has published erotic fiction under a pseudonym, so that whole, "ew, gay" vibe of everything she did would have been a bit uncomfortable. But I'm not going to. Because I don't write fanfic, so I haven't got much to add that hasn't already been said. But I really just want to know one thing:

When you walk into a room you've been paid to be in, while others, (the sad little virgins) have waited in line for days, when you go in there knowing that everyone there has waited two years for this moment and is thrilled to be sharing it, what actually happens? I don't know, and I probably never will, because most of us don't have the opportunities Caitlin Moran does. What is it that makes your gut reaction to remind those people who have worked hard to make this happen, that the people for whom this show means so much that the BBC went, "Yeah, go ahead, take two years. They'll wait." are freaks? It's pretty obvious that she hates other women, but as far as I can tell, these people like their fans. Benedict cringes every time the word "Cumberbitches" is used, and both of them have talked about how even though the press make it out that the fans are insane, and even with a few bad experiences, they're really lovely, and they both feel lucky. Leaving aside that any fanfic author would have asked better questions. I'd like to say something intelligent and feminist about this whole mess but there is a point when something is so stupid there is nothing in it for intelligence to respond to. Moran is a bully. It's as simple as that. She bullied the audience, the panel, and the writer of that fanfic, and all writers of fanfic. This kind of bully is the reason I couldn't call myself a feminist til I was in college, because before then the only feminists I knew were bullies who believed if other women would stop acting the way men wanted them to, men would learn to behave better. I know different feminists have different goals, but really?

When you humiliate other women because you've got nothing of substance to add or you want to stand out you are not a feminist

When you encourage somebody else to humiliate another woman because "teehee aren't other women pathetic?" you are not a feminist

When you are grossly underprepared for a job you undertook and your knee jerk reaction to feeling out of place or insecure is, "I'll just point out how I'm not as bad as some women!" you are not a feminist

When you shame other women for following passion, or for being deeply invested in something you are not a feminist

When you use sex negativity to shame other women for their sexual choices, or expressions of sexuality you are not a feminist

Most importantly when you scare women's voices away from feminist spaces, away from creative expression, away from telling the stories they want to tell, and seeking support and validation from people who can offer it you are not a fucking feminist.

I don't care how good you are at "academic feminism." I don't care how many buzzwords you coined, or how many books you've published. If your feminism isn't about women, it's egoism. There is a difference between believing women deserve to be treated better, and believing you deserve to be treated better than women are treated.

Fan fiction is harmless. This is shameful

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