facetofcathy: four equal blocks of purple and orange shades with a rusty orange block centred on top (Default)
[personal profile] facetofcathy
Okay, I tried to keep my head down and stay out of this.  I made pie, I made recs, I made sarcastic remarks, I hung drywall and ignored the internet, and I posted a synthpop video. 

I'm done staying out, and I want to tell you a story of a slash writer:

ETA: Something I should have remembered to say:  due to the nature of the topic of this post, I am specifically talking about women in fandom.  Not all fans, readers, writers, etc. are women, and I'm not forgetting that for a moment. 

I sometimes click on links to J2 fic off of delicious without even knowing the author or looking at the tags.  I landed on one story a while ago, and I want to talk about that story, and my wholly fantastical and speculative thoughts about the author and the fans of the story.  Oh, and I'm going to front up and admit I read only the first section of the fic. 

The story is a non-AU story, and for those not in the know in that fandom (RPF about two actors on Supernatural) that means that the story is putatively set in the real world, with the Jensen and Jared in the story meant to follow the canon reality of the real people themselves.  The set-up of the story is Jensen, interested in Jared and feeling hopeless about that, wants to try to get over Jared somehow--melodrama ensues.  Most of his feelings of hopelessness about his situation are expressed in an internal monologue of pejoratives and abuse heaped on Genevieve Cortese, Jared's girlfriend. 

This internal monologue is very obviously the author's feelings projected on to the character she will ultimately pair up with Jared in the story.  These expressions of revulsion and hatred for Genevieve are not uncommon in the fandom, but by no means represent the feelings of all fans.  The phrase, looks like a bullfrog, is not exactly original but is right there on page one of the story. 

My response to this story was to laugh at the thinness of the cover over the self-insertion, hit the back-button ... and then I went back and read the first section more fully because while outrage and pearl clutching might feel good in the short term, I find it very tiresome and non-productive in the long term.  I want to try to understand why this woman wrote this story and why the women reading it who say they liked it responded positively. 

I started thinking about the way in which Jensen is critical of Genevieve.  His focus is on her appearance and her assertiveness in her relationship with Jared.  She is not presented as a well-rounded character with ideas and plans and a plot of her own, she is someone who we see through Jensen and via him only in how she relates to Jared.  Now where do you suppose the author of that story got the idea that that's what a woman in a story is?  Where do you suppose she learned how to trash another woman for her looks like that?  Where do you think she got the idea that relationships are about shifting the attention of the man from one love object to another?  Where do you think she got the idea that the other love object must be seen as the enemy and demonized?  Where did all of the shit that's in that set-up for an angsty romance fic come from?

If you said slash fic, then I'm seriously questioning the length of your own memory or your agenda.  If you said television, and the show Supernatural itself, then ditto.  I was the worst damn socialized girl in the history of moody loners, and I know where the hell that shit starts.  If you're lucky, it starts in Kindergarten and if you're not, it starts with your own family. 

How many times has the author and the fans, those women who really like that story, heard those pejoratives and judgments and all that bullshit directed right at them?  How many times have they been told that success is gaining the desire of a man?  How many times have they learned the lesson that competing with women for the attention of a man is their sole purpose?  How many times have they been derided and sneered at for not being enough something--thin enough, white enough, passive enough, girly enough--this goddamn list is endless. 

They've been living with that noise for their entire lives, and they've ended up self-selecting that part of slash fandom that lets them either ignore women or bash them.  They chose this fic because of everything that has gone into making them who they are.

These women have failed, haven't they?  They've failed to rise above all that shit.  They've failed to see beyond the messages they've been soaked in their entire lives.  They've failed to have their consciousnesses raised and failed to see the patriarchy for what it is.  Failures, the damn lot of them.  They've failed to love themselves for themselves.

We, those of us who tell ourselves we're floating on top of the water, have a choice to make.  We can point at those women and tell them they are part of the problem.  We can yell at them that they just don't fucking understand how fucking simple it is to not think like that.  We can make lists of their failings and belittle their experiences.  We can sneer at them and hate them and wish they were not in fandom stinking up the place.  We can castigate them for not being better than the men who make the media they watch.  We can rail at them for not yet having floated to the top.  We can label them by their allegiances and hate them as part of a group.  We can judge them, weigh them, measure them and find them wanting and then link to all that judgment in the name of anti-oppression.  We can do all that, and we have.  We have done a fantastic job of that.  We have joined the chorus of disapproval that has made up the background of their entire lives.  We have learned, those of us floating so righteously free on the top of the sewer, how to hate them for themselves.

Anybody got the time to love them instead, until they learn the trick of doing it themselves?

Date: 2010-01-29 07:01 pm (UTC)
hl: Drawing of Ada Lovelace as a young child, reading a Calculus book (Default)
From: [personal profile] hl
I hesitated to answer because I don't consider myself a slash writer (though I'm writing slash), so I can't talk from inside, as it were. But the same problem can be seen in het, and gen (haven't read much femmeslash!). I've seen it in the three 'genres', as I've seen classism, and racism, and ablism, and homophobia. And yeah, we see them because those people have been raised in our society, which has those problems.

You almost made me cry (I'm very emotional, yeah)--it's very eloquently written, and very moving. And true.

My only 'but' is this: what does it mean, for us to love them? Because though I've seen a lot of hate directed their way, I've seen also a lot of... 'hey, this is a problem', 'hey, I think you should think more about this'... and I think that's necessary. Because yes, they're (we're) as much 'victims' of the system as everyone--that doesn't change the fact that if you start reinforcing the system, you also become part of it. There are no 'pure' evil people who do it because they're evil. There's only people being raised in our society and never thinking of questioning it--or being so comfortable in their own situation that they don't want to. So I think that questioning it, in ourselves and our peers, is part of loving ourselves and our peers.

Date: 2010-01-29 08:56 pm (UTC)
hl: Drawing of Ada Lovelace as a young child, reading a Calculus book (Default)
From: [personal profile] hl
I agree. Apart from the openly hateful stuff (which there is, yes), I think a lot of people are using shorthands that are actually inaccurate enough to hurt the discussion--the thing of us vs them comes to mind.

And I agree that anyone can read and write what they like. I totally respect their choices. I mean, I'm not in any kind of defensible position. Possibly my writing has lots of issues (not possibly, really, I know it has).

I think this discussion has the same problem with framing as the slash is appropriative discussion had. It's not a matter of actually controlling what people write or read--it's a matter of talking about it, and pointing out what of those things are possibly problematic. The problem is that from all sides (given that there's never only two) there's some confusion about it, and a lot of anger. And possibly a need to make this discussion an simple one. Like, 'slash is problematic because of x', and go home. When that sentence is riddled with shorthands (what slash? what problems? how does x affects it? &c).

But I've also been seeing a lot of people who just don't want other people to be having these kind of discussions around them--and well, that's bullocks, too.

Date: 2010-01-29 11:03 pm (UTC)
erda: (Default)
From: [personal profile] erda
I love you a little bit right now.

Date: 2010-01-29 11:35 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] rubyfruit
I have little to say but...

I have to give you applause.

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