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sorry, I don’t stop being feminist because it’s fandom

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Long time, no see.
At Ohayocon I let a couple of emcees know exactly what I thought of them.
People shout at anime conventions, and I figured there was no reason I shouldn’t do so at an acceptable time, either – never mind that my shouting was of a political bent.
I can’t, or won’t, or don’t, check my feminism (or femaleness) at the door when I go somewhere. Even though I can compartmentalize a little (or I’d never enjoy anything), I cannot and will not simply stop caring about problematic stuff just because it’s “only fandom/entertainment/whatever.”
It’s never “just for fun.”
Usually, if a show bothers me, I try to just ignore it, unless it’s shoved in my face. If something I enjoy suddenly becomes problematic (or if it’s problematic from the beginning), I’ll think/talk about that, too – because, like I said, I can’t not enjoy anything ever because it’s not completely politically correct. There would be nothing left.
However, if I am at a convention – if my physical body is in a physical space, especially one I have paid money to inhabit – then I absolutely refuse to just ignore it. Even if it’s not a literal and immediate threat of violence against me, personally, the kind of “jokes” that I ended up shouting about were implicit threats against my personal safety – especially the first time.
One of the improv actors in the Anime Whose Line made a “joke” about violence against women, and that was the first (and probably loudest) time that I spoke up. “What other manly things can we do?” he asked, “beat women!”
And I sat up straighter, cupped my hands in front of my mouth, and told him to go fuck himself.
It was only a conference room, not a big theater like the Masquerade. I bet everyone heard me. I hope they did. I hope he went home and was terribly embarrassed that some chick called him out as the unfunny douchebag he is.
I was worried at first, but then nothing bad happened to me – the actor himself just ignored me, and I got a few approving nods.
Whether he realized it or not, and even if he didn’t ~intend~ to make me (and, you know, like half of his audience) uncomfortable, what he said was directly threatening to women’s safety – and con spaces are not known as very women-friendly spaces to begin with. (I’m sure there are more examples, those are just the first two that came to mind.)
Of course, everyone in that panel was just a douche. Another guy called on an attendee for a suggestion, then said “see, I didn’t call on you as ‘that Black guy there!'” and I was like wow, really? because come on, dude not funny. I think once upon a time, fandom was a place for white, straight, cis dudes, but the world has moved on.
After that, the actor added a disclaimer, saying that the 18+ panel later during the conference wouldn’t be “PC.”
If you can’t be “funny” without reinforcing the *ist status quo, you’re a shitty comedian and need to get a day job. Seriously, there is nothing entertaining or edgy about being a douchebag. It’s just a lazy way to get some cheap laughs; ditto this to the emcee of the Masquerade, who said “you want to hear a joke? women’s rights.”
I shouted about that, too, but I think my protest was lost in the general din – and while I was offended*, it wasn’t as threatening, because what can he, this one loser emcee, do to take my legal rights away? Of course, it contributed to a general culture of misogyny, but unlike the first emcee, would could literally go out and attack women at the con, this one couldn’t really do much other than stick his foot in his mouth and make himself look like a douche.
I also yelled at a couple of Hetalia cosplayers for letting their flags touch the ground† but I couldn’t’ve addressed every case of that I saw, and… well, tbh I care more about the feminism thing than the flag thing.
However, if there is a repeat of the Anime Boston ’10 incident, I will be speaking up – and loudly.
I won’t sit back and let the parts of fandom that I don’t like slide by. I won’t be made to feel uncomfortable in something I enjoy because I’m not a cis white straight man. Fuck that; we’ve all got a right to be here, and to feel safe here.
-M


*and no, jokes about stripping me of my legal rights as a citizen to vote, to press charges, &c. are not funny and I’m not being ~over-sensitive~. just don’t start that with me right here/now.
†just don’t carry them, people. just don’t.

fiction as religious text, part II

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Here’s the part I left out yesterday.
If we buy my theory, then soulbonding is no weirder than praying.
Yup, I said it.
I’ll stop here to say that, from what I understand, there are a lot of ways to soulbond and a lot of ways to pray. That being said, we can’t compare being married to Snape on the astral plane to closing your eyes and reciting a quick Lord’s Prayer before you hop into bed; apples to apples, please.
So how is muses/characters telling writers how the story goes any different than divine inspiration? You’re interacting with some kind of unseen entity who tells you things. As your friendly neighborhood godless heathen, this seems like a fair comparison to me because taken out of context* the Bible is a book. (You are free to shoot me for heresy at any point in this discussion.) I don’t have the time, energy or expertise to get into a debate about the historical/scientific accuracy of the Bible, but lets go with the easy argument: there is no objective evidence for the existence of anything divine.
So, talking to Mary (or whoever) in prayer is not, in my opinion, any more or less “crazy” than talking to, e.g., Gandalf; believing you’re a reincarnated human soul is no different than believing you’re a reincarnated elf, a reincarnated Na’vi or even a reincarnation of a specific character from a book or an anime or something. (Okay, it’s true that humans could have existed on this earth and elves or Na’vi would have to have been on other planets or planes of existence, but isn’t heaven itself supposed to be in another dimension/realm/thing?)
I have this horrible feeling like I’m going to be dragged out into the street and shot. Before you do that, let me say that I’m not defending or attacking either side here, just drawing attention to the parallels that I see between them


*okay, I will give you that thousands of years of history is a hell of a lot of context

Written by Fangirl

August 16, 2010 at 10:30 pm

fiction as religious text, part I

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This is a little different than what I usually post about, but fandom is also important to me and is something I kept meaning to write about and never getting around to. Well, here you are.

standard disclaimer: whether this or that holy text is true is not relevant to the topic of this post; frankly, I don’t know and that doesn’t really bother me. I know this can be a sensitive topic but please just try to roll with the idea.

For a long time, I’ve had this theory that modern day fiction and fandom communities serve basically the same emotional need as traditional organized religion.* I’ve never, as far as I remember, committed this idea to paper (or w/e), but I have given it considerable thought.
There are two essential components to this theory, which I’m going to divide into “narrative” and “community.”
First, narrative. This is the texts themselves. The stories that usually serve this purpose are most likely epic tales of world saving adventure and true deep love and completely fucking awesome badassery: think Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or Final Fantasy – think big. (I’m not sure if smaller, more personal slice-of-life style stories could fill the same role. I’m inclined to think not, but I’d consider the possibility.)
The stories themselves are exciting and fun, and offer an escape from daily life. Even those of you who think I am full of shit can probably agree with me on this point. They allow us access to better worlds, whether it’s because people can use magic or alchemy or the landscape is just prettier or there’s no *isms, we can go to Hogwarts or Middle-earth and it’s way better than our boring, normal and also sometimes difficult lives. Which is – again, harping on the psychological not spiritual thing – kinda like the idea of heaven.
The characters are also a crucial part of this theory. No, I will never be Olivier Armstrong, nor will I ever reach her levels of epic badasery in my real life. In fact, my real life is pretty boring sometimes (and certainly never as interesting as hers) and I’m actually a very shy, anxious person – but when I’m nervous, I can think of her and get some second hand badassery even if all I’m doing is giving a speech in class or calling someone out for being a douchebag.
I think the reason the story needs to be so larger than life in this scenario is so that the characters have room to be completely fucking ridiculously amazing without breaking our suspension of disbelief. It’s reassuring and validating to see stories about people like ourselves doing things like we do in a life we can recognized and identify with as similar to our own, but I don’t think those stories can inspire the same kind of devotion that epics get. (This is skipping ahead a little, but most of the stories I can think of with fucking ginormous fandoms are save the world stories.)
I think these characters fill basically the same emotional need as the saints or god/ess/es. Most of us will never be saints because most of us probably work pretty hard to avoid being thrown to the lions or whatever, but we can still admire their bravery and conviction and try to emulate them in our own mundane lives. Obviously, taking a big test is not the same as being fed to giant carnivores for other people’s entertainment, but these stories are larger than (real) life, and in our small lives, our trials are difficult and frightening for us as we live through them – and when we’re upset or afraid, we can recall those larger than life heros and say “you know what, self? Eowyn killed the goddamn Witch King you can take a stupid test” or “c’mon, Hermione would stand up for what’s right and tell that person they’re being a complete asshole about this” or whatever.
The second component is the fandom, which I think is roughly equivalent to the church community.
Think about it. Fandom is a place where people get together to express their mutual adoration of a given text. The characters and stories have special meaning in the lives of fans. (I’m not saying all fans or even most fans ascribe this level of meaning to their fandoms, but if you like a text enough to be a member of it’s fandom, you clearly enjoy it more than the average reader/viewer/consumer.) Like a religious community, there will probably be intense scrutiny of the text and it’s possible meanings and, in more-or-less the same way religious groups splinter and fight over dogma, fandom breaks off into little groups and argues about whose ‘ship is more canon, whether or not balrogs have wings and how far it is possible to apparate; goddamnit, there’s even the “my version is better” no “my version is better”-type wank in Fullmetal Alchemist fandom as there is in the various editions of the Bible and which texts are/are not apocryphal. (Yes, I just said that; same kind, vastly different degree.)
The most important thing about the community is the community. Here is a place where people speak a common language, if you will; they are moved by the same text you are moved by, they care about the same thing you care about – and they care more than most people. There are plenty of Christian-identifying people who don’t attend church, and then there are those who are there every Sunday, rain or shine. Likewise, lots of people read Harry Potter but only a fraction of those people showed up for the midnight release parties. Among those devoted enough to put on a wizard robe and hat (/shot) there is a sense of belonging that, I imagine, is roughly similar to being a member of a devout religious group.
(This is all guesswork, however, because I have never been a member of an organized religion that I did not invent for the hell of it.) Fans go on pilgrimages to places associated with their texts, whether with the story itself (e.g., the bench Will & Lyra meet on every summer) or it’s creators (e.g., the grave where Tolkien and his wife are buried); basically, they go to places made special (read: holy, in a religious context) by the connection.
If you think I’m full of shit, I don’t blame you, but I would like to point out that this person did actual research and reached roughly the same conclusions about the Twilight fandom as I have drawn here to fandoms in general in her article, The Religion of Twilight. In fact, there is an entire book about it.
I actually have moar thoughts on this topic, but they will have to wait for a separate post.

Written by Fangirl

August 15, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Posted in fandom is funny

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geek girls: only there to provide eye candy for geek boys

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Full transcriptShakesville.

I knew as soon as this commercial started that it was going to crash & burn. I hoped, briefly, that it would be funny or subversive somehow, but no.
I feel like it speaks for itself, but one thing that the transcript fails to mention is that the female geek – whose geek specialty we are never told – comes with “accessories.”  You know that was intentional, you’re supposed to see that and think dirty thoughts, what with the way she’s posed and the way the customer is drooling at her.
Ew.

Written by Fangirl

July 30, 2010 at 8:12 pm

[open thread] slashfic, social justice and you

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If you’re not into meta/fandom, you might’ve missed the ongoing debate about slash. There’s a lot going on, so I’m going to link to a few articles instead of trying, and doubtlessly failing, to come up with something coherent on the subject, as all I have been able to do is chase myself in circles. (Ask Y: I do not enjoy not knowing the answer to something; as I have no answer for this, I’m asking y’all.)
Henry Jenkins, ever my hero, wrote the book (literally) on fan cultures, including an essay called Normal Female Interest In Men Bonking, which is one of my favorites; Geek Feminism has a post on women writing m/m erotica and the queerness or misogyny of slash fandom, and there’s a summary on why male/male fiction written by women is problematic in the eyes of some. metafandom‘s slash tag on Delicious is full of articles and entries, if you really care that much.
So, potential discussion questions: is slash misogynist? if it is misogynist, is it because of the original author’s misogyny (failing to create female characters female readers can identify with), or because of internalized sexism (girls are icky!), both or something else entirely? is it objectifying? fetishizing? Othering? appropriation of another group’s struggles? if so, what should slash writers do about that, if anything? is slash awesome because it gives women symbolic control over men’s bodies when we have, for basically ever, been denied control over our own bodies and sexualities, and basically gives us an excuse to talk, in detail, about what we find sexually appealing? or is it bad because it’s asserting hetero privilege over a marginalized group for our own entertainment? does that change if the (female*) creator/audience is queer, ourselves? if so, in what ways? can slash be a subversive genre? can writing/reading slash empowering, even as it is fetishizing? how do you tackle this particular quandary?
Or basically anything else you can think of. I wanna hear what y’all have to say. Talking in circles, tossing in facts, figures and links to relevant information (as long as they’re relevant), etc. is all fair game. Whatever you want, go!

(xposted from lion-hearted girls prefer blond(e)s.)


*yes, I am operating under the assumption that slash fen are female; I know there are exceptions.

casual cruelty

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Tonight on Twitter, my friend R posted a link to this gem (and by “gem,” I mean “piece of unadulterated asshattery.”) I mean, was the racist text really necessary? No, no it wasn’t and it never is (and if your “joke” relies on racism, or any other *ism, it’s not funny in the first place). “If you can’t see this, squint your eyes” would have been perfectly appropriate, non-racist instructions to see the hidden image. It doesn’t require taking a stand or fighting back against oppression, it just requires not being a douchebag.

This got me me thinking about Cracked.com. Some of the articles they post, like this one on 7 People Who Cheated Death, are actually really interesting. I mean, these people survived some amazing things, often because they were fucking determined not to die, but their awesomeness can and should be admired without associating their awesome escapes from death’s clutches with masculinity.

Alexis Goggins, #1 on their list, took six bullets at point blank rage… to protect her mother. She was six years old at the time. You have to admire that sort of badassery, but do we have to compliment her by saying she’s “more man than we’ll ever be”? Uh, no.

We could say “holy shit I hope I am half as cool as her when I grow up” or “she gave Death a serious ass kicking and the finger” or any of a number of other colloquial, profanity laden compliments that don’t erase her gender and replace it with the apparently more “superior” masculinity.

Girls don’t get shot six times to protect their loved ones; men do.

To hell with that.

The saddest thing is how much of the internet (and fandom as a whole) ruins the experience with extraneous asshattery. We can be loud and profane without being offensive. It involves choosing our words a little more carefully, but we can do it, and we should, because it’s the right thing to do.

(I am on a roll tonight…)

Written by Fangirl

February 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm

darling, darling please: the politics of representation

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the main cast of "Lucky Star"

the four main characters, from left to right: Tsukasa (the airhead, looking a little surprised) Konata (the ringleader/fangirl, making a cat face), Kagami (the realist, pointing at the viewer), and Miyuki (the perfect girl, posing cutely for the camera).

I recently started watching the moé anime, LuckyStar. There is no plot; the anime is based on a four-panel comic strip of the same name, so each episode is just the four main characters having silly conversations and going about their daily lives. It passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, since it’s a show about girls talking. I think boys have been mentioned once, not including their immediate family members.

Cool, right?

It is, actually. It’s refreshingly light hearted and I can see elements of my own high school life in there. (I like to watch it after catching up with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, to take some of the edge off of the latest cliffhanger.) What was surprising to me, and what I’m going to be writing about here, is that LuckyStar is for and by men. The author is male, and it’s published in a seinen/shounen magazine.

It seems strange at first, but I can relate to the appeal even if I can’t articulate it. After all, I am an avid fan of the series Hetalia, which is essentially the same concept: characters talking and getting up to silly antics, only the characters in Hetalia are mostly male (and anthropomorphisms of countries, but that’s another problem for another time). The fandom is mainly female. It’s the same idea.

I’m sure a lot could be said about why people are drawn to moé shows full of characters of the opposite gender doing cute things, but that’s not what I’m here about (this time). Instead, I’m writing about the politics of representation.

I mentioned on my personal journal that I had basically the same issue with LuckyStar that I have with Bayonetta and even Portal. They are all women’s worlds – with the exception of the hapless assistant in the Lucky☆Channel segment at the end of each episode (which hilariously deconstructs the kawaii/moé/genki girl trope by showing the female idol acting cranky and embittered when her lines are unscripted) – there is not a single major male character in LuckyStar. The girls talk about whatever is on their minds whether it be the correct way to eat certain foods, how to win a raffle prize or a UFO Catcher game, whether or not it’s better to study long before a test or cram all night before, and so on. It’s a homosocial female universe, but it’s a universe created by and for men.

When I posted about the fact this was a seinen/shounen comic, one of my friends commented that I wouldn’t have a problem with a similar story that was all male, but written by a woman. (Hetalia‘s author/artist is male.) Well, I guess not, but then again, we don’t live in a world where women have been historically granted (almost) exclusive rights to (the representation) of men’s bodies.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with LuckyStar on it’s own. It’s a cute show that puts the emotional world of the female characters front and center. It’s all about them, and that’s cool. Still, it exists in a context, and within that context it’s part of a larger system of male control over the female image/ideal. I wonder, LuckyStar sell so well if the author/artist was female? (I can’t think of any moé series about girls written by women, or about boys written by men; so much for “write what you know.” Write what you feel is missing in your life, maybe?)

I don’t know much about the whole moé thing, but I’m familiar with a few series marketed towards women: Hetalia, StarrySky and Miracle Train. StarrySky was developed by a game team, not a single person; the others were written/directed by men.

The politics of representation are complicated. I can’t hope to sort it all out in one post, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on moé and who is represented and who does the representing.

Written by Fangirl

February 2, 2010 at 8:21 am