paxpinnae: You were given a brain with which to think; to speak, you were given a tongue; but use them in conjunction please (Someone is Wrong on the Internet)
So, I was trying to write a comment on this post by [personal profile] zokiblue, which was a rebuttal to this post by [ profile] _dahne_ about the recent trend in fandom towards self-policing against the various "isms" - she mentions racism, rape culture, ableism, homophobia,  and transphobia in particular.  It got a little out of hand for a comment, but I think it makes an okay post.

I'm glad this made [community profile] metafandom. Because here's my thing: while I agree with the majority of [personal profile] zokiblue 's article (notably her call-outs about  [ profile] _dahne_'s needless alienation of the Republican diss opening, attachment to "crazy" and "retarded" when there are so many wonderful synonyms, and dismissal of the "-ist" trend), I'm not sure [ profile] _dahne_ entirely wrong. She's a lot wrong, especially when she tries the "there is honest-to-god injustice in the world, why are you arguing on the internet" derailing tactic, but she's not entirely wrong.

I support the FoCing Cabal and Ableist Allies and all the letters in the alphabet soup of Queer rights in their quest to lay the smackdown on -ist trends in fandom. There is too little fic about characters outside the pretty white male demographic. Hurt/Comfort does represent a skewed way of looking at disability. Our culture does treat rape too lightly. Teens figuring out who they are and who they like do need to have safe spaces to do just that, so maybe they'll stop fucking killing themselves because they can't see any other way out.

But there is a line between calling out offensive material and attempting to micromanage the creative processes of fandom as a whole, and we're collectively starting to flirt with it. I'm thinking here of the "-somebody in an Inception fic joking with his Indian friend about looking like a cab driver" kerfuffle, which [ profile] _dahne_ cites as a product of the "vacuum chamber full of self-important pseudointellectual gibberish." I actually read the fic before the kerfuffle went live, and I remember being appalled at the fact that this author was being taken to task by prominent fans for a joke that a character made in a story to a close friend. Maybe I'm not actually a good person, but in my experience, close friends? Say stuff to each other that would make any outside observer think they hated each other. Example from my life (bear in mind that these two were debate partners for years and double-dated to prom):

Bengali-American: Man, why do they call you "white" people? Every time I look at you, you're bright red!
Irish-American: Hey, at least we're not all pruney from being underwater all the time like Deshies.

So needless to say, I viewed the joke as relatively mild. I was saddened when the writer (voluntarily, and with a Good Apology) removed it from the fic. Not only did that action take out what I perceived as a nice character moment, it also came entirely too close to self-censorship for my comfort.

Not everyone deals with injustice in the same way. Some people write thoughtful, experience-based essays that inspire other people to purge all -ist thought and action from their life. Other people make jokes, often in bad taste. There needs to be room for a little reflection of reality in the virtual world, especially in fic, where the views of a character may not reflect the views of the author. Sometimes, yes, they do, especially indirectly, but sometimes not!

If a pervasive trend (like H/C) does reflect a common prejudice (like an ooky and inaccurate view of disability), the best response isn't to try to get everyone who enjoys H/C to stop writing it, it's to point out, loudly and publicly, that H/C reflects an ooky and inaccurate view of disability, and then write a crapton of well-researched fic with characters with disabilities being awesome and screwing it up and getting it on and generally being, you know, people. The answer to bad speech isn't censorship, however indirect; it's more goddamn speech. This is why challenges like [community profile] purimgifts and Chromatic Yuletide and Chromatic Porn Battle are so awesome - instead of silencing the airwaves (with criticism of portrayals of women, PoCs, or the differently abled), they're trying to boost the signal-to-noise ratio.

I recognize that I'm picking on one hyperbolic example among many worthy kerfuffles, but that's what happens - people forget the times when fandom pressure took down honest-to-jebus racist content (c.f. the [community profile] metafandom debate on the Haiti J2 fic) and focus on the debates that make us look like the worst stereotypes of a group of Soapbox Sallies. I'm not saying that we collectively need to stop getting mad about stuff; just, maybe take a moment to breathe before we go into a full-court press.
paxpinnae: Inara Serra,being more awesome than you. (Default)

There are many, many reasons why I love dead-tree media, not least of which is that I hope that one day they will give me a job, but the one most pertinent at the moment is that they can yield up articles that set your world on its head in ways that might take a small fleet of blog posts to accomplish.

E.G., I present this New York Times article about Afghan girls who are raised as boys in order to give their families the prestige (and monetary opportunities) that their all-girl families would otherwise lack.

Yeah, it blew my mind too.  In one of the most gender-stratified societies in the world, there are enough of a certain kind of cross-dresser that they have their own noun: "bacha posh," or literally "girls dressed as boys."  These girls are dressed as boys from a young age.  Some attend school as girls, then work after-school jobs, socialize, and play sports as boys.  When the bacha posh hit puberty, or become engaged to be married, they transition back into girls. 

I urge you to read the whole thing; it says a whole lot about gender and identity and the social pressures to have a male child in Afghanistan without simplifying the issues overmuch, and is an enormous credit to the reporter.  Some of the girls interviewed loved the freedoms they got; some were uncomfortable socializing with boys and playing the male parts.  One little girl interviewed kept stealing her older sisters'  clothes because she didn't like hers; one teenager, Zahra, was referred to with female pronouns in the article but said ze never wanted to transition back, because "nothing in me feels like a girl."  One woman didn't transition back until she was 20 years old.

Reading the article was kind of heartbreaking, because while most of the women interviewed said they liked living as boys for as long as they got to do it, it's difficult to separate out whether they liked being men or just the freedom that came with being men.  Most of the older women interviewed said that their time as boys gave them strength and confidence, and let them deal more evenly with their husbands; but most of them also found switching back to be incredibly confining, "like being born again."

As soon as I read the article, I shared it with my roommate, J. J and I have talked before about our slightly gender-atypical childhoods; we were both tomboys growing up, but this article helped me realize that we constructed that identity in different ways.

I was always happy being a girl, but I wanted to be a girl who could be Han Solo.  I wanted to swoop in, crack jokes, and save the day, and I wanted to do it without all this goddamn talking about FEELINGS -  but I was a girl. This led to some frustrating moments of gender-confusion until I found myself some heroines who acted like heroes - Alanna of Trebond, Kara Thrace, Amelia Peabody, and others who were definitely female but who interacted with the world on male terms because that let them get shit done.  J, on the other hand, says that when she was a kid, she definitely wanted to be a boy, because girls were weak and sissified.  She was proud of being her father's "oldest son," and didn't start being comfortable with girly things until college.  It's weird, because we've talked about this at least four times and never really understood what the other one was saying.

So!  The reason I'm letting myself post about this in a fandom blog is because after the discussion with J, I remembered this fic that I read a while back that dovetails quite nicely with the whole "do I want to be male, or just interact with the world on male terms" quandry.  It is Hating the Weather, by [ profile] rivkat , and I have it bookmarked as "the genderfuck I have been waiting for since I learned the genre existed," because it isn't "What if Dean Winchester was born a girl" or "How does Dean Winchester cope with being turned into a girl," but rather "How does a Dean Winchester who was born a girl cope with being turned into a man (and furthermore, what are Sam's thoughts on the matter)?"  And whoa, does that make for one hell of an interesting story. It's long (40,000 words), plotty, AUs the whole of seasons 2-4, and if you were allowed to nominate fanfiction for the Tiptree I'd be circulating petitions as we speak.  Go read. Now.

I had more thoughts, but J apparently needs me to kill a cockroach.  What the hell.


paxpinnae: Inara Serra,being more awesome than you. (Default)

October 2013



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