While browsing, today, I happened onto a link to this essay on Why do fanboys hate fanfics, especially slash
and This is Our Garden. We Like It.
. The article fits in a context of several commentaries a few weeks ago about the exclusion of the female experience of fandom by the majorly male fandom - some of which I saw at the time, some of which I missed.cupidsbow
's essay How Fanfictions makes us Poor
which I already linked to was part of it too, I think.
Anyway, there's a lot of stuff on these discussions that made me angry as a woman against the systemicized sexism in fandom... but there's also something about the issue of gendered fandoms that really upsets me.
I've spent a majority of my "fandom life" within male dominated fandoms - first generalist Science Fiction newsgroup then Roleplaying Games clubs and forums. The kind of places where women make about 10 to 20% at most of the overall population. I've had to suffer to a lot of sexism, outright misogyny and sexual teasing. I went along with it because I wanted into the fandom and I didn't know anywhere else to get it and also because I'd been ostracized and bullied enough previously that the attention as the token girl and object of sexist and sexual jokes seemed actually an improvement.
Later on, I found some previously more mixed fandoms. ASOIAF has got, I think, about 40% of women at Ran's board. The part of Buffy's fandom I frequented, Masq's awesome ATPoBtVS had, I believe, a majority of women with a very significant male presence as well.
But it's only when I joined the Clamp's Tokyo Babylon/X's fandom in 2004 on Livejournal that I really found myself within female dominated fandoms. Fanfics as a fandom is extremely majorly made of women, I don't think men make more than 5% of it. In many ways the resulting dynamic rather surprised me. There's a lot I enjoyed from it. The welcome of feminist and queer-friendly values for one, and the warmth of people. No more dissing the female SF writers, or fantasy as a whole, or other ridiculous stuff.
There's also some things I disliked, such as the frowning upon any kind of disagreement/non positive comments, and all the things people sometime characterize as the "Cult of Nice". I'm not sure I'm so much more a fan of the Cult of Mean either, which is often horribly self-entitled, but I love debate, and I love getting helpful constructive criticism, and sometimes I'm being an ass in a discussion and I need someone to point it out to me politely (after which I can cool off then appologize). I also miss a bit of the obsessive mapping out details and powers and worldbuiling elements and stuff. Actually screw this, because people do it just as compulsively in female fandom, what I do miss is obsessive symbolical and thematic analysis which seems to catter to specific fandoms regardless of the gender makeover. What I do occasionnaly miss in female fandom is the way people don't seem to get the inherent kicking-ass awesomeness of ninja and pirates (unless talking of Jack Sparrow I s'pose) and Kung-Fu Jesus and heroin-pissing dinosaurs*
So when I get annoyed with that side of fanfic fandom and want a little bit of the other side I miss, I get back to lurking at, say, the RPG.net
board, where I can see someone explaining his dilemna about one of his player telling him "No bitches at the table
Insert visual of me face palming.
Lately it feels like I've seen more and more people talking in terms of fangirls and fanboys. The categories were new to me, but apparently they come with specific, different stereotypes where the fanboy is your everyday Dork and the fangirl squeals a lot about characters/actors being hotties. I've seen at least one person say she wouldn't like to identify as a fangirl but that it was okay for the fanboy because the stereotype had somewhat mellowed and become more hype and cool since big geeks like Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith and Tarantino started taking over Hollywood or something whereas the fangirl stereotype was still depraciated as hell which rather rejoined the whole point of the essay I mentionned at the start of this post.
But behind this I also get the impression that it's true to people. That women and men are whole different brands of fen, that they want something radically different from the text, that they play differently with the toys. That they don't fit in the same sandbox.
I'm not a fangirl. I'm certainly not a fanboy either. I'm a fan. Period.
I'm a fan who likes fanfics and roleplaying games, obsessive symbolical analysis, sociological meta, compulsive reviews of details and powers and worldbuilding stuff, and occasionnaly even fanart and fanvids and of course, the books/shows/texts too. It's all one for me.
It's not that I disaprove of what the essay talks about, about the whole fact that women said 'it's a big internet', took their stuff and the toys given by the text, and used them to play with it in their very own female space. I think that's really cool and proactive and awesome.
It's the fact that what I'd like to call my garden would be a place with equal parts of male and female point of views and welcome them all - just for the sake of diversity. (And gays, and non Americans, and gender queers, and Blacks, and people who don't have always a very correct syntax, and, and, and, too)
There's the question of whether it'd be even possible. If being just an even fraction of "regular" fandom would mean that the female part be co-opted and the female experience of fandom end up marginalized as it's once more 'All about the boy'.
I'd like to believe that it is. I've known places on the internet that were at least a little bit like this. That doesn't mean that they should not be female spaces as well...
But I'd really love to belong, myself, to a non-gendered fandom. I think that's the place where I'd be the more at ease.
Is that a bad thing to want?* this is an obscure reference to the Role Playing Game Exalted which has canonically dinosaurs who eat Opium and pisses Heroin. It's a lucrative business. Exalted isalso an awesome game where homsexuality, gender queerness, bestiality, incest, and reincarnated magical bonds are all canon. It's a bit like the Harry Potter fandom of roleplaying games that way.
ETA: -- Spoilers for A Song of Ice and Fire - A Storm of Swords in the comments --