Here’s a newsflash for you my fellow slash shippers: Your male/male ships that focus almost exclusively on white men aren’t as progressive or as rebellious as you think they are.
Especially when (not ‘if’) they come at the expense of women and characters of color who have significant intimate relationships with one or both of the two white guys you’re shipping.
Let’s look at a recent and rather galling example: James Bond and the 00q subfandom.
Outside of fandom spaces it is absolutely subversive to queer the patriarchal male power fantasy inherent in Fleming’s Bond and interpretations of it. By shipping him with Q or C or whatever letters of the alphabet you can think of when they’re assigned to a male agent or operative, there’s definitely a sense of getting one over Bond. After all, male power fantasies tend to be overwhelmingly heterosexual and women in relationships with these characters are frequently pushed aside in canon for action or they are treated as spoils of war.
Bond has always been a very heterosexual character (and part of a heterocentric canon – few examples of positive LGBTQUIA representation exists in the films and none exists in the books) so I understand the desire to queer him and his canon.
But at the same time, fandom isn’t doing nearly enough. Most of fandom’s stories focus on the Bond/Q ship and it comes at the direct expense of Bond’s relationships with women in the canon – in particular, his relationship with Naomie Harris’ Eve Moneypenny. Fandom is so busy trying to believe that their rebellion against Fleming’s misogynistic and heterosexist canon is reaching into fandom that they’re not seeing the way that they’re only hitting one level by queering Bond and Q.
(And even still, they’re still absolutely sticking to established patriarchal norms by framing one character (Bond) as the protector/masculine one while the other (Q) is written and drawn as “softer” in a way that the other never is while being locked into caring for the home and child-bearing/rearing.)
Very often, queering characters the only way that these fans can see themselves in media is by making their own fan media and writing characters who have different sexual identities or who are trans. And fanworks do make a difference.
Despite the fact that the powers that be do tend to mock fan fiction as a less worthy enterprise, every article out there that draws reader attention to the fact that there are people out there that really do think that this character isn’t cis or that this other character is bisexual changes people. It creates a sense of community and these often awful articles still do bring people to the table and allow them to explore gender and sexual identity from a relatively safe space.
That’s actually not the issue. I’m one hundred percent behind any movement that gets us diverse fanworks. The issue though, is that at the fannish level, you’re not really subverting anything. At the fannish level, slash-shipping Bond with a nearly endless line of white guys (some of whom he hates, others who hate him) might be bucking against the yoke of the heterocentric parts of the patriarchal canon, but that’s about it.
Because within fandom, slash ships that prioritize white guys are the norm. More than that, they make up most of what fandom produces and consumes in terms of that subcategory. Within fandom, nearly every single popular slash ship is centered on two white men.
This so-called subversion kind of looks like an excuse to erase women from the narrative – to say nothing about the characters of color that get crushed underneath the well-greased wheels of the slash shipping machine. (Seriously, out of the first 40 stories in her own tag on AO3, Eve Moneypenny is maybe a focus in four of them. Maybe. Everything else has her as backup to 00Q.)
The thing is that what’s progressive and what is an actual subversion of tropes to the world outside of fandom spaces isn’t remotely progressive or subversive in fandom itself. The most popular ships in fandom all strongly center white men in positions of fannish attention to the detriment of female characters and characters of color.
You have the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Stony (Steve Rogers and Tony Stark). Shippers of this pairing tend to erase James “Rhodey” Rhodes and Sam Wilson from the two male characters’ lives. They erase Peggy Carter and Pepper Potts as canon romantic relationships.
With Supernatural’s Destiel (Dean Winchester and Castiel) much of the erasure comes at the expense of women. Sadly, with regard to Supernatural a lot of the issues start in the female-unfriendly canon and trickle their way down to fanon. As for POC-erasure in the ship? I don’t even think that there are any characters of color left on the show in a regular role.
And then we have Teen Wolf‘s Sterek (Stiles and Derek). This is actually a fandom issue I’ve been here for and I’m saying that as a Sterek shipper.
The erasure of the main character (who is a man of color as is the star of the show Tyler Posey) was so thorough that for many people, they thought that Stiles was the main character of the show. He barely exists in fanart. Many fan writers decentralize him in his deep friendship with Stiles or erase it entirely. Their characterization of him seems biased towards putting him down so that other (white) characters can shine. The disproportionate amount of fan fiction about Scott versus stories about Stiles (and Derek) sends a serious message towards fans of color.
You have to be this white to get fandom’s attention.
The thing is that the patriarchy isn’t just heterocentric.
It’s misogynistic and it’s racist.
Deciding that you’re striking a blow against it by writing stories and doing fan art that focuses nearly exclusively on white men is not helping. In fact, you’re reaffirming the patriarchy and tightening its insidious stranglehold by actively pushing women and characters of color out of the narrative spotlight.
From and to the outside, what fandom does in queering “canonically straight” characters” is progressive. It forces outsiders and newcomers to fandom spaces to reevaluate their beliefs because anyone can be bisexual, aromantic, or gender-queer in fandom. It’s one of the best aspects.
At the heart of it though, fandom is still a part of the real world. We’re still benefiting from or buried by institutionalized injustices like racism or misogyny. Fandom mirrors the world around us and that goes right down to internalized attitudes about race and gender.
To be clear: fandom is looking at women and characters of color (especially in the case of women of color like Eve Moneypenny or Abigail Mills or Joan Watson) and deciding that they’re not good enough to be shipped with male characters. Or my favorite thing – “[female character/character of color] is too good for [one half of popular white dude slash ship]”. Let’s be real here, if that half of the slash dude ship is so terrible, why exactly are you shipping anyone with him?
You think that you’re striking a blow against the heterocentric patriarchy by shipping Bond and Q or Steve and Tony or any number of white guy slash ships like the ones that are pervasive within fandom but honestly, what you’re probably doing is removing women and characters of color from the equation entirely.
When you write Eve Moneypenny as a matchmaker instead of acknowledging that she and Bond have canon chemistry, you’re saying (however tacitly) that women of color exist to put white guys together. When you draw every white character that has been Captain America hanging out except for Sam Wilson, you’re saying that Black men exist in a permanent sidekick status for you. When you kill off or malign women in fanworks so that your slash ship can exist without pesky women, you’re sending a message about your internalized misogyny.
Let’s be real here: the fanwide reaction to “your white dude slash ship isn’t as progressive as you think it is” leans to the abusive and insulting (especially towards women of color who call it out). The posts that pick up steam wind up the butt of insults, with the original poster able to look forward to anonymous hate in their inbox.
When I first watched Skyfall and spoke about how disappointed I was in the fandom for gravitating towards Bond/Q as a ship, I got so much shit.
I’m talking passive aggressive reblogs, sub-tumbling posts in the Eve Moneypenny and Skyfall tags on tumblr. Rude messages and comments on my post and in my inbox. I got called homophobic just on the grounds that I believe that that there’s a very obvious level of internalized and racialized misogyny to the way that Eve Moneypenny was treated in fandom.
Because that’s what “progressive” in fandom looks like.
This is actually what happens to many WOC who dare to talk about how fandom has let them down. Their experiences are minimized and their stories reduced to causing “drama” and they get so much hatred in a direct response to them trying to get fandom to do better.
To many people outside of fandom and within it, this push to get fandom to look critically at why they ship the things they do and what happens to characters of color and female characters is met with such an intensely negative reaction that it’s scary.
It’s not just fandom.
It’s not just shipping.
It’s not just a preference.
These aren’t just fictional characters.
You can’t defeat the patriarchy by reinforcing it. And erasing women and people of color in order to prop up relationships between white men is absolutely reinforcing the patriarchy within fandom.
Instead of reacting with anger or disbelief, just do better.
Don’t just tell me that you love a female character or a character of color when you’re explaining why you exclusively focus on white guy slash ships: actively challenge yourself to produce works where women and characters of color are on an equal playing field. For every fanwork that you write or draw focusing on white guys, challenge yourself to create two more about female characters and/or characters of color.
Seriously, if you think that fandom exists in a vacuum where racism and misogyny don’t exist in every single pixel we create and in the absence of discussions that fandom isn’t a safe enough space to maintain, think again. Try again. Because while queering characters is absolutely amazing and integral to representation, it shouldn’t stop there. It needs to go further and fandom needs to actively interrogate their biases when it comes to women and people of color in their media and in their fandom spaces.
Because right now?
I’m seeing far more reinforcement than subversion when it comes to slash shipping and people are still so very focused on mistaking the former for the latter within fandom spaces. If you absolutely refuse to own up to the fact that slash shipping has this reliance on white guys and you don’t want to look critically at what you ship or how you ship it, that’s fine.
Go for it.
But let’s be very clear here: 90% of the time your white dude slash ship isn’t progressive in the slightest within fan spaces (and barely so outside of it) so please, quit trying to act like it is. Nothing that continuously comes at the expense of female characters, characters of color, and fans of color (female and otherwise) can actually be progressive enough to excuse that.
Edited 2/25/2016: Internalized Misogyny and that Damned Slash Shipping Post: A Response. I posed this on the eleventh as a response to a message about essentially policing teenage girls in fandom spaces. It addresses several misconceptions not only about my post, but about the idea that marginalized people can’t internalize negative perceptions about similarly marginalized people.
29 thoughts on “Slash Shipping, Pseudo-Progressivism, and Reinforcing Patriarchal Standards in Fandom”
With Being Human (UK), which has a BW lead and a bwwm romance between main characters (Annie and Mitchell), the biggest ship is a white guy slash ship between Mitchell (of course) and a character from a totally different show. On AO3, this slash ship has three times as many fics as Annie/Mitchell — you can scroll through pages of stories about this ship that has nothing to do with Being Human to find a single fic about canon characters, let alone an Annie/Mitchell fic.
People will defend this by saying that this crossover slash ship is more about shipping the two actors, who play characters in another fairly popular slash ship. I’m not sure why that makes it OK, but it takes no time at all for the underlying racism to reveal itself. For example, Annie either doesn’t exist or was always “just friends” with Mitchell in these stories — but you can easily find OT3 stories that include the white woman love interest of the other guy from the other show.
This is a phenomenon I really haven’t seen in other fandoms — the Black woman being sidelined by fandom by a white guy who isn’t even on the show.
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I have seen this being done to Abbie Mills from Sleepy Hollow. I’ve seen some ships of Ichabod with other characters from other shows. And now I suppose after the crossover with Bones, we’ll see a lot of shipping from that quarter, completely erasing the relationship Ichabod is trying to establish with a woman in his own show, or that the Bones characters are married.
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To clarify, I mean a case where the most common ship by a wide margin is a crossover white guy ship that erases a Black woman who is in a canon romantic (in the case of Annie/Mitchell, endgame) relationship with half of said slash ship. Thankfully, despite Sleepy Hollow aggressively avoiding making Ichabbie canon, Ichabbie is still the most popular SH ship on AO3 by a very wide margin.
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Everything you write is so spot on and now I just want to go fight some fandom.
I’ve always hated the Steve/Tony pair, I think mostly because of the erasure of the previous female partners of both characters, but now I ALSO notice how much they fuck up with Sam and Rhodes. It’s just disgustingly racist.
Now, I can’t talk about Teen Wolf, because I’ve never seen it, and I’ve never read a fic, but I can talk about 00Q and Destiel with propety: I think we can all agree the main problem with this last one is the source material, but what I really like most of the fics I read (even though I’m really picky on what I read) about Dean and Cas, is most of them are about Dean accepting his bisexuality. They do not erase his past as womanizer, or his serious relationships like Lisa, they embrace them while his relationship with Cas grows, and that’s great, specially you might desagree with me, but bisexuality is almost as invisible as women on male queer stories.
And of 00Q, well, I think you said it all, the tropes are disgustingly cliched, how they use Eve as a matchmaker has become a no-no for me when I read a fic of them now, and all the power unbalance is just them making this pair more heteronormative (besides if you think Q is soft and more home oriented, SON LET ME TELL YOU HOW WRONG YOU ARE).
Also, I think the last queer interacial pair I shipped (I SAW) was Darwin/Havoc on the X-Men: First Class Fandom, and even that was largely underrated against the Beast/Havoc thing (pairing I also hated for the erasure of Mystique on their dynamic)…
The fandom also does the same thing to Black Widow. Often making her Steve’s or Tony’s or whoever’s matchmaking friend. I’ve seen very few ships where Natasha just has a relationship of her own, even with characters she has chemistry with, in the movies and comic books, like Clint.
for nat, there is buckynat and clintasha, which are huge shipping fandoms in avengers/marve fandom, especially clintasha which i would say rivals steve and tony fandomonia. like clin and nat are a major thing in the fandom
I have a tendency to ship interracial pairings or pairings that appear to be of different ethnic groups, gay or straight. In HP, it was Dean/Seamus and Snape/Hermione (because, as can be so easily interpreted by the books, I always imagined Hermione as racially mixed), LoK? Korrasami. X-Men 1st Class? Darwin/Havok. Glee? Sam/Mercedes. Naruto? KakaIru, etc…
Bond and Moneypenny was no different for me, a knee-jerk reaction almost, and happily so considering the films (blockbuster monoliths based off such archaically misogynistic and racially insensitive works as Ian Fleming’s Bond books) actually establish a baseline rapport/chemistry between them that does not often occur between WOC and a leading male of ANY other race than their own (especially if they’re a black woman). Then I get on tumblr and all I find is 00Q, which, fine. Okay. I see the appeal of 00Q (the fact that people have given it a legitimate ship name helps, because the same can’t currently be said of Bond/Moneypenny), and I’ve taken a liking to it since Skyfall, but honestly? I wish there were more Bond/Moneypenny fan works out there. I’ve been thinking of writing one myself, given the chasm that’s been left in the existence of white male slash fever.
You’re absolutely right; at a fannish level, we have a major problem with how women and poc are dismissed, erased, pedestaled (at best), and dehumanized (at worst) by the majority of fans and surprisingly fans of all races and genders. I know fans both white and of color who equally misrepresent and under-use poc characters who have as much a relationship claim to the “leading white” (as in the case of Tony Stark/Rhodey and Steve Rogers/Sam Wilson), and I can’t help but wonder if that’s textbook racism, internalized racism, misogyny, internalized misogyny, misogynoir (when applicable), or an issue with these particular stories revolving around predominantly white characters in the first place. Or, in the case of Teen Wolf, not only Scott (the MAIN character) but the only other poc character who gets equal if not more hate than him on that show is Braeden, a mercenary for hire who develops a canon relationship with 1/2th of the behemoth Sterek ship. I wonder whether the shit she gets is really warranted or because she breaks up the fanon ship Sterek (much like Malia), whether it’s just typical racism, misogynoir, or the fact that TPTB of the show did her character and story arc such a disservice that she is more or less rendered insignificant to the plot of the show in general.
On that note, I feel the showrunners and the people behind the entertainment that amass such fandoms are at partial fault for this fannish behavior. Using Supernatural as a textbook example, it’s safe to say that the show already creates a hostile environment for female characters, regardless of race, but the few characters of color, men and women, who have appeared have done so fleetingly or are currently dead or were delegated bad guys, so Supernatural serves as its own interesting bubble experiment of the correlation between fandom popularity and the narrative of white male prevalence and dominance in entertainment and pop culture. Had Castiel been portrayed by a person of color, by a women, or both, with all other pieces of character dynamic and history intact, would Destiel and its shippers be such a thing as what we know of it today?
The same can be said for popular interracial het ships. For example, I am currently all in for that Ichabod/Abby endgame on Sleepy Hollow. The two characters show a ridiculous amount of chemistry and compatibility to each other (which, for me, compatibility in ships makes for a greater appeal). However, from my understanding, the creator behind the show is currently backtracking any romantic development that might have inevitably concluded between them, going so far as to pair them off with characters I don’t think any of us watching care all that much about. Is it backlash from a small group of Abby haters (Abby, of course ALSO being a lead on the show)? Their relationship is so on par with that of Mulder and Scully and yet I’m seeing that same treatment in regards to Abby that so many poc and woc characters in particular face when even the barest possibility of them being shipped with the main white lead is apparent. Why is this?
I used to find it concerning that I have a tendency to ship interracial pairings, that it was somehow a reflection of me and my own projections of wanting to date white guys (only white guys, I feared), but now I’ve wrapped my head around it. The default main lead in the majority of Western entertainment has been WHITE MALE for so long and so persistently and aggressively so that it only makes sense that that dominance would pervade the interest of the fans, whether they identify with them or not. More often than not, fans will find a way to identify with that tall, pale as hell, white male/female main character (“Sherlock is meticulous and compulsive, just like me!” said someone, I’m sure). That’s all well and fine, but there needs to be some acknowledgement on the part of the fans to recognize the dominance of this trend, and anything dominant can never be subversive, so making Sherlock and John hold hands and walk into the sunset at the expense of Mary in no way rebels against the status quo. If anything, white male slashing (which I am incredibly guilty of, myself) only serves to play into white male patriarchy and the fetishizing of gay men and then combine the two.
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Excellent. I too find it very disturbing that a character that Bond has obvious chemistry with in the movies, isn’t shipped more often. And I’m not just talking about Moneypenny. I’m also talking about Bond and Silva. I’d love to see more of that pairing and I wonder, since the two had so much affinity in the movie, why no one ships them, more often.
I did ask myself questions about the Sterek relationship, too. And this is a good answer for all my questions about various ships. I kept wondering to myself why Scott was left out of the equation, since he would be the most obvious character to ship Stiles with because he’s right there. There are also canon gay characters on the show, one of whom is a MoC, who doesn’t get shipped much either.
I’d wondered the same about Sam Wilson and Rhodes. They are the most obvious characters to ship with the guys standing next to them and yet Ive seen numerous ships where Sam is little more than Steve’s sidekick, there to facilitate his relationship Steve’s relationship to Bucky, or to handle Bucky’s and Steve’s PTSD, and I didnt like that.
Cheadle’s chemistry wit Downey is incredible in the movies. barely see any ships of the two, which is rather said. If the fandom really wanted to be as subversive as they claimed they’d have no problem shipping men of color.
Reblogged this on Geeking Out about It.
I used to not ship Joanlock, always claming that Joan was too good for Sherlock and that they’re better off as friends. Even though I did ship Sherlock with other Johns in the original books and movies and shows like BBC Sherlock. I thought I was being feminist and progressive by wanting the female lead not to be with the male lead romantically. But I started to unlearn that and recognize why these claims were racist. I had to question myself and say why not Joan, why do I ship all these white guys together and why did I change when Joan was being played by a woman of color.
I see that happening with protests against Ichabbie and Richonne and WestAllen (the latter two fandoms i’m not in but still see many posts about). I think it’s important for both fans of color and white fans to unlearn this misogynoir and question why fandom protests so strongly against these ships when they will so happily ship two white men.
Look I’m not going to say you aren’t spot on cos you are. But the reason why a lot of people ship slash is because they well like slash. You can’t just tell us to ship something we don’t want to ship. I’m not saying we should dismiss women but I’ve alwyas seen fanfiction as a way to make your own playground and if you want to ship bond x q you won’t focus as much on moneypenny as you would.
You do realize that I am in fact a slash shipper right? It says so right there in the post.
And that I’m talking about attitudes that I (along with other fans) have seen in fandom spaces?
The reality is that fandom erases people of color and women and it’s become second nature to them to do this in the name of “preference”.
When you bring up that this sort of shipping is limiting and hurtful, you get two responses for the most part: ones like yours that assume I’m telling people what to ship and the ones saying that talking about slash shipping in a less than positive light is homophobic because slash shipping is like the ultimate cause.
I really want to know why everyone keeps reading this post (which clearly says that I don’t care what you ship, but how you ship it with regard to erasure of female characters and characters of color) and decide that I mean for them to only ship what *I* like as a fan.
It’s starting to get on my nerves because y’all keep missing the point and that is that fandom needs to stop making excuses for the erasure of female characters and characters of color in their fanworks and fandoms. That’s ALL I’m asking for here and really, it shouldn’t be too much.
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[…] expense of female characters and characters of color. I even wrote a post about it called “Slash Shipping, Pseudo-Progressivism, and Reinforcing Patriarchal Standards in Fandom“. The post talks about how fandom constantly erases female characters and characters of color […]
Thank you so much for articulating something I’ve had a problem with in fandom for a while. I’m a huge Sherlock fan, and I’ve always been annoyed at the Johnlock ship because it completely erases John’s wife, and skates over the fact that Sherlock could be ace, which would be a little more interesting. Ichieabbie is one of my favorite ships, yet everyone ignores it because Abbie apparently can’t love someone and still be a Strong Female Character™. I’ve been avoiding many slash ships because I feel like glorifying white men just as much as society does, and it bothers me. Stucky is one of the worst to me, especially considering that after seeing Cap 1, I FORGOT WHO BUCKY WAS. His character was that forgettable, compared to Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter, who was so good THEY GAVE HER HER OWN SHOW, yet her romance with Captain America is glossed over by Cap fans. And we haven’t even touched on the lack of Asian or Native American representation in Marvel… Anyway, I guess I just wanted to rant and say how much I appreciated your writing.
Reblogged this on The random musings of a 1973 Original and commented:
OMG this is such a GOOD POST. I was just all in my feelings about this topic recently.
At some point while finding myself searching for new fics to read on AO3, I realized something was bothering me. Maybe it was that my fav f/f ships where always a side ship almost never present in a m/m male fic or maybe it was because the only fics you could find were m/m. I stopped reading fanfics and stopped going into a lot of fandom tags I used to follow because of how everyone was obsessed with the male characters, despite there also being good female characters (White or WOC).
It was until much later that I started seeing a pattern. In the SNK fandom, Sherlock fandom, Homestuck, in the Marvel fandom and many many other animes I used to watch.
You finally put everything going through my mind into words; and it saddens me that people haven’t realized what all of this means. Some of the canon material tends to put female characters or POC characters as secondary or having little to no personality, but a lot of times that’s not the case and people keep looking over amazing characters just for the sake of their m/m white ship.
In the Homestuck fandom for example, there’s an obsession on a m/m ship: DirkJake; and everyone loves to forget how abusive that canon relationship was because they desperately want to have those two guys together. Ignoring how abusive is was or the possibility of one of the guys being asexual.
And if you try to point anything out, you’re either homophobic or a hater. It sucks when an abusive female character from the same comic gets hated and talked shit on and the dude with the same behavior gets protected.
(Sorry if my grammar sucks, English is not my first language.)
I’d like to add that femslash is real and an option and you don’t have to ship het to include women in your ships.
I agree with you on the fact that femslash is absolutely a valid option that fandom needs to get on board with for representation of women.
I do think though that my post isn’t saying that you need to ship m/f ships (which aren’t necessarily all “het” ships IMO) to end white dude slash domination. Just that fandom needs to look at why female characters and characters of color (of all genders) get less shipping time than white dudes and why that’s not cool. But maybe my post isn’t as clear to others on that fact as it is to me because this is something people keep saying…
Thank you for writing this awesome article. It picks up the vage issues I got with white m/m ships and shipping in general by calling them out.
I send you all the best wishes and energy.
Haters gonna hate.
[…] I have met some wonderful new bloggers thanks to this site and have gotten in contact with people who I really admire (like seriously, I’m never going to get over the fact that the awesome Ben Aaronovitch reads my blog!!). I’ve also gotten to write some amazing posts like my initial big traffic draw Dear Comic Fans: We Get it. You’re racist and racebending scares you. and that damn fandom post that won’t quit, Slash Shipping, Pseudo-Progressivism, and Reinforcing Patriarchal Standards in Fandom. […]
I’m a bit late to the party but I’ve just found this today. This article was really interesting, so thanks for writing it!
I’m not gonna lie, I’m super guilty of this. Many of my ships are white m/m, although I’m little by little including more women and POC characters. I started to be really fond of some f/f ships lately.
Keep the good work!
[…] overwhelming whiteness of slash shipping culture has been discussed in detail before by fans of color. Spirk, despite […]
There was an issue with my previous comment (jumbled paragraphs) so here’s a clean repost.
Thank you for this amazing and thought-provoking article, Zina.
Allow me to introduce myself. I’m a heterosexual Black woman, an aca-fan (I’ve written about slash and the Supernatural fandom for my Master thesis), an avid Supernatural slash fanfic reader, fanfic writer on my way to becoming a professional writer, and I found this article very interesting. I’ve taken the time to read the article from top to bottom as well as the edit, and I believe I understand the message you’re trying to convey. I’m not going against the article, I think it’s spot on. I’m just adding a perspective that explains the reason I believe fandom will NEVER as a whole, truly include female characters, and it’s not limited to misogyny.
I will not touch the racism aspect. I experience racism myself and I’m very much aware of racism in fandom and discuss it on a weekly basis with the wonderful blogger lkeke (I found the link to this article on her blog). I ardently ship a het pairing that includes a Black female character (Barry Allen/Iris West) and casually ship a slash pairing that includes a Black male character (Dean Winchester/Victor Henricksen). I’m very much an OTP type shipper and I never seriously ship more than one pairing per fandom. Heck I think WestAllen and Wincest are the only pairings I currently ship, at all. I’m not invested enough in any other show to ship their characters, maybe Jane the Virgin’s Jane Villanueva/Rafael Solanos but verrrrrrrrrrrrrry casually lol.
I will solely focus on the exclusion of female characters. Before that, I will start with the disclaimer that I’m not 100% sure that I’m the target for this article: I’ve never looked at slash shipping as something progressive or rebellious. So feel free to ignore my novel if I’m derailing. Your house, your rules lol.
I grew up on a steady diet of fairy tales where I always identified with the princess (still do, I like to be swept of my feet and taken care of, that’s what I’m used to and I’m very comfortable with that), and on Greek mythology where I mostly identified with female characters who were for the most part, fearsome goddesses and warriors, or whip-sharp, cunning women with many tricks up their sleeves, as well as one Disney-like damsel which would be the one from the Myth of Eros & Psyche. As a teenager, I must have ingested 500 Harlequin novels before graduating to the saucier, “Passion & Adventures” category that provided a generous serving of the heat and sexual tension that were missing from the ‘regular’ Harlequins and also featured heroines who took charge of their circumstances in an era where women had little in the way of civil liberties. I identified with all the female heroines except for a few, who were terribly written and poster children for the lack of respect the writer had for her female characters (Exhibit A: the woman who falls in love with her rapist after being forced to marry him to repay a debt her father contracted… Yikes.).
My first TV crush was a Japanese man from one of those fighting robots series lol. My first slash pairing was two characters from the Japanese anime Saint Seiya. That’s the one that got me reading slash (in Spanish, their biggest slash fandom is Spanish-speaking), and writing slash myself. Then I watched Supernatural and fell head over heels in love with Sam and Dean strange chemistry the moment I laid eyes on them, a love that was only amplified by the highly unhealthy obsession they displayed toward each other as the series progressed.
I haven’t watched Bond since he was played by Pierce Brosnan, I don’t watch Teen Wolf and I have a strong distaste for Destiel so I’ll stick to talking about what I know. I also understand the mechanics of internalized misogyny and I’m perfectly aware that fandom doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I’ve also written on SPN fandom’s relationship with its female characters (had to cut that part out because I only had 100 pages for my thesis and needed to focus on just one theme) and I’m well aware of fandom’s rocky relationship with some of them. I would say that I like 80% of the female characters and seriously stan for a some of them. I feature my faves in a positive light in my slash fics, give them side romances with men who deserve them (treat them well) and gleefully demonize the ones I despise (that would be one villain I have a deep hatred for), same as I do for the male villains I have a personal issue with.
My slash writing absolutely comes at the expense of women who have significant intimate relationships with the white guys I’m shipping. I killed Ruby in one of my fics (just like the narrative did because she was a villain) because I detest her, and I gave Lisa who I adore, an active role in a fic that led to her finding something better for her and her child than a relationship with a man she called “twisted” for his inability to let go of his brother and truly commit to other things, like his newfound family in the narrative (the narrative also separated her from Dean for her own good). I also sacrifice the white dude’s relationship with MALE characters that I don’t like, no matter how close they are to them in the narrative (it’s SPN, so of course I’m talking about other white dudes, lol).
I was perfectly aware of what I was doing and had no qualms about it because I consider slash shipping of straight characters, a fanon activity that has no bearing on the reality of canon. It’s all pure fantasy for me and I write only for my pleasure, and the pleasure of those who are looking for the same brand of escapism. I also write from a very heterosexist perspective where I stick to established patriarchal norms. One reason again is I like the way these norms apply to my life and since I write for pleasure, I don’t burden myself with the kind of realism that would suck the fun out of it. For me.
I think the article does a good job calling out those who present themselves as paragons of change, representation and all-around inclusiveness, completely unaware of their biases.
I think what the article might ignore, is a less vocal part of fandom, which is comprised of heterosexual females, who are very comfortable replicating their personal romances in slash fiction, and who use it strictly as fapping material. They are aplenty. I know the members of my tribe lol, and they will keep writing in a way that may seem irresponsible to some, because they do it strictly for their enjoyment, and to explore a facet of life they don’t get to experience themselves (and don’t necessarily wish to).
All my friends are women. I never had a “cool girl” phase where I thought guys were where it’s at. I might actually be a bit of a misandrist as I consider women emotionally and spiritually superior to men and mostly consider men useful only for their role as romantic partners, protectors and providers (they need to be all about me, me, me, me, me, to have a reason to exist in my world). Outside of my daddy, my brothers and family friends, men are of no interest for me for friendship. I however, find them smoking hot, and the more of them lined up together without their shirt on, the better, which is why slash becomes this exercise in voyeurism where I’m content to sit back and watch them act out whatever fantasy I order them to, for my pleasure. The reason women have little place in it is the same reason straight guys like fake girl on girl porn, which is mostly staged, artificial, and based on everything I’ve ever read on the subject, seems to have very little to do with actual lesbian sex.
Not all slash writers write to subvert patriarchy, and explore gender and identity. I believe that ignoring the significant portion of slash writers who do it as a purely self-centered, pleasure-seeking enterprise is one reason for the frustration with the state of fandom. The reality is that some people are never going to include women in their writings and write non-heterosexist slash (weird combo but it’s definitely a thing) or have an interest in femslash, because, stereotypical romantic relationships with men, and a vision of women as strictly platonic beings is what they identify with, while slash constitute a space for fantasy as well as mental, emotional and sometimes physical, masturbation material mostly divorced from real life, reality, realism, and therefore, social responsibility.
Just my perspective 🙂
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I always find the people denying all the misogyny in the slash fandom to be kinda weird… Ofc my first fandom was Naruto, the slash/yaoi fans of which had the lovely tendency of brutally killing off female characters (especially those seen as possible competition to the main pairing), blatantly saying that the dudes were choosing to be gay because of how disgustingly clingy women are, extremely feminizing one of the guys so they could have a stereotypical het romance without icky women getting involved, having all the women be villains/ liars/ sluts/ etc… And the vast majority of the people writing that shit were young women and teenage and preteen girls. (Weirdly male slash writers in the Naruto fandom had a much better track record from what I noticed – they didn’t center female narratives, but they tended to treat their female secondary characters the same as their male secondary characters) (I think this being so blatant was related to the entire fandom encouraging “die for my ship” – canon teased multiple different m/f ships, and the shippers of one tended to horribly kill off the other potential girl. Though the other potential guy was almost never killed off in the same fashion. But it was much worse and much more noticeable in the m/m section of fandom – it varied by ship, but m/f shippers were much more likely to pair off the rival girl with another guy and treat her more-or-less normally). All the blatant misogyny made me much more aware of even the slightest hints in other fandoms, since I’d gotten into the habit of bailing on a fanfic/meta the instant it raised the slightest red flag
And even nowadays there are a lot of slash shippers who’ll complain about women even being present in media, let alone as potential love interests. (Seriously they’d rather have no women than have women who’re even briefly hinted at being a love interest. And again it’s mostly female slash shippers complaining)
I would have used Steve/Bucky as an example bc they got 22493 works in their tag.
The Steve/Bucky ship and fandom has their own problems with racism and misogyny but the Marvel ship I did use is notable because the characters never actually interact explain how fandom treats them.
Ah no no, I agree with what you say about Steve/Tony (as a shipper myself I could link you to tons of fics I’ve ran into that are just racist and sexist – more than half treats Sharon Carter like she’s a b*tch and Rhodey is Evil and Sam is called the N word just so Steve could swoop in and ~Save Poor Sammy~ And Nick Fury is a Lying Liar who Lies and treats Tony like crap and Steve saves him from that Evil Man)
Altho I do disagree about Steve and Tony “never interacting” because Steve and Tony do interact via comics (which is my main shipping platform) a lot. Like it’s more of a “they don’t get along [via mcu]” then a “they never interact”.
I just point out Steve/Bucky bc they have the same problems.
I also pointed out they have more fics – which I read this piece a while ago and I guess I mixed it up with a different article. Someone pointed out that Sam/Steve has less fics than another ship (I think it was Darcy/Steve) and when I was linked back to this one and saw the pictures on top I mixed it up with that article sorry!
Anyway – This article is great and points out a lot of fandom bs and I applaud you for having the courage to post it.
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