Internalized Misogyny and that Damned Slash Shipping Post: A Response

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(Wherein I answer the first part of @legendofzeldamajorass‘s question, sort of answer the second, and promise try to do a better job about fleshing out my comments at some point soonish when I’m not swamped with work.)

This is in response to Slash Shipping, Pseudo-Progressivism, and Reinforcing Patriarchal Standards in Fandom

First things first: Girls and people perceived to be girls are spoonfed some seriously toxic thoughts about what it means to be a girl and what femininity as a construct is from the moment that they’re born.

Think back to high school, if you weren’t a teenage girl, you were around them. How many of them were super nice to one another across the board? When you exist in a society that has made an industry out telling women they’re not good enough and never will be, you wind up with some pretty twisted views of what you’re supposed to be like.

One of the pushbacks I keep seeing to my post on slash shipping and pseudo-progressiveness is that people like you and like others assume that women aren’t capable of actively expressing internalized misogyny and that we shouldn’t confront the fact that it’s something that’s so very present in fandom spaces.

I was a teenage girl once. I was also a teenage slash shipper and have been a slash shipper for the past 13+ years. And I save everything. So I can go back and look at the slashfic I wrote and read back then and see very vividly the internalized misogyny that was present in my erasure of female characters or how I used them as villains more often than not. And I can also see the evolution of my writing as I turned my academic research towards queer history and gender studies.

And I’m still evolving! Because people talked to me, they called me out and they called fandom out. And I learned just as much from them as I did my textbooks.

So why should we you know… not talk about the fact that internalized misogyny (and internalized racism) is something that our fellow female fans need to grow out of because it definitely informs the way that a majority of them tend to gravitate towards the white dude ships when they ship slash.

Next okay…

The thing is that first of all: there’s nothing in my post that directs this post towards condemning women or teenage girls for slash shipping. That’s not the post that I wrote and while I’m definitely down for death of the author and interpreting text outside of the author, I really don’t understand why people keep reading that specific thing into my text.

Second of all, I don’t say that having M/M ships is misogynistic – or an example of internalized misogyny. Like… I literally don’t say that and I wouldn’t say that. I’m a slash shipper myself and so on top of being a fan academic with a focus in popular “Western” culture, I’m directly talking about things that I do and have experienced.

I think that much of fandom (the institution) has time and time again tried to insist that shipping two white dudes in a slash ship negates any social responsibility to you know… not be a jerk about female characters and characters of color in the source media.

M/M shipping with two white dudes isn’t on its own misogyny or a symptom of it.

Exclusively shipping ships with these white dudes and then actively not using or erasing female characters in the narrative is.

I’ve made this pretty clear in my post that it’s not the ships I have an issue with, but the culture of slash shipping that have put white guys at the top of the heap to a point where we’re not allowed to confront or critique the shipping culture.

Third, even if I opened this post with “young women and teenage girls, stop the white dude slash domination”, it’s still not an attack. It’s still not me saying that women and girls are awful for only writing about white dudes in fandom. It’s still not me telling anyone what to ship or that I personally loathe them for their desire to ship what we want.

Also: Teenage girls exist in this nebulous between stage. They’re young but they’re not children and the patriarchy sexualizes them from before they’re actually teenagers so many people approach teenagers as grown adults. So they exist between.

But teenage girls grow up.

So if you’re a teenage girl in fandom and you’re looking at posts like mine like “oh no I can’t be misogynistic because I’m a girl” and then don’t look critically at how shipping is also in a between space where it’s entertainment but also indicative of how the world deals with (or doesn’t deal with) POC and women…

You’re not going to shift forward.

Up until I was 19/20, I thought that I was special. I thought that because I had all of these “nice” dude friends and the only girls I was friends with were their girlfriends (and even then, not really), I was avoiding drama. I would diss other girls with my dude friends, actively and awfully enact and express shit tons of internalized misogyny. And when I wrote slash fiction, I didn’t write about women because society was telling me that women weren’t important and I internalized that to a point where I expressed it in my writing.)

And okay, I’m not special. Many girls and women of all ages have gone through some sort of stage where they pride themselves on being so different from other girls and being distant from them because well… the patriarchy tells us that’s how we’re supposed to behave.

This mentality exists in fandom. Just as people of color can internalize racism (look at the way that Black men talk about Black women on social media for a horrifying example), women can internalize misogyny. We can also enact it.

Fandom isn’t a vacuum. It doesn’t exist outside of the world and its problematic isms and no one is exempt from simply internalizing stuff like this.

So I definitely need to address something about my use of the term progressive and what I mean when I say “your white dude slash ships aren’t as progressive as you think they are” (because it seems super confusing to people and I guess I need to explain it…), but I’m going to be honest with you: I’ve been up since 5am and I seem to only have had steam for one intense essay post. So if you don’t mind reminding me over the weekend (maybe Saturday night/Sunday morning), I will try and put together something that will hopefully explain my comments further.

In the meanwhile though (because there’s a chance I might not get back to you about this because my time is full of studying and panicking), it’s not that there are tiers of what is/isn’t progressive because it all relies on context and I definitely need to try and clarify my points in my post.

The issue is that fandom is kind of like a portal or a fairy ring. When “outsiders” to fandom look, it appears super progressive because most media is super heterocentric. Queering a heterocentric text is progressive. Straight up. I adore fandom for it.

But when you’re in fandom (especially as a POC or a woman or a woman who loves women or any other identity), all you’re seeing are the white dude ships and people saying they love female characters and characters of color while doing jack shit to make fandom more accessible.

That’s where the issue comes in.

White dude slash ships of characters like Steve Rogers and Tony Stark or James Bond and Q appear progressive to the outsider and in very shallow readings of fandom, but looking deeper, this progressiveness stops at the white guys. Female characters and characters of color wind up stuck in roles of sidekicks or agony aunts or villains or just a one off “they dated once” reference for one or both members of the popular white dude slash ship.

That’s what I’m angry about.

And that’s what I want fandom to try and change.

Because at the very least, asking fandom as an institution and individual fans to look at why it’s so easy for them to create sprawling, spiraling backstories for white characters they want to ship with one another than it is for them to even consider actively creating content about women and characters of color shouldn’t be seen as wank or causing drama.

Required Reading from me:

Fandom. you’ve got a huge race problem — An Introduction Post

The Techniques of Erasure

Fandom’s Huge Race Problem Essay #2: Co-Opted Experiences and Identities in Fandom

(And click all of the links please, like I did research for a reason!)


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