Earlier this week I got a chance to participate in an episode of fandom podcast Fansplaining that was all about race/racism in fandom and giving people of color a chance to speak about what they’d witnessed and experienced. It was amazing!
First, the cool content:
Fansplaining Episode 22A
In “Race and Fandom Part 1,” Flourish and Elizabeth follow up on the last episode’s questions about the impact of racism in the Star Wars fandom—and how it’s a microcosm of fandom at large. They interview Rukmini Pande and Clio, and they hear clips from Holly Quinn, Shadowkeeper, and PJ Punla. Topics covered include the historical presence of fans of color, space nazis, femslash and its discontents, and the Filipino perspective on the whiteness of media.
Fansplaining Episode 22B
In the second and final installment of our “Race and Fandom” episodes, fans of color continue to speak about their experiences in fandom. Elizabeth and Flourish interview Jeffrey Lyles and Zina (@stitchmediamix), then hear clips from Roz (@rozf), Traci-Anne, and zvi LikesTV (@zvilikestv). Topics covered include being Black and Jewish, Star Wars weddings, cosplaying characters of color, and why kink is never divorced from the real world.
Under the cut is a bit of backstory (copied largely from some DMs I sent earlier in the week) about what sparked this anger at fandom (for me and several of the contributors this episode):
A couple of weeks ago, fandom statistician Destinationtoast posted a series of statistics looking at how the Finn/Poe ship has been losing steam while the Kylo Ren/Hux ship is surpassing it in content and attention. I believe that she was the first person to say that this could be in relation to racism with regard to her specific stats post (although I’m not sure).
Fans of color, specifically Black and Latino fans, responded with the usual “no shit, this is what fandom does: erase characters of color and privilege/focus on white dude slash ships”.
Initially, it wasn’t a huge deal because this is what fandom is for fans of color: we and characters that resemble us are always erased in favor of the white guys. So seriously, not a big issue beyond the usual big issue.
Then, Franzeska (who has sat on the board for the ao3 and at one point apparently handled/headed their abuse section) wrote two separate pieces of meta wherein she erased fans of color (attributing complaints about the racism fans experience to white social justice warriors AND, in her longer meta, literally glossing over racism in fandom and events such as Racefail 09 and the presence of fans of color actively working to diversify fandom). She rewrote fandom history, writing fans of color out of it.
Then, in her ship-specific meta, she literally dismissed racism as (one of) the reason why the ship is lessening in popularity. Instead, she blames kink shaming and social justice warriors who apparently won’t allow fandom to write what they like with Finn and Poe. (Which… Not a thing but okay.)
So this sparked several conversations about race, shipping, and the presence of fans of color, not just in the Star Wars fandom, but in fandom as the broader community.
So this sparked several conversations about race, shipping, and the presence of fans of color, not just in the Star Wars fandom, but in fandom as the broader community. Many people of color (specifically Black and Latino fans) wrote posts and spoke up about the erasure and racism Franzeska was perpetuating and giving a platform to (as many of the people commenting on her meta were white women one step away from saying that they wished people of color would know their place in fandom…).
Things mentioned in these conversations fandom was having included the way that (white) fandom keeps moving goalposts for representation and how characters and fans of color are ignored. The way that “old” fans long for the good old days when they could write what they want (which implies that they would rather anti-racist poc and our allies be quiet about race and racism). Many of us scoffed at the idea of harshing fandom’s squee by calling out race and racism due to the fact that fandom isn’t a safe space for people of color and may never be.
We don’t get to squee as much because racism is always present in fandom from how characters are treated or erased to how fans with more presence and fandom capitol (and power to be honest) rarely use those powers for you know… good. They do what Franzeska did: erase fans of color and act as though people wanting respectful depictions of characters of color are demanding that white fans write “joyless dutyfic” (her words, not mine).
Think about it: a BNF straight up said that writing the way fans of color want (non-racist depictions of characters of color who are centered in their own narratives) would be forcing them to write joyless dutyfic. I mean, how dismissive and dickish can you get?
So far, by the way, Franzeska has apparently made no attempt at engaging any of the critiques of her “work” by fans of color.
Anyway: Elizabeth and Flourish (who run the Fansplaining podcast and are true gems) put out a call for fans of color to contribute to a special two-part episode of their show and I leapt at the opportunity to have that kind of platform.
Which well… brings us to this post.
So listen to the episode’s parts and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two about how fandom feels for fans of color…