[Audio Post & Transcript] Stitch Talks Toxic Fandom

stitch talks toxic fandom

Content Warning:

In this audio post I discuss racism in fandom (including sexual racism… somehow), mention sexual assault and objectification, harassment from toxic fandom (or, as I call it… fandom) including death threats to and attempts to incite suicide in celebrities, trying to get them fired, and falsely accusing them of “not caring” about assault survivors.

So, I think by now we all know what’s happened with online assholes harassing Kelly Marie Tran into wiping her social media and backing away from engagement with fans. It’s kind of everywhere within nerdy news. Straight up, it’s wrong to harass people and the folks doing that should lose their computer privileges.

I wanted to use this space/my time to talk about an aspect of fandom racism I see people outright dodging: the role white women play in fandom racism and the fact that fandom is racist. Regardless of whether or not you’re in “curatorial” or “transformative” fandom spaces.

I’ve been seeing a ton of tweets that are trying so hard to dismiss the people who harassed Kelly Marie Tran as not “real fans” or saying that this only happens in “curatorial fandom”. Syfywire just posted a whole ass piece about how fandom has a white dude problem (written by a white woman, I believe) that doesn’t seem to acknowledge the racism that has always been in fandom or how much of it comes from white women in fandom spaces.

And as someone who’s gotten more shit from folks in transformative fandom than from curatorial fandom?

I’m sick of folks passing the buck and pretending that racism doesn’t happen in their fandoms. That toxic fandom habits are the purview of white dudes (I mean have y’all seen the Voltron Legendary Defender fandom?)

I’m sick of folks failing to recognize that the nostalgia for the past that they swear fuels the dudebros’ racism is active and present in transformative, female-driven fandom. They hide it a bit better, but if you ask someone who does work on fandom racism, they’ll tell you all about the ways it works.

If you don’t know what fandom racism looks like or how it has always come across in fandom (or even how it’s evolved to take advantage of the callout culture and social justice it once railed against), you need to do your homework.

You don’t need to be listening to me, especially if you don’t like me (but like… think about why you don’t like me considering that I don’t actually start shit with people or stray very far from my lane…)

But find a person of color who won’t give you a pass and listen when they speak/read what they write.


TRANSCRIPT

Zina: Let’s talk about toxic fandom.

Um, I know that this has been kind of everywhere if you’re in fandom, but recently Star Wars: The Last Jedi actress Kelly Marie Tran was kind of run off of social media. She’s deleted all of her images. It looks like on Instagram. I don’t follow her on Twitter, so I don’t know if she’s deleted them on Twitter as well, or if she was even using that platform. People have connected the deletion with racist and misogynistic comments from Star Wars nerds who think she is somehow the worst character in the franchise.

God, even if she was playing the worst character in the franchise, what do you guys have– That doesn’t even make sense.

What is abusing the performer going to do? Is that going to wipe The Last Jedi out of Canon? Look, it’s not.

What I’ve been talking about on Twitter about toxic fandom, and that I want to bring here to Patreon to talk about, is the way that toxic fandom is viewed as something that only happens with white guys.

Many, many tweets that have gotten really popular in the wake of this, I mean thousands of retweets, maybe even millions, have been tweets that say things like, “The Star Wars fandom has a white dude problem”, or, “White nerds are the most toxic.”

There’s a tweet thread and I saw someone, I feel like maybe one of my mutuals on Twitter retweeted and was like, “Yes, this is the most aware thread I’ve seen on this.” That was like, “This is what happens in a curatorial fandom, not transformative fandom.”

And I think that’s really what I want to talk about:

This need that these fans have to distance themselves and their fannishness from the “toxic fans” or the not real fans.

A real fan isn’t someone that loves everything. It’s someone that loves a specific thing, or specific set of things.

Trying to reframe this whole conversation is, “Real fans don’t do X”, is unhelpful. Splitting it between curatorial and by the way, if you don’t know what that means, those are the fans that collect things.

I guess if you collect things you –

Or things such as physical objects, information, factoids, that’s, I guess if you’re in curatorial fandom, you’re more likely to be like, “Oh, your shirts Robin… Oh, which Robin,” or something like that.

Apparently, the idea is that curatorial fandom is toxic and full of harassers, while transformative fandom is not.

And I mean it’s – that’s not true.

The difference between the two sets of fandom — and they’re not really two separate sets — because transformative fandom collects facts for use in something like cosplay or fan works.

Curatorial fandom collects for collecting, because they like having that knowledge because there are dragons hoarding it. What about like… I collect things, because I like collecting things, but I also use them.

It’s like this is binary either you’re — if you’re in fandom, you’re either collecting or you’re creating. That doesn’t really work for me, because what about us who collect to create.

Anyway, the Supernatural fandom has been harassing everyone forever.

Not just violent harassment. I’ve seen the fan artist, I think her name is Eliza.

[Note: her name is Elicia Donze and, because of continuing harassment coming in no small part from the Supernatural fandom, she just had to delete her art blog.]

She draws those photo realistic pieces that are really beautiful, right? She’s spoken about how the supernatural fandom harasses her. They sent her death threats. She’s not able to participate in fannish events because of harassment she receives.

These fans are predominantly women. Dare I say white women, because of the demographics of fandom as we’re told they are because nobody’s done a survey that’s been like, “Yes, this is everybody– in this fandom has participated.”

Even the Voltron fandom discourse survey that came out last year, was like 80% white people, but that’s not the whole fandom. You know? So that sort of thing.

In the Supernatural fandom as well, you have people harassing Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles’ wives respectively, because some of them believe that the wives are beards for their gay relationship.

People harass the showrunners.

Anf these are people who are ostensibly in transformative fandom.

The Teen Wolf fandom had– When Tyler Posey’s mom died, people who hate him because he “gets in the way” of the Stiles and Derek relationship, and doesn’t care for it to be brought up in conversations and stuff because it’s… you know, a crack ship to him, I guess.

Said that he should have killed himself. They wished death on him. They told him these things.

Um… If you watch anything nerdy with a black woman in it, that black woman has been harassed by fandom, by transformative fandom. Predominantly people harassing Candice Patton because of her role as Iris West in fandom, in the Flash are white women and fandom. White women who see her and her character as getting in the way of the SnowBarry relationship, which isn’t actually a relationship.

They’ve just kind of twisted themselves up so that they can explain away their super investment in a non-canon, male-female relationship that does not involve any people of color.

Anna Diop, yes, she got harassment from white guys. What about the harassment didn’t come from white guys? Like when we rush to decide that toxic fandom comes from these specific people you know, like it’s super easy to write it all off as these are the same guys — the same guys who harassed Kelly Marie Tran are the guys who were like, “Oh my gosh, we have to not watch Star Wars”, or the “Rick and Morty Szechuan Sauce” thing.

We ignore the fact that fandom racism is a really big problem in nerd culture and that this racism comes in the form of many different things and that white women used fandom and fandom racism differently than these white guys.

Like if we’re doing a binary, the binary is straight white guys who aren’t shipping things and white people who ship things. That’s a binary I guess I could argue for, but at the same time? “Eehh.”

The one thing that I’ve noticed is that in my experiences in fandom and fandom racism, I am more likely to be doxed by a straight white guy who calls me reverse racist. Right?

But I am more likely to be privately harassed, to have my private stuff shared and spread by a white woman.

I’m more likely, because I’ve experienced this with the Slash Shipping—

In 2015 I wrote a post called Slash Shipping Pseudo-Progressivism or something like that.

It was about the ways that just because you ship a white dude slash ship, that doesn’t mean you’ve just ended bigotry. You can still be racist, misogynistic, whatever, and one of the ways that shows up is in these white dude slash shipping ships were women of color, or people of color and white women are erased, killed off, demonized, et cetera.

That got I think about 5,000 notes on Tumblr, the original post that linked to my website. It’s got a couple thousand hits, like people actually clicked through it. I also got a ton of anonymous hate. I got people linking to me, mocking me so I’d click the referrers, and it would be like, Fail-Fandomanon, or someone running an anonymous meme on their own Dreamwidth account, or someone mocking me on a Tumblr Ask.

These were people who were calling me– like they were really going off like insulting my intelligence. I saw a couple insult my looks, which aren’t even related because I’m really cute, but whatever.

[Note: I dropped a thought (possibly more than one) but when I bring up the direct and racist fannish response to my one post on slash shipping, racism, and misogyny, I was supposed to follow that up with how despite the fact that my first post on racebending was liked on TumblrInAction, hardly anyone actually interacted with me from the post despite getting between 3000-5000 views in a single day.

“Curatorial” fandom, mainly kept their shit to reddit.

Transformative fandom needed me to know how inferior it thought I/my ideas were and that my womanhood was less valuable than theirs (their need for slash fandom to explore their identities > my need for characters that look like me to not be erased or reduced to nanny figures, natch)]

I had people be really cruel and that’s the thing: The cruelty of transformative fandom is rarely addressed.

A lot of people find community in transformative fandom, and that’s good. I’ve found some community. I have my OGs from the DC fandom that will always be really close to me, even though we’re all like five fandoms apart or barely in fandom.

The flip-side is that you have lots of cults of personality. You have a lot of racists who don’t want to come out and say, “Yes, I’m a racist, just letting you know.” Because they don’t maybe think they are, or they don’t want to get yelled at.

You have a lot of people who do the same things that the white guys do, except they are largely directing it at fellow fans and marginalized fans at that.

I could give you the names of black people in fandom who because they speak about racism in a way that fans don’t like, and I don’t mean they reblog with insults. I don’t mean they’re mean to others. I mean, by virtue of going “this thing you like as racist, here’s why” they’ve been called antis. They’ve had smear campaigns made up for them. They’ve been subject to harassment and these aren’t coming from the dude-bros.

These are coming from white women, white non-binary people, white queer people, white disabled people. Of course, there are some #PickMe People Of Color in there who think that this is the perfect time for them to get in good with white racists and fandom for some reason. They are a minority within a majority.

I highly doubt that half of the people that have given me shit in fandom were people of color.

I only highly doubt that because half of the things have been anon or side blogs, or stuff. I also just don’t look because I don’t care.

If I ever go back on Tumblr, I’ll keep track.

But I mean — We’re so quick and “We”, I mean you guys, are so quick to dismiss the fact that this sort of thing happens in fandom. You can’t say, “This fandom has no room for racism,” when there’s been racism in your fandom from day one.

When your source media, by virtue of lacking people of color, forms a perfect breeding ground for white supremacists in part by I don’t know, Star Wars fandom, glorifying The Empire and First Order by making their merchandise the most widely known, by making Kylo Ren, Hux, Thrawn bless him. But, still sympathetic interesting characters who get flushed out backstories and narratives. Like that’s what you guys are doing.

Captain Phasma got a prequel, got a backstory novel and we still don’t know anything about Finn.

Of course, #FictionDoesn’tImpactReality, but also fuck you guys at this point.

Fiction clearly impacts reality.

Fandom is currently impacting reality and I hate that when we have these conversations about toxic fandom, there’s always this like, “Oh, well, so and so deserved it.” You generally get like with the Kelly Marie Tran stuff, people were like, “Well, her character was terrible.”

Doesn’t warrant harassment.

In fandom, um people make up stuff or they misrepresent stuff and then when that person gets bullied, they deserved it.

And it’s just — Toxic fandom is fandom.

If you haven’t noticed that fandom is racist you’re not looking.

You have the privilege of avoiding fandom racism. That’s how that works. If you are surprised that Kelly Marie Tran is getting shit, where were you in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 when John Boyega constantly gets shit. Where articles came out like shitting on him and his character like—

Fandom racism.

The problem with fandom racism and talking about it in the mainstream is that a lot of the times it’s really hard to point at something and go, “This is racist.” Because by now transformative fandom folks have realized that they can’t just call people racial slurs. Although, I have evidence of shippers and certain parts of the Star Wars fandom using racial slurs. Just letting you know, that’s the thing.

Transformative fandom isn’t going to call me a racial slur.

I’ve never been called the N-word by someone in transformative fandom. That’s not how fandom racism works. [Note: I have seen people share where they’ve been called anti-black racial slurs by non-black people on anon and off in various fandoms.]

If you’re looking for a one to one ratio with what Kelly Marie Tran is getting, and what fans of color get. I’m speaking of course, from experience as a black person who’s very vocal about race and representation in fandom and media. I get like medium, and I get less now that I’m not on Tumblr, right?

But fandom racism looks like the coded language.

The fact that there’s always a reason to dislike a character or performer of color. It’s that their performance isn’t good enough. They don’t have chemistry. They’re not talented, they aren’t this, they aren’t that. The excuses people come up with to excuse why they don’t like us is basically the building block for transformative fandom racism.

Two years ago when I started graduate school, Franzeska, she’s on a bunch of stuff with the AO3. She’s awfully official big name fan of Epic Proportions, wrote between two metas.

She had one piece of meta fiction that was maybe 16,000 words long. That was a whitewashed version of “Fannish History” that attributed the experience of fans of color and race and racism to White Allies, like virtue signaling or jonesing for Ally Cookies. Then she wrote another meta that was like “Oh, the reason why storm pilot which is the Finn and Poe ship from The Force Awakens is not more popular.”

She listed three things and the second thing was racism. She decided that racism (and Franzeska’s white), she decided that racism could not possibly be why Finn and Poe aren’t as popular as Kylo and Hux and decided that kink-shaming was it.

Because people are being kink-shamed. And here I’m going to pause to point out that people are going, “Please stop writing racist-gross shit with Finn and Poe.” So… that’s kink-shaming going, “This is gross. Why are you writing these characters being sexually enslaved for your kinks? Why are you giving Finn a giant penis? That’s objectifying black male bodies. Have you ever heard of the lusty Latino stereotype? Why is Poe literally a sex kitten? Thanks for objectifying men of color”

And Frankzeska –

And a ton of white women in fandom agreed with her.

She didn’t apologize for it until a year later when she was working on a video about fandom and race with a black creator, whose name escapes me but she’s lovely. I feel like her name is Chelsea. I feel very strongly though that her name is Chelsea.

So, people were like, “Well, Franeska is literally the last person you should have on this, because she’s racist garbage.” Because she was very content to get backpats from other white women who dismissed the concerns of people of color, and in fact longed for the pre-2009 days when they could just say what they wanted.

A lot of people hold –

Oh.

And I did not accept her apology. Fuck Franzeska, 2018.

Just saying.

Now, a lot of people when they look at the “Curatorial Fandom”, like to bring up this longing for the past as if that’s the only place that happens in fandom. Like, “Oh, man. He collects Lego’s and knows all the facts, so he must want Lego’s to–” whatever.

But It ignores that fandom does it too. Transformative fandom does that weird longing for the past, that frequently, frequently revealed itself in the harassment of not only fellow fans, but the creators that do it.

Between 2014 and 2016, supposed fans of DC Comics superhero Nightwing (Dick Grayson) harassed the writers on the comic– 20 issue long comic Grayson where Dick after the events of Forever Evil, went in undercover working at St Hadrian School for spies or whatever and –

They lied about the content. There were scenes where Dick was slightly sexualized and as he is a marginalized character, he is a Romani character. One of the few in comics, in superhero comics, I understand discomfort or just not even wanting to read the book.

They were saying that he was sexually assaulted in Issue 13. [Note: He was not.]

They were saying, they were trying to get one of the writers, Tim Seeley fired.

They said things like Tim Seeley would ignore a woman who said she’d been raped. He would avoid helping her. They would send these things to him. They once triggered a panic attack. It was October 2015, if I’m remembering correctly, they triggered a panic attack from him. He was out on a date with his girlfriend.

I remember Bleeding Cool (eeh) wrote an article about it because it was that intense. And they said so many awful things directly to him, like directly accusing him. Specifically, Tim Seeley. I don’t know why they never went after Tom King to the extent that they did, but this is a white, cis-dude with mental health issues. He talked about his depression and anxiety in the thread, one of the comment he made and in different podcasts.

I’m not making stuff up. I might be misremembering, but not making stuff up.

They went after this guy. They also went after the bisexual writer of Midnighter at the time, Steve Orlando. They accused him of a making Midnighter a predatory gay stereotype. [Note: For showing attraction to Dick Grayson. That’s all.]

This was publicly things they were doing, they were tagging him, they were discussing this as if it was fact on different social media platforms. This is transformative fandom clinging to Chuck Dixon’s version of the character.

Chuck Dixon, as we all know by now noted super-conservative Homophobic Asshole, right? And that’s what they long for. They long for the glory days of Dick Grayson and that meant shutting down the creators that were doing it in a way they didn’t approve of, and it also meant weaponizing trauma.

That’s a thing we’ll talk about at some point, because I think discussing your trauma and how something triggers it and can hurt it is different from weaponizing it, especially if you’re using that to harass people.

Sometimes, you can tell when people are kind full of it or they’re doing the weaponized pain thing.

That’s another aspect of transformative fandom that is not addressed, that isn’t taken into consideration when we talk about toxic fandoms. Like people will literally use their pain as a weapon in these discussions. I mean that’s not great. I mentioned before, I’m not a fan of what I call “trauma vomit”. I’m not going to tell you my business, it’s not your business.

I think that fandom has created an environment where people feel like they have to share in order to be taken seriously. There’s a difference between talking about your experiences with something and going, “I have this experience. You can’t tell me anything because I have these experiences,” and yet people do it.

I know this has strayed a bit from the Kelly Marie Tran thing, but it’s something that I just keep thinking about, because a lot of my mutuals and not many — not all of them are people of color who are retweeting these takes.

There’s just this huge focus on kind of… shutting down the idea, the potential for the idea, that fandom itself has a problem. That that problem, what we’re seeing with Kelly Marie Tran, what we’ve seen with other people of color, and they don’t actually mention other people of color and many of these takes, the experiences of people of color.

As in Kelly Marie Tran is Vietnamese, do you really think that her race has nothing to do with, with the bigotry she’s getting? Really?

And then a lot of the people also haven’t talked about John Boyega.

Much with John Boyega’s racism [Note: the racism he gets from fandom] comes from not just– It doesn’t just come from the nostalgic Star Wars dudes who re like, “Whoa, black person being a storm trooper.” That’s somehow unrealistic in this world on Jedi.

It’s also coming from white ladies who ship Reylo, and of course, their “pick me people of color”.

I think it’s time that we really look at how we talk about toxic fandom.

You can talk about the dude bros without removing responsibility from everyone else. Fandom doesn’t have a white dude problem. It has a racism problem and in 2018, if you’re only just figuring that out, you might be part of the problem and you should work on that.


(Originally posted on Patreon June 7, 2018.)

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About Zina

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
This entry was posted in Fandom, What Fandom Racism Looks Like and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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