During the first two weeks of January, I came across an exchange between two Star Wars fans who were absolutely holding on to the narrative that the Rey/Kylo shipping fandom was being burdened with false accusations of racism – two weeks into the fandom as a whole going off on John Boyega over separate comments he made on New Year’s Eve.
@enfysblessed – I’ll repeat it until I’m blue in the face. Fandom as a whole is racist because society is racist and scapegoating one wildly diverse, large group who have one thing in common isn’t helping anything and is actively making it harder to combat fandom racism
@bensvvolo – this is honestly the most baffling thing to me, people not realizing the racism they recognize is societal and, I’d argue, not even fandom’s “job” to “fix”.
Two things stand out to me about these two tweets.
First, there’s the idea that supposedly scapegoating a “wildly diverse, large group” (Rey/Kylo shippers) for racism they are either participating in or not stopping from their fandom… is “actively making it harder to combat fandom racism”.
As someone who’s been writing about fandom racism relatively professionally since 2015? (And casually, to an extent, since the time of the Sleepy Hollow and MCU fandoms’ initial antiblackness?)
It’s actually fans like those two that make it hard for me to have my work taken seriously and for other fans to recognize and work against fandom racism.
Because these are the kinds of fans who move the goal posts for what fandom racism looks like. These are the kinds of fans who actively work to undermine and misrepresent my work in fandom. Perhaps, they’ve already done it.
In these tweets, they’re actually literally dismissing what a fairly large portion of their own fandom has done in the name of defending their ship. They’re both acting like the Rey/Kylo fandom hasn’t spent a whole huge chunk of 2020 so far being incredibly and unendingly antiblack about John Boyega in defense of white womahood.
And, let’s talk about what’s truly making it harder to combat fandom racism from my end as someone trying to talk about and push back against racism in fandom: white fans and fans of color who actively work together to silence commentary on and conversations about racism in fandom.
It’s the people who jump to misrepresent me when other people have recommended my work on racism in fandom – people who literally have zero idea who I am beyond what other people who hate me tell them. It’s the people who run discourse blogs and only engage in commentary about racism in fandom by dismissing it as a thing that doesn’t happen or by reducing our ideas to something that sounds weirdly controlling. It’s the people who keep telling fans of color – and especially Black women who’ve been in the Star Wars fandom as Finn/John fans from the start – to read Kate McCort’s biased ass article that actively ignores and perpetuates antiblackness in fandom.
(Part of Kate’s whole thing is that John dunking on Rey/Kylo shippers in an Instagram video that showed their twitter handles, but then she posts the handle and uncensored profile picture of a Black teenager who’d already been attacked by the father of a prominent white shipper who’s been visibly antiblack across the past few weeks.)
But then there’s the second thing, the idea that the racism folks in fandom are recognizing is societal and therefore not fandom’s job to fix.
I don’t think it’s fandom’s job to fix societal racism.
I don’t think that fandom can fix that.
However, in the context of Rey/Kylo shippers and how that fandom has been refusing to even acknowledge or even actively push back against the prominent antiblackness from members of their fandom?
That’s something that fandom can fix.
It’s something that fandom can mitigate or minimize.
If it wants to.
And clearly –
Folks in that fandom don’t want to fix the racism in their fandom.
But that’s something that’s bothered me for close to a month: the idea that racism isn’t something that fandom can fix because it’s bigger than fandom or societal.
Bensvvolo’s comment that “the racism [fans] recognize is societal” and therefore “not even fandom’s ‘job’ to ‘fix'” is fascinating to me because well… I definitely do think that it’s fandom’s job to fix the issues present in fandom.
Issues like racism.
But that’s the thing: if it’s job fandom’s job to fix racism in fandom –
Who the hell is going to?
Whose job is it to fix fandom?
Whose job is it to fix the problems built into fandom?
The internalized misogyny?
Fandom is problematic because the world is problematic.
However, stopping at that realization isn’t good enough.
If your recognition of racism in fandom, like enfysblessed’s, stops there and doesn’t interrogate fandom leaning into bigotry or ignoring it when it comes to the fanworks and fans it supports… you’re not doing enough. You’re not digging deeper.
And you’re not fixing fandom.
However, you should want fandom to be better. You should want fandom and your fellow fans to have earned the labels that you layer onto it. Stopping at a weak acceptance of fandom as a racist space without putting any plans in place to fix that is wrong.
Fandom is racist because of the world we’re building it from.
However, if you think that fandom can’t be fixed, and we can’t cut out racism in fandom because the racism is societal and systemic and therefore “bigger than fandom” –
I have to ask you to never say anything about how impactful fandom has been on y’all as an excuse to never get introspective or critical about fandom. Because the hypocrisy is showing and I am not in the mood for it.
I still have faith in fandom as a whole.
That’s why I’m still here.
If I didn’t think that there was a way to actually make fandom more balanced and better when it comes to recognizing its problems and fixing them –
I wouldn’t be around.
I wouldn’t be blogging.
But sometimes, when I see tweets like the two I opened this article with, I have to pause. I always find myself thinking back to my own work and my time in fandom when I see tweets like this.
Because it is our job as fans to fix fandom. It’s our job as fans to make fandom live up to what we say about it. It’s our job as fans to make fandom a welcoming and safe space for vulnerable and marginalized fans – and not to just claim that it is when it’s time to trot those people out to claim their support for something for real fucked up in fandom.
If your acknowledgement about how fucked up and racist fandom is stops there and you do nothing else to make fandom better or safer? You are part of the problem.
I keep coming back to the sentiment of the tweet, that it’s not fandom’s job to fix racism in fandom.
But if it’s not… whose job is it?
Who fixes fandom?
Who’s allowed to try?
Because I can tell y’all that as a Black fan who’s been trying to get people to think a little more critically about what they create and consume in fandom for half a decade? It sure as hell isn’t me that these folks are willing to listen to. It’s not my work they’re going to take seriously.
So if fans of color can’t fix fandom racism and we’re not worth listening to –
Who the hell is?
And why aren’t y’all listening to them?