Anti What, Exactly?

“What is the opposite of fandom? Disinterest. Dislike. Disgust. Hate. Anti-fandom.”

Melilssa A. Click. Anti-Fandom: Dislike and Hate in the Digital Age 

The anti-fandom(s) – and anti-fan(s) – of 2020 look far different from what Jonathan Gray put together in 2003’s “New Audiences, New Textualities” when he described anti-fans as, “those who strongly dislike a given text or genre, considering it inane, stupid, morally bankrupt and/or aesthetic drivel,” (70).

The internet and fandom as we know it have both changed drastically in the past decade and change since he first attempted to provide that definition – a definition that Gray himself has tried to expand upon and contextualize across the years, culminating in his essay in Melissa A. Click’s collection on anti-fandom referenced in the introductory quote.

At this point, if you’re in transformative fandom, you’re probably faintly aware of the term “anti” and the variety of ways it’s used to describe other people in fandom who seem to be against fandom in some way that is rarely fully explained.

In part because most of the people explaining it… can’t explain it very well because they have wildly varying definitions of what an anti is and what anti behavior looks like.

At this point in fandom and fandom discourse, what is most “anti”/opposite/against fandom is not letting fans do what they want without any criticism whatsoever. Which includes, as I’ve noted across the years… fans creating purposefully or incidentally racist fanworks.

I mean, really… considering that when John Boyega was getting shat on by Rey/Kylo fans – members of a fanbase that’d been harassing him and shitting on him publicly for his entire time in the Star Wars sequel trilogy – I saw tweets accusing him of “siding with fandom antis” –

It becomes clear that in many fandom spacesm, the term “anti” at this point is mostly meaningless.

(And that Black people who aren’t doing what fandom wants will always be viewed and (mis) treated as outside of or against (anti) fandom.)

Here’s something that’s honestly hilarious to me when it’s not rage-inducing:

People really like calling me an anti.

But the question is… anti what?

They’re never gracious enough to actually explain what I’m oh so against in fandom that they need to set me up as an ideological enemy of fandom worth tearing down and slandering – even though they claim to be against harassment and that sort of behavior. They literally just… call me an anti, make up some lie about my fandom behavior that they never actually back up, and actually collect clout in fandom.

Take this recent set of tweets from two (if you ignore the user in the middle) Hannibal fans who are actively misrepresenting me and my work in the name of… gaining clout in their fandom space basically while claiming that the fandom for the long-canceled Hannibal television show isn’t primarily made up of white women.

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@callmenephila: Did I ever tell you that after the first accusation I made a poll to see how many ppl were all three and a random discourse shitstarter account took it out of context and called me a racist moomoo that needed to learn statistics (while I was actually teaching stats in labs)

@lovetincture: Oh Jesus. Why are people.

@moistdrippings: (feel the need to pop in and say the account in question is taken seriously, unfortunately, by a lot of people, because they hide their anti side in long lists and paragraphs about actual fandom issues and claim it’s directly linked to racism, watch out for st/tch)

(A digression:

When people do demographic surveys of their individual fandom spaces – like the 2018 demographic survey put forward by the mods at r/Bangtan or this 2018 demographic survey done by just over 2500 Rey/Kylo shippers – usually at least half of the surveys’ respondents are white and the overwhelming majority of the fans identify as women.

Transformative fandom – which henceforth across this piece will just be called fandom because I am rarely talking about affirmational fandom – is lady-dominated. It is also very white. I mean, incredibly white. So the women primarily creating content, consuming content, and controlling what fandom discourses about on any level?

Tend to be… white ones.)


First of all: in the actual thread I did about @callmenephila’s ridiculously weighted poll, I didn’t name her or use the word “racism” at any point in my thread. I didn’t call her a racist then – but I absolutely would now. I didn’t even @ her.

So she sets it up as an attack on her personally. That she was just minding her business, trying to prove that her fandom is actual facts diverse, when a rando came and attacked her and called her a racist. Because the goal is to… play the victim and set me up as her monster.

Second of all: calling me a “random discourse shitstarter account” is supposed to dismiss the actual point that I made in the first tweet in the thread I linked:

If you do a poll where you’re like “choose yes if you’re cis, white, and/or het in fandom and no if you’re not” there’s literally no way you can honestly use those results to say that Fandom is overwhelmingly populated by queer POC

That’s not a good poll??

(it’s not a good poll because it exists specifically to allow queer white people to lump themselves in with POC and tries to make a lie out of known fandom demographic surveys of fandom that show that transformative fandom is largely a white space.)

Neph’s use of the term redefines me as a “troll”.

When what I actually am?

Is a motherfucking expert on fandom racism because of the constant antiblackness I’ve observed and experienced – like these non-Black fans lying on me because they think I won’t stumble upon it.

Third: the second redefinition comes from @moistdrippings who actively misrepresents me and my work by claiming that I “hide [my] anti side in long lists and paragraphs about actual fandom issues and claim it’s directly linked to racism” before issuing a warning for folks to watch out for me. (Because I am a threat to their fandom, somehow…)

Like I said, these incredibly bored people on the internet really seem to like calling me an “anti” on the internet with literally nothing backing it up because by their own logic – where antis harass others -… I don’t actually fit the thing.

Back at the start of March when I was actually busy straying from my lane about Chinese anti fandom and the AO3 (a long story but lord, I won’t be doing that again), a complete rando replied to my now-deleted thread about it with the following tweets:

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First, they said: “Have you tried not being an anti at all”

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Then, in response to someone else on that tweet, they explained what they meant by allowed behavior in fandom (which is hilarious because they’re basically policing what content folks in fandom can create and how they can behave… in the name of freedom in fandom).  The user wrote that:

You can do that just don’t bring that energy where no one wants. Just write a blog post about it or something. No reason [for] you to interact with shippers about your personal feelings. There’s a difference between being like uncomfortable with some things and being an anti.

(Edited for clarity and to add punctuation.)

Remember, I was tagged in these tweets.

This person who has never interacted with me decided to define the appropriate parameters for being uncomfortable with fandom’s output and they are… the actual things I do in my day to day fandom life.

I write blog posts. I minimize interacting with shippers of things I dislike – of which there aren’t even that many, actually. And I am all about not bringing “that energy where no one wants it” because none of the people I’m critical of have asked for it.

Show me the last time I @’d someone that wasn’t starting shit with me. Show me where I harassed someone over racism in fandom. I am literally waiting.

At the end of the day, people keep calling me an anti and saying that I somehow hide anti [what] rhetoric in my work, but no one seems willing to actually name what it is that I’m against that they need to defend in fandom.

Like none of the people I’ve ever seen dismissing me and my work as inherently anti [in] fandom have ever… said what the anti is.

Again I ask: what am I against/anti that these people need to defend so fiercely?

Because, as y’all may have noticed, the actual thing I write about is racism in transformative fandom spaces and in media that fandom is built on. That’s it. I actually don’t generally engage with a lot of the different discourses around problematic content unless I feel that they have to do with race and racism. And I do my best to show my work.

Which is why people take my work seriously.

Because I take it seriously.

That and the fact that, including my previous critical tumblr accounts, I’ve been talking about racism and representation in media fandom spaces since the time of the Young Justice, Teen Wolf, and Sleepy Hollow fandoms.

And… have been Black in fandom for my entire time in fandom – which dates back to me being a tween in 2001. So clearly, I know what I’m talking about?

But again, this is normal in fandom.

It is absolutely normal for people in fandom to lie on and misrepresent me as an anti, a bully, biased, a harasser with literally nothing to back their shit up. Which shouldn’t be that hard because I don’t use anonymous accounts and my main account, where I do 99% of my interactions with fandom, is public and has tweets dating back to like 2012. Same for my actual archive of my old tumblr.

In May 2019, a month after I spoke at a PCA 2019 panel and talked about misogynoir in fandom including how Black women in fandom are rewritten as “antis” and “anti-fandom” when we talk about racism in these supposedly super progressive safe spaces, I shared one a then-recent example of someone else lying on me in fandom in my piece “What Fandom Racism Looks Like – Misogynoir: Black Fans on the Defensive”.

At the top of the piece, I included a series of tweets (that I was fucking tagged in) from twitter user @mothphisto where she accuses me of using “accusations of racism in fandom in fandom as a bludgeon against ships they don’t like” and says that I “have had a history of being racist in the past” before signing off as a WOC since that apparently excuses her lying on me for clout?

Neither of those things that @mothphisto said about me are true. She didn’t even try to drop a link to evidence.

She just… made those claims as fact and, like with the Hannibal fans up top and how Michelle of the Star Wars social media believed Reylo fans saying I harassed other fans of color, folks added that to the list of Facts They Know About Stitch.

They block me without reading my work, without trying to understand the fannish experiences I’ve had, and without bothering to ask themselves why people in transformative fandom might be so very invested in making me monstrous and tearing me down.

Because of how Tumblr-to-Twitter discourse works, the same people bemoaning how anyone can make a callout post about a queer POC because of what they ship and cursing “anti culture”, are people who see nothing wrong with lying blatantly about my time, experiences, and behavior in fandom. They claim I charge people to hate on their ships. They claim I’m harassing people. They claim that I’m an “anti”.

But here’s the actual truth:

Primarily, I am anti racism in fandom – primarily antiblackness because I am trying to stay in my lane more on that one.

That’s it.

But more than that?

I am tired of watching transformative fandom constantly make excuses for why they dislike Black characters and mistreat Black performers. I’m tired of watching white women in fandom utilize and weaponize their white womanhood in order to straight up silence critical thinking and to hide the fact that in many cases, when it comes to racism in fandom, they are very much the same as the supposedly male-dominated affirmational fandom they tend to try and distance themselves and transformative fandom from.

I am tired of having to defend myself from people who are willfully misrepresenting me and my work so that they can gain clout in fandom spaces and a reputation for “taking me on” (from behind a block or via subtweets or the rare sassy public quote retweet so like… okay).

Could I stand to be a bit nicer in general in my blog posts, the only real way that I engage with fandom directly since I tweet at next to no one I don’t know? Maybe?

But it is beyond infuriating that I am essentially being expected to be nice to/about people who are actively trying to tank what little positive reputation I have in fandom and will actually show up to lie on me to other people when my work is recommended.

And the next time someone feels like going “Stitch is an anti”, I want them to actually say what I’m “anti” because I am not hiding shit in my work.

I want them to actually say the thing I’m against in fandom and in media and beyond. I want them to name that they’re so fucking invested in defending from me because it is apparently so important to their fandom experience: racism.

And then I want them to go stand in a corner for a couple of hours because that is some bullshit.

About Zeenah

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.
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2 Responses to Anti What, Exactly?

  1. Crowley says:

    Hey, I found this from a link on tumblr and I wanna preface with: I believe you when you say people have been racist as fuck and used calling you an anti as like, a shield or an excuse for it. I also deffo agree that fandom fucking sucks at not being racist. I don’t have much to bring to the table in a discussion about racism besides listening and signal boosting poc so im not gonna add unneeded opinions. Also bringing up valid criticism of fandom behavior is not what antis do, and none of what you’ve talked about sounds at all like actual anti antics.
    With that out of the way, I want to try to give a good explanation of what actual toxic antis are (because i fuckin hate them with a passion. Just in my current main fandom, which is for a podcast so not a huge one, antis have bullied good authors completely out of fandom spaces, and gaslit them until they believe their writing counted as self harm and “must have been caused by brain worms” whatever that means, bragged about reporting people in chat to moderators just for existing because they know the person wrote something they don’t agree with. They gang up on people and make fandom actively unsafe for anyone looking to create or consume explicit (completely well tagged and spoilered so no minor can just stumble into it by accident!) content that isn’t of whatever ship the antis have claimed to be the one true good and pure ship, and they’re vehemently against people older than 30 even being involved in fandom, claiming its creepy and they should be taking care of their kids. Antis are mostly minors, often with some older ringleaders, and anti rhetoric follows the same logical lines as radfem ideology like terfs and swerfs and exclusionists.
    Etymology-wise, (while this is hearsay, it seems about right) anti comes from the earliest forms of antis being anti-[specific ship] because it was harmful or toxic or they didn’t like it or whatever. People would self identify with being against specific ships, but then they realized they had some sort of movement or commonality and decided to shorten it to just Anti. Basically they are the self-appointed fandom police of what is and isn’t okay to write about. Things they have decided are bad include any dynamic that would be unhealthy in the real world (from slightly unhealthy relationships or vaguely sketchy age gaps all the way to stories about graphic rape, which btw are really commonly written by sexual assault survivors) and they usually conflate authors/artists portrayal of it with condoning and encouraging it irl.
    They’ve also diluted the meaning of the term pedophile to an absurd degree, by first claiming anyone writing smut about any underage characters is a pedophile, then expanding the definition to include people writing about age gaps where one character is technically a minor but also over the age of consent in most places (a ship where one person is 17 and one is 19 is pedophilia in this definition) and recently I’ve seen the absolute galaxy brain take that the age gap between a character who is in his early 30s and a character whos upwards of 200 because of immortality shenanigans in canon means that writing about THAT pairing doing anything sexual is pedophilia. This is bad both because of alarm fatigue (literally at this point i see a callout post for someone being a pedophile and its more likely they wrote smut fic about frisk from undertale than it is that they’ve ever posed any sort of threat to minors). Even worse, sometimes antis decide to doxx authors and report them for being “””pedophiles””” irl, which can be career and life ruining despite the claims being literally baseless.
    I apologize for not being very concise, im not great at it and have a lot of feelings about antis.
    tl;dr: nothing about your behavior sounds like anti behavior, people are absolutely being racist and that sucks ass. Antis are toxic garbage and have their ideas based in radfem/exclusionary ideology and they make every fandom they’re in less safe, the word comes from back in the day being anti-[insert problematic ship here] and then expanding to being against all the Bad Immoral ships.

    Like

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