Huge chunks of transformative fandom are currently playing the most actively antiblack game of telephone in the world.
And I’m the subject.
What will I be by the time they’re done? I’m already being compared to trans exclusionary radical feminists despite being nonbinary, accused of holding grudges against people I don’t know and have likely never interacted with, and being slandered literally every single time that someone else mentions me as an author to read.
And all because I write about racism in fandom in a relatively sharp tone.
It is no secret that I don’t love some of the content on the Archive of Our Own. In Fleeting Frustrations # 7: Archive Frenzy and Being (Un) Grateful To Our Fannish Foremothers (Stuck In 2002), I wrote that:
If I wasn’t a queer Black fan who’s used the AO3 and been in fandom for most of my life, I’d even take those claims at face value. After all, a space for female and/or queer fans is pretty cool, right?
But what about the racism on the archive – in the form of fanworks or in how fans of color have talked about the response from archive staff volunteers have given when they talk about their experiences with racism on the platform?
What about the erotic content centering child characters – content not limited to prose fanworks at all?
What about the ways that the fandom space carved out by the archive, while innovative for the technical aspects of forging fandom space so well-organized, mainly just replicates and enables preexisting and problematic patterns in fandom?
The things I don’t love about the Archive are clear in that section:
- Racist fanworks
- The (non) response to racist fanworks from the AO3’s staff/volunteers
- Erotic content centering child characters
- The way the archive repeats the existing problematic patterns of fandom
Later in the post, I also talk about not liking the expectation that I bend the knee to fandom’s foremothers and zip my lips about issues I have or the site’s existing offensive content policy which I link in the article.
There are no calls to remove content from the Archive in any of my posts and if there is a suggestion that any content “doesn’t belong” on the site or in any of my tweets, it is primarily in relation to racist fanworks like the incredibly antiblack ones I mentioned in my post yesterday.
For wanting the Archive and OTW to be better in some ways – like by stating a position publicly about their tolerance or, more specifically intolerance for racism on their site* in the wake of ongoing protests worldwide following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – I have been subject to a higher than usual amount of flat out racist treatment from people active in transformative fandom.
(*They have, of course, not done this. Instead their only sign of awareness was in the form of a “news roundup” linking my and Rukmini’s work without our permission or consent. We have since asked to be removed from this post.)
It is abusive. It is unending. It is done by people who I have blocked or who have me blocked… and their followers
It is deeply antiblack in origin and execution.
People who have never once interacted with me have spent hours of the past few days being incredibly hateful about me. They cannot do it to me because I have taken to running blockchain extensions on people to stave off direct harassment, but they are:
- Lying on my behavior to say that I am harassing others
- Insulting my intelligence and my writing ability
- Taking my words out of context to say I’m advocating for harassment
- Lying on my work to say that I’m using BLM (??)
- Calling me a fanpol/fandom police at a time when cops are literally abusing and killing Black people
- Claiming that I am responsible for my followers who are apparently harassing others via sockpuppet accounts – the first time I’ve heard of any such thing
- Comparing me to TERFs while I am very much nonbinary
- Hopping into literally any thread where I am recommended as an expert to insult me and dismiss me
And they are doing this at a time when I, as a Black person in America, cannot walk outside my door without being in fear.
I am being harassed, slandered, and honestly… abused online by primarily non-Black people in transformative fandom who do not want The Archive of Our Own to be more inclusive and to have better Offensive Content and Harassment Policies… along with having more people who enforce both of those things fairly. That’s it. That’s literally the thing I want.
Actually, no, I actually want the Archive of Our Own to live up to what the name claims. I want it to be an Archive for all of us. Not just some.
And considering the way that people have spent the past few days vibrating with rage that my name has been mentioned as someone worth listening to… it’s clear that many fans need to understand that the Archive isn’t just their plaything. It’s supposed to be for us all and it’s clearly not.
People have literally rejected conversations about how the Archive’s content and harassment policies make things difficult for fans of color… because I’m one of the people saying it.
(Mind you, of the people who’ve spoken about any of the Archive’s issues so far: none of the white fans have received harassment or slander. I know that Dr. Rukmini Pande has and I definitely have, but not a single white fan has gotten the same attempts at reputation ruin or dismissal. Even here it plays out like this.)
There are people who hate me so much – for no reason, I have never done anything to any of them and do not know the vast majority of them – that the response to seeing people recommend my work for analysis on fandom’s issues with racism is usually rage.
They never actually engage with what I’m saying. It’s never actually proven that fandom isn’t racist or that there aren’t racist fanworks on the archive created with the intent to dehumanize a character or person of color because of their identity.
They never prove me wrong, even now. They never offer actionable solutions to fandom’s racism since mine are so problematic somehow. They never address the fact that I clearly research my work and am providing as many examples as I can in my articles. They never actually seem to read what I’m saying.
They just lie about all of it and about me, sometimes for hours or even days until the person they’re talking to taps out. They have done this for years. People have successfully ruined my ability to talk to others about my work by lying on me and claiming that I have “a history of harassment”. For years, I’ve had have had people lie to other people about me – sometimes on tweets I was tagged in – and at no point can I or my friends and followers say or do anything about it.
And now, they’re doing it in defense of the archive.
There are people so threatened by me writing about racism in “their” fandom spaces that many of them will publicly say and share hateful and abusive things about me. People who are now giddy to have the chance to try and tear me down because I’m one of like four voices initially talking about potential changes to the AO3.
What I’ve seen from folks sending me screenshots or from catching other folks defending me or whatever… it is antiblackness in service of fandom but more specifically: this is antiblackness done in service of the Archive of Our Own. To let me and everyone else know that this space is not for me to feel safe in.
At the end of the day, the people deciding to be antiblack on fandom twitter now are doing this because a handful of fans of color talked about how the lack of a proper anti-racism statement on the AO3 made us feel.
And why does the AO3/OTW need to make a statement in the first place?
Y’all, we’re three weeks into protests following the murder of George Floyd. There have been Black people killed by cops since. Like the other day in Georgia. It is clear that racial inequality and antiblackness fuel so many things around the country –
It is clear that the problem isn’t going anywhere. It’s clear that people are racist
When every single brand that can is out here making statements that they are firmly against racism and the closest that we get is a news roundup that doesn’t even actually share actionable antiracist work items or help people in this crisis (and like… that would’ve been so much more helpful)… It feels messed up.
People have been writing the archive about doing or saying something about looking at racism in fandom, on the archive specifically in response to the silence, for maybe twenty-four hours. They’re doing it because the AO3 is an institution in fandom. You expect an institution like that to say something especially in support of a vulnerable population that uses its site to try and escape the horrible reality that is 2020’s brand of antiblack fuckery.
But why not?
Why didn’t they already have a statement prepared and released?
Why is it that they didn’t say that they’re working on one?
Why is it that they’re having a worse response to this than some usually bad-at-everything celebrities? (Again, multiple Korean artists have spoken up and like… that’s still wild to me.)
At the end of the day, the lack of a statement and action plan from the AO3 does more than hurt Black fans who were hoping for one.
It reaffirms fandom as a white (and increasingly white supremacist) space because it can’t even do the bare minimum and say “we’re against racism in all places, including fandom and here’s how we’re planning to make this space better for all fans of color in fandom”.
Because fandom needs to be reminded that someone gives a shit about racism and harassment and just… us as people.
But I know they won’t.
Just as much as I know that the harassment I am currently getting and the lies spread because I am writing about racism are a result of the desire to protect the archive from evolution and that that I won’t probably see it stopping anytime soon.
But that’s cool though, because I’m not going to stop talking about where the Archive and transformative fandom fail.
Seeing that random stranger compare me – a queer and nonbinary Black person – to cops and to terfs just about broke me. Like I flat out bawled in my room when I was supposed to be doing work. That’s how bad it’s been today.
But y’all… I refuse to go away.
I refuse to stop talking about the fact that fandom is racist. I refuse to pretend that there’s not something wrong about the fact that there is literally nothing fans of color can do in the face of flat out racist stories – because the response from the reporting team has almost always been smug as fuck and unhelpful – and that the only thing we can do that works is to repeatedly try and reach out to the creators on our own about their racist shit. (Which leads to fans of color being labeled as bullies and shifts conversations away from racist authors, by the way.)
I refuse to be silent about the unchecked racism in fandom that harms me and that has harmed other people and that will continue to harm other people. I’ve never let other people stop me from doing what has to be done and I will continue to document, write, and talk about racism in fandom for the foreseeable future because this is how I help. This is one small part of how I practice anti-racism, by unpacking its presence in a space that’s usually very dear but very harmful to me.
But hey –
Don’t like what I’ve got to say about racism in fandom for whatever reason?
Don’t fucking read it then.