[Image + Essay] Look At Those Launderers

Originally Posted on Patreon 11/3/2020.

Source: What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Weaponized White Womanhood

There’s an interesting twitter thread called “The Fascist Infiltration of Subculture” and it’s something I find very interesting because of how people who can reference the infiltration of other fandoms or online communities… stall out when it comes to realizing what is active and present in their fandom spaces.

And believe me, there are a lot of fascists and bigots in fandom spaces outside of things like G@merGate or Comicsg@te or even the Brony and furry fandoms. Transformative fandom spaces are actually a space with its own issues that allow bigots to plant their seeds and grow fruit.

Think about it: fandom is a place where anything goes as long as it is clearly fiction or in defense of fiction. People are encouraged in this post-Voltron Legendary Defenders world to push back hard against anything they see as censorship in fandom or of media that fandom likes… and that has, increasingly, come to include anti-racism in fandom.

Part of why you’re not seeing folks writing articles about the white women in the Star Wars fandom’s relentless harassment of John Boyega across the years – or how it amped in the start of 2020 is because the fandom writers who do cover this stuff… took their side in the face of harassment. However, the other thing is that despite me spending two years trying to show people what racism in fandom can look like, no one seems to get that it doesn’t start with racial slurs or hate symbols.

In an interview with Zora Magazine’s Anjali Enjeti for her book Culture Warlords, author Talia Lavin talks about what far-right radicalism looks like and mentions that:

Most people don’t start out waving swastikas. They are being led to this place by “launderers,” people who seem reasonable and who introduce racist ideas subtly, and give people permission to engage in hate that is more socially acceptable. The launderers can be YouTubers and right-wing influencers. They may start out saying there are too many women in Star Wars movies, or that lady Ghostbusters have ruined their childhood. It soon becomes easier and easier for them to say that feminism is harmful garbage that has caused them to be unhappy. From there it’s not a long journey. The slope is greased by people with high production values and a lot of money behind them.

There are “launderers” in transformative fandom – people who nudge folks towards the hate that Lavin calls “socially acceptable” and then helps tip them over the edge of what passes for extremism in fandom.

They can take the form of that helpful discourse account arguing that art that – for exaggerated example – shows an anime girl sprawled across the swastika flag may be “gross”, but that it still has the right to exist. It could look like someone mocking the words of a fan of color who’s tweeted that they were uncomfortable with how folks in fandom always make Black characters into big brutish tops. It could look like someone defending their right – or their fandom’s right – to depict characters of colors in racist ways on purpose.

Most disturbingly, I’ve seen people actively frame anti-racism in fandom – you know, the stuff I essentially am doing or work like Dr. Rukmini Pande’s Squee From The Margins – as directly opposite their anti-harassment/anti-censorship stance.

Due to the demographics of transformative fandom – which we know thanks to all of the fandom demographic surveys su bfandoms or random fandom spaces put out – fandom is very white and trends towards (usually queer) white women being in charge of creating content, having opinions that get turned into fact, and dominating the various discourses… including those of race and racism.

We’ve gone from “fans are more important than fiction” to “fiction I like is more important than fans I don’t” and conveniently… that’s frequently set up to push back or punch down at people of color who dislike something in fandom. In my direct experience, I’ve received pushback (including claims of censorship, harassment, and bullying from people I still… do not know) that made it clear that Black fans who weren’t oriented around whiteness in fandom are less important. That they (we) have no right to freedom of speech or freedom in fandom because the rights of artists, PickMe POC, and fictional characters are more valid.

Understand how weird it is that on the day of this very terrifying election, I can say that there’s not just an air of “people who talk about racism in fandom just want to take our controversial [NSFW content]”… But that I’ve seen people basically say that.

And mmm… isn’t that only a problem if the controversial [NSFW content] is just racist?

I was rereading my Weaponized White Womanhood article to look for a theme I wanted to unravel and it struck me that only people like Lavin, like Mikki Kendall (Hood Feminism), Princess Weekes, and myself – people who’ve documented the wildness of internet subcultures and experienced some of the worst of it – are seeing this stuff. We’re the folks seeing the ways that the 47% of white women that actually voted for Trump back in 2016 enact really wild racism and truly atrocious behavior on the internet from a very young age –

And that they don’t actually grow out of it.