Originally posted on Patreon at the $1 Tier on 4/2/2021,
Source: What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Phone A Friend of Color
If there’s one fandom behavior I wish I could Thanos-snap out of existence, it would be the habit that many people have of tagging in POC to d-d-d-d-duel each other in the name of fandom discourse. It’s not just that it’s annoying and allows people adhering like glue to the one-drop rule to wave their 23-and-me test results in the face of other POC they’re stepping on and speaking over. It’s also the fact that this sets up a situation of people of color being essentially stuck in a specific role, almost on a shelf away from the rest of fandom, until they can be useful.
No one will say outright that they think the only role people of color have in fandom that lets them be valued is to in/validate someone else’s point of view on race and racism. But that’s what it boils down to.
We can’t just do our own thing on our own.
No matter what, it has to matter to someone else. Like right now [at the time I wrote this], people are trying to use my article on Weaponized White Womanhood to “cancel” YouTuber Jenny Nicholson. Sure, the piece mentions her complaints about John Boyega’s IG post and points out her hypocrisy, but it’s 200 words of content max. Out of almost six thousand words.
My piece isn’t valuable on its own: as an example of how white women in fandom will throw themselves into the line of fire and claim that they’re oppressed or in danger because of what they ship – and how Black people in fandom are the go-to targets.
Instead, it becomes used to prove a point. Either that there is no racism in the Star Wars fandom and that this is somehow all about ships or, now, that Jenny is so bad at being a Social Justice Warrior that even other SJWs are pissed at her. Neither thing is even remotely the point of that piece or accurate.
Instead of the piece being valued for documenting – in detail – a moment in fraught fandom history, it’s being used by multiple people to push their agenda about Jenny specifically… which isn’t actually what it’s for.
In different Korean pop/hip-hop fandoms, there’s a fandom mantra that goes “not your fandom, not your problem”. Like other fandom rules (“don’t like? Don’t read” in particular), it’s a way to tell people to mind their own business and keep criticism to themselves. If you have a problem with an idol doing hood cosplay or who’s sung the racist curry song (that is the most annoying thing I’ve ever clocked) or who’s said the n-word or whose thoughts on Native Americans are… beyond offensive, stay out of it if that’s not your fandom.
However, one of the biggest issues is that here as with all fandoms: if you’re a fan of color with an opinion, you’re apparently not part of that fandom in truth. You’re not just told you’re a fake fan, but that you’re an anti fan, drop kicked from your place in fandom to one that folks think suits you better.
But it’s also that even if you’re not actually involved in the fandom dust-up, you get dragged into it. I remember when ATEEZ’s Hongjoong had cornrows back in July (my first Teen Vogue byline covered this!!) people were taking photos of ATEEZ next to a Black member of the fanbase and going “see, he’s not racist! He stood next to a Black atiny!”. The girl in question had not given permission for her photo to be used in such a way and was mortified that this was what her positive moment with Hongjoong had been turned into. She became a pawn and it became her problem.
Ultimately, I want people to leave fans of color alone. At every level, it’s clear that people have decided our place in “their” fandom – as someone to greenlight racism or cultural insensitivity or as someone who exists solely to critique it so that fans who aren’t us can be validated. It’s not enough that we can just… be in fandoms doing our thing. We have to perform at every level – even my BTS Nieceling has told me about pressure she felt to call out antiblackness or to ignore it back when she was more active in fandoms.
And it’s frustrating. Marginalized people are not all going to agree on things because we don’t all have the same experiences or histories.
I grew up on an island where I could drive by ruins of slave plantations. I have deep beef with the immediate generational effect of slavery. And yet, there are other Black people I know who love slavefic. They’re not wrong for it and I’m not going to fight them over it either. They shouldn’t be expected to provide a glowing response to a book like Docile or to take on my writing on slavefic. Because that’s forcing them to deal with a) generational trauma they may or may not have unpacked and b) my absolutely grouchy ass dealing with my own issues. When they could just… enjoy their thing without engaging with mine.
Meanwhile, I love Omegaverse. My positive feelings about that trope/worldbuilding as a queer non-binary person shouldn’t be used to negate anyone’s feelings on things like gender essentialism or iffy worldbuilding. The idea of going “Stitch likes Omegaverse so it’s fine and no one should have critical thoughts about it” should be laughable, but in this ridiculous fandom landscape as I’m Omegaverse Expert-ing on main… it’s not impossible.
But it’s not something that should happen.
How about this: our space should be what we make it, when we make it, and no one should try to use us period.
3 thoughts on “[Image + Essay] Your Place, In Place”
I really appreciate you enganging fandom racism- thank you so much for your time and effort! If it’s not too personal, and you have the spoons, I wanted to ask what sort of slavefic did you write? And do you still agree with what you wrote? I’m Black and I’m having a bit of a dilemma over slavefic right now. There are certain eroticized/kinky/romanticized slavefics that I love; where the slavery isn’t institutionalized and based around racism (I really enjoy debt bondage between two characters in fiction, but irl it’s triggering for me because I’ve been there). And some other fic that feel really tone-deaf and racist. I’m not sure if I should drop reading and writing slavefic as a whole as part of my activism, or whether some of it is okay? And whether it’s okay for non-Black people to enjoy the same eroticized slavefic as I do? I know you’re not a monolithic, one-answer-for-all Black voice on the subject; I just really respect you and your mind.
Hi Eva! Thanks for commenting! So I’ve always been a huge fan of power imbalance and the visuals of slavefic as fandom did it were very appealing to me initially. It’s been almost a decade so I might be misremembering, but I think that while I didn’t set anything in the US (either in like made up countries in different comic book universes or my original characters in their own world) I still was relying on things like orientalism and different problematic tropes that didn’t handle concepts very well. So I don’t think I *agree* with what I wrote or would repost it anywhere. That’s for sure. (Part of why it’s no longer available was that I started grad school and one of my new friends had actually read my fic and I was so uncomfortable that I deleted almost everything I’d written for that fandom lol)
I think there’s room to complicate the trope and to get that good power imbalance. I don’t think the majority of people in fandom (including myself, most of the time) have the range to handle it. One of the things I’m trying to convey these days is that is *is* complicated to figure out what works for you as an individual. Right now, I’m not likely to *read* slavefic as 99% of fandom writes it… because so much of it is blatantly racist (in how it handles characters of color, especially black ones) or is implictly racist (in that it doesn’t reckon with what the worldbuilding would mean for people of color).
But I have drawerfic (not for public consumption, I think only like 5 of my long-term friends have read it) that is adjacent to slavefic in how power imbalance and non-human characters are treated (by humans) are featured across the story in the worldbuilding if not the main relationships.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that it’s complicated. Especially where we’re concerned. I do not have as much leeway to give to white fans who write and read slavefic, especially the racist ones, (I just can’t do it, it bothers me lol) but I think there should be room for fans of color (especially Black fans in this context) to be complicated and messy and always evolving when it comes to things like this.
I’m working (so slowly, I’m so busy) on a post that’s largely about what it means (to me) to negotiate with this complicated stuff (slavefic and other iffy AUs, “problematic” ships, villain stanning) because… everyone else gets to have their cake/deal with their trauma/just be freaking weird… without being put through hell.
This is like… such an ongoing process for me because I’ve been going through it over my thoughts because I’ve been harassed for writing slavefic (back in the day) and for criticizing it (more recently) and at the end of the day… I don’t think there are any easy answers about any of this beyond focusing on how WE engage with people either way (whether we like it or dislike it) because that’s really the only thing we can and should want to control, right? Our own reactions.
I’m so sorry I couldn’t like… be more clearer or drop some serious knowledge. It’s all just so deeply complicated and I’m working my way through it too T^T
Thank you so much for your response and time! You were very clear and helpful, and it’s certainly given me some more things to think about. ^^ And I’m terribly sorry to hear about your harassment. I’ve never made a social media account, so I don’t know how it all works, but I’d definitely subscribe to you and rate you 5-stars, to remind you there are people who really care about you and what you think! The way we engage with people is so very important, and I think you’re doing a great job at handling it.
And I’m very excited to read your post-in-progress on liking complicated fiction. As someone who really loves villains, romanticized abusive relationships, and rape fantasies in fiction (that isn’t consensual roleplay between characters, but an actual eroticized depiction of assault); it’d be great to hear your nuances on those topics as well! I always feel so guilty and disgusting for liking the fictional things I do. Especially when 90% of the complicated fiction I get off to, I’ve literally vomited at experiencing it’s real-life counterparts firsthand.