Originally posted on Patreon at the $1 Tier on 4/2/2021,
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.