Meme-ing For A Reason #19: Adults Aren’t Marginalized In Fandom, Sorry

The “distracted boyfriend” meme where the distracted boyfriend represents “a grown ass adult in fandom who should know better”, their girlfriend in blue represents “their bio that says ‘minors DNI’ or ’21+ only”, and the woman in the red dress represents “someone under 21 in fandom having an opinion on or criticism of fandom”.

I don’t know how to say this but fellow grown ass adults in fandom… you are not a marginalized person within fandom because you’re older than twenty-five. Being 25+ isn’t a marginalization in fandom – or many other places until you get up into the fifties and sixties – and it’s not at all comparable to being a fan of color.

I bring this up because fandom isn’t just increasingly anti teenager – for various reasons both valid (teenagers harassing R18 creators and invading their spaces to do so) and invalid (individual teenagers complaining about adult/minor pairings) – it seems to think that fighting with teenagers is a moral duty in fandom because older fans are somehow marginalized. This includes a recent Twitter Main Character TM making a thread saying outright that “older fans” – again, twenty-five year olds and up – were marginalized in fandom and needed to work in solidarity with other marginalized communities within fandom like… fans of color.

The tweets were deleted – most likely because adults and teens alike clowned on the OP and pointed out that teenagers have actually always created content in fandom that contributed to the foundation of this space – but they stand as an excellent example of how people in fandom attempt to pretend that being called “old” is the same as being marginalized by ableism or racism.

As you can see, the REDACTED user above literally says “imagine if the age walkout married up with a bipoc walkout to address fandom racism. imagine if there was nobody left in common fandom spaces puritanical youngsters reenacting the crucible with each other”.

Some problems with that?

The kinds of people who think fans over 25 are as marginalized in fandom as fans of color don’t exactly like to acknowledge racism in fandom as a thing that exists and that needs to be handled. In fact, they tend to declare that fans of color are those “puritanitcal youngsters” trying to steal your porn and police fandom even when we’re actually in fandom as long as or longer than they have been.

On top of that, many of the fans fighting against and talking about racism in fandom are under 25. They are the very people that folks who think they’re oppressed because a 18 year old called them a hag… think are oppressing them. Oh, and previous attempts by Black and brown fans to simply address racism in fandom – much less a boycott – have been met with such racist language and harassment that I cannot imagine it even happening? No solidarity is possible at this point and it’s not because of the fans of color who push back against racism. In queer and feminist fandom, it’s acceptable to pretend that the teenager who doesn’t vibe with their specific freaky sexy fan fiction/pairing is a Nazi because of that. It’s not acceptable to be a fan of color talking talking about how they’re mistreated by/in fandom.

When fandoms complain about ageism – and these same fans are incredibly unkind to older and younger fans whose vibes aren’t immaculate or who criticize fandom at all – they frame it as oppression on the same level as misogyny or racism or homopobia but… they’re never able to understand that there’s a differnence between being harmed and frustrated by something that’s not a norm and is not systemic… and actual oppression that does happen in fandom.

There’s also understanding that fandom – yes, even queer/feminst fandom – is a space that isn’t kind to fans of color regardless of our ages. Think about how many Black Fandom Elders you know. Not just older Black fans, but fans in their forties and above who have been public and active in fandoms for a long time.

I can think of a very bare handful and Te (Teland of iconic longtime kinky fandom fame) is the most visible to me. White women and queers in fandom get to age into fandom. They’re the iconic fandom elders who built fandom and who get to be respected even when they’re beefing on main with children or being racist as part of their fandom activity. No one else is actually given the same room to grow, to build, and, most importantly, to mess up in the same way as our white fandom foremothers. What Black fan can you imagine making it to their forties in fandom as a public figure (Aja) or foundational force (Franzeska) with even a tenth of the messes white fans are allowed to make on main? We get run out, blacklisted, and slandered just for talking about racism and if that’s a mistake that folks won’t forgive… imagine if we did any of the stuff white Fandom Elders have done over the decades.

It’s not that there isn’t an isuse of ageism in fandom. This is a space where teenagers will quote tweet an adult for talking about something like omegaverse to insult them. Stan twitter is full of people calling adults the same age as the celebrities they love “hags” or telling them to get a job and pay taxes. There are teenagers that absolutely do believe there’s an age limit to fandom because they cannot imagine themselves aging into fandom and they get aggy as hell over it.

However, there’s no systemic oppression of adults in fandom. Adults in fandom are not marginalized because they’re adults in fandom. The pretense that we’re oppressed because some kid who’s not old enough to watch an R-Rated movie said they don’t like the film’s plot, is to set up a firm hierarchy where adults are against teenagers (that don’t know “their” place). There’s never an attempt to understand why these teenagers react the way they do to adults in fandom or R18 content in fandom of a certain kind (primarily around assault or age gaps or power imbalances). Because it’s not all teenagers in fandom. I don’t even think it’s most of them.

On top of that, many adults in fandom seem to enjoy fighting with children more than they enjoy creating their fucked up, fucky content. If you’re going with the transparently ableist “your mind isn’t developed until 25” statement to excuse yeeting kids from fandom or not listening to them about concerns, what’s your excuse?

What excuse does any adult have for not curating their space when a teenager gets aggressive over content they shouldn’t be reading or watching in the first place? If you’re positioning teens and other 25s in fandom as silly and not very smart because their brains “aren’t fully developed”… why are you fighting with them? Why are you devoting any time to screenshotting them? Why do their opinions matter to you?

When I was a teenager in fandom, I had great relationships with adults in fandom. People who were already in their 20s and 30s when I was a teenager showed me how to create and communicate in fandom. A lot of what I do in fandom now is because I know how meaningful it is to have an adult around – even if you’re not friendly with them like that – to model good behavior and creative processes for you as a teen or young adult. I don’t know that teens these days in fandom have that by default? I see more people rewriting fandom history and writing teenaged girls and queers out of it so they can say they’re the only ones creating content. I see tons of people making it clear that even for SFW interactions, they find teenagers annoying invaders to fandom. Something that has to be incredibly alienating for them.

Remember: I’m not telling you that you should be okay with some teenager calling you a “hag” over a K-pop idol that’s older than you or that there’s nothing wrong with young fans telling moms to “get back in the kitchen”. Those kids suck. Bless their hearts. But I am saying that… while cruel and harmful, t hat sort of “adults shouldn’t be in fandom” sentiment is still not something that’s comparable to dealing with pervasive and systemic racism in fandom… but fandom sure does take it more seriously at every single level.

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