I’m Supporting #EndOTWRacism

#End OTW Racism in bold colors to the side. Text: End Racism in the OTW: A fan protest against the lack of action from the OTW on addressing issues of harassment and racism on AO3 and within the organization. 

Three years ago, the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) - the parent organization for AO3 - committed to acting on harassment and racist abuse that can currently happen through the site.

Join us in holding the OTW to their commitment and demanding change that will help keep us all safer! Read more in our Call to Action, where you will find detailed information on the problem, what we're demanding from the OTW, and how you can signal boost and get involved.

We are taking action May 17th to 31st.

In 2020, the Organization for Transformative Works and Archive of Our Own set the stage to do something about racism on its platform. They pledged to hire a diversity consultant to advise them on how to essentially make the AO3/OTW “anti racist”. It’s been three years since then and the most they’ve done is tap a volunteer to research researching a guy, I think. They have failed to be transparent about their plans, what the attempt has looked like, and the most we’ve gotten for an estimated trajectory three years in? That maybe in five years they will have hired someone.

That’s unacceptable.

That’s why the collective behind End OTW Racism has put together their two weeks of action talking about the issues and laying things out very clearly about what actions everyone can take and what goals they are trying to hit.

While I’m not associated with the mini-movement beyond them referencing my work, I do support the attempt to raise awareness of the way the OTW and AO3 have dropped the ball and, as a result, wound up emboldening racists in fandom to continue actively harassing and harming fans of color in an attempt to “protect” fandom at large and the AO3 specifically from fans of color and the “grim” spectre of anti racism.

I know I don’t use AO3 as a writer anymore – a long, embarrassing story that has everything to do with IRLs being huge fans of my writing before we became friends – but I do use it as a reader.

I’m excellent at excluding tags and I don’t read what I don’t need to be reading. But as I’ve covered repeatedly, space curation can only go so far when racists either don’t tag so you can avoid their content… or they tag in a way that directs all eyes at their work. It’s been a decade since I saw my first explicitly racist and actively dehumanizing fan work on the AO3. While the story has been orphaned, it’s still up and the comments are still largely positive. That sort of story would be yeeted – or whatever the consequences could look like – if the AO3 had a real offensive content policy rather than a max inclusivity policy that somehow keeps prioritizing racists and racist work!

The idea of “max inclusivity” that is used to defend racist fanworks and behavior on the AO3 prioritizes content over people. When it’s brought up that real fans of color have been subject to harassment via the use of the comment, gifting, and/or tagging systems and we’d like a real offensive content policy, people insist that the value of even explicitly and spitefully racist fic is more valuable than fans of color. It’s more valuable to keep fandom racist than to actively work to make all parts of our shared space – like the AO3 – welcoming to us at a time of increased white supremacist and fascist rhetoric shaping the way that we are allowed to exist and communicate.

Book Banning comes up a lot in these conversations to accuse fans of color of being book burners even as we try to advocate for ourselves and our fellow cofans of color, but did you know how many of the most-banned books in the country are about and by Black people? It’s an intersectional issue. Framing fans of color as conservatives and book burners for talking about racism and a cohesive offensive content policy doesn’t just make zero sense… It’s also really racist.

And that’s the thing!

Whether you’re a fan of color or not. Whether you’ve dealt with racism or not. Wherever you stand on the fandom divide of pro/anti.

Racism in fandom hurts us all. It makes this space inhospitable. It gives racists cover to be racist in defense of the shared things fandom loves more than other people apparently…

So it’s up to all of us to make sure the OTW/AO3 uses their resources to correct wrongs admitted by people who worked on it from the beginning – even Fran though she’s currently busy pretending that the AO3 is a library and that libraries don’t have standards.  

You don’t have to participate in #EndOTWRacism if you don’t want to. No one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to try to spark conversations about anti racism and urge the OTW to live up their own promise in a timely manner? That’s on you.

But fans of color deserve better.

We deserve to speak without people undermining us because they don’t like our tone or because they think we’re “antis” and/or “freaks” at once or because we don’t have the right kind of education for them.

We deserve fandom spaces that are actively anti racist, where racists know that they don’t get to run shit and spitefully create content to hurt fans of color.

It is possible to balance anti racism and free speech policies that aren’t so radical that racists get to speak but anti racists and fans of color get harmed. The AO3 and OTW just need to put in the work because three years after they made a promise – that they didn’t even need to make, clearly fandom is so racist that they want more racism, not anti racism… who would’ve punished them for ignoring the open letter that went out calling for change – is three years too long.

And it is beyond cruel to expect fans of color to continue to wait patiently and quietly while people feel empowered to harass us for years because we’ve expressed a desire for the Archive of OUR Own to live up to its name.

At the end of the day, End OTW Racism exists alongside other forms of fandom activism like the different charity events such as Fandom Trumps Hate, the petition calling for the AO3 to explicitly denounce/ban AI generated fanworks, and sending things to studios to show ongoing interest in a show. It’s a valid mini-movement that seeks to hold the OTW and AO3 accountable for a promise that they made three years ago about something that is harmful to real people.

You don’t have to participate. Again, no one can make you do so, but ask yourself… why is it that your “pro fandom/pro AO3” stance explicitly aligns itself with racists/racism and sees racist work as a “tax” “we” should all pay.

Because if you’re against anti racism and you’re showing that by derailing, undermining people of color, and shutting things down before they even get a chance to start…

If your pro fandom/fiction/AO3 stance means you will defend racists and racist content while slandering, undermining, and harassing fans of color…

You are a racist.

Full stop.


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