Declaring the problem a ship war wasn’t so much revisionist history as wishful thinking: fans like to consider fannish space utopian, and racism doesn’t belong in utopia— therefore the problem wasn’t racism, it was ships. This line of thinking was white privilege at its finest (or lowest), with POC fandom as its casualties.
From “Not So Star-Spangled Examining Race, Privilege and Problems in MCU’s Captain America Fandom” by Cait Coker and Rukmini Pande in The Darker Side of Slash Fan Fiction
Time and time again in fandom, it’s been proven that the easiest way to stop people from taking the critical thoughts of fans of color seriously when we talk about racism in fandom spaces is to reframe it all as “just” a ship war.
If criticism of racism can be dismissed as “just” jealous shippers lashing out at a supposedly better positioned or more liked ship, then no one has to wrestle with what we’re actually talking about:
That time and time again in fandom’s shippy spaces, fandom actively chooses whiteness. Fandom constantly chooses white characters, whitewashed characters of color, white experiences, and white fans over people of color – real and fictional.
If you reframe it as “just” a ship war where petty babies are out to police fandom because their ship isn’t doing so hot in the charts –
In April 2019, I was invited by Zina Hutton, Cait Coker, and Robin Reid to be part of a Roundtable on Race and Racism in Fandom and Fan Studies at the PCA/ACA 2019 conference held in Washington DC, USA. The intention was to discuss Fandom and Fan Studies 10 years after the events of RaceFail ’09 to see if things had changed and, if so, how. While I didn’t speak to the events of RaceFail ’09 itself, it did inflect my critique of institutional responses that followed in the wake of a more recent event.
What follows here is a rough estimate of the things I said at the conference, much of which was unscripted. I should note that these are my views alone and that I do not speak for Rukmini Pande, who was also involved in the series of events I plan to discuss.
At the same time, I should also be clear that many of the points that follow are points that fans of colour (hereafter FOC) and acafans of colour (as well as acafans working on critical race theory in fandom) have already noted. In a multiplicity of ways, I am echoing their work, restating it, forcibly reinscribing it as best as I can, and ascribing it as best as I can (and Rukmini is part of this, though again she is not the first).
As previously noted, these conversations have been around for far longer than us, and to assume that we are the first to voice this discomfort, this anger, this complaint (per Sara Ahmed) is to be complicit in this erasure and our own eventual erasure. These are not just my words, this is not just my voice.
In case you’re new here or have no idea where to actually start with my posts, here are 20 of my most popular posts from 2015 until (now in order from most popular on down).
Some are popular because angry white people hopped on them to yell at me thanks to getting linked to my posts on reddit and fail fandom anon, others (like the Anita Blake post) are popular because a bigger blogger fish shouted me out.
At the end of the day, these are my biggest posts and the best way to see what kind of writer I’ve been and maybe where I plan on going next.
“I’m not a hero. I’m not Resistance. I’m a stormtrooper.”
That silenced her. He might as well have hit her across the face with the business end of a blaster.
“Like all of them, I was taken from a family I’ll never know,” he continued rapidly. “I was raised to do one thing. Trained to do one thing. To kill my enemy.” He felt something that should not have been there, that was not part of his training, well up in him. “But my first battle, I made a choice. I wasn’t going to kill for them. So I ran. As it happens, right into you. And you asked me if I was Resistance, and looked at me like no one ever had. So I said the first thing that came to mind that I thought would please you. I was ashamed of what I was. But I’m done with the First Order. I’m never going back.” Suddenly he found it hard to swallow, much less to speak. “Rey, come with me.”
– Foster, Alan Dean. The Force Awakens (Star Wars) (p. 222). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I know that this is a “Fleeting Frustrations” post which means that I should be able to get over the grievance I’m airing once it’s been aired, but let’s be real here: when have I ever let go of a single grievance in my life?
I haven’t yet and I won’t with this one.
In this rantypants installment of my grouchiest series, we’ll be talking about one of the Star Wars fandom’s most obvious signs of fandom racism: the idea that Finn’s biggest flaw to some folks in fandom is that he’s a liar… for not telling Rey that he was a Stormtrooper on the run mere moments after she’d beaten the crap out of him for thinking he was a thief. Continue reading →
I did not get a ton of work done in April and most of that was due to my tunnel vision before and after PCA 2019. If you haven’t read my write-up yet, please head on over and check it out!
Right now, almost everything I had planned to do for April is back on the table for May. That includes that month’s Audience Participation post, upcoming “What Fandom Racism Looks Like” posts, and that pesky podcast episode for Patreon.
I’m also going to be using my free time to record narration for my PCA 2019 PowerPoint as well as a WFRLL piece on k-pop fandom’s antiblackness. Both will be Patreon-first – with the PowerPoint open for all levels and the WFRLL piece having snippets at the $1 level and a final/finished draft at the $3 level.
I’m still trying to catch up with email as well – sending and replying to them – so if you haven’t heard from me in a while, you will in May. I have a list and everything.
One reason my time will be tight in May is that I’m two days into a new job. (Thanks, Dionysus!)
I don’t know what the rest of the month will bring, and I live in a state that can fire you for anything, but it’s a job that’s pretty much right up my alley and will allow me to stretch my writing and marketing muscles. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll definitely figure out a way to balance my work-life-writing balance as I get more comfortable with the job and used to waking up at 6am.
But I’m happy right now and I’m going to do my best to be financially stable and get all my writing done.
Now that the goopy stuff is out and about: here’s what’s on the menu for May.
Off-hand, I have a list of a few words that I think apply to my experience at PCA 2019
First of all, while I was surprised that folks in fan-studies gave two shiny cents about me when I was at PCA back in 2017, that was nothing compared to this year.
Y’all. I had meetings (like two, but still). I have a mentor. People were happy to see me and wanted to see more of me as a person and as a fan-studies person. Hell, I went to a panel on k-pop (more on that in a minute) and when I was poking holes in the one panelist’s argument, there were several people in the audience who referred to me by name and like…I’m just gonna believe that they all knew me beforehand and didn’t read my nametag beforehand.
Then, the validation.
Generally, the reaction I get to my work on fandom racism and racism in media… isn’t great. If it’s not coming from my friends and followers, there’s a huge chance that it’ll be antagonistic and unkind. (Like I detail in this thread.)
Coming to PCA and having people not just excited for my work, but excited to see what else I’m planning on was amazing. People told me that they reference my work in their work or use it as an example of accessible academic writing (that was Kathy Larsen, in the Future of Fan Studies Publishing panel).
Multiple people told me that folks in their fandoms/fan spaces are like “oh, you’re into this thing? You should read what Stitch has said about it” in a positive way.
Like… it’s all very validating considering that outside of this space, folks… don’t like me very much because I talk about fandom and race. Continue reading →
In and outside of fandom spaces, performative allyship is a thing to be wary of.
In a piece for The Wooster Voice, writer Sharah Hutson describes performative allyship as, “when folks pretend to care about a cause but magically forget to keep the fight going outside of certain spaces”.
We’re talking about people who only seem to care about the plight of the underprivileged when it looks like they can get something out of it.
You know, like folks who record themselves helping disabled people cross the street, people who post about how they helped the neighborhood homeless person get breakfast on social media, and white saviors who travel to Uganda and Haiti to “help” but are really just participating in imperialistic voluntourism that does so much more harm than anything else.
These people may mean well and they probably even see themselves as actual allies, but their allyship seems skin-deep and conditional on the attention they get or the marginalized people’s compliance and subservience. The second they’re no longer getting praise or when the person or group they’re trying to help isn’t compliant, the person in question stops being an ally.
But you know what’s not performative allyship?
A Black person in fandom talking about what they find racist in a piece of media or fandom space. Continue reading →
I’m a writer in my late 20s, trying to figure out love, life, and how to get the most out of my TWO (2) degrees. I love research and I’m the kind of nerd that likes analyzing the heck out of every single piece of media I consume so expect a lot of that here.
I’ve got an an opinion on basically everything. If you like strong opinions, candid talk about mental/physical health and trauma, and the occasional ode to fictional characters, then you’ll probably love me.
This blog focuses on analysis of nerdy media, book reviews, and lots of commentary about race in fandom and the source media that spawns our favorite fandoms.