Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

Loncon: Feminism and Sexism in Fandom

This is going to be a not-report for reasons I will get to.


Fandom has a rich heritage of exploring gender roles, sexism, misogyny and patriarchy. In current fandoms there are repeated discussions of the problems associated with fandoms includingDoctor Who, Supernatural, Harry Potter, X-Menand Game of Thrones. Fans write detailed meta incorporating popular terms such as fridging and the Bechdel test as well as more complex cultural theory. Yet, at the same time, there is a common trait in fandom, especially media fandom, where sexually active female characters are slut-shamed, women who are perceived to interfere with the popular relationships on a show (whether canonical or not) are vilified, and fan works recreate heterosexism. Sometimes actresses playing characters receive online hatred and bullying while fans who criticise the sexism of an object of affection are rejected by fellow fans. In this session we explore ways in which (largely) female fans engage with feminism and misogyny within their own communities.

Megan Waples (m), Katherine Jay, Kristina Knaving, Kate Keen, Kate Nepveu

Here is what I wrote yesterday:

This was a very wide-ranging panel, so much so that I kind of have no idea how to talk about it.

Uh, here are links to two things of mine that I mentioned at the panel: How to Discuss Race and Racism Without Acting Like a Complete Jerk, which has a good deal of applicability to discussions about all kinds of oppressions; and An Introduction to Mary Sue and Her Critical Uses and Abuses.

. . . my brain is not working right now. Um.

In no particular order!

Removing sexism and other oppressive attitudes from one's reflexes is hard. Everyone is at different points in journey.

TW: racism . . . this is the point where a white guy (self-identified) stopped by to ask if I had written any books, because he'd been at the panel and thought he'd heard me say I was an author. (Someone else at a different panel thought I was an academic. I need to revise my standard "I read things, sometimes I write about them" intro.) And then he asked about Con or Bust, because I'd also mentioned that in the introduction and he just didn't understand why such a thing was necessary, because, it developed fairly soon in a rather long conversation, there is no racism in fandom.

I am not going to rehash the whole thing. In retrospect I should have immediately disengaged when he asked me if I'd experienced racism in fandom, I said yes, and he wanted to keep talking. As it was, it took me at least two times to get him to walk away.

I happened to see a friendly brown acquaintance across the hallway, so went over to vent and was told that they had just been on a panel where someone used the n-word at them.

The con took satisfactory action in response—I personally know two other people who reported objectionable behavior to Ops (black tent, just inside the fan area on the left) and found that the people they spoke to took them seriously, took notes, and responded appropriately—but really. The juxtaposition just about broke my mind. /racism discussion

Anyway! After that I did not get back to these panel notes until now, which is mid-day Sunday. There was other stuff yesterday (more anon) and then I saw some criticisms of me on Twitter and I thought about going to another racism-related panel to be supportive and I wanted to cry at the thought of someone being an asshat again, so I went back to bed. (It's early in the con to be hitting the wall, and yesterday was objectively not that bad, but all the tourism before was catching up with me, I think.)

So. The panel started with Megan, as the mod, asking us to express / vent our rage in a really good yell, which was surprisingly easy to summon (at that point I wasn't actively angry about anything!) and very cathartic. Megan also shared a story of a woman she knows getting a fat-shaming Tweet from someone at the con about her outfit.

We acknowledged that gender is not a binary and that sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are all connected, but I'm not sure how good a job we did after talking in non-binary terms, for which I apologize.

My notes for the panel ahead of time, besides the links above:

* Intersectionality can be hard. Listen and be empathic but don't assume that one experience of oppression maps to another.

* Fanfic: if your reason for not writing female characters is that they're poorly characterized in canon, you should, and I mean this with love and support, sit down and think hard about that, because what fandom does is take underdeveloped characters and develop them (and give them fandom-eating pairings, in some cases *cough* Clint/Coulson *cough* ).

* Need for female-led/dominated spaces.

* Things to do:
** Call out sexism you see
** If you can't or can't yet (and it's hard, though it gets easier): support people who do by commenting, retweeting, reblogging, emailing, etc.; promote fests for underrepresented characters, leave comments or kudos on works that feature underrepresented characters, make the fanworks you'd like to see. Little bits really do matter.

Other panelists added teaching and supporting kids and young adults in your life (your children or the children around you). Sexism exists in fandom because fandom is part of society.

That's almost nothing to report on from a ninety-minute panel, so if you were there, or if you want to ask about if something was brought up, please do.

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Tags: cons: worldcon: 2014 (loncon 3), gender

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