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The topic that will never, ever die

So Tumblr is, once again, alight with discussion of slash versus femslash versus het, and all the various reasons why so many women chose to write slash, thereby focusing on male-centric narratives rather than female-centric ones, and people are accusing each other of sexism and homophobia and internalized misogyny, and I don't know why I am always compelled to comment on this topic, but... here we are.

The first thing I want to say, as always, is that it is the opposite of helpful for anyone to attack anyone else for writing what they write, 'shipping what they 'ship, loving what they love. People have a multitude of reasons for their preferences, all of which are very personal. And the "problem", such as it is, isn't about what any individual person writes/ships/loves, etc. It's about patterns and trends, and where they fit within our wider culture. So I hope no one ever takes anything I write on this subject personally, because that's not, and never has been, the point.

I could link to all kinds of things, but I'll start with this post, which focuses on the historical context of m/m versus f/f erotica and how differently they have been portrayed in the mainstream media. It's worth reading and not too long, but the quick summary is that men having sex with men has historically been positioned as shameful and degrading, when it's visible at all, whereas women having sex with women is presented almost exclusively for the male gaze. The author then suggests that the different contexts make it revolutionary to bring positive and joyful depictions of m/m sex into the spotlight, whereas shining the spotlight on f/f sex is more problematic.

I certainly understand where the author of the post is coming from, and agree to a certain extent, but whenever someone concludes that the solution to problematic depictions of women in the media is to write more about men, I get edgy. Why are women so quick to erase ourselves from the narrative? In a world that is so focused on men and their stories, why is our first instinct to perpetuate that imbalance rather than reclaiming the story for ourselves? It bothers me.

As always, I don't have any easy answers -- and I think it's more important to raise the questions, anyway, to think about them and keep them in mind as I make my own choices about what stories to tell. That's all I can really do, anyway.

As long as I'm on the topic of meta, I want to point the folks who don't follow me on Tumblr to these two really great bits of fandom meta: meta vs. criticism vs. critique and slash fandom and queer fetishization. These are some of the best pieces I've read on those topics in a very long time and can't recommend them too highly. They're both going into my toolbox of references, for sure.

This entry is also posted at http://owlmoose.dreamwidth.org/603744.html. There are currently comment count unavailable comments on DW.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
auronlu
Nov. 9th, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
Gah. I guess I've been under a rock, because in my experience, f/f is usually written by and for women unless it's the really, REALLY badsmut on aff.net, whereas visual media f/f seems more often to be created by and for men and more often seems to objectify in ways that may be problematic.

But my response to the latter is to be grateful and spread rec when I run across good f/f art that isn't fetishizing, as opposed to just avoiding f/f in fanart.

I understand we all have different ways of dealing with imbalances, though.

Edited at 2012-11-09 11:57 pm (UTC)
owlmoose
Nov. 10th, 2012 12:22 am (UTC)
The post I linked isn't isn't talking about fandom, though, it's about mainstream media, where I think it is safe to say that most f/f is produced for the male gaze, ie the "hot lesbian" trope. And that regardless of the intentions of the fannish creators we are all a product of our wider society and have been influenced by the mainstream media in ways we might not even realize. So I think the OP's read on the context is fair. It's more the conclusions that rub me the wrong way.
auronlu
Nov. 10th, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
Sorry, should read all source material before blurting!

Yeah. I guess... We are the chorus and we agree.

Besides, queerfolk women need MORE TO READ, dangit! Plus, actually, there's some good stuff out there.
iamleaper
Nov. 10th, 2012 05:28 am (UTC)
Very interesting commentary. I have missed this discussion on Tumblr -- it may have escaped me while I was watching some of my least favorite people be Hitler apologists.

I have long struggled with why I, a cisgender bisexual white woman, am so drawn to and interested in m/m slash to the point where that's pretty much all I write and read. It's been a topic I've been a bit confused about how to deal with, because there are so many real social issues tied up in slash, but at the same time it's as escapist as it gets for me. The last link you post up there talks a bit about escapism and fandom, which is a concept that rings very true for me. Especially as I've matured as a fan, I've often been concerned about fetishization of gay men, and the sentence in that post is a rule of thumb I have often operated with, except without being worded so nicely: "The easiest way to judge whether you are fetishizing queer experiences while participating in slash fandom is to ask yourself regularly whether or not you are treating the objects of your slashy ‘affection’ as if they are real persons, each unique in beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes, and deserving of respect and dignity regardless of whether or not they are fulfilling your expectations or fantasies." I like to think I do okay at that... I think most of us would like to think that, though.

I have often wondered, though -- do I enjoy slash so much because it is something I can escape to and fantasize about but never experience? And is that weird and/or just as bad as fetishizing? Am I exoticizing the other? Aaaand it's just going down the rabbit hole.
owlmoose
Nov. 10th, 2012 07:55 am (UTC)
I like to think I do okay at that... I think most of us would like to think that, though.

Even if you're just asking yourself the question, I think you're ahead of the game. And I wouldn't say escapism is necessarily bad, especially if it's self-aware escapism.

I really, really adore both of those posts, I think the author does a really good job of laying out all the issues involved and making people think in a non-accusatory way. Although I admit, it's easy for me to say that -- I write slash sometimes, but I mostly write het and gen, and I don't identify as a slasher. So I'm looking at the issue from a more distant perspective.
iamleaper
Nov. 10th, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC)
Sometimes the tone can get a little abrasive, but that's probably a good thing because otherwise there are some people who wouldn't get it.

Is there a post like this that you're aware of about exoticizing the other? That topic is pretty fascinating to me and I'd love to read others' thoughts on it.
owlmoose
Nov. 11th, 2012 03:15 am (UTC)
I haven't seen one lately, but I will keep my eye out!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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