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Dec. 29th, 2009

Isms in Fandom and the On Going Meta-Fandom Inspired Debate

I'm probably going to royally mess this thought stream up, but I'm going to go for it anyway.

I read metafandom fandomroundup and a ton of fannish related stuff all the time. I rarely comment but I still read comments too. It sort of comforts me and reminds me of an edgy more modern lit class. I like when people tear things to bits and point out flaws and praise and explanations and all that goodness. It's what I've always loved about reading, it's what's got me loving tv and other media we're all viewing together at the moment.

I really only started fandom about two years ago and at that time racism, feminist, sexuality, gender issues ablism and so on where huge in fandom (or in the fandom I was reading anyhow). It seemed to be a new and fresh development that everyone was wading into. It clicked as a familar element from a ton of feminist blogs I was reading and couldn't get enough of and seemed both welcoming and interesting to me.

People spoke about how these issues would get old. How we should soak up praise while we could because the silencing would move in. The trends would change and heck no one would care about the isms any more. I was familiar with the thought. Bitch and other magazines examined this in aspects of feminism all the time. How book publishers are only interested in one variety of minority story at a time and once they move on, those stories disappear. How in the movement there is silencing, racism, fear, and in some cases what looks like hatred. Feminism isn't perfect and in many places it's as mean and ugly and dark as any aspect of the "rest" society can be. It takes part in the same crimes it complains of to different groups of others and whether feminism wants to talk about it or do something about it comes in little inconsistent circles too.

Anyhow, it seems to me that isms have finally become "old" in fandom, at least for the time being. The sheer number of posts either defending or declaiming their right to write and share in common spots really says all that needs to be known.

Its odd for me because I feel like I've been on both sides of this argument before. Acknowledging and discussing problems in out media is important. Awareness can go a long way to not stepping on someones toes, at least not doing so on purpose. Fandom is a nice safe place to do that because the people and the actions are all fiction and no one should be personally involved in what's happened/happening.

Beyond that, I like the balance between serious real world conversation and hey do you think a Topher Boyd slash would be insanely yummy or are they too clashy to be slashy?

On the other side I can see where people feel like they are talking about non-ism issues and feel burdened when it's "imposed" in the conversation. Like if we were listing the pros and cons of Topher/Boyd and then someone jumped in with some "you know what they say about black quys" like thing, and someone rightly jumped on the "that's racist" bandwagon and suddenly we've got a slash pairing post all about the constructs of power and how if Boyd is in the more "feminized" position for sex that has to do with racism or it could have to do with racism or in some cases it definitely does have to do with racism where others get it right and so on and so on.

Personally I'm all about those convos, they parallel convos about female characters and sexism so closely that I feel like it's the same conversation with different words. I generally know where I stand but love when people present that which I haven't thought about.

For me my hot button is in cultural approbation convos. We're all talking about anime this or manga that and suddenly we're told the whole media is racist. To be fair I know that animes and mangas are Americanized. I do like talking about the differences in Japanese to American versions and what those nuances mean or don't mean. Sometimes I can tell before it's pointed out to me where stuff was changed and it didn't sit well. Likewise, I know the big round eyes and weird hair colors sometimes white wash over race, sometimes I can't figure out gender from the sketches even.

I get that some people take this for granted. I get that I probably don't see exactly how bad this is and some of not seeing it might be my refusal to look or acknowledge it. I do what I can from where I am in my own life. Cultural approbation seems like one of those things that being aware of it isn't enough but there isn't anything I can do about it either. I can't stop it, my refusal to purchase it stops my enjoyment from the watered down bit I can get but won't shut down an industry or show disapproval.

Heck stopping real world approbation doesn't help. From what I've gathered on open cultures (closed cultures is another story) it's not that white people eat their food, wear their clothes, or partake in their activities that's the problem. It's that people of the culture who choose to partake in their own culture are seen as outcasts and picked on for what is cool and chic for white folk to do. It's not that white people like and know something about the culture that's the problem, it's that sometimes they romantized, get over zealous, and correct actual people born and raised in that culture that's the problem.

How to I stop or counter balance that? How can my awareness be enough when the damage is done long before I get on the scene? How would my not enjoying aspects of said culture help the problem and how could I encourage environments where natives of said culture could return to their practices if they wanted to without penalty? It's too big and makes me feel too helpless.

So when I want to talk about Naruto and someone comes in to tell me the whole premise is a race fail, I don't know what to say. "I know" seems as if it would dismissive or imply that I didn't care at all. I care, I just don't know what to do. I know magna for many people is the straw that broke the camel's back. There is so much media bombarding them with ism and this one media was too much.

I get that. I have that one media being "too much" problem too. Right now the existence of Avatar is my "too much" media. A sci-fi where the white men come in and destroy hapless sentient natives because they are "in the way" even though it's those people's planet what they know and want is irrelevant and meaning less because they aren't really people -- it is too much. That white guy becoming the native and having a Pocahontas like romance where he betrays but doesn't the female lead is too much. I can't see that movie no matter what the might be awesome is in it. I can't deal with conversations that seem to skim over the many many many problems with the basic plot. I'm sure some maybe most of the people who partake in those convos know where the problems are, I bet some of them aren't trying to ignore or talk around them, they just don't want to have to deal with them head on all the time when they talk about the movie either. My going in there to throw a "this is wrong" fit will not help those people and it probably won't reach those who really don't think there's anything wrong.

To conclude this rant: people who think there's too many isms posts should avoid them and spend less time complaining and more time actually writing new and interesting (or old but still worthwhile) posts on topics of their choice.

People who are all about an ism camp or at least partially involved in one, where do you stand on saying something within a less serious fannish about x ism? Do you jump in full force immediately as soon as the topic isn't addressed? Do you look for a pattern of comments or one particularly nasty comment to address? Do you say something all the time or are you silent most of the time?

For people who want just a fluff post or a fluff conversation how do they phrase or moderate such a conversation to minimize ism outside of the story arch?

For me personally I prefer an acknowledgment within the first post that shows awareness of potential ism and serious material but clearly states that this post is for discussing specific area X. That there is a lot surrounding it that deserve their own posts for discussion but you want to focus on x today. This kind of focus lets me write my own post about my ism issue and usually steers commenter clear of murky hurtful waters.

It helps if the journal owner keeps tabs on the conversation too. When someone starts veering, putting the convo back on track and immediately shutting down hurtful trends that sometimes occur. If focus is shifting too much either starting a separate post for it, directing someone to another persons post on it, or encouraging others to make a post on it.

Thoughts, feelings, concerns, stuff I skipped or did badly at?