miera_c: I've reached a point where I feel that women writing about male characters, even nominally straight male characters in a homosexual relationship, is a way we are participating in our own erasure.[...] I wonder if I fell into this trap for a while, writing about two white, cisgendered, able-bodied guys. At the time I thought it was this cool, rebellious thing to do. Now I feel like I maybe rationalized it to myself why I was writing about them rather than anything to do with the women. [...] Everybody knows these excuses, and the problem is, in individual cases they may be completely legitimate, but when they get added up and you begin to see a pattern forming, it becomes highly problematic.
laughingrat: ...it sort of parallels some shit I said about slash back in the day (back in the day three months ago) about how women* may just be using slash** as a way of exploring sexual relationships*** between partners with equal social status, or at least between partners who have to deal with incredibly little demeaning sexist bullshit, which leaves the writer and reader free to explore, you know, actual love, or power dynamics, or class, or race, or Hawt Smexins, without having the all-pervasive smelly dead-skunk spectre of Patriarchy all up in the mix, because believe you me, that fucks up enough relationships in the real world**** without it intruding all up into our fic, too. linkspam
These posts, out of the current wave of debate, are resonating most for me. I feel miera_c
's point quite strongly and a lot of times I find myself on hiatus from fandom sources entirely and reading books because it's the only place to get woman-centric narratives (see my old post My tv and fandom consumption: a quest for diversity
). But while miera_c
reads het for more representations of women, I, like laughingrat
, prefer to read about romantic relationships that aren't marked by gender hegemony. Sex is sex - I don't dislike het for that reason - but het is not queer enough for me because of the way male-female interactions are marked by patriarchy. The relationships feel different and I can't get invested in them at the gut level, the way I can in queer romance, even if it's about men and not women like I'd prefer (see my old post gay media invisibility: representations of our own (gay genre) vs queering the text (slash)
: "This is why slash goggles aren't enough - because it's not enough for it to be visible to slashers; we need to be visible to everybody.") I also am not willing to discard my queer identity entirely in favor of my identity as a woman, which is what I'd feel I was doing if I moved to full-time het just because of the women.
More f/f is what I want the most, but here the oppression of patriarchy intrudes again, because all of the narratives are about white men.
(And that pisses me off enormously, but that's another rant.) There isn't a twentieth of the possibility to queer readings of mainstream media about female main characters because we have so few female main characters in the sff genre field. Teyla, whom miera_c
mentions, is a main character, but Teyla/Elizabeth is quantitatively different from Sheppard/McKay because Teyla and Elizabeth have a tiny, tiny fraction of John and Rodney's onscreen interactions with each other. Because of this - shows refusing to pass the Bechdel test with a very wide margin - f/f becomes a similar exercise to writing Lorne/Parrish - taking secondary characters, inventing backstory and largely inventing their relationship. That is a different sort of writing and a different sort of fannish engagement, and it's not as accessible and easy to get enthused about for many people. It takes away the possibility of shipping along as you watch in large part.
This is upsetting, but it doesn't change the fact that my imagination is more engaged by the primary narrative of the things I watch and read, and more invested in the protagonists. Of course it is: the themes, the secondary plot-arcs, they are all devoted to echoing the main plot arcs, to making you think about the protagonists' development and journeys and experiences. I can't get the female narratives I crave out of the amount of screentime given to the one or two women (always secondary) in an ensemble cast. I don't even try: I read books instead, or re-watch a few movies over and over. Where are the female equivalents of Kirk/Spock, Holmes/Watson, Sheppard/McKay, Picard/Q, Harry/Draco, Merlin/Arthur? There are few examples in the history of genre film (I do watch some non-genre shows, but they don't engage me in the same way - neither do they engage the rest of media fandom in the same way, evidently, because the fandoms of non-genre shows are as a rule much smaller), and no examples in the current crop of genre film and TV that I know of since Dollhouse and Sarah Connor Chronicles were canceled - not unless you move out into the secondary characters. Of course there is lots of woman-centric literature, but it rarely reaches the levels of fame and recognition that most healthy literary fandoms boast.
The net result is that if I prefer queerable major characters with other major characters of the same gender
in basically mainstream media fandoms, I am mostly engaged by m/m slash. If I prefer female-centric genre stories, I have very few options in current tv and movies, even if I'm willing to go for ones which don't have very active fandoms. If I prefer female-centric media and
queerable stories about major characters (which I do), I'm mostly shit out of luck. I can have one at a time, but not both, without wading into the much less easy and engaging waters of small fandoms, inactive fandoms, long-dead fandoms. Fandom thrives on community. It requires a lot more to be active in a small one, without the promise of a reliable audience. And fandoms grow exponentially, so the less there is the more it stagnates, while the more excitement builds, the easier it is to share enthusiasm with other fans, and the more creativity blossoms.
There are two ways to interpret all this: that our choices as queer feminists participating in our own erasure by devoting our time to m/m slash make logical sense, or that we're doing this to ourselves. Both are true. As bookshop says
, if we want more women characters in our fandoms, we are simply going to have
to fight against paucity of canon, lukewarm fan response, waves of hate from the misogynist probably-a-majority-I'm-not-sure. We're going to have to seek canon out instead of waiting for it to seize our attention, because the majority of media texts are all about men.