Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 01:38 pm
Got most of the way through this before remembering I was going to put all my long tumblr responses on dreamwidth haha.

Post I am replying to:
There’s a post that appeared on my dash earlier... the tl;dr summary of said post is that fandom ‘isn’t required to be a safe space’. ... Fandom isn’t here to create a safe space for creators either: it is literally a community about sharing. And sharing is a two way street.


“It’s ok to criticise fanfic just don’t attack the person” shouldn’t be such a rare point of view, but here we are. Anyway, I agree in principle. I’ve seen pushback against excessive criticism which goes past “don’t send death threats” and even “don’t criticise racism” to end up at “don’t criticise plagiarism” which is something I thought everyone agreed was worth criticising.

I think a major problem here is a flattening everything from “has a pairing I don’t like” to “actual hate speech” into “problematic”, and flattening everything from sending death threats to saying you didn’t enjoy something into “criticism”.

The “fandom is not your safe space” post seems to be largely responding to people who think anything that they find emotionally hurtful is problematic on principle. And in that context “just avoid it” is a mostly reasonable response, in my opinion, assuming said content is actually easy to avoid.

Meanwhile this post gives the example of something being racist, eg objectively bad for society. And in that context it makes more sense to criticise the content instead of just avoiding it. But even then it’s more complicated than just “this is public content so we can criticise it publicly”.

No matter how sincere and valid your criticism may be, one of the frustrating realities of fandom is that there’s a whole lot of people looking for excuses to bash other fans, and it’s easy to inadvertently contribute to that. This doesn’t mean don’t criticise fanfic ever, but it does mean thinking about how to actually fix the problem you care about (say, het with homophobic subtext) without adding fuel to the dumpster fire (”All het is homophobic”).

For a start, it’s important to consider power relationships. For example, as a 30 something with a moderate number of followers, if I see a 13 year old draw something a bit ableist I’m not going to make an angry public post about it that may get them dogpiled. I’ll do some combination of an angry locked post to vent my feelings, sending them a private message/making a comment, and making a general public post about the broad problem.

Some might argue that if I made my angry public post about the art and not the artist it would be ok, that I wouldn’t be attacking them personally, and they posted it publicly so should have expected it. But I feel like that’s ignoring the likely consequences of my actions, and the power relationships involved. Paying attention to power relationships and the consequences of our actions is the whole point of social justice, otherwise it’s just jockeying for who ticks the most virtue boxes.

And as the "fandom is not your safe space" post points out, a lot of these criticisms themselves perpetuate broader harmful social trends, like the repression of female sexuality.

I mean, it’s complex! AS WE SPEAK I am publicly reblogging a post from a much younger followee in order to disagree with it. I have publicly linked to fanworks I thought were problematic, both to individually criticise them and to illustrate larger patterns. And it's not like, say, Ao3 comments aren't public in their own way, even if they don't draw attention like a callout post.

I guess I feel like we need to all get to "it's ok to criticise fanworks in principle. This does not not and should not mean attacking the individual creators unless there's a very good specific reason for it" but not stop there. What kinds of things is it reasonable to criticise? What form should that criticism take? How do we balance criticism with creating a welcoming creative environment? Everyone tends to act like the answers to these questions go without saying, or can be summarised with blanket statements like "fandom is a not a safe space", but I think we need to go deeper.
Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 09:44 am (UTC)
No matter how sincere and valid your criticism may be, one of the frustrating realities of fandom is that there’s a whole lot of people looking for excuses to bash other fans, and it’s easy to inadvertently contribute to that

This is so very, very true, and something that took me a shockingly long time to realise. It seemed to take me a very long time to realise that bullies are everywhere, that they will co-opt everything and every argument (on all sides, even sides that I thought were safe and 'my side' - yeah my black and white thinking doesn't get me very far, apparently I just try and wear blinkers forever lol).

But, yes, I have seen posts with incredible critiques - really challenging, interesting posts - get then reblogged by people who will add a few lines of 'see? This proves that everyone who likes X thing is (insert invective here).'

if I see a 13 year old draw something a bit ableist I’m not going to make an angry public post about it that may get them dogpiled. I’ll do some combination of an angry locked post to vent my feelings, sending them a private message/making a comment, and making a general public post about the broad problem.

I really wish this was a more universal response to minors etc. or even just newbies to critical culture and a lot of new concepts.

Paying attention to power relationships and the consequences of our actions is the whole point of social justice, otherwise it’s just jockeying for who ticks the most virtue boxes.

I'm just nodding my head a whole bunch.

How do we balance criticism with creating a welcoming creative environment?

Can both be done? I'm not sure it successfully can, without people either feeling like the criticisms don't apply to them in order to still feel welcomed, or people feeling like they're in a hostile environment while taking criticisms on board, and always waiting for the times when those criticisms will apply to them and distinguish them as 'Other.'

Which isn't to say that criticism can't exist in a place that is welcoming, but I'm not sure it currently can in free-for-all public internet spaces, where - as you point out earlier - there are a great deal of people (and there will always be people) who are literally in those free-for-all spaces to, well, look for excuses to bash other fans/people.

I do think it needs to go deeper, for sure, and I think there's an issue with people wanting a public space to serve *every* need, somehow. It must cater ideally to every single one of its fans, it must provide the exact right amount of safety for everyone but also the exact right amount of challenge, it must be critical but also compassionate but also careful but also respectful but also not silence people who are rightfully angry but also not tone police and also not trigger people who are triggered by anger and ALSO (and so on and so forth).

I don't think that can be summed up as 'fandom is not a safe space.' Because that creates the expectation of a hostile environment. The world outside my door is not a safe space, but I don't go for a walk to the park assuming 'hostile environment, something harmful will happen' (and I feel like the 'fandom is not a safe space' catch cry, sort of creates this feeling in a lot of people). But...we also have things like (hugely biased) governance and laws to (somewhat) rely upon, and there are things in place designed to deter malicious or harmful behaviour (like, the law is terrible at enforcing it, but *technically* I am less likely to be assaulted in a public place because those laws exist, rendering that space 'safer' but not 'safe.')

I do believe there are ways to make fandom *safer*, and I think fandom plays with it by gatekeeping certain kinds of people, rather than trying to actually carefully police certain kinds of behaviours (abuse, manipulation, cruelty, etc.) Right now, there's a lot of conflation with enjoying reading about a fictional behaviour or kink, and then gatekeeping those *people.* (This is just my perception, of course).

I'm not sure fandom will ever be a safe space for everyone, since safety is a subjective experience and everyone's markers for what that is are so radically different - we fall under the 'you can't please everyone all the time' umbrella there. But I do think fandom/s can be safer spaces, and I think going deeper and exploring the concept and where the action needs to happen is the way to go about it, rather than falling back on quick soundbytes that deter more complex thought?

Anyway, totally cool if you disagree with all of this of course. And I'm very biased by my own fandom experiences. But yeah, I don't think blanket statements really work at all in issues so complex. All they can really do is provide signposts to where we're supposed to head critically / thoughtfully? But a lot of people don't seem to use them that way.
Edited 2016-09-13 09:45 am (UTC)
Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 09:51 am (UTC)
No broad community is required to be safe space. This s good, because things that are called safe space often feel unsafe to some people. That said, there are places formally or informally designated as safe space. Beyond that, Don't Be A Dick is excellent advice in general.

I choose to make my little corner of cyberspace reasonably safe. I don't let my audience pick on each other. If I'm critiquing someone's writing, I try to be decent about it. If I'm criticizing people I find troublesome, I don't punch down; but when I'm punching up, I can be pretty harsh at times, because sometimes the emperor has no clothes. I don't tolerate trolls. I tackle some big questions, both in fanfic and original writing. I try to give people an idea about content that may be upsetting to some readers, because I write about some extremely intense topics -- this week, I posted a poem about a drag racer wrecking his car, and the links included a technical article on overpass pier failures after collisions with graphic photos. Not really the kind of thing I want my fans to stumble into by accident. Conversely, I don't feel required to dumb down or nerf what I write just because some people might not enjoy reading that. It's under a cut tag and has content notes for a reason. That's so everyone can pick and choose what they want to read, or not. And I have found that this approach inclines my fans to feel safe enough to read things that are on very thin ice for them, and to discuss very difficult topics in civil ways.

Other people's mileage may vary.
Sunday, October 30th, 2016 06:12 pm (UTC)
No problem, go at your own pace.