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.

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