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Saturday, May 7th, 2016 04:39 pm
This is an incredibly subjective and personal account, with no clear moral or narrative, because that's how it wanted to come out. I then poked at things some more and wrote A decade in online fandom social justice: Abridged, which is a bit more structured and not quite as ridiculously long.

I've been inspired to write this by seeing other fans trying to sell their own, equally subjective narratives that contradict mine as The Objective Truth, and it annoys me. The most recent example is this deeply flawed essay by Franzeska. Here's some criticisms by POC: a thread on ffa wherea POC looks back on their own experiences of lj fandom and Fans Of Colour Are Not To Blame For Fandom's Erasures: A response to That Meta.

Note: I have a terrible memory so some of these details are probably off, luckily I wrote a retrospective post back in 2010, though even then you can see how differently 2010!me describes things. Subjective! Also, this is an absolute novel, I don't expect people to read all the links as well, they're just there for anyone who want more context on a specific part. I feel weird that so much of it is about my experiences as a white antiracist, but that's the way things played out. Any time I express an opinion about anti racism imagine a "But I'm white, so what do I know" disclaimer.

So! For context: I started out identifying as a white, straight, ablebodied woman, and have since realised I am and to some extent always was a white, biromantic, grey asexual, mentally ill, genderfluid person. I also have an acquired physical disability.

I have been involved in social justice since I was born in 1979: my grandparents and parents are very involved in local (Western Australian) progressive politics, and while I haven't gotten involved much in activism myself I've inherited the same natural tendency to notice and complain about things like racism and classism (like many older progressives my parents are less big on gender/sexuality/disability) I also inherited my mother's impatience with the simplistic, dogmatic approach of her communist parents.

I've been involved in fandom since I was a teenager in the 90s, frequenting fandom message boards etc and, once I got the chance, my uni's science ficton club.

For a long time those two interests did not mix. My reaction to the smugly socialist activist student organisations was UGH JUST LIKE MY GRANDPARENTS, and everyone else I tried discussing political subjects with was more right wing than me and generally thought I was overthinking things. I had an undiagnosed, untreated anxiety disorder that made face to face conflict almost impossible: I would burst into tears and then noone would take me seriously. Around 2003 I was involved in an atheist discussion board, but for all their claims to enlightenment the people there weren't much better than anyone else. It did teach me some skills for navigating online disagreement, which I find much easier to deal with than face to face arguments.

The main exception was a group of feminists at the local science fiction con Swancon, who ran a guerilla femininist sub-con [ profile] gynaecon in hallways and people's rooms. At these guerilla panels and also the ones they did manage to get onto the program I encountered a lot of very interesting discussion of fandom and fanishness from a feminist perspective. There was also some discussion of slash. They made it sound very interesting, but I didn't like it when I tried it, and since they had implied it was the only interesting kind of fanfic I decided fanfic wasn't for me. There also wasn't very much discussion of intersectional topics like race, though there was some. Here's a post I made a few years later about flaws in Gynaecon.


In 2006, via one of my friends involved in Gynaecon, I discovered [ profile] metafandom with it's a cornucopia of meta.

To give an idea, here's a post from around the time I discovered the comm. A lot of the discussions are on the same topics that are still going round and round today: how much do readers owe comments, how critical are those comments allowed to be, is slash sexist etc. You'll notice only one post explicitly about social justice, and it's about the way fandom supressed discussions of racism. And indeed, these arguments were consistently trotted out any time people tried to point out even the most glaring and unambiguous racism in popular media. But the fact people were discussing it at all was amazing to me. I HAD FOUND MY PEOPLE.

The default argument for telling people that their ship etc was Wrong was to argue that it Didn't Match Canon. As you can imagine, this attitude made it much harder for anyone who wanted to create works outside the default of straight white able bodied cis people, even when canon did better fandom glossed over it. It was also much more acceptable to be openly mysogynistic towards female characters, say that All Female Characters Suck or that the one you didn't like was an evil bitch for stealing Male Love Interest away from Preferred Love Interest (male or female) etc, and openly homophobic towards slash.

There was a fairly strong divide between the (on average) more conservative and borderline homophobic gen fans (IT'S NOT CANON etc), and THE INTERNET IS FOR PORN slash fans who were gleefully kinky and assumed that anyone who wasn't was conservative and borderline homophobic. This was annoying to me as someone who wasn't conservative and didn't like homophobia but had a lot of sexual triggers and squicks (a result of trauma and being grey asexual, though I didn't see it that way that time) and also liked gen, het and femslash more than slash (though at this point I was still iffy on fanfic as a whole). Here's a post I made a few years later about the way most meta in general annoyed me.

I jumped into the conversation. Then, as now, I was very verbose and opinionated but tried to understand everyone's point of view and treat them with an open mind and friendly disposition. I was also way more conflict averse and emotionally incoherent (eg: I had yet to get any therapy), so not all these conversations went very well, but overall I had some really interesting conversations and started making connections with other people with similar opinions and interests. There was some sense that we people who actually thought social justice was a worthy topic of discussion and effort had to stick together, but no coherent community.

Like Gynaecon, one of the popular metafandom topics was "Why Slash is Awesome, and all other fanfic is crap". The more involved I got into transformative works fandom, and thus the more familiar with the kinds of fanfic I do turn out to like (eg, those about female characters) the more annoying I found this kind of meta. I was also frustrated by the way the eternal "Is slash sexist or het homophobic" conversations consistently dismissed and ignored femslash.

Reading the discussions of race, I kept coming across confronting posts by POC that made me feel defensive: I was one of the good white people, and here they were saying the kinds of things I did were racist??

Of course there were plenty of other white people there to say these POC were oversensitive and mean, and (as relevant) US centric. And, honestly, I often agreed. But I wasn't sure WHERE the line between "legitimate criticism" and "oversensitive meanness" was, and didn't like the idea of drawing it too close to my comfort zone out of intellectual laziness, especially because there had been a few too many times when I'd started out disagreeing with someone only to realise a little while later that they were right. I remember the first time I came across the idea that you couldn't be racist against white people I rewrote my reply six times, going from complete disagreement to "you have some good points, but..." to complete agreement.

I feel like I should point out somewhere that being oversensitive/wrong is not the same as being mean, and one can be either of them without being the other. So I'm going to put it here.


I decided the only way to untangle my racist defensiveness from valid disagreement was to get a firmer understanding of privilege etc in my "one area" of oppression: gender (Since I identified as an able bodied straight woman lol) From there I also started understanding disability and sexuality better. And then I dived back into anti racism discussion.

I joined [ profile] debunkingwhite, a community for white people to unlearn racism which was mildly infamous for being harsh. While I was sure there were things I would learn, I was secretly convinced that many of the people there would show themselves to be intellectually hollow if I hung around long enough and poked at their arguments calmly and rationally.

But that didn't happen. Nor were my questions (a mixture of sincere and passive aggressive) dismissed out of hand. Instead people listened to what I had to say and acknowledged my good points while explaining what I was getting wrong in such clear terms I had to admit they were right. It was incredibly humbling, and I slowly went from being one of the clueless newbies asking Racism Bingo questions to one of the regulars explaining Racism 101 over and over. There were, and are, aspects of the default US approach to anti racism which I have issues with, but they were far outweighed by the parts I eventually found convincing.

By the end of 2007 I had all the fire of a new convert and was determined to Do Something About Racism (And Prejudice In General) In Fandom. Looking back, I was using antiracism as a distraction from my worsening health and work situation. I started posting about social justice more on my livejournal. Mostly the comments I got were ok, but a lot of my friends were the same local fans I'd avoided discussing politics with back at uni, and I was still awful at conflict with people I was friends with, especially knowing it could spill offline.

At the same time, the POC I encountered in online discussions still often clearly thought I was a racist ass. COULDN'T THEY SEE I WAS ONE OF THE GOOD ONES. I had a number of low key but frustrating interactions with [personal profile] delux_vivens, who ran a bunch of communities for POC fans and was also passively aggressively snarky at me on multiple occasions. Yet when I saw her arguing with other white fans she was pretty much always in the right, and she clearly didn't deserve the constant vicious criticism she got. It seemed plausible that I was in the wrong and couldn't see it and it drove me crazy. I almost had an emotional breakdown when she rejected my application to join [ profile] deadbrowalking which I NEEDED so I could ASK HOW TO FIGHT RACISM BETTER. Did I mention I was using antiracism as a distraction from my life falling apart?

Still, I persisted. I got involved in local anti racism activism in a small way, started posting Australian links to debunking white (since Australia focussed discussions of race are incredibly hard to find) and got more involved in Gynaecon. To my surprise and moderate dismay I found myself considered The Local Fandom Expert On Race and had well meaning white people ask me questions because I wasn't as scary as those mean POC on the internet. My attempts to explain that they weren't that scary once you got to know them did not seem to convince anyone.

Pretty much every time I'd met someone who seemed "too mean" about social justice, they turned out to be 100% justified and in the right. Fandom, as a whole (both Perth scifi fandom and online transformative works fandom), had a tendency to accuse literally anyone who made any criticism along social justice lines of being super duper mean. Also around this time I'd seen a bunch of nastiness go down in the feminist blogosphere, with WOC ciriticising white feminists and those feminists FREAKING OUT and doing their best to silence these critics as quickly and decisively as possible. It was in this context that I first encountered criticisms of "callout culture", which were ALWAYS white feminists accusing WOC of being too mean. I didn't entirely disagree with everything they said, but was yet to encounter any arguments that didn't seem mostly about self serving defensiveness.

I still felt unable to draw that line between "legitimate criticism" and "oversensitive meanness". Beyond being in denial that my life was falling to pieces, I still had an undiagnosed, untreated anxiety disorder. How could I decide how legitimate my fear of criticism was when I had a general terror of all conflict? But I was definitely afraid of criticism, and from two sides. Most significant was the fear of being of being attacked for rocking the boat too much about social justice. I had seen multiple people attacked and harassed for even minor criticisms of powerful fannish and other online figures or popular works. Less significant, but harder to admit to, was the fear of being attacked for screwing up. Mainly I was worried about making a huge, public ass of myself if a complex argument started and I panicked and didn't know how to deal with it. In general this fear lessened after a few times where I did screw up and received grumpy but reasonable criticism, and was given the chance to take a break to calm down then apologise and do better. But the fear didn't go away entirely, and I was never sure if this reflected badly on me or on those possibly-Mean-I-can't-tell POC (and to a lesser extent, Mean LGBT People. There was less of a sense of Mean Disabled People being a thing at this point, since disability was off everyone's radar, including my own)

That said, I had definitely noticed the dynamic where a lot of people seemed most willing to offer criticism of someone when a lot of other people had criticised them already. Some of the POC at debunkingwhite had pointed out how unhelpful this was for that community: one person would get 20 effectively identical comments telling them why they were wrong, which just made them feel attacked and taught them nothing new. Meanwhile another person would fly under the radar entirely and learn nothing at all, because most commenters were too afraid to be the first to say anything. In fandom it was more ambiguous, because we weren't a relatively small group in one conversation but a huge group in multiple overlapping ones. But it did seem unfair to me that, while the people who got flack for being racist etc were did generally deserve criticism, how much they got seemed really arbitrary, and a lot of people seemed to join in the fray to go LOOK AT ME I AM POSTING THE RIGHT OPINION rather than to add anything useful. I wasn't sure how you'd fix this though. The dynamic seemed to be, mostly, that a white person would say something clueless/racist, a single POC would criticise them, a white person (usually the same one but not always) would FREAK OUT, the POC would push back, more defensiveness from more white people, more POC pushing back, snowball to drama. It hardly seemed fair to blame POC for not being the first to back down. Here's a post I made pondering how to make such conversations less unhelpful that I still agree with.


It is at this point that everything becomes an awful blur for a year or two. My previously poor health suddenly became so overwhelmingly awful I had to quit my job, and even then barely had the energy for daily tasks. There was no way to know if I would ever get better, or even whether things would keep worsening until I became entirely bedridden or even died (the answers turned out to be no, and not yet, though they have worsened a bit) I tend to think of this period as the Abyss of Despair, because that's where I was for most of my time.

I realised quickly that I was going to have to let go of a lot of my activist intentions along with my career. I stopped posting about fraught topics as much while I adjusted to my new, constantly mentally fuzzy mental state. On the other hand, having suddenly gained a disability I had no idea how to cope with I had a very practical reason to get involved in disability groups and discussions, and started learning a lot more about disability activism in the process.

One of the things I used to distract myself during my unexpected retirement was the newly opened AO3. Some of the people running it were Gynaecon peeps, so I liked the idea of supporting this new project of theirs in it's closed beta.

The AO3 grew out of fannish frustration with several unpleasant encounters with those who only cared about fandom to the extent that it affected their bottom line: Fanlib, which tried to monetise fanfic, and livejournal's repeated mistreatment of anyone posting content it thought would offend advertisers. Since slash and kinky porn are not the kind of thing advertisers like, they tended to be treated especially badly by these people. Thus the rallying cry: an archive of our own, where we own the servers, and noone can kick us off.

The AO3 was HUGELY controversial at the time. One of the issues was that it said it wanted to be THE place for ALL fandom, which of course meant ALL of fandom expected to be properly represented and catered to, and a great many of them felt they weren't. In my opinion the complaints were a mixture of valid and petty and unfortunately the petty ones were often the loudest.

One of the valid complaints, in my opinion, is that the archive was largely made by and for Western media slash fans. Which would be fine if they were honest about it, but they had a lot of nice sounding rhetoric about being for All of Fandom yet made insufficient efforts to consult with or recruit fans outside of their own Western Media Slash Fan circles eg languages other than English, older books, anime, video games, fanart, gen etc. When people pointed this out they were told "then join and fix it!" but those who did so found it hard to overcome the general bias (note I have only heard this second hand and not everyone agrees). That said, from all accounts dealing with the AO3 is massively frustrating for everyone, including the board, it has it's own momentum now that no one person can do much to change.

An example of one of the petty complaints was when the consistently terrible would-be fan historian Laura Hale got increasingly pissed off and nasty about the fact that Fanlore was supplanting her own, older but inaccurate and unethical fan history wiki. She had also been connected with Fanlib. She made a bunch of actively misleading and unfair anti-AO3 arguments that culminated in her outing the founder Naomi Novik's fannish pseudonym. This kind of thing just increased the board's insular defensiveness.


And then came Racefail.

I didn't get involved very much because I didn't feel up to it, but I watched with dismay. All the simmering tensions I'd been watching go undealt with for the last 3 years exploded. Thinly veiled resentment of Those Mean POC was pushed to the surface, and got nastier and nastier as those POC refused to back down. There were a LOT of conversations, some more productive than others. People could no longer push the subject of race under the rug. As awful as it all had been (for other people more than me, obviously!) there was some hope that maybe now that the conversation had been started, it would continue. There was also some new ventures by and for POC fans started, since it was even more obvious than before that white fans, as a group, wanted POC to shut up and go away. I ended up on the same side of an argument with a defensive white fan as delux_vivens and got the feeling she finally saw me as one of the Good White People. I felt very embarassed that this made me so happy.

A little later, the new Star Trek movie came out, and included a canonical Uhura/Spock romance as well as plenty of fodder for new and old Kirk/Spock shippers. Given the iconic nature of Kirk/Spock in slash fandom a ship war was inevitable, but the treatment of Uhura by white slashers was apalling. There was also a veneer of lgbt activism: how great would it be to make this iconic m/m pairing canon! But it seemed pretty clear that they only cared about THEIR m/m ship and would not have been satisfied by, say, Bones/Sulu.

I was feeling increasingly stifled on my livejournal. Talking about social justice got me branded oversensitive and mean and generally Not Fun. One of my POC friends said my lj was an unsafe place for her, since while my posts were ok the comments were often upsettingly racist.

Around this time dreamwidth started up, so I made a new journal (this one!) and eventually shifted my serious business posts over here. This allowed me to discuss stuff like race and disability with a more carefully chosen audience, and encouraged me to develop a new separate social group of more social justice minded people, separate to the more fannish focussed group at [ profile] alias_sqbr/[personal profile] alias_sqbr. It was a huge relief.

A bit after this, The Great Warnings Change started to take place, when warnings went from incredibly rare from the default. This was a nasty time to be a trauma survivor, even though I didn't think of myself as one yet, with lots of extended arguments and vicious ableism including a lot of active attempts to trigger people as much as possible to teach them a lesson. On the other hand, some of the pro warnings people glossed over the valid, often themselves trauma related reasons some people gave for why they in particular had trouble using warnings.

And then a bit after that I properly "joined a fandom" in the usual sense. I'd been very multifannish before this, but with Avatar the Last Airbender I found a canon I wanted to wallow in fannishness for at length. The fandom had slowed down a bit at this point but was still earning it's reputation as a vicious cesspit of shipping nastiness. I mainly shipped the canon pairing of Zuko/Mai, and while the "who's going to be canon" war with Zuko/Katara shippers was over, there was still a LOT of often openly mysogynistic bashing of Mai in fic and meta.

My main fandom before that, to the extent I'd had one, had been Pride and Prejudice/Jane Austen. But I'd been prevented from getting into it to the same extent by the bulk of the fandom being MASSIVELY conservative, and based on the kinds of forums I find annoying to interact with. Posting femslash helped introduce me to some of the very few fans who weren't exclusively into het.

I then joined what's turned out to be my Forever Fandom: Dragon Age. Back then it was very different to the way it is now. Social justice arguments were as unpopular as they were everywhere else. Although the game let you play as a dark skinned character, have same sex romances, and explore Fantasy Racism via elves, mages and dwarves, the general opinion was that the only REAL way to play the game was as a white female human noble who married the male love interest Alistair and became queen. It was basically canon, and thus unarguably superior. I remember being worried that I was going to be attacked for drawing art of dark skinned player characters, didn't I know that wasn't canon (and when you looked at family members etc canon did rather explicitely assume the PC was white).

I was creating more and more fanworks, both fanart and fanfic, and so started reading and posting about how to do so in a more socially aware way. There was some existing discussion about How (Not) To Write The Other but very little about art, so I made some. I don't think I ever saw anyone criticised for racist etc art.


At some point, I can't remember when, I noticed a shift. Slowly it became less of a social faux pas to bring up social justice topics in fannish conversation. Some local friends who'd never struck me as caring much about social justice and whose favourite topic had been "things some idiot said on the internet" now shifted to "things some bigoted idiot said on the internet". I wasn't 100% sure how I felt about this, mocking bigots is all well and good but it's not the most productive thing to focus on. But I didn't want to be a social justice hipster, especially given my own rocky path. There were more and more social justice related posts on metafandom, and communities and journals like [community profile] linkspam documenting these multi journal arguments, or "imbroglio"s, as they happened. This had started a bit before Racefail, with The Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM, but became more and more of a thing. These conversations, and their documentation, became their own topic. What counted as part of the conversation? How much responsibility did people have to give context, and think about the effects their posts would have on the wider conversation? What bias did the documenters have? Was it ethical to send so many opinionated people into the journals of people who might have just intended to discuss it with their friendslist?

I made the most controversial post I have ever made, trying to untangle some of these questions. It is, I have to admit, a terrible post, and while I think I had the germ of a good idea in there I totally failed to get it across. I'm not linking it to prevent anyone arguing with me about it and also because it's embarassing. It resulted in a BNF making a post calling me part of the slippery slope fandom is sliding down. I was TERRIFIED her followers would all descend on me angrily, but they thankfully didn't (and I don't think she would have wanted them to) Every now and then I'd see people link to it as an example of How Those People Think, which I found annoying and embarassing. I spoke for noone but myself! Literally noone else had made the arguments I was interpreted as making, because they were terrible arguments and not even I actually agreed with them.

I got therapy for my anxiety and thus started to see, and be able to express myself, much more clearly. I also realised I was bi, and carefully started poking at sexuality discussions from this new angle (my complex, repressed feelings had made them uncomfortable before)

There were increasing criticisms of "fail fandom" (later called SJWs) : people whose "fandom" was criticising "fail" eg racism/sexism etc. We (and I was generally considered one of them by those who noticed my existence) were considered a sort of hivemind who thought in lock step, any differences between us were just signs of the hivemind's hypocrisy. Any bad things done by one were a stain on all of us. Anyone who used a social justice argument the complainer didn't like was considered part of the hivemind, regardless of the broader context. Any time a fail fandom person made an unpopular post and got lots of angry comments (and they did!), that was just fandom expressing it's reasonable frustration. But if a fail fandom person linked to a post they were annoyed at it was a deliberate attempt at harassment by dogpiling. If you've read a ffa thread about tumblr or sjws you have some idea. Not everyone criticising the social justice dynamics of the time used this rhetoric, but it sometimes felt like it.

This annoyed me, but I had to admit it wasn't completely without merit. There wasn't a single neat clique of social justice minded fans, just various individuals and loose collections of friends with a variety of often conflicting views who didn't all like each other. I don't think we were, overall, any more prone to acting like our subjective point of view was The Only Reasonable Opinion of Right Thinking People, but that doesn't mean we weren't prone to it at all. And now that I actually had a social group that accepted me talking about social justice at all I found myself aware of the danger of them deciding I had the Wrong Opinions. And as fandom began to make it easier to criticise people for being bigoted, the self confidence with which people made those criticisms began to increase, and the wider the variety of behaviour that got criticised. I was more confident of my ability to draw the line between legitimate criticism and meanness, and more confident that some people really were being too mean. But the vast bulk of "too meanness" was definitely coming from the people on the other side of the argument (who were not always the same people each time. The "white feminist who happily shouts at sexists then get pissy when shouted at for racism" dynamic was as popular ever)

Now one of my flaws is a great difficulty setting boundaries, and automatically reciprocating when people want to be friends with me even if I find their company unpleasant or even traumatic. This was as much a problem with people I'd met through social justice as anywhere else, and so I found myself reading the blogs of a number of people I had nagging feelings of unease about. This included Kynn/[personal profile] keeva, a white trans woman who was infamous for saying "Are you trans?" any time someone disagreed with her about transphobia, and also took great delight in finding and viciously mocking clueless white people. Some of the stuff she said made me very uncomfortable, but since I hadn't spent much time around trans people at this point I worried I was just being transphobic. A lot of the criticism of her was undeniably transphobic, including a lot of deliberate misgendering etc.

Slash fandom continued to annoy me. At the same time, I think it was around this point that I encountered enough fellow het fans being openly homophobic that I started deliberately including m/m in the background of my het wherever possible.

Some of my disability activist friends started Feminists with Disabilities. It was VERY controversial, they were being oversensitive and mean etc. I didn't always agree with everything they said but thought the pushback was, as always, ridiculous. A common opinion I heard in fandom around this time and for many years later was that being feminist and anti racist etc was all fine but "ableism" as a concept was ridiculous, and that anyone who talked about it had automatically proven themselves not worth listening to. A lot of actively feminist fan friends got pissy and defensive whenever I brought up disability. FWD got into a conflict with a famous able bodied feminist and the usual silencing happened.

The live action Avatar The Last Airbender movie went into production and then came out. It cast an explicitly Asian cast with all white people (except the bad guys, who got to be the wrong kind of Asian) A large, vocal group of fans got MASSIVELY DEFENSIVE of any criticism of this, and said the people complaining about white washing were making a mountain out of a molehill and should stop criticising a movie that hadn't even come out yet. Things got really vicious. I made some anti-whitewashing fanart and got attacked for it, still the only time anyone has seriously criticised me for "getting race wrong" in a fanwork despite over a decade of works involving POC. The more awful the movie looked like it was going to be, the more defensive these fans got about how people were just bitter and oversensitive and would be proven wrong when it came out and was AMAZING. It came out and was objectively awful. The whitewashing was SO blatant, and the movie so much fun to mock in general, that most of the fandom agreed it was racist, even people who weren't especially interested in anti racism in general. Unfortunately this sometimes took the form of racist bashing of the POC director.

I got into Homestuck, and joined the forums, which at the time were the only real place to discuss the then moderately obscure webcomic. The fandom was much younger than I was used to, and a mixture of very socially aware fans who were often queer, and dudebro-ish male fans. It was also the first fandom I'd been in that had much enthusiasm for femslash fanart, and I wallowed both in other other people's amazing art and having a large audience for my own. Homestuck pokes at a lot of sensitive issues such as sexuality and disability, and this resulted in some very heated and often unpleasant conversations, but also some interesting ones. I added people I thought were cool on the new exciting social media: TUMBLR. Some of them were a bit overdramatic about social justice but it was nice knowing people in my fandom who cared about it at all, and I put some of it down to their youth.

I can't remember when I first encountered fandom_wank. I found it fascinating and horrifying by turns, I have always had a secret love of snarky, mocking gossip even as I have disapproved of it, and over time I went from hating it to enjoying the funny, energetic conversation as a guilty pleasure when I needed a distraction from feeling unwell, which I often did. I also can't remember when I noticed the shift from mocking social justice as much as anything else to taking it seriously, but it helped me enjoy the community more. I also followed the serious business spinoff, [ profile] unfunny_business, but found it increasingly unpleasant, lots of posts that boiled down to "here is some random awful thing (usually someone in the US being bigoted)" with a string of comments saying "WOW THAT IS AWFUL" but adding nothing else to the conversation. It felt performative and shallow. Sometime around this period I also noticed that other mockery comms like [ profile] sf_drama seemed to have become focussed on mocking "bad" social justice behaviour, and wasn't entirely comfortable with it. They just seemed really mean, and equating bigotry with stupidity seemed really unhelpful. At least fandom_wank was funny and served to document fandom arguments. Here's a thread on ffa where some other people bemoan the cultural shift. Looking back I feel it was a harbinger of things to come.

Another fannish trend around this time was anonymous memes, I'm fuzzy on the chronology. The two main types I was aware of at the time were kink memes, for posting prompts for kinky fic, and hate memes, for posting nasty things you didn't want to put your name to. I had no problem with kink memes but didn't like other anon memes since in my experience they were just used for nastiness.

[community profile] fail_fandomanon (ffa) was started to mock "fail fandom" and (it claimed) seriously criticise the "social justice bullies" in fandom. This included a bunch of people I was friends or friendly acquaintance with, but as I have said previously I had mixed feelings about some of these people and had mixed feelings about some of ffa's criticism. Some of it was unambiguously awful though, lots of conflating bullying with simply having opinions the poster didn't like, lots of open transphobia and ableism and racism. Look at the first comment on the first post. The general response in the social justice (and most other fannish) circles I moved in was pure negativity, partly because of it's politics and partly because of the anonymity in general. We all had pretty bad associations with anonymous memes.

There was a big imbroglio about hurt/comfort, which many disabled fans felt was inherently ableist, while other disabled fans were fans of it and felt their feelings were being ignored. My opinion was, and is, that as a disabled fan I find the fetishistic use of disability for cheap angst really upsetting, but that doesn't mean I neccesarily want people to stop doing it, I just wish they'd be more mindful of disabled people when they did so, eg avoiding unneccesary ableist tropes and labelling it so we know it's not trying to be realistic.


Dragon Age 2 came out. It took the "fantasy bigotry" metaphor of the previous game and made it a central part of the plot: in the countries the games are set in people born with magical abilities (mages) are locked up to protect the regular people from them, especially since they can be possessed by spirits/demons and become even more powerful and generally evil. But in another country, Tevinter, human mages oppress those without magical ability and turn them into slaves. Elves are mistreated everywhere, but worst in Tevinter. One of the core conflicts is between a human activist/terrorist mage Anders and an elf Fenris, who has escaped from slavery to a Tevinter mage. Both have been unambiguously mistreated and traumatised, but are terrible at understanding the other person's point of view. This is a really complex exploration of privilege...unless you asked fandom at the time, in which case one of them was the Correct Good Guy and one the Evil Bad Guy, though opinions on which varied, generally based on who the player most enjoyed to have sex with. There was also a lot of judgement of anyone who did the romances the Wrong Way, saying that since you were contributing to/enjoying a fictional character's trauma you were basically an abuser. I found this triggering and infuriating as a survivor of actual real life abuse who enjoys playing/writing messed up relationships sometimes.

Kynn was accused of rape. Most people I knew were horrified and immediately believed the victim. But some people used the same arguments they'd always used to defend Kynn from accusations of bullying: sure, this superfically seems like bad behaviour, but given how much trans women suffer is it really right to trust these accusations and drag a trans woman through the mud? This apalled me, and for a while the only place I felt safe from such rhetoric was ffa, who did a good job of summarising things. This experience made me think seriously about a lot of things.

Going through my archive I came across a private post from this era trying to articulate my feelings about criticisms of callout culture. I think it's significant that I didn't feel confident posting anything similar on the subject where other people would see it and disagree, not even under lock. I said (referring to a locked post I'd made about yet another "white feminist is accused of racism, uses it as launching point to criticise callout culture" situation):
So, a lot of posts about the issues with "Call out culture" talk about the issue in generalities. A couple of people said in the comments to my previous post that they feel that giving examples is a really bad idea, since everyone ends up focussing on that one example and it can easily turn into exactly the sort of blogswarm it's trying to prevent, and if you've seen call out culture bullying you'll recognise it (paraphrasing mine, don't trust it).

I can definitely see that argument, but personally I can't always recognise this sort of behaviour, and I find the vague posts frustrating since I'm never sure exactly what the author is talking about. The fact that half the time when people give examples it's stuff I don't see as bullying doesn't help and just makes me sideeye arguments that don't give examples, especially when I see replies like "Yeah, I wish people would stop bullying me by expecting me not to use ableist slurs" etc.

Basically: at this point I was convinced that there was bullying in social justice discussions, but didn't trust myself to draw the line on where it was exactly and as a result didn't trust myslf to decide who I could talk about it with. And I guess I was worried about being wrong and being seen as stupid/problematic. I generally trusted my actual friends not to attack me about it (note that I had never been friends with Kynn, though she had make overtures in that direction), but I didn't want them to be sad or angry at me because I was, in general, terrible at dealing with my friends being sad or angry at me about anything. It had taken over 20 years of frustration for me to get up the courage to risk conflict with my friends who were less activist than me, and I was still building up the courage to get into conflict with those who were more so, especially because in this case I wasn't sure when/if I was right.

I did give an example in that private post, which is probably why I chickened out on posting it:
[personal profile] accessibilityreportcard grades sites on their accessibility. This is an entirely reasonable thing to do, and the criticisms they make are valid. But stuff like "a single mistake on a post makes it fail" and "if you make a single mistake on a post about disability then you shouldn't pretend to care about ableism" sets off my own anxiety about being accessible enough like whoa. And intellectually, I realise that the standards for popular progressive blogs are different than those for personal blogs, and that while I fall down on accessibility here and there I would still probably pass their test reasonably well. But regardless: ANXIOUS

And I don't know what to do with that anxiety, if it's the sort of thing accessibilityreportcard should be expected to worry about, or if I should just suck it up and leave them to do their job..

The site is entirely unfamiliar to me now, so don't argue with past me's opinion, current me has none. But I have definitely seen that dynamic over and over: people angrily attacking certain kinds of inaccessibility in ways that make the conversation inaccessible to people with my kind of conflict anxiety. The ur example for me now is an argument I saw between two mentally ill people about mental illness which basically descended into them shouting "You triggered my conflict anxiety, thus you're ableist" at each other over and over.

Looking back, there were a few times during this period when friends tried to express their pain or confusion about these kinds of situations but I was too afraid to express my real opinions, even in one on one conversations with them, and instead responded with bland nothings. I'm not sure what I was afraid of. I think the whole thing made me so anxious I just shut down too much to properly emotionally engage.

At some point I encountered the concept of "whitecock": the idea that fandom will always gravitate towards ships involving white guys more than those involving women or POC. I don't remember what my initial reaction was, because of the strong associations with the term I was about to gain...

More anonymous memes started that weren't intended to be primarily negative. I joined a Homestuck one (I can't remember which, there's a few when I poke around on google) and had some interesting conversations. But there was a strain of really nasty anti slash meta in the fandom and it kept cropping up in the meme. The comic had started out pretty heteronormative but got queerer over time, and some people (mostly guys) HATED this, and resented that they couldn't use IT'S NOT CANON on m/m shippers any more since most ships had roughly equal ambiguous canon support. So they turned to social justice rhetoric. Specifically, the concept of "whitecock". The problem was everyone was the same ethnicity. Homestuck is deliberately vague about what race the humans are, and the aliens are all grey skinned with a blood colour related hierarchy. The ships being argued over were mostly John (human) with either Karkat (male alien with low caste blood) and Vriska (female alien with high caste blood). There is NO WAY John/Karkat is "whiter" than John/Vriska, if anything it is, in a metaphorical sense, the reverse. Also, anyone who shipped John/Karkat (and it was cute and semi-canonical enough that I shipped it) was accused of being a mysogynistic, fetishising, straight, white yaoi fangirl. When people pointed out that they were (a) queer and (b) also shipped the juggernaut f/f pair Rose/Kanaya this femslash ship was accused of being whitecock too. There ended up being a running joke on tumblr that "Dave/Terezi is my favourite yaoi" because of similar accusations against shippers of that het pairing. When it looked like another m/m ship was going to become canon we were all accused of being delusional yaoi fangirls with no understanding of canon or men or anything...and then it did become canon.

I can now no longer see the term "whitecock" used unironically without wincing. I absolutely thought, and think, that fandom DOES have a racist preference for white characters over POC. In particular, there's massive racism and sexism against any WOC who gets in the way of a popular white ship. But I think it's incredibly unhelpful to link gender and race in a simplistic way, it just leads to shippers of white het pairings acting like they're somehow being antiracist. And even when a pairing preference is a result of racism/sexism etc, I don't see any point in giving individual shippers crap about it. Point out the dynamic, for sure, and encourage people to poke at their bias, but people can't change what they ship by force of will.

Around this time lj fandom was starting to die, as everyone shifted to tumblr and to a lesser extent dreamwidth, but the full collapse was still on the horizon and the lj based social justice communities were still going. But they'd started to fracture. [ profile] debunkingwhite got new mods who declared that it was no longer acceptable to "freeload" by just reading posts without contributing on a regular basis. I was pretty sure they'd make an exception for me and my disability, based on previous discussions I'd had on the subject, but still felt that having to justify myself in that environment would make me anxious, so I quietly left.

Things also got nasty at [community profile] 50books_poc. I felt very uncomfortable with the nastiness being directed at anyone who had the 'wrong' opinion on various books, as well as the no win situation the mods were in, but was paranoid about being yet another white feminist complaining about Mean POC (even though a lot of the people being hurt weere POC themselves) so said nothing.


Fandom shifted more and more to tumblr.

I had encountered so much annoying anti-slash meta that I felt the need to post In defense of m/m.

I also had seen enough truly vicious bullying of people who'd found themselves on the wrong end of social justice arguments to feel the need to poke at it in Thoughts around this whole Laci Green thing. This situation started like the typical "white feminist is racist, POC call her out in a reasonable way, she is defensive" argument, and the initial criticism was, imo, entirely warranted and certainly not bullying. The new and awful aspect was the people who got involved once things got heated, sending death threats to people on both sides, making everyone defensive and angry and making it even harder to have a productive discussion. And of course everyone only considered the death threats recived by the people they agreed with to be significant, and proof of how awful "the other side" was. When, as I saw it, there were three sides: the people who sincerely thought Laci green wasn't racist, the people who sincerely thought she was, and the trolls.

I also had less entirely negative feelings about [community profile] fail_fandomanon. It still pissed me off a lot, and still does, but I enjoyed it the way I had fandom_wank as a source of vibrant conversation, and it did sometimes voice valid criticisms of people I wasn't seeing elsewhere. Here's a conversation I had about it on the meme itself. And after the thing with Kynn I liked knowing there was somewhere I could trust to criticise such people, even if I was, and remain, cynical about their motives. Also over time it got less and less actively bigoted. It's still awful about some things, but not as bad as it used to be. Naturally a lot of people see this as the meme being corrupted by evil SJWs.

FFA's opinions on me, to the extent they noticed me at all, seemed to be mixed too: there were some nice recs for my fic and art, but my meta was at best considered well meaning but flawed and wishy washy. Which I have to admit is not entirely unfair.

Mass Effect 3 came out and suddenly everyone cared about disability when Joker/Player Character shippers could accuse anyone who shipped the popular disabled character Joker with his new canon love interest of ableism, and Thane fans could accuse the writers of ableism for letting the guy die when he'd been introduced as dying from a terminal disease. This pissed me off, I did actually agree that there were some issues with how the games handled disability, but noone had cared about it before, and I resented disability being coopted for shipping.

Going through my blog for this time I saw a reference to "Fake Geek girls", a concept which would become more significant later.

One of the good things about Homestuck was connecting with a large social group of femslash fans on tumblr with similar interests to me: I was already friends with a bunch on dreamwidth but they're mostly into western media and I tend to like games, comics and anime more. Through these friends I became part of a group of Homestuck femslashers working to create an original f/f game. The group eventually fell apart, as these things usually do, but the project is ongoing with the two of us who stuck around and I am now seriously into game development as a hobby (and yes I have finished some games since 2012, even if the original one is still in devlopment hell).


I was wondering why I had nothing for this year then remembered I spent a chunk of it in semi homeless house buying hell. For whatever reason social justice just made me anxious rather than acting as a distraction. Possibly because at the time my parents were both rather obviously using social justice to distract themselves from their problems.


Thanks to various real life stresses (see: house hell) my physical health took a permanent downturn and I tried going off my psych meds to compensate, since they made me more sleepy. This turned out to be a bad idea.

[personal profile] delux_vivens died unexpectedly. I hadn't spoken to her for years but it was still a shock. She was hailed by people on ffa as an example of a good POC who'd actually achieved positive things instead of being oversensitive and mean like Kids These Days, I had my doubts as to whether these people would have said so at the time. I mean, I'd been annoyed at her and I was one of the good white people. Or maybe I'm just a social justice hipster.

Gamergate started. I've not been involved myself, but as a female game developer who explores themes like disability and sexuality etc it's not exactly fun knowing I risk being the victim of these kinds of attacks. It makes me paranoid any time I gain any public notice, which in turns puts me off seeking success...which is exactly how they want people like me to feel.

On the plus side, it was really great to see how universally it was condemned by people I knew, not just in (largely female dominated) transformative works fandom, but in local fandom too, including by men.

I went to PAX Australia and had a great time. Again, Gamergate was universally condemned and there were some really interesting conversations. It was assumed at the panels I went to (which admitedly were the sort to encourage this kind of thing) that everyone cared about fighting racism/sexism etc. The diversity lounge felt a bit tokenistic, hidden away at the far end of the convention, but I met some great people and for the first time felt like I was part of a real life queer fannish space that welcomed me and my interests.

The whole imbroglio around A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names happened just after I got back. I don't feel able to go into the specifics in a public post, but it caused me to reassess my past behaviour and caused some sudden, hostile breaks with previous friends that made me question myself even more. It prompted a bunch of self reflection and attempts to make things better within the fannish social justice sphere as a whole.

Dragon Age Inquisition came out. It's a fantastic game, and so fandom did the usage of social justice rhetoric to attack fans with different tastes. Literally every popular pairing was commonly described as abusive by fans of other pairings. As a multishipper abuse survivor I was, again, not happy, and have become more and more disconnected from the fandom as a whole.


I got very depressed for a while. Coming out of it, I became determined to be less timid and better at setting boundaries. This included limiting my contact with people who were psychologically bad for me without stressing too much about whether or not they were good people. As a result I unfriended/unfollowed a bunch of people whose approach to social justice upset me, including those who I felt were too mean spirited in their pursuit of social justice, and those I felt were too mean spirited in their criticisms of it. I generally thought they were basically decent, sensible people with mostly reasonable opinions, if I didn't I'd have never made friends in the first place. But they made me unhappy and that's enough.

At this point I felt very uncomfortable with the way social justice is sometimes used in fandom. Now that it's socially acceptable and even expected to care about it (good!) it's much easier to use it as a weapon (bad). I still don't know how to fix this.

The Sherlock 221b Con Wank is to me a perfect example of the ways in which social justice rhetoric is being used to bully people. Buzzwords like "pedophile/abuse apologist" are thrown at people like weapons, with zero compassion for actual survivors on the other side. And at anyone the bully dislikes, no matter how innocuous behaviour: drawings of adult characters, complete with with moustache, are accused of being child porn for being in too cute a style, when the real issue is that they have the wrong man as the top.

Even when it's not outright bullying, there's way more usage of social justice rhetoric for matters of taste like shipwars than I think there should be.

On the plus side, I feel able to talk about social justice topics in all fannish contexts now, from livejournal to twitter to conventions, and even if not everyone agrees with my specific opinions they agree it's a worthy topic. Gynaecon shut down because they felt superfluous: feminism is an integral part of the con now. (this happened a bit earlier than 2015, but it's symbolic of the general trend)


And so here we are at the current day. Here's a post I made the other day about the discussions that prompted this post, to give you some idea where my feelings are at. Here's a longer post where I poke at some issues I have with current social justice discussions in fandom.

There's been a bunch of discussion and organising in femslash fandom to do with the recent deaths of a bunch of canononically queer female characters, but it's not been in any of my fandoms and I haven't been involved in that personally. I have been happily swept along by the wave of enthusiasm for stories about queer female characters who DON'T die, especially those created by queer women.

Recently I started identifying as genderfluid, so I'm having some existential angst about whether I am a queer woman but I still most definitely like femslash.

I'v been thinking about why I don't get involved in the big imbroglios like I used to and I think it's less that I stopped caring and more that these days they are much more likely to be bad for my mental health. When one side is people writing fic I find triggering, and the other side is attacking them with arguments I find triggering, I am better off staying away. I feel like there was a brief golden period when fandom actually acknowledged the existence and needs of trauma survivors without using us as bludgeons to attack each other, but maybe I imagined it.

And I suppose this post is me getting involved in an imbroglio, eg the one started by franzeska's post. It's not the same kind of engagement I used to do, though. I'm still pondering why that's changed.

I still can't always draw the line between "legitimate criticism" and "oversensitive meanness". Avoiding people who make me unhappy (many of whom are not mean at all!) has a positive side effect of avoiding mean people (even the ones who aren't mean to me), but also probably avoiding some people with legitimate criticism expressed in ways that hit my buttons. And just because I'm avoiding someone socially doesn't mean I should ignore what they have to say, and won't end up facing complex ethical choices involving them. My approach right now is to discuss it with people I trust. Figuring out who those people are, and learning to make myself vulnerable in front of them, has been part of the journey.

I don't know how well this post has really captured my experiences, but I hope it's useful in some way. I am open to questions as well as comments from people who had different experiences, especially of the "I remember that happening in a different order" kind and from POC, and am happy to add more links to things that'll help get across the full picture. But I don't feel like going back over old arguments: There are so many old arguments, and I have so little energy. I freely admit that this absolutely subjective and probably full of misremembered facts. Poke around [community profile] metafandom, fanlore, the Geek Feminism Wiki or the ffa wiki to see some very different points of view (and if you have other suggestions let me know). It's just how things look to me from here.

One of the ways my attitude has changed significantly over the years is that I no longer feel like fans who care about social justice are "my people" by default, and I no longer feel like it's best to always keep my qualms about other people's approaches to social justice to myself or under lock. Yes, anti social justice people will jump on any admission of "guilt" or "fracture" as proof the whole concept is flawed. But I think we lose more by refusing to publicly discuss these issues, which is why this summary is much less rosy than the one I made in 2010. I do think it is sometimes better to keep discussions private, especially when things are uncertain, and still make a lot of locked posts where I poke at complex topics I don't have a complete grip on with my trusted friends. And of course sometimes I just don't have the energy to argue with people. But I also post a lot of angry rants to tumblr.

I hope I'm not being a social justice hipster or whiny old person by being uncomfortable with some of the ways The Young People These Days do social justice. Overall I'm glad more people care about social justice and think things have improved. But here's to working together to make them even better.

(Also, gosh this is long! Congratulations on making it to the end! Also, I JUST realised I basically never mentioned class. That's because trying to talk about class from an Australian perspective in US dominated internet discussions is fool's errand EDIT: ALSO I keep remembering important stuff and adding it. Because the post wasn't long enough /o\ Maybe I'll eventually remember something happening in 2013...)
Saturday, May 7th, 2016 11:59 am (UTC)
Reading this was amazing. Just amazing. I've also drawn some personal parallels, I feel like I might be at a place you were at years ago - or a similar place, and not sort of grown/evolved enough to make it past it yet. (The place where you say this: Basically: at this point I was convinced that there was bullying in social justice discussions, but didn't trust myself to draw the line on where it was exactly and as a result didn't trust myslf to decide who I could talk about it with.).

Also this: people angrily attacking certain kinds of inaccessibility in ways that make the conversation inaccessible to people with my kind of conflict anxiety. Which made me think of that post I reblogged relatively recently about competing access needs.

I'm sorry to be sectioning out particular things, when the whole post is just incredible, and thoughtful. I am very grateful that you do still post in places where people can see what you're thinking - even if it's under lock sometimes.

I wanted to ask: how do you handle conflict aversion these days? And is it as strong as it used to be? Do you think that some of the aspects of bullying in these discussions made it stronger or worse?

Do you have any particular coping strategies for dealing with the saturation of these sorts of discussions in arenas like DW / Tumblr, that isn't necessarily cutting yourself off entirely or unfollowing?

If you don't have the energy/inclination to respond, please don't worry, but I am curious to know how you sort of learned to cope with this, or the strategies you've adopted (or even adopted and then discarded). I know you mention unfriending and unfollowing, I was just...curious, as someone who is also conflict averse.

Once again, thank you so much for posting this, and for all the links too, I am so so appreciative. Given I didn't get to know you online until fairly 'recently' there's so much good material here to read through and understand, and also amazing that you were able to write this holy crap awesome post :D
Sunday, May 8th, 2016 09:21 am (UTC)
most of this is familiar to me, but some of it isn't. and i'd either forgotten or didn't know some of the context. and i realise i can't remember how i met you.

One of the valid complaints is that the archive was unambiguously made by and for Western media slash fans.

i have to disagree with this, well the 'slash' part. it was definitely conceptualised and possibly even initially coded by western media slash fans. but it wasn't made for slash fans and it wasn't and isn't made or run exclusively by them. i mean, my involvement with volunteering at AO3 was many many moons ago and not very significant — hell, documentation doesn't even exist anymore. but it really pisses me off how many people repeat the 'made by and for slash fans' line because it's not true. not everyone involved was a BNF; not everyone involved was into slash; not everyone involved was a friend of astolat. i only knew her as half the team running yuletide.

but, yeah, trying to get anything done within the sprawling hierarchy was difficult to say the least. and one of the reasons i quit wrangling was because it just got so overwhelming with the endless email threads about how to properly tag non-western fandoms, if anime and manga should be their own category or separate or with western comics and animation, followed by the inevitable spiral into accusations and whatnot. ugh. and that's when everyone was genuinely acting in good (if clueless, in some cases) faith.

this has taken me so long to think through and type that i can't remember where i was going with it. kudos for not only remembering this stuff but having the wherewithal to type it out.
Saturday, May 14th, 2016 12:03 am (UTC)
This is interesting, and congratulations for putting it all together!

Honestly, my own views are ... hm, I would say that I certainly agree in terms of the account of events and overarching trends, but weight them somewhere between 'a little' and 'very' differently. (It's probably enough to say that I liked Franzeska's meta, with a few serious reservations; likewise I'm generally sympatico with f_fa, with a few serious reservations.)

I keep adding and deleting things, so I'll see if I can actually say what I mean. I think a lot has to do with perspective. I came at journal fandom from the polar opposite direction: conservative hyper-religious background (by US standards) and forum-based fandoms rife with bigotry. The permissiveness and you-do-you YKINMKATO ethos of journal fandom is what encouraged me to question the relentlessly toxic, dogmatic, and prescriptive environment in which I grew up, which contributed heavily to my very poor mental health. And it also gave me the tools and language to extricate myself from the traps I was in IRL. I ... genuinely have no idea where or what I would be without it. If it had been the way it is now, I very much doubt it would have helped me. So I have my bias.

Structurally, I think on the one hand that journal fandom was much easier to participate only to the degree to which you wanted (my experience of fandom was essentially as an archipelago away from the fannish mainland, with news coming slowly when it came at all). It was also easier to be a BNF destroyer of worlds with enormous control over any and all discussion. It was also easier to make mistakes and learn; lj fandom had its bullies, but they got away with condemning their targets as bad writers or pathetic wankers, not pedophiles and abusers—the motives may be the same, but the results are not. And it was also easier for racist, sexist, homophobic, etc rhetoric/trends to promulgate themselves, with fandom scattered and a general atmosphere of Don't Ruin the Fun (No Matter How Awful the Fun Is). And it was easier for errors and misinformation (and libel) to get caught before being spread across fandom.

I definitely think journal fandom was a better place after Racefail. Tumblr fandom of today—I don't know. For me personally, it's worse—pretty much exactly the miserable environment I grew up with in SJ clothes. And it's not being personally attacked (I haven't been, much), but seeing it re-enacted on other people, easier targets than I am. But it's a net worse, not an absolute: there are things that are better. I suppose it comes down to what price we're willing to pay for those things.
Wednesday, September 14th, 2016 04:06 am (UTC)
lots of interesting reading! I don't have anything I want to engage with at this point - I'm off to read several of the links.
Friday, September 30th, 2016 07:37 am (UTC)
Some of the links were fascinating reading, but I can't point at which ones now. Some I noped out of pretty fast (and they might be the ones I clicked on with that temptation to see the trainwreck that I can't always resist).

I think that my main take is that you got involved with online fandom in a much more active and nuanced way than I did - I just read stuff, and nodded along. And made notes of things to laugh at/whinge about quietly later.
Monday, October 3rd, 2016 10:01 am (UTC)
Whereas I don't find that my anxiety about Putting Stuff Out There is any better for online. And because I'm very much an external/extrovert thinker, I often need to talk things out with people before I have my argument clear.

Good thing people are different, right?
Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 05:39 am (UTC)
I found this via geekfeminism, so that worked :) I have about 20 tabs open because I keep finding interesting links from things you link to.

Thank you for writing a long form summary, it was very helpful. The many links have also been informative. I mostly just want to echo fred_mouse and say "thanks".

Specifically: the talk about anxiety and conflict aversion resonates with me, in that I have minor forms of the same things that I suspect are normal but put me off a lot of online communities. All too often I seem to arrive in the middle of a yelling match. But since I'm mostly asocial there's a big element of "it doesn't bother me to walk away" so I mostly view them from outside via posts like yours.

I mostly identify as a SWM of the unbothered persuasion, but simply by not being bothered I find people are often keen to leap to conclusions about me and group me with one side of whatever conflict they're engaged in. Often despite (possibly ambiguous) evidence. Which can be both amusing and infuriating, but is often a suggestion that I need to more obviously take a side (but as you point out, it is often hard to pick the least awful side between the {bad thing}-ists and the massive pile-on). Bringing out long "this, but that, and on the other..." posts {eyerolls at self}. Back in the day I was very happy to be introduced to post-modernism at university because it was a much more developed version of some of my thoughts. Ditto bisexuality and queer theory (queer as a post-modern sexuality?) I suppose ditto gender-fluid and gender-queer identities, which FWIW were a thing even back in the 1970s and probably earlier, not to mention androgyny as an identity - I'm sure there's some fascinating history there).

I too struggle with the "should I be so happy to be accepted as an ally?" when I speak up... and am accepted rather than criticised. It does happen sometimes! I also believe that one benefit of privilege is that it enables some people to hear criticism that they otherwise couldn't accept. But the "On Conversations" link from geek feminism is also important - in person it's often possible to encourage people just by looking at them, with the risk of them feeling pushed to speak when they might not want to... it's all a bit fraught.

PS: thanks also for allowing anon comments like mine.
Monday, April 17th, 2017 04:29 pm (UTC)
I just came across this and found it very informative -- for instance, I hadn't realized that ffa originally started to mock the "fail fandom" (I'd thought it was a place to, in general, discuss and joke about all manner of fails *within* fandom!).

May I link to this in a post at
Thursday, June 8th, 2017 02:03 pm (UTC)
1. Thank you for writing so honestly and thoughtfully about your trajectory. Your narrative fills in several holes for me as well. Recognizing your need to limit some interaction as a disability accommodation is very smart, and something I've only realized for myself since the US election.

2. In addition to the Geek Feminism link, this post is now part of a long-view roundup [personal profile] brainwane
posted on Metafilter:

Distinguishing character assassination from accountability

So if you get some more traffic, that might be why.
Friday, June 9th, 2017 03:43 am (UTC)
I think I must have turned comment notifications on when you posted this, partly as a reminder to myself too come back and comment.

So, here is a very inadequate comment:
Thank-you so much for the gifts of your time and energy and effort in writing this, and of your vulnerability in putting it out there into the world. It's amazing. I wish that I had the brainspace to comment coherently on the content of it, but right now i just don't (partly because, i think, i don't have clearly-articulated opinions about my own relationship with a lot of the stuff you wrote about).

But i wanted to let you know that i read it, and really appreciated it. ♥