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.


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