herongale: (Default)
herongale ([personal profile] herongale) wrote2010-01-13 11:31 pm

Slash and the appropriation/objectification of The Other

This post, on the topic of female slashers writing about gay men, really struck a chord with me. A kind of annoyed, exasperated chord. So I started writing up a response, and as it got longer and longer, I realized that the most appropriate place for me to post this was in my own journal. I don't post about my opinions as often as I should in my own journal: I should correct this.

++

[livejournal.com profile] mothwing: "The freedom to write what you (general you) want ends where the freedom of another person to be protected from homophobia begins."

Dear [livejournal.com profile] mothwing:

Uh. Even bigots have the right to write what they want.

But I will assume that your argument here is not "there ought to be a law against writing bigoted materials!" (thus arguing against freedom of speech) but rather that you think that people should choose, on their own, to write stories that shield readers from experiencing homophobia.

And I still find myself saying, huh?

I really don't get what that means. Are you saying that unless someone is of the group from which they write, they shouldn't write about it? I doubt it. Are you saying that people shouldn't write homophobic characters? Again, I don't think that's the argument you're making. It seems to me, therefore, that what you mean is that unless you are perfectly enlightened, and unless you are willing to write fic that completely approximates reality, that you should voluntarily opt out of writing... for the good of the queers.

Well. I can't agree with that.

Although it's true that several female writers of slash can get extremely obnoxious about defending their privilege to write whatever the fuck they want, and end up being insulting towards real gay men and women in the process, I can't see how lack of realism in a genre under the overall umbrella called fiction is this big crime. It used to be thought that all fiction was evil, by the very virtue of being unreal. It was thought that unreality was synonymous with lies.

But that's not true.

I think it is possible to write fiction based on a lack of first hand knowledge which honors the experience of those who have it. Moreover, I think it is possible to write about completely preposterous situations in a way that honors emotional truth and the humanity of its subjects. So let's say someone writes a story where there is man who is straight falling in love with another man, and who at the end of the day continues to claim he is straight. This is not a very realistic scenerio. But a lot of female slashers like it, because... well, I'm sure every woman who likes it has her own reasons. Nevertheless, this overall scenrio can be portrayed sensitively, even if the underlying premise is absurd. I've seen it done.

You say that exploring female sexuality at the cost of a minority is wrong. Although that may be generally true, the fact remains that that most individual such stories don't bring any cost to the minorities in question. The overall movement of slashing has affects that its individual writers probably don't intend... but how can this be fixed, if on a case-by-case basis, most are not doing any individual harm? For one thing, the assumption that slash is about fetishizing the "other" doesn't address a real subcurrent in slash that I find is true... women who identify with gay men. Who are not writing about other gay men, but the gay man who exists inside of themselves.

I just... I think there is value in having this sort of debate, but in reading your post I find myself baffled as to what you want. What DO you want female slashers to do? To just stop slashing? To only write certain kinds of stories, ones you deem safe for gay people? What about when gay men decide to "subvert" femininity, not in their fiction, but in their lives, appropriating that which is considered traditionally female as a means of asserting their own individuality? To say, "I am more than just a gay man, I am ME!" I think that gay men should be allowed to to subvert and appropriate, and as a woman I appreciate the blurring of distinctions. It's hard for me to say certain behaviors are "female" if enough men routinely engage in them, gay or straight. So if it's okay for gay men, why can't it be okay for me?

I am a woman who writes slash. I am neither gay nor straight, but something that is a little bit of both. And although I identify as a woman (and was born as one too), that doesn't mean I don't also have my own personal relationship with transsexuality, to consider the possibilities of what I would be like if I had been born in a different body. When I write, I don't set out to subvert. Nor do I set out to appropriate anything. But I don't define myself simply as a woman. Most importantly, I define myself as me. And when I write, I want to write the things that appeal to me. Usually that means writing about gay men. Should I stop because some gay men don't approve? I don't know. Should gay men stop designing clothes for women? After all, a gay man who designs clothes for a body he will never have is not all that different from a woman who writes stories for a life she will never lead. So, should I stop?

Please. Tell me. What do you want? Not just from "women," but from me? You don't even know me. So tell me. What do you want?

Yours in bafflement, [livejournal.com profile] herongale

(post to be set to public for the foreseeable future)
silverthunder: (Ken - Um... sure...)

[personal profile] silverthunder 2010-01-14 05:18 am (UTC)(link)
I... don't really know what to say to this person. Sorry that my slash fiction writing ways offend you?

Some people objectify others in their writing. This may be a problem (depends on the situation), but it's hardly limited to slash fiction written by women. It's a problem that exists outside of a particular genre of fiction. I don't understand how picking on one particular group provides a solution to this problem.

[identity profile] crocky-wock.livejournal.com 2010-01-14 11:54 pm (UTC)(link)
I... don't really know what to say to this person. Sorry that my slash fiction writing ways offend you?
If you have written this kind of slash, this sounds like a promising start to me. Mothwing, on the other hand, seems to be expecting self-reflection and self-criticism rather than formalities. She is that way.

I also don't believe the original post was intended to provide solutions to any problem. It used to be a rant, I seem to remember. But regarding the topic of objectification in other genres: problematic, too. Need to be addressed, too. No one here is stating the opposite, I think.
karanseraph: (Default)

[personal profile] karanseraph 2010-01-14 06:00 am (UTC)(link)
I did try to read that linked post, but it was a bit hard to follow. I would agree it was not very clear in presenting a desired course of action.

I *think* the point there was that *some* actual gay men get squicked or traumatized by *some* badly written and/or high romanticized stories featuring male characters in love with each other. (I'm guessing stuff with shojo manga influence in which there are a lot of femme guys and in which there are a lot of just patently Japanese manga conventions like self-lubricating parts that do not in real life self-lubricate to that extent and 'glowing cones of light' and the healing power of taking it in the rear, etc.)

I know that the prevalence of this purposely not-hardcore-gay (for lack of a better term) fiction does actually bother *some* men, because they cannot understand the appeal of its non-realism (read: fantasy). For example, back when I wrote about male human characters I came across this site (it is marked adult content, be warned) http://www.squidge.org/~minotaur/ which is written specifically to inform slash and fanfic writers how to realistically portray gay male sex.

I *think* the post to which you linked was debating whether it was fair to expect slash and fanfic writers to mark all their highly romanticized fantasy with a warning indicating that it is not 100% realistic gay male sex written by a gay male.

My own personal opinion is that it's ridiculous to expect such warnings on fiction. But then, I personally also think it's ridiculous that we have to mark coffee cups with warnings about hot contents, or that we have to mark fan fiction with so many warnings already (triggers, kinks, etc.) to protect sensative readers who may accidentally stumble on the stories and become traumatized. It's not that I'm seeking to traumatize others, I just believe that there's enough 'political correctness' in the world these days, and people in general need to toughen up. also, as a writer, most forms of censorship, even in form of ratings and warnings, do offend me to some extent.

Anyway, I have read a lot of shojo manga and fan fiction written by women, and I have read novels and short stories by outwardly gay male authors, about gay or bisexual male characters, and I can perceive a difference. A truly skilled writer can get away with imitating the tone or style of another gender, but generally speaking, or speaking on my own personal limited experience and observations, there is a difference. Men, gay or not, just think differently than women. Therefore, they write differently. This is not good or bad; it just is.

Anyway, your post was intriguing; especially your discussion of whether the female authors may sometimes be writing out of a desire to explore what they perceive as a male side to themselves, or otherwise a side to themselves that is empowered yet free to love another of the same gender or sex.

I would hazard to say it is OK to write about topics and actions that have not been experienced first hand by the author. But, I would also suggest that if the author *does* have the intent of presenting a sense of realism or suspension of disbelief, then research would not hurt. For example, suppose an author is going to write a military thriller, but has no military experience and does no research on the military. Then, that author should not themselves be unprepared to hear complaints from actual veterans and soldiers about their work being unrealistic. Sure they can defend their freedom of expression, but they should not (realistically) consider such criticism unwarranted.

This is why I so adore writing speculative fiction about non-human characters. I spend time researching locations, cultures in general, etc., but ultimately I stand on the crutch that the characters and societies I write about do not actually exist, and therefore no representatives from those societies or cultures can complain I did them a disservice.

"We don't take orders from people who don't exist" Laughter.
lordhellebore: (pooh think)

[personal profile] lordhellebore 2010-01-14 06:49 am (UTC)(link)
May I step in for a moment? I'm a friend of [livejournal.com profile] mothwing's, and I think I understand part of her point.

I *think* the point there was that *some* actual gay men get squicked or traumatized by *some* badly written and/or high romanticized stories featuring male characters in love with each other.

Also, but not only. The point is also, from what I gathered from conversations with her, that those unrealistic/idealised fictional gay men paint a distorted picture of real gay men in those who read m/m, because people don't draw a sharp line between fiction and reality.
karanseraph: (Default)

[personal profile] karanseraph 2010-01-14 07:15 am (UTC)(link)
Ah. I see. Thank you for the clarification.

So, there exists worry that *some* readers will believe that the gay male characters in slash and fan fiction accurately portray typical and/or realistic gay men, because...

a) they believe the content of fiction is true
b) they do not know any real gay men to draw comparison
c) they do not have the intelligence and/or critical thinking skills to distinguish fiction from reality
d) all of the above

And that due to this, aforementioned readers will go on believing in erroneous characterizations and/or stereotypes. And, potentially, this will lead to actual gay men being further misunderstood by society?

I seriously want to say, "Honey, please!" right now, but someone somewhere will read and say I am exploiting a negative stereotype.

I now understand the argument more clearly, but it really just reinforces my personal option that people need to toughen up (stop complaining if movie makers, for example, defame their culture by casting one of their own as a villain, as if it's only OK when other groups are portrayed as villains), and ignites my personal rage at the lack of critical thinking skills among the general populace.

(In my option) We don't need more warnings on fiction. We need more critical thinking skills!

[identity profile] crocky-wock.livejournal.com 2010-01-14 08:48 pm (UTC)(link)
All this would be the case, undoubtedly, if every person on the planet had a degree in literary science. Sorry, but your sound as though you are trying to say that there exists a fairly small group of very dumb readers who are the only people affected by literary tropes and/or stereotypes. This comes across as rather elitist, if you excuse the blunt feedback, because stereotyping in particular is clearly not something that works only on the uneducated masses.
Rather, stereotypes constitute collective images and frames, which are created and perpetuated by the writers of literature and film as well as the audiences, including, of course, very educated, highly intelligent individuals. Falling for stereotypes is not a question of being able to tell apart fiction from reality. This problem is about the creation of mental frames through literature, which then have an actual effect on real life - and vice versa, of course.

People need to toughen up? This is so incredibly easy to say! Please believe me when I tell you that creating these collective mental frames is HIGHLY problematic, especially if they are insulting (as is the Camp Gay trope more often than not), belittling ("aw, look at those cute gay guys together - almost like a real couple"), falsifying reality ("okay, I wonder which of them is the overemotional one?") and/or if there are no alternative versions presented anywhere in a particular genre or context or whatever - circle of friends.
The tendency of m/m slash to present one skinny, fragile, emotionally unstable bottom and one strong, active, dominant top in a "gay" relationship of main characters, for instance, is so prevalent that a considerable number of readers AND writers of the genre aren't even AWARE of how many other kinds of gay man there are. How many other kinds of gay love. How many other kinds of combinations for all the features described above.
And that is harmful.
Because these writers and/or readers may meet gay people in real life and ask them: "Soooo, which of you two is the woman/man?" They may ask: "Why in the world would you want to adopt? A child needs a father and a mother!" (Read: Just as a good relationship needs one stereotypically feminine and one stereotypically masculine partner.)
And that is harmful.
People need to toughen up?
These people, who constantly get fed how the two partners in a gay relationship ought to behave according to straight stereotypes may behave in all sorts of hurtful or damaging ways, completely unintentionally. They may ask the wrong questions, say the wrong things, look surprised at the wrong moment... Too inconcrete? How about this: they may get confused if, during a gay marriage or civil partnership (whatever it is called in their country), one partner happens to wear a suit, but isn't the older of the two and isn't the one to take his or her partner's name.
And this, then, is harmful.
Especially when this means the marriage cannot proceed without a considerable amount of mistakes, hesitations, and apologies on the side of the registrar.
There you are. Some very personal bits and pieces, very real, very much experienced by this poster.

I agree that warnings won't do the trick. Awareness-raising among authors and readers of general fiction regarding the question of what is or isn't harmful to a particular minority, however, might.

[identity profile] crocky-wock.livejournal.com 2010-01-15 12:29 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't claim that I see through all of them. I think it's a process people undergo when they start examining their material critically. This process is something I would like to encourage in others. That is all.
And yes, I think that I have come quite far in the process of detecting this kind of structure in texts, certainly further than a great number of other people, though it is hard to determine exact numbers because self-evaluation can never be very exact. My reasons are that
a) I belong to two minorities (non-cisgendered, non-cissexual) that I know of, who, by definition, will strumble across prevalent heterosexual and binary gender norms the moment they attempt and fail to adjust their life according to them,
b) I have encountered exactly these issues and others in my sociological and literary studies for the last six years now, including some empirical research (though nothing noteworthy) in the field of gender studies and a dissertation on gender roles in contemporary fantasy literature. I am also aware that, before I studied the subject this intensively, I was blissfully unaware of many things that I can recognise and point out now and I don't think I was ever one of those people who so laughingly get called "stupid" or "ignorant" here.

To make this clear once and for all, I think that everyone, including very intelligent people, including those who have come across a great deal of stereotypes, including you, including me, can be caught in certain ways of thinking or may fall victim to prevalent collective attitudes and assumptions. To believe one is totally free of them is what I would call ignorant or naive at the very least.
That is why these discussions are necessary. Because we all make mistakes in this area and when we do, we need to be called out on them by other people who may have just a little more of an insight than we do.
karanseraph: (Default)

[personal profile] karanseraph 2010-01-15 04:52 am (UTC)(link)
Sorry, but your sound as though you are trying to say that there exists a fairly small group of very dumb readers who are the only people affected by literary tropes and/or stereotypes.

No, I am afraid there are a lot more than that.

This comes across as rather elitist...

Point taken. I sometimes am pretty elitist.

As for the examples of how people affected by stereotypes and literary tropes can go on to act offensively toward individuals and groups being portrayed in said tropes, I offer this solution (in addition to any general public awareness campaign that may be supported):

Ask the offended group or individual to respond with positive works to counteract the negative ones.

Example: Let's say it's the late 20th century and the news just reported that a couple of kids who committed a heinous attack on their school were associated with *my* subculture.

Do I:

a) rant on the internet?
b) address formal (polite) correspondence to the media outlets and entertainment corporations asking them to stop maligning my subculture?
c) start a charity like 'members of [subculture] for victims of [tragedy]'?
d) counteract the media/entertainment stereotypes by creating fictional works of my own that include positive examples of people from my subculture?

All of these are valid actions, but 'a' is going to cause the most grief. 'b' will most likely only be effective if my cronies do the same. 'c' is a really beautiful possibility, if managed well. 'd' could possibly be most fulfilling, though like 'b', will be more effective if my cronies also do the same.

Fortunately for my subculture, a lot of us were in the arts and literary fields (among others). The media eventually started harshing on the next subculture.

Portrayals of gay individuals in the media have progressed immensely, just in my own life time. Sure there's still progress to be made (maybe a lot), but things are a lot better than they used to be. If anyone is really, really upset about the negative portrayals in slash and fan fiction, I really suggest they write some themselves, using positive examples. Just my opinion, but I think that will be most fulfilling, productive, and effective.

Here's some books I would recommend to readers (a varieties of loves and characters in literary fiction):
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse
Imajica by Clive Barker
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite
The Living One by Lewis Gannett
The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini



[identity profile] crocky-wock.livejournal.com 2010-01-15 12:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Ask the offended group or individual to respond with positive works to counteract the negative ones.
Okay, basically I agree with the method (as do others, who have written minorities recounts and even managed to get them published). Now for the execution - how do you solve the problem that white, straight, cis-gendered Europeans and US Americans have a much higher chance to be published than members of minority groups in our society?

Let's say it's the late 20th century and the news just reported that a couple of kids who committed a heinous attack on their school were associated with *my* subculture.

I am not sure how to react to this. I mean, are you talking about a hypothetical minority group you could have belonged to in another life, or is this real life experience in code so that potential Internet stalkers don't find out which minority you belong to? I'm sorry if this appears a dumb question, but I really can't tell. And it is vital for what kind of answer I can give you. If you really belong to a minority group who had this specific experience, you will know that individual members of your group will have chosen their individual ways to deal with these issues (in other words: all four of your given courses of action have probably occurred to people and been pursued). You will also be aware that, depending on whether you are talking about the 1980s or 1999, Internet ranting, blogging, and online debates weren't quite as prevalent as they are these days. This is important because online discussions are, in fact, often more than just rants. A lot of opinion-making happens on the Internet and on blogs and websites, which deal with this kind of topic. And while I agree that random rants with no content and no actual knowledge of the topic can hurt the cause (though not necessarily the individual), I firmly believe that it is helpful, right, and even necessary to call people out on this kind of problem via blogs and forum discussions.
If you are, in fact, talking about a hypothetical minority and are simply trying to put yourself in such a minority's shoes, the above still counts, but I'd also have to express my astonishment that you think this little thought experiment is going to tell you all you need to know about the solution of societal problems with minority groups and their treatment, or the situation of those who are at the receiving end of these problems. Astonishment. Politely speaking.

[identity profile] jonquil.livejournal.com 2010-01-14 05:22 pm (UTC)(link)
This is the classic argument against all forms of pornography. "I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about the children/mentally disabled/stupid people who may act on this!"

I am not going to buy that an entire genre is illegitimate because of the likelihood that some stupid people will treat it as reality.
lordhellebore: (pooh think)

[personal profile] lordhellebore 2010-01-14 05:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, me either...

[identity profile] crocky-wock.livejournal.com 2010-01-14 11:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Again, it is incredibly arrogant and uninformed to assume that only "stupid people" are affected by stereotypes in fiction and other media.
I don't know what people argued before, but when I say that m/m is spreading a false, stereotypical image of gay males among a given audience, then that audience will definitely include adults and mentally abled people - and probably you.

[identity profile] jonquil.livejournal.com 2010-01-15 12:05 am (UTC)(link)
"when I say that m/m is spreading a false, stereotypical image of gay males among a given audience,"

Then I say that you are drawing with a very wide brush. (Just as I, inappropriately, drew with a wide brush when using "stupid people" -- it's, as you say, more complicated than that.)

"Because these writers and/or readers may meet gay people in real life and ask them: "Soooo, which of you two is the woman/man?" They may ask: "Why in the world would you want to adopt? A child needs a father and a mother!" (Read: Just as a good relationship needs one stereotypically feminine and one stereotypically masculine partner.)"

You appear to be saying that if fanfiction promotes any gay stereotype, it must therefore promote all gay stereotypes. The bulk of the slash I've read does not describe either partner as the woman -- female-role stereotyping, yes, calling either partner a woman, no -- and I have never seen slash that both addressed adoption and claimed that children needed a mother and a father. People who say either of those things didn't get it from fanfiction, they got it from society at large.

Stereotyping gay people is bad. No question. Stereotyping gay people in fiction is also bad. No question.

[identity profile] crocky-wock.livejournal.com 2010-01-15 08:50 am (UTC)(link)
...spreading a false, stereotypical image...
I realise I should have written "perpetuating" instead of "spreading", which is linguistically closer to what happens.

Of course you haven't come across a slash fiction, which addressed adoption. That is not how the creation of a mindset works. The processes I am talking about never work alone or in a sociological vacuum. Of course, society plays a role. Of course, politics play a role. What I meant to express is that our society has developed a collective frame of how relationships can (and should) ideally work. And of course our society traditionally bases its values on heterosexual relationships, for obvious reasons (one being that the notion of homosexual vs. heterosexual goes back no more than two hundred years, give or take a few decades).
This frame includes a lot of binary pairs, which should be very familiar to you: masculine-feminine, hard-soft, strong-weak, tall-small, edgy-round, outside-inside, active-passive, dominant-submissive, paid work-house work, rational-emotional, discipline-nourishment, etc. Even if one individual does not always associate all these features and all their implications with a partnership, these are nevertheless ideas that are prevalent in many people's thinking and get triggered by all kinds of encounters, literary or not.

Now, you said "female-role stereotyping, yes". I am saying "that's all it takes to perpetuate the stereotype". And unless you were looking specifically for these binary traits of masculine vs. feminine in slash fiction, it is very likely that a lot of genderbinary and heteronormative clues just passed you by unnoticed, especially if you are cis. These clues are planted so subconsciously that it is barely possible to notice them without gender- or "queer-goggles".

[identity profile] crocky-wock.livejournal.com 2010-01-15 09:22 am (UTC)(link)
People may not be ignorant enough to translate scenes or concepts they have come across in slash fiction literally to reality, but that is not at all what I said, as I explained in my post to jonquil. If you think I want to claim that people just imitate what they see in fiction as though the were three-year-olds or trained monkeys, you haven't understood the basic concept of the mental frames I am talking about.
For information on this topic, I suggest George Lakoff, who is one of the leading researchers in the field of cognitive theorists and who wrote Metaphors we live by (http://books.google.de/books?hl=de&lr=&id=29gyLFV6VkQC&oi=fnd&pg=PA103&dq=George+Lakoff&ots=Cqi0ro7vdm&sig=yD0dNXj23JpPndoRuU9CvWAta8E#v=onepage&q=George%20Lakoff&f=false), Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things (http://www.fed.cuhk.edu.hk/staff/paper/mmchiu/doc/Lakoff%20--%20Women,%20Fire,%20and%20Dangerous%20Things.pdf) and other highly interesting works on cognitive science, which obviously have in common that they investigate human thought processes, not only ignorant people's thought processes.

Lakoff also talks about mental frames here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f9R9MtkpqM), although this is more on the subject of linguistics than on fiction. I also highly recommend watching this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg) on the topic of a minority's problems with its treatment in fiction.

In general, my answer is that of course there is research on the topic of how fiction influences people's behaviour, people's reality. It is quite easy to find, too. Try and use google scholar. The APA is often a good source, but so are others. Marketing research is to be consumed with caution, of course, but I assume you know that.
Here's a few items I found:
- on the influence of anecdotal accounts in news and in fiction (http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/25/4/436)
- on the influence of advertising (http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/112777179/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0)
- on the effect of stereotypes on the perception of self (http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=1976-25944-001&CFID=5433685&CFTOKEN=45488985)
- on the effect of sexist stereotypes on people's actions (http://www.springerlink.com/content/w2163w88640r21x8/)
And last, but not least here's a very interesting book on the topic of Psychonarratology (http://books.google.de/books?hl=de&lr=&id=549cb3w1OiUC&oi=fnd&pg=PP12&dq=Psychonarratology&ots=5w5rxx5lGE&sig=bPqHTuzhXyuZTrLnzlsQR8Wgyqw#v=onepage&q=&f=false). This goes quite deep into the subject and addresses a few more aspects than just what we are talking about here, but it's a brilliant read nevertheless.
Hope this helps.
ext_112554: Picture of a death's-head hawkmoth (Default)

[identity profile] mothwing.livejournal.com 2010-01-15 06:39 pm (UTC)(link)
But mothwing is saying, I think, that not only is there irritation that these gay male readers feel, but they experience a true and direct harm from these poorly written stories. But I wonder what that harm actually is.
If you read an account about yourself that is wrong, over and over and over and over again, you will start to have a nagging feeling somewhere that it might be right, and eventually, you start buying into this narrative of whom you should be. That's the danger.

I cannot ignore the possibility that gay men in fandom are voluntarily silencing themselves, in order to protect themselves from discrimination. So I know that things are not perfect and happy-daisy whatever. And I'm definitely not one of those people who thinks that gay readers have an obligation to educate female slash writers on their various prejudices, so the fact that they are not speaking doesn't necessarily mean that there's not a problem that female slash fans need to face.
Yes, that's what I think.

I... just think that most of us make a good faith effort.
I know that many do, but that does not necessarily inoculate them against causing harm. I know that meaning well has never kept me from fucking up. :)

[identity profile] crocky-wock.livejournal.com 2010-01-14 08:49 pm (UTC)(link)
I just believe that there's enough 'political correctness' in the world these days, and people in general need to toughen up.
I wish I was in the lucky, highly privileged position to be able to say the same.

Men, gay or not, just think differently than women.
Good thing then that the two categories are being exposed as socially constructed these days and that the lines begin to blur. Perhaps, in twenty years time, no one will be able to distinguish female and male writing as clearly anymore as has traditionally been the case. Take only the readers of George Elliot, George Sand, James Tiptree Jr., and Carolyn Keene...

Sure they can defend their freedom of expression, but they should not (realistically) consider such criticism unwarranted.
Very astute. I agree.
karanseraph: (Default)

[personal profile] karanseraph 2010-01-15 05:24 am (UTC)(link)
...I got something a bit more from that post, mainly that mothwing wantsbit more from that post, mainly that mothwing wants a world where the majority of slash-type fiction...is written by actual gay males....Her first desire is completely unrealistic. She wants a world that will never exist....because statistically gay men only make up a small fraction of all f just... I think there is a real difference between being sensitive to these issues, and ending up becoming suborned to them. The purpose of writing fiction is to tell stories, not to fulfill a checklist of approved political points. I can't think of how it would serve the gay community for me, a female writer, to only stick to uber-realistic scenarios where male/male romance is portrayed in some kind of idealized fashion, or where there is some required "Afterschool Special" moral point to the whole thing. If I want a sermon, I'll go to church. iction writers out there.

I can see how this point was intended, now you point it out. I agree with you that *if* that was the desire, then, yes, it seems unrealistic. I do think that *if* it is actual gay males that are concerned with their portrayal, then it would be proactive for them to write their own quality and 'authentic' slash-type fiction, or otherwise literary works with male/male coupling, to refute the stereotypes. Yet, I am in no way expecting it to be their exclusive domain. All of us (even if we live in repressive societies without legal freedom of expression) should be able to write whatever we want (in my opinion).

...from that post, mainly that mothwing wants....that the women who do write within that genre should be making serious attempts to portray an "authentic gay experience" for their characters....I think there is a real difference between being sensitive to these issues, and ending up becoming suborned to them. The purpose of writing fiction is to tell stories, not to fulfill a checklist of approved political points. I can't think of how it would serve the gay community for me, a female writer, to only stick to uber-realistic scenarios where male/male romance is portrayed in some kind of idealized fashion, or where there is some required "Afterschool Special" moral point to the whole thing. If I want a sermon, I'll go to church.

Amen, Sister. Laughter. Seriously, I totally agree on these points. You should be able to write in your words, what you need to express. It is a positive thing if you can, at the same time, serve a worthy cause or bring attention to a social problem, but that should by no means be a requirement.

ext_112554: Picture of a death's-head hawkmoth (Default)

[identity profile] mothwing.livejournal.com 2010-01-15 06:45 pm (UTC)(link)
I do think that *if* it is actual gay males that are concerned with their portrayal, then it would be proactive for them to write their own quality and 'authentic' slash-type fiction, or otherwise literary works with male/male coupling, to refute the stereotypes.
... Because minorities must educate majorities? Uh-hu. Also, there are a lot of gay-male-authored books that focus on gay love out there already.
lordhellebore: (pooh think)

[personal profile] lordhellebore 2010-01-15 07:06 pm (UTC)(link)
Because minorities must educate majorities? Uh-hu.

On the on hand, I get how this is all kinds of wrong. Ont he practical level, I'm sorry to say that this is how it mostly works, because it works best. And quite frankly, I'd rather explain about my minority sexuality myself than let some well-meaning ally do this.
ext_112554: Picture of a death's-head hawkmoth (Granny)

[identity profile] mothwing.livejournal.com 2010-01-15 07:16 pm (UTC)(link)
I know, which is again why I wish that M/M were dominated by gay men rather than precisely those well-meaning allies. Who happen to have a lot of stories to tell that focus on gay experience they didn't make.

Also, I think it's unfair to expect gay men to dig through slash fic after slash fic or M/M novel after M/M novel and point out calmly in small words what they think is wrong with them.
lordhellebore: (pooh think)

[personal profile] lordhellebore 2010-01-15 07:19 pm (UTC)(link)
Also, I think it's unfair to expect gay men to dig through slash fic after slash fic or M/M novel after M/M novel and point out calmly in small words what they think is wrong with them.

Oh, of course. I was more thinking of general statements about stereotypes thar are common in such stories. I didn't mean that they had to spoon-feed every tiny little bit to the readers and authors, that would be ridiculous.
ext_112554: Picture of a death's-head hawkmoth (Default)

[identity profile] mothwing.livejournal.com 2010-01-15 06:43 pm (UTC)(link)
If such a world did exist, all it would mean would be that the vast majority of stories out there would pretty much erase the gay male from consideration, because statistically gay men only make up a small fraction of all fiction writers out there.
Not necessarily. And I don't say that no one should ever include a gay character, I am saying is that focus on gay experience specifically or mainly written by people other than gay characters is appropriative and wrong.

And that the women who do write within that genre should be making serious attempts to portray an "authentic gay experience" for their characters, regardless of the setting of the fic or the nature of the characters in question.
I don't believe that common courtesy would dictate anything less, and you seem to be doing that, so I don't see a problem with this...?

Basically, I am not compelled by the argument that there is some kind of vague, ominous overarching harm created by the existence of female-written slash. There very well may be, but I as an individual writer refuse to be held responsible for that.
Nor does anyone else, and that, too, is problematic. You seem to be annoyed because you feel that you are invested in getting it right and want that honoured, but you are not the only writer there is. Harry Potter slash fiction especially is full of horrible stereotypes and female avatars. Not everyone is as invested in getting it right.

[identity profile] sodzilla.livejournal.com 2010-01-19 04:39 am (UTC)(link)
I think you need to give your definitions another thinking-through if you assume that triggering is the same thing as being easily squicked or a picky reader or oversensitive or whatever.

[identity profile] nigerianbank.livejournal.com 2010-01-19 09:37 am (UTC)(link)
It's not that I'm seeking to traumatize others, I just believe that there's enough 'political correctness' in the world these days, and people in general need to toughen up.

Ugh, seriously? Such a privileged thing to say. So you're okay with writing things that are genuinely offensive to minorities, because "those queers should toughen up"? Hey, if people hurl sexist slurs towards you in real life, you toughen up, okay, sweetie?

I don't agree that straight women should stop writing slash altogether, as I am a straight woman myself, but we really need to educate ourselves so as not to perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

[identity profile] mikkeneko.livejournal.com 2010-01-14 08:11 am (UTC)(link)
I have a feeling that if I read this, it's just going to give me a headache and piss me off, so instead I'm going to bed. I'll limit my commentary to: If some people are unable to distinguish between reality and fiction, it is not our obligation as writers to confine our fiction to only things which would be believable in real life in order to avoid confusing them.
Edited 2010-01-14 08:12 (UTC)

[identity profile] militsa.livejournal.com 2010-01-14 02:16 pm (UTC)(link)
I've been following a lot of posts and discussions on this through metafandom and I have some not-easy-to-articulate thoughts on this subject. I hope we will soon be online at the same time so we can discuss because I've really been wanting to talk about it. I don't feel capable of composing a coherent post or comment about it.
ext_112554: Picture of a death's-head hawkmoth (pic#)

[identity profile] mothwing.livejournal.com 2010-01-14 08:07 pm (UTC)(link)
Hey there! I replied (http://mothwing.livejournal.com/379771.html). Do you write original m/m fiction or slash fanfiction? Because I think that due to the fact that in fanfic one of the reasons there are so many slash pairings is because there are so many interesting male characters and so few interesting female characters in the first place, so fanfic slash is a completely different ballgame altogether.

I think it is possible to write fiction based on a lack of first hand knowledge which honors the experience of those who have it.
Well, I don't think so, especially if this involves a majority writing minority experience. We'll have to agree to disagree here.

So let's say someone writes a story where there is man who is straight falling in love with another man, and who at the end of the day continues to claim he is straight.
Oh, that does happen more often than you think. :)

So let's say someone writes a story where there is man who is straight falling in love with another man, and who at the end of the day continues to claim he is straight.
This is a large part of the problem - no one sets out to write slash to harm gay people (at least I hope so o.O), but the cumulative effect of all people doing this and flooding the M/M with their view -which is bound to be informed by their experience as straight women - is harmful for the prevalence of gay males stories about themselves. Does that make sense? It's not that people write about gay men, it's the danger that they do so in an exploitative fashion and that these many, many stories replace the first-hand accounts in their effect and significance. Does that make sense?

For one thing, the assumption that slash is about fetishizing the "other" doesn't address a real subcurrent in slash that I find is true... women who identify with gay men. Who are not writing about other gay men, but the gay man who exists inside of themselves.
There is no gay man inside a straight women. At least not if they are cisgendered, I am not sure about bigendered people. I don't see any problem exploring this notion with female characters, though, that might be very interesting!

What DO you want female slashers to do?
I want them to be aware of what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what implications that could have for real-life gay men. To think about why they feel it is fine to appropriate and colonise another person's real experiences in a story that is essentially about themselves, and I want their readers to do the same.
ext_112554: Picture of a death's-head hawkmoth (Default)

[identity profile] mothwing.livejournal.com 2010-01-15 06:52 pm (UTC)(link)
But when it comes to the greater overarching issue of general harm caused by cumulative effects of ignorance... I have no answer as to how to fix it. I don't know that it can be fixed, at least not on its own.
Nor do I. But I don't think that continuing the way things are going can.

All I can say is that I don't think such ignorance in fanfiction drives stereotypes in society so much as it is a product of stereotypes that already exist.
Exactly! And it does provide an interesting corpus of prevalent stereotypes. Still, even though fanfiction is so, SO much better in dealing with topics relating LGBT characters than at least the real-life society I live in, it does perpetuate its own share of stereotypes. Stereotypes which are harmful if they are perpetuated.

I think that it is society in general that needs to be fixed, and hopefully as that happens, the amount of prevailing ignorance will become less, and then those remaining outliers who choose to be willfully ignorant will at least become the minority, in the way that outspoken racists are becoming the minority now, and that people with stereotypical views will be the ones forced to closet themselves for self protection.
That's what I hope. I have no magic wand that can fix this, but I do hope that strengthening the voices of harmed minorities so that they can be heard, so that they get to tell their own stories, is a way to do this.

Someday, of course, I'd like to see all racism and sexism and anything-ism abolished. But until then, what I mostly want is for the power dynamic in society to shift in favour of enlightenment. And that is something that is driven by interpersonal relationships a lot more than it is driven by fictional works.
Fanfiction especially is social fiction in many, many respects, and fiction is not free of interpersonal implications, either.

[identity profile] linkspam-mod.livejournal.com 2010-01-16 08:36 pm (UTC)(link)
Your post has been linked in Linkspam (http://linkspam.dreamwidth.org/16671.html?format=light).

Here via metafandom

[identity profile] duskpeterson.livejournal.com 2010-01-19 03:51 am (UTC)(link)
"I think that gay men should be allowed to to subvert and appropriate, and as a woman I appreciate the blurring of distinctions."

Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying this.

Speaking generally about the debate as a whole (not about the specific article you link to), the oft-recurring assumption in this debate that "straight women are always straight women, while gay men are always gay men, and neither of them ever have gender/orientation identities that cross over with one another" has been puzzling me. It's been publicly pointed out, for example (by the very person I mention below), that one of the persons mentioned in the L.A. Times article (http://www.laweekly.com/2009-12-17/art-books/man-on-man-the-new-gay-romance/1) who was described as a straight women is actually a bisexual with a fluid gender identity.

A lot of folks who are undergoing this type of flexibility simply don't identify themselves as transgender or transsexual (two politically charged words). I know that the average gay guy who chooses to be effeminate certainly doesn't think of himself that way. But does he feel that he has an "inner woman"? Sometimes, yes. And I would enjoy reading a novel by him that reflects this inner identification.

[identity profile] guanin.livejournal.com 2010-01-19 04:04 am (UTC)(link)
Here's the way I see it. Saying that women (straight, lesbian, or anything in between) can't write about gay men because we can't experience it ourselves is the same thing as saying that men can't write about women. Or women write about straight men, for that matter. So no one then has the right to write any characters that don't match their own sexual orientation, gender, race, etc. and how is anything supposed to be written in that case? People get characters from different backgrounds than theirs wrong all the time, but not everyone does. A lot get them very right. Even though I may sometimes complain that a particular male writer has no idea how to handle his female character, that doesn't mean that I'm going to start crying that men should not write women ever, because that's ridiculous.

Do gay men have a right to dislike the way they are being portrayed? Of course. Just like I don't like many representations of women in the media. And there we go back to writing it right versus writing it wrong. The main problem I have with this debate is that some gay men (not all, thankfully) are invalidating us (poor, ignorant women *sarcastic voice*) from writing about them simply because we are not literally in their heads. If I were using an argument that inane in my academic papers, it would torn to shreds within seconds. And I've seen some bad ones.

[identity profile] mauvecloud.livejournal.com 2010-01-19 09:17 am (UTC)(link)
Should gay men stop designing clothes for women? After all, a gay man who designs clothes for a body he will never have is not all that different from a woman who writes stories for a life she will never lead. So, should I stop?

You're cool. I love you! :D

(I'm gonna be evil and mention that most of the anorexic models who parade the fashion designer's er designs resemble boys more than they resemble women.)

(Anonymous) 2010-01-19 10:28 am (UTC)(link)
Uh. Even bigots have the right to write what they want.

Actually, no, they don't. There are limits to free speech and have always been.

Try to write out a detailed plan about killing the president or everyone at your school/workplace. Good luck arguing about free speech.

Yes, there is always the defense "but it's just art" for racist or sexist or homophobic speech. That, of course, is only because the majority is neither. Try to have the same against the majority or a minority that is not declared an outlaw and watch what happens.

For example, oh, antisemitic stories. Watch the international outrage over the last two turqish stories about evil jews abducting an innocent turq and turning him into an arab killer.


Oddly, it's only bad when the minority isn't considered fine to exploit and bash.



I think it is possible to write fiction based on a lack of first hand knowledge


Yes, it is. That's not the issue, so overall, you're arguing against a strawman.

most individual such stories don't bring any cost to the minorities in question.

And most individual story portraying POC as lazy pieces of garbage don't bring any cost to the minorities in question. So why should we be bothered about fictional racism? It's just racism, then, if we follow your argument.
Same with sexism. It doesn't individually hurt women, so why should we be concerned about fictional sexism?

Why should we be concerned at all?

Oh, wait. Racism and sexism affects the majority of the people in the slash fandom, so it's bad. Homophobia only affects a minority, so it's ok. Get you now.