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.

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[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)

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