I am very pleased at the outpouring of response to my post about gay subtext and heteronormativity.
And the thing is, you can't talk about hating the heteronormative tropes of mainstream media without facing up to the fact that having this conversation within the context of slash fandom is, well, profoundly hypocritical.
Because what 2 things do heteronormative tropes reinforce, again and again:
1) the idea that there's a gender binary and that men and women fall into strict gender patterns/roles within it; 2) the idea that this is the only realistic and "right" way in which healthy normal relationships can be formed and stay intact.
And then we look at slash, predominantly male/male pairings, and what do we see:
1) the idea that there's a gender divide and that men and women fall on strict sides of it, unless gender patterns are deliberately being subverted in ways that ultimately promote male/male hegemony; 2) the idea that the male/male pairings are the only "right" readings of the texts we are slashing, that women are not invited to this party, that if women happen to be canonically involved with one half of the m/m pairing of your choice, they are going to be shunted aside, dismissed, overlooked, badmouthed, maligned, ridiculed, and generally subjected to all the misogyny you and I have been subjected to all our lives, simply because we're women. Only we're, of course, doing it to other women. Fictional women, but still women.
I hate this. I hate that I feel like I can't legitimately talk about how much I love certain female characters, because (like Elizabeth from White Collar), it's seen as just trying to "politely include the women for the sake of political correctness." because of course everyone knows how much we want the men to fuck at the exclusion of all else. I can't talk about how much I love Whip It because no one cares. I hate that I can't talk about how much I love the Devil Wears Prada fandom without feeling like I only love it because Andy/Miranda is a substitute for a m/m pairing that isn't present, or legitimately ship Gwen/Morgana without worrying that i'm just doing it to get them out of the way for Merlin/Arthur.
And it's true. Slash fandom en masse has a terribly troubling attitude towards women in fandom. We dismiss all the women, nearly all of the time. OR, which bothers me even more (not least because I'm guilty of doing it), we'll go, oh, I LOVE Female character X, she's so awesome! - and then we'll all hasten to reassure ourselves that we LOVE her, we LOVE our female characters! And then we'll never do anything with them. We'll keep politely shunting them off to one side, because of course saying we love them makes it okay! Talking about how much we love Mary and how badass she is makes it okay for us to ship Holmes and Watson together at the exclusion of all else, right? Occasionally writing Elizabeth/Neal/Peter justifies us writing epic amounts of Neal/Peter over all, doesn't it? Everyone talks about how much we love Teyla in SGA fandom! Doesn't change the fact that John/Rodney is the rule of the day. Oh, and let us not leave out Gwen/Arthur, and Gwen/Morgana. Everyone loves Gwen/Morgana. I love Gwen/Morgana. But if we love Gwen so much, why aren't we happy to see her and Arthur so happy together in S2? Don't we love Gwen enough to enjoy her stepping into her role as main character? Or do we only love her enough to shunt her off to the side to be happy with Morgana, so we can all enjoy the lovely Merlin/Arthur slash. And how many post-canon Harry/Draco fics have you read where Ginny got to remain a "strong, proud woman" by coming out and moving in with Luna Lovegood, or conveniently dropping off the face of the earth to play for the Holyhead Harpies? Lovely, lovely Katy Allen, how many times have you been pushed to the side since last May so that Kris could have Adam and you could have... what? Certainly not the respect you deserve. And then there's lovely, lovely Uhura, and I'll just leave that pain to Star Trek Reboot fandom to tell.
You guys, and I am telling this to myself as much as any of you: we need to hate ourselves less.
There were two movies last year that I saw 4 times in theatres because I loved them so much: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the H/D film of my dreams, and Whip It. I've been telling everyone I know for months to see Whip It, but today my friend was like, you've posted lots about Sherlock Holmes, not so much about Whip It. My beautiful roller derby movie of LOVE AND BEAUTY AND GIRL POWER. And why haven't I been talking about it on LJ? Lack of time, but also, I think lack of interest. No one wants to hear me talk about how awesome the girls are, do they? All my posts about Emily Blunt basically boil down to EMILY BLUNT IS SO HOT I LOVE HER, and that makes me feel shallow and useless, and I don't like feeling shallow and useless. And I want to talk about how Whip It subverts just about every heteronormative trope in the book, how every girl in it is fabulous, strong, and independent, and how men aren't at the center of their lives, oh my god how amazing, and it's just the best best best thing.
But how can I talk about that honestly on a journal where I spend so much of my time talking about men? And how they love each other, and how great that is that we girls can all stand back and watch them make love to each other, subjugating ourselves completely in the process. And that's icky misogyny on a level that I don't know how to combat. There are so many of you who have pointed out how completely m/m slash fandom reifies exisitng patriarchal tropes and expectations, and you are all 100% right.
Our awareness that slash is a progressive act in terms of raising awareness of queer identity has to be balanced out by the knowledge of how problematic that is when most of our fictions are still telling boy's stories at the expense of our own. We have to figure out as a community how to inject some love for ourselves back into the act of slashing. Because right now, the way it is, I feel like I'm constantly being forced to choose between mainstream media that rarely gives me what I want, and slash fandom, that gives me *part* of what I want but that remains anti-female (and very often anti-chromatic characters).
Please let's stop making ourselves choose. Let's write strong men *and* women, who love each other and love themselves, and fight and have sex or don't have sex, and who love other men, and other women, and who aren't stuck in gender roles that are as rigidly assigned in slash fandom as they are anywhere else.
eta: Follow-up: Fannish spaces, girls, and the culture of silence.