She is a strange creature, this notorious "fandom bisexual." She is only queer when it suits her to be, only interested in women when she's roleplaying m/m slash, & apparently needs to convince us that she's bisexual. No, no, no. The reality, as we've recently been well-told, is that the majority of fandom writers identify as queer. That the myth of the "fandom bisexual" persists is linked to that other myth--that only straight women write slash. And it's linked to the reason subtext in the media is never allowed to become text. It's the mentality that, oh, s/he isn't really queer, they're just exploring/ confused/ dabbling around/ "acting out." It's the mentality enabling everything from exodus camps to House & Wilson pretending to be gay for shits & giggles. And it applies to us, within fandom, as much as it applies to the media we consume. Subtext that's never allowed to become text perpetuates the idea that non-heteronormative sexual expression isn't real--and that? That goes way, way beyond normal female interest in men bonking1, and harms all of us.
2. I find it very revealing that I got overwhelming support for saying we need more queer text in media, but I got waffling, debate, hand-waving, and justification when I added, "and more female representation in fandom." Okay, I'm just going to say it. It made me feel like screaming "SUCK IT UP AND DEAL."
But it made me realise: I want/need to talk more, think more, & care more about female characters, regardless of whatever excuse I'm cribbing off the fandom misogyny bingo card this week. It's like pigging out on French silk pie all the time when what I really need to do is just stop being such a baby and eat more vegetables until I get to the point where I eat them because I want to, because I like myself better when I do, and, oh, hey, turns out that, wow, real food is actually DELICIOUS, MMMM, and i do not need to indulge myself, 100% of the time, in yummy but ultimately unhealthy desserts!
The thing is I already do love female characters. Before I entered fandom - no, before I entered slash fandom--I wrote about girls all the time. When I was twelve I wrote about awesome sisters who rode horses! When I was 19 I wrote an entire novel about an awesome girl who cross-dresses! The heroine of my first fanfic ever--awesome! She time-traveled and practiced strategic fainting! And then I got to slash fandom and realized the girls I wrote about were all Mary Sues, and gradually I realized how childish and trivial and worthless were all my self-insertions and fantasies about horse-riding time-traveling pants-wearing girls. And... I haven't written any since. I miss girls. I love girls. I love seeing them onscreen, I love reading about them, and certainly I love making out with them, so why don't I want to write about them?
Especially when my unwillingness to engage with female characters and make them real, give them agency, value them, ultimately means that I'm perpetuating a social discourse that allows eight-year-olds to think girls are just for sex. Fuck that. I am sucking it up and dealing.
3. It's not over. Yes, Bloomsbury is changing the cover, but as many have said, this has been going on for a long time, and I hope the YA fandom and lit blogging community will keep talking about and being aware of ongoing coverfail. For instance, here are some very recent whitewashed covers that before this week I had not heard about:
- - an anthology about Chinese writers called The Dragon and the Stars has a cover with a traditionally Western dragon. Cover. Fucking. Fail. (You know what book gives great dragon? Silver Phoenix. I love, love, love that book.)
- The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Puzzling Change of Skin Color. Outraging. I have written to Little, Brown at the contact email provided in the linked post, and encourage you to do so too.
- Asian Americans on YA covers: looks at the last 2 years of publishing to see how often Asian characters were left out, partially hidden, or whitewashed on the covers of novels in which they were main characters. Meanwhile, Jacket Whys looked at "about 775" YAs from last year and found that only 2% of them had African American boys or girls on the covers.
- A. Next Steps. "Go buy a book about a poc."
B. sign the petition.
- "Culture is not a place of scarcity. It's not something we must be careful to share so that there's enough left for people. In fan arts it's clear... that there's always more... because art is not about scarcity: "Art is about surplus, and about pleasure. You can have more. There's always more."
More queer expression in our media. More women in our fandom. More cultural/racial/ethnic diversity in our literature. We need more. And, at least within fan-generated spaces, we can do more. If fandom can raise $115,000 for Haiti, we can do anything, including be more inclusive in who we write, talk about, and celebrate.
1. if you really need a footnote for this, then lol n00b
2. Slash is the sound of white men fucking. "White Dudes: Worth the Effort."