let's get the seven lines. (bookshop) wrote,
let's get the seven lines.

Racefail 2009

In case you live under a rock and have not been following RaceFail 2009, the gist of it is this:

After months and months of a disheartening, vicious debate between a number of sci-fi professionals and Fans of Color about racial diversity and cultural appropriation in sci-fi, some of the professional writers (using their real names, obviously) have begun attacking vocal and critical fans because their position is being launched pseudonymously. Some of these professionals have even been outing fans by revealing their real names without their permission. This has prompted a very strong backlash in the fandom community, as you can expect.

I will not link to Will Slattery's blog directly, but as reported by coffeeandink he writes, "my point is that she [after he removed her real last name from his post outing her] is... safe... now."

No, she is not.

Fandom practices require safe and empowered spaces where fans can be fans without fear of backlash. You always hear the horror stories, but it is important to reiterate that backlash does actually happen, that it has happened to real fans. It has happened to me - I lost my job in 2003 after someone released my real full name on the internet without my permission. Despite the ongoing progressive cultural shift towards empowering fandom in some parts of the world, fannish practice all but requires either complete anonymity, or a strong level of trust between pseudonynomous fans.

Slattery and Cramer violated every form of online etiquette when they outed fans without their permission, but more relevantly, they violated a crucial level of trust between those of us who inhabit and interact with fan space. They pretended not to understand the necessity of an autonomous fannish identity. They disrespected the right of a fan to control their own level of fandom participation and to decide for themselves what that means.

That level of disrespect creates an environment where fans are permanently unsafe, because you can no longer control when someone will out you to your boss and get you fired, or post your real name on the internet in the middle of a messy debate on racism. They did not just out coffeeandink's real identity; they made the collective fan environment just a little nastier, a little unsafer, for all of us.

The worst of it is that they disengenuously tried to claim that in order to have meaning, a fan voice must be tied to some other valid and legitimate voice. They denied that a fannish voice can have power and meaning on its own.

By outing coffeeandink, what Slattery and Cramer effectively did was attempt to muzzle her voice as a fan. Because by insisting that she speak from some other identity they were saying to all fans everywhere, "you don't matter - while you inhabit this role, your opinions are invalid."

This is horrible enough when applied to the fan voice in general. But they were using this tactic specifically to further deny legitimacy to already marginalized fannish voices, Fans of Color who were already speaking out against privilege.

The very act of trying to force Fans of Color to stand behind some other identity just proves exactly how valid and necessary the voices of minority fans are, and how imperative it is that fan voices in general be granted autonomy to speak in their roles as fans, without justification or explanation.

I have been genuinely amazed at the number of professional writers who have aggressively fought fan assertions that they have not done the work of examining their own privilege. Because it seems to me that using your position as a professional writer using a non-pseudonym to bully and shunt to the side the voices of those who do not have that privilege is sort of, well...

what's the word? it'll come to me any min -

oh. yeah. privileged.
Tags: fandom, meta, politics

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