With the exception of After (white het romance) and the Sandwich Story, which is gen fic about Calvin (white dude), everything on the list of fics is m/m slash. (White dudes + elves & hobbits. There’s a significant het relationship with a POC alien queen in Written by the Victors but it’s not the central romance). I commented on this to the story editor and the other fans in the discussion (the contributors are listed on the website) and suggested that maybe the list shouldn’t identify itself as a comprehensive list if it doesn’t include femslash or any fics from non-english-language serial media fandom. To be honest I’m kicking myself for not just reccing something like Telanu’s Truth & Measure so we’d have proper amazing femslash on the board, but I was trying instead to think of early representative femslash from Xena or Voyager or Buffy & I just didn’t get there. We did have a conversation about expanding it to include more fanworks, and I made a case for including AMVs and the Yu-gi-oh Abridged Series, but that was obviously a little hard to do in a print edition.
But, that said, I still stand by the quote NY Mag used, which incidentally comes from this 2012 article. I think all you have to do to understand that fandom is constantly actively resisting the homogenization of white patriarchal heteronormative culture is look on Tumblr where that resistance and subversion is an inherent and commonplace part of fandom discourse.
Also, just because the fics on the list are examples of white dude slash doesn’t mean many of them are not also subversive texts. I mean fucking Written by the Victors is pretty much written entirely with the purpose of deconstructing the myths of patriarchy and colonization inherent in the Stargate franchise. Kirk/Spock by its very existence was and continues to be a repudiation of masculinized heteronormative male culture. To me, these things are important. They’re not less important, IMO, because they happen to be about white male characters, especially not when they’re being written by women and people of all genders and orientations and races. It’s just that we always need more: more representation in media, more amazing women and diverse characters and dynamic/diverse relationships in fandom, alongside all the white dudes we’ve canonized within this amazing, worthwhile, still extremely flawed history we have created as fans.
I have to say I’m pretty put off by this explanation.
First of all, the whiteness of these choices is problematic for more reasons than just being all Western media sources, and it’s ridiculous to not acknowledge that. Just looking at the fandoms that were chosen for the syllabus that I know, SGA has Ronon and Teyla, and Star Trek has Uhura and Sulu. Western media is absolutely terrible at diversity, but it’s still more representative than a lot of fic. You can’t blame the chosen popular fandoms for that.
Secondly, and more broadly, is a problem that isn’t exclusive to this particular list of best fanfic, but it’s something that’s been bothering me for a while. When people say they want to include the best stories with women, or the best stories featuring characters of color, what’s not explicitly stated but is certainly heavily implied is that the best stories, full stop, are the stories about white men, and particularly white men fucking each other. The stories about anyone else are good with an asterisk: they’re good for what they are, which is stories lacking the most important element. They’re the vegetables you have to eat and at least SAY you enjoy if you want to enjoy the delicious main course and dessert without feeling guilty.
When all the people choosing the ‘best’ stories for a list default to stories about white men, there’s either a problem with the selection of who gets to make Representative Fandom Decisions, or there’s a problem with fandom overall.
The thing that gets me most about this post, though, is the implication that to have amazingly subversive texts your story still needs to feature white men. Do you really think there aren’t fics out there about deconstructing myths of patriarchy and colonization that are primarily about the people who, in real life, actively deal with these issues? Or are those stories just less important, because they have less comments and kudos and hits, because they were written by people who aren’t such big names in the fandom, often precisely because they write about characters besides white men? This isn’t a problem specifically belonging to this list or this explanation, but the issue is that this is a vicious cycle, and both lists like this and defenses of lists like this reinforce it as something that just happens to exist.
My fannish experience happened. I know it did, I was there. It’s not the fannish experience that gets talked about every time people talk about The Fannish Experience, because my fannish experience featured very few white men. I emotionally invested in canons with multiple female characters who interacted with each other, and my multiple femslash OTPs were a natural result. I spent a lot of time talking to people about what impact race had in Veronica Mars, in Grey’s Anatomy, in fucking Survivor of all things. And yes, I totally read and watched and discussed stories about white men too- you cannot live in our society and not engage with white men; it’s literally not possible- but I am living proof that it IS possible to be in fandom without that default being the only thing you engage with. That’s a choice, and while in 2000 it may have been an unconscious one, it’s 2015 and that’s no longer an answer. When all of your favorite characters and ships just happen to be white men, and all the fics you choose as important just happen to be about white men, I don’t care how many generic posts you make about how women are great, this is insidious racism and misogyny, and it’s actively making fandom a worse place to be.
Aja, your post prompted this, but I don’t mean this as an attack on you specifically. It’s a perspective I see from a lot of people at a lot of times, and my frustration has been building. I don’t mean to invalidate the specific emotional response that leads to certain texts being favorites, but when all of your (generic your, not specific!) favorites are the stories of white men, you don’t always need to defend that. You need to take a good look at yourself and your choices and figure out why that is, and maybe look into expanding what you think makes a text good.
Yes, the explanation put me off too. In that way where, initially, it gives you pause but seems reasonable enough ergo it must be you that doesn’t understand it.
After you sit on it though, you realize that nope, still doesn’t address the concern. It was no answer, no explanation at all. Almost like sleight of hand.
It’s stuff like this that makes me feel erased from fandom discussions.