idiothole: press gang icon by me. (type-writers & deadlines)
idiothole ([personal profile] idiothole) wrote2010-04-19 10:47 am

gender & fandom - four thoughts.

1. Fandom feminists misconstrue things and always focus on the irrelevant.

An approximate quote from a friend when discussing what I now call The Moffat Paradox (though only inside my head). The Moffat Paradox is the thing I've been struggling with as of late, when seeing some serious hate hurled at the man who is arguably my favourite writer on television, period (dude's written two of my all-time favourite TV shows, ones I've watched and rewatched countless times) for some of his off-page comments. I say off-page because even though Steven Moffat says some douchey things in interviews every now and then, which has caused some people (particularly in the Doctor Who fandom as I understand it) to label him an awful misogynist, on-page (in the shows he writes) I don't see..

On-page? The man writes complex, awesome, lovable female characters, far better than a lot of fandom favourites, in my personal opinion. Look at Amy. Look at Lynda Day (Sam, Tiddler). Hell, look at Coupling (a view that some may strongly disagree with - "these characters are just shrill stereotypes of women!" I've heard, and yes, but look at the men, they're just as much stereotypes, they're just as ridiculous). Are there problems in his writing? In my view, in the same way as there a problems with all writing, if you look close enough. I don't see it, and even if I go looking for it, I don't tend to find much.

So what gives? I don't know. Privilege? But I don't particularly care. I just care about the writing, I just care about getting these fantastic characters who I adore. I still want my Press Gang movie.

And that's where my second problem comes in, kind of. Because I feel pressured to become an apologist for Moffat, and that really upsets those who find him Enemy of the Gender number uno. And yet, isn't this just one viewpoint among many? The way I see it, there isn't feminism - there's feminisms. I'm not sure how mainstream this point of view is but it basically comes from the fact that the feminist movement has always been splintered by differing views on what it actually is. There's the objections to the exclusion of WoC, transwomen etc - they have to create their own feminism because the middle-class, white mainstream feminism won't accomodate them or further their goals. But there's also other feminisms, radical, liberal, third-wave. I'm no expert. It bears mentioning, though, that we come from different feminist traditions. For example, Finnish feminist history is radically different from the American one. We got voting rights early on (even had seats in the parliament), we never had the hausfrau institution as largely as the US did (and no Feminine Mystique to liberate us from it) and Finland obviously never had slaves or racial segregation.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I sometimes wonder about the homogenizing effect of the so-called fandom feminism. Are we in agreement most of the time? Should we be?

I get a little defiant when people infer I'm a Moffat apologist because I don't think of the man as The Big Bad. I'm not apologizing for his comments - but I'm still stating my case, and I refuse to let others' opinions affect how I rate my entertainment. Or what female characters I find awesome.

Something that always resonated with me strongly was somebody saying, "You can't shame or look down on women for liking what they like, even if it doesn't reflect the so-called feministically acceptable parameters."

And that's where I get a little defiant. So my viewpoint isn't correct? Am I a bad feminist now? Fuck that noise, I've got the same right as everybody else - I critique when I see something worth critiqueing, I speak out when I see something objectionable. (Note: this is regarding feminism. Things like racist stereotypes, questionable portrayals of PoC, I obviously as a white chick shut up and listen. I recognize my lack of authority on that subject.)

So I reject that category. I'm not an apologist because I don't apologize, or try to excuse his comments - I just know I personally care more for what's happening on the show. And Amy wearing a mini-skirt or being a kissogram are no great flaws for me, when the character is otherwise feisty and quick-witted and fun.

(The next thoughts will be shorter, promise.)

2. I observe this guy in a female-dominated fandom space (I say fandom space, not fandom, because I think fandom as a whole can be huge and sprawling and uncontainable - this particular space is noticeably female-dominated). I can see his discomfort. It comes out in small comments about fangirl sexuality, or how he the straight dude should be the ultimate judge of female beauty, not the girls of straight or bi-curious nature. And I wonder why this is. Is it the first time he's in a female-dominated space? The other males in it don't seem to be the same at all. Is it age? Political views? Whatever it is, it's interesting.

3. I hate being talked to like I'm a guy, but in the sense that it's assumed I'm a guy, because male's the norm, right? And then, always after the comma or after a breath and in another sentence, or a minute later, "or if you're a chick.." like that was the option you once had, and you went for chick instead of cultural norm the dude. I get it's about key demographics but for once I'd prefer there to be no assumption. And when I recognize there's no assumption, it's like a breath of fresh air.

It really shouldn't be.

4. Finnish has no grammatic gender. I see the English-speaking fandom sometimes bend themselves backwards to find hir and zir and whatever have you, so the language wouldn't rule the genders, because 'she' is just a 'he' with an 's' in front of it. It's strange. I don't know how much language matters in gender issues. I've studied languages where I've had to define my own gender - Hindi for example - by my choice of verb form and adjective gender. That's been admittedly a little weird (I've always considered myself female, don't get me wrong but it's never coloured every sentence I speak of myself). But I never thought of 'she' as lesser than 'he', as deriative of 'he'. I just thought 'she' was a damn beautiful word.

But it is strange, to have grown up knowing a language where gender comes out in nouns signifying people (nainen/mies - woman/man, tyttö/poika - girl/boy etc), not in pronouns or verbs. It doesn't mean a Finnish mental landscape is genderless. I wrote a short story where I never used the main character's name, only referring to them as "hän" (genderless pronoun equivalent of he/she). But even as I typed away, I began reflecting the character's behavior against which gender they would be -- and eventually settled on female. In my head, gender existed and when readers - if readers - would read it, gender would come alive in their heads as well, I believe (it might take a longer while for them, though). And I wish I could tell you there's a void of gender polarity in our heads, in our culture, but there really isn't. There's two genders in the Finnish language (even if they don't always show themselves), and any understanding of gender ambiguity has to be learned.

There's really no concluding thought on this, just think it's interesting that the politics of language have made this such a poignant issue in English. I don't look down on it, I really don't. I just know that sexism exists even if you remove those linguistic things.
pulchritude: (2)

[personal profile] pulchritude 2011-12-27 06:35 pm (UTC)(link)
1. Yeah, fandom feminism has a tendency to be homogenising, at least on lj. ontd_feminism is totally US-centric and not aware of intersectionality, like, at all, for one. Not to mention that some of the so-called SJW bnfs are in it for the bnf-ness and not so much for the SJ.

4. Interestingly, Chinese originally did not have gendered pronouns, just a pronoun for non-humans and one for humans (pronounced the same as well). Then all our intellectuals became Europhiles convinced of our culture's failures (yes, as a nationalist I am so, so, so bitter about stuff like this :P), and so the pronoun for just humans became one for just men while a new logogram was created for 'she'. When I was young, I never understood why they, when signifying a group of mixed genders, always used the logogram for 'he', and now that I know the history, it just makes me bitter about it. You are absolutely right, a lack of grammatical gender does not mean that sexism and/or patriarchy doesn't exist, but I also think that language both reflects and influences thinking, so for me, it rankles that originally gender was not considered significant enough to denote in the language, at least not in that way, but is now so embedded that that I can't see us going back. In my private writings, I've stopped using the pronoun for 'she', but it's harder to do when I'm communicating with other people and they associate only men with the original 'human' pronoun. :|