Gender and Fan Studies (Round One, Part Two): Karen Hellekson and Jason Mittell

Yesterday, we launched my big summer long discussion of fan culture with an exchange between Karen Hellekson and Jason Mittell. Today, I bring you part two of that conversation.

5. Bridging the gender divide?

[5.1] JM: I want to raise some practical questions. What can be done? Overturning the patriarchal systems of the academy and copyright isn’t going to happen anytime soon (if ever), so let’s put on our Gramscian hats – what ground can be gained to lessen the gender divides within the realms of both fandom and fan studies? What micropractices might we be able to achieve in our tiny corners that could overcome some of the issues that have been raised? As faculty in a teaching-oriented college, my mind turns to pedagogy – what can I teach my students about fandom that would help make the next generation of media consumers & producers more inclusive and accepting?

[5.2] KLH: Teaching your students well is always a good thing, but in a way, this just pushes the problem onto someone else – although just leading discussion may lead to helpful debate that will show students that the field lacks consensus. Particularly since I don’t teach, I’m far more likely to just do something myself. Yet my own attempt to create a publishing opportunity for aca-fans got very few submissions from men. Part of the problem is self-selection, or selection from within a gendered network.

[5.3] How desires circle! How little headway has been made in more than 15 years! Here’s Donna Haraway, from her Cyborg Manifesto (1991): “We have all been injured, profoundly. We require regeneration, not rebirth, and the possibilities for our reconstitution include the utopian dream of the hope for a monstrous world without gender” (181). We are at an historical moment of upheaval where we stand united, ready to read new things in new ways, and yet given a creature as fabulous as a cyborg, we return to intractably gendered structures to organize how we do it. It’s too easy to exhort everyone to cast them off. Such change is difficult, even with all the new technological tools we have at our disposal, men with joysticks at World of Warcraft and machinima, and women with keyboards at fanfic and songvids.

[5.4] Exhorting people to spread their networks wide, and doing so oneself, is perhaps one step in the right direction. So is this project – the debate in this blog. Conceiving and executing projects, like publishing opportunities, should attempt gender equity when it comes time to craft the contents and call for submissions. Further, I would ask more women to talk loudly, in unlocked forums, and both inside and outside their networks about things that concern them.

[5.5] JM: OK – since we have this open forum across gendered communities and traversing some aspects of the aca/fan divide, here’s a set of questions that I grapple with: what is the relationship between the fan viewer and non-fan viewer? When we study fan practices, are we looking at people who consume differently in degree, or in kind? My own sense is that fans (of the creative/community variety) engage in a distinct kind of viewing practice, consuming for different reasons and investments than most viewers; but interestingly my students see it more as a matter of degree – even though few of them self-identify as fans in any significant ways. So what do acafans think of this central issue?

[5.6] KLH: I’m with your students: we engage for so many reasons that only degree can explain it. For things like the creation of fanfic, reasons for engagement may include the following (I’ll not cite them, but all these ideas have seen print): Fanfic is written as a way to fill in the gaps of the text. Fandom and fanfic are ways to appropriate media texts and provide power to the consumers, not the producers of the media, so fanfic is written as a form of empowerment. Slash fanfic permits an equal-power relationship because the two principals are of the same sex, thus reinscribing certain gendered cultural concerns about sex and power. Fanfic is a feminine appropriation of masculine power. Fan texts are results of a consumer culture, with the passive consumer turning into an active fan, so fan writing is a way to obtain meaning and pleasure. And fan texts are part of a community-based fan engagement, where the artifact (the fanfic, the vid) may not be the point of the exercise. All of these ideas attempt to provide motivation for the creation of a fan-created artifact, and right there, we’re excluding fans who don’t engage in these practices but who are, by dint of practice, members of a fan community.

[5.7] JM: While I see all of these motivations as good explanations of what fanfic creators/readers do, I see most of them as atypical & exceptional practices, not extensions of mundane engagements with media. Let me go on a brief theoretical detour: even though I was intellectually forged in the fires of cultural studies, active audiences, and textual polysemy, for me one of the missteps of this facet of the field has been an almost totalizing politicization of everyday life. While we need to be aware that all cultural practices occur within systems of power relations and thus everything is potentially political, the political is not ultimately determinate of all practices – we need to consider more than just power relations to understand practices like media consumption. There is no space outside of politics, but there are many things under the umbrella of everyday life that cannot be reduced to politics – everything may be political, but politics cannot explain everything. In this way, the forces of domination & resistance have taken the structuring place of Marxist economic determinism within the analytic lens of much cultural studies.

[5.8] It seems that power relations matter a great deal within the fanfic community, for both producers & consumers, but I don’t think similar forces are as central for most media consumers – most people don’t watch TV to appropriate, invert, or mock power relations. So what other elements of cultural consumption might be considered beyond political struggle? I think that emotional engagement, narrative comprehension, interpersonal relationships, and cultural rituals are all key components of how we consume media, and that they are not primarily determined or motivated by politics – I’m not claiming they exist outside of power relations, but that they cannot be explained away as mere manifestations of domination or resistance. These other elements matter for fans as well as mundane viewers, but it seems that the political engagement of fans is an added variable.

[5.9] Looking at my own recent research on Lost spoiler fans (which crossed gender lines pretty evenly) – these viewers, unlike Henry’s Survivor spoiler fans, are not in battle with producers or actively protesting the hegemony of television or forging communities through assembling spoiler info. They love the show and are trying to extend their experiences via paratextual consumption, not reading against the grain. Many do read spoilers to manage their own narrative experiences in differing ways than network scheduling, but I’m loathe to explain this behavior in the political terms of institutional control versus emergent resisting poachers. In fact, many suggest that spoiler consumption is something that they wish they could stop, but they lack the willpower to refrain from peeking ahead – they are disempowered by the very act of “resistant reading”!

[5.10] Back to my point – if fanfic communities are self-defined in politicized terms (although there might be a chicken-egg question here as to how much of the fandom is using the analytic terms provided by fan scholarship to justify, legitimize, & explain their own practices…), these spoiler fans seem to consume media in comparatively non-politicized ways. And I’d say for most avid consumers of media, political rationales are not centrally determinate in what they watch or how they watch it (again, I’m not suggesting that media is just escapism/entertainment/etc., but rather that politics doesn’t necessarily explain why people watch what they watch). So this is why I see the practices of active fan communities as a distinctive and atypical mode of consumption, more explicitly politicized than average viewers. Politics seem to matter more for fans invested in their own practices as tied to media, rather than people whose engagement primarily starts & ends with the primary text.

[5.11] KLH: I don’t see us talking at cross-purposes here. I’m not attempting to essentialize the process or the artwork or the fan’s engagement to political practices; I’m attempting to create a consistent scaffolding for this conversation so we are talking in the same terms. It’s always more interesting for critics to write about resistant readings, but a lot of work has only highlighted how not resistant certain fan activities are: lots of fanfic rehashes the tired romance genre, for example; and we can talk all day long about how subversive the genre of slash is, but its very existence only highlights and reinforces the boundaries it claims to transgress.

[5.12] I would argue that anybody who goes online (or goes to conventions, or subscribes to newsgroups, or buys fanzines, or whatever) and engages in discussion with others about something is pretty much a fan; and many, but by no means all, fans create artworks around it. This brings in a community component. An average viewer watches but doesn’t feel the need to engage beyond chitchat at the water cooler at work, where the text is simply a pretext for social engagement unrelated to the pleasure of the text. Why is the latter interesting to study? (Or maybe the text is the interesting thing to study, and you want her reaction to it.) People who follow spoilers go online and get spoiled, but they get spoiled within a community that handily lays it all out for them, and suddenly, with no warning and without their really knowing how it happened, they’re engaged in a fannish practice.

[5.13] JM: I actually do think the water cooler viewer is interesting to study. In my study of the talk show in my TV genre book, I surveyed people about their perceptions and practices involving talk shows, regardless of their personal interests & investments in the form. Casual viewers and even non-viewers help foster discourses about genres and programs, working to build cultural assumptions and norms about media. Additionally, I’m interested in understanding how different people can make differing investments in the same texts – the water cooler viewer might feel like they love a show as much as the fanfic writer, but they engage in distinctly different ways. Understanding why such various engagements emerge and what they mean culturally requires us to study & respect not only the hardcore fans, but also the mundane viewers.

[5.14] KLH: At its heart, fan activity attempts to make meaning and create pleasure. The structures used to study it rely on politics, sexual and otherwise; on notions of community; on ideas about creativity versus derivativeness; on genre; on authority; on gift culture; on text and subtext; and on a thousand other different things, some of which, such as authority, happen to provide a vocabulary that is useful for discussing these things. Ethnography, close readings of fan-generated texts, studies of reception and of community, queer studies – all have usefully been brought to bear on fans, whether hardcore or casual. You asked about the political issues of the acceptance of versus the othering of fandom, and I’d turn that around to ask about the political issues of the acceptance of versus the othering of the critic, and of the critical apparatus she uses, because that’s the reason we’re having this conversation: what’s at stake when the critic makes her decisions about what and how to study? Gender is one of those things. Authority and power are others. We’ve come full circle, therefore: the acafan has been reconstituted and redescribed, just as she constitutes and describes her field of study.

[5.15] Politics, sexual and otherwise, can’t possibly inform the totality of fans or the study of fans. We’re not assimilating these structures; we’re using them to create boundaries around a discussion because those boundaries are useful, and they provide a vocabulary to talk about these things that shorthands and compresses a whole bunch of meaning. I self-consciously chose the word authority to organize my thoughts about this issue because of the word’s connotations, and because of everything we all understand goes into authority in our culture. Just uttering the word generates a form of meaning. Each discipline comes with a wonderful history, a fascinating methodology, a differently trained critic, a differently informed fan, someone in media studies and someone in English talking about the same thing but in different terms. Yet I would argue that these boundaries, which aren’t set as firmly as the word boundary implies, and which can be manipulated, need to be manipulated in such a way that gender doesn’t become a point of exclusion, and the way to do that is simply through critical practice.

[5.16] JM: And I would just add to your last sentence: …and through dialogue, opportunities to talk across disciplines, genders, fan engagements, and mind-sets. It’s been a pleasure!


  1. People who follow spoilers go online and get spoiled, but they get spoiled within a community that handily lays it all out for them, and suddenly, with no warning and without their really knowing how it happened, they’re engaged in a fannish practice.

    I’m really interested in this incident of the “accidental fan,” so to speak. It reminds me of debates we’ve had about how much we ought or ought not to study a certain core group of active, self-defined fans who see themselves as part of a larger history versus random “feral” fans who create their own communities without ever having heard of Kirk/Spock, who think they invented any number of generic tropes, etc.

    And I think, Karen puts her finger on it here, namely, that the random fan who passively consumes, or even the randomly active fan who engages here and there can only exist within a well-defined structure. The accidental fan draws much of his or her enjoyment from infrastructure and creative work laid out by a more organized self-defined fandom, I’d argue.

    Which might, in the end, support studying that type of fandom, after all, even as non- and anti- and accidental fans are important in terms of audience, they are either exclusively interpellated as intended consumers via producer paratexts or enjoy fannish paratexts parasitically.

  2. When I think of canonical privlege, I think of everything from fantasy football leagues (which rely on the canon of played games to create the fiction beyond the fan-player’s control) to Harry Potter fandom’s Blaise Zabini wars (in which the canon installment’s revelation about a minor character’s race and gender led to those who believed revealed canon trumped prior fan art or character development. One there is in a traditionally male space (sports fandom) and the other is in a traditionally female (the fanfic community), yet both disempower the creative fan who forms a fantasy team or a fan fiction story.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this; it’s late and I need sleep. But now I’m dwelling on the spectrum even just within fan fiction: writers who’ll only write missing scenes; writers who’ll only write canon relationships; writers who attack out of character dialogue; writers who place canon characters in completely unrelated alternate universes.

    Alternately, sticking with non fan-produced content, the battles about what’s canon in Doctor Who; the old series; the new series; McGann’s Doctor; the radio plays; the novelizations (and if so, which ones); Shada; the BBCs incredible complex suite of supporting websites embedded in the fictional world; director’s commentaries. At some level, even deciding what’s canon is a creative act.

  3. robin reid says:

    DeborahD: I own to being as bemused by some fan definitions of “canon” as I do at academic definitions (for one thing, canon is always changing), and I agree with you, interpretation creates canon, and interpretation among other critical acts includes *selection.*

    I’d like to cite the Tolkien fandom (mine!) as an example: in the book fandom, what texts can one count? The novel, certainly, but what about all the “early” drafts arranged and published by Christopher Tolkien? What about Tolkien’s letters (the “author intentionality” issue!)? At one point, he wrote out an alternate ending of sorts: what if Gollum was not alienated by Sam, did not betray them to Shelob, and stayed true to Frodo–and Frodo could not destroy the Ring but claimed it?

    Then you add in movie canon (I am a huge fan of both books and films–have read the 14 volume History, even assigned one book in a creative writing class to show my students revision in process!)–and life gets even more complicated.

    To use “canon” as meaning some sort of fact based irrefutable body of evidence–I just don’t see it. Reading fan debates I’m often reminded of my beginning students in literary criticism who tend to write “Author X intended X,” phrasing their own individual interpretation as authorial intent with, at times, very little evidence from the text.

  4. Bravo on a wonderful kick-off discussion. The scope is fabulous and opens the way for the conversations to come.

    I’d like to hone in on the question of how fannish purpose/investment relates to more “mundane” viewing. This is a topic that has always been of central interest to me, and I’ve always seen it as a spectrum. (And what I say here I believe echoes/brings together some of what both Jason and Karen are suggesting…)

    I think the focus on politicization and political reasoning for fan authorship and production–while useful in its time and still undeniably significant (for example in light of the recent LiveJournal purge)–may also have limited and be continuing to limit what we understand as fannish practice and what insights we’re able to gather from exploring fandom. Yes, fans do appropriate and yes fans are concerned with their relation to systems of power, but those are concerns that emerge out of engagement with fan communities over time.

    That is, if you’re invested in a certain, say, slash pairing or couple–informed by community investment in that couple–you may watch for the pleasure of romance and betrayal, for characterization and narrative unfolding not far removed from a viewer invested in a text’s overt hereronormative romance. But when you begin to see your investment in said slash pairing repeatedly squashed by the ongoing serial reworkings of heteronormativity, bending to network or commercial pressures, you may become more aware of network and social/cultural/economic politics.

    So yes, concern with power, politics and appropriation do become part of the fan experience, but they’re only part of it. They just happen to be the part that fit into the academic narratives which allowed us to shed a light on fan culture in the first place. Meanwhile, less politically appealing (at least on the surface) fan dynamics such as investment in commercial discourses or mainstream (non-appropriative) heteronormative pairings get less attention, and this obscures the relationships between fan engagement and the so-called “regular” viewer. I’m not saying that the two are the same, of course, because it’s the engagement with community (and self-identifying as fan and fan community) that’s transformative.

    But (as Karen suggests) that type of identification with community is happening more and more–even if it’s not called fandom–as people join and participate regularly in social networking sites from MySpace to flickr to youtube to, and the interactions that go on in that spaces are not always radically different from those that go on within fan-specific online communities.

  5. JM:

    While we need to be aware that all cultural practices occur within systems of power relations and thus everything is potentially political, the political is not ultimately determinate of all practices – we need to consider more than just power relations to understand practices like media consumption.

    Jonathan Sterne has a great article, “The Burden of Culture,” which addresses this very point. It’s in the 2004 anthology The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies.

    Regarding canon as a classic example of an area that’s generally explicitly political (in the sense of control), see Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell’s rant on the topic (which included the controversial (to some) statement “There is no canon in Doctor Who.”).

    Both of these articles discuss anxieties about the nature of the endeavor, whatever “the endeavor” may be. Sterne challenges Cultural Studies’ perpetual nervousness about the pleasures of popular culture, taking aim at the policing of “proper” criticism. Cornell lashes out at any notion of “official” canon in Doctor Who, pointing out that while other universes have “canon police” within TPTB (e.g., Star Wars, Star Trek), Doctor Who has never had that position. Still, Cornell (amazing guy that he is, notwithstanding) and other DW writers are in powerful positions to shift the parameters of the “field” of Doctor Who, just as Sterne, as a published academic (and another amazing guy) has the power to affect his “field.”

    Thus, while the terms of the struggles may vary considerably (from what is “criticism,” to who is Harry hooking up with, to how many times LaDainian Tomlinson gets the ball), there remains power differentials within and between these various endeavors. Sports fans may field fantasy line-ups on message boards and elsewhere, but they won’t affect the actual management of the team in the same way that (say) a powerful columnist might. HP fans may produce and present alternate versions of events, but they can’t change the one that tens of millions of readers will get in the “official” JKR books. These differentials are not only gender-based, but also take in concerns of race, class, education, technological capital, and so on.

    That said, I’d also echo Jason’s (and Jonathan Sterne’s, and others’) concerns that the actual endeavors need not be seen as always about power relationships, but should also be acknowledged for other factors.

  6. I think we might be witnessing a seismic shift from “different in kind” to “different in degree” experiences of fandom — a symptom of pretty sweeping changes in media consumption practices. More people are engaging with media in ways that are more like traditionally fannish modes, or the media industry is privileging and catering to fannish modes more than previously (or both, in a vicious/virtuous cycle). I agree that politicization was never fandom’s defining feature, but now it (or PARTS of it — the “masculine” parts, according to this discussion) is growing ever more intimate with our culture’s hegemonic strata, right? So this leaves us with a catch-22 that I’m at a loss for how to resolve: do we push for fan(girl)s to “come out” into the capitalist mainstream and be visible (should we, like Karen in part 1, be happy that Lucas’s AtomFilms will now allow “fan fiction” style videos?), or do we hole up in the community closet and try to protect ourselves from corporate co-optation? The axis of inclusion/exclusion is certainly gendered (and queered), but I think we also have to examine what it is we’re asking to be included IN.

  7. Scott Ellington says:

    Fanaticism isn’t a popular term in these environs, but it seemed fairly appropriate at the last evangelical Christian gathering at which I spent a few interminable hours far too recently.

    Gender inequality, rabid canonical self-righteousness and several other phenomena that bothered me were very much in evidence.

    It’s just an observation that Bible-fandom doesn’t seem to enter into these discussions, despite the fairly ubiquitious cultural penetration it’s long enjoyed, and the possibility that the gender-divide may run a little deeper than the more contemporary source material cited.

    No doubt I’ll find a definitive description of fandom in my (still prelimary) reading of TP and CC that self-explanatorily precludes my observation as irrelevent here. Please pardon this intrusion.

  8. Scott:

    I agree with you that some religious groups tend towards fanaticism with the emphasis on the “fan,” but as a religionist, I do see a divide between religious groups and fan groups. Although both types of people perform similar “rituals” — that is, attending conventions, getting doohickeys and gewgaws, writing “fanfic” and “filks” (bible retellings and new songs) and so on — fans usually don’t attempt to make their interest their whole life. Admittedly some do (the guy who turned his house into a Star Trek set, for instance), but even among other fans, they aren’t totally accepted.

    On the other hand, religious fan-atics tend to both participate in “fandomy” things and also make their religion into an entire lifestyle, one that can’t be separated from anything.

    I do tend to agree with you, though, that this is a matter of degree and not a matter of type. Almost anything can be said to include religious or moral principles; certainly such charged texts as Harry Potter or Star Wars or Star Trek can. It would not be hard to imagine a truly obsessive fan taking it to the same level that “fan-atics” do.

  9. Scott Ellington says:

    Thank you, Madeline.

    My comment was intended to suggest that gender inequality may be endemic in a culture based on the self-evident premise that all men are created equal (immediately excluding all women), while historically contradicting its most fundamental principle.

    This discussion seems to me to focus on the possibility of inherent differences between genders, and/or on differential scales of assessment of gender in the academic/commerical marketplace, while the fandom that presently controls the halls of power consults its gut for scriptural presentiments and duly reverses a thousand years of civilized advancement in gender-equality, separation of Church and State…yet these discussions seem to overlook a likely cause of the schism between the boys and girls who strive to find an egalitarian basis to relate.

    I stopped going to Sunday school about the time that Star Trek debuted. Comparing the parables expressed in both, I chose the medium that seemed more forward-looking, but I brought the old, ingrained assumptions with me.

    Perhaps the faults in our old cosmologies deserve additional scrutiny, if only because they perturb our interaction with the new.

  10. I think we might be witnessing a seismic shift from “different in kind” to “different in degree” experiences of fandom — a symptom of pretty sweeping changes in media consumption practices. More people are engaging with media in ways that are more like traditionally fannish modes, or the media industry is privileging and catering to fannish modes more than previously (or both, in a vicious/virtuous cycle).

    I think this is key, and it ties back to the discussion about differences in degree. More and more people who would not self-identify as fans, or as members of the fan community (but who might self-identify as “geek”), are using the tools developed by fandom. Peer-to-peer networks, reading the recaps at TWoP, forwarding Cleolinda’s LOST recaps around–all of those are practices engaged in by water-cooler viewers now.

    However, I also think there’s a difference in kind between the viewer/commenter and the viewer/creator. The self-identified fans I know tend to take that engagement one step forward into creating secondary texts. These aren’t necessarily fictional texts (such as fanvids or fanfic); they might be entries in a fandom-specific wiki or tracking data for a show (someone in Supernatural fandom tracks the uses of “dude”, “man”, and “Sammy” for every episode), or just posting thoughtful critical essays. These types of fans invest effort into their engagement with the source text that the more mainstream viewer/commenter doesn’t.

    I agree that politicization was never fandom’s defining feature, but now it (or PARTS of it — the “masculine” parts, according to this discussion) is growing ever more intimate with our culture’s hegemonic strata, right?

    I was going to contest this, because I think the more community-oriented (“female”) side of fandom is very much aware of political hegemony–and then I realized I was misreading it. Certainly the FanLib brouhaha (and possibly even the LJ Strikethrough brouhaha–more than a kerfuffle, but possible not a debacle) indicate that there is a segment of fandom that does want closer connection with the producers (i.e., the source of power). And possibly is looking for validation thereby.

    What’s interesting about FanLib is that I think the carrot they’re dangling–validation/access to the talent–is not that much of a draw to the majority of the people they want to provide their content. There’s a disconnect between what they can offer and what we creative fans want, and because of their backgrounds, they’re having some trouble comprehending that. It is, after all, what they would want, in our circumstances.

    Thank you for this meaty discussion.

  11. It’s just an observation that Bible-fandom doesn’t seem to enter into these discussions

    Scott, a fine point. 🙂 I’ve long argued that fanfiction is pop-culture midrash (midrash being — in a tiny nutshell — the rabbinic tradition of exegetical storytelling) and that the only difference between writing fanfiction and writing midrash is the nature of the sourcetext which the storytelling seeks to explicate. For many folks in fandom, who may not be actively religious, the weekly immersion in a television show (and the concomitant sense of community created around discussion, writing/reading fanfiction and making vids, etc) may operate almost like going to synagogue or church —

    — with, of course, obvious differences, which I won’t belabor here. *g* I do know a lot of folks in fandom who are actively religious, but most of us don’t talk about that in our fannish spaces, nor talk about fandom in our religious spaces. (And that gets into a whole different set of issues…)

  12. Scott Ellington says:

    Kass, thanks!

    My last point of contact with Talmudic scholarship was Byron Sherwin’s The Cubs and the Kabbalist (highly reccommended as an exquisite example of exegetical storytelling [that also happens to rock]).

    If community is both a noun and an active process. I just wanted to inject the notion that re-ligion seems to separate and polarize populations more than it binds them together again. And that debating gender stereotypes in the study of fandoms may become an exhaustive analysis of multiple, contradictory symptoms without ever scrutinizing a root cause of irrational gender division and disharmony.

    I think there are ancient toys in our fan-attics and monsters in our fan-ids that deserve a little more attention from aca-fans. Whether these artifacts are inherent or intrinsic remains to be seen, but I totally agree with you that the power of community will find ways to express itself.

  13. Jonathan Gray says:

    Sorry I’m so late to the discussion: people are talking non-fans, I wanna be there 🙂 (Was on holiday, in forced isolation from the world of email, blogs, etc.). Anyways:

    I have some reservations about the “difference in degree.” While the “difference in kind” notion is indeed problematic, the risk with seeing things as a difference of degree is that you set up a spectrum upon which it’s too easy to hang all sorts of other things. Hence, if we code fandom as resistant to The Man, then clearly non-fans are less resistant; if fandom is obsessive, non-fans are less obsessive; or, so on with less stereotypical, less stark observations (fans are communal, non-fans are individual, for instance). The more I read and think about this, the more I think fan and media studies is desperately in need of some deep ethnographic studies that would chart how a fan is fannish of text x, non-fannish of text Y, etc., since it might be too problematic to ultimately classify people as fans or non-fans: yes, there are exaggerated examples of each, but vast numbers fall in between, or, rather, move back and forth, sometimes even with the same text (as with me and Buffy or The Simpsons: at times I don’t give a toss, at other times I care deeply).

    Meanwhile, to change focus to the issue of how to go about rectifying the gendered problems that exist, I think seniority issues are remarkably important here too. I just don’t have real power to change anything in my dept, for instance, and I suspect many in this Detente are in similar situations. I think it’s important then to nudge those who do have the power. For instance, at ICA this year, Angela McRobbie’s plenary address included a pretty stinging rebuke to the political disaster of fandom. Angela was speaking (with only ten minutes, so generalizing by necessity, albeit) of the future of feminist criticism, and wanted to rescue her image of being an active audience person, and wanted to express her frustration with Sex and the City, but in doing so, she posited “fandom” in the general as a problem. She claimed not to want to turn her back on the lessons of cultural studies, but…. etc. And so here was a prominent female scholar, firmly situated in a cultural studies program no less, who to a very large audience effectively closed a door to fandom, positing it as still being a problem, but more specifically a problem *for women* and for feminism … which would seem to let some male fan scholars through the door. Now, admittedly, Angela’s work is far more nuanced than this, but I use this as an example of how easily fandom and female acafans in particular need women like Angela to be improving the situation. In general, there seems to be a slight trend of scholars doing a fan or audience piece, then feeling the need to do the deeply critical, “heavy-hitting” piece in later years, that proves they’re really with the team … rather than using their aca-capital to try and make the road smoother for others.