Gender and Fan Culture (Round Seven, Part One): Kristina Busse and Cornell Sandvoss

INTRODUCTION

Kristina:

I have a PhD in English from Tulane University and teach as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of South Alabama. I have been reading and writing on fan fiction since 1999 and have published a variety of essays on fan fiction and fan culture, including on Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fiction, popslash, and fandom as queer female space. I coedited with Karen Hellekson, Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet (McFarland 2006) and am currently coauthoring a book-length study with Louisa Stein on fan artifacts and new media. I write about fan fiction and fandom and fan communities incessantly on my fannish LiveJournal.

The fact that I am an independent scholar is, in many ways, central to my work, because I have specific and quite personal reasons to be interested in the line between professional and amateur, fan writing and pro writing, and the way these get defined in various communities. Despite my disciplinary training and record of publication, I am not paid for my work, which makes me an adjunct–in my academic work of teaching as well as research. In a way, then, my academic work functions like fan work: I do not receive any financial recompense nor does its ideal value (line in CV) contribute to my gaining material benefit.

So, I straddle the line between amateur and professional in a keener way than most. Also, my central mode of fannish engagement is through meta, the grass-roots version of academic criticism, where I am seen as an academic outsider by many fans. By contrast, I cannot quite partake in the proper academic channels and thus feel fannish outsider within academia. This ambiguous position makes me keenly aware of the way my academic work replicates the contested relationship to capitalism and professionalism that fan work (and the fans creating it) exemplifies.

.

Cornel: Hello, I should briefly introduce myself as well at this point. I have published on fan audiences in a number of articles and three books, A Game of Two Halves (Routledge, 2003) which focuses solely on football (soccer) fandom – a possibly rather alien topic to most readers of this blog, Fans: The Mirror of Consumption (Polity Press, 2005) and more recently had the good fortune to be asked by Jonathan Gray and Lee Harrington to co-edit an anthology previously mentioned here and entitled Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World (NYU Press, 2007) which features a wide range of, I think, important contributions by many scholars in the field. In fact Lee, Jonathan and I enjoyed the experience so much that we have gone on to follow in the footsteps of Sharon Mazzarella and Norma Pecora as the editors of Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture. I mention this here as we initially thought that we might attract a greater number of papers dedicated to the study of fans and fan cultures given our own backgrounds, but this hasn’t quite materialised yet. So please see this an invitation to all scholars out there to consider the journal as a potential publication outlet for their research in the field – needless to say, whichever side of this debate they are on (if indeed there are sides…)!

I am also Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Surrey (UK), but, like Kristina, I am a German exile. I’m not sure this actually matters at all – or rather hope it doesn’t (though that is admittedly a rather German thing to say) other than in two respects: a.) in terms of the conceptual and theoretical foundations which in my case tend to draw fairly heavily on German literary, cultural and social theory such as the Frankfurt School and Constance School and b.) in giving us an outsider perspectives on many of the dominant Anglo-American (and let’s add Australian) discourses in the field. There are of course always differences in personal taste and genre preferences but I am always struck at how certain instances of popular American television are assumed to be universally known and appreciated. I say this not to complain about a lack of intercultural awareness of fan scholars to whom English is their native language, but because it has shaped my interest and journey through the field. Over the years I have read many studies of fan cultures whose central texts I were and sometimes continue to be been unfamiliar with. This may be a rather heretical admission, but I have to out myself as someone who had read Matt Hills’s or John Tulloch’s work on Dr Who, long before I had ever seen a single episode. And just to offend the American crowd here as well, when reading the earlier rounds of this discussion, I had to google ‘Firefly’ – I simply had never seen it. I would like to plea that none of this is ignorance – indeed it would not deter me in the least from enthusiastically reading a study on, say, Firefly fans. But it does mean that my interest in this study and others is not one in particular fan audiences or cultures in and for themselves, but about what these studies tell us about the micro and macro conditions and parameters of (everyday) life in a mediated world and the interplay between structure and agency that takes place within such frames. Anyway, we can return to this kind of Sinnfrage of fan studies later, if you like.

Before we kick start this week’s debate, I should say a word or two about the format, however. Owing to my own unavailability earlier this month (the usual excuses are other publication deadlines, exam boards, etc.) and the fact that Kristina was much more organised in writing up her thoughts an earlier stage (and is currently travelling in Europe) the following takes the shape of Kristina outlining her thoughts on the debate and my post hoc replies. Kristina is thus left with the power of agenda setting whereas I enjoyed the right of the last reply.

MALE AND FEMALE FANNISH BEHAVIOR:

Kristina: I feel on some level like we are the exemplar of what I’ve been shorthanding as the fanboy/fangirl split, and I think it might be useful to both articulate what those differences might be but also to complicate them once we’ve done so. One of the complaints I’ve heard most about trying to divvy up fan studies along gender lines (or even daring to suggest that gender might be an issue!) is that that there are too many exceptions to even try to establish categories or definitions. Moreover, I’ll start by making a quite enormous collapse that we may have to discuss down the line, namely, I sketch behavior onto gender. In a way, when I personally talk about fanboys and fangirls, it’s much less about actual biobodies than it is about certain ways of engaging with source texts and certain ways of theorizing and studying fans. And I may be totally wrong when actually looking at demographics!

But in my home, fannish behavior looks as follows: my husband watches Doctor Who quite passionately. He taped every episode when younger, bought all the tapes, and now owns all the DVDs. Most evenings more or less as long as I’ve known him, he will sit and watch a couple of episodes–in recent years with our kids. When my older one turned 4, he wanted a Doctor Who birthday party, and it was hard to explain to him that the doctor and Buzz Lightyear weren’t quite the same *g* My husband also collects D&D material, less for playing and more as a collector’s item. He certainly is quite invested in these texts, both emotionally and financially, but it is the texts and objects rather than other fans that are the center of his focus. Meanwhile, I started defining myself years ago as “a fan of fans,” i.e., while I have fallen for a number of media texts over the years, most recently, Stargate Atlantis and Supernatural, my primary fannish engagement is the community and its products, my primary investment time and my primary reward friendships and fannish creative and intellectual artifacts. Or, said differently, when I answer the often voiced question of what I’d take on the proverbial island, it’s always the fan creations, never the TV show.

Now, clearly the dynamic in our household is neither universal nor generalizable, but reading Textual Poachers and Fan Fiction and Fan Communities on the one hand and Fan Cultures and Fans on the other, I do begin to wonder whether my family’s gendering is not that unusual after all. Now, fanfiction communities are particularly invested in community and fan-created artifacts, so that using that as my measuring stick might be unfair and methodologically problematic. After all, what about the many communities that are predominantly male? What about the lonely fangirl reading her favorite book over and over again all by herself? And even dividing it into a blunt collecting/analyzing versus creating might leave out entire communities of women who debate technical details and men who create emotionally involved works of art.

Cornel: Yes, I think these are very valid points. I actually struggle with the usefulness of introducing gender here as the key dividing line between fans and fan scholars alike and can only echo Will Brooker’s earlier comments. I think there are two different questions: The first one is whether we can distinguish between types of either male and female fan behaviour or, secondly, between types of male and female approaches to the study of fandom. Both, in my eyes, are unsustainably essentialist suggestions which I outright reject. You already mentioned a few examples as far as fan behaviour is concerned and we could compile an almost endless list here: consider for example Vermorel and Vermorel’s (1985) distinctly private fan fantasies written more often that not by female fans (or indeed fan girls given their age!); conversely, communal consumption contexts are at the heart of many distinctly male fan cultures in, say, sports fandom. Very much the same applies to the academic study of fans and fandom: if there are distinctly male and female approaches these would not correspond with respective foci on individual fans on the one hand and fan communities on the other – let’s not forget that Henry has of course laid the foundations and established the canon in the study of fandom as an interpretive community. Even if there was a correlation between these positions and the gender of particular scholars, it would be a yet greater challenge to argue that this is not a coincidental correlation but grounded in quintessential gender differences.

In the earlier rounds of this discussion, the question of gender and fandom was linked to race by one contributor who remarked that however commendable it may be not wanting to distinguish on the grounds of race, it nevertheless constitutes a very real barrier in people’s lives. This is of course true, and I think the analogy is interesting, but the conclusion is ultimately erroneous. Let’s think this analogy through for and imagine we would suggest that there are forms of ‘white’ and ‘black’ fandom. This would be nothing short of utterly racist! However, this doesn’t mean that race and ethnicity are not one of the many socio-demographic lines that structure given fan cultures, impact upon audiences’ choices of objects of fandom and inform cultural and cultural hierarchies associated with fandom (remember Thornton’s revealing documentation and analysis of the discrimination faced by black adolescent males in 1990s UK club culture). Equally, gender (alongside class and other vectors of social stratification) is one of various important social and cultural parameter that structure fandom, as it is indeed a faultline in the divisions of power in contemporary society and hence naturally constitutes a key concern of fan studies. Yet, this is a far cry from overburdening gender by making it the organising principle of a fundamental and essentialist dichotomy of fan audiences.

COMMUNITY AND INDIVIDUAL:

Kristina: And yet I can’t shake this (possibly mistaken) belief that there *is* a gendered tendency–if not in the fans then maybe in the academics? Given that you and I probably fit into both categories, it seems like we should maybe begin by defining our terms, because that’s where for me the first (and possibly biggest) disconnect and differentiation takes place. You define *fandom* as “the regular, emotionally involved consumption of a given popular narrative or text” (8). In so doing, you clearly shift the emphasis from community to individual: “this focus on communities and tightly networked fans fails to conceptualize important aspects of the relationship between the modern self, identity and popular culture which forms my particular concern here” (5).

To me, on the other hand, the terms mean quite different things. Fandom, to me, requires a community and participation in that community–and possibly self identification with that community. [And I feel the need to insert here that when I talk about “community” I clearly do not think of it as a monolithic entity but rather as always a collection of different and differing, complex and contradictory communities, where fans may be members of many communities over time and even simultaneously.] I’ll just cite myself here since I think my short essay Fandom-is-a-Way-of-Life versus Watercooler Discussion; or, The Geek Hierarchy as Fannish Identity Politics articulates my very objection:

I want to suggest that we distinguish between fan and fandom as well as acknowledge that there are different trajectories that combine into levels of fannishness. In other words, an intense emotional investment in a media text that is wholly singular may create a fan but does not make the individual part of a larger fandom, whereas a person enacting fannish behavior may not define him- or herself as a fan. It thus might be useful to consider the overlapping but not interdependent axes of investment and involvement as two factors that can define fannish engagement. Moreover, we need to consider models that can differentiate between people who are fans of a specific text, those that define themselves as fans per se, and those that are members of fandom.

Cornel: I actually don’t agree that I shift the emphasis from communities to the individual. I tried to broaden our definition of what we call fandom and who we call fans, yet in doing so I do not exclude the established body of work focusing on fan communities which is in particular associated with what Jonathan, Lee and I have described as the ‘first wave of fan studies’. Rather I, as have indeed others, included fields of audience studies which, to my mind, are also of importance and warrant further study. And I think there is a certain logic in accepting to recognise those people who call themselves fans – whether they meaningfully participate in interpretive communities or not – as fans, as indeed others who may shun the label but display very similar forms of textual attachment, communal engagement or textual activity.

I think while widely used, Nicholas Abercrombie and Brian Longhurst’s (Audiences, Sage 1998) highly useful taxonomy of different fan audiences deserves yet greater attention in this context, particularly on the other side of the Atlantic (from a UK vantage point that is). While Matt Hills has rightly pointed to some issues concerning the terminology Abercrombie and Longhurst employed, they provide a very useful map of the last field of popular audiences which helps us to juxtapose and position various studies of different fan groups and cultures meaningfully in relation to each other. In some of these studies, in particular those focusing on whom Abercrombie and Longhurst describe as ‘enthusiasts’, the emphasis will be very much on community, in others it won’t. I think both are about fans, both are engaging in different forms of fandom, but at the same time, they are different forms of engagement with different social and cultural consequences. I think this only underlines the significance of studying fandom across the spectrum of audiences or popular media.

Kristina: On the other hand, there is also a spectrum between the individual fan who has a deep investment in the beloved text and the people with a more casual enjoyment, and it is that distinction that seems crucial to me. As a result, I do wonder whether just liking a show, following a sports team, or listening to a band isn’t a type of activity that is so universal that the category of fan becomes emptied out. I don’t want to border police and define who gets to be called a fan and who doesn’t, but I fear that an all-too-inclusive definition would become useless for any study or categorization if the definition were so wide that noone would *not* be included. If fan simply denotes someone liking something, then there’s really no need to create a separate category.

Cornel: I am not sure why the fact that many of us, maybe all, are fans in one form or another “empties out” the term. I would make a similar point here as in my discussion of Fiske’s (1992) essay that moves towards a normative definition of fans: I can’t see any benefit in using a definition that corresponds with pre-formulated expectations. Put more crudely than you are suggesting (but it illustrates the point), if we define fans as “good consumers’, then naturally only “good consumers” are fans!

I think this is not so much a question of who is a fan but when we are a fan. Saying that most of us are fans doesn’t mean we are all fans all the time, but rather that being a fan describes a particular segment of our engagement with media and those around us – an engagement that I would argue derives its significance not least from the fact that it spills over into other social and cultural fields, in the way the reading position of the fan is more and more evident (or maybe we just more and more realise it is) in other fields of cultural and political engagement (see Jonathan’s essay in Fandom for example).

Comments

  1. Robin Reid says:

    I am responding most directly to Cornell’s point which mirrors one made by Will Brooker, and to a lesser extent by some of the others:

    I actually struggle with the usefulness of introducing gender here as the key dividing line between fans and fan scholars alike and can only echo Will Brooker’s earlier comments. I think there are two different questions: The first one is whether we can distinguish between types of either male and female fan behaviour or, secondly, between types of male and female approaches to the study of fandom. Both, in my eyes, are unsustainably essentialist suggestions which I outright reject.

    I suggest that two male academics who are at fairly high levels of scholarship and rank at their universities with the number of publications these men have can so easily reject the usefulness of gender as a “dividing line” because they are on the right side of the line. That is, the side that has historically received the most access to higher education, academic jobs, scholarly publications, etc.; more directly, the side that has the most to lose if we consider the “game” a zero-sum one, with opposing teams at bat.

    As a result of my frustration a while ago with the dismissal of gender in this discussion, I posted a list of cites detailing gender inequalities in academia in the U.S.: here, at my academic LJ.

    I do not know about the U.K. although I would like to hear more.

    As a feminist, I do not have the luxury of deciding gender isn’t important. Most women in academia don’t. My focus on women in academia is only because of the context of this discussion: I am well aware that women academics are privileged relative to many other groups of women, and men, but for now, let’s focus on this group since that’s the focus of this discussion. Statistics also show that white women have benefitted more than women of color from affirmative action and changes at U.S. universities.

    I have been reading discussions over gender exclusions and marginalizations at media conferences for about two years now–all posted by women. I have been experiencing it as a woman in academia since I started my first year in college in 1973. I know that despite the fact that 60% of English/literature doctorates are granted to women in the U.S., it is rare to find a department even approaching 30-40% female tenured faculty. Women are grouped in the lower paying, lower status, service jobs, not to mention not tending to receive tenure and promotion at rates similar to equivalent men.

    As Henry notes in his original post about this series of discussions:

    This media attention on “fan boy” culture comes at a moment of increasing debate within the aca-fan community about the gender dimensions of fan research. I wrote briefly about this topic a while back in response to some comments which got made at the Flow conference about the segregation of fan boy and fan girl scholars who are writing on similar topics but through different language, around different topics, and more often than not, on different panels. And I followed up a few days later with a second post on this topic. The discussion of topics such as the complexity of cult media narratives, transmedia storytelling, engagement, and convergence are being discussed seperately from long-standing work around fan fiction and fan culture more generally. There is some risk of taking up the industry’s own atomistic conception of the fan rather than embracing the more collective vision represented by the concept of fandom. More generally, as I have written here before, phrases like “the architecture of participation” that surround web 2.0 suggest the degree to which network culture is really fan culture without the stigma.

    I would suggest that this debate about whether gender differences are “useful” is not an abstract one about the usefulness of talking about gender as an analytical category in our scholarship. It also involves lived social lives in cultures where women have been for years excluded and marginalized from academia, and where those patterns still exist and may be affecting everything from graduate admissions to hiring to tenure to promotion to who gets published and who gets cited the most.

    I do not believe fan studies is exclusively sexist. I believe that the patterns I am seeing mirror larger social/cultural ones in academia and in society at large. But if we’re not doing critical thinking about gender and other areas of exclusion/marginalization, then what are we doing?

    If we break up the original teams by (roughly) academic standing (acknowledging that a Radical Disability Blogger and Independent Scholars are to different extents outside that system), then what might we see?

    NOTE: This list is not complete. It draws on the original list published by Henry, with aditions from the actual “rounds” which have gone up. I plan to keep adding to it as new rounds go up; the last I heard, there were enough people to have the debate run through November. Feel free to correct me on any point I may have gotten wrong.

    Radical Disabililty Blogger

    Alicia “Kestrell” Verlager disability and media technology blogger

    Independent Scholar Women: 3 Men: 1

    Kristina Busse (PhD) Independent Scholar

    Karen Hellekson, (Ph.D.) Independent Scholar

    Deborah Kaplan, (M.A.) Independent Scholar

    Martyn Pedler, Independent Scholar

    Ranks in U.K. system (relative? unsure of correlation with U.S. system)

    Senior: Males 3

    Will Brooker, Senior Lecturer, Film Studies, Kingston University

    Cornell Sandvoss, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, University of Surrey

    Matt Hills Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies Cardiff University

    Lecturer: Female 1

    Christian McCrea, Lecturer in Games and Interactivity, Swinburne University

    U.S. and similar sounding U.K. ranks (realize tenure is different in U.S., so feel free to correct me).

    Department Head/Chairs Women: 2 (Brooker?)

    Catherine Driscoll, Chair, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies

    Roberta Pearson Chair, Institute of Film and Television Studies, University of Nottingham

    Professor Woman: 1 Man: 1

    Robin Anne Reid, Professor, Department of Literature and Languages, Texas A&M

    University-Commerce

    Mark Jancovich, Professor, Film and Television Studies, University of East Anglia

    Associate Professor Women: 3

    Nancy Baym, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies, University of

    Kansas

    Francesca Coppa, Associate Professor, English, Muhlenberg College

    Robert Kozinets, Associate Professor, Marketing, York University

    Assistant Professor Women: 6 Men: 6

    Rhiannon Bury, Assistant Professor, Women’s Studies, University of Waterloo

    Melissa Click, Assistant Professor, Communications, University of Missouri-Columbia

    C. Lee Harrington, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Miami University in Ohio.

    Louisa Stein, Assistant Professor, San Diego

    Rebecca Tushnet, Assistant Professor, Georgetown University Law Center

    Cynthia W. Walker Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, St. Peter’s College

    Jonathan Gray, Assistant Professor, Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University

    Sean Griffin, Assistant Professor, Cinema-Television Studies, Southern Methodist University

    Dereck Kompare, Assistant Professor, Cinema-Television, Southern Methodist University

    Jason Mittell, Assistant Professor, American Studies and Film & Media Culture, Middlebury

    College

    Aswin Punathambekar, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan

    Bob Rehak, Assistant Professor, Film and Media Studies, Swarthmore College

    Ph.D. Man: 1

    Robert Jones, Ph.D. NYU

    Ph.D. Candidate Women: 6 Men: 1

    Abigail Derecho, Ph.D. Candidate, Comparative Literary Studies and Radio/Television/Film,

    Northwestern University

    Anne Kustritz Ph.D. Candidate, American Culture, University of Michigan

    Lisa Morimoto, Ph.D. Candidate, Indiana University

    Ksenia Prassolova Ph.D. Candidate, University of Kaliningrad

    Julie Levin Russo Ph.D. Candidate, Brown

    Catherine Tosenberger, PhD. Candidate, University of Florida

    Derek Johnson, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Wisconsin, Madison

    MA Men: 2

    Sam Ford M.A. CMS, MIT

    Geoffrey Long, M.A., CMS, MIT.

    I’ll post some more about my observations on patterns later on, but what about you all? See anything that strikes you as meaningful to discuss about gender and lines?

    For one thing, the women outnumber the men by a serious number, so if Henry is really serious about always pairing male/female, I hope he’s found a bunch more men. Since I know two women who have volunteered, and one woman I hope will, the disparity (as far as I know) is only growing.

  2. I actually struggle with the usefulness of introducing gender here as the key dividing line between fans and fan scholars alike and can only echo Will Brooker’s earlier comments.

    What I tell you three times is true? (I think not.)

    Let’s think this analogy through for and imagine we would suggest that there are forms of ‘white’ and ‘black’ fandom. This would be nothing short of utterly racist!

    Wait–if a music awards ceremony covered pop, rock, and country but excluded rap, hip hop, and jazz, it would be “utterly racist” to complain about black music being excluded? Is this some sort of bizarre world I’ve woken up in? I can’t even make sense of this argument.

    As an empirical matter, I don’t think there are “black” and “white” forms of fandom, other than that fans of color are more aware of racial issues in fandom and more likely to speak up about them, but I certainly don’t see anything racist in considering the possibility–and quite a bit that is potentially racist in refusing to consider the possibility. (Indeed, if there were/are black forms of fandom, my white privilege might well lead me to not notice them and/or dismiss them as “not really fandom.”)

    The neo-liberal (which is to say, neo-conservative) strain of “Let’s be colorblind/genderblind” that has run throughout much of the male side of this discussion has moved beyond disturbing (where it was two weeks ago, after Will’s comments) and has achieved downright scary. Coming from Chief Justice Roberts, I expect it. But this is the best of what male-authored fan studies has to offer? I’m beginning to despair for my gender.

  3. I agree with Robin. Let us approach Cornel’s point another way: saying that fandom is either “black” or “white” is both essentialist and reductionist, but saying that the racial distinctions “black” and “white” are somehow negligible is, quite frankly, erroneous. Asserting “colour-blindness” does not do anyone any favours. As one LJ user recently put it: “Blindness is not a moral positive. Blindness is an inability to perceive.”

    Similarly, asserting “gender-blindness” does a disservice to both fans and fan studies. It may be all well and good to achieve nominal equality within our fandoms, our schools, or our homes, but the fact remains that women, even Big Important Guest Bloggers, still make on average 77 cents of every dollar that their male counterparts do. And that’s just in the United States. Roughly fifty percent of the world’s population does not have the ability to ignore or forget a gender divide, despite how much they might wish to live in a world where such a divide did not matter.

    Recognizing gender does not make one sexist. Rather, recognition is the sign of a conscious, aware human being. Further contemplation and understanding of the implications of those recognizable differences helps create a socially-conscious, socially-aware human being.

    This is not to say that I think we should focus solely on gender as a means of qualifying fandom studies. Gender is not the only interesting thing about fandom, and it’s not the only interesting thing about those who study it. Rather, we should make room for a pantheon of voices no matter how they may approach the issues. It is the only way to achieve genuine dialogue within the discipline, and the only way to give students, colleagues, and other thinkers a variety of perspectives from which to choose. What frightens me is that today I read about fans who thought that Henry Jenkins was the only game in town in the 1980’s and ’90’s. They had never heard of Constance Penley or Camille Bacon-Smith. They had no idea that women had been writing on this subject for years, doing good work and getting it published and laying groundwork for the very conversation we’re engaged in today. What does that say?

  4. Scott Ellington says:

    Would “friendom” be a useful term to differentiate the motivating focus of participants and the scholars who study them?

  5. Bob Rehak says:

    Kristina and Cornell, I enjoyed your exchange, but it seems as though a basic difference in your approaches stops the conversation before it can really get started. (Of course, this may have more to do with discursive limits imposed by the format, as Cornell notes.) Anyway, am I correct in seeing a conceptual split between your approaches embodied in these two statements?

    Kristina: “When I personally talk about fanboys and fangirls, it’s much less about actual biobodies than it is about certain ways of engaging with source texts and certain ways of theorizing and studying fans.”

    ~versus~

    Cornell: “I think there are two different questions: The first one is whether we can distinguish between types of either male and female fan behaviour or, secondly, between types of male and female approaches to the study of fandom. Both, in my eyes, are unsustainably essentialist suggestions which I outright reject.”

    It seems to me that Kristina’s approach opens up the possibility of accounting for gendered difference in fan/fandom activity (whether “gender” is defined in terms of “biobodies” or a more performative, Butlerian sense). Cornell, on the other hand, seems to see any distinction on the basis of gender as “unsustainably essentialist.” Without endorsing one perspective over the other, I’d like to see this Gordian Knot cut — or else we’ll just be talking past each other.

    Perhaps one way to resolve the dilemma is to consider the interpretation that Kristina’s POV is founded on inclusion while Cornell’s POV builds itself around a standard of exclusion. Kristina’s POV allows for gendered difference in fandom and hence makes it “visible,” or at least discussible. By contrast, Cornell’s POV does not allow for gendered difference — or, troublingly, for racial difference — in fandom to the same degree, and hence takes it off the table as a viable topic of conversation. The debate threatens to degenerate into a sort of ontological back-and-forth (“gendered fandom exists!” “no it doesn’t!” “yes it does!”). If we take these orientations (and I certainly may be wrong in attributing them!) themselves as reflections of a “gendered” approach to fandom & fan studies, where does that get us?

    Finally, we might add to the heap of questions Robin Reid’s useful anatomization of this very project’s participants. Might the differences between Kristina and Cornell reflect larger institutional “symptoms” of gender: the pervasive but often invisible lines of academic distinction and hierarchy imposed through “lived social lives in cultures where women have been for years excluded and marginalized from academia”?

    Let me be more direct (and hopefully not in any way that gives offense): Kristina is not only a woman, but an independent scholar. Cornell is not only a man, but a senior lecturer at a university. To what degree, then, can we read their positions as emblematic not just of gendered perspectives, but institutional ones?

  6. (I posted this comment on Robin’s site as well – can some tech guru come up with a unified RSS feed of comments from these discussions?)

    Robin – thanks for posting this. As a participant in Henry’s dialogues and a somewhat reluctant member of the “fanboy”/scholar tribe, I agree with you that throwing out gender is not productive. But what I take as Will & Cornell’s points is not “gender doesn’t matter” but “gender is more than the identity of the writer.” The potential problem with Henry’s initial formulation (albeit tongue-in-cheek) of pink vs. blue teams is that it does essentialize participants based on their gender rather than frame the dialogue as exploring gendered practices in a broader context (which I believe is where the conversations have actually turned).

    One broader context to keep in mind in your analysis of the institutional affiliations & ranks of participants: the fields of fan studies, media studies, and cultural studies are highly gendered within the academy. I believe we discussed this a bit on Kristina’s blog months ago, but it’s a crucial point – even for the “blue team,” our academic locales & habitus are often coded as feminine within the broader academy. In my own experiences, I’m seen as a “lightweight” by many colleagues outside my fields because of my methods (humanistic & qualitative), my scholarly object (TV & popular culture) and my pedigree (Communication Studies, a “less legitimate” discipline in many eyes). This is not to discount my own gender, but this location within the academy is analogous to the daytime TV schedule in many eyes – a less-than-serious, subjective, low-valued, and hence feminized realm. Additionally I would also mention (which again echoes earlier conversations) that the majority of men on this roster would self-identify as feminists – at least those whom I know personally probably would.

    My ultimate point: the gendered differences between male & female fan scholars matter, but those differences are far more minor within this realm than almost any other academic discipline, and we should build on the vast ground that we share more than constructing faultlines along what divides us. Thanks for this conversation!

    -Jason

  7. Bob Rehak says:

    BTW, is it Cornel or Cornell? It’s listed both ways in the original post, and web searches of faculty pages, book listings, etc., return both spellings. In any case, no disrespect intended.

  8. Robin and Bob, you both bring up my status in opposition to Cornel’s and I’m glad you did. In fact, my bio initially had a lot of info about family life and the like (all of which I’d already elaborated upon in a previous post), but in the end it became obvious to me that for all that I dislike the fact that I’m all too much representative of the overeducated and underemployed fan so typical of Henry’s early work, it also allows me a sense of freedom in my work and my engagement (fannish and academic) that I’d lack otherwise. Because I’m effectively always an amateur, I can’t help but think that that shapes the way I look at academia, and the fact that that “amateur” status is (at least for me but I’d argue not rarely in general) tied into gender issues indeed means that my outlook is quite different.

    So, Bob, I think you may be correct that Cornel and I might perform what we argue, might represent the very “ideal” versions of what I shorthand as gendered approaches but you might just as well attribute to institutional differences, because in my world, they’re often connected! I’m not sure if given more time the two of us would have come to any sort of agreement, because for all our theoretically similar backgrounds (from Adorno and Habermas to Iser and Jauss : ), our idea of what constitutes fandom and what is important to study are so fundamentally different. And, Alixtii, I think this is where the “blindness” comes in: if the focus is always on the individual *fan*, then everyone is interpellated in multiple, always different, ways, and it’s near impossible to see patterns.

    Which brings us to the last point, namely, that the reason I’m such a loud and seemingly one-sided opponent of the “Fans” approach is not that I don’t think it’s important–I think everything is worthy of study, and I’ve spent too much time being a good Lacanian not to appreciate a bit of psychoanalysis in my fan studies. It’s that I worry that some things become more influential than others, due to those very institutional imbalances addressed above. I actually disagree with Madeline that it is primarily gender that makes people know Henry and ignore Constance and Camille, but I take her point. On the other hand, I think what we’re doing here is immensely helpful on a general and personal level, i.e., I doubt Cornel’s and my paths would have crossed otherwise (or rather, I read Fans when it first came out but I’m not sure he’d have ever picked up anything by me).

  9. I actually disagree with Madeline that it is primarily gender that makes people know Henry and ignore Constance and Camille, but I take her point.

    Allow me to clarify: I do not think it’s Henry’s gender that makes him more recognizable, but rather his work within the public sphere. Henry has appeared before Congress and on network television and in documentaries to speak about controversial issues like video games and youth violence. In our current climate (and that of the 1990’s), those issues will always receive significant attention. But it’s also part of our current climate that Henry is more likely to be treated as a reliable narrator in part because of his gender: given the same background and achievements, would a female fan theorist have been chosen by Congress? (Perhaps it’s time for a “Jenkins’ sister” thought-experiment?) Asking that question does not make one sexist, it is simply another step toward living more fully inside reality.

    Whatever feeds notoriety, in the end what one does with said notoriety is most important. And I’m glad Henry is hosting this debate. I’m also glad that we’re having as meaty a conversation as we are now, because I think that in doing so the debate is accomplishing its intended goal.

  10. I don’t know how productive it is to continue having this argument about how “we” see that the schism is about gender whereas “they” don’t. It’s telling that Kristina explicitly stated that “fanboys and fangirls [is] much less about actual biobodies than it is about certain ways of engaging with source texts and certain ways of theorizing and studying fans,” and Cornell STILL responded with an accusation of essentialism. I wonder if it might be useful to map out the continuum of divergent practices first and foremost, and THEN approach the question of how this divergence maps onto gender (or not). Off the top of my head, some of the differences we’ve discussed have been:

    knowledge vs. relationships (for example, Sarah’s comparison of battlestarwiki and livejournal on our BSG panel)

    derivative vs. transformative (this came up a lot in Round Two

    venerating vs. creative (terms used by Anne Kustritz in her dissertation)

    individual vs. community (see also Lauren’s excellent critique of Jenkins)

    Obviously these binaries are differently gendered and differently valued, and we can THEN ask what mechanisms lead to their particular demographics (as well as the demographics of academic fan studies) — the fact that, in this day and age, the gender gap is still as marked as it is seems remarkable to me and worthy of explanation. Not to make apologies to the Blue Team, it’s just that I DON’T think “our” argument IS essentialist at all, but I see how shorthanding the debate as fangirl vs. fanboy makes it SEEM that way (and thus hampers the discussion). And I think the moments where these gendered practices DON’T align with gendered people are as informative as the far greater number of instances where they do. I was trying to articulate the difference between lesbian fans in femslash fandom and lesbian fans who participate as commenters on http://afterellen.com and suchlike, and it occurred to me that the latter are a female equivalent of fanboys.

    [xposted @ fandebate]

  11. Madeline, I think we both agree with one another! And as I’ve said before, this debate might just do what it set out to do–maybe not in the debates themselves but possibly in the discussions around it, in the connections made through it, in that first not-so-gentle nudge…

    And I agree that Henry’s being male certainly doesn’t hurt…Jason foreground the feminized status of TV studies and yet it’s much easier to “slum” if you’re not whatever subculture/minority you’re studying…I just taught queer and gender studies and students seemed to trust me *more* because I was neither queer nor trangendered…a topsy turvy world for someone who came of (academic) age with identity politics…

    Jason, I take similar exceptions with Henry’s initial formulation, and had it been my project, I might have let people self-define (which might have put some women quite clearly in the fanboy camp, for example). But I do think we could hopefully get beyond that initial essentialist moment, first off, because it seemed most viable to get this project running (and running it is : ) and secondly, because actual biological gender *does* matter in the end…if not in one’s approach (which might be as fanboyish as can be) then still possibly in getting hired, getting tenure, etc.

  12. Cornel Sandvoss says:

    As Kristina mentioned we both have a soft spot for Hans-Robert Jauss and if I ever have to teach a class on what exactly is meant by pre-existing schemes of perception and the horizon of expectation again, this discussion will do nicely :-). Anyway, since this is an expository text after all, I will embark on the vain (in both senses of the word) attempt to uphold some limits of interpretation of what I actually said…

    There seems to be a hunger among some participants to have a clear cut, binary debate in which someone says that gender doesn’t matter, that there is no discrimination, no question of power and disempowerment and resistance that concern female fans, etc. But while I can see how that would make for a heated debate, I am afraid that’s not what I said or by any means would want to say.

    I did not suggest that gender doesn’t matter in popular media consumption – far from it. And it’s a laughable suggestion that audience studies scholars, regardless of whether they are male or female, are not aware of Bacon-Smith’s or Penley’s work. That’s a simply straw target. Speaking for my self for a moment (let alone Matt’s Fan Cultures which surely has one of the most comprehensive bibliographies of any work published in the field), I use both Penley and Bacon-Smith repeatedly in my Polity book, Bacon-Smith even in my earlier monograph on football fandom. And on the note of what we have read or not, let’s reserve judgment until we have actually done so. Those who have read The Mirror of Consumption know that it features a section dedicated to fandom and gender, and forms of female fandom are discussed throughout the book (73 times). The fact that I happily agreed to participate in this debate should also underline that I see it as an important area of study.

    The point I made in The Mirror of Consumption as well as here is that the fact that gender matters, and indeed matters profoundly, does not per se warrant a dichotomous division of fans into fanboys and fangirls or fanmales and fanfemales, or whatever we want to call them. Both power and identity reflected and reinforced in fan consumption and productivity are far more complex entities in which a range of factors come into play, both coincidentally on an individual and collective level.

    This also is the point I sought to illustrate with reference to ethnicity – of course ethnicity matters! (and I am amazed as to how one could have missed out on me saying this – check the paragraph where I refer to Sarah Thornton’s work!) But saying it matters, doesn’t mean it’s a meaningful way to categorise fans! To explain the point again with the rather random example used above: Hip Hop appears to me to be a genre (though this is of course a problematic term too), but not a monolithic fan culture. Nor is it quintessentially black or white as far as its performers or fans go – and by the same token, we cannot claim that black fans will do x, y and z as opposed to white fans who do a, b. c. The point then is that for instance in relation to hip hop, ethnicity clearly matters, but it doesn’t mean it makes sense to introduce a fundamental distinction between black and white fans – if we did so we would make race the only, or at least the predominant factor structuring fan cultures, marginalizing others. Our fandoms, fan tastes and fan practices however are structured by a whole host of different, yet interlocking factors: class, age, gender, ethnicity, nationality indeed, educational capital, to name only a few. In each fan cultures some of these factors will matter relatively more than in others. To impose a rigid division into male and female fandom (or of black and white fans for that matter) therefore just doesn’t reflect the empirical realities I have encountered in either in the overwhelming majority of studies I have read nor my own research with fan audiences.

    Moreover, what are those uniquely blue/pink attributes of male fandom vs female fandom and vice versa? I think as we go through them, few of them seem to hold up. And if we then say, ‘oh but we don’t point this to biological gender’ (which of course is trangressable and socially constructed, yet still a fairly inescapable classification to most of us) and the actual point is to distinguish between fans which operate in a communal context and who are textually productive and others that don’t – and which is a distinction worth making and which I would support, though I would still claim that they share fundamental forms of semiotic and psychological engagement, if with different texts – then gender is simply the wrong concept and terminology to pin this distinction to. In fact that distinction pretty much returns to the audience-to-producer taxonomy Abercrombie and Longhurst suggest. I think adding gender as a fourth dimension to their model could be helpful, but that doesn’t mean we should replace their taxonomy of degree with a dichotomy based on a distinction of kind.

    There is one other point I would like to make and which I take a little more personal I am afraid. I think it is among the less fortunate aspects of fan studies that for all its strengths it seems to invite a certain degree of self-centeredness that is irritating to both those inside and outside the field: rather than debating fans, the discussion here has moved fairly quickly to fan scholars or academics studying fandom and who gets a full time job when and where.

    I can’t see any sampling rationale in the list Robin Reid posted here, it certainly isn’t comprehensive. The suggestions that this male Nomenklatura of male fan scholars is running a global Old Boys network would be something to laugh about, if it didn’t came with the more insulting remark that we enjoy the luxury of ignoring gender and achieved professional positions because of being male and on the back of female colleagues. No, senior lecturer isn’t a particularly high rank in the UK system (Lecturer-Senior Lecturer-Reader-Chair) and, frankly, the level of academic salaries in the UK is such that hardly any US based scholar would take a UK lectureship! Moreover, as a junior faculty member I don’t think I want to entertain a Chair telling me how disadvantaged she is! The point is the same as above: in a complex interplay of sociodemographic factors most of us are both advantaged and disadvantaged at the same time. The very fact that we all read this and have access to a personal computer and the internet, places us pretty much on the “right side” of the global digital divide. Those of you who are native English speakers seem to be at a very distinct advantage here as well (let’s not forget that your list might be balanced in terms gender, but it hardy is when it comes to representing the four to five billion people whose native language isn’t English) – and any country other than the US and the UK doesn’t even feature in the list of institutional affiliations (though on the point of a lack of cultural/geographical awareness, last time I checked Swinburne was in Australia). With multiple divides and fault lines of power in the contemporary western world, we all can point to some areas in which we are advantaged or disadvantaged – seeking to overcome all these fault lines – and gender still ranks near or at the top here – is an important and constructive social strategy and I hope this discussion contributes to it; pointing the finger at the next person in contrast appears to me to be rather less of a socially progressive practice and rather more a not very endearing personal attribute.

  13. Kristina, I’m really fascinated with your idea of letting people self-define and whether women would be in the fanboy camp, etc., instead of deciding who is a “fanboy” and who is a “fangirl” based on biology. I am assuming your idea here is that “fanboy” and “fangirl” involve a different type of relationship with the text, different motivations for engagement, etc.

    Do you think that one can be both a fanboy and a fangirl? I had hoped some of those questions would be raised in the discussions of sports fandom, wrestling, soaps, etc., that Lee and I brought up last week, but people didn’t seem to engage in comments with our post for whatever reason, so I thought I’d bring it back up here.

  14. Alexis Lothian says:

    Cornel said:

    To impose a rigid division into male and female fandom (or of black and white fans for that matter) therefore just doesn’t reflect the empirical realities I have encountered in either in the overwhelming majority of studies I have read nor my own research with fan audiences.

    And yet here a lot of people are, suggesting that one of the ways in which gendered divisions do play out in fandom is in the fairly broadly understood sense of “fanboy” and “fangirl” modes of engagement, often be discussed with tongue firmly in cheek and yet perceived to exist all the same. If these gendered practices aren’t a meaningful way to categorise fans, why do so many fans find them to be useful and interesting categories? They might not be useful for every single project ever carried out in the field of fan studies, but they may at least be useful to some.

    It’s true that this discussion is conflating a lot of questions (threaded discussions over at the livejournal mirror make it easier to separate out one issue from another), but I really don’t think that anyone is arguing for the existence of two monolothic, gendered fannish camps. What we are arguing is that there are differently gendered ways of participating in fandom, and that one especially gendered distinction seems to be based around a primary focus on fan production vs a primary veneration (to borrow one of the terms Julie used) of the source text, a distinction which often seems to correspond to a focus on communal or individual engagement. Of course, that isn’t necessarily gendered; but if it is widely perceived to be a gendered distinction within fannish (sub)cultures, surely that perception is worthy of something other than dismissal?

    To address race again for a moment: there may not be “white” and “black” and “*insert ethnic grouping here*” ways of being fannish that are clearly delineated, but within particular fan cultures fans of colour and antiracist allies do approach texts with particular raced dynamics (First People of Color in SF and Fantasy Blog Carnival has a collection of interesting links relating to discussions around race in fandom). I think that examining the ways that raced power dynamics play out in fan cultures, and how they intersect with gendered modes of fannish engagement, would be another very useful project in addition to the exploration of gendered dynamics in fandom and fan studies that’s taking place here, but using race as an analogy for gender makes me uncomfortable. I agree that we all need to think about intersections, about the multiple ways we are all privileged and disadvantaged in different contexts; and about what our particular positions of privilege and disadvantage enable us to see, and what they blind us to.

    Sam Ford said:

    I am assuming your idea here is that “fanboy” and “fangirl” involve a different type of relationship with the text, different motivations for engagement, etc.

    Do you think that one can be both a fanboy and a fangirl?

    I would argue a categorical ‘yes’ for this; certainly I would definitely say I engage in both fangirl and fanboy practices, sometimes with reference to the same fannish object. For me, it is largely a question of context; I’ll be a fanboy geeking out over tiny details in a source text with some groups of friends, a fangirl getting excited over the reframing of a particular thematic in fanfic with others. I’m with Kristina in feeling that the fanboy/fangirl dynamic is defined by the question of whether the show is enough, to be enjoyed as an end in itself, or whether it’s a jumping-off point for a set of texts and community practices that might end up eclipsing the importance of the originating show.

    I’ve found it possible to enjoy a far wider range of television since beginning to participate in fangirl culture, because being invested in fan production means that I have a set of alternative lenses available through which I can find pleasure in shows which, taken on their own terms, I would find too ideologically disagreeable to fully enjoy. Of course, then the fact that I’m enjoying things I find ideologically or politically disagreeable opens up a whole nother can of worms, which is the issue I’ve been talking about as ‘the politics of affect’ with Kristina.

  15. Cornel, I think I disagree with your hip hop example–it seems to me that race would very clearly function as a useful and meaningful, as an *important* category with which to look at performers as well as fans. In fact, I recall in the case of rap that there were quite a few discussions from within and outside the community that found Eminem’s non-POC status noteworthy, for example. But I’d like someone who knows more about race theory and music to take up that discussion.

    I do think that you’re right that we nearly are speaking at cross purposes, and it is important that we not ascribe false and binary positions to you, but in turn I’m not sure I’ve succeeded in getting across why and how gender strikes me as important.

    You are correct, of course, that a game of who has more privilege on a one by one case is ludicrous. As I just said on Fandebate:

    I really don’t want to make gender the only trajectory along which power gets divided…in my case a lot of the issues align (institutional power, gender, fan interests, etc), but in other ways they clearly don’t (sexual identity, family income etc). So it’s important to acknowledge these different issues, but I do want to maintain that they do correlate and cluster, i.e., lower institutional power, lower academic reputation, and gender do seem to correlate somehow…for whatever reasons!

    I think the most interesting direction the two of us are/were going is the question of individual/community, and it struck me that you’re both broader and more narrow than I am, i.e., you focus in more on individual fan practices and (as a result?) get a looser, broader definition of fandom. And there are ways in which this is useful and others in which it is not.

    What I’d like to make sure is that I got across *why* it’s not always useful, why I and others (granted, self-centered as we may be, but aren’t we all? : ) strongly believe that an increased focus on an expanded version of “fan” might harm/negatively affect the more narrow groups of which we are part and which we study.

    In the end, it’s fairly selfish indeed. It’s a listen to *me* call in an environment where “we” feel disadvantaged on a variety of levels…and one of them happens to be gender and some of the systemic realities that come along with it.

    Sam, I totally think you can be fangirl and fanboy simultaneously! And you’re right that last week’s discussion should have explored that, since your fandoms definitely don’t align as neatly (as if any fandom ever does : ). I’m not sure you’re following the fan debate discussion, but Heyiya just added an interesting way to possibly negotiate these gender tropes by introducing butch/femme into the equation:

    what if we think of fanboy/fangirl as more like butch and femme than male and female? That would make fanboyish/fangirlishness an always mobile, often slippery axis through which we can understand and analyse our own gendered practices, rather than a ‘choice’ of two biologically and/or culturally determined, reified and stringently policed ways of being? In my own fannish engagements, I recognise myself as both fangirl and fanboy, depending on the object of fandom and on the community or subculture (real or imagined, in person or online) within which my engagements are practiced. (source)

  16. Alexis, you raise what could potentially be an intriguing question about both fanboy and fangirl discourses. Do both involve an inherent need for sociality, just in different ways? Does geeking out with fellow movie enthusiasts about the minute details of a text bear need to be a social event, or would you say that you can be a fanboy more in private than a fangirl? But I do like your point about being able to engage in both types of fandom creating a more enjoyable experience.

    And Kristina, I’ve been enjoying the latest round of debate on the LJ site as well. I’m quite fascinated in this round of debate because I actually am publishing a chapter in an upcoming book edited by Cornel (organized before I ever came to MIT) looking at the negotiations of defining masculinity in pro wrestling texts. I’ll respond in full to your other comments over at the LJ site.

  17. Just to build on Kristina/Heyiya’s mention of butch/femme as another way of framing popular culture engagement: one of the best works of feminist analysis of pop culture consumption I’ve read in recent years is Robyn Warhol’s brief but excellent book Having a Good Cry: Effeminate Feelings and Pop-Culture Forms. For some reason (probably numerous), Robyn’s work has not spread its influence into broader cultural studies scholarship beyond the feminist narratology world where she’s well known, which is a shame. But she offers the category of “effeminate” as an emotional register that viewers/readers of any gender can embrace; while she argues that there’s not a corresponding masculine term, I think “butch” comes pretty close. Her model of studying the possibilities of reception could help clear up these muddy waters – check it out!

  18. Jonathan Gray says:

    Late to the party, as always.

    Can I just correct something from Robin’s list first: Lee Harrington is not an Assistant Professor. She’s a full Professor, tenured, and Chair of her Dept of Sociology and Gerontology at Miami University. Quite young to be where she is too: all hail, Lee!

    Robin’s list more generally needs to take into account age, in fact. Of course, for instance, Henry’s got a better academic position than Louisa, or Roberta than I, because Henry and Roberta have been around longer. I’m not sure I see the patterns she sees, though, with, for instance, more Profs and Associates (ie: those with tenure) who are female. Besides, there are inevitable exceptions — for instance, comparing anyone to Will is a little unfair, since the man is a publication machine. Surely we need a larger sample.

    The wider point, though, is not at all that gender doesn’t matter, since Robin’s experiment would *undoutedly* reveal an Old Boys Club in academia as a whole. And I don’t think Will or Cornel, in debating *how* gender matters *in fandom* ever said that it *doesn’t*. The point is a question about *how* it matters, and it seems the whole discussion is on safer ground once we accept on faith that anyone who has taken part in this discussion in the first place believes that it matters in some way.

    Just as using the small group assembled here to read patterns of how power works in academia is problematic, so too might it be problematic to read us as a reflective sample of gendered behaviors. And that’s the point on which I’d debate how easily behavior splits into boy and girl, even if boy and girl aren’t biological (and I’m especially unhappy when the communal, friendly, team-player side is coded female, while the individualistic side is male. Given cultural studies’ prevailing political leanings, it doesn’t take too much to see men as the nasty capitalists here, and women the funky socialists)

  19. robin reid says:

    List, age, etc.

    Jonathan said, “Can I just correct something from Robin’s list first: Lee Harrington is not an Assistant Professor. She’s a full Professor, tenured, and Chair of her Dept of Sociology and Gerontology at Miami University. Quite young to be where she is too: all hail, Lee!”

    Technically, you need to correct *Henry’s* list. I cut and pasted from his original list (added info on a few people who did not appear on the original list. People may have changed status since the list first went up, but perhaps clear information was not send originally?

    Since I never claimed that this list is representative, or anything more than a way to rethink how some of the discussion was going, and I had no access to anybody’s age (I can guess about publication history–Nina Baym has clearly been publishing longer than others, etc), I’m not sure whether gathering more data would be useful.

    Think about this: why was it necessary to list not only our names and disciplines, but our academic status? It was put into the discussion from the start, along with the “pink” and “blue” team language. Language matters.

    The age thing: if people want to volunteer ages, we can think about it. It might be significant. Women tend to take longer to progress through grad school (as a group!). I am 51. I graduated high school in 1973. I did not finish my doctorate until 1992. I am a little extreme (and my reasons did not involve a husand or children, but stomping out of various programs because of sexism and not committing to a doctoral program until I could do feminist work), but I would be very leery of assuming anything about the correlation of age with professional standing (especially since I know the ages of some of the women, and they are not the traditional age graduate students, doctoral candidates, who go straight through from undergrad to garduate school to searching for an academic job by age 30 or under). There is no doubt that women’s career histories in academia as a group differ from men’s.

    And ID still do not see why I am required to believe that everyone in fact believes “gender” matters in some way given that women operating in the field have perceived their treatment to be different than males, and when that difference occurs rhetorically in this discussion as well. I have said from the start that these patterns are not unique to fan studies, media studies, but reflect academic practices as a whole. However, none of those will change if there is not some critical discussion on an on-going basis, and I’m tired of the women doing the discussion among ourselves. If you (general you) are a man who is committed to quality in scholarship and academic and life, then I am not talking about you, and you need not get defensive about “saving” the others.

    I have not seen any of the women academics (yet? perhaps they’re out there, they just aven’t had the time to come post) either here or on LJ saying anything but thanks for posting this list; thanks for intervening in the discussion; interesting list; etc. I am not saying “all the men on this list are sexist.” I am saying, the relative different accesses women as a group tend to have to the resources and perks and privileges of academia can be a part of this discussion as well as the theories.

  20. Jonathan, all your points are well taken, so I want to respond to the one most directly addressing my argument: I actually wouldn’t completely disavow that connection you accuse me of making : ) I don’t have the empirical studies (the drawback of coming from a literary rather than a sociological/anthropological background), but I know Cindy Walker will talk more about her quite comprehensive work on that subject in her discussion next week. Instead, I’ll hark back to Louisa and Robert’s discussion and the stunning differences in attitude and development between machinima and vids. The two are not the same, but they are alike enough to make a valid comparison, I’d argue, and what stuns me most, coming from vidding, is the public exposure and commercial interest that I seem to detect in machinima culture.

    Likewise, the very personal comparison I draw within my own family or the fanfic for free by women vs scripts to become professional writers by men that Cindy studies are indicative of trends in which women’s (fan)work is more often unpaid and encourages a certain emphasis on the amateur. As I said in my personal intro, this is a topic quite close to my heart, and I know it is to all my friends whose amazing and excellent writing has gotten dismissed solely because they are *not* invested in selling. I don’t think I actually articulated these ideas in terms of subversiveness and hegemony (as I’m always hesitant to use these concepts), but, yes, gut level, there *is* something incredibly empowering and powerful to me to find these other women who create art and share their fantasies that often contradict and repudiate those of the TV networks and do so for free.

    At the same time, i’m also quite aware of the fact that there are real dangers in the way I celebrate the very devaluing of women’s work that I may be fighting in other places (my post on amateurs’R Us addresses some of these issues). So, yes, I do think that the communal and the creative can be more subversive and active and that individualist and collecting and purchasing fannish practices are more implicated in capitalist economy. And there may be a case to be made that women favor the former more (though I’m beginning to be more and more uncertain whether that bears out once I get outside of my own little world of the media fandom community). I’m not sure whether you are disagreeing with the former or the latter…let’s debate :D

  21. Alexis Lothian says:

    Sam: I think I would actually argue that you can be fangirl and fanboy both in private (as a lurker or solitary fan) and as a part of a group or member of a community. In both cases, social activity offers different possibilities to private appreciation, and probably changes your relation to the show in question, but I definitely see the two modes as forms of affective viewing style as well as kinds of communal engagement. That’s a slightly different understanding to the individual/community paradigm that has been playing out in this conversation, though, so it may well be that this particular gendered shorthand functions as it does only in my head.

    Jason: Thank you for the reference! That looks like a really interesting book, and I’ll be sure to seek it out.

    Jonathon: Your post made me realise that in my mental vocabulary I do in fact code fangirl engagement as less capitalistic than fanboy engagement. I think of fangirl engagement as less reliant on shows themselves than fanboy, so that fanboyishness supports the structures of consumption that TPTB set up around a show whereas fangirlishness may not quite undermine them but does set up its own alternative economies that may, for some viewers, come to replace TPTB’s. This kind of fangirlishness would probably be shown in any empirical study to be a minority position among viewers of any given show, but it is the most interesting thing about fandom to me both as a participant and as an academic, precisely because of its complex relationship to capital; I think the distinction matters.

    However, though I have been arguing for their value I do agree with you that extending the colloquial gendered terms ‘fanboy’ and ‘fangirl’ into academic practice in order to describe this distinction is a bad idea. The gendering of different fannish practices, communities and subcultures needs to be taken into account, of course, and the connotations ‘fanboy’ and ‘fangirl’ carry in different contexts might be a place to start looking at that. But, as the arguments that have taken place around this conversation perhaps prove to a degree, naming different modes of engagement as ‘fanboy’ and ‘fangirl’ is likely best kept to the realm of informal shorthands. Until someone works out a detailed theoretical argument around them, anyway.

  22. Jon, interesting points. That’s what raised my own interests in whether those behaviors described as “fanboy” or “fangirl” in these discussions could both be displayed by the same person, depending on the situation and the fandom and their draw to it. I also want to question whether the idea that what is considered “individualistic” fan behaviors are really all that individualistic, since I find that fan archiving, or close textual readings, or a variety of other behaviors discussed here and at LJ as “fanboy” are really all that non-social.

  23. Alexis, your response hadn’t gone onto the site before I wrote mine, so let me go back to our ongoing conversation, since it tied into what I wrote in response to Jon as well. I like that your comments are moving the “fangirl”/”fanboy” distinction more toward relationship to the text rather than just sociality. I’m actually quite interested in how we use these terms and in whether these two terms are seen as two types of engagement with a text and fan community that are distinct and that one can switch between, or whether they are seen as opposite behaviors on a continuum.

    If we are talking about one continuum dealing with private fandom versus public fandom, and another dealing with relationship to the text, the question is whether and how these two continuums relate to one another. Alas, though, I fear as Alexis did that what I just said may make more sense in my own head than in written form.

    And, in interest to Robin’s question, I am 24 years old and went straight from undergraduate at Western Kentucky University to a Master’s program here in Comparative Media Studies at MIT. In my accepted class, there were seven male and four female students, along with three female students who were taking a slower trek through the program for various reasons and were considered part of our class. I don’t know what this means for our class one way or another, other than that it meant a total of 14 students, divided equally along gender lines.

    I was, for the most part, the exception among my accepted class, being that there was only one other student (female) who went straight from undergraduate to graduate school. At this point, none of us who graduated are going into further academic study, although a few of us are working at academic institutions in one form or another. I know several are interested in pursuing their doctorate, but just not straight from Master’s to Ph.D.

  24. Jonathan Gray says:

    Am responding to issues over on Part Two, lest my brain finally split into two for real ;-)