Gender and Fan Culture (Round Seventeen, Part One): Melissa Click and Joshua Green

MC: Hi, I’m Melissa Click and I’m completing my dissertation on Martha Stewart fans (at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst), teaching at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and am just catching up on my sleep after the wonderfully overwhelming experience of having my first child. Having one foot in the East Coast and the other foot in the Mid-West, being in the midst of completing my Ph.D. while developing my professional identity as a scholar, and trying to figure out how to balance my work life and newly changed homelife, means that I’m still catching up on my TV viewing (I heart Tivo), I don’t usually blog, and I’m a bit more behind on academic reading than I’d prefer.

As a scholar writing about Martha Stewart fans, I have argued that the women and men I interviewed were not simply audience members, they are fans (and anti-fans, for that matter). However, the types of fandom they demonstrated were different than many of the types of fandom discussed here: they didn’t write Martha fan-fic, create Martha fan-vids, etc. My interest in their fandom overlapped with my own interest in/repulsion by Stewart’s texts, and my allegiance with their behaviors as fans–my expressions of fandom mirror the behaviors gendered “masculine” in this discussion.

JG: Hello all, my name is Joshua Green. I’m a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT where I also run the Convergence Culture Consortium. At the Consortium we do a lot of work about the changing patterns of relationships between media producers – big and small, professional and amateur – media content and various audience formulations. We work with some “big media” companies (though not exclusively) to come to understand the changing environment in which their content circulates and the changing logics of the media space when you factor in participatory culture and the changing constitution of the audience experience.

Before I transplanted from Australia to the States, I was working on the recent history Australian television, particularly looking at the way the Australian television system resolved the presence of international, and specifically American, programming with discourses of nationalism. My (I suppose still recently completed) dissertation looked at the way Dawson’s Creek was nationalized by industrial promotional strategies and received by a range of Australian viewers. I’m currently really, very interested in the ways we can understand the constitution and composition of television audiences as they’re imagined more and more as media producers, or at least, as the role of media production is increasingly prescribed for those we used to understand as audiences.

MC: I’m not convinced that folks have really addressed one of the key issues that began this conversation: the perception that male interests and approaches are structuring publishing, conference participation, and the field in general. I’d like to pull us back to the pre-détente discussions that created the discussion in which we’re now participating. Specifically, how can we begin to encourage ties between male and female scholars, and create more of a community in the field of fan studies? Everyone seems to agree that we can benefit from each other’s work–but how can we begin to encourage that cross-pollination (or what Derek Johnson called “broad citation?”).

JG: I think returning to this question is important, though I would like to point out that one of the things I have enjoyed most about this discussion on the whole is the diversity of ways people have responded to the “provocation.” Some of the discussions around this topic have brought to the fore a range of important questions affecting not only fan studies but media and cultural studies practice itself. Prominent in this regard is the fervor with which this discussion has interrogated how we understand fandom itself. This diversity of topics is particularly appealing as I don’t consider myself someone working ‘in’ fan studies. I’m not sure I’ve ever been a ‘fan’ of any distinct media property, certainly not in the productive way that has been defended by some discussants as signaling something unique about particular patterns of engagement or structures of feeling towards media properties. Likewise, while perhaps daily I come into contact with some of the practices, strategies, or politics of fandom, I don’t consider myself necessarily studying fandom. That said, one of the strengths of this discussion is the role those of us who don’t fall into the ‘fan studies’ camp have played in contributing to the debate. At a somewhat crude level then, perhaps this practice of pairing respondents has at least gestured toward a way to achieve this cross-pollination.

MC: Agreed. I think that a lot of good stuff has come out of this dialogue–making much more complex a lot of the issues that initially provoked the discussion. However, one of the really important points that I think the Busse camp (sorry, I can’t do the boy/girl thing, though I’m not convinced the shorthand I’m introducing is much better) made in the pre-detente conversation had to do with how male and female fan scholars seemed to attend different conference sessions, use a different language, and adopt different methods. To me, this is where I do feel the gendered divide in the field (though I’ll complicate that in a minute). This point has been alluded to numerous times in this discussion; many folks have expressed that they feel left out, or misunderstood, and I’m sure many more have felt this without expressing it (I have)–so *something’s* going on here that I think we need to address.

I really appreciate Derek Johnson’s acknowledgement that at conferences he’d attended panels in many of the ways Busse suggested (and I’m sure many folks had this realization–I did, too). I believe Derek when he says he’ll try to rethink that in the future–and think we all should. But I’d like to see us be consciously pro-active before we get to conferences to try to make our panels relevant for a number of different camps–and to promote cross-pollination.

JG: If we’re going to go back to the beginning, I’m going to be especially (and perhaps foolishly) honest here, and acknowledge my own implication in some of the catalytic events of this discussion. I have a fairly certain sense I was a direct participant in some of the panels (and one in particular) that prompted some of the comments that initially brought this issue to the fore. I’m not sure if I would say I was shocked, but I certainly want to own up to being surprised by the responses some of these panels prompted. Perhaps I’m not as alive to the gendered distinctions that do exist within the field (and there subsequent implications in terms of power), and I think the first discussion in this series between Karen Hellekson and Jason Mittell usefully laid out some of the ways in which “the field” might replicate larger gendered distinctions with regards to topics of discussion, modes of practice, academic and market activities. That said, I have to admit a sense of disappointment with the sometimes pessimistic tone present in some of the discussions featured as part of this series. I accept that there are substantial and entrenched issues of both equality and practice that need to be addressed, but more than once in the course of this debate I’ve been left with the sense these issues are intractable.

I wonder, then, if the response to some of these questions regarding exclusion has been to argue for the specificity of certain (gendered? topic determined?) fields of inquiry. Specificity brings with it its own form of exclusion, and the criteria upon which this specificity is patrolled is central to the questions under consideration. I’ll admit I’m thinking out loud here, and I may well disagree with this proposition further down the track, but there is a part of me that thinks that some degree of specificity and exclusion is inherent to the art. I’m not sure, all up, whether I necessarily disagree with this proposition, as I’m not sure I have a problem with specificity, particularly in terms of academic practice, when it results from issues of subject knowledge. That said, I agree there are substantial matters that need to be addressed with regard to how we, as academics working from a range of different positions and working within a “field” that seems in some ways both pre-destined and necessarily “inter-disciplinary”, interact in order to ensure “subject specificity” or “topic knowledge” doesn’t privilege certain biases. All of which seems to bring us back to the germinal difficulties that led us down this path. A useful response, then, and perhaps the only one that seems tenable, is for us to regularly interrogate the way the forms of knowledge we produce, and the ways we communicate such, result in regimes of privilege.

MC: I agree that the specificity in our work does create a certain kind of exclusion (that I would agree is not necessarily a bad thing), and I agree that we should regularly interrogate our work and the way it’s communicated. But how do we make sure we don’t forget to do that?

I think that’s what was going on a bit at Flow, especially at the Watching Television Off-Television roundtable (including Jonathan Gray, Henry Jenkins, Jason Mittell, Will Brooker, Joel Greenberg, Kevin Sandler, Derek Johnson, Daniel Chamberlain). I think feminist (and mostly female) scholars in the audience expressed frustration that approaches and conclusions were perceived to lack fruitful overlap with work women do and have done–and I think there was also a frustration that the panel (obviously full of fabulous scholars) drew a large audience due to the perceived importance of the scholars and topics while panels that were mostly women drew smaller audiences. I do think we need to talk about that…. But I also want to say that during and after my panel of mostly women at Flow, I felt excluded because my work was not on fans proper (in fact, it could have been that I still in the baby haze that has just recently lifted, by no means would I suggest that was my best work). So, I think that exclusion does cross gender boundaries–and like Jonathan and Kristina have both said, when panels end, we do tend to hang out with our friends.

That said, I think there’s a pattern in which women seem to be the ones continually reminding folks that gender should be one of the foundations of all work–not just women’s scholarship. So, much like my fabulous partner who does his best to split evenly our household chores often has to be reminded by me to do x, y, or z (reifiying that I’m charge of everything household), I think there’s a way in which the burden of bringing up these issues has fallen on women’s shoulders (perhaps in part because many of us feel regularly structured by gender divides) because they are perceived as women’s issues. Hopefully that makes sense…?

JG: I think all of that makes sense, Melissa, and the fact the burden falls the way it does has to do with larger issues that people much smarter than me have discussed elsewhere during this debate. But let’s talk about the panel at Flow for a second. I am aware of the concerns regarding the boundaries to participation being regulated along gender lines. Likewise, I can understand the consternation about the fact a “panel of boys” and a “panel of girls”, both featuring speakers who in other instances may have sat on panels together, were placed head-to-head at Flow. I’m not convinced, however, that to point to that particular incident as evidence of a marginalization of female academic practice necessarily does anyone a service. While I think some good has come out of that moment, there was a particularly sour taste left all round, I think, with regard to the way the issue was raised which seemed sometimes to suggest an intent to exclude, or if you like tinfoil headwear, marginalize.

MC: Clearly the sour taste is shared by many–and nobody enjoys it. I think we all know we’re all good people and that no one would hurt or exclude anyone else on purpose, but the fact remains that there are patterns there. Perhaps everyone is tired of talking about it (and if so, forgive me), but I think we need to make positive things come out of these confrontations and uncomfortable situations. I love Stuart Hall’s description of the push to put gender on the table in early cultural studies projects as the CCCS. I’ll paraphrase because I lent out my book with that particular article in it, but he suggests that feminists broke in during the night and crapped on the table of cultural studies. I love that because it suggests how shocking and violent the push felt–but look at how the field grew from that push. I’m not trying to compare this current situation to that, but I do want to stress that I’ve seen lots of great stuff come out of this dialogue, and I feel so much smarter for having read it–and I’m so glad to be a participant in it. I’m not, however, entirely satisfied by how this more direct stuff (that I think has more to do how we do our work and where our work takes place than it does with the content of our work), and in these last few weeks I’d like to see it more directly addressed. But I’ll be quiet if no one else wants to talk about it….

My apologies in advance to those folks who will (rightfully) say that conferences privilege academics–they do. They are, however, an important component of the work that many of us do, despite the fact that our annual travel funds rarely cover even the costs of one trip to one conference. So critiquing conferences as a space of privilege shouldn’t lead us to say that the work done there isn’t useful or relevant (even fans have conventions, right, so something useful must be going on in these spaces?!). So, the deadlines for Console-ing Passions and the International Communication Association are upcoming. I’d happily volunteer to organize some panel proposals that would address some of the topics we’ve been discussing here–panels that would include male and female scholars and include folks studying fans with traditional and untraditional frameworks. If you’re interested, please let me know.

I agree with Deborah Kaplan’s suggestion that “surely a blog post gives a level of exposure unmatchable by presenting a paper to a room containing 16 overtired academics at an MLA conference,” but it’s become increasingly clear to me that while we started out with a robust conversation in this space, there are mainly “regulars” writing and responding, and in the recent weeks, responses have petered out. So maybe picking up the discussion in another forum would be useful?

What else can we do?

JG: I think you touch on a really important issue here, Melissa; that is, how is it that we can ensure we effectively make spaces of academic privilege accessible while preserving the value of these sites. I think this is the other side of your proposition that critiquing these spaces shouldn’t result in a devaluing of the work that is done here at the expense of work completed elsewhere. I’m not sure the intention of the debate thus far has necessarily been to critique these spaces as producing knowledge that isn’t useful or relevant, but rather to point perhaps to the inadequacies of traditional academic practice to both engage the range of scholars producing knowledge within the discipline of ‘fan studies’ (or should that be “about fans”?), and to actively capture the diversity of knowledge that is being produced about the topic. Certainly Francesca Coppa’s intervention in this debate describes the politics inherent in the perceived necessity to create spaces outside of what has been formally recognized as ‘academia’. That these are spaces where useful work is produced that should or could be included in studies published via more formal academic channels does not seem such a controversial contention.

In doing so, I think you point to one of the most practical and apparent responses to this debate – namely, to try and move this debate or at least the issues it has raised, to a range of different sites. In this regard, I think it is important to work via “micropractices” (to invoke Jason Mittell again) to attempt to open up the spaces we can influence to a wider range of content. Again, there is nothing controversial about this proposition, but I raise it to suggest an answer to your “what else can we do” question. I’m not sure the solution is necessarily striving for a gender balance on panels or a flocking to particular publishing sites. While I think these options are useful and important, I think it is equally important to encourage discussion across platforms, to support the development of a range of areas of specialization and to keep these in touch with each other – in short, to attempt to move the discussion beyond this forum and beyond this moment. In doing so, I think the questions Jason poses, “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?”, are useful as points not so much of common enquiry but to begin to frame continued discussion.


  1. I’m not convinced, however, that to point to that particular incident as evidence of a marginalization of female academic practice necessarily does anyone a service.

    Are you actually serious when you say this, or is it some kind of clever doubleplusgood 1984-type speech?

    Trust me when I say that women are often patted on the head and told to run off and shut up—that overt examples (like the one you cite) are just a wild coincidence and no harm was intended.

    The patting and the condescending remarks rarely do anyone any good, society at large included. I’m confident that this example is no exception.

    I don’t have any answers, but I’m definitely getting the feeling that entrenched gender dynamics are precisely the problem. If your response is the answer (we didn’t mean it! just ignore it! it’s really not a problem! why are you upset?), here at the end of these debates, it seems that nothing good has come of this at all.

    I am upset and bitterly disappointed in this remark.

  2. Melissa: Thank you for some interesting parallels (I now want a “we crapped on the table” icon!), and for talking about Martha Stewart fans. I once had a major fan of MS in my creative writing class: the student’s project all term was sort of an thinly disguised autobiography of how the narrator’s love for Martha Stewart and emulation of her propelled her from the working into the middle class. It was a fascinating project.

    Joshua: I’ve been swamped with the end process of copyediting an encyclopedia (on women in sf and fantasy!), and starting a new term with three online courses, including a new one on media literacies, so I’ve not been as active, but I’ll also admit one reason I’ve not been as active is the “sour taste” left in my mouth by how people reacted when I brought up the idea of some male academics still having moments of male privilege: apparently today that is akin to accusing someone of being a sexist who roams the night assaulting young ladies, by the personal testimonials that came out.

    Seeing your comments today made me just irritated enough to come out and start waving pitchforks again.

    *adjusts tinhat* As someone who has been in academia one way and another since the seventies, I am not the only one who is seeing a lot of the same problems we’ve seen along reproduced and played out here, and by here, I mean in the microcosm of these discussions, as well as in the larger venues we all in habit in academia and other institutional and public spaces in this world.

    How many years of major work in feminism, civil rights, and queer rights does it take for people in privileged groups to remember that it doesn’t take “intent” to be racist/sexist/homophobic: it just takes going along with the status quo and not thinking about it?

    And dismissing concerns of marginalization (**adjusts tin hat with handle of pitchfork in traditional menacing killer feminist fashion**) expressed by individuals of groups historically excluded and marginalized as being too strident/mean/angry/etc. in tone is problematic to say the least.

    I’m sure you’ll say you’re joking.

    I’d be interested to know who is laughing.

  3. FEMALE ACA-FANS: We’re furious about being marginalized, excluded, ignored, and having our contributions coopted.

    MALE ACADEMICS (who may or may not be fans): Huh? Did you say something, honey?

    FEMALE ACA-FANS: The prosecution rests.

  4. Francesca Coppa says:

    MC: I think there’s a way in which the burden of bringing up these issues has fallen on women’s shoulders (perhaps in part because many of us feel regularly structured by gender divides) because they are perceived as women’s issues. Hopefully that makes sense…?

    JG: While I think some good has come out of that moment, there was a particularly sour taste left all round, I think, with regard to the way the issue was raised which seemed sometimes to suggest an intent to exclude, or if you like tinfoil headwear, marginalize.

    MC: Clearly the sour taste is shared by many–and nobody enjoys it. I think we all know we’re all good people and that no one would hurt or exclude anyone else on purpose, but the fact remains that there are patterns there. Perhaps everyone is tired of talking about it (and if so, forgive me)

    I have to say, I’m a little freaked out by the gender problems in that EXCHANGE. There’s Melissa, explaining the female burden of having to not only endure but articulate and persuade men of their oppression, and ending with the characteristic female hedge, “Does that make sense?” Joshua grants that, ok, yes, some kind of gendered power situation actually occurred at Flow, but dismisses as “tinhatty” the suggestion of intentional sexism. Moreover, Joshua then claims that–not the oppression itself, but the public mention of it–was in bad taste and didn’t do anyone (anyone, kimosabe?) a service, whereupon Melissa apologizes in case people are tired of talking about gender and adopts Joshua’s language of intent–as if INTENT MATTERS. “We’re all good people?” Are you kidding? This isn’t a melodrama where people malevolently do bad things: this is the real world, where sexism structures work and professional relationships whether we want it to or not.

    This is pretty disappointing stuff, especially coming at the end of this first, tentative engagement. I think this shows that, whether or not we’re tired of it, we need a hell of a lot more of this, and let me say to the guys, all you guys: Guys, you’re our closest brothers, here! You’re the guys best equipped intellectually and temperamentally to understand who we are and the work we’re doing, and just–if this is where we are, we’re nowheresville!!

  5. Anne Kustritz says:

    Part of this discussion appears to respond to my argument (misattributed here to Derek), that we ought to research with great specificity but cite broadly. As it’s been claimed here that “Specificity brings with it its own form of exclusion,” I’d like to clarify my position.

    I’m quite concerned about a methodological error which repeatedly surfaces in audience and fan studies – that is the tendency to overgeneralize or incorrectly generalize from a study group to a larger population. Partly, this derives from a post-structuralist critique of empiricism, but largely my concern derives from well established conversations in anthropology, sociology, and psychology. Inter-disciplinary work is exciting, and hugely necessary, but it also entails an unusual level of risk as it requires that the practitioner be fully able to negotiate more than one field and methodology. From the way in which Janice Radway’s “Reading the Romance” was taken by a number of scholars as a book about “women” or “the romance” rather than about a very local group of women reading quite specific kinds of romance literature, audience studies often deal only fleetingly with concerns central to the social sciences, particularly with regard to the statistical basis upon which social scientists use a study group to make claims about a population, and the methods they employ to ensure adequate representation of the population within the study group.

    I ask that we think very seriously about how we negotiate the gap between the individuals we study, and the social abstraction called “the fan,” taking great care to ensure that we not misrepresent the totality of “fans” by improperly generalizing from our specific sites of research. I’m unable to see the sense in which requiring that scholars provide appropriate limitations to their studies’ scope and power in any way constitutes “exclusion.”

    Rather, one of the key forms of exclusion which structured the formation of this debate was a sense that when many scholars say “fans” they mean “male fans,” and that “male” functions as a social “normal” in fan studies in the same way that it does in dominant culture – thus the inappropriate generalization from studies with specific groups of male fans to the practices, behaviors, and beliefs of all fans, everywhere.

  6. Karen Applegate says:

    This discussion series has had a major problem in that the initial impetus for discussion – the marginalization of female scolarship and female aca-fan and how it plays out in fan studies – has in many instances been ignored or outright dismissed by participants in favor of focusing on how or whether gender analysis is a useful paradigm in fan studies. That those are also interesting and worthwhile areas to explore is not something that I question.

    But to focus solely on the “objects of study” and ignore questions regarding the behavior and biases of researchers themselves and the institutional structures that support sexist (and other oppressive practices) allows participants to – yet again! – evade taking a hard, and long overdue, look at their own privileges, actions, and work environment and how those intersect. WHICH WAS A SIGNIFICANT REASON THE ORIGINAL DISCUSSION WAS PROPOSED!

    And yes, self-reflection about power and personal privilege and insider/outsider status and institutional systems of oppression is difficult and necessarily uncomfortable and it can strain working relationships and friendships and family and make you question things that you took for granted. Or it can if you’re actually walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

    But you know, NONE of this is new. Feminists have been fighting the same battles for generations, as have those fighting against racism, or classism, or heterosexism. (Pick your passion, play along – there’s plenty of oppression to go around. *bitter smile*)

    And every time – yes, every single damn time, those who are challenged attempt to find ways to ignore the criticism, or failing that, minimize the criticism or discredit the critics. And if they aren’t successful, then they claim exemption (often with their oh, so willing defenders eagerly offeriing up proof of “good intentions”).

    Inevitably, when challenges continue to remain focused, those under scrutiny try to deflect attention by shifting attention to other areas. It’s classic, it’s tried and true, and unfortunately, it too often works.

    And the Summer Conversation in Gender and Fan Studies is just one more example.

  7. I’m crossposting this comment here and at the fandebate lj comm (which mirrors these posts on livejournal.)

    I can understand the consternation about the fact a “panel of boys” and a “panel of girls”, both featuring speakers who in other instances may have sat on panels together, were placed head-to-head at Flow. I’m not convinced, however, that to point to that particular incident as evidence of a marginalization of female academic practice necessarily does anyone a service. While I think some good has come out of that moment, there was a particularly sour taste left all round, I think, with regard to the way the issue was raised which seemed sometimes to suggest an intent to exclude, or if you like tinfoil headwear, marginalize.

    JG, are you saying that you wish the issue of marginalization hadn’t been raised a) because the marginalization wasn’t intentional and b) because hearing about it leaves a bad taste in your mouth?

    That’s a pretty distressing set of statements. Exclusion and marginalization needn’t be premeditated or conscious in order to be problematic… and I’m not sure I know how to respond politely to the implication that women shouldn’t speak up unless we’re saying something sweet.

  8. Melissa Click says:

    And I worried no one was reading anymore…. Thanks to those of you who have responded. Francesca, you’re right to call me out. I was hesitant and tentative, and I backed down. Part of that is that because we’re having this conversation over weeks and weeks and on this medium which, despite many folks best attempts, suffers from a lack of cues that would have given me a sense of how others felt. Had I been able to look around the room and see your fists raised while I was talking, I wouldn’t have been so hesitant.

    Because I don’t think this particular topic has really been addressed since the initial postings that began this whole discussion, I truly didn’t know if the silence was due to lack of interest in the topic, due to folks feeling like it had been properly addressed, or due to something else entirely. So, I was sensitive to the fact that I may be writing about something that was only my issue.

    Maybe we just need to have it out on this issue–clearly many women are upset, and men are hesitant to join in this conversation. We can avoid discussing it, but it will still be there. I would like to see something productive come out of this.

    And Anne, my sincere apologies for misattributing. In my (enormously long and unruly) stash of notes, I referenced the phrase in something Derek had said, but looking back carefully I now see the origins of the phrase in your words. The points you raise here about the topic are well taken.

    I’ll ask again if folks want to take these topics up in person. I’d love to organize something that would aim to give voice to a range of positions.

  9. A link to my LiveJournal where I post an extension to my comment above and include a link back to a July 1 post where I linked to academic articles on gender discrimination in academia.

    The problem exists. If you don’t want to hear/talk about it, then, well, you’re part of it.

  10. Haven’t even read the second half yet (brain overload requires dealing in halfs), so will get to that soon, but:

    The tenor of the comments here make it very clear that a significant frustration exists over the notion that the guys haven’t been listening, but I’d like to assure people that I think many have. I say this not to wave a big Mission Accomplished banner over this aircraft carrier, and say it’s all done, now let’s just go home, nor do I say it to invite congratulations, since clearly much progress remains to happen. I say it, though, lest the typed totality of comments at this Detente come to represent what’s actually happened as a result of it. I’ve personally disliked the online format of the thing, because I feel it hyperloads many offhand comments that could be corrected with truer meaning in a face-to-face, scowl-to-surprised-look environment. But I wouldn’t want the Detente’s impact to be underplayed either.

    In some senses, in terms of conference panel attendance and so forth, we’re faced with the problem that Larry Gross mentions in Up From Invisibility, namely that minority or politically subjugated groups become “culturally bilingual,” whereas majorities rarely do. And I deliberately invoke Gross’s idea here, since it’s posed to explain why minority TV audiences will often either happily or begrudgingly watch majority texts that otherwise exclude them. Just like TV, conferences have many “channels” or competing streams, and much of this discussion has certainly made me reflect on how my own conference-surfing practices speak to my relative positioning in the majority (I say relative since my Canadianness still often makes me irate and disgusted at the blatant chauvinism and “it may not be great, but it’s better than anything in the rest of the world” dumbass comments that pepper most American television, implying that even a crap America tops other countries on their best day), and my need to bone up on the “language(s)” (to run with Gross’ bilingual metaphor) of female fandom. By contrast, I suspect most of the females here have over time been rendered Swiss in their linguistic prowess, so to speak.

    I’ve often been surprised to hear that certain things I didn’t at all consider gendered practices of fandom were perceived to be so, and while I’ll still certainly quibble about how gendered some of them indeed are, some of those quibbles may be equivalent to saying something like “you know, it’s not only women who watch Grey’s Anatomy or All My Children,” when clearly some gendering applies.

    Again, the point here isn’t, “wow, look at what a sensitive man that Jonathan is,” since I’m sure a quick browse through my posts will locate comments that would irk many women here. Rather, my point is that I know many guys who have been paying attention here, even if they haven’t been posting. Francesca’s reminder that we’re your “closest brothers” here might allow an analogy — if we’ve had an issue here, some of the defensiveness and grumbling has come from the fact that many guys indeed recognize that sibling link, and just like telling your real brother that he’s being an asshole might make him fire back at the time, yet might settle in his consciousness and conscience in due time, perhaps a similar situation here? Let’s hope.

    Of course, another major frontier could be around race, ethnicity, and nationality, since here are other lines that have only even been alluded to a few times here, by a predominantly white group. Forgetting teams Blue and Red for a second, Team White would likely encompass all but a tiny handful of the posters here. Meanwhile, Cornel’s proposal that the discussion had a very American tone, let me remind us, was dispatched and excused with remarkable speed.

    Anyways, I really wanna shut up and read the second half now, so off I go…

  11. So I typed my above comment at the end of a long teaching day. With a new day, and with others having flagged it to me (note: I’m typing this before any response has been posted on Henry’s blog, though by the time Henry posts this, it may seem a response to subsequent responses. Please read this with that in mind), I realize I really put my foot in my mouth. With boot still on, no less. My above post reads as defensive, and the bit about needing to look at other lines of privilege looks like a shell game, and an attempt to change the topic or yell out, “hey, look over there.” Neither were intended, and so I apologize to all. The bit about looking to other dividing lines is I think something we definitely should engage with, but this wasn’t *at all* the point in the discussion to insert it. *Stupid* move. And the defensiveness was largely a product of how I thought I was writing something else (that reads as vague, yes, but please, email me or call me and I’be he happier to explain person to person, in a more immediately interactive environment). It wasn’t meant to be a retort, nor a “don’t worry, be happy” rejoinder, though I now read it and see it as a variety of Executrix’s offered dialogue. Apologies again.

  12. Jonathan

    I cannot resist starting this post with what would be, in LJ, the header:

    “What do you mean ‘we’ white man?” (Attribution: old joke, Tonto to the Lone White Ranger)

    I completely agree that race and ethnicity, have not been dealt with at length here, and I have said so in the past. However, this is the first time I have seen you do so (if you did elsewhere, please connect me, and I will apologize for having missed it; nobody can read everything on these debates).

    I bring up the issue of “first time” because what I see here is something I’ve seen before: when faced with a group of angry white women, a white man brings up the “frontier” (which is a racialized, gendered, negative term in feminist theoy, where a lot of work has been done to shift the focus from frontier which has a central–white male–hegemonic power and the margins where the “colored,” female, queers, are shoved) of race, ethnicity, nationality. Nationality, I’ll deal with later. This post is already too long!

    You claim it hasn’t been talked about. I agree. So let’s talk about it. We can do anything we want here, in terms of topics. And within reason and decorum.

    Yes, these are major concerns. Yes, I hope we deal with them in more detail later on. However, may I point out that Abigail Derechio especially dealt with questions of ethnicity in her discussion with Christian McCrea, and yet I see you were not able to participate in that discussion in any way, either in the blog or in LJ. If the topic was so important to you, I’d expect to see you there participating. Perhaps, like me, you were simply too busy at the time to get involved, but to then come and state how little race is being discussed without crediting her work might also imply that you just missed it.

    But we can talk about it any time–I still hope to get back and comment more on the earlier posts.

    If you want to discuss race and ethnicity, I’m ready to do so, and will be posting an invite in my LJ where I hope to be holding more discussions. One of my current projects which involves two presentation papers over the next year is on racism debates in the online LJ fandoms where I hang out (we’ve had three major conflicts in two major fandoms, Stargate: Atlantis, Dr. Who, and one involving the use of the term “miscegenation” in a writing challenge. Fans of color in the area of LJ fandom I know about have organized Blogging Against Racism, and Racism in Fandom Carnivals.

    Here’s my post for the International Blog Against Racism Week, with link to central posting and other blogs:

    And now I’m wondering: those of you (male or female aca-fen) who work in areas of fandom that have more male participants–any debates about racism going on there? Or is this primarily something the women are doing (the fans of color I am aware of in LJ are all women–many queer, and/or slashers).

    Not surprisingly, what led to escalation of the conflicts and heated debates was, often, white fans complaining about the “tone” taken by the fans of color; the tone apparently left a “sour taste” in the white fan’s mouths! They didn’t want their fun ruined by having to think about “race.”

    Intentionality became a big issue in the miscegenation debate; i.e. the fans who wrote to protest called it a “racist” term; the community moderators insisted they were not racist, so the term could not be, and the history and etymology of the word became hotly debates, in terms of U.S. vs. other cultures.

    Fans are talking about racism in my area of fandom: where it the scholarship on race and fandom? I’ve found some good sources on “race” and the internet, but nothing much about race and fandom. So I’m going to try to work on it, even though I’m a white woman, because I have tried to create an anti-racist philosophy in the past fifteen years.

    Plus, working with “race” doesn’t mean only talking about minority cultures: whiteness is a race, and that’s part of the critical analysis around constructions of race, just as working with gender isn’t only about females: masculinity is a social construct.

    My dissertation was the result of having to think about my white privilege as a feminist after reading the 1980s critiques of feminists of color about white feminists. I’ve taught multicultural literature here for some years (I always sneak in more work by women of color, especially sf/f than a lot of multicultural classes do–I’ve more or less left the official multicultural rubric because I think the result has been a canon of “official” literary texts, predominantly male, excluding a lot of amazing work on standard literary/aesthetic grounds–including sf/f).

    As a white woman, I cannot speak for women of other ethnic groups, only from my perspective as a white ally who has been working critically thinking about my privilege and assumptions for some time, but I will be happy to do so.

    The best way to get more awareness of race and ethnicity would be, of course, to get a scholar of color involved–I know how difficult that can be, because of the effects of systemic racism. However, I know one scholar of color, in sociology, and I told her of this event. She was starting a 10 week intensive summer class then, and wasn’t sure if she could participate, but she was going to try to encourage a student of hers if she could not. Knowing that she, as all minority women academics are, is going to be overloaded with service at her university (both the demands of universities for “representation” from the few minority faculty, and the extra work with students of color), I haven’t been bugging her to take part, especially since she does not yet have tenure and may not be able to give the time to this project.

    However, since I have other friends who are not scheduled to particpate until November, there are scholars I don’t know about.

    Here’s my post on Henry’s first announcement: I also may be able to put you in touch with a scholar of color who I’ve corresponded with but have not met, also a woman. I’ll try to get an email off to the two of you tomorrow. May 16, 2008

    What other efforts have been made to find scholars of color, I wonder? I ask because I was interested to see how the thread of discussion on Henry’s stub article about Media in Transition ended with Ron Robinson’s post. He posted about concerns about exclusion (not even marginalization) of African Americans and other ethnic groups from not only the conference, but also larger institutions, and questioned the corporate participation as well. He was at the Media in Transitions conference. Will be he be participating in the aca-fan debate?

    What does it say that his commentary was left hanging, with no response,with no apparent follow-up anywhere that I’ve seen. I am quoting only a single paragraph from his elegantly written critique which apparently mirrored some commentary he made at the conference, from the floor:

    I realize that I made some provocative comments from the floor regarding the absence of African Americans as Phi’s/co-Pi’s and stakeholders by both fenders/foundations and academic institutions. It was not easy for me to say these things publicly (nor now, which is why it has taken me some time to work up the courage to post these reflections) especially since there were only about 3 of us Black Folks at the conference. Raising these issues often times causes us (including, our Latino and First Nation brothers and sisters) to be viewed as “divisive,” and many of our White colleagues, sadly, go away thinking they were accused of being “racists” because we spoke up. Subsequently, we oftentimes are then given the “cold shoulder” by these colleagues. After all, some of them have included our communities/people as “subjects/objects” of research and/or advisers/consultants on such studies, which they may honestly feel constitutes substantive “inclusiveness” on their part. Ron Robinson May 3, 2008

    Mr. Robinson points out the response that whites often have to the commentary on racial exclusion/marginalization.

    Sean and I, while focusing primarily on queerness (the default nature of straightness has been assumed by many of the posters; while some of the women talk about their children, the men have rarely felt any need to have to identify as white, straight, whatever–that’s part of what we call privilege) also tried to open up the possibility for more intersectional work because the issue isn’t just talking about one single axis of identity, but constructin intersectional theories and methods: race does not exist in isolation from gender and class. Feminist scholarship has been working on intersectional theories for some years. Have fan/media scholars?

    Here’s the quote Sean and I ended with:

    SG:I think in terms of queer fandom, we can also talk about rereading (and maybe camp), and how that interacts and sometimes antagonizes (but sometimes *doesn’t*) straight fans–and the intersection of gender politics and lesbian/gay fans (for example, from a soaps perspective–do lesbian fans feel allied more with straight female fans or gay male fans–or is there any alliance between any of these groups.) My sense is that, while certain individuals might choose to unite together under a shared goal—responding to perceived homophobia is one example—it is usually difficult if not impossible to constitute groups, that (again) fandom is amorphous and diffuse?

    RAR:I recall that Camille Bacon-Smith did an interesting analysis of the positioning of gay/lesbian fans in the earlier fandom groups, showing an eventual movement away from the fan identification to the gay/lesbian activist position. I think you’ve raised some incredibly complex and fascinating questions here that (as often happens) need to be developed (and I’m hoping people will chime in on the discussion). There have been a number of debates in LJ fandom, one of which I know Kristina wrote about very effectively in her essay in our anthology: “My Life Is a WIP on My LJ: Slashing the Slasher and the Reality of Celebrity and Internet Performances,” about debates over just that issue–especially “straight” women performing what could be read as “queer” behaviors with other women (for example, the tendency to give not only chocolates, as do the fans on the newsgroup, but hugs, smooches, kisses as well as declarations of love, proposals of marriage, offers to bear one another’s children, all as general signs of approbation. I suspect (and here comes my favorite theory!) that just as offline, the interactions between online fans kaleidoscope, with, at times, the alliances following fandom/love for source text lines, sexual identity, ethnic/racial identity (there are recurring complicated and painful debates over the tendency of majority white fans to write certain characters of color in certain ways, perhaps reflecting the racism in the source texts (all those *white* planets in media sf!)), as well as individuals, sexuality, etc. So I think your question is one that should and could be the basis for more scholarship, and certainly can be developed in comments. (June 14, 2007

    Talking about “race and ethnicity” does not get us out of talking about gender because gender issues and sexism do not disappear in communities of color, nor do they disappear in white folks’ responses to people of color. And since I work even more with queer writers and works, I can say, from their testimonies, neither does homophobia. If you would like a list of my favorite writers, please let me know.

    Plus, finally, if any scholars of color do come to this forum and talk about racism, are you implying that the response by whites will be incredibly different than the responses by *some* of the males to the anger of the female aca-fen?


  13. Timing…I would like to say that I composed and posted my lengthy comment before Jonathan’s retraction and apology was posted: mine must have been behind his in the moderation queue.

    Jonathan, thank you. And yet I do agree with you: we need to talk more about race and ethnicity.

  14. Apparently the recent, numerous, sustained, and, I think, productive LiveJournal fan debates on constructions of race in source texts, racism in various cultures at large, and within fandoms as well has not made many waves over here, from what I’m hearing.

    So here is a link to the most recent People Of Color in SF Carnival.

    Highly recommended!

    Melissa and Joshua, I apologize for yanking the discussion somewhat off the immediate topic.