Sunday, September 17, 2006

Two Points About Slash

Indigoskynet just updated her Disclaimer, and I noticed she had a very sensible policy on slash (she offers this handy definition: "Slash, for those unfamiliar, is a type of fanfiction usually taking two same-sex characters not canonically homosexual and making them so") that deserved attention.

There are two points in particular that bear repeating.

Point One:
And the slash I have seen [because I had to have seen it to have developed my strong distaste for it] is mostly misogynist. There's very little involving getting the two boys together without slamming the girl[s] one [or both] of them was canonically involved with.

I've noticed this a lot. Hell, I've noticed it with favorite heterosexual couples. And this is not limited to fanfic communities (Hell, I've probably been guilty of it myself).

I've seen male characters trashed over it too (I think I've directed some insults at Roy Harper in the past), except they don't tend to get gendered insults and slut-shaming like female characters do. And when you go with slash, which tends to be male-male pairing, you have the danger of the only female character in the whole story being made unrecognizable because she interferes with the preferred male-male pair and needs to be taken out of the way.

It's entirely possible that this sort of mindset affects the writers, and explains some out of character behavior we've seen. Could Ben Raab be a Donna/Kyle fan? I'm pretty sure that Dave Gibbons preferred Kyle/Jennie.

Point Two (which cannot be said enough):
Writing/drawing slash does not make a slasher a homosexual rights activist. Wearing your rainbows, going to the rallies, lobbying the government is what makes an activist.
And judging by some of the yaoi and slash debates I've seen through When Fangirls Attack, writing slash doesn't necessarily make you the slightest bit sensitive to homosexual issues.


  1. "Writing/drawing slash does not make a slasher a homosexual rights activist"

    Kind of like how drawing a female superhero who looks like Dolly Parton in zero gravity but who nevertheless kicks ass (in six-inch heel hooker boots no less), does not in fact make one a feminist.
    Or creating earnest but painfully inept and ignorant Native American superheroes (Black Crow, I'm looking at you!) does not make one a member of AIM.

  2. Could Ben Raab be a Donna/Kyle fan?

    I can't say I buy that. I've spoken with the man a little bit, though in fairness, it's been awhile. It's quite possible he's misogynist. But I recall when he was on Excalibur. He broke up Pryde and Wisdom, too. But that was not him breaking up the ship he preferred. He was under orders. Marvel wanted Pryde/Rasputin, and in order to make that happen, Wisdom had to go. So they pretty much told him to make it happen.

    Wisdom being an unrepentant anti-spandex guy, who smoked and drank, had fans polarized about whether he was good with Kitty or not, so he had no demonizing to do. He just had to find a way to make Pryde/Rasputin happen again with the dissolving of Excalibur.

    It's possible the same thing could've happened with Kyle/Jennie. I'm not going to say likely because I'm not sure, but it's at least possible.

  3. I've been reading and writing slash off and on since 1998 (no! really? me, a slasher? will wonders never cease!), and next to misspelling the main character's name in the story's summary, gratuitous abuse of the female characters is the one thing most likely to have me decide NEVER to read a writer's stories ever again.

    But, that said, there's heaps of slash out there that isn't misogynistic, and in my experience, the better writers are the ones who are willing to treat the female characters as people, not just obstacles in the way of their OTP. This was one of the things I liked about Superman Returns: the Impediment Guy, Richard White, is treated with respect; he's a real person and not just something Superman has to get past in order to win his One True Love.

    My own preference is that if I'm looking for or writing m/m slash, I want the characters slashed not to have canonical good, believable relationships with likeable women -- because I don't like breaking up happy couples. Even in fiction, it feels wrong. I think there are a lot of writers who feel that way. This is why there isn't much Spider-slash: nobody except Joe Quesada wants Peter to break up with MJ.

  4. I wouldn't say nobody wants to see Peter break up with M.J...

  5. Actually, most Spider-slashers like MJ ... we're just poly like that ... or something.

    But yes on the slash being misogynistic. That's why I invented heroinesofslash on LJ, quiet as that community is ... (I guess there's only so many times you can say the other side is wrong ...)

  6. Gah! Forgot to sign my name. This is msmarvel1 on LJ

  7. I heard once on some TV show that examined fandom in general, and the fanfic phenomenon specifically, something that really intrigued me about the complex sexuality that goes into slash fiction. One woman described it thusly (not quite a direct quote, but close enough): "It's heterosexual women writing about homosexual male relationships, for other heterosexual women to read, in hopes of arousing those other heterosexual women." I think she may have used the phrase "getting off," but I could be wrong about that. A whole lot of sexual confusion wrapped up in there. Maybe the misogynist ones or the homophobic ones are written by people who aren't yet sure of or comfortable with their sexuality, who can't handle the inherent complexities of the genre.

    Or maybe they're just jerks. You know, one or the other.

  8. I've actual spoken with Ben Raab in e-mail and I think it more likely a matter of what he chose to write about (focus on space) and his thinking a Kyle/Jennie break-up was natural given that they had a distance relationship (started by Judd Winick as he was leaving the title) and Kyle was so focused on getting the Corps restarted (again, an idea introduced by Winick right before he left) that it was only natural for the two to drift apart somewhat.

    Raab got a bit of a raw deal in that no sooner did he set a plan in motion to try and deal with some very bad things that Winnick abanadoned while trying to investigate the angles Winnick totally ignored during his run(i.e. bringing back Kilowog and some alien Lanterns from old stories including, GASP, the one from Apokolips the Guardians abandoned from that one 80 Page Giant), Ron Marz gets hired to close the book out in order to prepare for the Return of Hal Jordan and... well, his whole arc had to be concluded very quickly and tied up haphazardly before Issue #176.

    Still, I doubt Rabb is a sexist man, the Kyle/Jennie break-up aside. One thing people forget about his run is that he started a whole sub-plot about Meryan (blue-skinned, elven ex-GL turned Darkstar, who moved to Earth to take care of John Stewart after he was crippled and fell in love with him) trying to make an identity on Earth for herself apart from being John's girlfriend and refusing his offers of employment, saying she wanted to have a life of her own outside him... which is a lot more than Winick or even Marz ever did with her character after she got to Earth, even though she was an ex-GL and a pretty tough customer.

    So yes, there was another semi-break-up (she moved out of his place)... but it was because the woman was trying to remove herself from the position of being "just a girlfriend".

  9. vIt's not something I've noticed often in the comics slash I've read (possibly because I don't really read a wide range of authors), but the attitude of 1) particularly seems to be really developing in scans_daily, with characters like Steph and Cassie getting slammed for daring to kiss Tim or Kon. It's making me want to quit the comm. I'd rather not, because it's where I get a large percentage of my comics news and oldschool crack, but I'm getting sick of the 'ew, girl cooties' attitude.

    2)... Man, I've abandoned *fandoms* over that attitude. Slash isn't an activist movement, it's a kink, or preaching to the choir (and I say this as a fan of slash pairings). As Indigo said, it's the stuff you do in 'real life' that makes you an activist.

  10. I think the worst I ever saw this attitude was in the Gundam Wing fandom, where there were so many stories dealing with the lead female finding out her love interest was gay and in love with his best friend and subsequently going ballistic over it that "Relena Finds Out Fics" actually became their own sub-genre.

    On a somewhat related issue and concerning the second point - I am very, very uncomfortable with female characters who get relegated to getting the male characters hooked up and then vocally voice their appreciation about how hot it all is. Fag hags and lesbros can be positive things in the real world but in fiction it tends to come off as tremendously creepy and rather objectifying of the main characters.

  11. but the attitude of 1) particularly seems to be really developing in scans_daily, with characters like Steph and Cassie getting slammed for daring to kiss Tim or Kon. It's making me want to quit the comm. I'd rather not, because it's where I get a large percentage of my comics news and oldschool crack, but I'm getting sick of the 'ew, girl cooties' attitude.

    Yeah, I've noticed that heterophobic vibe over at s_d, but it seems to be mostly from a very small but vocal sub-group of the community, say, 3-5 people (much like the ever-so-vocal If You Liked Infinite Crisis You Need To Be Shot Dead group). It's easy enough for me to drown out.

    And judging by some of the yaoi and slash debates I've seen through When Fangirls Attack, writing slash doesn't necessarily make you the slightest bit sensitive to homosexual issues.

    Although not entirely the same issue, this statement strongly reminds me of an essay I read recently that discussed the portrayal of gay men in yaoi comics -- see here, particularly paragraphs 16 through 24.

  12. I've never been interested in slash (I'd rather see canonical couples of whatever orientation, really) with the recent exception of a bit of femslash. But the yaoi/animu side of it bugs the hell out of me precisely because it's so... not really gay. I find it creepy to see males in a romance/smut story behave in ways I've never seen actual males behave. It's sort of like reading Pod People.

    The other thing that annoys me about some slashfen is that they make all these arguments about how they support homosexuality... but it's rarely extended to lesbians. So girls just get no love. In stuff WRITTEN BY girls.

    And that's just a bit scary to me.

  13. ". . . writing slash doesn't necessarily make you the slightest bit sensitive to homosexual issues."

    Straight people fantasizing about gay characters having sex aren't any more enlightened than, say, white people fantasizing about people from other ethnicities. In many instances, it's about eroticizing and objectifying an Exotic Other: something fascinating and alien and usually more than a little misunderstood.

    If that weren't the case, then lesbian porn would've eradicated all sexism as we know it.

  14. [Here via a Technorati thing I'm not even going to try to describe, LOL! [wave]]

    My observation is that there are a couple of attitudes going on here and only one seems to be specifically tied to the writing of slash fiction.

    The first attitude is that the writer wants to write a story about Joe and Bob getting together romantically and/or sexually, and the fact that Joe has a girlfriend (or wife or whatever) in canon has to be dealt with one way or another. She can be ignored out of existence (which makes the story a kind of AU), she can be acknowledged but ignored (which means Joe is cheating on her), she can be acknowledged and disposed of (she and Joe break up or she's killed off), it can be declared that in the ficverse of this particular story she doesn't mind (either doesn't mind Joe's fooling around at all, meaning they have a completely open relationship, or she doesn't mind him fooling around so long as he only does it with guys and stays away from other women), or whatever else the writer can think of. And if the writer chooses the acknowledge-and-dispose option and has Joe and girlfriend break up, then there's likely to be fault assigned, and since Joe's the protag guess who the blame's probably going to hit?

    There are certainly ways of doing this which are disrespectful to Joe's GF, like turning her into a raging bitch whether she and Joe break up or not, but for the most part my experience is that there's not necessarily a lot of overt hatred for the GF on the part of the writer; it's more that the plot requires X and the writer accomplishes it however. Personally, I think it's a more respectful treatment for the writer to simply ignore the GF's existence, producing a "GF? What GF?" type AU, than to do a break-up, or to have Joe cheat on her whether or not she finds out and explodes. The "She knows but doesn't mind" device is sort of in the middle -- it's making assumptions but still better than painting her with the bitch brush. But however it's done, a writer with this attitude doesn't actively hate the girlfriend so much as she's in favor of the slash pairing and the GF is a plot point to be handled.

    The second attitude isn't so much a product of slash writers as it is a product of immature fans. You see fangirls of Bob Celeb talking trash about Bob's girlfriend or wife on forums and journals and whatever, using words like "bitch" and "whore" and "bimbo" and "skank" and generally pouring hatred and disdain on the woman who had the gall to actually go out with their favorite celeb. [eyeroll] These are the women who wore black armbands when Elvis married, and they're the Orlando Bloom fans who trash Kate and the Chris Evans fans who trash Jessica.

    These girls (of whatever age) are idiots and emotionally immature. One has to wonder whether they imagine that Bob would go out with them if he and his GF broke up, or whether they imagine Bob would at all appreciate their comments about the woman he loves. But while their behavior is horrible, it's a fan reaction, not a writer reaction.

    Yes, if any of these women wrote a slash story about Bob then their attitude about his GF would doubtless be incorporated into the story. And if they wrote slash fanfic about a favorite fictional male character, their habit of hating and demonizing their favorite celeb's wife or GF would most likely carry over into their treatment of this fictional guy's wife or GF. But it's not writing slash which creates this negative attitude in them. I think this is an important distinction to make if we're talking about slashers specifically because attributing the negative attitude toward wives and girlfriends to slash writers in particular can lead to the assumption that all slashers are like that or that it's writing slash which makes women think that way, when that's not the case at all.