pocketseizure: (Teh Bowz)
Zelda Fandom: Okay, but what if the [fictional dark-skinned ethnicity] isn't actually poor and suffering? What if the [fictional light-skinned ethnicity] thinks they're poor and suffering, but really they're doing just fine, and the only thing they're suffering from is the [fictional light-skinned ethnicity] being ignorant and condescending?

Tumblr Response #1: THIS IS RACIST AND YOU ARE RACIST AND YOU NEED TO SHUT UP.

Tumblr Response #2: DUMB FAT FANGIRLS GET YOUR SOCIAL JUSTICE BULLSHIT OUT OF MY GAME.

Sometimes I wonder what people who aren't from the United States make of the extremism of some of the racial politics on Tumblr. I'd estimate that at least half of the people I regularly interact with on the site aren't American, and I kind of want to ask them, but I'm also afraid of what I'd find out.

Meanwhile, there's been a ridiculous amount of wank over the gender of the Link character in Breath of the Wild, the upcoming Zelda game. Some people are disappointed that the player can't choose Link's gender, and some people are saying that it was ridiculous to think that the player would be able to choose Link's gender in the first place. Meanwhile, some people are claiming Link as a trans*man, and other people are claiming Link as a trans*woman, and these two camps are fighting each other.

On one hand, I think it's good to talk about these things, and I understand that outrage is entirely appropriate when it comes to identity politics. On the other hand, I'm concerned about the fallout destroying anyone who accidentally wanders into these conversations.
pocketseizure: (Ganondorf)
I've been trying to think of how best to describe "Tumblr Drama Part Two," but it's difficult.

Two days ago I got a private message that seemed to be a response to something I had posted on Tumblr tangential to but not directly related to the drama. I say "seemed to be a response" because the message was word salad. I regularly get any number of strange messages on Tumblr, but this was from someone I consider to be a friend. Because I couldn't understand what she was trying to say, and because the only thing I could pick up on was that she seemed to be referring to an interview with someone at Nintendo, I told her that I was interested in learning more and invited her to send me a link if she had it. I felt like a bit of a dick for asking for something without giving anything in return, so I linked her to an open-source academic article that I had found useful in writing the post that I think she was responding to.

To make a long story short, this exchange immediately resulted in a long diatribe against what she assumed to be my privilege. Citing one's sources is academic bullshit, she said, especially because academia regularly discounts the subjective experiences of people from her socioeconomic class. I would never understand this, she continued, because the things I take for granted are luxuries for her. When I tried to suggest that I'm also from a relatively impoverished background and that I have difficulties of my own, she challenged me, stating that the hardships I may have faced are in no way comparable to hers.

What this person seemed to expect was that I provide a testimonial with a full list of the trauma I've experienced in my life. This is a bizarre thing to ask of anyone, but it seems to be fairly commonplace on Tumblr. In order for your voice to count in fandom, you have to enter a contest in which your disadvantages are weighed against those of everyone else. To give a terrifying example that I see with disturbing frequency, if you want to talk about the politics of dubious consent in fanfic, not only do you have to confess to being raped, but you have to prove that you've been raped worse than everyone else. I find the assumption (often clearly stated) that the speaker must remain silent if such information is not provided to be appalling.

I've been working for years to develop certain areas of expertise, and I'm happy to be able to apply what I've learned to my fandom. What both people confronting me seemed to be suggesting, however, is that my expertise is the result of my privilege, which in turn disqualifies me as someone who is able to speak. It's understood that, in order to reclaim the right to be heard, I need to demonstrate that I do not in fact have privilege.

It goes without saying that this is not how "social justice" is supposed to work. The way I understand it, a discursive space built on social justice encourages a diversity of voices in an environment that shuts down hate speech instead of promoting it. Anger has its rightful place, of course, but direct personal attacks are not conducive to fair exchange, nor are competitions over who has had the shittiest life. This sort of nonsense isn't social justice; it's garden-variety social toxicity.

To be honest, I've been finding that my participation in Tumblr culture has been yielding diminishing returns for a few months now. I think it's finally time to leave Tumblr behind and get serious about that book I'm supposed to be writing.
pocketseizure: (Needs More Zelda)
Okay, this is going to be a fun post! Haha... ha...

There's this person in the Zelgan fandom who is not quite a troll but regularly engages in trollish behavior on the fandom tag. I've read and left kudos and comments on her fic on AO3, and I usually leave likes on her troll posts on Tumblr as well. Although she tends to hurl out meaningless blanket statements meant to provoke people along the lines of "everyone in the fandom is a terrible racist," I understand where she's coming from, and it's not like I don't know what she's talking about.

Last week was Zelgan Week on Tumblr, which was a bit of a mess but got a lot of attention. It was also a lot of work for those of us participating. At the end of the week, when people were congratulating each other, the not-quite-troll returned to the tag, saying, among other things, "I would just love to have fun like everyone else in this fandom but no, no, I can't because everyone needs to turn Ganondorf into their sick Orientalist wet dream." This is the sort of thing she usually says, and I think we're all used to it, but the timing could not have been worse. Her posts came at that crucial moment when the emotional strain of having done something difficult can either bond a group of people together or break them apart, and because of these posts activity on the tag stopped dead. Since a significant portion of the work that had been posted during the previous week was clearly the result of conversations the fandom has been having about race, I was furious that she would try to undermine our collective efforts to take the fandom in a more progressive direction.

What I wanted to say to her was that the fandom is very brown, international, and queer, but I didn't want to use other people's identity politics to promote my own platform, which would have been in obvious poor taste. I therefore structured my public reply to her in such a way as to trigger an ad hominem attack; and, when the anticipated attack came, I was able to respond quickly by cutting and pasting an apology that I had written in advance.

This is all well and good. Setting up myself as a target so that something important can be said is something I do at work all the time. It's not like it doesn't give me severe anxiety, but there's really no other way to handle difficult and irrational people – someone has to take the initial fall. That being said, I wasn't quite a martyr for the fandom here. I also think the Orientalist wet dream that certain people like to indulge in is super fucking gross, and I wanted to give the not-quite-troll a signal boost. I figured that the drama of the attack-and-defense would help me do that, and indeed it did.

I timed my own post so that it fell largely outside of the North American Tumblr news cycle, and the whole thing died down in less than twenty-four hours. Objective achieved, moving on.

However! This led to a bizarre and (maybe not entirely) unexpected incident that left me reeling. Stay tuned, I guess, as I completely fail to wrap my head around the fandom demand for a formal statement of positionality.

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