Friday, January 15, 2010

Sexism in Fandom

I don't want to go on and on about a cyber bully and thus give him more attention, but I came upon a thought that relates more to fandom in general. This is the second time a man has attacked me about my love for James Callis, like it's somehow ridiculous to be a fan and have a blog like this. Both times, there have been accusations of being obsessive, and my looks have been used against me in both cases. These two guys seem to be unrelated, are from different countries and probably don't know each other. But I don't think it's a coincidence that they are both men.

When I look back on my time in the Ace of Base fandom, there were always guys saying things like "I like the music, but I don't care about the members, that's just stupid". I'd say most male fans fell into this category. They may have had a thing for either or both of the female singers, but that mostly seemed to be sexual. Very few, if any, of them would identify with the guys or really want to be like them. Some of the girls, likewise, mainly enjoyed the music and not the members. But there were also lots of female fans with an admiration, adoration, or personal devotion for one or more of the band members.

I'd argue BSG fandom is similarly divided. There are fans who go for a certain actor, and there are those who are more into the phenomenon of the show. The latter type of fans seem to be predominantly male, the former female. And this is where it gets sexist: that men hold their type of fandom in higher esteem - possibly simply because it is mostly inhabited by men. Lots of women have this attitude too. We still have this lingering cultural idea that something mainly done by women must be frivolous. People talk derisively of the Bamber Bunnies. (I may have been guilty of that myself in the beginning.) And I guess someone very into James Callis is equally silly.

I wonder - is fandom a female phenomenon? Is it somehow related to how men and women are different, or are at least raised or treated differently? Perhaps this question is, in itself, sexist and doesn't really deserve to be raised. I raise it only because I've seen many examples of this sexism, sometimes aimed at myself, sometimes at others. The argument is simply "You're a silly fangirl, and also you're ugly." The stereotype is that if you have a crush on an actor, you're a bit silly and childish, like a giggling teenage girl. This might also mean that men are less likely to admit it if they feel strongly about a particular actor, role model-wise.

And as we all know, unattractive girls are useless and a joke all around, so it becomes this big cluster of pathetic: a GIRL coveting for an ACTOR - and she's UGLY! Like, she's totally out of his league! She'd never get him into bed in a million years! Bwahaha what a joke!

This also shows that for many men, if they like an actor, it's all about sex. You want someone hot to fantasize about. Sure, I find James very hot indeed, and I do fantasize about him - but that's not all I do. I look up to him as a person, a role model. I enjoy his performances on various shows. The fantasy of James is a fantasy about a great artist, someone I'd like to be. Not just someone I'd like to frak. And definitely not someone I ever expect to have sex with.

I'm not literally "in love with" James. I'm in love with my girlfriend and she's in love with me. That's based on knowing each other well, connecting on some deep level, becoming one. I couldn't have that with James because I've never even met him. If I did, and we connected on some level, that would be great but it still wouldn't be love. It could be, at the very most, a friendship. Whether James finds me attractive doesn't really matter. If he does, I'd be flattered, but if not, that's fine too. What I don't want from him - or anyone - is to be treated as, pardon my French, a nice piece of ass. Most smart women don't want that. We want respect.

This fantasy of James is something that, through my depression, has kept me going. It gives me something to look forward to (James' new projects/cons), something to aspire to (being more like him), something to do (the blog). I've made many friends through the fandom. Not to mention all the great conversations I've had with people about James and BSG, which have all expanded my thinking and view of the world. Is there something frivolous or silly about all of this? To me, there is not. Granted, I do joke about my James adoration, but it's just self-deprecating humor. In all seriousness, I hold fandom in very high esteem. It's an important thing in many people's lives.

Introspection: Why was I so quick to defend myself and say that I do not believe James loves me? Does it mean I, on some level, think others (maybe even James himself) would find me silly if I had a fantasy of mutual love? Did I feel "owned" on some level? Is it an admission of weakness, in our culture, that you dare love a celebrity? Because if I think in those terms, I need to change my thinking. There's nothing silly about this.

While on the topic, I feel like commenting on one more thing Mr Tyler said, and hopefully then put this thing behind us.

Now, I can’t speak for James Callis. Not in the slightest. But I’m guessing, like me, the only faces in the crowd he’ll remember for those few extra minutes more than everyone else are the ones he might want to have sex with (not you), the ones who give him free stuff (probably you) and the ones he’ll learn to avoid as their absolutely off their head mental. Now that last one, without a doubt thats you.

Do I believe this is true of James? No, I don't. This is an extremely cynical and sexist thing to say, and I just don't associate those things with James (though he probably has cynicism and sexism somewhere in his personality, as do we all). I want to point out that James remembers Janine and some others from the Unofficial Website. I don't know if they ever gave him free stuff, but he's been consistently appreciative of them for over ten years now. He also remembered Nicole based on meeting her once at a con 1,5 years prior, and I don't think Nicole brought him anything. I won't comment on the "want to have sex with" thing, because I don't know James' taste in women. I'll just suggest that perhaps to some men, it's not the first thing they care about?

So - even if you've had autograph sessions for whatever reason, James isn't necessarily like you. I'd be very careful with making those assumptions.

In the end, I don't know how James approaches us fans. He seems appreciative in all encounters I've heard of, and in my autograph as well. It could all be an act, but that doesn't really matter as long as he isn't transparently fake. If he respects and appreciates me, great (and admittedly awesome and validating). If not, it's his loss. He'd lose me as a fan, and I'd be sad, but that wouldn't make my dream a joke. And when I say "respect and appreciate", I do not mean "find me attractive". These are two completely separate things. I'm sure James knows that.

I say this to everyone whose fandom has been made fun of: There's nothing frivolous, childish, shameful or silly about having role models. I think everyone does, more or less. And on a very basic level, that's all that fandom is.


Anonymous said...

I think that it's partly to do with the way that generally men and women relate to shows.

Women relate to characters, they watch the show because they either identify with a character or they like a character or its the relationships between characters that is their way in.

Men and I hate generalising like this are more about the plot and good guys vs bad guys. Or who has bigger guns. With men there is usually a competative element, who can recall the most facts who knows more about the subject.

I'd guess that those who mock what is percieved as fangirl behaviour as being intimidated by it in some way. They mock because they don't understand.

As a fangirl myself I'd plot myself as somewhere in the middle between the two poles of fandom I relate to characters but I also like knowing facts.

In BSG my way into the show was through the eyes of Apollo, I related to the character. I also find Jamie Bamber the actor who plays him attractive. But the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Kriss said...

I had to search this out as I think Tyler's a prick of the highest order. But reading your blog you seem to want to justify something. Ive read both blogs and theres nothing specifically anti-male. Just a female example.

As a stand up comedian and actor Id find it strange if someone mixed fandom and fantasy as you have here. The two of you seem to be on different wavelengths.

I started a fight with T years ago. Ive still not won. Your soapbox and your twitter feed is just digging you deeper into his argument.

Dont start a fight you just cant win.

Deniselle said...

Pipsytip, I think you're right. That's what I meant by the "phenomenon" of the show.

Could they be intimidated? It's possible. At the very least, it's judging something you don't understand, like you said. Instead of having a dialogue and listening to the other side, just mocking them.

Kriss, thank you for commenting. I think Tyler was being misogynistic in his comments about me. Specifically in that he calls me ugly, hideous, fat, lonely, pathetic, etc. and keeps saying James would find me unattractive. Why bring up my looks at all? Why would I want James to find me attractive - unless girls just want attention from men, and/or men can only respect attractive girls?

Would Tyler have told me I'm ugly if I were male? Almost certainly not. But maybe, if you're male, you have an opposing example.

Do I try to justify something? It's actually something I was thinking about. Maybe I find the label of fangirl a shameful one, even if some of my feelings could be lumped into that category. But I definitely don't think fan-crushes are lame per se. As a lesbian, I don't fantasize about a relationship with James. My private fantasies are of a different nature, but still too private to be shared in a blog like this. They're only mine.

I have no interest in continuing this argument with Tyler. I did feel the need to defend myself though, as long as I did it calmly. I said I'm reading his twitter, but I'm actually not anymore. If he thinks I am, and keeps yapping that I'm a pscyho stalker, then that just shows how paranoid he is. I think any thinking person can see where the fight started.

Deniselle said...

One more thing - I am not looking to "win" a fight. There are no winners in internet arguments. What I want is for him to leave me alone. But on an intellectual level, he did make me think of what fandom is. If I'd had nothing to say but "leave me the fuck alone", I wouldn't have posted.

The fight is over, as far as I'm concerned.

Ginevra Alessa said...

Hey now, I'm part Bamber bunny! *hops*

I think that some people are just meanies and it's sad.

Deniselle said...

You are?! *immediately thinks less of you*

Hee, J/K. I've found Bamber Bunnies can be quite the friendly, smart and likeable bunch. Certainly welcome in my blog!

Elina said...

And to think that you went through all this through no fault of your own! It boggles the mind!

Stupidity is omnipresent, except here... here, it's more like sillyness. ;)

Anonymous said...

You are a really great writer.

Deniselle said...

Thank you so much. :)

(Yes, I did check if it's the same Anonymous being sarcastic and it's not. I'm becoming paranoid.)