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snowynight: An Asian doctor who's also Captain America (Default)
[personal profile] snowynight
Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.(1) In the case of writing femslash, I would like to share the joy, conflict, and struggle in trying to incorporate intersectionality in writing femslash.

My background: I mostly write in Marvel comics and Disney Princess fandom. I identify as Hong Kong Chinese. When I look back at my work, I write 9 out of 24 femslsh stories with characters of colour as protagonists, and 4 out of 24 with disabled characters as protagonists, 1 out of 24 is labeled with class issue.

The first thing about intersectionality is to aim for diversity in general as well as gender-balance and women-friendliness in particular. On AO3, there're 507 femslsh out of 3048 work labelled with characters of colour, 42 work out of 627 with disabled characters labeled, 8 out of 75 work labelled class issues are femslash, so people are writing, and conscious enough to label them.

When I started writing less than three years ago,  a friend of mine introduced me to Misty Knight and Colleen Wing in Marvel comics. Misty is an ex-New York cop with a cybernetic arm. Colleen is a samurai in United States. Together they fight crime. They have a relationship that transcends beyond friends or sisters, and in one issue Misty's love for Colleen is strong enough to break free of mind control. It's great shipping materials. But back then on the AO3, there was only one drabble featuring both of them. I surfed the Internet and could only find two fic on LJ. A google search shows 3 work with Misty Knight on fanfiction.net. Simply put, they may as well be invisible. The reasons seem to be clear: They're not in  a major comics series, do not star in movie or TV or animations. I hate to speculate, but that they're female characters of colour may play a strong part in their being ignored by Marvel and the fans.

So I write.

There is joy, simply because I have materials to read about them together. Judging from the hits and kudoes, they 're read by people other than me. There's frustration and challenge. Because I'm not them. Colleen was raised in Japan and received samurai training. Then she moved to US. I don't have the relevant background to understand all these impact on her. Misty is a Black ex-New York cop. What does she experience because she's a Black woman everyday? I can't say. Looking back I think I go for the canon route, to write about them s superhero, as lovers, but to downplay these kinds of issues.  Even if I were a Black disabled woman who lived in New York, we might not share the same experience.   I can do research as best as possible, but the distance 's always here, and I need to respect it.

Another example is Belle/Esmeralda (Disney), which is inspired by a fanvid. They live in a dangerous time for love, and Esmeralda's raised as a Romani. The cross race relationship brings the factor of power in. I want to say that I handle the issue well, but in fact I evade it by writing AU for them. It's Disney, and they deserve a happy ending.

And I want to tell you  my bad example of doing it wrong. Destiny/Mystique is a canon bisexual couple in Marvel comics, and Destiny's blind. When I write a certain story bout them and reread it, a scene comes out totally wrong: I totally forget that Destiny's blind when writing that scene. This's my privilege and lazy writing showing.

When I write the characters, I try to ask myself some questions: Do my characters avoid to be stereotypes? Do they have agency of their own? Do they live in a world that reflects the diversity of the reality? I try to achieve all of them, and I can say I do my best in them. But is it enough? I don't know.

The benchmark of Bechdel's test is "...Plenty of female characters, with stories told from their POV, and stories that are not entirely cliche, and with agency in those storylines that is not usually taken away from them, and have relationship with other women..." (2) and I just want to add one thing: let the female characters be outside the able-bodied, white, or other privileged norm.


(1)http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Intersectionality
(2)http://ivanolix.livejournal.com/199285.html

Date: 2012-04-30 02:27 am (UTC)

woldy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] woldy
I was hoping for incisive posts like this, so thank you!

I enjoyed the examples you provided and linking your experience to fandom more broadly with the AO3 stats (how depressing) and Bechdel test. Thank you for admitting that you've got it wrong in the past, too - I think that worries a lot of people (I find myself hesitating about writing some disabilities for that reason) but your post encourages me to try and then if I mess it up to try again and fail better :-)
Date: 2012-04-30 02:27 am (UTC)

automaticdoor: britta and annie from community holding hands (brannie holding hands)
From: [personal profile] automaticdoor
I really like this post, as a person with intersectional issues (class, ability status). I'm glad to know other people are thinking about these things. I'm interested in fic that builds from lived experience!

I'm not sure if you watch Community, but I want to explore these issues in upcoming femslash fic between the two characters holding hands in my icon--one is a former prescription drug addict and the other one is studying psychology and is basically armchair diagnosing all her friends this season on the show.
Date: 2012-04-30 03:40 am (UTC)

levitsa: (historical: with my gimp stick)
From: [personal profile] levitsa
Writing about disability in general continues to escape a lot of professional writers from whom our fandoms come. As a woman with disabilities (I have chronic pain conditions), it is always so disappointing when disabilities vanish or are treated in inaccurate ways. I will never stop being angry at Steven Moffatt for writing John Watson having a disability that was magically cured by Sherlock's love of adventure. At least Jude Law's Watson continues to limp and need his cane when he has pushed his injury past the point of sense and reason. I find it inspiring and meaningful that Law's Watson is a handsome and admirable hero who continues to limp. Off the top of my head I cannot think of any wildly popular female characters like this, but I might be in the wrong fandoms. (Though Kara Thrace in BSG might kinda count, as her limp returns in episodes where she is seen to fall or run but it doesn't feel the same).

Intersectionality is something I haven't yet written much about in femslash. While I have written some fics about the intersection of racism, class, and disability in m/m stories (for Lord of the Rings mostly), I haven't done this yet with female characters. And now I want to go chew on this post in a corner and puzzle out why that is.
Date: 2012-04-30 05:04 pm (UTC)

levitsa: (historical: lesbian besties)
From: [personal profile] levitsa
In retrospect I have written some about lesbianism and class difference, mostly. Though I write a lot of disabled male characters, I haven't really written a disabled woman, though my primary writing partner does sometimes. Part of it, I think, is that I don't often write female characters, and so most of my explorations have been with male characters. I'll have to think more about incorporating intersectionality into my work.
Date: 2012-04-30 04:42 am (UTC)

lilacsigil: Jeune fille de Megare statue, B&W (Default)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
Even if I were a Black disabled woman who lived in New York, we might not share the same experience. I can do research as best as possible, but the distance 's always here, and I need to respect it.


This is a really good point. No matter how strongly I identify with a character, I am not them. Research and respect and a willingness to be corrected when wrong are so important, and I love that you write with those concepts in mind.
Date: 2012-04-30 06:33 am (UTC)

dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)
From: [personal profile] dharma_slut
what a lot of thinky thoughts!

I have another one: Trans women, or other wise unusual gendered.

I have a BDSM couple where one of the partners is a butch lesbian and her girlfriend, unexpectedly for them both, is a trans woman. I write a lot of explicit sex into my stories: How do I write theirs? I am very unsure about it.
Date: 2012-04-30 04:07 pm (UTC)

dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)
From: [personal profile] dharma_slut
I guess so too.
Date: 2012-04-30 07:42 am (UTC)

Yay!

ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This is very thoughtful. I often point out the connections between different branches of oppression. I also favor creating and enjoying material with a high degree of diversity across multiple lines.

Some of my poetic series you might like -- The Origami Mage is oriental fantasy with two female leads. The Steamsmith is steampunk about a black, British, female alchemist. Hart's Farm has a focus on all different kinds of relationships and has a lot of female characters interacting.
Date: 2012-04-30 09:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Yay!

ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
All the series I mentioned are on my Serial Poetry page:
http://penultimateproductions.weebly.com/serial-poetry.html
They're alphabetical by series title, then poems are chronological within each series, with links to all the ones published online thus far.
Date: 2012-05-06 07:07 am (UTC)

arobynsung: (Default)
From: [personal profile] arobynsung
I was trying to think of intersections, especially ability issues written well. The parts of ATLA fandom I've experienced usually do Toph, who's a blind female character of color, justice. It's a challenge to write because of the privilege a good number of us have, but it requires an awareness to do well.

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