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snowynight: Kino in a suit with brown background (Default)
[personal profile] snowynight
Hurt/comfort is a genre that involves the physical pain or emotional distress of one character, who is cared for by another character.  It's a very popular in fanfic. I enter hurt/comfort as keyword in del.icio.us and gets 14441 results. However, the trope is not highly represented in femslash. Using AO3 as an example, there're only 269 story tagged as hurt/comfort which contain femslash pairing. Why the disparity?

I don't have concrete answers. But I have hypothesis.

1. Hurt/comfort usually requires adding and extrapolating the hurt endured by a characters. Unfourtunately, in most of the canons, the female characters suffer, lose their power, are deprived of their agency too many time that we don't feel comfortable writing or reading additional hurt piled on the female characters.

2. Because our canon don't necessary pass the Bechtel's test with flying colour, there's often no other female characters that are reasonably available at these points of the hurt character's life to provide comfort. It can be bypassed, but there're effort.

3. As a lot of femslash writers are identified as female, there's not much distance between the hurt on the characters and the writers themselves. It's easier to identify with the character being hurt and thus harder to fetishizes the hurt.

4. In popular narrative, women are supposed to suffer. As their stories're considered not so important by the society, we're less likely to be trained to acknowledge and expand on the woman characters' suffering. 

Take me as example, if hurt /comfort exists along on a spectrum, I 'm more inclined to hurt the characters and withhold the comfort because I enjoy characters who stoically and bravely endure the bad things in life. However, for some female characters I love, their life basically are bad. Marvel superhero Carol Danvers experienced enough rape as drama, depowering, addiction problems and such that I admire her for being a surviver, but it hurt me to read the canon myself, not to mention creating fanwork based on it. It's harder to provide comfort because Carol's female friends are often not literally available. I'm also less likely to indulge in hurting female characters  because it makes me guilty, as if I were joining the canon writers in depowering the female characters.

It's my hypothesis. What's your opinion?
Date: 2012-05-04 12:36 pm (UTC)

meridian_rose: firefly ship with text keep flying and stay shiny (keep calm)
From: [personal profile] meridian_rose
#1 and #3 I think are major reasons for this, especially #3 where these characters may be our role models.

Also in het and slash h/c there's an element of breaking down traditional norms and behaviours and letting the male characters be vulnerable and emotional in ways that canon (and society) does not usually allow. With femslash, you're dealing solely with female characters who are more likely to be, or can acceptably be, vulnerable and free to express their emotions.

Interesting post :D
Date: 2012-05-04 04:34 pm (UTC)

cleo: (Beauty: Maleficent ruined throne)
From: [personal profile] cleo
Here via fem_thoughts. Hi!

i agree with you that numbers 1 and 3 are major reasons for this. I tend to fall where [Bad username or unknown identity: snowy night] does on the spectrum, with withholding comfort, and I think female characters who are stoic and endure are more of a way of breaking down traditional norms for femslash (or any) fantoms the way hurt/comfort is for other fantoms, especially slash.

And agreed again interesting post!
Date: 2012-05-04 09:21 pm (UTC)

soukup: Kodama from Mononoke-hime (Default)
From: [personal profile] soukup
*nods* I agree strongly with what you say in #3 -- I can think of plenty of fiction by male authors that seems to "fetishize" (your word describes it perfectly) female pain, in a way that I find really creepy and gross. This makes me reluctant to dwell on the details of a woman's suffering, particularly if there's also a stronger "saviour" figure involved (male or female). Also, I like writing people I admire, especially women I admire, and one of the things I admire a lot is self-sufficiency, independence. It's way more satisfying for me to write a story about a character who goes through something tough and handles it herself.

And when it comes to romance, I'd rather read about people in a relationship who both feel like they can walk away from it -- who have no debt to each other, who see themselves as equals and who are together for love alone. When it feels like one of the characters is with the other in part because she feels obligated or indebted or something, that leaves a gross taste in my mouth.
Date: 2012-05-10 02:52 pm (UTC)

sahiya: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sahiya
I've actually thought about this a lot, since I'm a queer woman who loooooooooves her hurt/comfort fic and yet hardly ever writes it for femslash (which is probably part of the reason that I don't write much femslash, period). For me, I don't think it has to do with #3 at all, mostly because I don't see hurt/comfort the way I write it as fetishizing pain (I'm way more into the comfort than the hurt, and I don't write violent hurt, generally). For me, hurt/comfort is about rendering a very stoic character vulnerable and then seeing what happens, and I have done this with female characters who fall into that category (albeit in a het context). But I think there are generally fewer female characters out there who push that particular button for me.
Date: 2012-05-10 08:13 pm (UTC)

flo_nelja: (Default)
From: [personal profile] flo_nelja
I love femslash and hurt/comfort. I hadn't noticed the lack of intersection before you pointed it out.

2. seems to me to be one of the reasons for the lack of femslash in general, not especially for hurt/comfort.

Indeed, when I read or write hurt/comfort, I often use canon "hurt" and bother only with the comfort, so for me 1. doesn't really play, I guess. On the contrary, if the hurt is already in canon and I can put some confort on it - even if it means extrapolate before - it's all good.

Have you searched about what are the more frequent "types" of story in femslash, what genres take the place of hurt/comfort? I'm interested now!
Date: 2013-02-26 06:04 am (UTC)

Hmm...

ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I've noticed that a majority of hurt/comfort readers are said to be female and prefer male characters. But I read hurt/comfort in a wider literary range than just inside fandom. Tolkien, for instance, has an exquisite grasp of h/c infrastructure that underlies the impact of most of his writing. Buffy is another good example; hardly an episode goes by without someone getting hurt and comforted, and there are enough female characters for that to include f/f action. So if you include canon examples, not just fanfic, that opens up more room for femslash or female friends in h/c generally.

One of my projects is a Poetry Fishbowl where I write poems based on what my readers request. It didn't take them long to start asking for returns of favorite characters. And the interesting thing? My audience leans toward female, and they favor female characters. I've got a bunch of series with female leads, and fewer with male leads. Yet folks like the hurt/comfort aspects, even with female characters in play. (Okay, they also like to help me beat up guys.) So there's variation across audiences, as there is across fandoms in some regards.

Among my most h/c series with female characters:
Fiorenza the Wisewoman has an herbalist as the main character. Her whole job is about taking care of people, although sometimes she's more tart than sweet about it.

Hart's Farm is a relationship-heavy series with loads of characters in different combinations. It runs to emotional challenges, sprinkled with a few physical ones, and lots of fluffy comfort.

Path of the Paladins has two female leads, a senior paladin and her novice. Both of them have been roughed up by the wreck their world is in. It's a very gritty, "takes a licking and keeps on ticking" storyline.

Three totally different tones, yet all run strong on hurt/comfort and all generously supplied with female characters, by audience request. A big part of that is because people can ask for and get stuff they aren't getting from the mainstream entertainment.

Fandom does something similar in letting people self-select what motifs to feature and what characters to put into them. There seems to be a growing interest in femslash and female friendships: enough to have single-fandom and multifandom fests on those themes now. Sometimes you get audience clusters, where a bunch of folks like similar things and therefore feed into each other and amplify that. Other times it's the canon itself that provides the impetus, such as a show like Buffy or Birds of Prey with enough female characters to make f/f combinations easy instead of a stretch.

It's a subtly different itch to scratch, h/c with women rather than with men. One aspect of it is that whole stories that usually involve a man or men can happen just with women. That you don't need a man for that. Some fanwriters especially play that up if there is any kind of butch/femme split in character personality (think tough Zoe and elegant Inara, or slayer Buffy and witch Willow).

I like seeing the diversity that h/c can reach, across fanfic and canon, across m/m and m/f and f/f and all the other alphabet soup. It's not just a genre; it's a plot dynamic. There's a lot that can be done with it.

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