An Open Letter to Slash Fandom

Dear fellow slash fans,

My introduction to slash (actually yaoi/boys’ love, which is the specific term for male/male relationships in Japanese animation) was via the Angelique series, specifically Clavis x Lumiale:

Clavis (on left) and Lumiale (on right)

Angelique is one of those fandoms where it’s ridiculously easy to slash characters: there’s no need to eliminate Angelique herself, she just becomes Queen of All Cosmos Queen of the Cosmos of the Divine Bird and the Guardians are free to carry on with each other. There’s that little thing where Guardians are supposed to be maintaining order in the Cosmos instead of being distracted by mansex love, but it’s okay, gay relationships don’t count! Amirite?

Okay, seriously now, liberties with established worlds aside, we have a couple major image problems:

Misogyny

Gods and goddesses help you if you are a woman in a slash fic.
The fact is, a woman can’t do *anything* in slash media without someone calling her a bitch, a slut, or a whore.  She can’t open her mouth without being called a bitch and she can’t so much as peck one of the leading men on the cheek without someone calling her a whore, or a slut, or someone crying that “SHE’S GETTING IN THE WAY OF THEIR MANSEX PERFECT RELATIONSHIP!” This is why we have things like Slash Misogyny Bingo Cards, note that it says “fangirl” because the majority of slash producers are women.

(Yes, people who aren’t familiar with slash, you read that right. The majority of producers of slash media of the male/male variety are straight women, writing for other straight women. The opposite is true for femslash/yuri.)

My point, fellow slash fans, is that you have an entire genre where women spend time making disparaging comments towards (or sometimes just outright obliterating) other women in order to support a relationship between men.

How is this not internalized misogyny? How is this not supporting the kyriarchy?

Now, you might be willing to concede my point about misogyny, but then you might say: “But Gef! Society is so homophobic, aren’t more relationships between men (and women) a good thing?”

Well, yes, but that brings me to my second issue….

Homophobia

What? This can’t be right! How can an entire genre based on depicting same-sex relationships be homophobic? Allow me to demonstrate with pictures:

This is fiction.
This is real life.

How many of you went “Awwwww,” to the first image and “Ew!” to the second one? If you did, you are part of the problem.

Let’s do the same thing for women:

Fiction
Real Life

Herein lies the problem, my fellow slash fans. The problem is that we glorify (nay, fetishize) fictional same-sex pairings but we don’t give a shit about actual gays and lesbians.

TV Tropes has a couple of tropes for this phenomenon: Girl on Girl is Hot and Guy on Guy is Hot. Most of the time, it refers to the phenomenon where an insecure straight white male (and the ones I’ve seen are most often male) who rant about how two men together is just disgusting, but lesbians are okay, because see the above trope. I’ve lost count of how many times homophobic men will go on and on about what gay people do in the bedroom and how gross it is but turn into drooling idiots the moment someone mentions lesbians. (It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad.) Homophobic women, I’ve noticed, tend to just hate both equally, but see below. The slash fan version tends to be “relationships between fictional guys are hot but gay men are EW!”

Go back to that slash bingo card, you’ll see that one of the squares reads: “I ship yaoi to support the gay rights movement”.

Shipping one male character with another male character and writing crappy fiction about it on the interwebs is not “supporting the gay rights movement” it’s writing crappy fiction on the interwebs!

Do you know what is “supporting the gay rights movement”? It’s not voting for politicians who want to deny rights to gays and lesbians. It’s not being silent when your friends make homophobic remarks. It’s certainly not making homophobic remarks yourself (as you draw more Cloud/Sephiroth fanart).
You can patronize businesses who have expressed support for us:

Give these companies your money.

Recently, you can add Amazon and Electronic Arts to the list (although, if you ask me, EA is still pretty evil).

No, you don’t have to march in your local gay pride parade, but there are simple things you can do to show your support, but one of the best things we can do, as fans, is call out misogyny and homophobia when we see it. Don’t just write it off as “it’s a part of the culture” bigotry in any form shouldn’t be a part of ANY culture!

One last note, could we PLEASE stop using the “but I have friends who are gay/black[insert minority group here]” defense? The fact that you have friends who are members of a minority group does not automatically grant you immunity from making disparaging comments about minorities. I don’t have any friends who are gay or black, but you know what the difference between me and a “but I have friends who are gay/black” homophobe or racist is? I don’t make homophobic or racist comments! If you aren’t racist, homophobic, or whatever, don’t make comments and then backpedal by using the “best friends defense”–don’t make those comments in the first place! If you find you can’t say anything nice about someone without using that line, maybe it’s time to take a good long look at yourself.

I believe that the fandom can still have the likes of Clavis/Lumiale, Kirk/Spock, Haruka/Michiru, and Willow/Tara (and well, a billion other pairings) without putting down others or ignoring issues that affect real same-sex couples, but this head-in-sand policy towards misogyny and homophobia in the fandom is definitely not helping. Think before you ship.

Sincerely,

Gef

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2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Slash Fandom

  1. Well, personally, I like cuddly bears and lesbians who accessorize with hats and scarves, but that’s just me…

    Yeah, you’ve summed up my feelings about slash fiction…I could never really get into so much of it because of the fetishization vibe.

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