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Meta ahead! Avert your eyes, children! - Diary of a Necromancer
Excuse me, I'm making perfect sense, you're just not keeping up
Meta ahead! Avert your eyes, children!
I think somebody was trying to fangirl me at a con last night. I say "trying" because I rolled a critical fumble on my Social Interactions save and ended up mumbling the classic I just never believe that anybody's reading that... crap..., which one always regrets even as one hears it coming out of one's own mouth, and slunk away under cover of room-clearing while they were still wondering exactly HOW much of a weirdo they've been wasting their time reading to lick my mental wounds. This is, apparently, destined to be The Con Where Something Socially Awkward Happens for me, year-on-year.

It does gets me wondering, though: to what extent is I just never believe that anybody's reading that... crap... a generational reflex within fandom, and what's a gendered reflex, and what's just my own damn socialization issues from a childhood of being generally disapproved of regardless of what I was doing? Taking these points in turn:

1) Generational. Ballparking, I was Old Enough To Be Their Mom. And even my fannishness is Old Enough To Be Their Mom, for that matter. (I've been doing this stuff, of my own initiative, since 1973. Um, yeeah.) Which, basically, means I was "in fandom" before the rise of the internet, and they... weren't. I can remember when you didn't do these things in public at all, when you especially didn't do them if you were a girl, and to be internet-namechecked in public for having been stupid enough to write it on my badge tripped a bunch of DENY EVERYTHING THESE ARE NOT THE WRITERS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR reflexes. Simply put, these... um... kids (I am now going to put the "get off my lawn" icon on this post) are coming up in a system where they are not the only one; they have the internet, they have always had each other, and this is just another way of living your life.

(...I just made the fannish experience sound like coming out, didn't I. I suppose there are certain elements in common. Especially the part where it's happening younger and younger because The Man's having a harder and harder time arguing that it's an isolated aberration in a monolithically normative culture...)

There's also that "who the hell are we to be thinking we have a right to what we're doing" factor; someone who came up in a system where fandom was a one-to-many, largely consumed experience is going to have a different relationship to fannish activities than someone who's been writing and publicly posting fanworks since it occurred to them to follow a media-property. Somewhere along the line fannish culture has hit critical mass for being a many-to-many activity in an aboveboard way, where it's widely accepted as a premise that fans will turn around and deconstruct their source-material into their own derivative works, and as this becomes the new normal even the once-resistant Powers That Be are starting to shrug and say, "Nah, a C&D would do us more harm than good, man, publicity is publicity". (Yeah, I'm old enough to remember what happened when Paramount/Viacom first discovered what we were up to out here on the internet...) And it probably doesn't hurt that with the aforementioned generational shifts, it means the lunatics are starting to be the ones running the asylums...

2) Gender. Again, partly a generational issue, but a lagging one; women are still to some degree unconsciously socialized to devalue their own work, to look at everything that they do in a day and say, "well, none of that counts, because if it counted I'd get money for it, and therefore if I am not getting money for it it has no value, QED". This society is particularly bad for having any ability to assign worth to non-monetized interactions, and the bulk of that burden falls upon women -- forget housework and childcare, even, just consider the relative payscales of someone who spends their day shuffling imaginary numbers around in the financial markets versus training up the next generation in our schools. The moment something becomes gendered, and becomes assigned to the female side of the ledger, the moment it becomes an activity "without worth", to be denied in its relative importance within an individual life.

(Aside: it's interesting that I am also old enough to have tracked how fandom is flipping from being associated with something that males did in their mom's basements to something that females do on the internet -- itself a reversal, since I can recall the Bad Old Days when you used a gender-neutral or male pseud or someone might follow you home. And there's a tangent on how women are socialized to BE AFRAID all the time, that very metaphor, but that should properly be its own rant some other day... But anyway, to get back towards the topic under review here, one of the panels I attended at this con had an audience that was 95% male... and that seemed weird in the con's overall context. It was a panel regarding a -- male -- showrunner from the 1960's, so there's probably some interesting math to be done there... Is the next generation of "Star Wars Katie"s going to be hearing about how SF has the Girl Cooties and it's the boys who won't own up to it?)

3) My own damn hangups. Some deep-seated specific-to-me programming here that if someone has singled me out for attention the odds are against it being approving, so I start off in interactions like this one expecting a bad outcome and not knowing what to do with myself if it isn't. One-day passes to cons are probably a bad idea, because it sometimes takes me years to convince myself that people actually seem to want to interact with me and they aren't just tolerating my presence because I won't leave... Yeah, way to leave somebody with negative-scale self-esteem, educational-system-and-family.

In conclusion, it was Totally Not You, It Was Me. :) I suppose I should probably make up some sort of warning label about that to wear to the next one of these, shouldn't I...

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feeling: thinky

2 responses | moved to respond?
vulgarweed From: vulgarweed Date: November 28th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
The urge to devalue one's own work and to not be able to take compliments well has always seemed very gendered to me (even though I do know some men who act that way and some women who never do), so it makes me sad. Especially in the kind of thing we're "allowed" to take pride in. Being a good cook, yes. Writing good porn, not so much.

In my case, I grew up being fannish in a male-dominated area (indie rock and metal; had a xerox zine starting in '84; wound up becoming a professional rock critic for many years) so I always had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder and something to prove. I worry that my ways of relating to people might come off as arrogant in a female-dominated fandom space, whereas it's just the coin of the realm in my upbringing. (Despite my femaleness, I'm afraid I can "mansplain" with the worst of them.)

But of course the generational aspect is just as big, and when the two intersect...wow.

Is the next generation of "Star Wars Katie"s going to be hearing about how SF has the Girl Cooties and it's the boys who won't own up to it?)

Wow. I wonder. I hope not, but I can see how it could happen.
robling_t From: robling_t Date: November 28th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
And my writing's not even poooooorn! {wails} I know that part of why I tend to devalue it, or at least the subset of it that the venue suggests was in question, is that it is by most reasonable yardsticks of its field utter crack; I mean, it could be questioned whether the sandbox I'm playing in is even on the same planet as the conventions that have become established in its subgenre (*cough*Janto*cough*), to a degree where most of my worries as to whether I have any readers aren't so much regarding that absolute quality of the writing itself as the level of interest in my content, when I can literally count the number of fics featuring one of my main pairings on on hand (and believe me, I've looked -- it's a weird enough combination that last year's Socially Awkward Moment involved recognizing that someone's WTF?-this-fic-was... moment could only have been describing something of mine...). I have some steady readers, but it always sort of puzzles me how it's being received as fanfic by this point, and when that's the point-of-entry to what you're trying to do you kind of worry whether you're alienating both the fans and someone who might be tempted to approach it in the spirit of original-fic...
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