Fandomsecrets is a wonderful source of writing prompts. It reminds me of things I want to say, to or about fandom, but would just as soon not leave in an unindexed post that I have no chance of ever finding again. For now, I write the short stuff there, and put the longer rants here.

Today's subject: thought policing in fandom.

Generalized suspicion is counterproductive and unpleasant. You can act like the people you meet are probably reasonable and revise your opinion of a specific individual if they attempt to trample your limits, or you can act like you're surrounded by idiots/perverts/lunatics/racists/sexists/take-your-pick. Neither attitude will keep you from having to deal with the occasional douche, but the latter will penalize everyone who has to deal with you. Innocent until proven guilty, vs. guilty until proven innocent.

A person who expects everyone they meet in a given space to suck is degrading the social vibe of that space. They are disrespecting every decent person who hangs out there by assuming that, as an intelligent, sensitive fan, they will be alone or vastly outnumbered by inferiors. Taking it for granted that they can either suffer fools or start conflicts makes them act passive-aggressive and powerless.

I think the implicitly patronizing, self-aggrandizing aspects of an "I know what's best for me and everyone" attitude should to be obvious enough to attract more negative attention, but it's pervasive and noxious. SJWs take it to such an excess that the community at large can see the problems with it, but I think everyone who's been a nerd in school needs to deprogram some from being treated like we're uniquely smart and acceptable targets. That leaves psychological scars and a complex sense of isolation that it's difficult to break out of, and sometimes makes us try to turn the world or the internet into a safer space that conforms to rules - rules we’re sure we don't need. But those other people, you know … they have no judgment. Except, by that logic, I'm "those other people" to you, and you're "those other people" to me. What happens to us as a community, when everyone secretly fears each other? It doesn’t weed out the hurtful people. It just causes a lot of generalized angst over not saying something creepy, putting enough disclaimers in front of your question, and otherwise trying to “prove” you don’t suck.

Made-up limits appeal to the part in us that's been hurt, betrayed, abused ... and believes straitjacketing everyone else in rules would reduce the risk of future badness. It doesn't work that way. We're reproducing the oppression society inflicted on us (by stereotyping the whole of fandom as abnormal) when we try to control what other fans think, write, and say. When we set arbitrary stops on what "healthy engagement" looks like. When we worry about people who play violent video games, or read potentially abuse-glamorizing romance novels, or write fanfic we're uncomfortable with, what we're really saying is "I don't trust you strangers to be sane and not a threat to me."

There's a lot of interpersonal trouble in fandom that needs to be confronted directly: people who are used to cajoling and harassing to get what they want, people who perceive other fans with similar talents as competition for limited attention and praise, people who come from desperate or hellish offline environments and spread their misery. I don't think there's any variety of damage that fandom should reject people for carrying, but we need to differentiate between abstract harms and immediate ones. If you have a crappy life or a crappy past, that’s your business. (I’d love to hear about it if you want to talk, and I’ll probably empathize, but I don’t feel the need to psychoanalyze you.) If you voted for Romney, I may not want to hang out with you, but it’s still your business. When someone’s making other people in their immediate space miserable, though, fandom needs to treat that like our collective business. Whether teenagers read Twilight is not our business. When a community resource nearly closes because someone was being an aggressive, unreasonable douche to the moderator, though, that should be everyone’s business. Conversely, when a mod or BNF is throwing their weight around and making newcomers feel unwelcome, that should also be everyone's business. See the difference?

Giving someone shit about violating made-up rules - how dare you use my icon without permission! - or writing something that offends you - what if a child abuser read your explicit, underage rp? - is cowardly and doesn't address the concrete problems we do have. Many fans don't know how to enforce their own, reasonable limits. Of those who do, many don't know how to say "stop stepping on me" without adding abuse and invective. We need to work on that.

Beyond what people are doing and saying that directly affects us, we need to let other fen be in charge of their own conscience and life. I'd like to see fewer conversations where ignorant outsiders try to dictate to subcultures what's okay and what isn't; fewer non-RPS fans who feel entitled to having and voicing opinions in authoritative tones; fewer adults who think they have a right to decide what kids should be doing and watching, and at what age X is appropriate; fewer people in general that assume they know why you're doing something, and what it means, and whether that's right or wrong.

I'd like more solidarity and trust in fandom. More acceptance of the fact that you only control what you like, watch, and do, and that's perfectly fine - fandom would not be vastly improved if everyone thought like you. More willingness to believe fellow fans, when they say "I feel this" or "I experienced this". Of course some people troll for fun and lie on the internet. But what's more important: being able to preen and say to yourself "I never get taken in," or creating an environment where, if something connects deeply in a way you can't prove, or something incredible happened to you, you could talk about it in public and expect fandom to give you the benefit of the doubt?

I want us, as a community, to take apart a lot of the assumptions we were given, not accept fail-y behavior as the norm, and not cut each other down as the default. Collectively, we're carrying a lot of bitterness, pain, and trauma around, and we're at our best when we can bring out the best in each other. "Special snowflake" should not be an insult. When people publicly contort themselves into grotesque absurdities, in the hope that someone will look their way and care about them, there's something wrong. When other people point and laugh instead because they’re so smart, they can see through the weak attempt at attention-getting, there’s something wrong. We need to help each other when we can, fight the battles that are right in front of us, and stop assuming that other people need us to save them from their interests or themselves.
coffeevore: A person in a subdued, closed-in room, looking out a bright sunny window. (looking outward)

From: [personal profile] coffeevore

"Special snowflake" should not be an insult. When people publicly contort themselves into grotesque absurdities, in the hope that someone will look their way and care about them, there's something wrong.

I feel rather like "special snowflake" is used far more often to discredit people who are actually just trying to be themselves than it is ever used on anyone who genuinely wants attention. As far as I've seen, people who want attention try to be more like our mainstream media stereotype of cool, and/or just all-around drama-causers (who of course need to make themselves look as "good"/normal as possible in comparison). These people don't get accused of "special snowflake"ness because, in fact, they're not doing anything all that strange or unusual (doing so would get them rejected). On the other hand, the people who actually do get accused of being "special snowflakes" are, invariably in my experience, people who are actually just trying to sort out their own selves and feelings. Most of the time it seems to be just people who are acting out their own unusualness. And the things that do look most like grotesque contortions generally seems to be people's trying to sort out whatever personal mess they're having for themselves, not a bid for attention.

So whenever someone assesses someone else as a "special snowflake", I tend to suspect that that person is actually not doing anything for attention at all, that they're being accused and mislabelled. The worst they might be is trolls in a genuine community trying to make the others look bad. Because people who really want attention, who want others to think they're so cool and awesome, won't touch anything "strange" with a ten-foot pole. That would wreck the same thing they're trying to get, that elusive popularity/coolness that they seem to want so much.