Live and Let Live: Thoughts on Fandom and Acceptance

Let’s take a minute and talk about fandom.

We (otherwise known as fans) rally around a show, or a movie, or a band in the way that we rally around all causes. The implicit humanness of the stories, the music, and the people involved make us want to connect and be part of something bigger. They make us want to reach beyond our comfort levels and join in with people who desire to cheer, laugh, and cry together. Humanity becomes the centerfold for our desire to be part of this wonderful thing that can start a whole community of art, writing, articles, and, ultimately, passion.

Women, in particular, are often condemned for this passion. If they are excited about a book, a movie, or a TV show the content must be inherently less than if a man liked it. There must be something lacking if a show had a predominately female fanbase, or so it is repeated ad nausem to women. It is an inherent “fact” that gets assumed as incomparable truth by even the largest of media outlets. The worst thing in my opinion is when the people who are laying into women for what they like, for how they like it, are other women.

The hypocrisy that can be found is nothing next to the entitlement that is at the root of these toxic thoughts.

The entitlement goes like this:

“I like this thing the way that I like it, so I must be right in liking it.”

“Someone likes this other thing that I think is stupid, therefore they must be stupid, mean, and willing to attack me for my beliefs.”

“I must attack before they attack me.”

I’m a big believer in the strength of women. They are told again and again that they are not worthy and that they should give up the things they like in order to fall in predestined roles about femininity and sexuality. They have courage, and they have the ability to change so much. They rise up because they must, and they do it with such grace and power.

So when I see women go after other women for daring to say something they don’t agree with, for having an opinion that differs from their own, I get flummoxed. Don’t we have enough of the “well, actually” crowd, the “well, you just don’t understand the complexities” crowd, the “no need to get emotional” for having an opinion crowd? Has it become so part of our national conversation that we no longer see it when we do it to others? When did “I like this thing!” get turned into “I like this thing and I must attack all others who disagree with me or so help me god there will be BLOOD.”

Why are we constantly on the offensive for something that is about what we all enjoy?

As the Editor wrote in an article you can find here, people have made it a mission to attack others for having an opinion in fandom over the years since social media has become a thing. It’s not even “We can agree to disagree.” It’s “You’re dumb and vile and LOVE THE FORCES OF EVIL AND PROBABLY ENJOY THE COMPANY OF PEOPLE WHO EAT THE LAST SLICE OF PIZZA WITHOUT ASKING!!!”

These attacks are an attempt to invalidate the people who write things, who like things. Because in order for that person to like something that you do not like, who have an opinion outside of the one you have, they must have evil in their hearts, right? They must be ignorant, selfish, cruel, sexist, an abuser of animals, and a mentally unwell person to enjoy something you think is dumb. If they are smart, and kind, and compassionate, and they like the thing you hate, which is typically a pairing of some kind, then that might somehow reflect back on you. That might somehow mean you are the opposite – that you are lacking in some fashion. It might mean that you are wrong.

People don’t like to feel wrong, I’ve found. They don’t like to consider other points of view when they are certain they are right. (Never mind that this is exactly what’s wrong with our social and political climate in regards to equality and justice right now.) Points of view outside our own are good things. They mean that we can see the world anew a million times over. We can see through the eyes of our sisters, can find commonality in our shared humanity. That does not mean we have to agree with everything that comes out of their mouths, but we can respect their right to say it. We can respect that being the same all the time is boring as hell.

Should problematic behavior be called out? Yes, if it’s hurting others. Does this mean that person has to listen to you? No, absolutely not. Should people be allowed to bully others? No, never. Does everyone see problematic behavior the same way? No, not at all.

I think the last one confuses people the most. They see something as problematic when things aren’t truly problematic. This is not an attempt to invalidate anyone’s opinion, but there are inherent places where problems in fandom lie, and that is not where everyone always rallies. We can all agree that people’s attempts to invalidate the things women like is not good behavior. We can agree that calling a portion of any fandom dumb or “too female” is not good. We can agree that using “crazy” as an attempt to invalidate differences of opinion is harmful and damaging to the mental health community.

We can agree that comparisons meant to lessen one woman in order to lift up another are bad, bad, bad. We can agree to call out the systems in place that promote only a white, male perspective. Problematic rests in the things that use stereotypes, sexism, racism, ableism, mental health phobia, etc. to define an entire swath of fandom, and then consequently invalidate the things they like. Problematic rests in any attempts to put others down, to bully, harass, and to demean others. Problematic lives in taking any valid criticism given and framing it like it’s an attempt of the mentally unwell to throw mud at a pristine person, place, or thing. (Pristine noun? Is that a thing?)

Not problematic is saying “I like that pairing,” or “That scene gave me the feels,” or “This show is awesome and I really like this one character.” This is called opinion, and you are welcome to ignore it if you disagree. It will not harm you to let others enjoy what they enjoy. And if you don’t see enough people talking about the thing you like, start a blog, start a web series, make art! Create and enjoy without getting mad that not everyone is paying you attention.

There is a saying: Live and Let Live.

I think it touches on the way in which we could all be kinder to one another. We need to have the backs of our fellow humans, educate ourselves on the points of view I mentioned, get perspective unlike our own, and revel in the differences of humanity that sows compassion, understanding, and beauty of the soul. This means standing up for equality, calling out sexism, and being like Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger and standing strong against bullies across all spaces.

We can be woke without condemning others by default. No one needs our approval to like things, and our opinions are not the only ones that matter. Let people live.

If you have to go into someone else’s house and poke around, only to see their TV posters, movie posters,  etc., and decide that they are being offensive for hanging them on their wall, you are wrong. If you feel the need to police the fandom and the ways they express themselves in their own houses and in non-threatening ways, you are wrong. If you insult, harass, and condemn because you think you love something more or better, you are wrong.

Fandom is love. And it’s time we start realizing that we’re all in it together, no matter who you ship, what character you love, what show you support, or what fandom you belong to.

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