Fandoms are a microcosm of society. Or, at least, of the society we live in, right now, in 2018. And society has a problem.
Writing this as a straight person, and yes, a latinx, but not in any way, shape or form, part of the most persecuted minorities might seem like a cop out. But I see fandom fall deeper and deeper into the same pitfalls every day, and at some point, it’s time to take a stand.
This is mine. This is ours.
Fandom reflects reality, and reality is, increasingly more so with each day that passes, more homophobic, more racist, and just more intolerant in general; and that makes people feel emboldened.
Look at the constant and extreme hate that Candice Patton receives, for examples, for the only “crime” of existing as a black woman, and of playing Iris West. She does a superb job, and in my mind, Iris West doesn’t look like she did in the comics anymore, she looks like Candice, and yet every day there’s another racially charged slur thrown her way, more often than not – and let’s call a spade a spade – because of the color of her skin and not her portrayal. And let’s not even go into the critique of Black Panther by a segment of the public that only seems concerned about the fact that, for the first time, there’s only one person that looks like them to root for.
Take the extreme and virulent hate LGBTQ+ couples get, a hate that’s magnified by a thousand when the LGBTQ+ couple involves a POC. It’s easier, somehow, for people, even bigoted people, to stomach Wayhuaght than Kadena, and that’s saying a lot because it’s not easy at all.
LGBTQ+ couples get a lot of hate. A great deal of the hate has to do with homophobia.
But, Lizzie, you ask, what do we do? We can’t change the world, or at least, we can’t change it as quickly as we want to. And I understand that, I do, as much as it pains me. We’re all soldiers in this war against the idea that people who look different, who worship another God, who don’t conform to our expectations or who don’t love someone of the sex we think they should, are somehow wrong.
We should all be fighting for equality, true equality, and the road is steep and the battle long.
But to fight, to really fight, we must start by taking off the blindfold and acknowledging the problems, not just with fandom, but with society in general. We must learn to keep our mouths shut, and listen. We must understand that a white bisexual man can’t really speak to the experiences of a Muslim woman living in Saudi Arabia, or a lesbian Latina doesn’t really understand what being black and living in predominately-white areas of the United States feels like.
And we must respect that other people’s experiences are different, and our truth doesn’t necessarily align with theirs.
There’s a tendency, in fandom and in life, to say: it’s an exaggeration, when someone expresses an opinion we don’t understand or relate to. There’s a tendency to reply with: I’m not like that. But, just as “Not All Men” is not the right answer, “Not everyone is racist/homophobic” is not the right answer either.
Because of course we’re not all racist/homophobic. That’s a given. But not being racist and/or homophobic, or not considering ourselves to be either of those things, doesn’t mean we get it. And that should be our starting point.
Let’s never consider our own voices to be the universal truth, especially not when we’re talking about a minority we don’t belong to.
My opinion on Supercorp, for example, is not as important and it certainly doesn’t advance the conversation as much as the opinion of someone who belongs to the LGBTQ+ community. Same as my opinion of Maggie Sawyer’s casting should be amplified over the chorus of white women claiming her casting is not offensive.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t get to express our opinions, it just means we have to learn to recognize the importance of differing opinions, and we have to be willing to listen to what we sometimes might categorize as ‘the other side.’
Because, though we might disagree on entertainment, there are no two sides to the question of equality, to the problems of racism and homophobia, just like there are no two sides to the matter of gun control.
There’s the side that accepts that all people are equal, and should be respected, represented and be free to express their opinions, and then there’s the side that’s wrong.
In the end, the thing we should all remember is this: we don’t get to decide what others like or dislike, but more importantly, we don’t get to dictate what people find offensive or not offensive. Sometimes – often times – we might not get it. It’s impossible to know everything about absolutely everything. But we should always try to listen to what marginalized communities are telling us. And we should, whenever possible, understand that anger isn’t the way to get others to listen to us.
So, yes, punch Nazis. Because there are extremes that shouldn’t be accepted, positions that can’t be reasoned. But as for the rest of the world, and when it comes to fandom issues in particular, words usually work better, and even if we can’t convince everyone, punching first and talking later is usually a pretty safe way to get nowhere.
We have a problem, in fandom, and in society. But the internet is for words, for communication. Doesn’t it feel like it should be the perfect place to reach an understanding of what we need to do to move forward?
Let’s have a talk. We’re ready to listen.