I have tried to understand fan fiction by reading Fan Fiction and Fan Communities and other articles and books. I read an older account of fans when they were first getting online which gave me a really different picture.
This old book from 1997, Wired_Women, was edited by Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba Weise.
I typically encounter a lot of contempt toward female media fans on the internets…and off them too. The contempt is hardly news but it is interesting to read these articles on the earlier days of media fandom and wonder what happened…
“Estrogen Brigades and ‘B|g T|ts’ Threads: Media Fandom Online and Off” by Susan Cleric (pp 73-97)
Cleric begins by claiming, “The majority of media fans are women.”
It’s been a long time since then, I wonder what the ratio is now.
She goes on, “Media fandom wouldn’t exist without women because more women than men do the communication work necessary to forge and maintain the community.”
Well, this could be argued but most of the research on communication I’ve read seems to support that women perform more of the social/private communication whereas men perform more of the business/public communication. (Too lazy to cite them.)
Cleric said that there have been efforts to make women feel unwelcome in media fandom communities online by ignoring her or by sending her offensive emails or by making ‘b|g t|ts’ posts. She said women favor mailing lists to Usenet groups.
Usenet never much appealed to me but there are plenty of women on the mailing lists that I belong to. Of course, I belong to fiction mailing lists which attract more women than men anyway.
Another method to give women the cold shoulder is by such comments as, “This show is a guy’s thing; there’s something wrong with you for liking it.”
I’ve not experienced this particular problem. But it’s amuses me that a lone man in a group of women will be politely listened to whereas a lone woman in a group of men will be completely ignored.
Cleric says that women criticize men who include themselves in their fan fiction stories. Men tell stories about themselves; women tell stories about other people. Male writers tend to write stories that include hardware, violence, and convoluted plots that go nowhere.
This is the section that completely amazed me. What I’ve read online about fan fiction universally condemns young women for their writing subjects, execution and taste. The “Mary Sue” protagonists and the poor plotting efforts are frequently mentioned.
It would be interesting if someone did a new study on what male and female fans choose to write about. It would also be interesting if someone examined the types of protagonists each gender chose to place in their narratives.
Cleric also says that slash frequently encounters censorship. She says the disgust with slash tends to come from young males.
I have found that young adolescents of both genders have a fairly narrow field of concepts they do approve of.
Slash is not my cup of tea but it does make me look at stories a little differently and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no accounting for taste. *shrugs*
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- Fan Culture and “Virtual” Communities (gatheringinlight.com)
Some Mary Sue links