Iâm going to tell you a story about llamas. It will be like every other story youâve ever heard about llamas: how they are covered in fine scales; how they
Awesome article is awesome.
Iâm going to tell you a story about llamas. It will be like every other story youâve ever heard about llamas: how they are covered in fine scales; how they
Awesome article is awesome.
fandom is such a weird personal thing
even if i don’t always succeed i am committed to accepting that
(a) people justifiably detest things that have uplifted and saved me, and
(b) people have been uplifted and saved by things i justifiably detest.
and i firmly believe we cannot begrudge anyone any of it.
I re-blogged a picture of a little girl, dressed as Tiana, hugging the face actress who plays Tiana at one of the Disney Parks, and noted that everyone should have their princess. And a few people have now contacted me basically going “no, only straight white people can have princesses if you stick with the classics.”
I am a folklorist, and it’s time for some Fun With Folklore.
First off, very few Princesses/fairy tale heroines who are going to become Princesses because that’s what you do are actually defined by specific physical attributes. You have Snow White, who yes, requires the “skin as white as snow” etc, but that’s to make her an alien beauty and justify the actions of her stepmother. She belongs to the Aarne-Thompson tale type 709, which is commonly referred to as “Snow White,” but which contains a hell of a lot more, including “Bella Venezia”, “Myrsina”, “Nourie Hadig” and “Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree.” All those links will take you to Wikipedia. Click them. Note that NOT ONE of those girls is defined by her appearance, beyond “incredibly beautiful.” “Nourie Hadig” is Armenian in origin; you can bet that girl was not white as snow. (Note that I do not actually care for the “Nourie Hadig” 709 variant, due to using a Roma girl as the main adversary, but that’s another story.) Any story you want to tell is going to have variants where the heroines are never described! You know why?
BECAUSE THE PEOPLE WHO WERE TELLING THESE STORIES UNDERSTOOD THAT IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR CHILDREN TO SEE THEMSELVES IN THE MIRROR OF THE TALE.
There are fairy tales about people with disabilities, ranging from the physical (missing limbs, missing eyes, missing tongues) to the emotional (girls who cannot smile, boys who cannot feel fear). There are fairy tales that end in same-sex marriage. There’s even an excellent fairy tale about gender identity, “The Princess Who Became A Prince,” in which our hero has always felt he was a boy, but tried to be a dutiful daughter, until a dragon stole a neighbor princess and he had to ride to rescue the girl in order to save the kingdom. One misaimed curse later, and wham, our new-minted prince is finally outwardly as he had been all along on the inside.
THIS IS JUST AS OLD AND TRUE AND SCHOLASTIC AS CINDERELLA AND THE OTHERS.
The “big fairy tales” of today are the ones that someone seized on as marketable. We have the power, as drivers of media, to say that we want more diversity. We want Princesses of every race, creed, and religion, and we have the folklore and fairy tales to make them real. We want our transgender Princess (although wow would the marketing be problematic). Saying “the classics” are 100% about straight white people reduces the past to a place where only straight whiteness existed, and where no other children ever needed stories. And that’s not what the past was.
Once upon a time has never stopped being right now.
I’ve read a lot of great essays about how fandom is female-majority and creates a female gaze and a safe space for women and etc. But spend five minutes in fandom and you’ll have an unsettling question.
Why does a female-majority, feminist culture hate female characters so much?
It’s not a question of if it happens. You know it does. You can go into any fandom and see it. Some fandoms are worse than others, but it’s always there. Scroll down the Tumblr tag for any show, movie, book, comic, whatever, and you’ll see nothing but love for the men, and a lot of unjustified hate for the women, maybe with a few defenders here and there insisting on their love for the women in the face of all that hate.
To be clear, we’re not talking about female villains. Male villains get just as much hate. It’s fine if you hate Bellatrix Lestrange or Dolores Umbridge, you’re supposed to. (I personally stan for Bella, but I realize that wasn’t the authorial intent.) This is about people hating Hermione, Ginny and Luna, but loving Harry, Ron and Neville. This is about how ambiguous male antiheroes, like Snape, Zuko, or pretty much any male vampire protagonist can get away with walking that fine line between good and evil and not only remain sympathetic, but be even more beloved for how ~tortured~ he is, but when a female character is morally gray that bitch has to die.
So you can’t tell me it’s okay that you hate Sansa because you also hate Joffrey and he’s a dude. They’re not comparable. It isn’t even comparable if you pick a female antihero. Let’s do this apples to apples, here.
We all know that fandom does this. We all know that it’s fucked up and symptomatic of internalized sexism. What’s really fucking weird about it, though, is that the women doing this hating often aren’t ignorant. These are feminists. These are women who can go on meta-analyses of the writing. Some will hide behind pseudo-feminist reasons for their hate—oh, it’s the writing, we just aren’t given strong female characters! (I saw this used for the women of AtLA: Katara, Toph, Azula, et al. This was about when I just backed away slowly because I know a lost cause when I see it.) I’ve seen women who denied being sexist, but couldn’t name a single female character they liked. And it’s always that the female characters aren’t good enough, even when they obviously have a double standard, and they’re measuring women on an impossible scale full of contradictions and no-win binds, while the men are just embraced and loved pretty much for existing.
The reaction nearly every time one of these women is called out is not to say, “Huh, you may have a point, I should examine the way I judge and process women’s actions more closely,” but an insistence of their feminism, followed by a more detailed description of why that particular woman is terrible and she hates her, as if the whole point were not that fandom is already oversaturated with that kind of hate, and as if the person doing the calling out were not already 110% done with that bullshit.
Particularly telling is that male-dominated corners of fandom do not have this problem. They fetishize, they objectify, they ignore. They don’t hate like this.
We know it happens. What I want to know is WHY.
Theories follow below the cut.
This is amazing and thorough and oh my god just go read it
tywinning asked you:
As a professor, may I ask you what you think about fanfiction?
I think fanfiction is literature and literature, for the most part, is fanfiction, and that anyone that dismisses it simply on the grounds that it’s derivative knows fuck-all about literature and needs to get the hell off my lawn.
Most of the history of Western literature (and probably much of non-Western literature, but I can’t speak to that) is adapted or appropriated from something else. Homer wrote historyfic and Virgil wrote Homerfic and Dante wrote Virgilfic (where he makes himself a character and writes himself hanging out with Homer and Virgil and they’re like “OMG Dante you’re so cool.” He was the original Gary Stu). Milton wrote Bible fanfic, and everyone and their mom spent the Middle Ages writing King Arthur fanfic. In the sixteenth century you and another dude could translate the same Petrarchan sonnet and somehow have it count as two separate poems, and no one gave a fuck. Shakespeare doesn’t have a single original plot—although much of it would be more rightly termed RPF—and then John Fletcher and Mary Cowden Clarke and Gloria Naylor and Jane Smiley and Stephen Sondheim wrote Shakespeare fanfic. Guys like Pope and Dryden took old narratives and rewrote them to make fun of people they didn’t like, because the eighteenth century was basically high school. And Spenser! Don’t even get me started on Spenser.
Here’s what fanfic authors/fans need to remember when anyone gives them shit: the idea that originality is somehow a good thing, an innately preferable thing, is a completely modern notion. Until about three hundred years ago, a good writer, by and large, was someone who could take a tried-and-true story and make it even more awesome. (If you want to sound fancy, the technical term is imitatio.) People were like, why would I wanna read something about some dude I’ve never heard of? There’s a new Sir Gawain story out, man! (As to when and how that changed, I tend to blame Daniel Defoe, or the Modernists, or reality television, depending on my mood.)
I also find fanfic fascinating because it takes all the barriers that keep people from professional authorship—barriers that have weakened over the centuries but are nevertheless still very real—and blows right past them. Producing literature, much less circulating it, was something that was well nigh impossible for the vast majority of people for most of human history. First you had to live in a culture where people thought it was acceptable for you to even want to be literate in the first place. And then you had to find someone who could teach you how to read and write (the two didn’t necessarily go together). And you needed sufficient leisure time to learn. And be able to afford books, or at least be friends with someone rich enough to own books who would lend them to you. Good writers are usually well-read and professional writing is a full-time job, so you needed a lot of books, and a lot of leisure time both for reading and writing. And then you had to be in a high enough social position that someone would take you seriously and want to read your work—to have access to circulation/publication in addition to education and leisure time. A very tiny percentage of the population fit those parameters (in England, which is the only place I can speak of with some authority, that meant from 500-1000 A.D.: monks; 1000-1500: aristocratic men and the very occasional aristocratic woman; 1500-1800: aristocratic men, some middle-class men, a few aristocratic women; 1800-on, some middle-class women as well).
What’s amazing is how many people who didn’t fit those parameters kept writing in spite of the constant message they got from society that no one cared about what they had to say, writing letters and diaries and stories and poems that often weren’t discovered until hundreds of years later. Humans have an urge to express themselves, to tell stories, and fanfic lets them. If you’ve got access to a computer and an hour or two to while away of an evening, you can create something that people will see and respond to instantly, with a built-in community of people who care about what you have to say.
I do write the occasional fic; I wish I had the time and mental energy to write more. I’ll admit I don’t read a lot of fic these days because most of it is not—and I know how snobbish this sounds—particularly well-written. That doesn’t mean it’s “not good”—there are a lot of reasons people read fic and not all of them have to do with wanting to read finely crafted prose. That’s why fic is awesome—it creates a place for all kinds of storytelling. But for me personally, now that my job entails reading about 1500 pages of undergraduate writing per year, when I have time to read for enjoyment I want it to be by someone who really knows what they’re doing. There’s tons of high-quality fic, of course, but I no longer have the time and patience to go searching for it that I had ten years ago.
But whether I’m reading it or not, I love that fanfiction exists. Because without people doing what fanfiction writers do, literature wouldn’t exist. (And then I’d be out of a job and, frankly, I don’t know how to do anything else.)
Hello! I would like to tell you something important. I used this to help me write it.
We all love stories. Many of us love them so much that we want to make our favorite stories even better. So we write and draw things that add on to the stories, and share them with our friends. But sometimes, people get annoyed about this. They say, “No, you can’t do that to the story! It doesn’t make sense.” This has happened a lot in the past few days, and it has made my friends sad and angry. So I am here to explain why you should not get annoyed when people change stories, and how you hurt us when you do so.
OK so I have something to say and I really hope someone listens. My father read all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works when he was a boy and proceeded to obsess over them for nearly 60 years before he died. I grew up having The Hobbit read to me at my bedside and walking each morning to my 5th grade class with the collector’s compendium of Lord of the Rings under my arm. When I played, it was as a hobbit/elf/dwarf/wizard/whatever, running from Nazgul and fighting the Dark Lord.
I had a discussion tonight with someone about the inaccuracies between J. R. R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. Basically, it lead to the fact that there are a lot of people who are really upset about the discrepancies between the two. The ones that I personally noticed the most was how serious Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit was compared to J. R. R. Tolkien’s. (Not withstanding the major plot changes.)
Here is the conclusion I have come to. When I went into the theatre to see The Hobbit last week, I was excited to see Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. Not J. R. R. Tolkien’s middle earth. Believe it or not, I already have that one in stunning detail. It’s all written beautifully down in a several hundred page tome that smells like my dad. What I saw in the theatre was a re-imagining of someone exactly like me. Someone who loves the books dearly and who spent the time and energy to really think about what that world meant to them. So basically, they are two separate universes in my mind.
Something I don’t understand is how someone can go look at a work of art created by one person and compare it to another. One might do something better than the other (yes, I know I just committed blasphemy by implying that PJ could have done something better than JRR, that is not my point) but ultimately, they are separate works with separate visions. I think where people ruin it for themselves is they don’t keep an open mind and accept the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien’s words translate differently for everyone. I personally had a totally different vision of about 90% of what happened in the Lord of the Rings movies but I still happily embraced the ideas that Peter had of Middle Earth, and I would gladly do it again if someone else did the exact same thing. Think of all the fanart and children’s drawings and fanfictions out there. All different people’s visions.
So here is my suggestion. If you are having trouble digesting the movies, all of the film making and technical mistakes aside, I suggest that you take a look at your own vision of Middle Earth. Do you think what you see in your mind was exactly what J. R. R. Tolkien intended? I highly doubt it was, and I can’t believe that any of us could say that we truly all see the same version of his world. The best we can do is share and embrace the heart and soul of his creations and celebrate them for what they were: Truly inspiring works that have and will continue to affect generations of people for years to come.
First, a story.
So, my first semester of my freshman year of college, I took this Intro to Women’s Studies class. The class met for five hours a week, one two hour session and one three hour session, and the breakdown of students was what I eventually discovered to be the typical…
read it okay
As someone who originally trained as a social historian of the Medieval Period, I have some things to add in support of the main point. Most people dramatically underestimate the economic importance of Medieval women and their level of agency. Part of the problem here is when modern people think of medieval people they are imagining the upper end of the nobility and not the rest of society.
Your average low end farming family could not survive without women’s labour. Yes, there was gender separation of labour. Yes, the men did the bulk of the grain farming, outside of peak times like planting and harvest, but unless you were very well off, you generally didn’t live on that. The women had primary responsibility for the chickens, ducks, or geese the family owned, and thus the eggs, feathers, and meat. (Egg money is nothing to sneeze at and was often the main source of protein unless you were very well off). They grew vegetables, and if she was lucky she might sell the excess. Her hands were always busy, and not just with the tasks you expect like cooking, mending, child care, etc.. As she walked, as she rested, as she went about her day, if her hands would have otherwise been free, she was spinning thread with a hand distaff. (You can see them tucked in the belts of peasant women in art of the era). Unless her husband was a weaver, most of that thread was for sale to the folks making clothe as men didn’t spin. Depending where she lived and the ages of her children, she might have primary responsibility for the families sheep and thus takes part in sheering and carding. (Sheep were important and there are plenty of court cases of women stealing loose wool or even shearing other people’s sheep.) She might gather firewood, nuts, fruit, or rushes, again depending on geography. She might own and harvest fruit trees and thus make things out of that fruit. She might keep bees and sell honey. She might make and sell cheese if they had cows, sheep, or goats. Just as her husband might have part time work as a carpenter or other skilled craft when the fields didn’t need him, she might do piece work for a craftsman or be a brewer of ale, cider, or perry (depending on geography). Ale doesn’t keep so women in a village took it in turn to brew batches, the water not being potable on it’s own, so everyone needed some form of alcohol they could water down to drink. The women’s labour and the money she bought in kept the family alive between the pay outs for the men as well as being utterly essential on a day to day survival level.
Something similar goes on in towns and cities. The husband might be a craftsman or merchant, but trust me, so is his wife and she has the right to carry on the trade after his death.
Also, unless there was a lot of money, goods, lands, and/or titles involved, people generally got a say in who they married. No really. Keep in mind that the average age of first marriage for a yeoman was late teens or early twenties (depending when and where), but the average age of first marriage for the working poor was more like 27-29. The average age of death for men in both those categories was 35. with women, if you survived your first few child births you might live to see grandchildren.
Do the math there. Odds are if your father was a small farmer, he’s been dead for some time before you gather enough goods to be marrying a man. For sure your mother (and grandmother and/or step father if you have them) likely has opinions, but you can have a valid marriage by having sex after saying yes to a proposal or exchanging vows in the present (I thee wed), unless you live in Italy, where you likely need a notary. You do not need clergy as church weddings don’t exist until the Reformation. For sure, it’s better if you publish banns three Sundays running in case someone remembers you are too closely related, but it’s not a legal requirement. Who exactly can stop you if you are both determined?
So the less money, goods, lands, and power your family has, the more likely you are to be choosing your partner. There is an exception in that unfree folk can be required to remarry, but they are give time and plenty of warning before a partner would be picked for them. It happened a lot less than you’d think. If you were born free and had enough money to hire help as needed whether for farm or shop or other business, there was no requirement of remarriage at all. You could pick a partner or choose to stay single. Do the math again on death rates. It’s pretty common to marry more than once. Maybe the first wife died in childbirth. The widower needs the work and income a wife brings in and that’s double if the baby survives. Maybe the second wife has wide hips, but he dies from a work related injury when she’s still young. She could sure use a man’s labour around the farm or shop. Let’s say he dies in a fight or drowns in a ditch. She’s been doing well. Her children are old enough to help with the farm or shop, she picks a pretty youth for his looks instead of his economic value. You get marriages for love and lust as well as economics just like you get now and May/December cuts both ways.
A lot of our ideas about how people lived in the past tends to get viewed through a Victorian or early Hollywood lens, but that tends to be particularly extreme as far was writing out women’s agency and contribution as well as white washing populations in our histories, films, and therefore our minds eyes.
Real life is more complicated than that.
BTW, there are plenty of women at the top end of the scale who showed plenty of agency and who wielded political and economic power. I’ve seen people argue that the were exceptions, but I think they were part of a whole society that had a tradition of strong women living on just as they always had sermons and homilies admonishing them to be otherwise to the contrary. There’s also a whole other thing going on with the Pope trying to centralized power from the thirteenth century on being vigorously resisted by powerful abbesses and other holy women. Yes, they eventually mostly lost, but it took so many centuries because there were such strong traditions of those women having political power.
Boss post! To add to that, many historians have theorised that modern gender roles evolved alongside industrialisation, when there was suddenly a conceptual division between work/public spaces, and home/private spaces. The factory became the place of work, where previously work happened at home. Gender became entangled in this division, with women becoming associated with the home, and men with public spaces. It might be assumable, therefore, that women had (have?) greater freedoms in agrarian societies; or, at least, had (have?) different demands placed on them with regard to their gender.
(Please note that the above historical reading is profoundly Eurocentric, and not universally applicable. At the same time, when I say that the factory became the place of work, I mean it in conceptual sense, not a literal sense. Not everyone worked in the factory, but there is a lot of literature about how the institution of the factory, as a symbol of industrialisation, reshaped the way people thought about labour.)
I am broadly of that opinion. You can see upper class women being encouraged to be less useful as the piecework system grows and spreads. You can see that spread to the middle class around when the early factory system gears up. By mid-19th century that domestic sphere vs, public sphere is full swing for everyone who can afford it and those who can’t are explicitly looked down on and treated as lesser. You can see the class system slowly calcify from the 17th century on.
Grain of salt that I get less accurate between 1605-French Revolution or thereabouts. I’ve periodically studied early modern stuff, but it’s more piecemeal.
I too was confining my remarks to Medieval Europe because 1. That was my specialty. 2. A lot of English language fantasy literature is based on Medieval Europe, often badly and more based on misapprehension than what real lives were like.
I am very grateful that progress is occurring and more traditions are influencing people’s writing. I hate that so much of the fantasy writing of my childhood was so narrow.
Wanna reblog this because for a long time I’ve had this vague knowledge in my head that society in the past wasn’t how people are always assuming it was (SERIOUSLY VICTORIANS, THANKS FOR DICKING WITH HOW WE VIEW EVERYTHING HISTORICAL). I get fed up with people who complain about fantasy stuff, claiming “historical accuracy” to whine about ethnic diversity and gender equality and other cool stuff that lets everyone join in the fun, and then I get sad because the first defence is always “it’s fantasy, so that doesn’t matter.”
I mean, that’s a good and valid defence, but here you have it; proof fucking positive that historical accuracy shows that equality and diversity are not new ideas and if anything BELONG in historical fiction. As far as I can tell, most people in the past were too bloody busy to get all ruffled up about that stuff; they had prejudices, but from what little I know the lines historically drawn in the sand were in slightly different places and for different reasons. (You can’t trust them furrigners. It’s all pixies and devil-worship over there).
So next time someone tells you that something isn’t “historically accurate” because it’s not racist/sexist/any other form of bigotry for that matter-ist enough for their liking, tell them to shut the hell up because they clearly know far less about history than they do about being an asshole.
Furthermore, an inability to conceive of non-sexist history makes me wonder about your ability to conceive of a history that is different in other key ways…