Saturday, 6 February 2010

M/m and slash debate rambles on - a tour of derails

I have been trying to follow as the women writing m/m fiction/slash debate developed, but increasingly it has left be more and more depressed and negatively inclined towards both. The Lambda fail had already left a gross taste in my mouth but this has left me despairing and enraged with vast swathes of both genres.

And what has got me is the utter lack of respect showed to gay men in any

From nearly the very second of opening, the whole debate has hit such an immense and almost co-ordinated derail that it was almost shocking to see if we haven’t seen it all before. Most of the posts quickly leaped into endless “what about meeee?!” posts. Women who were so shocked and appalled and wanted to talk about how hurt they were. How hurt this post made them. How hurt this person made them. How upset they were. How it wasn’t THEIR writing like that. How it wasn’t THEM. How it was all so mean to them. The straw man of “men are trying to ban me from writing” was quickly raised and the discussion was quickly moved from “gay men are offended and troubled by appropriation and objectification and would like to consider this” to “what women can write and how wrong it is to criticise them for doing so.“

Gay critics were quickly accused of sexism and the vast majority of the debate quickly ran down discussing sexism and patriarchy - important topics to be discussed, but having the added bonus of moving the subject to more comfortable ground. A large number of lesbian/bi/queer/trans women spoke up to add their own “what about meeee!” completely ignoring the issue of appropriating gay men that is happening in the genre to focus on who is doing the appropriating. We then had a brief run around playing with drag apparently (which struck me more as a lash out at gay men and an attempt to run away from the comparison of f/f in het porn) and generally leaving the original topic so far behind that it had not only been derailed but the tracks were no longer even in sight.

Over and over I have been left with the feeling, from reading the derails, the distractions, the straw men, that for a depressingly large number of people in both of these genres gay men do not matter. Gay men do not exist as people for so many of these commenters. Gay men are objects. We’re things. We’re subject matter. We’re not due respect, We’re not due consideration. Our voices are unwelcome, we have no right to criticise and we are trespassing and being unreasonable when we do.

I cling to those who do understand and do try, but increasingly I am fearing that these are the minority, it’s depressing it is.

I’m going to address some of the points raised. I’m in two minds about this. Part of me is angry and insulted and wants to respond - and since I don’t need much excuse to put fingers to keyboard, I’m going with that./ But part of me thinks acknowledging the derailment is yet again making the derails the topic - letting it be derailed. But then, it has already been so heavily derailed, what’s the point now?

So to address some of the derailing points.

These men are trying to stop us women writing!

If anyone is actually talking banning books or stopping anyone writing (like we have that power!) then they are the tiniest most ridiculously tiny part of this whole debate. Because 99% of everyone commenting on this have NOT said that. Criticism =/= banning/telling you not to write. It’s not SILENCING to criticise what is written and how we are treated in these genres. This straw man must be out of breath because he’s been running all over the place.

99% of everyone in this does NOT WANT WOMEN TO STOP WRITING M/M OR SLASH. But I, for one, and doubtless many others, would REALLY appreciate it if, when using gay men as characters, you treat them respect, sensitivity and acknowledge that there are real people, real gay men out there who can be hurt, stereotyped, .

Is that unreasonable? Apparently so.

The majority of women writing slash and/or m/m are bi/lesbian/queer

I don’t know. I’ve seen posts about both that say different things. But this is yet another derail because it isn‘t really relevant. This is about writing the Other. What are we writing? Gay/bisexual men. If you are not a gay/bisexual man then a gay/bisexual man is the Other. If you’re a gay/bisexual/trans/queer woman it may not be AS Other to you as it would be to a straight woman - but you’re still writing the Other with all that implies and all that means. You can still hurt us. You can still disrespect us. You can still use the straight world’s stereotypes on us, the straight world’s tropes on us, the straight world’s insults on us. The only thing is, I kind of hoped you’d know better.

Straight men objectify women

Yes. And? Is this being presented as justification? As an excuse? As a reason? What? Because the only relevance I can see to this is to say “yeah, objectification sucks and we should work together to stop it” and, y’know what? I really don’t think that’s what is intended.

Women are using men because of sexism in the media/society that makes portraying women hard/feel wrong/otherwise not gel properly. It’s an easier way to express female sexuality

I entirely agree with these points and understand them, sympathise them and accept them. BUT. And yes, there’s a but.

You are still using gay men. It may be a different reason why you are using them - and it’s certainly a better reason than “rawr, mansex is hawt!” But the motive and reason - no matter how well justified or necessary or important - doesn’t change that you are STILL writing the Other. Again, I need to emphasise that that doesn’t mean “don’t do it!” it means there is still an ethical duty to be respectful, sensitive, careful and understanding when you do it. Your having an important, entirely justified and extremely vital reason to write m/m and m/m slash doesn’t change that you are appropriating - with all the damage and problems that can cause. Again again again, that doesn’t mean don’t write. But don’t assume that this justifies not considering, respecting or thinking of gay men in your writing and portrayals.

It’s a female space/it’s all for women/it’s a woman’s genre/this genre was made by women.

The strong implication here is that men - even gay men, should have no say in the matter, that we should be ignored and, indeed, that we are being presumptions and trespassing for commenting and certainly for criticising. Some have even gone far further than to imply this - some have outright said that they don’t need to consider gay men because it is a woman’s space. We are the outsiders. We are not important here. We are violating them by thrusting ourselves rudely into their place.

This isn’t derailing - this is just pure silencing. It’s also grossly disrespectful. This is a genre about us. Not just some of the time, not just occasionally. M/m fiction and m/m slash is all about gay or bisexual men. To say it is a female space or that we have no place to comment or criticise is not just arrogant - it’s dehumanising. This really does emphasise how degraded gay men are to some of these commenters - gay men are presented as objects. We are characters, we can be used and claimed and appropriated - but real gay men are not considered or even welcome to many of those commenting.

Arguments that just defy logic and are outright deceptive

There have been several of these, too many to list really. I don’t know what depresses me more, that people may be that clueless or that they are wilfully trying to deflect. Two of the worst include:

Not recognising the difference between a pseudonym used to protect privacy/protect against prejudice and a pseudonym used to deceive the reader. For example - comparing a woman pretending to be a gay man in the m/m genre to George Elliot.

Arguing that all authors appropriate - and appropriating the experiences of marginalised bodies is TOTALLY the same as writing about the privileged majority. Sociology 101, we need to teach it, really.

I really don’t believe anyone can be truly ignorant on these points - that must be an active, wilful act of foolishness.

I just... don’t understand. I don’t understand why a simple request for respect - to realise that no, it’s NOT just “making shit up” to realise there are consequences and people here - was met by such a concerted, fierce distract, derail and objection. It depresses me muchly to think that maybe it WAS too much to ask