TGI Femslash Discussions (Part 1)

I wasn’t going to break this out into separate posts, but the reality is we had so much to talk about.

One Day At A Time

On the first day, I attended (of course) the One Day at a Time panel. Besides dropping nuggets of my experiences watching it filmed, I found my feelings of universalism to be reinforced. So many of us have a Lydia in their family. Many people known how it feels to not ‘appear’ as their ethnicity. There was even someone who used the “Pride & Prejudice” episode (where Penelope goes to the gay bar) as part of her thesis paper.

Beyond that, we talked about how it was problematic that Syd was a ‘girlfriend’ when she used they/them pronouns. Maybe in season three that can be revisited? Maybe even a dramatic “I don’t want to be your girlfriend” where it’s misunderstood. Syd wants to be her ‘them friend’ or ‘companion’ (Doctor Who hat tip there).

Having a show we all liked and wanted to talk about was great. So many of us thought that it wasn’t a show we would like, and it became the one where people called their mothers after to tell them they were loved. The story of an immigrant family that is so different than many of us felt so true to all of us because it proved how many things were universal.

This is not to say the show is perfect. I hadn’t realized how perilously close the to ‘white savior trope’ the show had fallen when they had Blanquita Elena be the one who so passionately tried to save her BFF Carmen.

I also learned a delightful new word – fremdschämen – which means to be embarrassed for someone else. And that is exactly what so, so many of us felt for Elena.

Canon vs Fanon

I’m a massive data nerd. I went to ‘canon vs fanon’ thinking I’d get some information about new ‘ships I’d missed, and I wanted to hear about how people balanced the ‘ships they wanted with the ones they got. I didn’t expect to have a critical analysis about those things.

Essentially we all broke down how we really feel about fanon pairings. Starting with the first question, which was if our current ‘ship was canon or fanon, we were then walked down the line of thinking about what that meant. Would we still ship if they broke up? I had picked ThunderGrace, and knowing how I still ship Gail and Holly from Rookie Blue (shut up, they got back together), I knew I would. One person was our outlier and did not.

It got progressively more complicated from there. Some people felt they’d stop shipping if their ‘ship became canon, probably because we were nearly all burned on writers messing up pairings. I was the only person who said I’d stop shipping if the actors were pro another ship (or otherwise problematic). cough Rizzoli & Isles cough

That said, it was much more of an even split when it came to acknowledging that fandom itself had, at times, killed ‘ships for us. Also most of us do ship the straights (as I pointed out “Mulder and Scully” and a few people nodded).

The final question was would we rather have our ‘ships as canon or fanon. It was barely tipped towards canon and that quite surprised me. A number of the fanon side said it was because of that lack of trust, or that the canon ‘ships got super boring (I’m looking at you The Fosters).

It was incredibly interesting to see and hear people discuss and argue semantics over their ships, and what led to our decisions concerning them.

Interracial Fandom

Finally I went to a discussion on Interracial Fandom. I, intentionally, sat on my hands and bit my tongue because I wanted to hear from people this impacted directly. I really wanted to learn and understand and help myself be a better ally, beyond telling people to watch the shows and love the ‘ships that aren’t white.

I feel like I got a master class in that.

While it was intended to be a talk about interracial relationships, and how they could be problematic or predominantly white/PoC, it quickly shifted into incredibly complex topics. For example, what about the differences between interracial and intersectional pairings, as well as intercultural. And how and why is a show like Black Lightning so markedly different in how it handles black police officers than, say, The Flash.

But also, how responsible is fandom, which was well agreed on to be rather racist, in making things better. Everyone knows why Maggie Sawyer was problematic (a non-PoC actor playing a PoC character), but how much of that is the actor’s fault, and how much is systemic to Hollywood? And while the issue was perpetuated with fan-casting (that is, fans casting their dream actors for roles), was that too a case where people cast predominantly white actors simply because of what the media told them to like? Why did we have to specify ‘Black Hogwarts’ just to get some serious PoC in there?

But what it really came down to was this, and I quote here, “We always look for representation […] I want to see myself.”

And it cut me to the quick when a woman said “I’ve never felt beautiful in fandom [because I’m black].”

I really wanted to cry. It’s not a secret to me that fandom is hella racist. But I hadn’t know about things like fans whitewashing Korrasami. For example, apparently it’s a ‘thing’ to draw SuperCorp (Kara and Lena) as Korrasami (Korra and Asami). There are obvious parallels: Kara and Korra are super-human beings with phenomenal power, and both Lena and Asami are the highly educated genius billionaire CEOs with an older relative they adore being problematic and in jail. And both Korra and Kara are fish-out-of-water, in that Korra goes from the tiny tribal village to the big city, and Kara is an alien from Krypton. The stories are very similar.

But. So much of Korra’s identity is based on her being an indigenous person, that when you transplant it to Kara it falls the acid test. The simple fact is Kara passes as human, and has far fewer outward issues, simply because she is white. If Kara (or Clark) had been black, their experiences would have been so vastly different. A weird white girl is given much more lenience than a black one. The story fails.

And how much of that is due to racial fetishization? Are people finding white women attractive because we’re told to? We just don’t know.

Heavy Discussions

It was actually a lot of heavy discussions about those things over the day. Enough that I spent much dinner thinking about it and writing down my thoughts. I intentionally went to panels about things I felt like I needed to hear. I don’t regret that, and in fact I was delighted in the quality of the conversations. It wasn’t an hour of us squeeing over shows we liked, but serious dissections and critical analysis of them.

About Mika Epstein

Mika has been deep in the fandom world since she could say 'Trekkie.' With over two decades experience in running fansites and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.

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