Fandom 101: Interacting with Female Authors

I have long identified as a fangirl. I believe that fandoms can do real good. Fans often are the ones who raise the truly interesting questions (I mean, what does happen to genderfluid students who are sorted in Gryffindor?), are often the ones to engage with the problematic part of their “problematic faves,” and many do listen and learn from marginalized voices in the fandom. Fans can be creative, supportive, smart, and kind.

Except, we can also be the exact opposite of those things.

Recently, Cassandra Clare and Maggie Stiefvater talked about how being accessible to fans on social media can sometimes feel dehumanizing. It was a dismaying article to read, partially because I really adore Clare and Stiefvater and hate to see them deal with this kind of abuse, and partially because if this happens to writers who have a support group within the industry, how bad must it be for those who don’t?

Fandoms seem to want to see women fail more often than they want to see them successful. Fans casually toss this hate at writers and don’t seem to care that their words stink. So allow me to take the time to dissect these stink bombs that are being aimed at women authors:

First Layer of Crap: Unsurprising Misogyny 

“Don’t you dare kill off X/write another book in the same world/make money/support other writers/call out my rampant racism/side with X ship over Y ship!” If you don’t respect women in real life, you are likely to look at women writers as machines that pump out stuff for you to consume, thus making it easy for the “how dare yous” and “don’t evens” to dribble from your lips. Stop. Please don’t make me ask you to model your behavior toward women writers off how you’d behave with someone like Neil Gaiman. Whether you are interacting with them face-to-face or avatar-to-avatar, you are not entitled to a woman’s attention and you certainly don’t get to dictate how a writer does her job.

Second Layer of Crap: Cutesy Threats

“If anything happens to X, I will invade your house and move everything five inches to the right.” Obviously, this is not (I hope) a common cutesy threat. The point is that no matter how innocuous you think your words are, if it breaches polite conduct— not to mention the law— maybe don’t say the thing? No matter how attached you are to the characters, know that no one is more attached than the creator. And no matter how much you think you know the writer, you don’t. If you can’t imagine yourself saying the words aloud to someone you truly respect (as well as a bunch of eavesdropping strangers), just don’t say the thing! This includes odd expressions of appreciation like face-licking. I mean, I get it– it’s thrilling to chat with someone you admire! But if you really admired them, why would you make them feel uncomfortable?

Third Layer of Crap: Scary Threats

Rioter Kit has already spoken on the topic of serious threats. All I’m going to add here is that if you value fictional characters over the feelings of very real people, I think you need to reevaluate not only your identity as a fan but also your identity as a human.

Fourth Layer of Crap: Notice Me, Senpai

Just because they sometimes indulge your headcanons, they are not there to console you, praise you, approve of your kid’s name, etc. Women writers, just because they are women, do not have to be indulgent, patient, or nice. Writers choose how to spend their time. You choose how to spend yours. Writers choose how to write their books. You choose how to read them. Whether you’re a reader or a super-fan, that is the deal.

Fifth Layer of Crap: More Unsurprising Misogyny

Seems like the only time a female writer is (angrily) asked to “do her job” is either when she speaks up in support of others in her community, or has an opinion that someone vehemently disagrees with. Loosely translated: “stop saying things that make me think”/“stop having opinions.” All this while telling other women writers that their work is subpar or, worse, asking them to defend their right to be creators at all. Typically, this comes with a gendered slur or several. Refer back to Layer Three for advice.

Like I said, I believe fandom can be good. If we could just stop handing out these stinky crap bombs to people who make stuff we purportedly like, we could create a network of support. We could have more to love, more to fangirl about, instead of contributing to a culture of discrimination.

Oh, and before someone decides to use the word “thin-skinned” in response to this post, listen: the very nature of being an artist is being thin-skinned. It means putting yourself in a vulnerable position, allowing yourself to be open, breathing in the world and breathing out stories. This isn’t about being thin-skinned or thick-skinned. It’s about being gross and unkind when you have the choice to be respectful and kind.

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