Trigger warning for discussions of rape culture, and of a specific non-consent scenario.
Human beings are a storytelling lot, and every medium that we use to communicate with each other, we also use to tell stories. Every story is confined in some way by the medium in which it’s told and the means by which it’s distributed. Want to tell a story in television? You have to find an audience, advertisers, and a network. Want to tell a story in a novel? You have to find a literary agent and a publisher. Going through these channels restricts the diversity of stories we hear, or warps them from their original state.
Fandom is what happens when the people who love these stories talk back.
Fans talk back in all kinds of ways – by making campaigns to save the stories they love, like the Browncoats tried to do for Joss Whedon’s Firefly, or by having really long arguments on Facebook over which Star Trek show is the best*, or by writing their own stories that transform and play on characters, worlds, and themes from the stories they love. For the purposes of this post, I will be discussing the culture surrounding that last fannish practice, most commonly known as fanfiction.
What’s really exciting about fandom from a feminist point of view is that it is predominantly female. The people who are talking back to fictional media with their own takes on their favorite stories are women. This is a great opportunity to transform patriarchal, sex-negative stories told using the male gaze (which is the majority of media, sadly) into stories that represent our points of view. There are many fan communities that do this beautifully, such as Fantasy of Color and Half a Moon. However, all too often, the same biases that come up over and over again in fictional media are also replicated in fandom.