tumblr talk

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by nebulia, Mar 29, 2015.

  1. nebulia

    nebulia New Member

    Hello seebs, et al:

    I've inadvertently caused some small but meaningful (to me) angst in my fandom, and someone has attempted to explain to me how I've caused the angst, and what I did was wrong, and while I understand how I caused the angst, I'm still not sure why what I did was wrong, or if I was in the wrong at all. I could be! I just--genuinely have NO IDEA how the jump from point A to point B is being made. I'm hoping I can pull enough of this out of context to make sense so people who are far away from this and not super anxious about it right now and unwisely drinking wine while i stroke things in my "interesting fabric texture panic" box.

    This is going to be VERY LONG, though I tried to keep it as concise as possible. If you bear with me, you get a cookie!

    general background on my brain so you get a sense of how it works: Major Depressive, passel of self-worth issues, ADHD & anxiety and autism, but undiagnosed until about a year ago and until then I , idk, "passed?" (thank you seebs, for the primary diagnosis, btw, the psychologist who did my ADHD screening verified it.) Also: I'm either very perceptive at perceiving tone or not at all.

    general background on the fandom: since I'm not going to change words or names (although all all usernames will be anonymous), let me just say it straight out: I'm in hockey real person fandom. (Because of that, assume hereafter that "canon"=real life stuff in the media, etc.) but more importantly, it has problems with anonymous bullies. Lots of fic writers have turned off anon asks on tumblr (myself included) because we got all sorts of really gross hate. In the past six months or so anons have escalated to posting "gift" fics on AO3 that are anything from horrific, unauthorized parodies of fics to, recently, fics gifted to people that just say stuff in the summary like "hi, i'm [insert the gifted author's name here], and because no one wants to fuck me i write pathetic fanfic about hockey players having gay sex!"

    So, like, there's an intensely nasty anon culture that has poisoned a lot of the fandom. Because of this, fandom is very "rah-rah, your fic is excellent!" and very anti-concrit unless it's been requested by the author. I'm pretty okay with this--I'm a writer IRL, I get plenty of concrit as it is. But we also do have critical discussions about stuff, because it's a fandom surrounding a real life sport with real life issues like misogyny and homophobia and lots of us are queer and/or women. But the anon culture lives in the anon memes on dw and lj and people do still get nasty anon messages (sometimes people make sockpuppet blogs to send me hate. oh yes.), and, of course, the stuff at AO3 is, on my list of 'most disgusting things' #2 after "the smell of cold water maceration." This nasty anon culture is apparently relevant, to what follows, but I'm not 100% sure how.

    Today I made a post: "so tired of evil troy crosby." This is the parent of a player, and his being evil/abusive/bad/terrible person is an extremely common trope that has little "canon" basis. It frustrates me a lot because it is so common in fanon that is has a) been tag-wrangled at AO3, and b) people assume it has way more canon basis than it does. Which means that there are lots of people in the fandom who think this real dude is a terrible father for essentially NO REASON. it bothers me. (i also have an extremely complicated relationship with my own parents, and the simplification of dad does bad thing=dad is EVIL bothers me on that level too.)

    Someone, let's call them Jane, asked me why I felt that way; I explained my perspective (if you want details, the post is here). At the end of my post, I mentioned my frustration that this one parent in the public eye got adjudged to be a terrible person by the fandom, but other parents who did questionable things that were released to the media were still considered to be good parents as a whole. The line I used paraphrases to, "It's kind of hilarious that hockey fandom has this weird fucked up doubles standard."

    Someone else, let's call her Fred, replied and said,
    I totally see where you’re coming from… but as far as fic is concerned—I think it has more to do with needing a backstory to fit a plot bunny than actual belief that he’s a jerk. At least that’s my take.​

    I replied:
    frankly if you ask me it’s overused and tired. sid [troy's child, subject of much fanfic] is the only character in hockey fandom who has had SO MANY fics where his parents, particularly his dad, are not supportive. toews and kane [other, slightly more popular subjects of fanfic], despite being more popular subjects of fics by number, don’t have the ‘terrible parents’ backstory as often as sid. neither does geno [another player often written about]. it’s the thing to do when giving sid family interactions, but not anyone else. that means that it’s not just ‘giving backstory to plot bunnies,’ it’s giving backstory to sid-related plot bunnies specifically. and it’s been way overdone. especially bc there’s so many options between ‘terrible parent’ and ‘perfect parent’ and so many other possibilities.
    I guess that is where I fucked up.

    Fred's response to this was basically a lecture on narrative that was sort of a good point to keep in mind (what heroes need for narrative, what jokers/clowns need for narrative, what roles we put specific players in, etc) and also a little old-fashioned re: story structure if you ask me, but what hit me the wrong was her final paragraph, which was passive-aggressively struckthrough and said this:

    and I also get really itchy when people try to tell other writers how to/how not to write their stories because there’s enough negativity and bullying in this fandom already so sorry if this comes across as defensive
    only, you know, with a strikethrough through it.

    I composed a very good and thoughtful response on mobile, posted it, and it was deleted, because tumblr sucks. And then I had to drive someplace so instead I sent her a quick ask (this all moves to private):

    i had a response to what you were saying, but tumblr seems to have deleted it bc mobile sucks. so i will respond but i have to drive two hours first, but before i did i want to say that i think there is a big difference between being critical of common fandom tropes(not specific fics or writers) and the bullying and abuse that happens in this fandom, and i REALLY don't appreciate or agree with the two being lumped together.

    also, i am not the arbiter of fic or of opinions. people are welcome to write what they write, and i'm equally welcome to not read or like it. and i'm also welcome to critically express opinions about tropes i dislike. i don't believe we shouldn't be able to talk critically about common tropes in fandom. i don't call out writers bc that would mean calling out a LOT of writers i respect&stories i like; i called out a trope that has its own movement within fandom. that isn't the same as anon bs.
    For the moment, please disregard the second ask, because she responded to it separately from the first ask. I'm trying to keep this chronological on my end.

    Fred's first response:

    I didn’t mean to lump them together. I’m sorry if it came across that way. They’re not the same.

    But I’m leery of posts that say “I don’t like x” on a blog because you’re not communicating in a vacuum—someone who’s writing that trope is going to be reading your blog at that moment and feel like that’s directed at them, even if you didn’t intend it that way. Especially if that person has been targeted by the shitty bullying and abuse happening in this fandom. I know at least one person felt that way, and I knew how they were going to feel as soon as I saw your post. They didn’t have to say anything to me.

    I want to support what you’re saying, because I think talking about and criticizing fandom tropes is important and has value, but I also want to support authors who’ve suffered the same shit I have. It’s important to think about how we phrase things when dealing with fandom. I admit I made a mistake lumping together criticism with bullying, but I hope you can see where I’m coming from when fic authors have been anonymously and hurtfully linked to “criticism” posts on the anon meme.

    Sorry, this got long. TL;DR, I didn’t mean to come across as accusing you of bullying, just to point out that the line gets pretty fine sometimes and the way we phrase our criticism can be the difference between opening a dialogue and hurting someone’s feelings.
    At this point in time, I'm simultaneously angry and totally confused. Unfortunately, I was still on mobile (at a rest stop due to wind), so none of these asks are saved in an outbox, but I sent three: the first basically said, "uh, you realized I get anon hate too? No, I don't get shitty gift fics on AO3, but I get people going on anon on my (totally unrelated) sideblog and people making sockpoppet accounts telling me to 'kill myself bc no one wants to read my fic'. I've just decided that ignoring it is the best option? but just because i'm not on gchat with all y'all and don't post them doesn't mean i don't get anon hate."

    I will admit I was pretty defensive. The other two asks were basically, "look, I'm still not 100% sure why I'm not allowed to express an opinion about a trope that has its own life and its own fucking AO3 tag. I'm not trying to be deliberately obtuse; I genuinely don't understand how expressing frustrations about a common trope intersects with the anon bullshit. maybe it's just that I don't have context for the specific person or fic you're referring to [ftr, I think I actually do have context, but it's a fic they're working on that I have no interest in so I've just been disregarding it so I don't know anything about its content and I'm not even 100% sure that's what Fred was referring to! but full disclosure.], so if that's the case, I'm sorry, I'm super lost. It also might be autism brain, and if that's the case I'm super sorry, because I have no sense of where the line from autism brain to allistic brain is [I think this is somewhat worsened by thinking I was allistic for 23 years of my life], and I'm sorry."

    Her response to the second ask I sent originally (reprinted for you here: also, i am not the arbiter of fic or of opinions. people are welcome to write what they write, and i'm equally welcome to not read or like it. and i'm also welcome to critically express opinions about tropes i dislike. i don't believe we shouldn't be able to talk critically about common tropes in fandom. i don't call out writers bc that would mean calling out a LOT of writers i respect&stories i like; i called out a trope that has its own movement within fandom. that isn't the same as anon bs.) and those three asks was:

    Of course you have the right to express what you like and don’t like on your blog. I think the problem comes in when you say things like “it’s overused and tired” and “it’s been way overdone.” Those things may well be true from your point of view, but expressing it like that makes people who’ve been writing a fic with that trope want to put it down because they didn’t come up with something more original—particularly if they’re already taking anon abuse. There isn’t a single person I talk to on Tumblr that I haven’t wondered “is this person really the anon?” That includes people I’ve been friends with for years, since before hockey fandom. That includes people I know for a fact have also been targeted by the anon. That’s what makes this whole anon thing is so shitty. It destroys trust, including trust in our own judgment.

    I know you’ve dealt with your own share of anons; I think we’ve talked about it, if briefly, on Twitter. That’s why it surprised me to see something that, to me, felt like it could be hurtful coming from your blog.

    Starting a dialogue that includes things like “it’s hilarious that [people think x]” and “what weird, fucked-up double standards fandom has” is automatically going to make people who have written fic or are writing fic with those tropes not want to participate, because you’ve already invalidated what they’re working on. And then you don’t end up with much discussion or dialogue, and you miss the opportunity to get people to see/write things your way.
    Now I'm SUPER confused, and it gets just a little bit worse. If you're managing to follow, this all started because I made a post and someone (Jane) asked me to clarify. At this point in time, I get an ask from Jane saying:

    Thanks for the thoughtful, thorough explanation! My mental characterization of Troy is pretty heavily influenced by fandom, as you suggested, and that's not really fair to him, as fandom is pretty inconsistent when it comes to treatment of parents.
    Which, I appreciate the validation, and the support, but I've now gotten mixed signals about what I wrote. On the one hand, it was thoughtless and hurt people's feelings. On the other, it was thoughtful and explained something to someone who previously hadn't known stuff.

    So I send another set of asks to Fred, and these (again, fuck mobile, fuck tumblr's lack of an outbox, fuck the world,) say something like, "I admit I got carried away at the bottom of my initial explanation. But in my first reply to you, I did couch those phrases in "if you ask me--" I felt like I was pretty clearly putting them in 'this is
    my opinion' land, and I don't feel like it's really any different from people who don't like rule 63 [a pretty common multi-fandom trope in the hockey rpf fandom] talking about how and why they don't like rule 63, that it's bad/homophobic/misogynistic. people just disagree and let them go about their lives. But mostly I still don't understand the slope between "expressing my opinions" and anon bullying. I genuinely do not understand how we go from point A to point B." I think there was also something in there about censoring or not censoring myself for the sake of other people, especially when expressing my own opinion, but I don't remember how I said that exactly. It was probably really clever.

    then I added "and i stand by the weird fucked up double standards line, because this fandom--me included, probably--has a lot of them, especially when it comes to how troy crosby's parenting gets judged by one or two public interactions and how the rest of the parents in this fandom do."
    And then I realized something: generally, when I think of "hurting someone's feelings" online, I think of someone being like, "welp, she's a cunt." But what if I ACTUALLY HURT SOMEONE'S FEELINGS? now, I get really skeptical when this happens, because usually I don't feel important enough to warrant real feelings-hurt. So I said:

    did i seriously hurt your feelings? someone else's feelings? i'm skeptical that someone would quit writing something or leave fandom because i said something, but did i do that? like, please be straightforward with me.

    because, like, I was just thinking of hurt feelings like "what a cunt," but if I genuinely upset someone because they thought I was vagueblogging about them (which I seriously doubt I was; the fic which inspired this round of frustration at evil troy crosby is by a writer who has left the fandom)[this is a true fact], I am truly sorry.
    In reply to the first ask about hurt feelings, Fred said:

    They didn’t quit writing or leave fandom. But they did decide not to work on that particular fic today because of what they saw.
    So that's what happened. Fred has not responded since. I feel kind of shitty and also kind of angry and super anxious but mostly REALLY DAMN CONFUSED, and I needed a neutral forum of pretty smart people, which I feel like most of y'all are. So, if any of you managed to follow this, do you have any idea of:

    1) Why there is a connection between expressing your negative opinions about a commonly used, albeit fandom-specific trope and anonymous hate and bullying. Does such a connection exist? Can someone explain to me what the connection is, other than both things disagree with something? The only thing I can think of is that there's some sort of slippery slope fallacy at play here, but I'm obviously biased, and, as I mentioned, confused.

    2) Did I overstep? Am I out of line or unreasonable or too snarky for this conversation or something?

    3) If I were a perfectly mentally healthy person without unreasonable self-hatred (even if I were still autistic), should I feel shitty about this opinion having affected someone so badly that they decided not to work on a specific fic? Should I blame my own overly-frank wording of the topic? I know I'm allowed to express my opinions on my blog and shit, but did I...express too far? Too much?

    I'm just really confused and I was hoping someone who isn't so close to the situation might have a better sense of what's happening here, even though you have no context.

    And if you got through all of this, I did promise you a cookie. I guarantee it satisfies all your dietary requirements and is exactly the way you like it.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for any help you can provide--
  2. Morven

    Morven In darkness be the sound and light

    Real person fic kinda bothers me as it does a lot of people, and I wonder if it's partly that that makes people in your fandom be like this? Because it strikes me that part of this response you're getting is really about that: you mentioned thinking about the harm to a real person of always characterizing them negatively and unfairly.

    And it seems to me that that's one of those live-rail "do not touch the thing" issues in RPF, from what I've seen. "Don't make us think that what we're doing may be harmful." To the degree that "making" someone feel bad about it is considered worse than actually, y'know, doing something harmful.

    I'm sorry but no. No amount of "but I get anon hate!" justifies the attitude that making someone in fandom feel bad (deservedly or not) is The Worst.
  3. nebulia

    nebulia New Member

    I mean, I feel like a lot of the time we are very good as a fandom about separating who we fic about being a fictional representation developed by PR, media, and fanon itself as someone different than the actual person. But I feel like Jane saying "I was heavily influenced by fandom's opinion" means that fanon does have a sway over newer people or just some people in general in fandom. The problem is that sometimes fanon gets assumed as canon? And a lot of the time it gets debunked, but I'm not sure this is the sort of thing that can be debunked.

    No amount of "but I get anon hate!" justifies the attitude that making someone in fandom feel bad (deservedly or not) is The Worst.​

    I'm not sure if you're referring to my comments or Fred's response to my comments? Sorry, I think I'm really needing things spelled out very clearly right now, I'm not following even super obvious obfuscating/metaphors (oxymoron, I know, I can't remember the words) right now. And if it's referring to Fred, I'm not sure if she knows I feel bad, I mean. I haven't actually said that this is making me super anxious and worried and stuff and I feel like saying that at this point will make it seem like I'm trying to victimize myself or something.
  4. Morven

    Morven In darkness be the sound and light

    I'm going to respond better later but I don think you did anything wrong.

    At a restaurant on mobile and 2 house margaritas down the spiral, sorry.
  5. Astrodynamicist

    Astrodynamicist Adequate Potato Goblin

    I think this is the thing where a Situation B is similar enough to a Situation A that people who have been sufficiently hurt by A have a knee-jerk reaction to B as if it were A, and treat it like it is A, even though it isn't really the same. So, someone who's been attacked a lot for stuff they like sees a post "attacking" something they like, and they respond as if it were an attack, even though it wasn't really. Or in other words, B was similar enough to A that it "triggered" the person, at which point they couldn't help getting super defensive. (I put triggered in quotes because this isn't necessarily a "real" trigger in the technical sense, but it's the same kind of idea.) This is a reflection of their emotional baggage, not of what you said. That you got such mixed responses on the post would tend to support this hypothesis, I think. Plus, that Fred said they can't even trust that their longstanding friends aren't the anons attacking them is a pretty big flag to me that they have issues playing into this scenario beyond anything you did.

    I don't think so. Nothing of the correspondence (yours or theirs) read as snarky to me (admittedly, I'm missing parts, but still), and the substance of what you're saying seems reasonable to me.

    So first, there's not really any "should" on emotions - they just sorta happen, and they are what they are. That said, sans all the self-hatred and such, I don't think someone would feel this shitty about the situation; I could see maybe feeling a little bad that someone felt hurt from something you wrote (if you don't want to hurt someone but do, that's an understandable response). Er, don't beat yourself up for feeling "wrong" though. This is just meant as a benchmark, since you asked.

    Without reading the actual post and without more familiarity with this fic community, I can't evaluate if your wording could have been better. Possibly some of your criticisms could have been phrased more gently. But even then, I don't know that it would have changed the end result much. Idk though I'm not good at wording things either (though I tend to go too much in the other direction, couching everything in too many disclaimers). :P In any case, I don't think you expressed too far or anything like that.

    Some other thoughts: A possible contributing factor might have been they interpreted your critique of that particular trope as vagueblogging about specific authors/fics, which you weren't doing but if you had been, that would be more similar to the anon attack crap (because then it would be more like "these fics in particular are bad" which is gonna be much more attacky than an overall critique of a trope). So, maybe in the future putting something like a disclaimer "I promise I am not vagueblogging about any author/fic in particular." at the start might help. Then again it might not - if someone gets kicked into the defensive mindset, well, it probably won't matter what you're actually saying. (A few weeks ago, I talked to my therapist about a problem I was having with someone being super defensive, and she told me that research has shown defensiveness is one of the major communication killers. So uh. There's not really much you can do about that.)

    Finally, even if someone was genuinely hurt by your critique because they were working with that trope, you know what? That's out of your control, and unless you were genuinely attacking people using that trope (which you weren't), it's ultimately a reflection of their issues. Like. I write, and I've read posts criticizing tropes I was working with, or trends I was falling into, and they caused me to fall into a down spiral about my writing. It wasn't the posts' authors fault, though. I was hurt because I'm insecure, and because I'm perfectionistic and stuff like that makes my perfectionism go "see! you aren't writing an optimal story! clearly you suck forever!" And then naturally I get discouraged and blocked on writing. But that's not anything the original authors of the posts could have predicted, nor is it something they should have worried about. They can't control how I respond. That I'm insecure is my problem, not theirs. And honestly, it wouldn't even occur to me to blame them for hurting my feelings. I mean, there's a difference between "hey this trope is overused" and "this trope is overused therefore you suck if you use it." Just because someone reads the first statement as the second doesn't make those statements actually the same.

    I think it's ultimately better for the community to have the critique out there, because even someone who feels hurt over it can, with some distance and after calming down, think about it and make a more informed decision about what they're writing. Maybe that night they're too down to work on their fic, but then maybe later they're like "eh fuck it I like the thing I'm doing it anyway." or maybe they'll decide "you know what, dude's right, lemme come with something else, I think that'll be better." I have done both of these things. So I think the situation will probably work itself out, one way or another.

    (I hope I was clear enough. Let me know if I need to clarify or reword.)
    • Like x 4
  6. nebulia

    nebulia New Member

    You were very clear, and that was very helpful! Thank you.
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