If you wish to take part in any fandom, you need to accept and respect these three laws.
If you aren’t able to do that, then you need to realise that your actions are making fandom unsafe for creators. That you are stifling creativity.
Like vaccination, fandom only works if everyone respects these rules. Creators need to be free to make their fanart, fanfics and all other content without fear of being harassed or concern-trolled for their creative choices, no matter whether you happen to like that content or not.
The First Law of Fandom
Don’t Like; Don’t Read (DL;DR)
It is up to you what you see online. It is not anyone else’s place to tell you what you should or should not consume in terms of content; it is not up to anyone else to police the internet so that you do not see things you do not like. At the same time, it is not up to YOU to police fandom to protect yourself or anyone else, real or hypothetical.
There are tools out there to help protect you if you have triggers or squicks. Learn to use them, and to take care of your own mental health. If you are consuming fan-made content and you find that you are disliking it - STOP.
The Second Law of Fandom
Your Kink Is Not My Kink (YKINMK)
Simply put, this means that everyone likes different things. It’s not up to you to determine what creators are allowed to create. It’s not up to you to police fandom.
If you don’t like something, you can post meta about it or create contrarian content yourself, seek to convert other fans to your way of thinking.
But you have no right to say to any creator “I do not like this, therefore you should not create it. Nobody should like this. It should not exist.”
It’s not up to you to decide what other people are allowed to like or not like, to create or not to create. That’s censorship. Don’t do it.
The Third Law of Fandom
Ship And Let Ship (SALS)
Much (though not all) fandom is about shipping. There are as many possible ships as there are fans, maybe more. You may have an OTP (One True Pairing), you may have a NOTP, that pairing that makes you want to barf at the very thought of its existence.
It’s not up to you to police ships or to determine what other people are allowed to ship. Just because you find that one particular ship problematic or disgusting, does not mean that other people are not allowed to explore its possibilities in their fanworks.
You are free to create contrarian content, to write meta about why a particular ship is repulsive, to discuss it endlessly on your private blog with like-minded persons.
It is not appropriate to harass creators about their ships, it is not appropriate to demand they do not create any more fanworks about those ships, or that they create fanwork only in a manner that you deem appropriate.
These three laws add up to the following:
You are not paying for fanworks content, and you have no rights to it other than to choose to consume it, or not consume it. If you do choose to consume it, do not then attack the creator if it wasn’t to your taste. That’s the height of bad manners.
Be courteous in fandom. It makes the whole experience better for all of us.
These rules seem very simple and straight-forward. But I’ve been reading the follow-up questions/asks and I can see how tricky they are to apply in the real world setting.
Ex: “You are free to create contrarian content, to write meta about why a particular ship is repulsive, to discuss it endlessly on your private blogwith like-minded persons.“
This rule hinges on how we interpret (a) contrarian content, and (b) private blog.
Ex: I see a hurt/comfort story that I feel perpetuates a dangerous and unhealthy attitude towards hurting and comforting.* So I make a post saying this in:
1. My LJ/DW
2. My tumblr blog
3. My twitter
4. My Facebook
It then gets picked up and rebroadcast everywhere.
A. Is what I wrote contrarian content? Probably so, depending on how much analysis I add. Twitter will offer me less space so my post would probably have less meta and more un-nuanced “ick” (”Perfect example of the dangers of hurt/comfort trope http:bitly.com”) But perhaps not…maybe I am simply writing a dry and boring post about the history of hurt/comfort fan-fiction and how many different ways fans have labeled it “unhealthy” over the years.*
B. Are these all private spaces? To me, all 4 places are “my” private spaces. But for others, they are less so. It used to be that fannish discussion took place in public or semi-public spaces (letterzines, Usenet, mailing lists and forums) where everyone was gathered around and no-one “owned” the space.** So you knew going in (or you would soon learn) that there was a bigger sandbox where everyone could and would fling sand about.
But with the shift towards blogging and then even more diffuse social media communications, the line between private and public blurred. Over time, more and more prescriptions are being added to how we “talk” to fellow fans - there are many examples were fans are being told that tumblr blogs are not private spaces where we can run heedlessly naked, but that we have to put “some clothes on” (aka need to tag our posts the “right way”). But from a historical perspective, this focus on the “right vs wrong” way carries its own subjectivity. We didn’t have to worry about tagging in our LJ/DWs - there we were told to use “cuts” to hide possibly objectionable text. I don’t know if there are instructions how to do a responsible tweet - but I am certain someone has a strong opinion on the topic that I am expected to know. And on Facebook I am even less clear on how I am supposed to avoid shoving my contrarian content at others.
Tl:dr: These are good rules to follow. Because it is hard to define what is “anti-ship”, where we can post it and how we can post it without creating a negative fan environment, the best we can do is focus on policing our own actions. And assume that not everyone will agree with our choices.
*Of course the definition of “unhealthy” varies widely. In some corners of fandom, the hurting is more important than the comforting. In others, the comforting is more than the hurting. In yet even further reaches of fandom, the hurting and comforting must be done realistically as possible. And finally, there is a strong movement that feels that all hurt/comfort is unhealthy because it takes away valuable pron word count.
*”Owned” is a bit misleading as moderators often used a heavy hand and would set rules, but most understood that these places were not their own private sandbox.
Tags:fandom meta, fandom history, fandom etiquette, three rules of fandom, your rules may vary, assume good faith, DWCrosspost