This is not a post defending the Organization for Transformative Works
(a fan-run pro-fanfic nonprofit organization, if you're out of the loop). The OTW should be quite thankful about that fact, because frankly the OTW doesn't want me (or, more accurately, shouldn't want me) defending them. I'm a crap apologist, because I'm an intellectual radical and I can't hide that fact to save my life, even if I'm arguing with my brother over who should do the dishes, because the reason he can't see why he should do them is totally because he's operating under a correspondence theory of truth (without knowing it) when he should be going for standpoint epistemology, or some such. A conversation about evangelical Christianity's stance on homosexuality inevitably becomes one about whether there was a historical Jesus of Nazareth. And so on.
And God help me, I hadn't even finished the first paragraph of this post and I've already invoked Sandra Harding. Other than the fact that I am male, I am in some ways exactly the sort of academic (though, truly, I'm not really, as I'm only a grad student, and a just starting one at that) that OTW's critics see lurking behind every corner of the org. So the OTW really shouldn't want me defending them.
So I'm not going to defend the OTW. I'm not even sure I want to; if you go to the original post(s?) in astolat
's journal, you'll find me there (naturally), offering up criticisms of the project from the get-go and providing my reservations. (I will
say that what comforts me more than anything else is the knowledge that the new archive will be run on open-source software. The OTW's goal is not to hegemonize and never was--and if they end up deciding they can't or won't host chan, somebody else will be able to use the code to do so. Same for having underaged readers.)
Okay, I've gone on for three paragraphs about what I'm not doing, and this is the fourth. What I will do in this post is respond to certain elements of the discussion that has arisen over the Organization for Transformative works and give my perspective on a couple of issues and why I think my view is the correct one.
No one who knows me will be surprised that the main conversation with which I'm concerned is the one over the gender issue--the claim, seemingly based on a single line in its mission statement, "We value our identity as a predominantly female community with a rich history of creativity and commentary"--that the OTW is sexist, excludes men, or cetera. Now the org has been remarkably (and to me, frustratingly) inclusive
in its response to said criticism. The official part line on the "female identity" line is that it is a reference to a historically true fact which is thus ideologically neutral.
The OTW has not
trotted out feminist theory and explained in those terms why its positions are correct and necessary, which you would think thy would do if the entire project is composed only of acafans (as some have claimed). Instead, it has done its best to present its mission statement in a way which would be palatable to people who hold a number of differing ideologies, even if some of those ideologies are from a certain perspective (i.e., mine) wrong. They'd make very good Episcopalians, I think.
I told you I'm a crap apologist; I can't leave it at that. Maybe the line in the mission statement is ideologically neutral, maybe it isn't. I don't think it matters, because there is a correct
ideological position from which perspective the line is appropriate.
If we remember back to the major race discussions which took place a few months ago originating in the Stargate Atlantis
fandom and then spreading like wildfire through my flist, we'll remember hederahelix
's eloquent advocacy of the definition of systemic injustice as the intersection of discrimination and
( oppression is never just the action of individuals )
Sexism is a systemic superstructure of male privilege, and it exists in the world. I have been the recipient of that privilege, and fandom has helped me to understand in some small part what it feels to not have it (something for which I am eternally grateful). Resistant measures intended to combat the overarching superstructure are not sexist. Thus the OTW could
be excluding men and that would be okay.
The question is not, cannot be, "Would this be just in an already just society?" Putting Supergirl in a short skirt, or giving Powergirl big breasts, would be neutral acts in an already just society: some women wear short skirts and some have big breasts, and that's okay. But we don't live in a just society, and asking what we would do then blinds us to the pattern of oppression these facts form into today. Similarly, some actions are called for today as reactionary measures which would not be appropriate in a feminist utopia. Fandom's female identity is one of these things.
That's the argument OTW doesn't want to make, because not everyone agrees with it, and which of course it doesn't have to make, because they're not excluding men. They're not catering to men, of course, and in a world of rampant male privilege that might be felt as exclusion, as cereta
documents in her post Fandom and Male Privilege
. And I know firsthand what that feels like, being male, and it's not fun, especially not at first. But it's not exclusion. The OTW has male members working on its volunteer staff, serving on committees. Its mission statement states that:
( IDIC )
While men are certainly welcome (and again, I can say this firsthand), it is simply recognize that in a world where everything else is run by men for men's purposes, this is a female space.
I believe in what Helene Cixous called the laugh of the Medusa: the radical, revisionary possibilities of a community of women writing, especially about sex. I believe that what cupidsbow
calls "amazing outpouring of female talent" in How Fanfiction Makes Us Poor
has the power to change the world and is valuable from a feminist perspective. In her post Is Medusa Still Laughing?
( AUTHORity, PENis )
Some might argue that OTW shouldn't be a feminist organization. I disagree. I think that every organization should be a feminist organization, and that the OTW is not feminist enough. (This is not a defense, remember?) The Roman Catholic Church should
be a feminist organization, although it sadly isn't. The Cato Institute should be a feminist organization. The only reason NAMBLA shouldn't be a feminist organization is that it probably shouldn't exist at all in the first place. There are normative ethics at work here; I am not a relativist.
If you disagree with me on this, I think you're wrong, but I love you anyway. I have had very productive discussions with people on my flist who disagree with me on the role of power in human society. And OTW may still be for you--as I've said, it is way more inclusive of differing points of view that I am, and as in one of my good moods I recognize an organization should and must be if it is going to function. Even if you disagree with the importance of privileging fandom's female identity doesn't take change the coolness of a new archive, journal, or wiki.
This sort of brings me to my second issue, which is the relationship between radical theory (e.g., my feminism) and liberal activism (An Archive of Our Own). For the people who believe that the OTW as an organization is in some ways a betrayal of the anarchic ethos of fandom, I am profoundly sympathetic. Liberalism and radicalism always tend to exist in an uneasy tension with each other, and my temperament is to be a radical. ( Why radicalism needs liberalism, and vice versa )( OTW as ACLU analogy )