On Shipping, Fanboys, and Feminism (Again)
I wrote a post about shipping, and it blew up in a way I never anticipated. Apparently my anger resonated with a lot of people, which is simultaneously amazing and sad. People who are completely outside the Avengers fandom have told me how closely my experience matches their own in fandoms ranging from Sherlock to the Legend of Zelda to Star Trek.
It’s funny. If I had known this would turn as big as it has, I might have written something a little more eloquent and with fewer pictures of Iron Man and Captain America being
gay whoops sorry folks heterosexual life partners.
I don’t have time to respond to everyone, but a few people made great points about that post that I want to address.
1. Fans that don’t fit into a gender/sexual orientation binary
The post contained very, very simplified definitions of “fanboy” and “fangirl,” and people from innumerable backgrounds felt left out. “What about fanboys who ship?” “What about fangirls who don’t ship anything?” Those are important questions and they deserve an answer.
I didn’t expand on this before, so I will now: Everyone has a place in fandom. Everyone. For the sake of that piece I targeted a very specific subset of fans and in no way want to generalize about the others. I could never even claim to speak for all heterosexual women who ship; that would be arrogance. Each person defines their own fanhood. The important thing is that fans respect each other and accept that different people find different ways of enjoying their fandoms.
2. Why this actually is a women’s rights/LGBT issue
Some people took offense.
I understand the frustration that comes from fetishizing homosexuality. I do. But I want to be clear: I never once considered myself some sort of GLBT rights crusader. I ship because I see interesting relationships to be explored, and because it’s fun. That being said, the angry tone of my post didn’t originate with me. It came as a response to very real anger from certain fanboys directed at people like me. And a lot of that anger comes from places that are, most certainly, a rights issue (“You can’t make [X character] gay because being gay is wrong!”)
I also take offense to the notion that “some of these characters are important to people” is a valid excuse for their anger. It implies that these characters aren’t important to people like me. You have no idea how important they are to me and how often a Captain America comic has gotten me through a rough day.
And it’s not just me:
Honestly, I can’t articulate any better than this why women’s rights do come into play here. Shipping is a great outlet for women:
It’s also a great outlet for anyone who enjoys exploring sexualities:
I’m honestly thrilled to have provoked so much discussion. People are saying important things, and I’m sorry I can’t quote all of them. So I’ll quote Captain America quoting Mark Twain:
Fangirls, fanboys, shippers, nonshippers: keep speaking. Let your voice be heard.