Talking About Representation: Choose Your Words Wisely
So, today, I’m going to be cutting straight to the chase.. Let’s talk about ace representation, and where we need improvement and to dismantle stereotypes. We probably need more male and nonbinary representation, because people usually associate ace with being female. Some older representation would be nice, and so would some representation of other marginalized groups like POC and fat people, to name a couple. These are all things I see said often, and I totally agree - it’d be great to have some well written ace rep like this! These are good conversations and we should continue having them.
We need to stop saying that “most ace rep is aro” (or even that the ace characters that exist are “/always/ aro”) to justify having more allo ace rep. We don’t need to justify it. Having allo ace rep is great, and I absolutely do not want to take away the push to get more of it or stop you from promoting what you find. Saying “most ace rep is aro” or any variation thereupon is not a good thing, though, and it needs to stop. Here’s why.
First off, you’re likely making an arospec uncomfortable. This idea is used a lot in some pretty negative applications - primarily to fight against more aro representation, or even existing aro representation. The first thing I associate this phrase with is someone who insisted that a character would be “better” representation if they weren’t aro, trying to erase their canon aromanticism. Not all arospecs with have this negative association - some may be fine - but it’s similar to saying “at least we can still love” or “at least they’re not aromantic!”*. It’s going to bother a lot of people, even if they can’t put their finger on exactly what’s bothering them
Secondly, it’s not true. Here’s some proof:
- The Aro And Ace Speculative Fiction Database
- 130 works have an asexual chararcter. 59 of those characters are also aromantic.
- That’s 45% - slightly higher than the actual percentage of aromantics, but not a majority. In fact, that means that there is about as much alloromantic rep as there is aromantic rep.
- When book series were accounted for, and repeat characters were removed, the number of works dropped to 105. Aromantic characters dropped to 53. 50% - still not a majority.
- (For reference purposes: 66/76 or 87% of aromantic characters were asexual .)
- ToastyStats: Asexual and Aromantic Fanworks on Ao3** (pt 1 and pt 2)
- While aromantic + asexual were the most popular combination, they only appeared together in 720 works. (7.5% of works with an a-spec tag).
- In contrast, aromanticism with no asexual tag had 727 works (7.6% of a-spec works) and asexuality with no aromantic tag showed up in 7023 works (72.9%).
- Clearly, despite asexuality and aromanticism being the most common a-spec combination, the majority of the asexual works do not call their character aromantic.
- SPN, with 700+ works regarding asexuality, did not have more than 50 works about aromanticism. 11% of Riverdale fanwork features an asexual tag, however, less than 0.5% of Riverdale fanwork features an aromantic tag.
- When comparing the “Asexual [Character Name]” tag to the ship category, only one character had majority general fiction. All other characters had less than 35% general fic.
- I know some of this is worded funky, and may be a bit confusing - if you’re confused, try the graphs in the links!
So, as I wrap up this post, I’m just gonna ask that you be careful of the language you use and try to avoid phrases like this in the future. Aromantics have a hard time in a-spec communities as it is, and we often feel isolated. Please don’t contribute to that in the future. Just…choose your words wisely. Please don’t make arospecs feel like we are unwanted, a burden, and bad representation. And thanks for listening.
Author’s notes under the cut.