Links roundup for 7 May 2012

Here’s a roundup of stories about women in fandom that might be of interest to fans:

  • An urgent call is going out to any female fan artists in the New York City area! The PBS program Off Book did a piece on fan artists on May 2. “The fan art community is one of the most creative and active online. Taking pop culture stories and icons as its starting point, the fan community extends those characters into new adventures, unexpected relationships, bizarre remixes, and even as the source material for beautiful art. Limited only by the imagination of the artist, the fan art world is full of surprises and brilliance.” Apparently it is also “limited only” by the gender of the fan artist in the show’s eyes, as not a single woman appeared to speak despite some of their fan art being shown. Super-wiki owner missyjack protested the exclusion of female artists on the YouTube post, and received a request from a show representative to gather the names of fans willing to be interviewed. If you’re a female fan artist in NYC who would be willing to take part and broaden this representation of fan artists, comment at her blog.
  • Also infuriating to many female fans was the representation of female audience members by MovieFone with regards to the new Marvel movie release, The Avengers. More than one female fan protested the representation of women as passive audience members dragged to the film simply to please boyfriends. The Discriminating Fangirl wrote “Instead of writing an intelligent guide to the movies for people who aren’t already fans” the article included “idiotic, sexist stereotypes.” She summed up the problem with “Yes, because every girl going to see The Avengers is a giggling twit who’s obsessed with being pretty, watching inane rom coms, and who never got over high school. That’s insulting both to fangirls AND to girls who dig rom coms, because it…downplays womens’ intelligence and their taste in films. If girls like it, it must be fluff.” She added that “superhero genre stuff AND romance genre stuff…[are] two interests [that] are not mutually exclusive.”
  • By comparison the just-completed ROFLcon III, a “State of the Web Union” conference held in Cambridge, Massachussetts, had a panel on Fangirl Culture alongside other panels on internet memes and supercuts (“those densely packed, tightly edited video compilations that usually hone in on an idiosyncratic film or television trope”). The Fangirl panel “brought together several fanfic creators-slash-experts, who discussed the increasingly mainstream visibility of fanfic, as well as the bad rap it sometimes gets — despite the fact that most of us grew up daydreaming ourselves into the lives of our favorite characters.” It also spawned a related online article about the origins of vidding.

If you are a female creator of fanworks, you can help correct the media assumption that there are only one or two of you out here. Why not contribute to Fanlore? Additions are welcome from all fans.

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, event, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent Links Roundup — on transformativeworks.org, LJ, or DW — or give @OTW_News a shoutout on Twitter. Links are welcome in all languages!

Submitting a link doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

7 thoughts to “Links roundup for 7 May 2012”

  1. Thumbs up for ROFLCon. However, I think it’s worth noting that the Wired article, which mentioned many men’s names, didn’t bother to list any of the “fangirls” (me, femmequixotic, Rori Michele, Flourish Klink, and Alice X Zhang)

    1. Indeed — it seems that even when women are physically present it doesn’t change much about how they’re represented in the media coverage. The Daily Show segment on the importance of the female voter seems pretty apt.

  2. I keep hearing vague assessments that the “majority” of fanworks are made and enjoyed by women. Does anyone have any headcounts or statistics on this? Does someone know roughly what proportion of women produce and read on AO3, LJ, DW? Or know where I can find this info? Also, who can please recommend sources of a similar “quality” for vids and artwork? I’d sure appreciate it!

    1. Hi Slashgirl — Surprisingly we don’t seem to have this as an FAQ item somewhere, but I have sent out some queries to different parts of the OTW and we’ll see what we can come up with for you!

        1. this is truly a wonderful thing to know ” That’s insulting both to fangirls AND to girls who dig rom coms, because it…downplays womens’ intelligence and their taste in films. If girls like it, it must be fluff.” She added that “superhero genre stuff AND romance genre stuff…[are] two interests [that] are not mutually exclusive’..I will wait for more surprises http://www.locksmithmagic.com/

    2. Hi Slashgirl!

      This turns out to be a difficult question to answer because while there have been a lot of surveys, they’ve been mostly slapdash and unorganized, or narrowly aimed at one particular community subset or platform. Not to mention that rather a lot tends to to hang on how you define “fandom” and “fanworks” and several other key terms. Even observational data tends to vary based on where or when someone is looking: SFF fandom? comics fandom? anime fandom? fan art fandom? kpop fandom? soap opera fandom? gaming fandom?

      For starters, it is currently impossible to accurately assess even how many fanworks exist (assuming everyone could agree on what qualifies as one), much less who made them. If we search for fandom archives it’s possible to see that some fandoms have more fanworks produced for them than others. Few people would argue that Harry Potter is among one of the largest fandoms for fanworks, but it’s also just a large fandom period, and it’s likely impossible to say what percentage of the fandom creates fanworks, or what the gender breakdown is for the many works found in a variety of archives. The AO3, for example, does not collect any demographic data on its users nor was demographic data asked for in the recent OTW survey.

      But we can also see by looking at a collection of multifandom archives that the quantity of fanworks for any given fandom varies from one location to the next, and some percentage of those are duplicates. So it’s reasonable to assume that “who is posting where” also varies, and that even if such data were available it might only tell us if a particular fannish platform was more popular with men or women, not if fanwork creators as a whole were primarily one or the other.

      At the same time if we look again at Harry Potter, it has a lot of fanwork attached to it but it’s not as old as the fandom for Star Trek, which has had a lot of fanwork done for its various properties over many years and this has been gathered in many different places and mediums. Early academic studies on fanworks focused on work done by female vidders, female fanfic writers, and female fan artists and many of them were part of the Trek and other early sci-fi media fandoms. Those studies demonstrated that those particular networks of fanwork creators were overwhelmingly female, but not that fanwork creators as a whole were, or that the percentages of male and female creators haven’t changed over the past decades.

      For example when it comes to videos made by fans, many types of videos originated within either mostly male or mostly female groups. These videos varied by both fandom type (e.g. western media fandom vs. eastern anime fandom) and video type (e.g. music videos vs. machinima vs. fan films). But those groups are not static and as the Internet has facilitated cross-pollination and multifannishness for fan creators, the numbers may be changing in terms of how much participation there is by either gender.

      There have been many studies, for example, of how many women take part in gaming. As an example, see this 2010 study by the research group Information Solutions http://www.infosolutionsgroup.com/2010_PopCap_Social_Gaming_Research_Results.pdf. However study numbers vary based on how gaming is defined ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_and_video_games). The only thing that seems conclusive is that more women are taking part in video games, but not any clear percentages.

      This also holds true for in-person activities. Fan conventions may vary a great deal in terms of the male/female ratio of attendees. Conventions focused specifically on fanworks have tended to skew largely female (see, for example, the Writercon convention which began in 2004 and is being held this month in the UK). However, it was also true at one time that attendance at ComicCon was largely male yet general multifandom cons such as CC have been seeing increased percentages of female participants year over year. Some of these fans may be new, but some may simply have been fans in ways that didn’t involve going to in-person gatherings, or they weren’t part of the networks that those conventions drew their participants from.

      For example, I published the results of one survey done in the past decade which appeared as “The Problematic Definition of ‘Fan’: A Survey of Fannish Involvement in the Buffyverse” in Buffy and Angel Conquer the Internet: Essays on Online Fandom, ed. by Mary Kirby-Diaz, McFarland Publishing 2009 (you can see a fuller version here: http://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/18760). This survey had 1600+ respondents and found that fanfic writers were overwhelmingly female (83%), and made up smaller majorities of video makers and fan artists. However, it was a sampling of one particular fandom and drew heavily from participants on LiveJournal (55% of respondents), whose general demographics also skew largely female (whether they’re in fandom or not). So rather than serve as a general conclusion on fanwork creators as a whole, it can only confirm the everyday experience of many fan creators on LJ which is that most of their fellow participants are female.

      As a result many people make assumptions about gender breakdowns based on their particular circles of participation and rely on the historical origins of those particular groups. Fanfic writing continues to appear heavily female, whatever the genre of fandom, but other types of fannish activity may skew greatly in one direction or another at the present time and in particular places. The only thing that is certain is that both men and women participate in all sorts of creative fanworks!

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