[ConCulture] Human Rights, Fandom, and Slacktivism


I logged on this morning to check my newsfeed. As I sipping on my morning earl grey, I found that almost half of my Facebook contacts has changed their user icon to a bright red with a pink equal sign. “Oh, that’s cute. Equality. Gay marriage is the next trend.” March has so many things going on – Endometriosis awareness, the visual effects artists being cheapened out, women’s history, craft’s month, etc. It’s almost hard to keep track of them. I personally choose not to change my icon because there’s a lot of things I support – it’s not just one thing that I support. I support many wonderful causes and what March has to represent. It’s tough to argue that a change of icon will change the world. This was an issue of debate when Facebook users were encouraged to change their Facebook icon to something from a childhood cartoon to combat pedophilia. Social media has made slacktivism the in thing. I admire people for supporting awesome causes, but other than changing your icon, what else are you going to do about it?

. Anyone else see the irony in that this is reinforcing ugly stereotypes even as it tries to refute them?

Anyone else see the irony in that this is reinforcing ugly stereotypes even as it tries to refute them?

There’s a pressing issue right now in the USA on overturning Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Hearings started yesterday and people are anticipating the results of this historical time. I’m very happy to see a lot of my friends support human rights. However, I already knew that as a good majority of my friends are for gender equality and gay rights. I’m very happy when my queer identifying friends want to spark discussion and talk about how the LGBTQ community is fractured. I enjoy reading in on conversations about the plight of transgenders and how bisexuals are often excluded from the gay community. It may sound weird, but I find it fascinating because I think these are conversations that need to be had. There’s a lot that people do not know about the LGBTQ community.

While Freeman did not credit this quote, it still rings true. Gay bashing is more like racism than a phobia.

While Freeman did not credit this quote, it still rings true. Gay bashing is more like racism than a phobia.

In my life outside of fandom and conventions, I have run LGTBQ youth groups. We would discuss what was on our mind what we would talk about – anything political, social, etc was on the table. It was always a safe space. In my time in public education, I have also heard “homophobic” slurs heard left and right. The sad part is that even minorities – African American, Hispanic, Filipino kids – perpetuate that it’s normal and okay to say “homophobic” slurs. Then I log into my news feed and I have to give a kind blurb to rational adults on how using such slurs is wrong and that one South Park episode is no excuse. Even with the South Park justification, when you look at the news of kids being bullied and harassed for being who they are, I cannot justify use of any slurs in any context.

Found Image: "Yaoi Flag" takes the pride flag to show off fandom OTP's.

Found Image: “Yaoi Flag” takes the pride flag to show off fandom OTP’s.

So, when I see a “Yaoi Flag” at an anime convention where fangirls are writing their favorite headcannons and OTP’s (ie: favorite pairings that are not canon in any way as the creator intended it – Sasuke x Naruto, Ed x Al, Homura x Madoka, etc) on it, could you blame me for feeling a little vexed? Last I checked it was a Pride Flag – a flag to symbolize the plight and resiliency of the gay movement. While I’m not huge on flags, I think it is inappropriate to use pride symbolism to justify headcannons and OTP’s. Perhaps the person and people who started this was ignorant. I’ll give them that. As mentioned above, there’s not a lot being intellectually discussed. I’m all for the “This Person Supports Gay Marriage” and “Don’t Eat at Chick Fil A” memes, but I knew you were already for gay marriage before I added you on Facebook. I like to have my friends that I follow be accepting of diversity. However, I do feel it’s also time to discuss issues we have not quite understood. Transgender rights is still new to the mainstream. Lately, I’ve seen ignorant comments being posted about transgenders (and even male crossdressers) from “EYE BLEACH” to out right assumptions. It’s wise we educate ourselves on these topics and continue to question why we feel the way we feel. Where does the judgement come from? Or is it something we have not quite understood yet because it’s so new to us?

While Tomoyo has a cute girl-crush on Sakura, it doesn't mean they're going to get married anytime soon.

Card Captor Sakura explores all kinds of love. Tomoyo has a girl crush on Sakura, but it’s kept tame an G-rated.

So, when I see grown (single) men posting photos of Homura and Madoka tonguing and use that to support marriage equality, I raise my eyebrow. While I’m all for shoujo-ai and whacky headcannons, the last thing I would use is the pin up and the maid from American Horror Story to justify gay marriage. While it was pretty hot when the Black Dahlia and the maid were hot and heavy, it would be the last thing I would use to show my support for human rights. I can enjoy my fictional fantasies, but human rights is real and always has an uphill battle that’s not pretty or fluffy as the boys love photos I see shared on tumblr. And by the way, just posting and sharing photos of underage girls tonguing in the name of human rights is quite disgusting when you think about it.

And they're for gay adoption!

And they’re for gay adoption!

I’m cool when I see photos of Michiru and Haruka posted – after all they did wear wedding bands and raise Hotaru in the manga version of Sailor Moon. I’m cool when I see actual literary fictional gay characters used creatively to support human rights. I like seeing light placed onto some awesome fictional LGBTQ characters – manga, tv, film, literature, etc. However, it vexes me when I see fanboys and fangirls post photos of their favorite imagined parings to capitalize on the issue. As hot as you think Homura and Madoka are when they’re French kissing, gay marriage will not make it cannon. As hot as you think Sayaka and Miki are together, it is still a work of fiction and your personal fantasy. The point is that human rights is a real issue at stake. People have given their life and died in the name of equality for all.

Three parents? Polyamory going down in the outer senshi? j/k

Three parents? Polyamory going down in the outer senshi? j/k

Even if you change your icon, what change are you doing today to show support for gender equality? What’s really wrong with the “it gets better” slogan? Have you called out people on using slurs? What’s the deal with heteronormativity and why should we question it? Are you pissed off about doxing? Are you there for your friends when they need them the most? Does the current legislation from Arizona regarding public restrooms and transgendered people make you feel angry? When a kid is bullied for simply being who they are – gay, nerdy, or just doesn’t fit in – make you angry? Do you question whether or not it’s fair for kids “grow a thick skin” overnight to deal with bullying and harassment – online or in person?

Supporting and working for equality for all goes beyond sharing a photo, changing an icon, or using your head cannons to justify how you feel. During this historical time, I challenge you to really engage in pressing issues in the gay community – even if it’s just to educate yourself a little bit more. Starting conversations and even just reading conversations is a good way to start. While fandom can work with activism, it is also a time for us to let go of our immaturity and understand the humanity behind the fight for equality. I expect better out of my fellow nerds and geeks – we too know what it is like to be marginalized. We share a common issue – we should all be allies in this historical time. We don’t have to wait for change, we can make it better.

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