This contains a discussion that may trigger those who have an identity that is other than heteronormative.
My First Message
In perusing your community, I've see a number of stories that are warning for slash, boy kissing and other generally offensive things.
I'd like to know the mod position on making someone's identity a warning in your community. I think that at the very least, it should be frowned upon.
For those who don't want to read slash, fine, but the 'slash' part is covered in the pairings. Either that, or you could add a line with 'contains' for identity-centric items like slash, BOY KISSING, or BDSM.
The only things that should be be warned for are PTSD triggers like rape, incest, pedophilia or torture. Putting m/m relationships in the same category as horrific acts like these only perpetuates the idea that there is something WRONG with m/m relationships and furthers homophobia in our society.
At this point you might be thinking, "Oh, we're just a fan community, get over it!" Or, "PC thought police."
If you are thinking these things, you are partially correct, but given the number of teen suicides that have happened because of a lack of acceptance in mainstream society of their basic identity, I would think that you would want to err on the side of doing no harm first and protecting the rights and feelings of bigots second.
Not everyone has to read slash, but warning for it as if there's something wrong with it only adds to the pain of those for whom homophobia is an intrinsic part of their lives.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Teleen Their First Reply
We actually got another message about this yesterday, and it's something we'd like to clarify. It is & never has been implied nor stated that we want people to warn for slash, or any part of the GLBT spectrum. Being long-time slash writers & readers ourselves, myself (name redacted
) identifying as asexual for all intents and purposes and Iced being bisexual, it would go against our nature to do so.
However many members of the comm can be new to fanfiction & fandom in general, and as such can make well intentioned, if misguided warnings when pressed to list them. In this case, the writers likely don't know that it is bad form to list slash as a warning. It has nothing to do with mod policy, it's simply a mistake made because they don't know better.
Other writers enjoy listing "cute" warnings ("boy kissing" "[character name]
being sneaky") to the great exasperation of the mods, but we don't have time to hunt down every single one and be the one to rain on their parade. Note that the only thing we require in headers is warnings and rating, and as such there are a lot that of writers that get skittish and list every single thing they may think is offensive to any type of sensibility. And while fluff is lethal to a certain population, we'd rather have to tolerate some of the less intelligently thought out warnings than have none whatsoever.
Believe me, we'd be just as offended as you are if we sensed homophobia of any kind. Strict rules are in place to prevent flaming & intolerance, offenses which end in banning. We simply do not have any time or patience for prejudice & we have a zero tolerance policy for it. However, it's our judgement that these warnings are not errors of hostility. If you'd like to discuss further, feel free to PM me directly (name redacted
). My Second Message
Okay, I see where you're coming from, I really do. There are a lot of posts and it can be difficult to keep track of them all.
Ignorance is not a good excuse for essentially saying the following:
DANGER: homosexual romance.
I can also understand being new to fandom and wanting to warn for everything under the sun (heck, check out the tags for trauma_rec_fic sometime), but having slash in the warning line is made of fail no matter how you slice it.
It's homophobic, whether it MEANS to be or not. Intent is not the issue. I would assume that someone who's writing slash isn't blatantly homophobic (one would hope, anyway). The issue is a GLBPTQ teenager coming to your community as a natural part of exploring their identity and seeing that some people feel that it needs to be warned for, because it's bad. In our society, you only warn for bad things (see icon).
I'm not expecting you to catch every post, but making an announcement that it's not cool to warn for slash and give all of the reasons why (as well as alternatives, like using the pairing or a 'Contains' line to give people a heads up as to what's in the story) would at least make it clear to those who come to your community that it's not cool and y'know HOMOPHOBIC to do so.
Homophobia isn't just about calling someone the 'f' word or saying it's disgusting. It's far more subtle. It's someone saying, "That's gay," to mean something bad. It's the entire thought process that culminates in being able to slur someone by calling them the 'f' word because somehow those qualities are bad.
Warning for slash is telling the world that it's something that others need to beware of and so long as people let "little" things like this slide, GLBTQP persons will always be on the fringe. So long as someone's basic identity is seen as possibly disgusting enough to require a warning, GLBTQP people will never be truly accepted.
Again, I see where you're coming from. I just can't agree that it's something that's as unimportant as you seem to feel it is. If you're as anti-homophobia as you claim to be, you'll make an announcement and an addition to the rules, making it clear that warning for slash isn't cool in your community.
That way, when you do happen to catch people warning for it (not in every post, but I have to assume that you'd at least catch some of them), you can say that you asked nicely that they not do so because warning for someone's identity is bad.
If you don't have the time to do this, get more mods. Someone out there would be willing to go through each post and put a mod note on it asking that people not warn for slash. Hell, to be brutally honest here, a part of me is tempted to just go through every post in the last couple of weeks myself and PM any author that did this, telling them it's offensive (and why) and asking them nicely to change it.
I've PM'd for faily warnings on other communities when I've come across them just as a private reader and the urge to do it here is strong, very strong. I haven't done it here because it seemed to be such a community-wide issue that I thought I'd come to you all first.
When I'm offended, I PM authors and let them know because no one learns anything without someone actually saying something and most of the time, people are actually very apologetic and willing to change things when asked privately and politely. You're making me feel as though that's what I should have done in the first place, just gone through and let each one know why their 'cute' warning wasn't so cute and why it hurts to see it.
From your response, I'm almost getting the feeling that you somehow don't want to hurt community morale or discourage participation by actually doing some real MODDING.
You're making it clear that you don't want to expend the effort required to actually stop subtle homophobia in your community and I have to say that it's very disappointing, :(.
I also have to say that simply because you (or one of the other mods) has a queer identity, that doesn't automatically mean that you're not capable of homophobia. I have a queer identity and I still am having to train myself not to use the word 'gay' as a negative in any context.
It's difficult to retrain oneself when society has programmed one in homophobia on such a deep and fundamental level, but we have to try, or what's the point?
I just took a look at your community info because I wanted to get a clearer picture of your issues. Your community is five months old and already has close to 5,500 entries, so I can understand not being able to keep up. You need more mods. I'd volunteer, except I'm not sure that my help would be appreciated at this point, :).
Still, with over 6,000 members, I'm quite sure you'll be able to find some more help if you're willing to ask for it.
The alternative is to continue to let this slide and make it clear that in your community, GLBTQP identities will always be on the fringes, :(.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Let's not go with the ignorance argument then. In that case, I have the strong feeling you were not around for the last modpost, where in the comments we were asked to clarify what, in the context of the community, warnings are and what they aren't. For your benefit I will let you know:
What warnings aren't: public kink shaming, a place to joke about serious issues, a place to bandy the word "enticements" instead (as many were doing before we suggested to writers that sobriety was more appreciated, especially with things like dub con and non con being listed thereafter)
What warnings are: a tool to let the reader know what's in a story.
Believe it or not, some people don't want to read about m/m or f/f (or variations thereof). Note that I am not conflating slash and kink, though both can be part of one's identity. Warnings do not have an inherently negative connotation, except you seem to believe we are enablers/not socially conscious enough when forcing people to be decent to each other in the comm has garnered us more wank and attacks than if we let it stay in its more generic fandom acception free-for-all state. We don't care that we still get shouted at by both sides (the ones who want to keep their more ignorant and ill-conceived, if carefree warnings and the ones who want this space to be a font of progressivism). It's expected when we make rules that make people unhappy that they can't have complete and utter control over what information is in their submissions. Iced, of a number of occasions, has suggested in comments that warning for slash may not be the most sensitive thing the author could do, and was promptly ranted at by readers. Yet if we make another modpost declaring slash isn't to be warned for, we'd still get shouted down for one reason or another, so if it's to be done by any way, it'll have to be quietly.
I appreciate that you're very passionate on the issue and it's clear you've encountered it in other fandoms, but your definition of warning obviously subscribes to the idea that warnings are negative, which is a pretty narrow way to look at it, and your entire argument is based on it. Intent doesn't seem to have any currency with you, but when you compare that people warn for something as innocuous as fluff, it's hard to argue that it's with pointed, belligerent maliciousness. That's just a fact. You want to impose the full spectrum of social implications on the comm, but it's not possible given our position, and if it is, it shouldn't be news that someone on the interent doesn't match up to your own personal ideals.
Warnings are not negative, but we'd still like to do something to phase out the idea that slash needs to be warned for, you don't need to bite our heads off about it. There is a lot more internal discussions that you don't see, so implying that we're idle and doing nothing about it is patently untrue and incredibly offensive. We're busy? Yes. Understaffed? Sure. Expect at least a little self regulation/expect people to use their heads so we can focus on other things? Absolutely, though that doesn't work out all the time. We're not refusing to expend effort (plans for PMing were already in the pipeline long before your friendly PM), so I'd suggest not projecting the darkest possible design on us.
We do the best we can with only the two of us, why? Because there aren't many people we trust to be able to reject/delete posts that aren't strictly on topic or appropriate. We don't want anyone who is ruled by the egos of posters, and even when we did have more mods, they quit because they couldn't handle the pressure of so much content & being pulled in many directions at one time. I'm going to be frank here, I don't like having to listen to soapbox rants, even if I agree with the social context of your argument. Accusing us of allowing the GLBTQP to "remain on the fringes" makes me more angry than it makes me want to work with you to achieve something. Final Message
A WARNING is negative BY DEFINITION:
It's not narrow - it's REALITY.
I refer you to the dictionary definition of the word:
2. "something that serves to warn, give notice, or caution: We fired a warning at the intruders."
Please, I'm sincerely BEGGING you with no sarcasm whatsoever, look it up. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/w
If something needs caution to be around, or that immediate steps need to be taken to protect lives and property from it, it's a NEGATIVE, literally BY DEFINITION. Which is why I suggested asking your community to use the more neutral "contains" to avoid any negative connotation.
You've made it clear that being quiet and not rocking the boat is more important to you than actually caring about other human beings. And THAT makes ME angry. Not some semantic argument about what I said or how I said it.
I don't care what people do or don't want to read and I'm NOT saying (nor did I EVER say) that there shouldn't be headers telling readers what to expect in a story.
All I'm saying is there's a neutral way to do it and it would be nice if the biggest community in the [redacted] fandom could set a good example for everyone else.
Myself, I'm glad I don't write [redacted] fic, so I don't have to worry about posting anything there. And there are other, better authors than I who are saying that they have no interest in writing [redacted] fic because your community is so made of fail on this issue.
But you're big enough that you don't have to care about those whom you alienate or hurt by not caring enough to well, CARE. It doesn't matter that a few people are hurt by this - the majority are still making posts and participating.
I weep for you being 'ranted at' by bigots, I really do /sarcasm. That's what happens when you take a stand and say, "Look, this is wrong - stop doing it."
Case in point - my conversation with you right now, where you get to tell me how angry you are because I pointed out that by your actions, you are showing me that you don't care about leaving GLPTQP persons on the fringes.
As for the modpost I missed, telling people, "Warnings aren't this" when you're still using the word WARNING - you're sending the wrong message. Period.
And all of the 'behind the scenes' discussion and how you want to 'phase out' warning for slash, so my ranting at you isn't helping?
You're mods of a HUGE public community and right now you have bad situation. If you don't want to be called out on it, fix it.
Honestly? You sound like a US politician on repealing DADT. "We're working behind the scenes and discussing the issue and are working to phase it out."
Fandom might not change the world, but ideally it should be a better place than the world is. Not to mention that in a real sense, fandom HAS changed the world.
The first 'slash' was Kirk/Spock. That was the first time someone said, "Hey, we really like these two and their dynamic would be really cool in a relationship. So what if they're men?"
There's a lot of evidence to suggest that the underground movement of slash has actually helped to move forward the cause of GLBTQP persons in the mainstream. It's helped people to see those sorts of relationships as normal and not something to be feared.
But we're still WARNING for them. It's the crux of my argument because we put warning labels on things like POISON and medicines with harmful side effects. Do you see where I'm going here?
I think "Contains" is the way to go - it's neutral, gives no value judgments whatsoever and allows everyone to list everything in a story to their hearts' content. Yes, some people will still find a way to complain about it, but at least we aren't telling them that slash is something one should be aware of in the way that one is "aware of" a downed power line.
I'm guilty of warning for slash. It's what I was taught to do when I first entered fandom. As you pointed out, it's what EVERYONE was taught to do. That's the past. Moving forward, in the communities I'm a part of, I'm going to suggest that we try and remove the word 'warning' from headers altogether.
"Contains" takes away any possibility of a negative connotation with anything within, so that if 'your kink is not my kink' it can still be okay.
I wish I were a better diplomat. I don't know how to argue except with facts and I don't know how to be nice when I'm boiling mad.
I apologize to you for one thing. You're the first person whom I've gone through this with and I've made every mistake in dealing with you that I think it's possible to make with another human being.
I've told you that a piece of something that you're a part of is made of fail and I've accused you of not caring and, even though (to me) the evidence appears to bear out that hypothesis, everyone likes to believe that they care and are fighting the good fight.
I'm truly sorry for not being more eloquent in saying this, but the "behind-the-scenes, gentle phasing out" just isn't good enough. Showing respect for someone's identity and insisting that those who come to your community do the same is not something that should be 'phased in gradually'. It's a hard line. It's something that needs to happen ASAP, like yesterday.
As for those who don't like it - ban them. Your community, your rules. But, if I really meant that, I'd leave you alone on this, wouldn't I? After all, if they're your rules, shouldn't you be allowed to enforce them as you see fit?
Nope, sorry. If you choose to make rules and then enforce them in such a way that it shows disrespect to someone's basic identity, people who see that disrespect have the right to call you out on it.
If you're going to have a free-for-all and let people get away with bullying you (which is why it sounded like you were saying in your reply), I have a right to tell you that that's what I see is happening. If someone gives you static about a policy, kick them out. I've done it in my community and while I realize that not everyone is as harsh as I am - you have access to the community membership. Use it.
You might say that I'm trying to bully you and/or shame you into my way of thinking. You'd be 100% correct, at least as far as the shaming goes.
I want to shame you because the behavior you're permitting is shameful. I want you to really think about the position you're supporting by your inaction.
You're supporting telling GLBTQP persons that they have to wait for their identities to be treated with respect and that they don't matter as much as the majority, something that they already have to deal with pretty much every day of their lives.
As for the bullying part, I need to tell you a very important secret - I CAN'T bully you because you have all of the power. Your hands aren't tied. You a could make an announcement tomorrow that this was the way it was going to be. Period.
It's an LJ community, not a democracy. Majority rule doesn't matter when it comes to basic respect - you can't vote on rights, either. The majority will NEVER vote to give a minority rights - check out all of the gay marriage bans that went through in key election states in the US in 2004 if you don't believe me, :(.
You just have to decide if you're going to continue to let people roll over you. For an example of how mods who care keep a community in line, I invite you to check out: http://community.livejournal.com/fanficrants/
They take no static and aren't afraid to use a banhammer on those who ignore the rules and refuse to treat others with basic respect. They have a lot of posts to keep track of, too.
It's taken me the better part of three hours to write this and given that you've already said that you don't want to work with me on this, I feel rather as though I'm beating my head against a wall. But it's a good wall to beat on. I've said my piece and can leave this situation feeling as though I've done all that I can do. The rest is up to you.
Last night when I looked at your community info, I was actually feeling envious because I started trauma_rec_fic two months before you started yours and I don't have nearly tge participation, probably because we have a lot of rules that make people afraid to post.
Looking at this mess I'm thinking it's better to have quality over quantity. I'd rather have 100 posts that all have respect for the subject matter they're writing about, than have 5,000 where 500 (or even 50) disregard the basic humanity of other people. How many is acceptable, anyway?
The evidence is pointing me to a conclusion - you'd rather have lots of posts and participation with some disrespect to a minority as the cost of doing business than risk losing some bigots in the fallout, :(.
It makes me want to cry.
It comes down to you giving certain unpleasant things a pass because it's too much effort for you to make a stand and deal with the aftermath.
Guess what? Doing the right thing is hard sometimes. It's always easier to let bad stuff slide because 'people warn for fluff' and therefore it must mean that it's not really a "warning" under the dictionary definition of the term. Yeah well, people say 'that's gay' without INTENDING to be homophobic all the time - it doesn't make it any less homophobic when they do.
Thank you very much for your time and attention.