(From my previous lj, kateorman
, cut-and-pasted here for my convenience. The original context was a 2008 discussion of whether fandom is gendered and whether men and women communicate differently. Well, I say "discussion"...)LinksFan-What?
"In theory, Fanboy and Fangirl are simply gendered terms to differentiate a male fan and a female fan. In practical use, they have not only a different gender but an entirely different meaning."When Worlds Collide: Fandom and Male PrivilegeConversation a different art for men and womenFanboy vs Fangirl
/ Fanboy vs fangirl: data points
(numerous links and notes - should probably unpack here)Fangenderqueer?
If only I'd known the term "gender non-conforming" in 2008.The When Did the Shippers Take Over Online Who Fandom?
panel and the changing demographics of Doctor Who fandom on the Internet.Doctor Who fandom demographics poll
. Slightly screwed up by lj, but the definitions of fangirl and fanboy are still there and still interesting.Scientific American
, 6 July 2007: Do Women Talk More than Men?
There are a ton of relevant postings at well-known acafan Henry Jenkins' blog
- for example, this dialogue
about the significance of gender in fandom. Be sure to look at the comments at the end, in which feminists challenge the claim that it's wrong and sexist to take gender into account.
Here's a 2000 study by Herring on Gender Differences in CMC
(that's "Computer Mediated Communication").Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth
: "One of the most regularly recited pieces of popular neuroscience is that women are more likely to use both hemispheres of the brain to process language while men tend only to use one. It turns out, this is a myth - it is simply not supported by the current evidence."A question for the ages - why aren't more women philosophers?
: "[PhD candidate Emily] Margo said she believed some, but not all, women preferred styles of philosophy that were less confrontational. 'Some women are more disposed to mediate or be conciliatory,' she said. 'However, in some situations you put your ideas up and have to be willing for others to try and shoot them down. This is a sign of respect. Personally, I like the blood sport aspect, but the combative way is certainly not the only way.'"Notes
(cites at the end)
Notes from the 1995 book Women, Men, and Politeness
by Janet Holmes (1995) - and more notes
Notes from Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth
by Camille Bacon-Smith (1992)
"As in previous years, the female voters tended to be more inclined to give higher marks than the men. The women particularly enjoyed The Unicorn and the Wasp
and Partners in Crime
, giving these stories much higher marks than the men did. The Adipose were also popular with the ladies, beating the Daleks as the Best Monster!"
- DWM 403, S4 survey results
. There were almost 5000 votes; 71% of voters were male.
A 1996 study by Susan C. Herring, Two Variants of an Electronic Message Schema
, on men and women's styles on two academic mailing lists, found differences in the way they communicated, but not the same
differences as previous linguists
- men primarily exchanging information, women primarily socialising. Rather, in her study, both sexes used emails to exchange opinions
more than just information, but in different ways. "Although messages posted by women contain somewhat more interactional features, they are also more informative, in contrast with male messages which most often express (critical) views". For example, she graphed responses which agreed, praised, and called for further discussion: women were all over these, while men barely posted any. The opposite was true for responses which disagreed and called for the subject to be dropped.
Importantly, both sexes tended to adopt the majority style (as I did in Usenet): for example, a man who added "hedges" ("it seems to me", "perhaps") rather than stating his views bluntly. Herring remarks: "Ironically, this male writer is concerned not to offend the women on the list by his differing views... yet he seems unaware that the oppositional structure of his message itself might be viewed as offensive or inappropriate." That's a very challenging observation, because it suggests that in a strongly "feminine" environment, disagreement itself can be rude
. Sadly, that's been my experience time and again in the female-dominated environs of fandom, and it can only play into the groupthink problem.
Henry Jenkins, in Textual Poachers
: "... I am also a male fan within a predominantly female fan culture. Male media fans are less common than female fans, though certainly not remarkable within this culture; we have learned to play according to the interpretive conventions of that community, even if these subcultural traditions did not originate in response to our particular interests or backgrounds." (p 6-7) "... this style of reading - extrapolation that draws the reader well beyond the information explicitly presented in the text, the intermingling of personal experience and narrative events, the focus on a narrative's 'world' rather than on its plot - reflects a gender-specific approach to narrative comprehension. [Various critics] document the different ways in which men and women respond to literary works... Female readers entered directly into the fictional world, focusing less on the extratextual process of its writing than on the relationships and events. Male reading acknowledged and respected the author's authority, while women saw themselves as engaged in a 'conversation' within which they could participate as active contributors." (p 110) Jenkins goes on to describe similar patterns in from Star Trek
and Twin Peaks
fandoms. (For more of which, see below.)
Susan J. Clerc (then a doctoral candidate in American Cultural Studies) writing in 1996, in wired_women
: "Almost all fan fiction is written by women, which leads to another very important point about off-line fandom: The majority of media fans are women. Women write and read almost all of the fan fiction, make the music videos, create the artwork, organize and attend conventions, run APAs and letterzines and belong to fan groups - they are actively involved, in greater numbers than men, in every facet of media fandom. Media fandom couldn't exist without women because more women than men do the communication work necessary to forge and sustain the community. The public impression that males dominate fan activities is largely the result of outsiders' emphasis on Star Trek fandom, which does seem to consist of more males than females. But this emphasis misses the nature of the fannish subculture as a whole. The misconception that males dominate media fandom is also online-fostered: there are simply more men than women online."
Clerc suggests that fewer fan women are online (keep in mind this is 1996) because they have less time, money, and interest for the necessary technological tinkering, and because, with a thriving offline fandom, there's little incentive. Once online, fangirls publicly contribute less because they've been socialised not to draw attention to themselves and because of direct and indirect hostility from the fanboys. Surveying online fans, Clerc found that "women favour mailing lists while men go for the high-profile Usenet newsgroups". Women were less than a third of the posters on rec.arts.startrek.current, r.a.s.misc, and rec.arts.drwho (and the mailing list, drwho-l). rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 was "almost exclusively male until very recently, and even now only a handful of women post regularly, compared to the literally scores of men"; alt.tv.red-dwarf almost entirely male. At the time, there was no public mailing list for Quantum Leap
, perhaps explaining why r.a.sf.tv.quantum-leap was half or more female.
82% of the women Clerc surveyed and 57% of the men participated in at least one fanac other than net groups. Most popular was cons. "The second most popular - and the one that brings men and women fans into conflict with each other and fandom into conflict with the outside world - is fan fiction... Unlike the vast majority of print fan fiction, a lot of online stories are written by young men, many of whom have no knowledge of the off-line community and the history of fan fiction written by women. Opinions of the quality of thier online fan fiction tend to be very low among women with experience in fandom." She quotes a fan who found the boys' fic "dire and boring", mostly Marty Stu vehicles than stories about Kirk and Spock. Citing Deborah Tannen, Clerc remarks: "Telling stories about themselves seems to be part of a male aesthetic... when asked to tell a story, men talk about themselves and women talk about other people." Further, women disliked the emphasis on "hardware, violence, and convoluted plots that go nowhere", unlike their own fic, which "has always focussed primarily on the characters' relationships." (Clerc makes it clear there are of course exceptions on both sides.) In the other direction, "the worst of the anti-slash posts and the highest level of intolerance do seem to come from young males".
From The Adoring Audience
, edited by Lisa A. Lewis. Quick figures: Viewers For Quality Television
surveyed its members annually; in 1988, 80% were female; the chapter on filking notes that SF filkers are about equally male and female, contrasting this with Star Trek
fanzines, mostly edited by and read by women. "These fan writers rework the primary text in a number of significant ways: they shift attention from action and adventure aspects of the show onto character relationsips, applying conventions characteristic of traditionally feminine genres, such as romance, to the interpretation and continuation of materials drawn from traditionally masculine genres" - for example, focussing on marginalised female characters. Fanfic is "a means of working through social experiences and concerns of particular interest to the female writing community, concerns which were given little or no attention in the original series. Fanzine stories grow out of gender-specific reading strategies and speak to feminist issues [but also] conform to particular generic traditions which originate within the fan community. They foreground meanings which are of interest to other fans; they accept certain common rules about what types of uses of textual materials are desirable or appropriate." (This last bit isn't strictly relevant here but omg it's interesting.)
From Henry Jenkins in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers
: "Media fan writing is almost exclusively feminine response to mass media texts. Men actively participate in a wide range of fan-related activities, notably interactive games and conference-planning committees, roles consistent with patriarchal norms that [relegate combat and authority] to the 'masculine' sphere. Media fan writers and fanzine readers, however, are almost always female... The greatest percentage of male participation is found in the 'letterzines'... and in 'nonfiction' magazines... that publish speculative essays on aspects of the program's 'universe'; men may feel comfortable joining discussions of future technologies or military lifestyle, but not in pondering Vulcan sexuality, McCoy's childhood, or Kirk's love life."
Why these differences? "Research suggests that men and women have been socialized to read for different purposes and in different ways." One analysis found that "men focused primarily on narrative organization and authorial intent, while women devoted more energy to reconstructing the textual world and understanding the characters." Another "found that women were more willing to enjoy free play with the story content, making inferences about character relationships that took them well beyond the information explicitly contained within the text. Such data strongly suggest that [fanfic] draws more heavily upon the types of interpretive strategies common to the 'feminine' than to the 'masculine... To fully enjoy the text, women are often forced to perform a kind of intellectual transvestitism - identifying with male characters... or constructing unwritten countertexts" through daydreaming and talking with other women. (Victorian women accomplished the same through diaries, letters, and "collective writing projects".)
Jenkins contrasts all this with posters on alt.tv.twinpeaks made in 1990. Both groups repeatedly "reread" their texts, discuss it together, and look for ways to fill gaps and fix contradictions, drawing on "ancillary texts, extratextual commentary, and fan speculation" as well as the original shows. "On other levels, the two groups' activities are strikingly different. The female Star Trek
fans focus their interest on the elaboration of paradigmatic relationships, reading plot actions as shedding light on character psychology and motivations. The largely male fans in the Twin Peaks
computer group essentially reversed this process, focusing on moments of character interaction as clues that might help to resolve plot questions. The male fans' fascination with solving the mystery justified their intense scrutiny and speculation about father-daughter relationships, sexual scandals, psychological and emotional problems, and romantic entanglements..." Similarly, "Trekkers on the net devote attention to discussions of technical problems and plot holes, rather than on the social and emotional lives of the series protagonists." While female Star Trek
fans offline used the show to talk about their own lives, male Twin Peaks
fans online "hid behind the program... revealing little of themselves". Interestingly, Jenkins remarks that the women seek explanations first from the text, while the men "consistently appealed to knowledge of generic expectations or assumptions about Lynch as author".
More from Rhiannon Bury's Cyberspace of their own: female fandoms online
. Something I found personally interesting was that the female X-Files
fans she interviewed (this was around 1995) were largely uninterested in the SF content; they were attracted to the show by its lead characters. This is a difference I've often noticed between myself and many other fangirls. I watched the X-Files
first and foremost for the SF; and the little fanfic I write tends to be gen.
Also extremely interesting were the DDEBers' responses to ridicule, which was to distance themselves from "fangirlish" behaviour. One member said she called the DDEB a "support group"; another left it out of her .sig so that she would be "taken seriously". Some were horrified by a couple of Leno audience members audibly squeeing at Duchovny.
"Mary Ellen Curtin (2003) did a statistical analysis of zines archived at Temple University and estimated that pre-1967, only 17 percent of zine publishers were female. By 1971, an astonishing 83 percent were female." Het began to appear in 1972, slash in 1974; before that, fanfic was gen. "Given the importance of home- and office-based technology in the (re)production of stories and zines and the number of women with these skills, it is hardly surprising that the rapid increase in the numbers of women with internet access by the late 1990s engendered a veritable slash explosion. Unlike the DDEBs, the spaces that female fanfic writers formed did not need to be explicitly designated 'women only': historical precedent assured that such forums were assumed
to be dominated by women... the publishing and accessing of slash is now primarily done online."
"Because many people treat CMC primarily as oral rather than written communication, they may well be able to write accurately and effectively but not feel it necessary to do so." The "informal oral patterns" online included slang, onomatopoeia, expressions like "yep", "nah", and "hmm", actions like , and emoticons; informal written patterns included abbreviations (btw, IMHO, CKR). But as Bury notes, this "should not be confused with a lack of attention to accurate and effective language use", which characterised the female fans' discussions.
"A normative identity such as upper or middle-class-ness, in part, is performed through regular and repeated use of the standard variety. It is also produced through the policing of that standard - in other words, through the practic of verbal hygiene." Some fans complained of being labelled "snobs" or "elitist" for criticising others' grammar ("The implication is that in the market of online media fandom, the stock of linguistic capital is so low as to make a normative identification deviant." lol), while at least one fan suggested that nit-picking grammar in "chatty" email had a chilling effect. Interestingly, the fans policed their own verbal hygiene - commenting on their own typos, etc - but also codeswitched in and out of non-standard English for humorous or self-deprecatory effect.
Bury points out that commentators who characterise flaming as a net.phenomenon neglect to mention that exchanging insults is also a male phenomenon, both online and off. "Typical of all female face-to-face interaction, members of the DDEBRP and MRKS did not flame, and for the most part limited swearing; worked to avoid, minimize or mitigate disagreement; and supported others' turns." OTOH: "One person's honesty or directness can be another's rudeness or adversariality. In her study, Susan Herring found that the majority of male respondents valued candid discussion and debate over attending to positive face needs in contrast to female respondents. Interestingly, I found a similar division within the women-only DDEBRP community." When bald assertions led to bad feelings, work had to be done to restore the community's coherence - not always successfully, with members quietly leaving, or avoiding discussion.
From Theorizing fandom: fans, subculture and identity, edited by Cheryl Harris and Alison Alexander. The early 90s B7 slash apazine Strange Bedfellows had 39 members, 36 of which were female. This contrasts with surveys of comic book collectors, who were overwhelmingly male - 91.5% male in a 1993 survey by DC.
Andrea MacDonald's chapter Uncertain Utopia describes the formation of private mailing lists for Quantum Leap fans - particularly women - after they were effectively forced off rec.arts.tv for being "too silly". Then a secret women-only (and one gay man) list was formed "due to teasing from men [who] did not like the women talking about Scott Bakula's cute butt, or the long discussions of the characters' relationships. The frequent anecdotes and stories that the women drew from their own lives also annoyed many members of the email list." MacDonald remarks, "cultural conversational norms that denigrate women's talk appear to be winning out in cyberspace", which is "fraught with many of our old ways of negotiating social spaces."
A chapter on War of the Worlds fandom by Cinda Gillilan states that although the fandom is not homogenous, with members of all races, classes, and sexualities, and both genders, "a general fan 'type' can be identified: female, white, college-educated, middle-class, hetereosexual, between the ages of 25 and 50."
From Fans by Cornell Sandvoss... while "'pop music, romance novels, comics, Hollywood mass appeal stars' have traditionally attracted a strong female following, "many other areas of fandom appear to constitute explicitly masculine domains." Sandvoss cites studies of comic fans generally, Judge Dredd fans in particular, and sports fandom, all of which were found to be overwhelmingly male. But female fans colonised "male" interests as a form of "opposition" or "pleasurable resistance": "Female fandom drawing on apparently masculine genres of popular culture such as wrestling, soccer or action and horror films can thus be identified as a subversion of existing gender roles and their accompanying power relations. For example, "Slash writing has thus enabled female fans to break into the male domain of science fiction fandom and establish thier own distinct space of reception, productivity and discussion."
Last one (for now): Camille Bacon-Smith's Science Fiction Culture. Star Trek initially attracted the interest of both sexes. "By the mid-1970s, however, Star Trek fandom was drawing a massive following through the endless reruns of the show. While Star Trek fans were likely to be science fiction readers as well, the media fans came to the community through their interest in television, perceived as an inferior source of science fiction. That perception attached as well to fans of the media. But men coming to the community through television had an advantage. Men had always been in the majority. The newcomer males, while annoying because they increased the numbers at the conventions beyond the level of comfortable intimacy, did not stand out as a cause. Women, however, had always been a tiny minority in fandom. By the late '70s the presence of women in numbers approaching parity with the men threatened the sense of the elite that the small numbers in fandom had fostered... media-related activities began to break down into gender-specific and non-gender-specific tasks. Non-gender-specific tasks included convention organizing, filksinging, and costuming. Male-specific tasks included amateur scriptwriting and skit writing... and model building. Of course... male-specific tasks are sometimes performed by women as well, but in far fewer numbers than by men and seldom in leadership roles." Although academics have focussed on women's fiction fanzines, these "differ dramatically from the standard form that continues to exist beside it in the science fiction community at large" which contain reviews, con reports, etc. "One thing you almost never find in a science fiction fanzine is science fiction."
Bacon-Smith reports a backlash against female fans in the 80s. "Women stopped winning prizes, and participants at science fiction conventions used their positions on fan panels to damn the women of media fandom for all the ills that beset the growing sf community." The media zines provided "one safe harbour" for women entering SF fandom at the time. By the 90s, the backlash had faded.
Bacon-Smith, Camille. Science fiction culture. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.
Bury, Rhiannon. Cyberspaces of their own: female fandoms online. New York, Peter Lang, 2005.
Clerc, Susan J. "Estrogen Brigades and 'Big Tits' Threads: Media Fandom Online and Off". In Cherney, Lynn and Elizabeth Reba Weise (eds). Wired Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle, Seal, 1996.
Harris, Cheryl and Alison Alexander (eds). Theorizing fandom: fans, subculture and identity. Cresskill, NJ, Hampton Press, 1998.
S. C. Herring, "Two Variants of an Electronic Message Schema". In S. Herring (ed). Computer-Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social and Cross-Cultural Perspectives. John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 81-106.
Jenkins, Henry. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York University Press, New York and London, 2006.
Jenkins, Henry. "'Strangers no more, we sing': Filking and the social construction of the science fiction fan community". in Lewis, Lisa A. (ed). The Adoring Audience: fan culture and popular media. Routledge, London and New York, 1992.
Sandvoss, Cornel. Fans : the mirror of consumption. Oxford, Polity, 2005.