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What Does It Mean to Say that Slash is (or isn't) Subversive? - Mo's Journal
January 22nd, 2007
05:12 pm

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What Does It Mean to Say that Slash is (or isn't) Subversive?

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From:musesfool
Date:January 23rd, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
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Personally, I think *fanfic* is subversive, because it requires one to go from being a passive consumer of text to an active reimaginer of text, often reading it against the author's intent - this goes for UC het couples as well as slash pairings. I don't think slash is inherently any more subversive, simply because so much of it reads like m/f romance anyway. People blather a lot about taking gender inequality out of the equation when they write slash (well, those who claim that it is subversive in and of itself), but I find that a lot of those people still write m/m slash featuring the smaller man and the taller man, and it's always the taller man who tops, and the genre romance novel tropes are all present - up to and including weddings and pregnancy in some cases - and the only thing that maybe makes it subversive is that the fanwriter is taking a character the original author has probably defined as heterosexual and made him or her engage in homosexual sex. So the original author's intent has possibly been transgressed, but no more so than if I wrote an uncanonical het pairing.

I think a lot of people start writing slash and then feel the need to justify themselves and so claim they're doing it to be transgressive or subversive, but I think the number of writers who are *actually* writing slash that is politically subversive is small.
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From:mofic
Date:January 23rd, 2007 02:24 am (UTC)
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I should write a post on "What I Learned Writing My First Poll." Anyway, one thing I learned was to better clarify what I was asking. I did not mean for this to be a poll on whether slash as a whole is subversive. I was getting at something more specific - that if you as a reader deem a particular work of slash subversive or you as a writer see yourself as writing subversive slash, what do you think it's subverting?

And actually my head kind of spins when I think about whether realistic m/m depictions are more subversive (because they challenge compulsory heterosexuality and classic romance tropes) or the romance-novel-turned-slash stories you mention are more subversive, because they challenge the reality of homoerotic desire and male/male sex and replace it with a woman's fantasy. I mean I know I prefer realistic slash, but is a preference for realism inherently conformist? I know I've seen a lot of arguments in favor of the feminization of male characters (which I personally find distasteful) in slash, seeing that pattern as an expression of female creativity and of women creating for other women. Well, as I said, it makes my head spin a bit to think about that.




I think a lot of people start writing slash and then feel the need to justify themselves and so claim they're doing it to be transgressive or subversive


Now that's an intriguing thought! Where does that need to justify come from, do you think?

Thanks for stopping by...
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From:executrix
Date:January 23rd, 2007 01:14 pm (UTC)

Married, With Children

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replying to musesfool: however, in RL an awful lot of people get VERY upset about same-sex marriage, so in a sense it's the 2.4 kids/SUV/golden lab lifestyle that's subversive when the spouses are both women or both men.
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From:mofic
Date:January 23rd, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Married, With Children

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That's a good point. I had my kids (at least the first one) on the early end of the gay-by boom. I remember vividly in 1988 with my baby strapped to me, going to a workshop on lesbian parenting. The leader said (among other wise things) - "We are at the same time doing the most conventional and the most unconventional thing."

There's nothing more conformist than having a child, but at the same time asserting our rights to do so when it's denied to us is very threatening to TPTB. Of course, that's a long way from slash, but I think it's something that real life gay and lesbian parents grapple with a lot - are we giving up our outcast culture and conforming to mainstream culture? I have Adam reflecting on that when he realizes he wants to live with Jean-Paul and have a baby together. He says something like "I don't know what's happening to me. I had a life that I loved and suddenly I want to give it up. A live-in boyfriend, a baby - if I say I want a minivan, someone please shoot me."

I think a lot of us have felt that way somewhere along our parenting journey. I know when a woman introduced herself to me as my partner's "friend from the school bus stop" I really wondered what my life had come to!
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From:executrix
Date:January 23rd, 2007 04:27 pm (UTC)

Re: Married, With Children

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I think it's in the essay that launched the phrase "compulsory heterosexuality" that Adrienne Rich said that it's not that wearing makeup is inherently un- or anti-feminist--the problem is when wearing makeup is *compulsory* and all women are locked in to a single vision of what women are supposed to look like.

I guess you've helped me refine my thinking--that what's subversive is writing in terms of "imagine a level playing field." So in RL I think that the legal benefits and consequences of marriage should be available to same-sex couples on the same terms as female/male couples. But that doesn't mean that marriage is necessarily the right choice for Jeff and Joe any more than it is for Cathy and Tom, and in either case, the objection may be to the institution as a whole or simply to the unsuitability of the particular partner.

And what's bad is not women who have real choices deciding to be homemakers or have pink-collar jobs: what's bad is women being deprived of other career choices, hobbled when they try to combine parenting and paid work, or convinced that it's pointless to take science and math courses because "girls don't do that."
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