When I entered fandom for the first time, sporking culture was in its heyday—not on GAFF but on LiveJournal communities. Those were the days of Mary_Sues, the many Sue-sporking journals inspired by the original, Fanficrants…vitriol was the name of the game. As much as I enjoyed what fandom activity I participated in sincerely, I desperately wanted to accepted by whom I perceived as the “cool people,” so I tried to insinuate myself into that milieu by adopting, for lack of a better word, a bitchy attitude. The gendered insult is deliberate. Don’t misconstrue that: I’m not calling the people on the old spork communities bitches; what I mean is that the LJ sporking communities maintained this default mode of women tearing down women—or, distressingly commonly, girls.

–An anon on F_FA talking about teardown culture.

I’m “fandom old” enough to remember the heyday of sporking1 and drama/wank communities, in fanfic and elsewhere. Hell, I’ve done my fair share of it in the past, too, something I’m not particularly proud of.

But I do think this anon is correct in identifying the roots of this culture as coming from the same place as the real-world relational aggression that gets studied in, mostly, teenage girls. There’s a complicated brew in here, mixed from combinations of jealousy, pride, fear, and the desire for social inclusion, and it’s just as likely to manifest as the public teardown of a fanfic as it is in note passing in math class.

The wider conversation the linked comment is part of talks about how the history of fandom teardown culture seems to have mutated in the 2010s, crossbreeding with the language of social justice. Instead of ripping into each other over Mary Sues or kinky sexfics, Kids These Days are more likely to pull out the “~your fav is problematic~”/”LITERAL TRASH!!!”/”~protected at all costs~” posts on Tumblr. And while these posts might come from a place of good intentions–I’m sure the majority of people who make them really do sincerely believe in social justice causes, just as the majority of people in the sporking communities really did believe in “good writing”–I think it’s getting to the point where it’s… debatable as to how beneficial they really are to discourses around representation in media.

(The elephant in the room here is, of course, winterfox/Requires Hate. That same deeply sincere culture that tries to support media diversity is also the culture that enabled RH and individuals like her.)

This is another one of those tricky ones, in that the answer (obviously) isn’t “stop talking about social justice/representation in media”. Those are Good Things. But I do sometimes think those Good Things can get distorted by language that’s being used as a weapon against individuals within a community, rather than against oppressive tropes/structures/institutions.

If destroying an individual’s (or group of individuals’) social status within a community is your actual goal, then that’s… fine? I guess. But, like. Own that. Stop kidding yourself that the bullying is For Great Justice, instead.

  1. Dear gods how I loathe that word. []