The Myth of the Genre Outsider – a method of Exclusion

I was looking for an update on the Jim Frenkel situation I’d mentioned recently. And, as far as I can see, there are no updates. However while I was browsing to see if there was new information on this story I stumbled upon one of the internet’s many pockets of awful.

I am not linking to it because I don’t want to give this guy the traffic. He’s an horrible piece of work.

This pocket of awful was the blog of an author, occasional video game designer and terrible internet troll who is best left nameless.

In his blog he leapt to the defense of Frenkel, claiming that the complaints levelled against him had surely been falsified. First he doxed the woman in question. I am not certain the extent to which she has made her personal information public with regard to this so I will not mention her by name. After that bit of nasty he provided his reasoning for why he believed her complaint to be spurious. His argument as for why was entirely lacking:

she was a completely useless and not terribly ornamental member of an otherwise excellent writing group in [redacted], she never actually did any writing, and all she wanted to do was talk about herself and babble about feminism

It’s typical misogynistic trolling. However it’s got a bit of a genre spin on it which I’d like to point out and that is the complaint – thrown between the sexist stab at her appearance and the misogynistic fear of the f-word – he attacked her for being attached to a writing group despite not publishing much.

This is the worst sort of drek. In a single sentence this vulgar little troll not only conjured up two sexist favourites but also a variant of the tired chestnut “she’s not really one of us, after all.”

This attitude REALLY bothers me on multiple levels. Fundamentally, it’s sexism, which I’m opposed to. However it also speaks to a major problem in fandom. That problem is the myth of the Fan as Outsider.

For as long as I’ve been involved with any sort of fandom there’s been this idea that the fan community is somehow different. This is tied up heavily in the self-identity of the nerd or the geek.

“We’ve been rejected because we’re a little bit weird,” fans say. “The normals don’t like us.”

But the truth is that most people really couldn’t care less.

A more honest truth is that there are quite a few people within Fandom who don’t particularly like people outside of Fandom. For them this sense of being an outsider is armour they can wear to mask the truth, they don’t want new people to join their club.

For a lot of people this isn’t tied into mysogeny or into any other particular prejudice other than a prejudice against people who think Star Trek is silly. However when a person is also a sexist, or a racist, we get the bile of people like our nameless blogger.

Fandom is not made of outsiders, it hasn’t been for a long time. Frankly it really never has been – most of the people I know from fan communities hold jobs, have families who love them and function perfectly well as members of general society when not having fun at conventions.

There’s nothing wrong with having a bit of an off-beat sense of fun, and our culture hasn’t had any problem with that since the sixties at least. It’s time we dismantled the myth of the Fan as Outsider. It’s only real use now is keeping people out – and I for one want the fan community to grow, diversify and become the welcoming and inclusive place we all like to tell ourselves it is.

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