I’ll break it down— when I got into Marvel fandom I basically suffocated under the weight of Steve/Tony. There were more fics about Tony’s four-panel lady AU alter ego “Natasha Stark” than there were of Jan, or Carol, or Natasha or any of the obvious underlined female Avengers. It was obvious and uncomfortable. I didn’t like seeing my favs legated to the background of the Steve and Tony show that was the 616 circa Civil War, I didn’t like seeing that perpetuated in fanworks, either.
What I was told, was to write it all better, to be whatever change I wished to see in fandom, because it was unfair to blame other fans for falling into whatever they liked. It is true that under these criticisms of fandom’s focus on m/m slash and its side effects there’s often a lurking distaste for whatever teenage girls find enjoyable. I’m sure my bitter memories of those early days are turned by my own tastes, and that they are not entirely fair.
Yet we still write about our love of women characters, and how they are mistreated by canon, but less about the characters themselves, we see less meaning in the fall of their hair, their nervous ticks repeated in gifsets, less about the pain of their origins or the terrible specificity of their triumphs. There is just less written about female characters, on the whole. And I’m not really comfortable grinding my gears at canon while giving fandom a free pass. If being a fan means being critical of the source material, surely we have to watch ourselves, too. Being a fan is wonderful, but it is not sacred.
I was told to be whatever change I wished to see in fandom, and I’ve tried. I have made over 2,000 posts here, and maybe they are not all good, but I have tried. And I have seen this fandom grow and I have seen more and more enthusiasm about women characters. Bobbi Morse appreciation week! A new Storm ongoing! The #carol corps! And on and on forever and ever amen, I am grateful.
But for all this, the most popular post I have ever made is only popular because someone added cute spur-of-the-moment Tom Hiddleston tags to it, because tumblr used it to talk about Thor. And that is something worth thinking about.
God, there was another post floating around that basically said, “HEY GUYS, LET’S NOT ERASE WOMEN IN FIC. YOU CAN WRITE TONY/STEVE WITHOUT TURNING PEGGY INTO A BEARD AND PRETENDING HER RELATIONSHIP DOESN’T EXIST. IT’S GROSS. STOP ERASING WOMEN FOR YOUR SLASH, PLZ,” and the first fucking thing after it was some d-bag that went, “I ship Tony/Steve, fuck you.” Literally. That’s what the person replied with.
THAT right there is why I avoided Marvel for as long as I did. I remember having a conversation with someone back in 2012 after The Avengers came out and we were both like, UGH AVENGERS FANDOM because Tony/Steve was so prevalent and without fail large fandoms where there’s this huge, overwhelming OTP (99.9% of the time slash), there is an incredible intolerance for other pairings. And an incredible intolerance for women.
So far, I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by the fandom. Yeah, there’s some crazy shit and yeah there’s a corner where people have built FORT INTOLERANCE!!!, but overall, it’s pretty good about being open to different pairings, and that’s great.
But it still has a HUGE fucking woman problem.
Fandom complains endlessly about women in canon, and yet you wander into fandom and it’s nothing but two white dudes fucking (which, yepppppp, is fun, but come on, there’s so much great shit out there beyond that). Steve/Tony. Derek/Stiles. Dean/Castiel. Steve/Bucky. PRETTY MUCH EVERY OTHER PAIRING WITH MORE THAN 100 fics written about it. (And I say this as someone who fucking loves Steve/Bucky, so I’m not like, SLASH IS BAD. It’s not. But come on, look at the trends here.)
Then we go, WELL IT’S BECAUSE THERE ARE NO GOOD FEMALE CHARACTERS.
Plus, THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF FANDOM: GETTING TO WRITE AWESOME SHIT ABOUT CHARACTERS THAT HAVE BEEN SHORTCHANGED IN CANON. One of the best things about being in the Inception fandom was that there was almost no character development/background beyond a little toe dip in, so you could write whatever the hell you wanted and it could be canon compliant. Blank slates are sometimes the most fun to work with, frankly.
This sort of conversation always devolves into, “BUT I LIKE WRITING SLASH AND FANDOM IS ABOUT WRITING WHAT YOU LIKE AND BLAH BLAH MCYADDA WHATEVER,” and all I can think is, that’s not the point! No one is saying write het or femslash instead of slash. No one is saying you should write things you don’t want to. But you need to take a good fucking look in the mirror when your response to, “Don’t fucking erase or belittle women in your fic,” is “Fuck you.” That’s not just you preferring to write slash. Well, that’s you being a douche, but it also points to some serious issues you should probably deal with.
And going, OMG GUYS, WRITE SOME FIC YOURSELF AND MAKE FANDOM A BETTER PLACE is not getting shit done. We’ve been writing shit for years and this problem keeps getting worse.
And in conclusion: On their best day, Tony and Steve wish they could have the fucking BAMFy nature that Natasha and Peggy (AND PEPPER) have. You tell me that they’re weak or not good characters, and I’m going to tell you you’re a fucking moron.