Not Just an OTP: An Ugly Truth and a Confession

An Ugly Truth


1) I strongly advise that you read the preceding articles in this series. Not just because I refer back to them, but because at the beginning there are disclaimers that will prevent you from leaving me angry comments about things that I’ve clearly explained. Failing that, here are more.

2) This second half is about racism, written by a Black woman. I talk about white people. I talk about white women. I talk about white supremacy. I talk about racism, sexism, and misogyny. I talk about the elitism and entitlement of nerd fandom. I talk about the presence and weaponization of white femininity. I talk about racial hierarchies within fandom. I talk about misogynoir. I talk about police brutality. I talk about Taylor Swift, Maria Sharapova, and Miley Cyrus. If any of these topics cause you pain, do not read any further. If any of these topics cause you anger, do not read any further. If any of these topics prompt you to use the words/phrases tumblrina, SJW, special snowflake, race-baiter, race card, libtard, “you’re the REAL racist,” or anything similar, do not read any further.

3) Following from that, if you do want to keep reading, brace yourself. This post is about racism and it’s written by someone who’s been dealing with it for her whole life while Trump is president. I’m out of fucks. I’m fuck-deficient. I’m on negative fucks. My name is Vivian, not Mammy; I will not be holding your hand. Alternatively, if my style isn’t for you but you still want to learn about fandom racism (or if you don’t care about Westallen or Snowbarry but still want to learn), there will be a further reading section at the end of this series.

4) Read number 2 again.

5) I’ve seen Snowbarry shippers – and fans in general – that don’t ship Westallen. Snowbarry shippers that keep to themselves, share fan art, write fanfic, and generally stay in their lane. They don’t beg the writers to kill Iris off, or @ Candice Patton with nonsense, or spread rumours about her, or antagonise other members of the fandom. I’m going to be very clear on this: I’m not talking about that first group of people; I’m talking about the second. If I say “Snowbarry shippers do this,” and you don’t do that, I am not talking about you.

6) Read the last sentence of number 5 again, then read number 2 again.

7) Also, if you happen to be, say, a white woman, and you don’t do one of the things that I say white women do, I’m not talking about you. I’m talking specifically about the white women who do those things. Seeing as I don’t have enough words, consider this my blanket “not all men/white women/people who hate X character for whatever reason are Y.”

8) Finally, as before, no hate. We welcome (and love) discussion, but hate will be deleted.

So far, we’ve looked at various reasons for people shipping Olicity and Snowbarry. We’ve looked at the canon love interests being in positions in the narrative compared to the relatively passive position of the other woman. We looked at the misogyny and sexism that lies underneath the expectations of women. We looked at the intelligence snobbery that permeates fandom, the kind of woman that’s generally acceptable, and the lack of space afforded to women to be human.

We finally came to look at subtext, and how what writers weave underneath their explicit storytelling can lead people to see potential for romantic relationships. However, it’s at this point that the similarities between Olicity and Snowbarry stop. Because when it comes to Subtext, Olicity shippers use what’s going on in the show to justify their shipping, while Snowbarry shippers are notorious for either misinterpreting what happens or making up scenarios to support what they want to happen. Because they want to ship Barry with Caitlin, they use any excuse to say that they’re in love. One of the reasons they do this is because they don’t like Iris. And one of the reasons they don’t like her is because she’s Black.

I’m not racist, you sigh deeply, already penning a four-thousand-word paper in your defence, I just don’t like Iris. She’s a badly-written character. She has no chemistry with Barry. She’s a bitch. She’s not a scientist. She doesn’t belong in STAR Labs. It’s not racism. It has nothing to do with her skin colour. I wouldn’t like her if she were green with purple polka dots.

As you may have noticed, I’m Black and a woman, so all of these arguments are old news to me. I’ve always been morbidly fascinated with the reaction of fans who are called racist for not liking Iris. There’s generally fervent denial, first of all. Most of the time they’ll respond with what I just wrote, followed by how they like Cisco, or Joe, or Wally. Which is my first problem with fandom’s definition of racism. You see, when someone hears “you’re racist,” they tend to assume the accuser thinks they descend into ferocious fits of uncontrollable rage whenever a person who is visibly non-white dares to be onscreen. And that think that because they don’t, they can’t be racist and so their reasons are perfectly valid.

This, to be quite frank, is bullshit.

The general consensus is that because someone isn’t wearing a white hood or taking up tiki torches, they aren’t racist. And while this desire to be praised for doing the bare minimum isn’t new to me, it’s indicative of the actual problem that comes when discussing racism. People think that it’s binary. People say “I am not a racist” like they say “I am not a Gemini,” as if being racist is something you either are or aren’t.

(And for the person who is already racing to to provide me with the hollow, contextless definition of racism, please stop. That tactic will not work on me; I was not born yesterday).

Racism is often simply defined as prejudice or discrimination based on one’s skin colour, or the belief of one race’s superiority over another. This definition is succinct, pretty, and ultimately useless because it does not take into account the history behind the term. It’s designed to be neutral, and assumes that everyone is on a level playing field when it comes to race and racial issues, when anyone with half a brain cell can see that we aren’t. Many fans, from what I’ve seen, have an almost obnoxiously naïve view of racism, so whenever people accuse them of it, they get extremely defensive and call the accuser “the real racist,” before refusing to listen to any reasoning about it. Or that they seriously think we think they hate a character just because of their skin colour. Which…really? Seriously? Nobody thinks you hate a character purely because of their skin colour, that’s ridiculous. Unless they are six years old and learned the definition of racism yesterday. But that’s indicative of the fact that not everyone is using the same definition of racism or even understands how it works both in the real world and online.

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