She leans against her Harley Davidson in the California sunset, her hands in her pockets. She is waiting for one of her brothers, to give him intel she just dug up, I think. She is dark-skinned, probably mixed-race. SONS OF ANARCHY MC, her man-size leather vest proclaims. On her face, all the pride that goes with the patch- but also a lot of bravado. She might have earned her brothers’ respect as a full-fledged member of a motorcycle club, but she still has a lot to prove.
No, I don’t know where this girl came from, and she bothers me. She bothers me because she won’t let me watch Sons Of Anarchy in peace; it is as if she materialises in front of my television screen as soon as an episode starts, eclipsing plot, lines, and actors. But mostly, she bothers me because she begs to be put on paper, posted on LiveJournal, and turned into insightful little feedback. She is fanfiction.
And I have a problem with female-written fanfiction.
Oh, I am a fan as much as I am female, all right. Storm (of X-Men fame) and Mulder and Scully (of X-Files fame) are as responsible for my upbringing as my own parents. I’m no stranger to fanfiction either: I’ve written it, I’ve discussed it, I’ve reviewed it, and boy, have I read it. It’s not an exaggeration to say that subtitled American television and its corresponding fan fiction have taught me the English language (I remember learning, for example, that you could address a group of people, regardless of gender, by saying “you guys”, from a piece of fanfic of the series The Pretender featuring a bunch of people locked up in a cave. How random is that?).
But I’m not a teen anymore. I’m nearing 30, and if I can never disown my fictional family, the girly fanfic has frankly become shameful. Not because it is all smut, or even poorly written romance, but because the Muggles of this world believe it to be. And being now out of academic and fan circles, I am essentially living with Muggles.
And from this so-called “real world” vantage point, where opinions of fanfic are informed by patriarchal reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey (and not by hours spent on fanfiction.net), fanfiction looks like the confirmation of all sexist clichés. Reduced to low-quality erotic romance, this misconception of fic can only posit its writers and readers as teary piles of hormones.
Ok, so I know better, all right? And I know the theory. Fanfic has given women a voice, has allowed them to rewrite popular culture so as to make it relevant to their own interests. I know that fanfic groups can constitute supportive communities of affect, and training grounds. I am aware that the rejection of the fanfic-writing girl is nothing but the stifling of the female point of view, and, very often, of female sexuality.
But I also know that, out in the “real world”, all this theory sounds like self-righteous crap. More importantly, I also know how uncomfortable it is to always be the one pointing out hegemony. You become the party pooper, or the “killjoy”, as my Race Studies professor used to say. You learn to keep your mouth shut at parties as a result, and, frightfully soon, the fangirl and geek girl clichés feel justified once again.
So I repress my motorcycle chick as a dirty secret that, if revealed, would make me an inadequate and sexually frustrated fangirl. I bring my focus back to Sons of Anarchy. Well-written, well-paced, gripping…
…fucking sexist Sons of Anarchy.
My Goddess, how was I ever able to stand it? In the world of the series, women are either “old ladies” or “sweet butts”, they get beaten up and called “whore” when they have sex with a married man, and the resident matriarch shamelessly declares that mothers should drown baby girls at birth.
This can’t be. Too many bras have been burnt for this shit to be on television. Perhaps the show seeks to confront us with blatant sexism to mobilize us against it. Perhaps the sexism is merely there for the sake of realism in representing a subculture assumed to be sexist. Perhaps, by making the change of this culture the protagonist’s life mission within the show, the program can actually be said to be feminist.
Perhaps. But it remains that all this physical and psychological violence against women makes it impossible for me to watch this show. Without the help of my motorcycle chick, that is. It is now quite clear where she comes from.
She will gain entrance into this male-only world, perhaps because of a deal made with a male relative. She will be rejected, but she will fight. She will prove herself. In the end, she will even be able to be herself within the club. I think she’ll have a thing with another member, too.
Wow. Hold up.
Am I considering writing romantic fic? Yes, there’s the whole fighting for acceptance stuff, which would be most of the fic, but I did just say “she’ll have a thing with another member”. That’s romance right there, and that’s what people will focus on, and bam! I’m a pathetic girl in need of a male saviour. And have you noticed how much my motorcycle chick looks like Storm, with her stern look and her chocolate skin? Oh God…this is about me, isn’t it? It’s about my dealings with a show I like, my relationship with men, and my favourite fictional character. No no no, she can never leave the private confines of my brain. I don’t want to become the stereotype my Muggle friends are so fond of mocking.
Should I just exclude all romantic elements from my story? No, she must have that thing with a fellow club member. I don’t want her to be accepted as just one of the boys – it’s her femininity that must be embraced. A love story with one of the guys would position her as both a club member and a love interest. If the boys can respect her as both these things, then the fight is won.
And I’m very keen on the dark skin, too. If there’s one thing this club needs besides female members, it’s non-white members (with the difference that the show directly addresses this fact in its storyline). And it’s not my fault if I see Storm every time I imagine a strong female character. I’m conditioned to do that.
Ok, so chick must keep her chocolate skin and fall in love with a Son. But is there really a point in my writing her story? There must be thousands like hers on the Internet. How could my version bring anything new? I’m sure plenty of other girls have already addressed the show’s treatment of women in fic, using their own sensibilities to provide an alternative point of view. It was very brave of them to put themselves out there, and they must have helped many others feel better, so…
Does anyone know of a good Sons of a Anarchy fan fiction community?
Elodie Vidal is a blogger and Media Studies grad interested in fandom, geekdom, and Race Studies. Her passion is with stories -she studied television, interned in theatre, and now sells books for a living. Until she can be sure her life is not a TV series in a parallel universe, she will continue to break the fourth wall on a regular basis. You can follow her on Twitter and read her musings on her blogs Living with Muggles and TV Stories, and on London Calling at River Journal Online.