I think anyone that’s a fan of any women of color characters on television has had to suffer through plenty of racism and misogynoir in the fandoms. I know I have. So much so that I’ve actually left fandoms because the hate and ugliness got so out of hand that it was no longer enjoyable. In fact, it’s become such a routine part of belonging to a fandom now that more and more television shows are casting women of color leads that defense squads for these characters (and unfortunately, for the actresses that portray them) are usually needed before a show even airs.
That’s why I was delighted to read the Black Enterprise article titled “The Power of Black Women in Fandom.” It was like someone reached into my head and put into words everything I’ve been thinking and feeling for years.
The article hit a lot of important points, including the many different ways in which black women participate in fandoms, such as voting in polls and being visible on social media to help support and promote their favorite shows and characters.
I don’t watch a lot of live television, but for the shows that I do watch live, I make sure to live-tweet to show my support. I also make sure to pay close attention to my timeline and the people that I follow so that when hashtags like #WhereIsAbbieMills and #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter kick off, I can help lend my “voice” to the cause.
And then there’s the completely irrational hate that’s directed towards a lot of these characters. As the article so eloquently states:
Any black female fan of a show that isn’t considered “a black show” by the industry, learns quickly that when a character exists that’s intended to represent “our demographic”, the fandom will find any reason they can to hate her. They’ll write long screeds about how her mere presence ruins the show, and they’ll call for her to be killed off. If this character is a lead, the abuse intensifies.
That ugly, hateful behavior is what has made me abandon fandoms on more than one occasion. Perusing the tags on Tumblr and Twitter are fun at first, but then the hate starts to sneak in, going from covert to overt in conjunction with the character’s screen time and proximity to the (usually white) male lead. It’s like clockwork.
Fandoms are supposed to be fun. This is entertainment after all. Fiction. A form of escapism. But once the fun has disappeared, what else is left except anger, bitterness and a whole lot of unnecessary stress? Only you can decide if it’s worth it, but one thing is certain: Women of color should be able to fangirl over our favorite characters and ships without having to constantly defend ourselves or them against racism and misogynoir. Real life is hard enough.