Monday, 1 April 2013

fandom gone wrong

i've been following progress on the case against the killer of reeva steenkamp, and it's not like there's a lack of coverage, although that coverage continues to be predominantly focused on mr pistorius. he's suicidal, he's not suicidal but grieving, he's seeking loosening of bail conditions, he's been successful and now has the ability to travel for competitions, he's got a nasty streak and a history of violence, etc etc etc.

the thing about mr pistorius is that he sought to be more than a athlete. he sought to be an inspiration & positive role-model for disabled athletes, he soaked in celebrity culture with sexy photo shoots for women's magazines.  none of which is wrong, but it does mean that he was likely to be building up a strong female fan base over the years.  which is also not wrong in any way.

but that female fanbase has been attracting some attention this week.  it started here:

They call themselves Pistorians (really) and they come from England, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and Brazil. There might be male Pistorians, but I couldn’t find any. Their day jobs seem to be professional, but their main occupation these days is defending the "Blade Runner" from what they call the sensational media.

the post then goes on to detail the form of that support.  the story has been picked up by various media (including here) and the general consensus seems to be that these female fans (you can see i'm hating the term "fangirls") are bizarre and mostly stupid.

the first post has a point, particularly in terms of the victim-blaming.  if there's one thing about this case, it's the lack of victim-blaming or character assassination of ms steenkamp.  now this could be because mr pistorius genuinely loved his girlfrend, and can't bear the thought of having bad things said about her.  or the more cynical view would be that if a person is going with the defence that he shot his beloved girlfriend by mistake, that defence isn't going to work so well if you make any kind of disparaging comments about said girlfriend.

whichever explanation is the correct one, it makes this case different to 99% of other cases involving sexual and/or domestic violence against women.  compare this to the treatment meted out to the young woman in the steubenville case, two more young women in connecticut, or more locally to louise nicholas, kristin dunne powell, the young woman in christchurch who subjected to gang-rape by australian league players, and so on.  it's constant and brutal, particularly across social media, so to have it absent in regards to ms steenkamp really is a positive change.

and for the pistorians to be indulging in that kind of stuff is totally not cool, particularly because this stuff minimises violence against women in a way that's really destructive.

but there are other aspects of this that are bothering me.  of course the pistorians, as part of the general contempt, are on the receiving end of the same kind of nastiness that women tend to get these days, the "f*** off & die, b**ch" kind of thing.  which, really, is pathetic.

as part of the criticism of victim-blaming ms steenkamp, there's also the criticism that these women are pretty aggressive in their defence of mr pistorius.  they appear to be expressing themselves without rape threats or telling anyone to die.  in their minds, they are correcting a wrong - they're going with the whole innocent-until-guilty thing, which seems a little hard to justify given the circumstances.  i personally think mr pistorius is either guilty of gross negligence or premeditated murder, and both of those things are deserving of punishment.  but hey, although they are defending their hero by hating on his victim, and are we really into bagging women for being aggressive about putting out their opinions?  is that a thing?  well clearly it is, because, well again there's a whole list of examples from anita sarkeesian to adria richards.  not that i'm saying the cases are equal, but more that the problem here is that they are victim-blaming, not that they are being aggressive.

more than this, sometimes i think the contempt for female fandom is simply because they are female.  as with so many things, if it's done by women it's done wrong.  so we feel free to heap contempt on the beliebers and the one directioners and whoever else it is that's popular these days.  because they're all just silly girls being hysterical, don't you know.  in fact, the only view i've heard to the contrary has been here, which is more a defence of mr bieber than his fans, but still.

we never hear about male fandom nor do we see it, really.  because it takes different forms?  or because it's too uncool for guys to be gushing and/or showing emotion as part of their fandom? it's not like men don't get fixated on celebrities in the way women do - we see, after all, similar cases of stalking and obsession in both genders.

which is taking things to extreme.  but your run-of-the-mill fandom, is it really such a terrible thing.  these pistorians like to post picture montages of him to twitter - which they like to call "oscarporn", but it isn't really porn under any common definition.  and no doubt they are busy spinning various fantasies in their heads.  it's pretty much what fans do all the time, but they deserve to be attacked for their fandom?  again, attack the victim-blaming, which is a step way too far.  but attacking them for mooning over his "lovely eyes" and his "gorgeous  smile", and all that other stuff?  well it's not what i would spend my time doing, but i'd bet it's something a very large number of people do regarding their celebrity of choice, and as long as it doesn't take over their lives, well meh.

why does it bother me?  because i'd rather that any criticism of pistorians be focused on the area where they are actually destructive ie let's focus the attention where it needs to be, and not minimise that by criticising them for doing things that plenty of women & men do all the time.


root!! said...

male sports fans? one of the few ways nz males can express emotions, that would be male fandom would it not? happiness dan carter had a baby, grief jesse ryder has been attacked, tears of joy when all blacks win a game, yet its hardly ridiculed. infact, if you are a nz male & dont give a toss about rugby/sport (like myself for eg) then you are looked at with suspicion.

stargazer said...

True that.

K said...

I'd read about most of this already...and then I clicked the link to the story re Anita Sarkeesian from

That was deeply offensive (and they wonder why feminists often use an alias when posting!! Mark are you reading this?).

And back to topic...

Fans are a curious bunch. When I read this story I am reminded of FanFic (fan fiction) which is when a story from a work of fiction is altered to incorporate the object of their affection, OR more common are fans rewriting storylines that already feature the character the object of their affection plays. In this way they can incorporate their fantasies, sometimes including a fantasy version of themselves as a love interest and refeed the energy to themselves and other fans.

There are strong elements of fiction reflected in the Pistorian's beliefs, but in order for this work of fiction to play out in their heads there has to be a reason for Oscars behaviour that doesn't include him being at fault.

It all leaves me unsure whether to be critical of these women, sad for their predicament and lack of insight, or worried at the impact this will have on other people namely the victims family. Perhaps I'll go for all three.

stargazer said...

See, I can imagine taking a position on his innocence that doesn't involve victim blaming ie they just believe the version of events in his affidavit. It's not a position I personally find credible, but it certainly wouldn't be objectionable in the way their current comments are. Frankly, I'm struggling to understand their need to disparage ms steenkamp when it doesn't help to prove mr pistorius' innocence in any way. Not that it would be right if it did either.