wJun 3, 2010

WisCon 34 Panel Write-Up: Intersectionality in Fandom

Panel Description: A more advanced discussion for those ready to work past 101-level panels. A discussion of how disabilities, race, gender, sexual orientation, and other oppressed statuses affect each other. How do we decide which one gets our last remaining spoon?

Panelists: Ian K. Hagemann (moderator), Candra K. Gill, Beth A. Plutchak, Victor Raymond, Naamen Gobert Tilahun

My notes on this panel are VERY sparse; I think this is when I started freaking out about having my first panel later in the night, and I didn't write much down.

In the beginning, it's noted that we are at a time in WisCon at which we can move beyond establishing, "Does this oppression exist?"

NGT: Likes the word "confluence" more than "intersectionality" - it implies fluidity, that the systems of oppression themselves change are intermeshed with one another moreso than single points of "intersection."

The line in the panel description, "How do we decide which one gets our last spoon?" is dissected a bit - there is no "last one." You can't defeat systems of oppression one by one - the point is that they are intertwined, that by becoming an ally to deconstruct one, you must work for the good of dismantling them all.

Even if race or class or etc. is your "thing," take a step back - nobody is an expert on everything.

IH said a lot of things about the societal narrative (reality, I think? I did a really poor job of following this thread) and societal counter-narrative (the story that those in power tell us to keep things the way they are). One of the catch-phrases of the counter-narrative is, "Everyone can succeed if they pull themselves up by their bootstraps." IH points out that's not true - whose hard work do you benefit from? Is it yours? Your parents? Those who came before them?

We must dismantle the institutions that are organized in such a way to keep power where it is.

BAP (I think?!) brings up Sarah Palin - however much you disagree with her, the media and comedy culture derided her for being a woman, being uneducated, and being from a rural area.

The point of media is to make a counter-narrative.

I think that someone makes a point about other kinds of media, faster communication of news via sites like Twitter.
IH brings up that things like iPods, iPads, etc. are made with unfair labor practices. So even the tools you use to "tweet the revolution" (phrase is mine, not his) are things you bought in ways that help keep the current systems of oppression in place. It is bodies that are producing these new media.

Buffy is not a feminist show; it is a girl-power show. The media/etc. capture revolutionary/deconstructive ideas and make them bite-sized, palatable for society to consume and feel good about themselves.

NGT brings up another example: a breast cancer awareness campaign in which Kentucky Fried Chicken sold food in breast-cancer pink buckets, totally ignoring the fact that chemicals/preservatives in KFC cause cancer in the first place.

The media captures pieces of our own narrative and feeds it back to us.

There are some oppressions/etc. that don't have names yet; we don't even have the language required to discuss them.

Subject turned to: How do I recognize which narrative I'm in?
--Subvert the counter-narrative. Reject false binaries. It is always more complicated than black/white, male/female, rich/poor, etc.

And now it's really obvious that I wasn't writing notes that had headings or anything USEFUL....
Another example of the media spoon-feeding what we want to hear. The Ad Council always puts out "messages" that focus on an individual solution to a systemic problem. We are told "don't litter," versus something that would actually make a difference and require a societal change: "Don't allow our factories to make pollution."

It takes a long time to make people aware of their own self-interest and privilege.

Talk to people and shake up their worldview. It is difficult and uncomfortable.

I think that this is the point at which BAP said she distrusted large organizations and sociologists (except Victor, fellow panelist).

NGT suggests: join small organizations. They won't eat up your life; it's easy to know everyone, so they're not as shady; the differences they make in your community are visible, and matter.

How do you find them? "Google-fu."

Change is hard. The convenient, effective protest doesn't exist.

Talk to SF fans about what to do now. SF fans know about many potential futures, but not about how to get there.

We must articulate our own narrative.

Talk and listen to people. The discussion does not end.

When you're talking, what do you mean when you say, "We?" Do you mean white people? If so, then name it. Don't make assumptions. Not "We generally react in this way to this issue," but "White people usually do X."

Hopefully someone else has more coherent notes than me!

I left this panel feeling very strongly that I was ready to DO things and be active in my community, aware of how I have conversations and what I choose to say, etc. This was very much a theme for me at most of the panels I went to.

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