You’re Wearing the Wrong Duck On Your Head

This was written by Merlin Missy in 2007. Some references may now be outdated but the general advice is very good. It is used with permission. — Cygnet


Qvack. Qvack.

Dr. Merlin has recently had opportunity to speak with someone who asked about what it is like to be her, and she was put in mind of another conversation regarding life on the autism spectrum. To whit, living with autism or its cousin Asperger’s Syndrome is akin to having moved to another country while very young and then spending the rest of one’s life trying to figure out the odd customs everyone else takes for granted. It’s trying to translate the words in one’s head into English and know what to do in social situations. It’s also the unspeakable hope that somewhere, there are other people who don’t blink at wearing a duck on one’s head at formal occasions.

So, it’s like being a fan in many ways, is what I’m trying to say here.

True, waterfowl-related apparatus involved in fandom tends to be sparse, but the point is that as fans, we are not perceived as Normal People by the rest of the world. A blog post earlier this week at the Baltimore Sun denigrated fans and our interests: “[T]he tendency in fan is to gravitate toward fanatic.” The writer went on to accuse J.K. Rowling’s recent announcement about Professor Dumbledore as “pandering” to her fans, because clearly fans are not worthy of her time.

We are not considered to be Normal People, especially by anyone who styles him or herself a Normal Person. We’re all wearing ducks on our heads, people. This is why it is unfortunate and a bit sad to look around our feathery little space and realize how often we criticize each other for wearing the wrong ducks.

Before we go further, I should clarify that I am not espousing the line of the Cult of Nice. Fandom has rightly navel-gazed that particular aspect of fannish interaction unto death. Complaining that people are “not being nice” silences discussions by hitting (primarily female) fans with the culturally-imposed dictate of “if you are assertive, you’re a bitch.” The Cult of Nice feeds on that, smacking anyone who disagrees or becomes (even justifiably) angry with the B-word.

This isn’t about that.

This is about not being stupid. Arguing over the type of duck someone is wearing is stupid. Disliking someone because they like slash / het / gen / this pairing / that character / RPF / ‘cest ‘fics / J.K. Rowling / Cassie Clare / Fandom Wank / etc. looks from those standing outside our little world like disliking someone’s duck. No one else cares.

This has come to my attention this week due to the experiences of a friend. Thanks to Livejournal’s unfortunate reaction to this spring’s Warriors For Idiocy fiasco, reporting journals (and MySpace pages, and Fanfiction.Net accounts) has been made even easier. My friend was reported for a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violation (also see OCILLA) for posting a list of songs in her journal. Not links to songs, not links to a download site, not even links to YouTube.

A list. And because of the way disputes are settled, in order to dispute the claim, she must give her personal contact information to the person who made the claim, regardless of the validity of the original claim. Since this was, again, a list of songs and not actual material covered by copyright, there is no valid claim. Someone is trying to cause her trouble and get her personal info in the bargain. She has a fandom enemy.

Fandom enemies make fandom not fun, whether it’s someone who tattles on you in retaliation, or someone who makes up sockpuppets and/or flames you anonymously. Some fans make a whole career of it. (Read if you dare the full story of The Many Faces of Ms. Scribe.) Fandom enemies can pop up for reasons as varied as political differences, ‘ship preferences, or simple personality conflicts.

It’s dumb.

Pointing and laughing at people because they don’t like the same ‘ship you do? Dumb.

Flaming people? Dumb. Flaming people because they like a character you don’t? Dumber.

Starting a smear campaign behind someone’s back because you didn’t like a post they made? Dumb.

Doing the above in order to get someone kicked out of a group you’re in? Way dumb.

Fandom is hard, people. It shouldn’t be. It should be the place where we all hang out with ducks on our heads and go, “OMG, you know how to quack too? I thought I was the only one!” It should be a decades-long party with chips and dip and music we like and feathers all over the place, and sure, they’re going to get ruffled. But seriously? Work it out. Chat it out. And if you can’t work it out, go into separate corners already. Save it for something important. (For example, the racism, sexism, and religious bias arguments? Important. The arguments over who Harry eventually marries? Not so much. Fun to discuss, certainly. Fun even to argue about. Not to flame.)

I’m not saying you have to be nice.  I’m saying before you enjoy that bit of schadenfreude when your current fandom foe gets struck by a run of bad luck (something we all do), take a step back and ask yourself if you really want to be adding to the pain in someone else’s life. Enjoy their bad day if you must, but again, heaping more onto them just makes you a jerk.

Short essay tonight, folks, sorry. I have to go feed my duck.

(As a bonus, please see the following poem on fandom harmony: “Slash Is Like Pants”)

Slash Is Like Pants

There’s something I know
And something I’ll share
(Something that not every person out there
Knows about, thinks about, or even cares)
It’s a thing that I’ve learned
By reason and chance
The thing is, my darlings,
That slash is like pants.
You’re pondering now
And scratching your heads
And thinking I’m possibly
Off of my meds
But I stand my analogy
Right as I said.

See, back in the day
Of twenty and two,
Elizabeth Marigold Bombaster-Kerlew
Said “Pants! What a treat!
I shall wear them and twirl.
My friends will all call me
The Bohemian Girl!”

Well, they didn’t, you know,
But they did call her queer.
(A word that means more
In these later years
And something our Bess
Would be shocked by, I fear.)

But Bess the truehearted
And surely true-panted,
Continued to wear them
And never recanted.
“Pants are quite comfy!
They keep out the breezes!
They show off my legs
And cover my kneeses!”

“You look like a boy,”
Said her friends and her beaus,
And many were scandalized,
And many opposed,
But some were intrigued;
There’s always some, I suppose,
And soon pants were the rage.
All the ladies were wearin’
And some men were smilin’
And some men were swearin’
And some men were horrified
Seein’ shorts on Aunt Karen.

And now there are shortshorts
And there are capris
And there are bell bottoms
To ring in the breeze
There are blue jeans and skorts,
And hip-hugging tighties,
And comfy sweats made for lounging
And pants for your nighties.

And no one cares.

But …

Katherine Allison Megan Dushay
Prefers to wear skirts throughout her long day.
She likes them dancing
Likes them still
Likes fine cottons
Likes sweet frills.

All summer long, all summer hot,
With a little shake, a breeze she’s got,
And while her friends are sweating
And kind of grumpy
She’s one twirl away
From cool and comfy.

“You’ve been oppressed,
You must be set free!
Dresses are just tools
Of the patriarchy!
Kitchen and babies and drudging await.
Won’t you come join us in blue jeans, dear Kate?”

But Katie she laughs
And dances away
And doesn’t listen
To what her pals say.
She thinks she’s got it better anyway.

But Kate’s other friends …

“You there in your pants!
The awful things that you might do!
Come back to the skirt-wearing,
Or our god’s gonna spite you!”
“Yeah? Well our god is bigger,
And is far better dressed!”
I’m sure you can see,
That would end in a mess:
Panted and skirted,
All fightin’ and fussin’
And pokin’ and pullin’
And flamin’ and cussin’
“You shorties are whores!”
“You skirties are bores!”

It. Was. Silly.

And yet, we all do it
(Though not me and you):
We look at the Others
And we sneer and pooh-pooh.
(Okay, I’ll admit it:
I pooh-pooh too.
And so do you.)

It’s human, it’s nature:
Seek out folks like us
And figure the Other
Has just missed the bus.
We trot out our ethics,
We trot out our sins,
We call our side liberating,
We call theirs just dim.

Except when we don’t.
Except when we won’t.
Except when we get past the “Should” and the “Shon’t.”
See, when we look down
And look at our feet
We greet something neat
Above our feet and the street:

Clothes!

We’re all dressed to the nines
We’re in gowns and in slacks
We’re wearing grape taffeta
We’re wearing deep blacks
We’re in shorts and in sweats
We’re in miniskirts, too,
We’re in all combinations
We’re in every hue.

And. We. Look. FABULOUS.

So the next time you LJ
And see that old war:
“All slashers hate women!”
“All het is a snore!”
Remind yourself, please,
That’re we’re all here together
And in fannish ways
We are birds of a feather.
(Many of whom
Choose to dress for the weather.)

The difference ‘tween you
And that weirdo online
Is not a divide:
It’s a really fine line
That no one in the Real World
Can see anyway.
They think we’re the same
Whatever we say.
We’re all showing our colors
We’re all showing our bests
And sometimes our worsts
And also the rests.

Because? It is fun.
It is. I speak true,
And really how often have I lied to you?
(No comments from you three;
You were drunk that night too.)

Slash is like pants,
No more and no less,
It’s neither more nor less moral
Than wearing a dress.
Sometimes it is hard:
Can two truths be believed?
I ask: does your butt show?
No? Then mission achieved.
(For you gents, this is harder.
But life? Is not fair.)
Be grateful: we could be
*pooh-pooh voice*
Like those nudists over there.

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