I've been seeing bits and bobs floating past on Twitter over the last few days about a wankery situation happening on Tumblr around AO3 (and the existence of "olds" in fandom, heh). It's...a little rage inducing.
If you want to get some good discussion and a bit of background, this post
has some fantastic discussion in the comments about all the issues. From what I can gather we have:
1) Horror at olds in fandom. ie. those of us over thirty. Just...yeah.
2) Fury that AO3 won't let people report fics and get them deleted for abuse/homophobia/whatever. I.e. AO3 will not let them censor content of fics. And by abuse, they mean anything with non con/rape. Fics where canonically gay characters are in mixed-gender pairings. Fics with underage content, which they often define in...interesting ways. They'd be horrified by the Buffy/Giles fic of my youth, that's all I'll say.
3) Some of those young fans apparently thinking Strikethrough was a good thing, because it got the ball rolling on kicking out abusive fic.
I'll wait for you to all stop face palming and hitting your heads on desks.
*ticky clock appears*
*refreshments are distributed*
AO3 was built in response to Strikethrough, as a place where fic couldn't be censored in that way. It was built as a place where fandom could own the servers and we weren't beholden to the whims of advertisers and private site owners. Where fics couldn't be deleted at the behest of one person, or one company, because something in it wasn't to their taste. Where the rule "don't like, don't read" would reign supreme.
(One of the specific things I've seen on some of the Tumblr posts is a complaint that "don't like, don't read" might be great for the olds, but waarghbl it's not good enough for me! It exists! It hurts my soul! I might read it despite the warnings and tags and that's not fair! *sigh*)
As long as appropriate warnings (or "choose not to warn") are used--and violating that can
get a fic reported and the abuse team will take action--then AO3 won't censor. They won't censor for bad grammar and spelling, no matter how much we wish they would, and they definitely won't make anyone take down their Derek/Stiles fic, or their Ianto/Gwen fic, or their sex pollen non-con Doctor/Missy fic. It was set up that way, because today's "icky non-con, ban it!" fic is tomorrow's "omg teh gays, make it go away!" fic.
Us olds remember the old days. The days when you had to label all slash--even when it was just hand-holding--as NC17 and plaster it with warnings. The days when only certain archives accepted slash at all, and you could get your FFN account or LJ suspended if someone objected to your boy kissing fics, so everything was locked down under f-lock or posted to the adult slash-friendly archives with a thousand warning pop-ups. The days when RPF was never to be spoken of because almost no archive accepted it. The days when we all danced around carefully because at any moment, our favourite fics could be deleted and never seen again if a site advertiser threatened to withdraw funding.
Trust me, that was not a good time. Everyone freaked out about Strikethrough because it was the start of a slippery slope. Nothing deleted was illegal, even though it wasn't to many people's taste, and it was only matter of time before they came after the less problematic stuff.
I may not like what you say, but I'll defend your right to say it (or read/write/art it) to the death.
I think there's a multi-layered problem. Fandom has splintered since the Strikethrough days, and we've all wandered off to different places. Back when I entered fandom, we all lived on the same mailing lists and LJs. Us babies (I was a mere twenty...which wasn't that young, actually) and the "olds" together. We all inhabited the same spaces and the newbies to fandom learned about the old ways, the old history, from the more experienced fandom people. And the newbies opened the eyes of the older fans to some things, too, which caused ructions but enabled us all to learn and change.
Current fandom has splintered and seems to have broken into generational buckets. The youngest part of fandom is on Tumblr and Snapchat. The older part of fandom is on Tumblr a bit, but not much, and many of us have stepped a long way back from it because we're made so unwelcome. We're still here on LJ, DW, Twitter, and Imzy, where the youngs aren't so much. Due to those divides, there isn't that interaction and mutual learning, so the younger fanfolk don't know the history. They don't know why AO3 exists and why we're so passionate about not censoring it. They've never had to creep around on the edges of fandom because they were slashers, or RPF-ers, or wrote explicit fics after FFN banned them.
The divide is also contributing to the feeling that anyone over thirty shouldn't be fannish anymore, and I suspect that's part of the AO3 wankery. There aren't many people from that very young end of the fandom involved with the OTW or AO3, so it feels like the olds run it. We created it, we fundraised for it, we continue to work on it and we're old
, by their standards. We should have shuffled off to our graveyards or our adult lives or something.
Except we haven't, because when we were the fandom babies, there were all these fans older than us who were still active and we learned we'll never be too old for fandom. With the divide getting so sharp between the youngest and everyone else, they're not getting that part of the fannish experience, either. They can't imagine being thirty (or forty, or fifty), never mind being that age and still being in fandom.
You've also got the problem that Tumblr-style activism is very different from what we were doing five or ten years ago. It's all about protecting young eyes not just from the content, but from knowing the content is even there. About removing it so it doesn't need to be thought of. For them, "don't like, don't read" isn't enough. They don't want anyone to read it or see it or write it.
When AO3 was first being set up, there were huge arguments over whether warnings should be mandatory. A lot of people are still annoyed that major warnings are mandatory and that their only option, if they don't like warnings and have warnable content in the work, is to use a tag that's basically a buyer beware notice. The kids screaming about AO3's refusal to remove works because they don't like the content would hate a version of AO3 without those warnings.
Hint: it's what fanfic was like for most of us and it's why we still hold to the "don't like, don't read" principle. Hell, AO3 makes that one doable now! I haven't read surprise!rape in years because I don't read anything with "choose not to warn" on. The existence of fic that contains stuff I don't like does not harm me because I don't have to read it. The existence of stuff that's triggery for some people doesn't harm them as long as warnings are used, because they don't have to read it. Having warnings and tags enables people to avoid those fics and even filter them out of searches so they don't have to see them. It's the beauty of AO3.
In the end, the people screaming on Tumblr about AO3 unfairly refusing to censor its content aren't going to get anywhere (hopefully). The worst they can do is refuse to donate to the OTW and boycott the archive. I doubt they donate anyway, and boycotting seems like a "cutting off their noses to spite their faces" move, although I imagine a few will. I doubt that a few dozen people boycotting will change AO3s policy, though. AO3 isn't in danger, but the shouting on Tumblr is alternately rage-inducing, face-palm worthy, and ridiculous, because it's so unnecessary.
If they get really mad, though, they could go away and set up an archive of their own. One where they own the servers and get like-minded fans to help them run and fund the project. Hmm, I wonder what they could call it...