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April 26th, 2007


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01:55 pm - 'Get a more reasonable dream'
As you will have seen I have been agonising a bit lately about attribution and value given to writing as a craft. I think a lot of unpaid and professional women writers will be interested in this impassioned and well written article by cupidsbow: why fanfiction makes us poor.

Actually I think the title is misleading. Because overall cupidsbow doesn't argue that fanfiction makes women 'poor'. She only questions why women's hard work is so often directed at tasks that are unpaid or underpaid, and undervalued. And how does the causality work - is women's work undervalued socially because it isn't paid, or the other way round? Do women put their effort into unpaid things because they don't value themselves, or because they recognise non-monetary values? Does women's unpaid work undermine capitalism, or provide an essential prop? If it props society up, why isn't it valued?

She draws parallels between the ways that women's paid writing is denigrated (as set out by Joanna Russ in 'How to suppress women's writing' for instance) and the ways that fanfiction is denigrated.

It's easy for people outside of fanfiction fandom to dismiss the whole thing on a number of grounds, most of them described by Russ: yes, she wrote it, but we don't really know who "she" is; yes, she wrote it, but she totally shouldn't have (only perverts/stalkers/sluts/thieves write it); yes, she wrote it, but it's not important (because it's not about high culture ideas, it's unpaid, it's vernacular, it's just porn, it's derivative, it's bad); yes, she wrote it and it's actually good, but it's a one-off fluke and it's not really fanfiction anyway (it's a homage, a pastiche, a post-modern experiment, it won the Pulitzer); yes, she went on to write successful original novels in spite of her fanfiction beginnings (but she's not like all the others who do it, and let's not talk about it anyway, because it opens us up to copyright violation lawsuits).


Now speaking for myself, I read very little fanfiction, but I agree with cupidsbow that

the fanfiction community is the most amazing women's art culture I've ever experienced, and quite possibly the most amazing there has ever been, just in terms of sheer numbers and output. And perhaps that is enough.

(17 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:April 26th, 2007 01:12 pm (UTC)
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The problem is the equation of "work" with "paid work" and the assumption that there is a correlation between the worth of work and what you can earn by it. In writing it simply doesn't compute - if it did, Jeffrey Archer would be a better writer than Patrick Hamilton, who earned peanuts from fiction, or executrix, who does it for fun. I don't think it is specifically women's work that is undervalued; it's any unpaid or low-paid work, that is low-paid because people can be got to do it for other reasons, f'rex:

they think it's their duty (caring for relatives)
they find it more fulfilling than higher-paid work (gardening, child-care, animal care)
it's such fun they can't help doing it (most forms of art).
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 26th, 2007 01:21 pm (UTC)
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I completely agree, though I think lack of money is a really big deal for the individual in our society. That's why I think the crisis over childcare is so significant. And there is a strong inter-relationship between powerlessness, being undervalued, and working 'for free'.
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:April 26th, 2007 01:22 pm (UTC)
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The monetary worth of something is _exactly_ what you can earn by it.

It's those bloody women who go around thinking that things have artistic worth that's somehow more important than money that cause all the trouble!
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 26th, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC)
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But what about non-monetary value? Ironically our money-worshipping society would literally collapse if millions of people didn't put in vast amounts of unpaid work every day. And yet there is no system in place to channel resources to support this work. Our hard-headed system only works because of an army of soft-hearted people (mostly but not only women).
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:April 26th, 2007 01:43 pm (UTC)
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That's why I mentioned "artistic worth"...

But yeah - we do depend on people helping each other out for non-monetary reasons. I certainly depend on my friends, and vice versa. I don't see this as a bad thing though - I'm sure I'd feel differently about helping people out if I was being paid for it, and I'd have different expectations if my friends were paid to help me.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 26th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
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I know you were being light-hearted about it, but in your case that unpaid work isn't your whole life, and doesn't prevent you from taking your place in society. A lot of women's lives (and the lives of some children and adult male carers) are dominated by long hours of unpaid work, which leaves them poor and dependent on other people. And then the real worth of their work is denigrated, and they are even made to feel like second-rate people. I know you weren't doing that.
[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:April 26th, 2007 02:09 pm (UTC)
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Once upon a time, I was out shopping, laden with parcels, pushing a toddler in a chair and carrying a baby in a sling, when I met a bloke from the office where, previously, I had pushed a pen about (when I wasn't busy varnishing my nails). "Ah," he said, "so you're not working again yet?"
[User Picture]
From:buymeaclue
Date:April 26th, 2007 02:40 pm (UTC)
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I hope you said, "You wanna trade?"
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:April 26th, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
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Which is why I'm in favour both of there being care available for those that can't pay for it themselves, and disability living allowance including carers allowance. I'm sure that neither of these is currently sufficient, and I'd love to see more coverage from them, of course.
[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:April 26th, 2007 02:55 pm (UTC)
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I didn't want "care". I wanted to look after my own kids, which I thought vastly more worthwhile than arsing around an office. I just wanted to be respected for doing it and not told I wasn't working.
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:April 26th, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC)
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Clearly. And people should respect you for it. But that wasn't really the area I was touching on.
[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:April 26th, 2007 04:07 pm (UTC)
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My point was that carers for the elderly also do not necessarily want other people paid to do the work they feel they should be doing (at least not permanently, respite is different). Nor do they always want to be paid for it; sometimes recognition is a lot more important than money.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 26th, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)
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What do you think abotu the idea that fanfiction provides women with a source of pleasure and status, even though they don't get paid? I think it does.
[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:April 26th, 2007 04:16 pm (UTC)
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It certainly can do. People appreciate it, give feedback and intensely bonded communities form around it.
[User Picture]
From:buymeaclue
Date:April 26th, 2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
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>Because overall cupidsbow doesn't argue that fanfiction makes women 'poor'. She only questions why women's hard work is so often directed at tasks that are unpaid or underpaid, and undervalued.

Hmm. Your version of the article is more interesting to me than hers.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 26th, 2007 02:35 pm (UTC)
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I think one thing that was overlooked in the comments is that fan-fiction provides a free source of pleasure and status for women, outside the capitalist market, which is at least as significant (I think) as the fact that it absorbs women's time without providing any pay. So, on the whole, I think no it doesn't make us poor, as it gives us 'goods'. Housework and caring and so-on are more of a black hole of lost time, because the 'goods' are given to other people.
[User Picture]
From:buymeaclue
Date:April 26th, 2007 02:40 pm (UTC)
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That makes a lot of sense.

I have trouble with the makes-us-poor argument because it's not a no-pay pursuit solely because it's not valued. There are other factors here that I think she's minimizing. The non-stuff is more interesting to me, but again--those other factors are in play there, too.

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