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Special disclaimer for panels I was on:
1. I don't take much in the way of notes while I am paneling and I have a crap memory, so these notes will be even less complete than normal.
2. I always appreciate feedback, critique, even criticisms of how you think that panel went and specifically how I can better panel and/or mod in the future - you can do it publicly or privately, whatever you are most comfortable with. I thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!
There Is No Aging Out Of Fandom
Too often we'll encounter the phrase you're so old! Or You're too old to be a fangirl. Fuck that noise, we're not going anywhere because we're not wee kids just dipping our toes into our chosen fandoms. Let's discuss this ridiculous idea like the mature adults we are, along with other aspects of our experience as aging SF writers and fans, and/or such topics as how SF/F has handled aging.
M: Tanya D.. Sigrid Ellis, JP Fairfield, Inda Lauryn, Rosemary / Sophy(gurl)
#agingandfandom for twitter
I believe this panel was being recorded for use in the Nerdgasm Noir podcast, as one our of panelists, JP, is a member of said podcast. http://www.nerdgasmnoire.net/
This was a great panel. My fellow panelists were saying such great things that I mostly spent my time nodding my head at them, but hopefully I added to the conversation as well.
I did point out at a certain point that we skewed fairly young for a panel about aging and Sigrid noted that even including the audience, which had some older-than-us folks in it, there wasn't anyone in the age group of folks who mentored her into fandom. So that's a thing to note about perspectives going in.
But all of us on the panel have had the experience of being told we're too old for fandom in some way, and this concept of "too old" in fandom often starts even with people in their 20' so. Yea.
My perspective is that, while I certainly have passionately enjoyed things my whole life, I didn't start actively seeking out communities of people who shared these passions with me until my mid-late 30s (I'm 40 rn). So fandom is still somewhat new to me, and being told I'm too old for it is a bit mind boggling.
Additionally, part of my becoming more active in fandom has directly correlated to my being more disabled, so I get particularly touchy about the "don't you have anything better to do?" arguments because no, actually, fuck you, I don't. But ALSO I'm gonna stand up for my busy-with-life folks who are active in fandom because what is supposed to be "better" than actively participating in a community of folks with whom you have a shared interest? That seems a great use of someone's time and energies to me, no matter what else is going on their lives.
We talked some about how ageism goes both ways, and I made a point to say that we older folks do have to be sensitive to younger fan's needs if, for instance, they feel we're being creepy (there are some things I wouldn't have wanted to talk about with someone my age back in high school yk?). Also, it's kind of a stereotype but also kinda true that the older one is the more likely they are to have some forms of bigotry, so paying attention when younger fans point out language changes and such that we might not be aware of is important.
Sigrid had a lot of interesting things to say about generational shift, especially in regards to the running of fandom. She said, (and this is paraphrasing by memory here) "I'm a gen x-er and you all do know that gen x-er's are never going to be in charge of fandom right? Because the boomers aren't letting go, and the millennials are taking over. As a gen x-er, I'm also totally fine with letting that happen - I don't want to be in charge." I never nodded my head more vigorously, I think. [Sidenote: holy shit has this opened up a floodgate in my brainmeats about the subject and how awesome I think millennials are btw]
Sigrid's point was that we have to both honor our elders/ancestors and listen to our youngsters - we all have a lot to learn from one another and silencing on either end is not helpful to anyone.
Some great con-specific discussion came from this about the way cons have traditionally been run, how they're changing, how to help your local con grow, how getting involved in this side of fandom can be very rewarding but also that seeing how the sausage is made can make you wanna nope out very fast.
JP and Inda had a lot of great things to say about the intersection of race in fandom, especially in how it adds another barrier to entrance and is part of the reason for some poc fans to get into fandom later in life - they simply didn't have access to it earlier on.
This was tied in to class issues and how younger fans often don't have access to fandom in the same ways as older folks might because they don't have the money - but older fans might have less access to participate as far as traveling to conventions because the older you get the more limitations/disabilities start to culminate.
The concept of emotional labor, especially when it comes to female fans, was discussed. The intersection of age and gender is important here because part of why women, particularly, are expected to age out of fandom is because we're expected to start putting that emotional labor into other people - kids, families, jobs, etc. But fandom is a way of choosing where to put that labor - JP replies "and why are you choosing to use your emotional labor to argue with me about where I choose to put mine?"
Good stuff about how old fandom really is, how it existed pre-internet, that the fans active back then are still involved, that things like zines and usenets are still around and being used alongside newer social media tech. Balanced with some good stuff about respecting these newer sites/places too because this is what most younger people have access to - tumblr can be both a great and terrible place.
One audience member asked about how to enter fandom when they never feel like they belong. Panelists offered some great advice on finding the smaller spaces within the fandom that do include you, and about how it's okay to sit out of a fandom that feels toxic, etc. Some great discussion about leaving or just not entering fandoms that have a lot of racism in them because they don't feel safe. I added that it seems like no one really feels like they belong when it comes down to it, and also that - if it's possible for you - you can create a pocket of fandom that is for you and guaranteed people will thank you for it because they've been looking too. [This was a really emotional discussion btw]
Another audience member asked the panelists if we've had experiences of varying expectations of what being part of fandom even is. There was talk of physical space (like cons) vs. online space, different types of fandom (I expounded on how TV is my main fandom and I've had to carve out some space for this at what is primarily a literary con at WisCon), different ways of interacting with fandom - some people prefer fic, some vids, some meta, some sharing gifsets, some lurking in communities, some being active in them, going to events, different online sites, etc. Basically the gist is - it's all valid!!
Someone in the audience commented that WisCon "doesn't believe in print anything anymore" in relation to accommodating the different ways that people do/interact with fandom. Important to note that not everyone is online and using the technology.
One person from the audience asked about how to deal with people who think it's odd or wrong to include your kids in your fandom activities which sparked a lively discussion about how lots of people's entrance into fandom was through their parents, about how sharing fandom with families can be a way to bond with them, and about how the people making those kinds of comments probably don't understand fandom to begin with so who cares what they think (lol).
I think I shared how my mom (hi mom I know you're reading this!!) doesn't really understand my fandom stuff, especially the TV stuff (she watches maybe 3 TV shows - 2 are on PBS and the other one is Friends heehee ILU mom), but how I dragged her to WisCon with me this year anyway to share some of that with her.
And I know I'm missing stuff because it's hard for me to take notes when I'm actively participating, so check out the hashtag on twitter if you wanna see some more!