This HG contributor/podcast host wrote an open letter hoping to educate fans who mean well, but fall short.
Hey there. I’ve been meaning to chat with you for some time now.
For the past year I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with three other sensational women on a podcast called Nerds of Prey. Each episode allows us to dig into comics, film, television, and video games from our unique, layered perspectives as Black women. We understood going into the project that the simple act of expressing any opinions contrary to those of the status quo would be defiant in nature, thereby making ourselves vulnerable to pushback and vitriol. Nevertheless, we continued to build our platform and steeled ourselves for what might possibly come our way.
The experience, however, has been largely positive in ways that we never imagined. We have managed to tap into a voice that a section of marginalized folks want to hear. The response has been nothing short of emphatic support. You, Mr. Fan, have absolutely been a part of that. You’ve openly shared our work. You don’t hesitate to make your appreciation of what we do known. You’ve even pledged to our Patreon campaign.
So I say this unabashedly: you have been a big part of this wonderful, life-shifting experience and we thank you for that. Truly.
However, there are times when that support manifests in ways that are tinged with your inherent privilege, which can perpetuate more harm than good. When you choose to support female-led creative outlets of any kind — podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, art — context is key, and how you engage matters.
Yes, even as a self-identified ally for equality you can take part in potentially toxic behavior, different from what we’ve experienced from other genders. It happens to the best of us.
But there’s hope!
You can engage in women-led media (or any space helmed by creators who identify as a gender different from your own) in a way that is both supportive and respectful by keeping a few things in mind.
1This is our platform.
Maintaining any independent space requires time, resources, sacrifice, and, occasionally, finances. In exchange, a female creator now has an avenue of expression that is uniquely hers. She determines the content, the aesthetic, and the productivity. Though the goal may be to gain an audience via her work, her job isn’t to cater to any individual other than herself. Try to understand this before bombarding her with “suggestions” on what you believe is worthy of her time, unless the creator explicitly asks for input. Any project of passion naturally comes with its own load of work. Unless you’re willing to compensate accordingly, simply sit back and witness what the creator thought was worth the toil.
2We built it for a reason.
The act of creating an outlet is typically preceded by a need, and often times that need is to satisfy a specific void. When my co-hosts and I founded Nerds of Prey, we felt like there wasn’t a large enough presence of Black women chatting about the aspects of nerd culture that mattered to us. Bee Tajudeen created the Black Blossoms art exhibition in London during a time when she felt there were no safe spaces to celebrate Black art. Janet Mock’s #GirlsLikeUs provided a space for trans women to share their specific experiences, and own their beauty and brilliance. In each of these platforms, a marginalized perspective is appropriately centered in a way that mainstream media doesn’t allow often enough.
So before you make the move to impose your point of view or to speak over us in an attempt to “play devil’s advocate” or “to be fair” (wildly condescending approaches to conversation, by the way), understand that what we’ve built is here because our experience has shown us that too few were willing to make room for us. We’ve answered the calls to “make your own” time and time again. Just because you are not the center of this space doesn’t mean that you don’t have value. Our various platforms can be a way of saying “we’ve heard your point of view loud and clear. Here is our side.”
3If you choose to stick around, trust that we know what we’re doing.
“If you’re REALLY a [insert identity here], then you should DEFINITELY be covering this in your show/blog/exhibit.”
Please don’t do this. If our work was solid enough to hold your attention in the first place, that should be a sufficient indicator that we know how to provide a good product. Gatekeeping, or limiting who has access to a certain community or identity, is never helpful. It only cements your narrow definition of how a creator should identify themselves,.
Also, if what we do requires us to stay tuned to social media or the news, trust that we are doing so. That trending topic that you’re bringing to our attention is probably something that we’re already digesting. I cannot stress this enough: we’ve got this.
4Your support, while appreciated, entitles you to nothing.
Finally — and this is a big one, because this is a very common misconception — however you decide to show your support does not serve as currency for our time, energy, or free education. This goes for allyship, in general. Some of the best ways to show your support are to listen and elevate voices outside of your echo chamber whenever you can. Hanging your enjoyment upon the possibility of some retribution beyond the service we’re already providing is not only unfair, but a great way to set yourself up for disappointment. As a creator, my only promise is to provide my most authentic viewpoint to the best of my ability and nothing more. You can either choose to partake in what I have to offer or devote your attention elsewhere.
I’m glad you’re here, Mr. Fan. I hope you stick around for the long haul. I just hope you understand that when it comes to space that we’ve carved for ourselves, we come first.