Swanqueen, Cophine, Shaysima, Bechloe, Rizzles and other popular Internet femslash ships have been made online experiences rich for audiences. But with the good always comes some bad — and these online spaces aren’t always safe.

Femslash culture provides a space for representation, unity and deeper understanding within online fandom communities in the entertainment realm — but also opens a door to cyberbullies and Internet trolls.

Internet fan culture, while foreign to mainstream audiences, is an important element to factor in the entertainment industry. It’s a modern technological development that benefits both viewers of television and movies — and those directly involved in the popular culture projects. Without audiences, there would be no show — and folks in the entertainment sphere understand this well.

But as social movements become more progressive and people crave more diversity and representation onscreen — content, how it’s creative and how it’s perceived is also evolving. The femslash shipping culture is an integral part of popular culture — especially for folks in the LGBTQ+ communities online and real life.

Digital zines such as AfterEllen.com and Autostraddle also get this and even cater to the audiences by providing engaging articles, features and polls (as we do at TheFeminismProject and we did at our old publication).  Of course, as fandoms grow — haters will come — both online and off.

While running our own shipping polls, we experienced a taste of daily fandom life — which showed folks coming together offering a supportive community that promoted very common interests. But we also saw online bullies come out of the woodwork — with strong opinions of their own and insisted on stepping into these spaces and injecting their negativity making comment sections, online forums and social media pretty uncomfortable.

This is never okay.

Of course, it’s been said, defence is the first act of war — and if you want to keep the space safe, it’s best to avoid engaging the trolls. It’s difficult to reason with the unreasonable and frustration is inevitable when trying. Though instinct may encourage folks victim of this to step up and explain — it is unlikely cyberbullies are looking to understand (they’re infringing your spaces to fight).

Internet polls draw online crowds. In any event where there are hoards of people, differing opinions will always manifest — but conflict can be avoided. Recently, AfterEllen hosted their Ultimate Femslash poll and had to reset it due to bot voting. Internet drama followed.

Swanqueen fans, supporters of the non-canon ship from Once Upon A Time‘s Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) and Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla) have experienced online conflict with Captain Swan shippers (Emma Swan x Hook). This friction is an ongoing battle between fandoms who support different romantic pairings.

swen

While it’s completely opinion-based whether or not one ‘ship’ is better than another — in the event there is a femslash poll, it’s important to note that the space is not for those who support a pairing uninvolved and uninvited to the room. It’s bullying. And it’s not cool.

The Swanqueen community is a group of very devoted individuals who take their ship seriously and provide one another with lots of online support. In fact, back in 2014, it was Swanqueen who won the AfterEllen Ultimate Femslash poll — and also won our own previous ‘Most obvious non-canon ship’ poll just earlier this year. This online fandom has an eye for subtext — connecting and engaging online over different social media platforms well.

bechloeSubtext is what makes a storyline rich and historically in popular culture, is what queer folks had to rely on for representation. Onscreen chemistry is a tricky thing and sometimes appears and even thrives unintentionally. In Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2, Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) and Chloe Beale (Brittany Snow) were a non-canon ship that ended up bringing home the Teen Choice 2015 Chemistry Award. This is a sweet example of how important fandoms can be.

But shipping is not a simple thing — in fact, shipping fandoms can be complex.

Orphan Black femslash shipping fans were divided in season three of the hit Canadian sci-fi series when the show introduced a new love interest for queer character Cosima Niehaus (Tatiana Maslany). While the original canon ship drew in huge support for Cophine — pairing Cosima with Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) — the love triangle created caused some tension amongst fans. The storyline offered a new girlfriend called Shay (Ksenia Solo) for Cosima while Delphine was focused on protecting the sestras — some viewers even preferred the new canon ship of Shaysima. But passionate fans are passionate — so the shipping war began and tension in the fandom was inevitable. Forum discussions and Tumblr posts got heated.cosima shay delphine

There is a difference between arguing passionately about a point and attacking someone for having a different opinion. The line is fine and sometimes situations are more grey than black and white. In the event a cyberbully enters your safe space, it’s best to avoid engagement. Avoid name calling, personal attacks and explicit meanness. Remain kind.

Whether or not you’re a hardcore fan, it’s important to understand the significance of fandom and how it contributes to the online ecosystem. From entertainment news publishers to active online audiences right to an official network’s Internet presence — it’s a significant part that should never be overlooked.

Like it or not, femslash is a part of popular culture. One we certainly enjoy celebrating at TheFeminismProject.com.

Image credits: Tumblr/cignoregina/brittany-snodes/ebrosexual1