laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
[personal profile] laurashapiro
Note: This post is addressed to friends of mine in the vidding community who have expressed anger and frustration that the current discussions around Vividcon's policies, accessibility, and trigger warnings are taking place.

Vidding is my fandom. For me, Vividcon is its nexus, the highlight of my year, my favorite place to be, where almost all of my very best friends are. It's where I see great vids and have great conversations, where I dance my ass off and have my mind blown. All of it is made possible by a fastidiously-organized concom and the vidders and vid fans who volunteer and participate. I love it.

Vidding is my fandom. Vividcon is my con. I am part of it. I feel responsible for it. That's why I'm making this statement.

The VVC concom asked people to offer concerns and suggestions about their Background and Policies document. The fact that many people have done so does not mean they are "bashing the con", just as giving critique in vid review does not make a person "mean". I have complete confidence that when the concom says "VividCon welcomes comments and feedback on the VividCon Background and Policies statement. We would like to express our gratitude to those who have taken the time to make a comment or write to us about their concerns" they mean exactly that. I respect the people on that concom, some of my best friends in fandom, and I know that they are sincere in wanting to hear criticism so they can learn and improve -- the same way many vidders who come to the con sincerely want criticism on our vids so we can learn and improve.

This is not about being "politically correct", a phrase that I have a lot of problems with. This is about trying to make Vividcon accessible and fun for everyone.

Regarding the trigger warnings debate specifically, I'm going to quote [personal profile] thuviaptarth here because she says just what I would have:
Last year's discussions about warnings in fanfiction changed my mind about warnings. I am firmly opposed to censorship. I don't have triggers myself. Generally I prefer to avoid vid warnings. I am almost certain that my position on my premiering vid will be "Choose not to warn." And I am in favor of implementing warnings for common PTSD and physical triggers, preferably as a separate list rather than included on the vid or in the vidshow itself.


The thing is, I am opposed to requiring warnings for "offensive content." That's something I consider a free expression issue. I am in favor of warnings for "triggers," which is more of a disability and accessibility issue. I don't feel that my artistic freedom of expression is best served by my incapicitating people with flashbacks or inducing a migraine.

Her entire post is worth reading.

A person who requests trigger warnings is not a crybaby. They are a survivor of trauma or a person with disabilities trying to protect themselves from serious harm. They are not asking other people to take responsibility for them. They are taking responsibility for themselves.

To return to the subject of the con itself: in order for to make Vividcon accessible and fun for everyone, some things will have to change. Change is upsetting, and it takes work. It's particularly hard for people who have loved VVC for years just the way it is. We feel protective of VVC and of the people who make it happen.

But I want to work for the change, because I believe that my pleasure is not worth more than other people's pain, and because as much as I love Vividcon, I believe that it's possible for it to be better. I want to be sure that everyone who is interested in coming to Vividcon can come, can feel welcome and safe there the way I do, can return home with the same cherished memories of fannish delight and deep thinkiness and social hilarity that I do. I want everyone to love it the way I do.

I want everyone to say, the way I do, "Is it August yet?"

ETA July 1, 2010 4:35 pm: I am reading every comment but I may not be able to reply to them all. At this time I am also not moderating comments, but will do so should it become necessary. I am working full-time, busy tonight, and going away for the weekend, where Internet access will be limited. But I am taking it all in. Please do continue to discuss among yourselves.

from metafandom

on 2010-07-04 05:23 am (UTC)
phoebe_zeitgeist: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist
I feel a little guilty about jumping in here, but I hope I'm about to do so in some moderately useful way. My experience as one of the people who hosted some of the debate during the last round of warnings discussion suggests to me that while you're basically right about this:

Absolutely! There's been a lot of pretty scorching criticism of people who didn't post warnings without stating that they weren't posting warnings.

However, I don't recall seeing much if any criticism -- certainly not remotely the same level -- of people who use a "warning withheld" or "choose not to warn" label on their stories.

There's nevertheless a significant difference between the background against which that discussion/set of arguments took place and the background here. One of the main stumbling blocks in communication between the people who I spoke to who were asking for warnings and those of us who were uncomfortable with the idea turned out to have to do with the default environment in which people were reading. The issue for the pro-warnings folks I spoke to was often that they'd spent all their time in fandom within sub-communities where it was settled expectation that writers would warn if there were anything in a story that might need to be warned for, and that a reader could therefore be confident that the absence of any warning meant that there was no such troubling content. So readers with trigger issues who were used to that set of community standards had a real problem when they encountered subcommunities that didn't share that norm -- it wasn't just that the absence of a warning in these other fandoms/communities didn't mean what they were used to it meaning, but also that they had no way of knowing that the social conventions and expectations in play had changed. After all, it's not like you have to cross a border and present a passport to go from reading, say, Bandom to reading a manga fandom where people often don't warn for common triggers because hey, those things are all in the canon.

People I spoke to said at the time that they were much happier having a choses-not-to-warn notice than nothing at all, because that at least told them they weren't in a jurisdiction where they could rely on the lack of a specific warning to indicate safety. But they also told me that they considered it a distant second best -- they wanted warnings, and didn't really think that a chooses-not-to-warn option addressed their accessibility issues. It made things safer for those affected, because it marked off spaces where the no-warnings-means-safety assumption didn't apply, but of course it also made everything so marked presumptively unsafe, and thus inaccessible. And they understood that they were asking for a change in behavior from people who'd previously not needed to even think about warning issues, so a compromise that had one side making more effort than they had in the past while the other got more safety but not necessarily good accessibility didn't feel unreasonable.

What's different here, if I'm understanding the background correctly, is that vidding has had no cultural expectation that if a vid contained potentially triggering material it would be warned for, and that if there were no warnings a viewer could rely on it being safe. So the big concern that launched the fic warnings argument last time -- the problem of the vulnerable reader who reasonably believes that no warnings means no problematic content, and is harmed when she encounters something unsafe from a writer whose understanding was that no warnings means that the writer chose not to use warnings, simply doesn't apply to the Vividcon situation.

Which matters, it seems to me, because it indicates that those who want to see a warning policy for Vividcon are looking for something more than the pro-warnings people in the fic debate were generally willing to settle for. People know vids that aren't warned for may not be safe. They're not relying on any assumption that they are, and then being injured because their assumption turned out to be wrong. What's being sought here is accessibility, not a fix for the equivalent of misleading signage.

And if you're looking for accessibility, "chooses not to warn" isn't all that helpful. Better than nothing, but it leaves people without the information necessary to decide whether a vid is safe for them, thus restricting individuals' ability to see vids that would actually be fine for them, that they would decide to see if only they had the information available.

If all that is accurate, it may mean that there'll be more criticism of, and more pressure applied to, vidders who used a choose-not-to-warn option under a regime in which some form of warning/labeling was expected than we see of writers who use the very same option. So as tempting as it is to draw the parallel, I'm not sure this situation is similar enough to make it reliable.

Re: from metafandom

on 2010-07-04 05:23 pm (UTC)
thuviaptarth: golden thuvia with six-legged lion (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] thuviaptarth
I think you're misunderstanding the position and experience of the people who have been asking for VVC warnings. The problem is that currently the entire con is a "Choose Not to Warn" zone and there is no tradition for anyone of specifying either triggers or "No warning needed". The de facto situation is, the entire con is either inaccessible or risky for people with triggers. What people who have been asking for warnings to be implemented for is (and in "warnings" I include the statement "Choose Not to Warn") that the state of the warnings on the vid become an explicit choice rather than a default assumption. The assumption is that some people will choose not to warn, some people will specify triggers, some people will specify that no triggers apply. This gives people with triggers enough information to reasonably evaluate their risk on a vid-by-vid basis instead of having to apply the same policy to the entire show.

Many pro-warnings people have in fact praised the Choose Not to Warn option as a choice they themselves required or one that can lessen the anxiety about labeling.

Re: from metafandom

on 2010-07-04 06:45 pm (UTC)
phoebe_zeitgeist: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist
I don't actually disagree with anything you say here (I mean, I couldn't disagree with anything having to do with subjective experience that isn't mine, and wouldn't presume to, but I also think I agree with the purely analytical point you're making).

My sense was that some of the people who're leery about even the idea of an upload process that requires an AO3-style warning choice, with the ability to choose not to warn, are concerned precisely because the default assumption hasn't given vidders any responsibility for accessibility at all, and there's been no community expectation of such responsibility. (Which is, as I said, a contrast with the situation that set off the last fic warning debate.)

Thus my conclusion that this is indeed a conversation about accessibility, much more purely than it was in the fic context where significant subcommunities already were working from an assumption that writers were responsible for at least doing some minimal work to help with danger and access issues. You're trying to move away from a default where, as you say, in practical terms nothing is accessible and vidders have no responsibility to try to change that to a default where vidders have some responsibility to help, and where much more should be accessible.

Which seems good to me, at least in this relatively non-intrusive form! though this is something I don't really feel entitled to have any serious opinion on (not a vidder, no triggers of my own, insufficiently informed about all the issues). My point is only that it's a change, and a serious change because of the way it shifts burdens from one group to another. To call it burden-shifting isn't to call it good or bad, or at least I don't mean it to. But to the extent it changes expectations about who's responsible for what, it alters the nature of all conversations about the issue going forward. Thus the resistance, or some of it: you and most of the people I know who've spoken about it are comfortable with vidders choosing not to warn (and with rejecting more extensive mandatory labeling in general). But there are voices out there who take a more radical position on vidders' (or writers') responsibilities than you do, and once everyone agrees that warnings are a good thing that vidders should always at least consider doing -- once it's a social norm -- it becomes much easier for people to go and yell at those who choose not to warn for breaching that social norm.

The analogy I keep coming back to is the 16th Amendment that authorized congress to levy an income tax on individuals and corporations. The early tax rates imposed following ratification ranged from 1% to a top marginal rate of 7% -- no big deal, right? But of course, the big deal wasn't that initial income tax statute or the rates first imposed; it was Congress's power to do it. And within a few years, it being wartime and all, that top marginal rate of 7% had become a top marginal rate of 77%.

You may think, as I do, that a progressive income tax is a good thing and the best answer we have available to the need to raise revenue (and that our current structure should be a lot more progressive than it is, and that it's ridiculous and hideously counterproductive not to be taxing certain forms of executive compensation at wartime-type marginal rates). But I can't say that people in 1912 who were looking at that amendment and saying, Yes, I totally think that an income tax of 7% isn't much to ask, and I'm happy to pay that, but I'm worried that once Congress can do this you're not going to be asking me for any 7% for long weren't right to be aware of the possibility.

Having said that, I want to emphasize that I don't think vidders who don't want to warn, and are worried about the implications of any shift in default expectations, are in anything like the moral position of Goldman bankers who don't want to pay reasonable taxes on their bonuses. Indeed, the reason I have some sympathy for the concern is precisely that I do not think that. And reading some of the posts that have gone up in connection with this issue has left me with the powerful impression that there are plenty of folks who do think precisely that, or worse.

-- Yikes, did that even make sense? I have a sudden feeling that I may be trying to post while incoherent from too little sleep.


laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)

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