Some of you have seen some of this argument already, and some of you haven't, and my feelings about arguments made on both sides are mixed, so I'm going to start with a recap and continue with tons of exposition. Those of you who haven't skipped out already, please bear with me.mamadeb
posted a complaint
about Yuletide signups going live on Sukkot, a Jewish holiday. I read her tone as intended to be humorous, in a passive-aggressive way, but other people--including several on her friends list--read it as accusatory. She's said in comments that she didn't intend to accuse the Yuletide mods of deliberate malice, just carelessness. In the comments, but not in the original post, she also expresses a wish that the ficathon had a "more neutral name." In addition to the arguments in her comments, her post got picked up by Fandom Wank
I am disturbed by some of the objections to mamadeb
, and particularly by the nature of some of the responses on Fandom Wank. I'd like to make it clear that I'm not bothered by people who disagree with mamadeb
's initial complaint. I do not, in fact, agree with her complaint about the timing of the signups. The signups were pre-announced and there's a two-week signup period with no penalty for signing up late in the period or reward for signing up early. The signup period is two weeks long precisely to allow people who have conflicts during that a period a long enough opening that they can find time to sign up.
I also do not criticize people who read Mama Deb's tone as accusatory; as I said, I read it as intended to be humorous, but also, as I implied by "passive-aggressive," as not quite coming off that way. Several of her initial commenters suggested steps she could take to make sure Yuletide nominations didn't conflict with Jewish holidays in the future, and her dismissal of all of these did indeed rub me wrong.
Finally, I do not agree with her dismissive attitude towards paganism and Christian holidays in the comments. She's not the spokesperson I'd have picked, and I am probably not the one she would have picked, but nevertheless I am speaking out about the few items on which I do agree with her.
I am disturbed by the number of people who disclaim a connection between the term "Yuletide" and Christianity, or for that matter between "Christmas" and Christianity; by the initial Fandom Wank post's cavalier attitude towards the possibility of a Jewish complaint; and by the outright anti-Semitism from some of the Fandom Wank commenters. (Yes, I know, they're Fandom Wank. They're still part of fandom.)
- Yuletide and Christianity
I am aware that "Yule" was originally a pagan term and it has been reclaimed by many neo-pagans for the winter solstice holiday. However, for several centuries now, it has been associated with the Christmas holiday, and the name of the Yuletide challenge is taken from a Christmas carol. I realize that for many people in the West, especially but not exclusively Christians, Christmas has become a secular holiday because it is associated with their national culture (hi, guys, I've been in the UK in December, you cannot convince me I am being American-centric here) and because it is recognized as a holiday by their secular governments. I know Jews and members of other religious minorities in the West who are not bothered by the terms "Yuletide" or "Secret Santa" and who have Christmas trees (and who set up huge fandom-crossing obscure fandom ficathons!) and who distinguish the cultural practice of Christianity from the religious practice of Christianity. I am not one of them, partly because so few Christians seem to have an understanding of Christianity as a cultural practice, or the ways in which they receive the privilege of a cultural default, even when they themselves are not religious or choose atheism or a different religion. Why should they have this understanding? Privilege is the headache they don't know they don't have.
I am going to be very explicit about this: I'm not just talking about this ficathon. I'm not asking for the name "Yuletide" to be changed. I think that would be a huge headache, to begin with, and at this point I even have positive associations with the name, because of my happy involvement with the challenge. But I am saying that "Yuletide"--whether in reference to this challenge or in general--is not nondenominational. It is not religiously neutral. It is not broadly inclusive.
And really, the important part of that last paragraph for me is the "in general." This is not about an attitude specific to fandom. This is about an attitude in the cultures from which Western media fans come.
And the amount of resistance to this concept--that Christianity is not everyone's default and it is not a neutral position--is what disturbs me in many responses.
- I get the sense in this thread that some people think it's not really anti-Semitism if it just affects some Jews, not all of them. To be quite honest, this seems to me about the same reasoning as saying that forbidding French schoolgirls to wear veils isn't anti-Muslim because it only affects the really devout ones, or that forbidding black women in public offices in Florida to wear braids or dreads isn't racist because some black women like straightening their hair.
No, not all Jews turn off their computers on the Sabbath or on Sukkot. I don't. But that doesn't mean I am unaffected by the mockery of traditional Jewish customs.
- Several of the comments on Fandom Wank, including the original post, were not so much anti-Semitic as Christian-centric. This is still, frankly, a problem. An inclusive society depends on recognizing that others are not like us and that their communities, folkways, traditions, and identities are valuable to them and innately worth preserving. The failure to realize this, or to recognize specific instances of exclusion, is privilege in action; it is generally motivated by ignorance rather than malice, but the ignorance is still hurting other people.
Comments I would place in this category include:
- If mamadeb is so upset and bothered by Yuletide signups beginning on Sukkot (and Yuletide's name), why is she even bothering with Yuletide?
If it bothers her that much, then why be a part of it?
As at least two subsequent commenters did point out, it's not unreasonable to criticize an institution which excludes you.
- Uhm, just curious, does anyone know why mamadeb has an issue with the term "Yuletide"? (No sarcasm, I really do want to know.) and several of the responses, expressing disbelief, contempt, indifference to the exclusion of Judaism and other religions, and--this may be my favorite--the idea that since the Christmas carol the challenge name came from was originally a pagan Welsh hymn, it's not really Christian, even though Wales was converted to Christianity in about the fifth century of the Common Era (a fact I found by about five minutes' Googling, and if you don't know what the Common Era is, you too can Google to find out) and the hymn has been used as a Christmas carol throughout the English-speaking world for at least two hundred years now.
- ETA 9:17pm: I'm leaving this up because people responded to it, and it affected my mood, but mayatawi offered an explanation for the exchange here, so I retract the accusation of anti-Semitism. I still think the conversation was ill-advised, but I don't think there was any malice involved.END ETA
Comments which passed right over Christian-centric to anti-Semitic came up in this thread:
panthea: Uh, at a guess... because most non-Jews have never even heard of Sukkot, let alone know when it is?
Mamadeb waved the same persecution flag when sign-ups for the Muskrat Jamboree (tiny tiny slash con in Boston this year) opened on... some other Jewish holiday. I wanna say Rosh Hashanah, but that's just because it's fun to say.
mindset: My non-Jewish boyfriend's favorite Jewish holiday is Sukkot, just because he enjoys pronouncing it "suck it". He is a great big silly. :)
Do I have to explain what's wrong with this? Do I really have to explain what's so insulting about someone not just saying that Jewish holidays aren't well-known in the West, but implying that they're not worth knowing? Do I have to explain why it's exoticizing and insulting and just generally not okay to make fun of the name of Jewish holidays, or to take a holiday name and turn it into a sexual slur/insult? Do I really, really, really have to explain why someone saying "Suck it" instead of "Sukkot" isn't being a great big silly, he's being an asshole, and so is the person quoting this with approval?
Do I really?
ETA 9:17pm: mayatawi offers an explanation for the exchange here, so I retract the accusation of anti-Semitism. I still think the conversation was ill-advised, but I don't think there was any malice involved.