There are so, so many amazing and beautiful things I could say about tumblr youth culture today, but here is a thing in it that has hurt me:
unironically feeling things is practically a crime. if you let yourself unironically feel things, you are immature.
especially unironically liking fiction, because stories are the height of immaturity (or maybe honesty and truth, but to be honest you have to be serious and to be truthful you have to be vulnerable).
being angry at the human race makes you an edgelord; liking something means you’re mock-worthy; being incredibly sad means you’re romanticizing mental illness; making one mistake means that you’re scum. making jokes about self-loathing, or about your “trashy” interests, these are ok, but being genuine about your feelings? that makes you a target.
and you know who this targets, mostly? mentally ill people, and children.
people with difficulty concealing and changing their feelings. autistic people who get unironically excited about their “problematic, trashy” interests. people with speech disorders who can’t keep up with the ever-changing vocabulary. abuse survivors who identify with fictional depictions of abuse and get told by the same people who dismiss it as ‘manpain’ that it should trigger them instead. borderlines who go into rage spirals and get told that they’re a 12-year-old edgelord. depressed people who identify with black-and-white weheartit pictures with sad quotes on them who get told that they’re not really depressed. trans teens who identify with the “born in the wrong body” narrative and get told that they’re not allowed to because it’s transphobic. questioning people who search for labels that fit them, for pronouns that don’t make their skin crawl, who get made fun of as “mogai tumblr”. gay kids who identify with stories where the lesbians die at the end.
and children. children who don’t know much yet, who are learning about the world, who need room to grow and learn and feel and make mistakes instead of being forced into yet another structure of social norms.
Here is another issue, and a related one: we are often not allowed to define our own experiences, our own narratives, in social justice communities or out of it. They take away our agency. They tell ace people who were raped in an attempt to change their sexuality that they can’t call it “acephobia” or “corrective rape”, that really we know better than you do and we know that it wasn’t that. They erase trans people who don’t fit into gender roles, or who fit into them too well. They call out isolated people who use slurs because they don’t know any other vocabulary. They tell disabled women who feel safer around disabled men than abled women that we’re derailing. They silence all of the people who try to talk about different experiences than the politically convenient. They take away our autonomy, and they tell us that they’re doing it for our own good.
I ran from bigoted people, who don’t take my experiences seriously because they’re politically inconvenient, into the safe embrace of social justice tumblr, where… my experiences still aren’t taken seriously because they’re politically inconvenient.
I want to ask: who decided which experiences are politically convenient? more to the point, why do we care more about politics and convenience than we do about humanity and truth and empathy and genuine communication?
To tie this into the rest of the essay: Why do we care more, when bullying children, if something is problematic, than if it has helped them, made them happy, saved their lives? Why do we force them into the narrative of embarrassing and gross and bad, instead of letting them tell us their feelings?
my friends told me that i was being super insensitive by talking about a game i loved (i was really excited because it was a game that realistically shows oppression and mental illness but they got upset and like “well idk it might help nts/cishets understand better but ew, why would i want to play that, that’s super triggering to people who went through it”, and, you know, i went through it thank you very much)
i really liked the game?? but i felt really bad now bc they didnt like it and i just. i feel weird bc there’s this idea that i Cannot Enjoy Fiction that i relate to bc it should trigger me, i should want escapism and fantasy instead of you play till the strings or your fingernails break and i wasn’t born good and things that i can relate to. i tried to say that this is my escapism, far more than a lot of stories i like, because i get to watch stories where the people like me get to have happy endings where they don’t get fixed, they get to be weird and queer and monstrous and happy because of it and not just in spite of it, but they told me that it doesn’t sound like they can enjoy it because it portrays oppression and abuse. they told me that i wasn’t allowed to reclaim it because i’m cis (and ignored the fact that there are two cis lesbians in the story AND the fact that, y’know, kit is also a person that exists and is currently co-fronting)
nobody said that we’re “not really oppressed” but the undercurrent was there in the whole conversation when they said “why would anyone want to relive the worst parts of their life in a video game tho” and “well i guess i can see why nts/cishets like it??” in that weird dismissive way that says-without-saying (like how you don’t have to touch someone to touch someone, you know?) that their response to this is the correct response and that anyone who reacts differently is clearly just a Neurotypical Cishet Who Doesn’t Understand Us Except Through Video Games, instead of a Crazy Traumatized Gay Who Understands Life Through Stories
i like stories that are about people like me who live in this world with all of the pain that entails, i like stories with happy endings but i also like stories with complex and sad and honest middles and there is this idea that i should not like stories at all (and that if I do, i at least shouldn’t be genuine about it, or unashamed, and they should be uncomplicated stories that don’t have the messiness of real life), and i am a writer and i am a person and i cannot live in this world without stories
i think there’s a quote about it that describes it well: “when reading stories, some people look for windows; other people look for mirrors.”
stop telling me that i look for mirrors because i like what i see in them: i don’t.
but even more than that: stop telling me that, when i look for mirrors, i shouldn’t like what i see in them.
i watch skins! i play video games with characters who are explicitly gay and trans and mentally ill and in christian conversion camp! i watch musicals where everyone dies at the end! i like stories with suicide and pain and trauma and survival!! i am not a neurotypical cishet trying to understand you! as a system, we are not cis, het, OR neurotypical! we understand ourselves through fiction and stories! they are very important to me! please do not imply that if we were ”really in pain” that we’d want to avoid it instead of trying to find people who are in similar pain that we can relate to! stories are very important and for us they are at their most important when they are stories of abuse and hallucinations and dysfunction and pain and confusion and friendship that somehow has a happy ending, instead of just cotton candy “we are so happy together all the time and we are strong 24/7 because we are a role model for young children” representation. i like RENT more than i like steven universe! i like hannibal because it is the story of psychiatric abuse and peer abuse and mental illness trauma, and all of the “ahaha look at the white dudes having Manpain” will never fucking take that away from me!
I don’t know. Maybe I’m being overdramatic. Maybe I’m making inappropriate comparisons. Maybe I’m trivializing oppression. Maybe I’m doing something wrong by pointing out that, hey, this is supposed to be better, but this doesn’t actually feel any different, you’re still laughing at vulnerable people you see as Acceptable Targets. Maybe I’m just saying this because I can’t read this without thinking of seventh grade, wondering if I’m stupid and embarrassing, wondering if I deserve to die because other people have it worse, and clinging as hard as I can to stories because they were the only thing keeping me going and reassuring me that I’m not alone. Maybe I’m just saying this because I can’t write this without feeling like I’m back in fourth grade, running away at full-speed from the cruel laughter of my classmates, tears stinging my eyes.
no matter how much people look condescendingly down onto 12-year-old superwholocks, the fact remains that I refuse to be ashamed and embarrassed of the fact that my love of superwholock saved my life when I was twelve.
It has taken me years to say that, because it is social suicide, because it goes against everything about hating unironic, immature, genuine love of problematic things. But it is true.
But here is the truth: I loved superwholock. I was twelve. I am not embarrassed.
It saved my life; it made me happy; it made me feel things; it gave me a mirror of fictional people who are dysfunctional and surviving. I refuse to be ashamed of that.
No matter how many posts get made to mock 14 year olds who say “i’m a superwholock and i’m not embarrassed”, to harass them for years, to stalk and search for them after they’ve done everything they can to get away from this, no matter how many times this gets reblogged as a joke instead of bullying and abuse, no matter how long I had to make fun of my superwholock friend until she didn’t like it either just so that I wouldn’t be the next target, I will not be ashamed of being a child and liking things and surviving. I am still a child; I still like things; I am still not ashamed.
I like things. I get angry. I get sad. I see myself, and define myself, in stories. I talk on the internet, and I scream, and I cry, and sometimes I write 4-page essays on google drive defending this because I’m insecure and fragile, and then I post them on my blog and try not to brace myself for the backlash. I feel things, and I like stories, and I talk about it, and I am a disabled girl, and I am not ashamed.
I am not an ~edgy twelve-year-old superwholock~ anymore, but when I was, I would’ve found it a lot easier to survive as one if everyone had stopped telling me that I shouldn’t care about my only sources of joy and happiness and hope. There is nothing wrong with being a mentally ill kid who likes things unironically. There is not even anything wrong with being a neurotypical adult who likes things unironically! There is nothing wrong with liking things, liking things is good, it makes you happy. You’re allowed to like things, even if people say that they’re bad things to like. If you like it, then it’s good.
Even more importantly: you’re allowed to feel things, even if people say they’re bad things to feel. you’re allowed to talk about what you feel. don’t let people silence you.