Recently, I have been reading a lot more femslash than I used to in my quest to read better fanfiction. And as a queer woman, you would think that I’d ship more femslash pairings. You’d think that when two female characters spent any significant amount of screen time together, my brain would immediately go to all kinds of happy slashy places.
Regrettably, though, that is not what happens. Well, not all the time. I started noticing that I was more drawn to certain female ships than others. In an article discussing the AO3 census, Luce mentioned that most male/male slash fanfiction pairings are usually either friends or rivals. I tend to gravitate toward femslash pairings where the two characters are rivals like Swan Queen (Emma Swan/Regina Mills from Once Upon a Time) but when two female characters are canonically good friends, I simply can’t ship them. It’s so rare to see good female friendships—or female relationships of any kind—that I feel the need to protect those relationships.
Not long ago, Luce also discussed some theories as to why there aren’t as many femslash pairings as there are male/male slash pairings. And I started wondering if maybe not being able to ship female friends contributes to the lack of femslash in fandom.
While looking for Teen Wolf femslash, I asked myself why I didn’t ship Allydia (Allison/Lydia)—they were both dynamic, well-written female characters who shared a lot of chemistry and screen time, after all. I ship them now to some extent, largely from reading good fanfiction and in general becoming more exposed to the pairing, but before that I had never thought to ship them, and I eventually realized it’s because they are friends.
Although there is a large supply of male characters and male relationships in pop culture today, there are significantly fewer female characters and female relationships in the media. This is why Disney movies like Frozen, Lilo and Stitch, and Brave are so important, because these movies actually portray a relationship between sisters or a mother and daughter in a real way. A realistic portrayal of familial relationships between women is hard to come by, but sometimes it’s even harder to find a realistic portrayal of female friendships. Because of this I find myself less likely to ship two women who are friends. I’m so pleased to see a decent female friendship portrayed on TV that I become protective of their friendship.
When it comes to slash fanfiction (m/m fanfiction) I have seen many men, both online and in person, complain about how they feel that slash fanfiction demeans male relationships. Now we constantly see male relationships in media, but that doesn’t mean that those relationships are necessarily portrayed in a real, relatable, and non-stereotypical way. So when a male friendship emerges that men can really relate to, it can be upsetting to see a complex friendship turned into a romance. But usually when men raise objections about this happening in slash fanfiction, they are put down as simply being homophobic.
However, considering that the majority of fanfiction writers are women, it would make sense that
women might want to protect and uphold good platonic female relationships that are portrayed in media, the same way that men are defending what they view as good male relationships. So maybe one of the reasons there is so little femslash is because maybe, subconsciously or not, female writers don’t want to change what they see as positive female friendships. That’s not saying that those female friendships can’t result in awesome femslash, or that they shouldn’t result in good femslash. There is no reason for female friends to remain platonic, in or out of fanfiction, but maybe female writers are simply less likely to ship female characters because they are just so happy to see a decent female friendship on television that they don’t even think about the romantic possibilities. There are many possible reasons why there is significantly less femslash; this is just one more to consider.