Today’s guest post is by aca-fan Kristina Busse. She is the co-editor of the journal Transformative Works and Cultures and blogs at ephemeral traces.
My name is Kristina. I am a mother and a fan.
On my blog I have a variety of designators I use to try to articulate my identity–academic, teacher, wife, expatriate–and yet none of these may get as close to the center of my being these days as the two with which I started this essay. And maybe none of the others are as contested and in as much constant turmoil as these two. Oddly enough, I took on both these identities nearly simultaneously–I fell in love with my son Gabriel and with Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) at about the same time over long nights of extended nursing. It wasn’t that I hadn’t behaved fannishly in the past–the fannish gene reveals itself in different ways at different times and my fannish engagements had mostly been both more private and less creatively oriented. But my entry into fandom proper, and media fandom to be exact, coincided with my entry into motherhood.
And I found that both were strange new worlds indeed. Not worlds that can always smoothly coexist, although for me personally each of those realms have allowed me to balance and manage the other. Life with newborns and even toddlers (especially the highly difficult variety that my firstborn turned out to be) can be immensely isolating. Living in a city as I did where I knew no one, the Internet was often my one connection to the larger world. Moreover, the asynchronic conversations of email and blogs as well as the global, multi time-zoned aspect of online fandom allowed me to talk to people when I was able to find the time–be that at three in the morning or three in the afternoon, whenever the kids were asleep or otherwise occupied. This is not an unusual experience and, in fact, many a mommy blog has been created and found an audience for these very reasons.
Online fandom, however, is slightly different. I didn’t follow my fellow solitary and isolated moms as they turned to one another, via blogs or newsgroups or bulletin board, as groups revolving around the ages of their kids, parenting philosophies, or particular challenges. Those moms are sometimes chided for spending time on the computer rather than tending to their kids but they still focus on their children, thinking and talking and writing about them. I however had the gumption to be selfish and occupy my time with things that were for my own pleasure and leisure only–even if my fannish pursuits did give me balance and refuel me to better deal with motherhood.
Janice Radway, in her groundbreaking book Reading the Romance (1987), describes the anxieties and guilt many women romance readers experience for taking time away for their own enjoyment–and the small triumph and moments of resistance that pleasure can bring. Of course reading has long been a contentious issue–whether literacy and access was used to keep minorities in control (be they based on class, race, or gender) or its dangers were sexualized (there’s a long discourse that connects reading, especially among young women to masturbation as Thomas Laqueur suggests in his Solitary Sex ), reading has always been dangerous.
I found that my fascination with fan fiction, and with a culture of other women reading and writing stories about fictional characters, brought together a number of issues that were in direct opposition to my role as a mom: reading to and for myself, connecting to other people on subjects unrelated to motherhood, and at times discussing non child-appropriate topics all raised the stakes in the competition of my hobby competing with my sole socially sanctioned role as wife and mother.