|Oh, Addy, if we'd only known what was comin'.|
It's not so much uncomfortable as it is frustrating to look back on and see the shit I went through for AG. So far it's coming out to a ten-parter that covers the two and some years. That's right, I somehow managed to make myself blacklisted on two boards in less time than it takes for a child to go from fresh-squeezed Moro-reflex making1 fleshlump to general walky-and-talky sprog. The hard thing about talking is that it honestly wasn't one or two major incidents that started the spiral down from me wanting to be part of the American Girl Fandom to throwing my hands in the air and going it alone (until recently). There's at least two big hard hits and one striking slap, but there were little things and trips that tipped me off from the start that I was dealing with no small degree of bigotry.
Now, I generally won't be using names unless I can recall them, and all names will be the e-name I have. So you know, if your bitch ass used your real name as your screen name, sucks to be you bitch, maybe next time you won't use your powers as weapons.There will be one major case where I don't use a name, but it's less out of politeness and more out of persona non grata, damnatio memoriae.
I'm sure there's a person or two that thinks that this airing out of AG Fandom's dirty laundry is cruel or unneeded. Some people believe in forgive and forget. Some people forgive but never forget. I am neither of these people. If the cut is deep enough, I neither forgive nor forget, because fuck that, that's why. The idea that I am obligated to forgive the cruelties inflicted on me because of reasons such as enough time has passed (but it's been years!) and being the "bigger person" is a load of bull shit. Redemption is a rare thing and not easily given to those who fall from my grace hard enough to leave imprints on the soil.
About the pictures: a lot of my pictures to break up the text blocks are pics that will be semi-relevant to the times covered in the post, but not exactly on topic. I don't have much in the way of screen shots from the boards at the time--partially because I no longer have access to the boards in one way or another. The internet archival of message boards that lock themselves down lest people see the shit spewed is sporadic.2 But I do have older pictures of my gang, and pictures help break up reading online. Plus you get to see how I started on my photographing of AG. I'll also be linking to new posts as they go up and editing older posts to add in links. That way, when this series is said and done, a person can start at the prologue and straight-shot through the whole thing, like a novel with a bittersweet ending.
Prologue: Not Such a Sweet Baby Face
As I've said time and time again to the point that the entire world should know by now, I got my first American Girl Doll, Aduke Firstarrival "Addy" Walker, for Giftmas 2005 in Colorado. And when I got back in town with her that January after spending the holidays and New Year's at my in-laws, I was ready to look for the American Girl fandom on line. Yes, I'd gone through the Baby Face situation and it had sucked. But I'd recovered from that. I'd even had to deal with a really shitty incident with a college roommate and her asshole boyfriend my Senior Year 1,3 but in the process I'd learned to become a stronger person and speak up for myself and push toxic people away as much as possible. Not only that, I'd found myself as a pagan. I was secure in my faith now--thanks to the Pagan Student Association at my college, I'd learned there was nothing to be ashamed of about being pagan and I wasn't going to feel bad about my faith.
I knew how the process worked online. There was a message board somewhere. Of course there was. There was a message board or mailing list or site for everything. There was one for people who were self righteous about being barefoot everywhere, there was one for Harry Potter for Grownups, there were oddly specific furry porn comics about inflation, there was data for up and coming Discordian-tinted Pagans, there was Gaia Online which was just anime chibi avatars that enjoyed talking about all kinds of things for gold, and there was one for college organizations that flooded my e-mail inbox still. Hell, I'd been a part of three different focused Pokémon message boards and spent some time on the HP Fan Fiction boards before the Cassie Claire4 thing got super weird. By Hermes's Guidance, He'd help me find one about American Girl dolls. I just had to look.
However, I wasn't going to be too out about my "weird" online. I had LiveJournal for that. I'd seen what being weird could lead to just by making goth dolls. But that was okay. Get in good first and then let the weird out in metered doses. I didn't have to come right out at the start and be openly pagan-queer. What mattered was that I could meet new people. There had to be more people my age in AG fandom instead of me being the only mid-twenties girl in the group like in Baby Face. There were mostly people my own age in the My Little Pony Fandom, and I'd made it a long time--internet speaking--at MLPTP (My Little Pony Trading Post) and MLP Arena. I was twenty-five years old and ready to join a new fandom.
I hit up Google--now our premiere search engine--and pulled up "American Girl Fans Message Board." Jackpot. I read the rules--no cursing, no offensiveness, etc., etc. Which, you know, I could do my best not to let every third word in my post be damn or motherfucker, that's what I had my ElJay for. I signed up--I've had my online name since I was sixteen back in the AOL dayz--and made an intro post about being new to the boards, being a black woman--I was going to be upfront about that--and that I was living with my fiance in the Seattle area. I liked writing, art, My Little Pony--Gen 3 was still in the upswing--and that I'd just gotten my first doll, Addy Walker, that holiday season. I got a lot of happy, polite greetings and many notes that people there were in my age range and many had even had dolls when they were younger. There were older people too--who mostly collected dolls after being introduced by their girls or introduced their children to them or got a random catalogue--but there was a healthy mix. I wouldn't be the only "kid" among grownups who claimed to know better. I could learn what I'd missed about AG between 1997 and now--I'd dropped out of news heavily before we'd even got Josefina, but I knew some things.
Alas, I seemed to have missed the obscure rule over the door: "Abandon all Non-Super Sanitized Topics and Alternative Lifestyles, Ye who Enter Here."
|The first step out into the depths of the AG Fandom.5|
It was a nice start to the year. The Year of Jess--and there was a lot of excitement about her being White/Japanese--and there was a lot of data and news about upcoming new shiny things and things that had been retired. I'd missed some outfits for Addy--one of the heartbreakers being the lamp and needlework kit and the the garden stuff I'd cherished as a kid, argh. And I'd just come up short for Marisol, who appeared gorgeous--but that was a later goal, right? They'd made Nellie--I'd always liked her better than Samantha--and Elizabeth, who I was disappointed to find had been changed to blond. But they'd opened stores--actual physical stores!--and they were opening a new one in LA soon which was the closest to me at the time and there were movies and the modern clothes looked so pretty and I now had a wishlist! I could deal with odd birds as long as I could get news and data and commune with collectors. I didn't even know there was a Girl of The Year thing and only vagely knew about Kaya, Kit, and Josefina after getting their books from HPB. And the moderns didn't come with writing books anymore. But god, these new modern dolls were gorgeous. Especially #26! And the majority of people seemed nice. I'd deal.
So deal I did. I posted pictures of how I'd curled Addy's hair with sponge rollers, taken with my new digital camera. I tried light photostories, which was the idea of telling stories with your dolls posing in albums, most of the time uploaded to ImageStation who made it easy. I got a new sewing machine and set it up and started drafting and designing doll clothes from patterns myself--I got books upon books of historical fashion, which was a passion of mine. I grabbed chunks of patterns and edited them to be a little more accurate to the style of the 1860s, and I started crafting outfits for Addy both based on what I couldn't get anymore from AG and because it seemed like they weren't ever going to give her nice things in lieu of throwing everything at Kit, Samantha, and Molly--including the gorgeous Jump Rope Outfit7 which got lots of compliments. I made friends. I even offered the idea of using braid spray in doll hair as spray-in conditioner--since it was the same stuff I used in my braids--and it came off great! People listened to what I had to say, and they liked me! I was part of a community, and it felt good.
|If we'd only known, Ida Bean.|
Not much later, I got a mod PM. Oh, shit what had I done wrong? Had I done anything wrong? Had I left a "damn" in my post? Please gods, don't ban me, I'll be good, just warn me and I'll walk off with my tail between my legs and do better.
I don't remember which mod told me, but she told me that my short version was "appropriate" for the board but the one posted on my journal wasn't, not even to link to. "Children don't need to know about a lady's monthlies," was the gist of the lecture. Furthermore, I wasn't supposed to link to any sites that could lead to "unwholesome things" or bad topics, and Livejournal was on the bad link list along with Google--Google?--and some others. We weren't even supposed to tell people to Google something cause they might get something they don't like in a link. A rule of thumb, she chided me, was that I should think like an eight year old girl. If what I said wasn't proper to tell a "good" eight year old, it wasn't proper or innocent enough for the board.
I was confused and offended--I hadn't said anything that bad! A eight year old girl should know about menstruation, at least in the fact that her mother likely had a period, right? I knew about periods when I was eight because my older sister had her period by then, and I'd read a lot of books on biology when I was in school and periods were something that came to most women. And furthermore, I knew that COPPA had come in well over five years ago and that there shouldn't even be an eight-year-old left alone on a message board that would wander unsupervised! But--I wanted to stay. So I complied. I thanked her for clarifying the rules, and said that I would do better next time. I was still very new, and I'd made friends and I didn't want to lose them. I still felt terrible and chided needlessly, but board rules were board rules.
Then I got another PM. I think it was Bean--BeanBunny, who became one of my oldest homies on the net in the AG fandom. The reason I'm sure it was her was because she told me that yeah, Livejournal was banned for their ability for a child to surf to things that their parents might not want to talk about. Her doll journal for her doll Sara was even banned for being on Eljay, and it wasn't offensive at all--the whole site was just flat out not allowed. Basically, it was good to keep my head down and play it super sticky safe. But there was a community on LiveJournal, and I might find some kindred spirits there.
I had no idea until I posted my Addy story, but the glurgy crap of what I had exactly signed up for when I'd joined AGFMB was just about to come at me, and it was going to be sprinkled with Jesus jimmies and fundie flakes.
Part Two: There's Fundies in my Fandom
1 I shouldn't like the Moro Reflex as much as I do, but the fact is one of the most amusing things to me. I'm going to be a delightful mom when I startle my kid to take pictures of this one.
2 This was one of my major motives behind AG Collectors being public and open.
3 I arrived at Texas A&M Fall 99, and got my degree in Spring '04 after sitting out a semester. So I had two senior years, and I am class of '03. So there. Not many people nowadays finish college in exactly four years.
4 I was actually there when that plagerizing thing went down. It felt...odd.
5 A lot of these pics are at my first apartment in Seattle.
6 Topics to tear into later.
7 Crafting Creatively is coming. This is not an outfit to skim over.
8 I've linked it so many times here. That's the DW post, but I ported all my posts over so. I posted the edited one when I joined the AG Community on Eljay that later died a wander-off death; the link leads to the "clean" version.