#‎AGDoCGotY
American Girl, keep giving us Dolls of Color for Girls of the Year.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why I'm an Outsider - Part Four: Halloween is for Jesus, or How Otters Offended a Nation

And then there were four. And the drama really started.
I was enduring the American Girl Fandom in August 2006 a lot better than I had been earlier in the same year. Firstly, AG Playthings was a up-and-coming board to counteract the super repressive fundamentalism of AG Fans. The mods allowed open discussion, and challenges to people's opinions. So I could talk about my sexuality, race, and faith a lot more openly than I ever could at AG Fans. (That is, at all.) And AG Over 18 was the LiveJournal based spot that we jokingly called the space behind the main school where the "bad kids" gathered to snark on bullshit, think critically about American Girl beyond the squeal and the buy, and watched Felicity and Elizabeth make out, and offered the idea that Kit had the possibility of growing up to be a fine young man.

I was starting to feel a lot better about being part of the American Girl Fandom. It didn't have to be all fundamentalism and controlled speech and "what about the children" in every corner any more. And the best part for me was how AG > 18 was just thriving. I had only thought we'd have a few people there, but we were so active and inviting. Quite a few people would join to feel a lot less pressure around them. It was a place where you could breathe deeply and not feel like you were walking on razor-blades to just talk about yourself and your dolls without getting fussed at for having such "unwholesome" things as naked doll ass, race talk, queerness, and hair streaks.1 We were passing around older AG pattern scans, snarking on things, making non-wholesome jokes, talking about things that mattered to us, poking at Emily being the English Friend of Molly, and becoming a community. It was a thriving community I'd help start. That was a very good feeling.

I'd made a lot of friends, especially on AG > 18. PNG (Persona Non Grata) was probably my closest friend of them all.2 We talked for hours. Not just online, but on the phone--to the point I ate up too many minutes on my phone plan and had to scale it back to avoid high fees. Around late July to early August, she said she'd like to send me early birthday and holiday presents. I accepted with glee--people sending me things! Wow! She went on the AG site to send me still-newish #26 in the Ready for Fun Meet set (because I was worried about the new one upcoming not being something I liked; I was right) and found Marsiol for cheap on eBay with her near complete meet set. And that's how Amber "Otters" Flynn and Marisol Luna joined up, doubling my gang in the course of a day. Only a few days later she also located and purchased Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who arrived very soon afterwards--within a week.

She...needed her hair did. So badly.
She wasn't my only friend either. In fact, the day before Otters and Marisol arrived, I'd met Colette and Inky, and we'd hung out in downtown Seattle. Not only was I making friends, they wanted to meet me!

They sat on a statue man's butt. We took pictures.
That September, I got a job--a real one, working for Nintendo Consumer Service. Nothing big, and likely not to last, I'd personally thought. It was basic customer service for the Nintendo DS--connecting it, troubleshooting, setting up repairs, etc. I did my training the first two weeks of October, started working right after my 26th birthday, and accepted that I would have to work over the holiday season--the reason I hadn't gotten the job last year was because I would be out of town over the holidays.3 My fiance was doing good in his college classes, and with me now having a job we were a little less boot at our throat for finances. I was doing well both in life and starting to do well in fandom.

And then Halloween came, and I pushed harder against AG Fans than I ever had before and blew things up.

Prologue: Not Such a Sweet Baby Face
Part One: Finding AG Fans, or How Periods are Bad For Children
Part Two: There's Fundies in My Fandom
Part Three: The Wicked Witch of Customizing and the Birth of AG > 18

I've tried to explain--and I hope I've been successful in these posts--about how fundamentally4 flawed the American Girl fandom was for me before I created AG > 18 and EofA and SailAway created AG Playthings. The main issue was that the conversation was being controlled by Christian fundamentalism and dominated by Christian and white and other privileges. Which made pagan queer black me very uncomfortable for all the having to bite my tongue everywhere for the sake of being part of a community.

One way to truly explain how uncomfortable several members made me is to stick to one member that stuck and still sticks in my head heavily as a horribly offensive person, even all these years later.

She went by the screenname Tra and also CoG, short for Child of God. Tra was a young, white woman--it was determined that she couldn't have been older than late teens at most--who had a decent amount of American Girls in her collection, around a dozen or more. That's not why I resented her. I don't resent people for the number--however few or many--they have as long as they show some variety in said dolls instead of a bunch of light skinned Classic Molds. No, what I resented was her disgusting bigotry, racism, anti-Semitic speech, and gross fundamentalism.

She had  Kaya and Lindsey--Lindsey was the only Jewish Character out at the time. She then spoke at length about how they had eagerly converted to Christianity; how Kaya was especially happy not to believe in "satanic superstition" anymore and that Lindsey was glad that she had embraced that Jesus was the Messiah and that it was a shame that the Jewish people had "murdered him" in their blind ignorance. She had a #26 whose entire shtick was that she lived in some nebulous Babylonian-styled past era--represented by the wearing of Josefina clothes, yeah, I dunno--and was the daughter of one of the many concubine-wives of a king who insisted that the population worship him as their god and accept his "adultery." But you see, #26 and her mother had received the truth about Jesus and were hidden Christians and so scared that if the King-God found out, he'd have them executed for treason against him as their god, it's hard out here for a Jesus follower. With the exception of Kaya and Perscution Complex, almost every doll she had was white, and a majority were blond, blue eyed, and Aryan--and she used that word truthfully and without remorse.

She ran another board called "The Uncensored Christian American Girl Board"--AG Fans wasn't Christian enough because some people there were known to be atheist and the unofficial (but not heavily enforced) rule was to minimize your talking about any religion, which was as good as enforcing atheism in her eyes. Her board claimed that it meant not having to censor your religion in order to not offend the atheists and sinners. Which mean that it was basically Christian supremacy. She claimed to encourage debate, if by debate you meant she railed against anything not her specific type of Fundie Christian--the sins of homosexuality and abortion and how prayer wasn't in school anymore and would ban you for being queer if it came up. Abortion and homosexuality was wrong but they could just happen because God(TM) would eventually punish anyone who did either, and homosexuality was around at all because of the pagan religions--which were, of course, from the devil and wrong and sinful.

She said, when a discussion of race came up on AG Playthings, that "Aryan is a race" and "there's nothing wrong with the Aryan race" and said that the widespread offering of blond dolls was a sign that American Girl was blessing white Christians by offering them so much. She said, in all honesty, that American Girl had enough representation of "non-whites" in history with Kaya, Addy, and Josefina and what the line really needed was every iteration of blonde and blue eyed girl they could make for true diversity. She believed that her involvement in American Girl Fans was her way of bringing the Word to sinners so that they would repent of their sin and follow Jesus as Lord. 

Have a shot of Marisol in her Folklorico Dress to get some of that taste out of your mouth.
I could spend this entire post talking about how terrible Tra was, but there are other topics to cover. She was an insufferable self-righteous holier than thou twat, and I don't care that she was a teenager when she was.5 She was a person that made me actually literally cringe every time I saw her post anything, because I knew it was about to be some homegrown fundie deluded Grade A Shit and that on AG Fans it would practically go wholly unchallenged until someone spoke up to a mod. At least when she or other bigots posted on AG Playthings, the mods (at the time) stepped back and let me and others go the entire fuck off on people.

But on AG Fans? She nigh went unchallenged, and so did all the other Christian-over-others stuff. Uncomfortable and angry, the black queer pagan woman was. So, so uncomfortable.

But back to me and Otters and what we did. Before Otters even arrived properly, I was 100% sure she was going to be pagan. I even went on eBay and ordered a small set of pentacles to make her one like the one I wore. Nothing complex, just the charm and the chain. And once she had it, I decided that I wanted to do a series about openly teaching about her faith and mine. I made her a set of celebration robes--simple black ones to start, that could be used for any ceremony. That September, before Mabon, I launched Otters Teaches Paganism on AG > 18 and AG Playthings.

The series landed!
The first episode was pretty modest. Otters talked about what paganism was, some of the tools used, and showed off my then modest altar that I kept on a set of basic drawers.6 It went over nicely on AG Playthings and AG > 18, and I didn't post it on AG Fans, because I might have been pissed at them but I wasn't stupid enough to go tits to the wall from jump. The second episode, Mabon, went over even better. The fact is (and was) that a lot of people didn't know what paganism was. Even if the series was only a small view of one eclectic pagan who was also a doll collector, it was insight that had never been done. It was educational, it wasn't rude to any other faiths whatsoever if I could help it, and it was just very, very polite and informative about what paganism is.7

The months went on. I went to another AG Fans meetup that October--but it was just me and another woman, so it was less a get together and more a two-person meeting at the now-closed Doll Museum. I spent a lot of time on AG > 18 and on AG Playthings participating in both communities. I was hardcore challenging casual bigotry and racism especially--and the bullshit statements that kept coming up. Like Addy was just unpopular because she wasn't as "cool" as the white girls, or she was too poor to have nice things. Or the idea that it wasn't bigoted to point out that white dolls were just "better" and "wanted" more, that it was perfectly fair that Samantha and Molly and Kit were getting nearly all the focus over the others.

And then.

There were threads dedicated to every holiday when it came up, and people would post pictures of their dolls celebrating the holiday. Threads generally were posted a week before the holiday's date and were never closed, deleted, or taken down--just a new one every year, so people could enjoy images. Easter, New Year's, Independence Day, Giftmas/Christmas--there was a thread for every holiday, and pics for it as well.

Halloween--Samhain8--was approaching. While Halloween was a candy and costume holiday to a lot of people, for me? It's a deeply religious day, the start of the Pagan New Year, the longest day of the year when the veil between this world and the Next is at its thinnest. The day to honor those who have gone before you. And a standing rule on AG Fans about religion was that it could be freely brought up during a holiday without too much shit. This one meant a lot to me because I had just lost my maternal grandmother that April, and I needed to share this one.

So I posted a link to the album on the AG Fans thread, complete with an image of Otters in her robes.

Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again.
The time passed. The post was not deleted or edited. Several AG > 18 members and AGPT members that were on AG Fans posted to say that this was a very good album and they couldn't wait to see more elsewhere. Some others said that they were pagan too, and it was nice to see another pagan.

And I I had a little spot of hope. Maybe I'd gotten through to someone. Maybe, after almost a year of knowing me and Addy and my still-small gang, they would accept this side of me. Maybe they could see that people like me were able to talk about themselves without being oppressed and could commune with them. I mean, it was working on AG Playthings, right?9 I was openly pagan and queer and black there and the fandom hadn't suddenly imploded into nothing. Maybe they would open their minds.

Yeah, right. 

The next day or so, a mod post went up warning everyone that they should save any images and album links they had from the Halloween thread, because it was going to be closed and deleted in three days. What? Really? This was new to a lot of people there. They hadn't ever, ever closed a holiday picture thread before--there were threads from last year still up. There were threads from longer than that still up. The only thing that had been different in this year's Halloween thread is that I'd posted an album and a picture about being pagan, openly. So the thread went down and was deleted, and anyone who had the ability to see could see that it was likely because of the pagan participating.

I'm sure that some people would consider posting what I did how I did "trolling" or stirring the pot or being an ass to a group that only wanted to keep things like they wanted. But the fact is and was and will always be that I have the right to talk about who I am. I shouldn't have had to fear posting about my honest, true faith in public in an American Girl community I had been part of for almost a year because most people were Christian and didn't like I wasn't. It's not paranoia when the people in charge are actually fucking you over.

I had posted about my faith, and AG Fans had lashed back. But they weren't done.

If anything, they were just getting fucking started.

Part Five: The AG Fans Revamp: No Pagans Allowed

--Neth

1 They weren't out yet by AG, so the fact that Bean's Sara had a blue streak in her hair was considered highly subversive.
2 Which is why when what happened happened, it hurt me so badly.
3 Shit I never have to do again, if I'm lucky. That work schedule broke Decembers for me for five years. 
4 Hah. [/Mrs. Krabapple]
5 She may have changed. If so, good for her. But I don't know her anymore and I don't care unless she shows up.
6 My altar is now a lot more complex and in need of sorting. 
7 It's something I really, really need to pick back up.
8 SOW-in. 
9 Well, it had been working. Give me time. 

19 comments:

  1. ...Good golly...

    Every time one of these goes up, it makes me concerned about the rest of the fandom... but this one is especially "wow".

    I... just... how? *is a cross between speechless and wanting to word-vomit four paragraphs about why what you have described here is particularly sucky--because of time constraints, I'll just stick to the speechless*

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  2. WOW. That is some bad shit going down. You're a braver woman than I to keep going in the fandom. I'm sure I would've gone into the doll closet in a big way to avoid someone as crazy as this Tra creature.

    On a happier note, YAY LINKS to Otters Teaches Paganism! Thank you so much! I can't wait to dive into these!

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  3. This is awful :( I 'm speechless.

    I did chuckle at the Marisol photo caption. Yup, I needed this photo after reading that aryan fuckery.

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  4. Terrible but not altogether surprising. I'm in a bunch of groups in Facebook and some of the comments can kill me. People will just say that Addy isn't popular and my response is always, "But why is that so? Is it because AG doesn't give her and Kaya and Josefina the same advertising space? Is it because we have messed up views in society as a whole? Is it because...um...I don't know...racism?" Ding ding ding. We have a winner.

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  5. So sorry to hear of of your experience with the close-minded assholes. Passive-aggressive bullies. All of them. That must have been so disappointing and soul-crushing. I really enjoyed learning about your faith, thank you for sharing. I would love to see more.

    LOVED seeing Marisol in her Folklorico Dress. Beautiful! It was definitely what I needed to put into my brain after reading about Tra.

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  6. When you started this series, I remembered Tra/CoG and thought I must have made up the 26 story in my head, to go along with the rest of the batshit. I shuder to remember. On a bright note, your Otters series really helped me, as I was exploring the possibility of stepping away from Catholicism, and showed me a bit more of what is out there, which I really did appreciate.

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  7. As an avid and long time lurker of all the popular AG boards (I'm a sucker for the juicy drama) I am curious about png. I think I have an idea as to who that was even. Will more of that story be revealed?

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    1. All will be revealed, even if I don't use that person's name--less out of any respect and more because I do my best never to use the names of people who hurt me that deeply.

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    2. *nods* I can respect that. I love this series

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  8. Beth Cady is cute but her hair is awesome. do Gotz dolls use rooted hair or wigs? how does her hair quality compare to AG?
    Leah

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  9. You're such an engaging writer Neth, but the events described are so painful to read because it reveals how much you suffered and hurt from this treatment. (The bright spot is Marisol in her Folklorico Dress! It made me smile! Did you sew it for her?)

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    Replies
    1. I did! I plan to take lots of pictures soon and show what I did.

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  10. Audrey (aka Aelindil)February 9, 2015 at 10:58 PM

    I've been going back over the posts from AG>18 from this time period ('06-'08) and they really did intentionally word those new rules specifically to exclude just paganism from their little cliquebox. What I mainly recall from back then and remembering was just how ANGRY it all made me. Like these people were using AG as a weapon against people, and I felt like I needed to yell until they heard just how unjust their viewpoint was.

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  11. I needed that pic of Marisol. Dear word!

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  12. *nods* I remember the fall out over you posting that album. It's good to see all these years later you're still around the AG fandom. With no fucks given and no apologies to be had. Merry Blessings. I still have the doll sized pentacle you mailed me one year.

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  13. Ugh. Awful. On a happier note, Marisol's jalisco dress is lovely.

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  14. Ugh. Awful. On a happier note, Marisol's jalisco dress is lovely.

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  15. I think this was about the time I joined AGFMB. I am a conservative Christian (this is NOT how I was raised) but I wouldn't consider myself a fundamental and I eventually found AGFMB to be both stifling and fake. For the record, conservative Christians would not consider Mormons to be Christian because they reject the doctrine of the Trinity. The AGFMB admin being Mormon and pushing her Mormon beliefs around is what made me eventually leave AGFMB. (I wasn't allowed to post something on my Christian beliefs because they contradict the Mormon beliefs).

    I think respectful dialogue that goes two-ways is always important. Perhaps due to my upbringing (saying "shut up" equaled soap in the mouth, funny rule from very liberal parents) I find insults, name calling, and swears to be the opposite of respectful.

    However, from what I remember of your Otters series, it was very educational and respectful. I appreciate that.

    I always wondered what happened to you. It is very interesting to read your side of things.

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Trolling, pointless bigotry, and hating for the sake of hating will be removed, as will any post screaming "first" because no one cares. Cursing is fine, as I curse myself. I still expect you to act like you have home training. This is not a Free Speech Zone. I reserve the right to delete comments or tell you to piss off. You post, you stand by your words, and all the consequences of those words, even if that consequence is getting your ass handed back to you. Don't come in my space, spit on my floor, and expect me to call it a swimming pool. I can and will cuss your entire ass out. If I told you not to comment, and you comment, your comments will be deleted.

If you are under 13 your comments will be removed; you're too young to be on the internet unsupervised and you know it.