Author’s Note: Before reading this, please make yourself familiar with the term “slut-shaming.” Thanks very much.
I decided to write this post on Knife Ink Reviews because even though it has to do with The X-Files, it’s certainly not just about The X-Files. This is something that crops up way more than it should, even, it turns out, in the fanbases of shows that are praised for having female characters that are more than props.
When I started becoming more involved with X-Philes on Twitter (for the uninitiated, “X-Philes” are fans of The X-Files), I was pleasantly struck by just how nice, supportive, and dedicated fans they are. That is still true. My opinion of X-Philes has not changed. You guys still rock.
What I was sad to see this morning is evidence of some of the grosser aspects of Internet culture having leaked their way into the fandom: in this case, slut-shaming.
I’m not going to name names, because that’s not the goal of this post and you can find out for yourself easily enough if you go on Twitter. What I want to do is talk about sexism, hypocrisy, and make a sincere apology to the actress who was on the receiving end of some pretty nasty comments (like I said, names are unnecessary, nor do they really matter).
When I was a young girl, a wee young lass, if you will, I asked my mother why it was acceptable for guys to go shirtless at the beach and girls had to cover up. I don’t remember what her response was – knowing my mother, it was very smart and sensible – but the question never left me.
Flash forward to years later, and here I am, witnessing the same sexist attitudes whirl around my favorite show in what seems to me to be an unrelenting firestorm of sexism, hatred, and stupidity. Let me explain.
For most X-Philes, the One True Pairing is Mulder and Scully. That’s obvious. And X-Philes are very, very passionate about their OTP. So much so that anyone who dares get in the way of Mulder and Scully had best find a very, very isolated home in the mountains and stay away from the internet in the interest of their personal safety.
Most of the time, X-Philes are passionate and have their hearts in the right place. I’m sure the same is true of other fandoms. We don’t want anything to happen to our OTP, so we get really, really angry when we hear news like this (even though we don’t know yet what Chris Carter has in mind, Philes, but that’s a conversation for another time). We get angry. We get defensive. We sometimes even get a little mean.
There is a smaller but equally passionate sub-fandom of Mulder/Scully shippers: those that “ship” actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, who, unlike Mulder and Scully, are very much real people. This is a tricky sort of thing to talk about because I don’t want to tick anybody off that hasn’t been saying any of the nasty stuff, nor do I want to blame all Gillovny shippers for the actions of a few.
I’m not going to pretend like I don’t have personal problems with the idea of “shipping” two people who are very much real. I, for one, do not have anything resembling interest in David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as a couple. I’ve always been more invested in their characters, and I tend to not delve too deep into the personal lives of the people behind the characters I love. I realize that’s not true for everyone, but for me it is. I just don’t care.
And because I don’t care to know about the intimate details of celebrities’ personal lives, I do have a bit of a problem with the idea of shipping “Gillovny” at all. Not with the people, mind you, just the idea itself. These aren’t characters. They’re real people. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are two gorgeous human beings with a lot of wit, charm, and chemistry. They’re sexy together. I’m sure they’re fun to be around.
And I’m sure that’s what a certain young actress was thinking when she posted a photo on the internet the other day – a photo of herself standing in between Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. All three were smiling and looked like they were having a great time. It was a cute pic.
As this photo circulated around Twitter, people began to edit the photo. They chopped the woman in the middle out, making it another David Duchovny/Gillian Anderson photo. Which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but the act itself was relatively harmless. Fine. Whatever. Have your OTP.
A line has to be drawn.
In an effort to figure out who this mysterious woman-in-the-middle was, some dedicated fans found her Instagram, where the photo had been originally posted, and saw another photo – the photo that launched a thousand ugly comments.
This photo was a picture of this actress wearing a bikini. At the top was a quote from David Duchovny’s novel. She’d tagged him in the photo.
That was all it took for things to get nasty.
Most of them were deleted, but a slew of comments on this Instagram photo called this actress nasty names. I managed to screenshot the one that was probably the tamest:
Curious, I took to Twitter, in an effort to hunt down more comments launched at this poor woman. There were a lot. But this was the one that got me the angriest, and indeed the one that I think encompasses most of the, ah, sentiments expressed:
First point. This is a great example of the hypocrisy I was talking about, and it also brings back the point I was making about shirtless men. I can assure you if David Duchovny had posted a picture on Instagram shirtless with the name of a woman tagged, there would have been no response like this. Why? Because it’s acceptable for a man to associate himself with a woman in almost every way imaginable without having to endure slut-shaming.
This actress is a “bitch” not because she said anything bad about David Duchovny, not because she publicly shamed David Duchovny, not because she did or said anything negative relating to David Duchovny, but because she posted a quote, correctly cited the source, which happened to be David Duchovny, and posted a picture of herself in a bikini.
She did not throw herself at David Duchovny. You, relentless, rude commenters that fancy yourselves fans of David Duchovny and, I’m sorry to say, “Gillovny” shippers, you threw her at David Duchovny.
The bullsh*t continued:
Oh I’m sure she’s now gotten used to people “telling her off.” Now that this crowd has gotten to her. As I’m sure most women in the public eye are. And here we go with the slut-shaming! This actress obviously has no talent because she has a nice body. She “gets ahead” because she’s a slut and a famewhore, not because of her abilities.
And as much as I’m sure David Duchovny appreciates this crowd “sticking up for him” by publicly slut-shaming another woman, I really don’t think tagging David Duchovny in an instagram post is going to help anybody’s career. Just sayin’. It’s entirely possible that, I don’t know, that wasn’t even her intention? How about maybe she liked the damn quote? And as for the picture, it’s not a selfie. She’s a model. That’s what she does.
Another point: even if most of the people making these comments are women – and I strongly suspect they are – it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a product of the rampant sexism that exists on the internet, especially in fandoms. And that is why crossing the line of fiction to real life in a fandom is dangerous; that’s why there is a huge difference between someone who innocently ships David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson and those who are aggressively and unhealthily passionate about it. As much as others might try to say it, shipping Mulder and Scully is not and will never be the same as shipping two real-life people.
We can talk about how it’s wrong to slut-shame anyone, fictional or non-fictional. We can talk about how the flack this woman is receiving could be compared to what characters like Diana Fowley received during the show’s run. You can treat this like a normal ship. But it’s not. When a real-life person is being slut-shamed and called everything from a skank to a fucking bitch to a whore in the name of The X-Files fandom, a line MUST BE DRAWN. Your OTP cannot be your excuse for saying harmful things to real people. Your OTP is not an excuse for slut-shaming.
Final words to the people involved in this scenario.
To the shamers:
Please stop. It’s immature, it’s rude, and I’m pretty sure David Duchovny wouldn’t support it. And it makes the fandom look really, really bad.
To the fandom:
Please just continue doing what you’re doing and be the nice, kind people I know most of you are. I love this show and this fandom, and we don’t need to participate in behavior like this. We’re better than that. Let’s remain that way.
To the actress:
On behalf of X-Philes everywhere, I’d like to say I’m sorry you were bombarded with comments like that. And I hope you had a blast with whatever role you play/played in the revival.
To the rest of the world:
As an X-Phile and a fairly decent human being, I do not support this. And neither should you.
You can read Knife Ink’s more frequently updated stuff on thereviewisoutthere.wordpress.com, an X-Files review blog. You can also follow her on Twitter. Warning: she pretty much just tweets about The X-Files.