Monday, March 7, 2011

History: You Say Girl Like Its A Bad Thing

Some fans are very aggressively anti-feminine in the kinds of activity they deem as acceptable from their heroines. These fans see overly "girlish" things, like pretty clothes, make-up, or cooking, as being to the detriment of a truly effective heroine. You Say Girl Like Its A Bad Thing was the classification of these debates among fandoms.

This sentiment can be reasonable in certain respects. Take cooking as an example- a "masculine" cook is often seen as an expert figure full of good advice on a wide variety of situations, particularly if he retired from another cooler job. A "feminine" cook is just subservient. Of course, all of this is just perception- it's perfectly plausible to write a masculine cook who's a blowhard, or a feminine cook who's cognizant of personal relationships to a far more impressive degree than anyone she cooks for. The problem with You Say Girl Like Its A Bad Thing was that it did not accept any kind of nuance. Most of the write-up and examples appeared to be specifically designed to provoke people into attacking anyone who did not like overly feminine heroines.

Well, there was that and the title. The reason I became aware of this page in the first place is because it was challenged in the Trope Renames forum. The logic behind the title was that some members of the fandom were using "girl" as a curse word- logic that no doubt made a great deal more sense to whoever made the original write-up. This title was clunky and nearly impossible to find using Title Search (even back then there were a lot of tropes with words like "girl" or "bad" in them). It couldn't be used naturally in a sentence. And worst of all, it sounded like an argument. To many of the people involved in these debates "girl" was, indeed, a bad thing, but they didn't phrase it in that silly a manner.

The page had a great many examples and was obviously popular. Once the forum thread indicated a strong consensus for doing something to fix this page, I decided to check the page's discussion to see if there had been any prior discussion, clarifications, or complaints, about what exactly this trope was about. I found an incredibly long, detailed discussion where people were debating the nature of this trope abstractly. Most of the discussants came to the same general conclusion- this page was far too divisive, and needed a significant overhaul to be somewhat doable. When I requested the wherewithal to make significant changes based on the discussion I received a prompt go-ahead- after all, I could hardly make things worse. I rewrote the description and examples to remove all the inflammatory, not clearly cited elements, and fully renamed the trope to Real Women Wear Dresses, reasoning that the metaphor was more understandable. This title was then re-renamed to Real Women Never Wear Dresses, as I had forgotten the "Never".

This is about the only trope rename I can recall where I started out in the forum, and then headed back to the discussion pages in order to determine the best course of page action. I can't recall doing this with any other pages. For most of them, it would not have been doable. You Say Girl Like Its A Bad Thing had an active discussion page because it dealt with the divisive topic of fandom opinions. Tropes that simply describe rhetorical devices seldom have these kinds of debates in the discussion pages for the simple reason that you can't offend rhetorical devices.

Pragmatically, there were also logistical issues. The people who made posts on discussion pages were entirely different from those who made posts in the Trope Renames forum. I could hardly assume that the discussion participants had any idea what was going on in the Trope Renames forum. Having guessed that this was a page of much controversy, it seemed only reasonable to make sure I asked their pardon first, lest this change appeared to be an arbitrary one.

I received much pleasure from fixing complicated pages like this, because with controversial subject matter you always get the impression that solving problems is essentially impossible. In this case, a page was put in much better condition than it was before because people were willing to trust that I knew enough about effective page writing that they could fix my errors better than those of the monstrosity they were currently faced with. I found that this simple element - trust - is an essential one for getting anything done in the wiki environment.

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