This past weekend (July 11-13), I attended DashCon, the first con exclusively devoted to Tumblr users (although not affiliated with Tumblr). Because of poor management by a staff that was well-intentioned but inexperienced, young, and lacking in resources, the con suffered a couple of major public calamities, including a desperate mid-con plea for emergency cash on their Tumblr site (which they received) that immediately became the target of contempt and ridicule by primarily non-con attendees on Tumblr and other social media sites.
The hostility of this rhetoric often conflated the organizers with the attendees, who were primarily female and queer teens, many of whom were local and attending their first con. The largest concentration of this rhetoric is the Dashcon tag and user reblogs spread it quickly; one early Tumblr post – reblogged over 67,000 times – characterized con-goers as “white kids in flower crowns rioting for the anti-sexualization of women in media while holding panels about homoerotic subtext.” Comments on other social media sites like Jezebel swiftly adopted this derisive tone, describing attendees as “dorks who live in their parents’ basement” or “hormonal teenagers who enjoy drama way too much” in contrast to the “mature” fans on Tumblr “who discuss theories.” Such misinformed and misogynist discourse was accompanied by paternalistic horror about the possible exposure of teenagers to an informational 18+ BDSM panel.
As a counter to this discourse, I want to highlight some of the more productive social and cultural aspects and implications of the con. For attendees, it is a vital safe space for self-expression and community bonding, intellectual engagement, counseling, and social empowerment for attendees. In turn, the implicit discomfort and hostility directed at them reveals how this space threatens social hierarchies regarding, in particular, female sexual pleasure and knowledge, “feminine” cultural production, “mass” tastes, and non-normative sexual/gender identities and practices.
DashCon Discourses: Through a Feminist Lens | Antenna
The whole piece is well worth the read.
I want to draw attention to THIS. Dash Con’s management problems were many, HOWEVER the reason it ended up in the spotlight was pure sexism. The first posts criticizing the convention based on half-truths were immediately reblogged with nasty comments about ugh fangirls, dumb teen girls, and their girly flower crowns. If this massive disorganization had happened at a male-dominated con, I firmly believe no one would have noticed or cared much except those people there. But Dash Con was a convention run primarily by women with mostly women as panelists and mostly women as attendees. That meant they were already being castigated as incompetent, frivolous, and “the worst of tumblr” on Friday night before anyone knew any actual facts. Other male-dominated cons would have been given the benefit of the doubt, time to make explanations, and would have been put under less of a microscope. Dash Con is a searing example of the perfectionist tight rope walk that women are expected to do in our screwed up society — make any mistakes and our culture will turn on you to broadcast every mistake. And maybe we’ll just add some totally made-up stuff in there too. Don’t step out of line girls. Leave cons to the boys.