Uh I can try. This might be rambling nonsense yooooo.
I think the idea of attraction and beauty is fascinating (and kind of hugely disturbing), especially as it applies to girls and how girls are marketed to. Girls are taught, pretty much from the time we’re toddlers, that we are not good enough. Not attractive enough. Entire corporations have been built around the idea of making ladies feel bad about themselves.
If you want a man to buy a car, you reassure him that he’s awesome and deserves awesome stuff to go with his awesome manliness. Women are told just the opposite. Whatever we look like, whatever kinds of bodies we have—we must be changed. We’re raised to believe we began life flawed. And, more disturbingly, we’re raised to view ourselves as men view us.
Women are constantly looking at themselves and each other as we imagine men would look at us.
So fan art made by girls, in my opinion, is a very important thing. It’s not conventional, obviously. It’s not generally accepted as legitimate art, or even art at all, partly because it’s copyrighted characters, but partly too because it topples the notion that men get to have a say in what ladies are allowed to look at. It’s a way for girls to reclaim authority over their own gazes. Fan art is how girls say, “I want to look at this and enjoy it for myself, and I want to enjoy it with other girls.”
But it’s more than that. Because plenty of things are marketed to ladies. Playgirl and Viva. Glamour magazine. Talk shows. Obviously there are lots of things marketed to girls that cater to the female gaze.
But fan art, along with fanfiction, is one of the few things where the content, which was originally marketed to the mainstream (by men and for men—and specifically straight, white men), is being reclaimed by women. There’s a power shift that occurs. What once belonged to men has been reinvented by women, celebrated by women, and shared among women.
I think that’s awesome? I’m sure my thoughts have holes in them because I’m replying to this message while eating cereal, and I am not a women’s studies expert like not even close. And I know lots of people say, especially about my stuff, “Well, it’s just copying photos, even for fan art. It’s not original. You’re not really reinventing anything if you’re just drawing a portrait.”
And that really misses the point. Because I spent time with what I thought was attractive, whether aesthetically attractive or emotionally interesting or otherwise, and that was my time. No one else had input. It’s like buying a product without buying the bullshit invalidating message that went with it.
And that’s why fan art is valuable to me? I made myself the sovereign of my own gaze.