Noemie B 2022 Q&A: Diversity and Inclusion

[Note: There will be 3 Q&A posts total, covering all the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. Candidates were limited to 300 words per answer.]

How would you plan to help make the OTW a welcoming space for Black fans and all fans of color and continue the process of addressing the previously acknowledged “long-standing issues with racism in fandom”?

The OTW has started acknowledging and addressing long-standing issues with racism in fandom in the June 2020 statement. To recognize the importance of fans of color and to include discussions around racism in fandom, the OTW has started several projects.

For example, this month is Fanlore’s second annual celebration of Fandom in Color. Fanlore has asked users to help document the contributions of fans of color, bring attention to characters of color, and have discussions about racism in fandoms.
Additionally, many fans of color feel like the issues of race and representation in fandom have been repressed and silenced. Transformative Works and Cultures is preparing a special issue centered around Blackness in fandom studies. Their announcement recognizes that Black fandoms have been ignored and encourages submissions centered around Black people’s experience with fandom.
As a volunteer, I would want to support the repetition of such events and allow silenced minorities to express themselves and feel represented by the OTW’s projects. I want to be able to foster more discussions between users and the OTW’s volunteers to encourage users to participate in these events and give feedback regarding the role of the OTW.

On another note, the current Board of Directors has also appointed a Diversity Consultant Research Officer and is considering hiring a diversity consultant to increase the level of inclusion within the organization. I would like to help this project succeed so that issues related to inclusivity get identified and addressed in volunteer spaces too.

What will you do to combat the racist and transphobic harassment on the platform that has been a major issue for years and make AO3 a safe place for POC/trans people, to address the criticism that AO3 only caters to cis white sometimes queer people?

Any harassment, including racist and transphobic harassment, should be addressed. The Support and Policy & Abuse Committees are working hard to answer users’ requests and the OTW has started to implement some tools to prevent and combat harassment.

Users are encouraged to report harassment issues to the Policy & Abuse Committee, and to use existing tools (only show their works to registered users, enable comment moderation, delete comments, block users) to protect themselves. Policy & Abuse can take action in case the harassing content creates a hostile environment on the site, in cases of threats of violence, death threats, or suicide bait for example.

The Archive still has room for improvement, and different features are being worked on. Some features like turning off comments or blocking comments from logged-in users have recently been made available (May-June 2022 Newsletter). Features like blocking and muting users need to be explored further.

The Archive is not meant to only cater to cis white people and should try to be as inclusive as possible. As a volunteer, I would strive to help the Policy & Abuse Committee maintain and improve their response delays, so that users are heard and helped to the best of our abilities.

How do you propose to resolve the issue some archive users have that works are racist or hateful or otherwise problematic?

As stated in the previous Question & Answer (Q&A) post, Board’s role is not to monitor the content of the OTW’s projects.
By agreeing to the Terms of Service of the Archive, users agree that they “[…] understand that using the Archive may expose [them] to material that is offensive, triggering, erroneous, sexually explicit, indecent, blasphemous, objectionable, grammatically incorrect, or badly spelled.”The ToS also states that “Unless it violates some other policy, we will not remove Content for offensiveness, no matter how awful, repugnant, or badly spelled we may personally find that Content to be.” This allows for maximum inclusiveness of content and should not depend on any individual’s personal feelings.

I do understand that some users do not want to see racist, hateful, or what they consider problematic content. I am not comfortable with some works myself and do not wish to interact with them. But I understand that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and should be protected. All ideas can be considered offensive to someone, and it is not the volunteer’s place to decide whether some content is problematic or not. Silencing opinions we disagree with does not bring positive changes but is an open door to censorship.

However, users should feel safe and welcomed on the Archive. This is why we need to keep on working on possible blocking and muting features. Board’s role would be to support these future projects and promote regular communication regarding updates. In the meantime, we suggest that users try to use available tools like creating a site skin to mute specific works, series, or specific logged-in user’s posts (see post 22650 “Comment blocking is coming” on Ao3).

Are you in agreement with the June 2020 statement about addressing racism on AO3? What specific things would you like to see OTW/AO3 do about racism, and in particular anti-blackness, on the site? Are you satisfied with the pace of AO3/OTW’s actions so far?

I wholeheartedly agree with the June 2020 statement about addressing racism on Ao3 and in fandom spaces in general. So far, as stated in the answers above, the OTW has started several projects to promote the representation and inclusion of fans of colors. I would like to see the OTW continue on this trajectory and allow more different users and OTW members to bring ideas and suggestions. I think that people of color are the ones we should hear first since they are the best able to talk about these issues.
There is always room for improvement and I understand why some users might think that the OTW’s actions are slow. However, when it comes to sensitive issues like racism, I also think that we should all aim for progress while always staying mindful of our limits.

[Note: All questions from members and candidate responses appear in the form they were submitted and represent only the views of the individual who wrote them. Questions and responses are not endorsed by the Organization for Transformative Works.]