alias_sqbr: She's getting existential again. It's ok I have a super soaker. (existentialism)
[personal profile] alias_sqbr
There is a lot of fandom meta which says "We in fandom [do or think X]" even though huge swathes of fandom don't do or think X at all. In my experience, when pressed the author will say that what they actually meant is that there is a trend of X, or that their part of fandom does X, or that they personally think X and it seems obvious that everyone else does too from their behaviour, etc.

Since I find this kind of meta incredibly annoying I've tried to avoid it myself. This has been surprisingly difficult.

If I'm just summarising opinions found in other people's meta then I can refer to it as "common in the parts of fanfic fandom I hang out in" etc and know I'm not overgeneralising. But if I want to make an original point about an epiphany I've had about The Way Fandom Works then it's much harder to be specific about the group to which this epiphany applies.

In fact, until I get confirmation from other fans, the ONLY person I can say for sure it applies to is myself. But "this is how fandom works for me" feels much less worthy and interesting than "this is how fandom works for everyone", even if I focus on those parts of my experience which seem fairly universal and include other people's POVs where I can. Are my autobiographical ramblings really worthy of a long essay and being crossposted to [community profile] month_of_meta etc?(*) I usually ask my commenters if their experiences are similar, and they often agree (possibly with some caveats) but it still feels...weird.

Note that speculating on the motives of others or about large scale trends isn't without value, as long as it's labelled clearly as speculation and the author takes a moment to think about and mention possible counterexamples. Though I do think that anyone speculating about groups to which they do not belong needs to be very careful.

One reason I get so het up about this (beyond constantly falling through the cracks of other people's meta as a femslasher/cartoonist/video game fan etc) is my background in maths, where a single counterexample is enough to scrap an otherwise valid theory. I realise that my obsession with caveats makes my own meta long winded, and still cut out a bunch of "mostly"s and "I think"s for clarity. But while some fandom overgeneralisations are like "All primes are odd" (true modulo a caveat or two, arguably ok as a rule of thumb) others are like "All odd numbers are prime" (seems plausible based on a small local sample, actually VASTLY WRONG) The former rub me the wrong way but have merit, it's the latter I would like to see less of.

The post that finally got me to write this up was Meh, reading stuff about how “we” love Darcy which makes similar complaints (actual linked proof it isn't just me! :D)

I know other people find the kind of overgeneralising I'm talking about annoying. How do you avoid it yourself? Do you think it would be better for people to admit when they're talking about personal experience and make more of an effort at gathering evidence before generalising? How do we best make the jump from personal anecdata to broader trends without doing a massive fandom wide survey? (Not that there's anything wrong with fandom-wide surveys, but not everyone has the time or energy when they just want to write a bit of meta)

I feel like this MUST be a topic of discussion in, like, Rhetoric or Methods of Social Science or some other humanities subject. Especially since it feels to me like a lot of the problem is people trying to write Serious Sociological Essays without the academic rigour and sources an actual academic essay would require (not that Actual Academic Essays on fandom are immune from the problem, the few attempts I've made at reading TWC were very disappointing and made me wish I was up to writing Serious Sociological Essays myself. But since I'm not, you have this. THE END)

(*)As you can see I got over this angst to some extent ;) I didn't realise I was going to be right at the start of month_of_meta when I wrote this but I guess meta on how to meta makes for an appropriate starting topic!

EDIT: Since at least one person hurt their brain trying to figure it out: The non-odd prime number is two :) Some examples of non-prime odd numbers are 9, 15, 35 etc. SORRY FORT THE MATHS IT'S LIKE A SICKNESS WITH ME.

Date: 2013-05-01 06:04 am (UTC)
littlebutfierce: (atla toph armored up)
From: [personal profile] littlebutfierce
For me, a lot of the generalizing seems to stem from privilege -- people talking about "fandom" & not even realizing that hey, they mean Western TV fandoms (& Western fans of such -- often specifically US American), or hey, maybe people in (for example) anime & manga fandoms do things differently. Sometimes this seems to stem from complete unawareness, sometimes just... an unstated assumption that things are the same. (Also the thing about, even w/in the same fandoms that people assume stand in for All of Fandom, hey, maybe POCs/women/queer ppl/other people facing vectors of oppression even experience Thing X differently!)

Like, I remember whatever vid going around ages ago that so many people were saying, "OMGGGGG ultimate fannish vid everrrrrr" or whatever, & I looked at the list of sources, & thought, right, this will say nothing about my fannish experience or the fannish experience of many, many fans I know, so thanks for projecting yourself onto me.

I would vastly prefer that people own their experience as theirs & as being shaped by their intersecting identities. Yeah, it's less satisfying to make than grand pronouncements about Fandom As A Whole (Or Even Most of Fandom), but yeah, you avoid stepping all over other people in the process.

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Date: 2013-05-01 07:20 am (UTC)
sylvaine: Riza Hawk pointing a gun at the viewer with a fierce expression on her face. ([anime:FMA] Riza is badass)
From: [personal profile] sylvaine
Oh yes ALL OF THIS. I actually *am* in this main-stream fandom (and the parts that I'm not in - like, all of the western media usual fannish history, or half the fandoms that "everyone" seems obsessed with at the moment - I read enough *about* to still appreciate meta&vids&c.) but I definitely didn't start out here (mangas ftw!) and I am aware that Our Way Of Doing Fandom is not The Only Way. For instance, the idea that 90% of fandom is female: maybe true in this corner of fandom. But there's other fandoms, other sites where the opposite is true. Are people seriously going to say that's not "proper" fandom? (yes, of course they will. *sigh*)

My rather long-winded point is, this is good meta and you should feel good about it, and you're certainly not the Only one who would like fannish meta to be a bit more specific as to who is meant and a bit less exclusionary as to who is "really" part of fandom (and the latter is an unintentional implication, yes, but all the more something people should be aware of because of it).

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Date: 2013-05-01 07:43 am (UTC)
chordatesrock: The Punishment of Loki by Louis Huard (detail) (Default)
From: [personal profile] chordatesrock
Very interesting. I'm not sure what else to do when describing experiences without knowing whether or not they're universal. What do you suggest?

Date: 2013-05-01 07:47 am (UTC)
littlebutfierce: (kimi ni todoke question mark)
From: [personal profile] littlebutfierce
I guess my immediate question would be: why would you assume any experience is universal? I'm genuinely puzzled.

Date: 2013-05-01 09:33 am (UTC)
kerravonsen: map of Australia: "Home land" (Australia)
From: [personal profile] kerravonsen
The thing that I get annoyed about more is the assumption that everyone on the internet lives in the USA. Perhaps this used to be worse ten years ago, but I still bristle when I see it.

Date: 2013-05-03 08:52 am (UTC)
sylvaine: Dark-haired person with black eyes & white pupils. (Default)
From: [personal profile] sylvaine
Oh goodness I hate that one too. So much. (other continents exist, oddly enough! Who would have thought!)

Date: 2013-05-01 01:11 pm (UTC)
lea_hazel: Pride flag (Politics: GLBTQ)
From: [personal profile] lea_hazel
I couldn't do that even with a concentrated effort. Could you imagine?

"As you know, the majority of US superhero comics readers think Batman is vastly overrated, and consider Wonder Woman to be the obviously superior character."

I do run up against my own assumptions, and work hard to try and remember them: that I'm the only non-USian or ESL-speaker in a virtual crowd, to give a common example. Some fandoms are more difficult than others. My most recent two? Homestuck and Dragon Age both have an inordinate number of straight men in them. comparatively to other fic-rich fandoms. I can't demonstrate it, but I still feel pretty confident.

Sometimes when I read a tumblr post or meme prompt I think of the OP as "she" even if there's no reason to assume they're female-identified. Often I'll assume the writer is straight. To an extent, these are defensive assumptions. But, they still hold me back.

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Date: 2013-05-01 03:11 pm (UTC)
opusculasedfera: stack of books, with a mug of tea on top (Default)
From: [personal profile] opusculasedfera
This is really interesting. I wonder, would it be useful to start framing things more as "I have observed X in fandom"? It still creates a slightly misleading impression of fandom as a semi-unified whole, but saying that X appears to exist within fandom seems less flattening than saying fandom simply does X. Plus it leaves space for those fuzzy situations when you have observed something in a variety of fannish spaces and you want to point out that this trend seems widespread to you, without getting into every single possible caveat about fandoms you may or may not be familiar with. I feel like the framing of observation definitely gets one's limited POV across, and provides space for people to say, "but I have observed Y which contradicts you/coexists peacefully/represents an interpretation you have perhaps overlooked/etc." without necessarily feeling like one has tried to speak for them.

You can also go on from your observations to argue that you have also perhaps felt X yourself, and make further more auto-biographical comments, so it's not like it's necessarily a pose of objectivity or separation.

On the other hand, I also think having a ton more straight-up "this is how fandom works for me personally" posts would be great too, and that people really would be interested, so if fandom conversations shifted more to that framing, I think it could work just fine as well.

Date: 2013-05-01 03:24 pm (UTC)
hebethen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hebethen
It doesn't seem unreasonable to preface things with "from what I've seen", "my experience is", etc. A short note about one's usual fandom circles (past and present, active and passive) would certainly not go amiss either, and might allow one to write the main post without stopping to bring up any limitations/caveats.

Date: 2013-05-01 04:26 pm (UTC)
ithiliana: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ithiliana
This is me theorizing away based on my personal experience!

It's not just people in fandom: I think that the knee-jerk habit of universalizing is built into human beings (I admit I have NO evidence whatsoever for it)--i.e. we generalize from what we see, and often darn fast which makes sense in some situations, but rarely in regard to complicated cultural issues.

On a more limited scale: I think public education in the United States generally tends to emphasize the 'reach' for authority by making universal statements, so students come into college wanting to state things like "since the beginning of time" and "throughout history" and so on and so forth. Why not? They've been doing it, and gotten good grades (good enough to get into college). They've never been taught that the best arguments are limited and qualified. And add in Dunning Kruger (the less a person knows, the more they THINK they know--the more one knows, the more one is aware of how little they know), and you see a lot of people making falsely universal claims based on their own experience.

I agree with others that this tendency is going to be dominant in dominant groups--who are indoctrinated into the idea that they are the universal/default.

I spend a lot of time trying to teach my students in everything from first year composition (not so much anymore, but I taught a lot of comp for a lot of years) to their doctoral dissertations that less is more, that more limited and qualified claims can be much more strongly supported, and the desire to make a grand universal foundational claim (which as I understand it was a big part of Enlightenment theory)is a great way to end up flat out on one's butt with egg on one's face.

That said: the best example I have to hand right now is Helen Merrick's Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminsms:

From the last paragraph of her preface: "Thus my opening confessions, intended to contextualize what is a necessarily partial, situated and invested account of the nexus of feminisms and sf. If nothing else, this book might provide an answer to white I have found feminist sf so engaging. Hopefully it does much more, and reveals what all kid of feminist readers might find illuminating, challenging and inspiring about the production of sf feminisms" (v)

My overview notes for my students (relating to Chapter 4) on how she achieves that more limited set of claim and moves beyond universalizing her own experience:
Merrick is doing a cultural history: she says so right in the title!

Her cultural history focuses on a specific sub-culture (the science fiction community), in English-speaking countries (United States, Britain, Australia). The science fiction community is defined as consisting of the writers, editors, readers, and fans (with the understanding that some people can participate in the community from any of those subject positions—many readers of sf become writers or editors).

Her more specific focus is on women and feminisms in that community: this compound noun ("women" and "feminisms") is important to her argument because she wants to separate "women" as a group from "feminists" as a group in order to make certain arguments about how feminisms originated and developed in the science fiction community. She also wants to emphasize the plurality and diversity amongst both those groups ("women" and "feminsts.")

As an academic, she situates her topic in the context of relevant scholarship on similar and related topics, including the origins and development of science fiction and the sf community (since the 1920s), and the origins and development of feminist literary criticism (meaning, academic criticism), and, to some extent, in the context of the mainstream feminist movement and feminist theories.

By "situates her topic," I mean that she summarizes the scholarship on the related topics: academic scholarship requires showing the knowledge of other scholarship on the topic(s).

But she also writes about her personal experiences (with English as an academic discipline, with science fiction, with feminism) to emphasize throughout that her argument(s) in this book are partial, subjective, and incomplete (that is, she does not have the goal of giving a completely authoritative, single-universal, claim as to what feminist sf is, or what sf feminism is). Instead, in the best new historicist tradition, she attempts to tease out and show the multiple, overlapping, contradictory, diverse, competing ideas and texts relating to her topic.

One of the ways (methods, or praxis/practice) that she embodies that new historicist theory is by focusing on a wide variety of texts (from letters and fanzines, to academic monographs) by fans, by the writers and editors themselves (including not only their stories and novels but the anthologies), and by academics, and by focusing on materials from three different countries (which, as a number of you note, is unusual in moving outside the United States).

Her major arguments (so far) include the argument that:

Women were always present in the community of science fiction readers and fans and writers and editors;

Their presence was historically (and is still, currently) questioned and debated by the men in the community on various grounds, ranging from the impact of female characters in the genre (sex! and romance, not science), and the relative inferiority of women (in the community) to men in relation to science and writing and fandom activities;

"Science fiction" as a genre has been ignored by literary criticism (in general), and that mainstream feminism as a social movement *and* academic feminist literary criticism has also ignored the presence of feminist science fiction (and feminisms in sf);

The development of declared feminism in sf during the 1970s rests on a foundation of decades of activities and contributions by women (who did not identify as feminist) who wanted to create spaces for themselves within the community and did so in various ways (some of which can be described as proto-feminist and served as the foundation for the later feminist work);

There are different approaches on the question of how to talk about the sf produced by women and its relation to science fiction, and its relation to feminism:

One of these approaches can be called woman-centered or gynocritical: the works in this approach focus on any works by women as important. The assumption in this approach is that any text by a woman (i.e. note the emphasis on the author's sex) is important to read and think about, and perhaps celebrate.

A competing approach can be called feminist: the works in this approach construct definitions or criteria for what elements in the text (fiction, novel, criticism) can be identified as feminsts (which requires defining "feminism"). This approach opens up the possibility that male authors could write feminist texts since the theory rests on the idea of feminist knowledge. The Tiptree Award is based on this theory: men have won the award because the focus is on recognizing the works that question gender, not on celebrating women authors as a group.

In addition to the arguments that Merrick makes about women and feminisms in science fiction (which she supports by a range of evidence in different chapters), she is also presenting arguments on the best way for scholars to do this sort of work—i.e. she is making a methodological argument. This argument comes into clear focus in Chapter 4 and is exemplified in Chapter, but has been present since the preface (page 6) where she talked about her focus for the book, specifically "a number of the discursive communities that have contributed to the production of feminist sf: the sf field generally, proto-feminist and feminist fan communities, feminist sf critic, and feminist scholars of science and technology" (6). She immediately notes that all these discursive (or discourse) communities overlap to some extend except the last one (feminist scholars of science and technology).

What is a discourse (discursive) community? Good question!

A short definition that basically says a group of people who share similar ideas about communication (written or spoken), and assumptions about the topic that their community focuses on, as well as some common language. The example they give: "Computer Programming: Anyone unclear on the concept of discourse communities simply needs to listen to a discussion among a group of computer programmers. Clearly, this is a community that requires highly specialized knowledge, expertise, and a grasp of a complicated lexicon of terminology and jargon."

Here's a link to an "issue brief" on the National Council of Teachers of English (important professional organization for those of you who plan to teach):

This points out (in more academic language) the same characteristics as the short and simple one above--and provides additional information: that the term is rooted in sociology, and that there are criticisms of it, especially in regard to writing/discourse communities (including the fact that, like any category, it's inaccurate, and focuses more on similarities than differences, and ignores power hierarchies).

All of you belong to some discourse communities already: you just probably don't call them that!

This class is a discourse community in formation!

You belong to the discourse community of your major (or minor), and to the larger discourse community of "college student."

But your churches are discourse communities, as are your jobs (past, present, and future!).

Fans (geeks, nerds, etc.) are also a discourse community: here's the WiseGeek's answer (I'm liking this site the more I find stuff on it):

So, Merrick's argument is that if an academic is writing about women and/or feminisms in science fiction, the best method is not to focus only on the book(s) or other texts (games, comics, films), but on the fans and readers, the community itself, not through surveys/questionnaires (though such scholarship is done in some disciplines), but through close textual readings of the primary documents (which she's been providing), and interviews (which she did as part of her research process), as well as on the criticism produced (in fandom and academia), and, finally, on the texts themselves (though to a much less extent than the other types of evidence).

This chapter is key: Merrick argues that just working with the tools of regular literary criticism or even feminist literary criticism is not the best approach for talking about feminist sf because those methodologies (how to talk about feminist sf) remove the literature from the means of production (i.e. who is writing, who is editing, who is publishing, who is running cons, etc.), and from the community. She traces the development of literary feminist sf criticism, then notes the shift to cultural histories (like her work).

And, from my notes on her conclusion in Chapter 8:

Future Cabals: The conclusion!
*pause for cheering*
This section summarizes, briefly, the main argument(s) of the book and sets the ground for future work (by other scholars).
Your project for this class is meant to be a scholarly work (yes, I consider you scholars even though you are students—as far as I'm concerned, that makes you apprentice scholars!) doing exactly what Merrick talks about at the end here, filling in the gaps:
Each chapter could be seen as a preliminary survey, a potential nucleus for a myriad of other investigations into feminist cultural productions that could produce provocative reflections on mainstream (dare I say "mundane") feminist theory and criticism, as well as on the sf genre. So many untold stories beckon from the gaps of this book: histories of sf feminisms focused on alternative sexualities or the nexus of race and feminism, ; a detailed history of the women in fandom and their various communities; the transformation of the sf feminist "public sphere" through electronic communication; or the vital intersections between the ecofeminist movement and feminist sf (287).

And while I'll do a separate handout now that we've finished the book, expanding on this, I'd like to end by noting that what Merrick is talking about here (describing what she did) is something that I want you all to consider and think about as part of your methodology (how you write your projects):
1. Understand that "locations of publication are political" (Katie King, quoted by Merrick)
2. Understand how different types of publications from different locations construct different types of feminisms, with many different individual productions.
3. Different types of publications include: the literary texts and the meta-textual (outside the texts) discussions in academic and fan communities.
4. The field of sf is the location for these productions.
5. Feminists in sf have been able to model a close relationship between theory and practice, and criticism and activism, in ways that could benefit the mainstream.
6. Differences in the feminist sf community are constructed in hierarchical categories often expressed in binaries (with one half the binary being considered the "best" or "default"): genre/literature, feminist/non-feminist, critic/fan.
7. The primary focus in sf feminisms up into the 1990s was on work by and for white, straight, middle-class women.
8. Merrick notes the "ease with which our histories can be lost, rewritten, or, as Gomoll notes of the '70s, recast as boring and trivial," (288) and argues for the need to document the challenges (historically and currently) to make more a more "inclusive...grand conversation" for the future.

I consider Merrick's work a model and inspiration.

Date: 2013-05-02 06:16 am (UTC)
fred_mouse: cross stitched image reading "do not feed the data scientists" (Default)
From: [personal profile] fred_mouse
Note - I've read only your first paragraph, but feel the overwhelming need to comment Right Now (because I have to take kids out the door in five minutes, and I want enough time to actually read what you have said). There is evidence (strong, research based evidence) about the 'universalising' of small experiences to being The Way Things Are, based on the way that people interpret risk. I did a stack of reading on it a while back, none of which I can either remember or access right now that I summarised in my head as 'if two repeats of an event happen close together, then people assume that that is normal'. In the fannish context, if two people make variations on the same comment on my flist/dwircle/other fannish contact method on the same day, it is *obviously* bothering lots of people. Personally, I have to watch out for making that assumption, given that I might only see the second one because the first person commented on it.

(note that the opposite - 'that can't be common, because it doesn't happen to me/my friends/my work colleagues/etc' also shows up in the same research).

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Date: 2013-05-01 04:51 pm (UTC)
ithiliana: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ithiliana
Went to the linked tumblr post about "we" and Darcy--and definitely agree (I didn't before, because I know it's not just you).

I go bonkers telling my students NOT to write "the reader" or "we" in their literature papers--that all they are doing is giving their own (best informed) analytical argument about the meaning of a text, supported by evidence (which depending on the project can come just from the text, or can come from other secondary or primary sources)--so many of them go for that default readers/we that I'm sure it's widely taught.

And while I am a huge fan of the theory of reader response--of how each person interprets a text (or anything else, really) through the lens of their experiences, it's also bally hard to teach how to write a good reader response--because it's not enough to say "that's how I see it"--part of the reader response needs to be self-analysis, i.e. what do I think in my background or experience or sense of identity leads me to see this particular thing in a text.

I can definitely extrapolate this to fandom--i.e. it's so huge and sprawling and multitudinous nowadays on the internet (it was always more diverse and sprawling and complex than the official 'histories' make it, but it's possible to "see" if not read in detail so much more on the internet than was possible in the earlier decades) that of course we cannot see it all--and we're doing to focus on the parts we like for whatever reason, and that are most important to us.

And even in those limited spaces, I'd hesitate these days to make any very generalized argument.

I am now remembering my pilot study of pairings in several PSYCH archives that was rejected from TWC because I didn't have enough data, I didn't make "big enough" claims, so it wasn't worth while....

Date: 2013-05-01 06:22 pm (UTC)
owlmoose: (Default)
From: [personal profile] owlmoose
I really, really agree with you. This is such a pet peeve of mine.

Date: 2013-05-01 11:51 pm (UTC)
china_shop: Goodnight Kiwi in bed with cat (Goodnight Kiwi)
From: [personal profile] china_shop
Great post. I totally agree. I've only ever been in Western live-action TV fandoms, and even so, whenever I read or see implied or overt "this is how [specific or general] fandom is" stuff, it makes me feel like I don't count or I'm doing fandom wrong, and then I hunker down even more into my little oddball space. I can only imagine how much more alienating it would be if I came from significantly different kinds of fannish arenas.

How do you avoid it yourself?

I speak for myself.

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Date: 2013-05-02 01:08 am (UTC)
lunabee34: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lunabee34
Ahahaahahahahahhaahaaa. I completely agree.

The whole first paragraph of the meta I'm going to post for tomorrow is all about how what I'm writing reflects only my experience in fandom and etc.

I think that fandom *feels* like this monolithic thing when you're involved in it, and often fans don't realize how fragmented it really is. This is particularly deceptive when you're part of a very large fandom. It feels like you've got your finger on the pulse of everything, and then you go to some anon_meme where people are listing the BNFs of *your* fandom, and you're all, "Wait. Who's that?" because they write a pairing or genre you don't read or produce a kind of fanwork that doesn't interest you.

Date: 2013-05-02 07:28 am (UTC)
littlebutfierce: (10 things oopsie)
From: [personal profile] littlebutfierce
Heh, or people in large fandoms who don't realize how v. v. different things can be for people only/mostly in small fandoms (ship wars? pairing-specific comms? [pairing-specific exchanges??] non-Yuletide fic? newsletters? IF ONLY).

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Date: 2013-05-05 02:30 am (UTC)
kriadydragon: (Echo)
From: [personal profile] kriadydragon
I like this :D

What bugs me isn't so much the "we" aspect as the "them" aspect - when someone tries to speculate on why that corner of fandom does what it does, and said "someone" isn't even part of that corner of fandom to begin with but still tries to present their speculation as fact. And it's not just where matters of fandom are concerned. If a conversation starts going into "if you're ABC then you're DEF" it gets my hackles up something fierce, especially if I happen to be part of that ABC crowd, and so know for a fact that DEF is a complete load of bull, and the one presenting this speculation isn't part of that crowd.

I think it helps to realize that once you get down to the individual, then all bets are off; that the loudest of the group do not represent the whole, and that the world is too vast and too varied so there's no point in trying to lump everyone into a specific group or category.

Date: 2013-05-05 10:25 am (UTC)
sqbr: Are you coming to bed? I can't, this is important. Why? Someone is wrong on the internet. (duty calls)
From: [personal profile] sqbr
Oh god yes, that is the WORST. And yeah, you can point to trends and general patterns, but any time you start talking in absolutes you're stepping onto dangerous ground.

Date: 2013-05-13 06:44 pm (UTC)
anghraine: regency man holding a book; text: love, pride & delicacy (darcy)
From: [personal profile] anghraine
I'm glad my rant inspired you! And (surprise!) I definitely agree, both that discussions tend to collapse a much wider group into the speaker's corner of it, or they simply generalize their personal experience across the whole group. And I do think that a lot of it is an unthinking reach for legitimacy (while some is sheer laziness).

Personally, some ways to deal with it that I try (I'm sure I still generalize at times, though):

-- at the very least, telegraph that you're generalizing: 'by and large, [a] does [x]' or 'b tends to do y' or whatnot

-- if it's actually just the legitimacy thing, don't generalize at all, just own your opinions. 'How I see it is,' 'my impression is that,' 'I think' (I simply tack on 'imo' a ton)

-- if you're talking about a trend, avoid framing it in universal, absolute terms. Say, 'in my experience' or 'I've seen a lot of' or 'there seems to be a tendency towards' or even 'have you noticed that...?'

-- definitely something I grabbed from humanities and social science, define your terms! Make sure that you're actually saying what you think you're saying. This ties into generalizations, because often people use a general term to talk about a subset of a group, sometimes even when they know that it's not true of the whole group.

hele and I ran into this the other day, when we were talking about "slashers" and it turned out that she was talking about people who exclusively slash and I was talking about people who ship slash ships among others, and despite a lot of overlap in our fannish backgrounds, it'd given us very different perspectives on how fandom does shipping. So the word meant something different to each of us.

The defining doesn't have to be super pedantic, it can just be 'I'm talking about migratory slash fandom here, not all slashers ever.'

-- just a consciousness that your corner of fandom is not ALL corners of fandom helps, especially since Tumblr seems the dominant platform at the moment, and it's very customizable.

-- just a note: I think 'we' phrasing is much more valid when talking to people outside fandom than others within it. I say 'we generally' or 'we usually' often enough to non-fans, or fans outside a particular fandom (unless it's hugely fragmented). It seems much more condescending to other members of the same group.

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