There's been some talk on Yuletide chat about creating a specific tag for people writing Judaism-oriented stories for Yuletide (putative 'Jewletide'), akin to the tag/subchallenges for female-oriented stories or smutty stories or stories featuring characters of color. The idea of those tags was both to highlight fic fitting the theme of the tag, and also to create a general encouragement to write stories that fit the tag.
I've been arguing violently against the idea in chat, surprisingly violently, honestly. I'm posting this to kind of work out for myself why I reacted so strongly against it.
One reason is that it was nearly 2AM. And, well, you know. Not anyone's finest hour. But anyway.
A brief summary of the history of Judaism and Yuletide- Millions of years ago, Yuletide was founded. It was basically a Secret Santa exchange for fanfiction of rare fandoms, with the stories revealed on Christmas Day, and particularly in the early years it was pretty common for people to write fic involving Christmas in some way (When I first started doing Yuletide, explicitly noting in your letter if you didn't want Christmas fic was a big thing). As it grew, it became less explicitly identified with Christmas, and it drew more and more of fandom in, including more Jews. Then one year, they decided to start sign-ups over the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This pissed off some Jewish fans who started complaining about how frustrating it was that this big institution of fandom was constructed around Christmas and the Christian default and completely ignored the activity of Jewish fans. There was much wank. In the end, nothing much changed. Jews continued participating in Yuletide, while continuing to have our activity ignored, and founded Purimgifts as an alternate fic exchange that centered Jewish interests. Meanwhile some Jews argued that they valued Yuletide as a sort of alternative secular celebration on Christmas day that they could celebrate while all the goyim around them were celebrating various forms of religious and/or semi-secularized Christmas, and I am kind of confused by wanting to have that counterprogramming, but if that's how they want to think about it, bully for them. There are significant differences between how secular Jews regard Christmas and how more observant Jews do, and Jewish opinion is not a monolith that I can dictate. Anyway, that remains the status quo to this day- some Jews participate in Yuletide while the Christmas/Christian elements stick in our craw, and other Jews find the Christmas timing a sort of accidental bonus.
It's an uneasy status quo. Lots of Jewish Yuletiders I know wish that Yuletide would just suddenly not be so Christmas-oriented. But we know it's not going to ever happen and we accept that. There are also Jewish mods who are attentive to how observant Jews practice fandom and I do feel like a reprise of the particular Sukkot nonsense of '07 is unlikely (the nominations and signups did overlap Jewish holidays this year, but were advertised well ahead of time and with plenty of days not falling on the holidays.) evil_plotbunny
talked to me last week about how she personally reviewed and handled the Hebrew script in the tags on a couple of my nominations, and I really appreciate that.
So I think the suggestion of using a tag like Jewletide immediately raised hackles for me because it reads as a sort of coopting of Jewish participation in Yuletide, to wish away the years of uneasiness and say Jews can participate fully in this institution without any reluctance in spite of there being no change in the status quo. I don't think this is fair on my part, as the people pushing the tag aren't, you know, The Powers That Be, they're just random Jews in fandom who have a different context on Judaism and Yuletide than I do. And who want to create a space within Yuletide that is for the Jews. But like I said, immediately hackles nonetheless.
I think this goes back to a thing I said to kass
a few weeks back.kass
said: "...because I always experience fandom itself as a kind of Jewish enterprise (a community constituted through shared engagement with source texts -- that's fandom, that's Judaism, that's where I find my home)... "
And I responded: "I'm not sure I'm comfortable with 'fandom itself as a kind of Jewish enterprise', because I feel like that frames a very limited version of fandom in order to lay that claim, editing out the parts of the fandom that are less compatible with my Jewishness. But I do think it's possible to negotiate within fandom a Jewish path."
I think my response on chat was basically a rehash of this argument. It seemed to me that a tag for Jewletide was an attempt to say that within Yuletide as currently constituted, a full-blown 'Jewish enterprise' could exist. And my response was to say that there might be within Yuletide a Jewish path, but only if we remain aware of the ways in which Yuletide as a whole still excludes us and ignores us. Which is why I'm fine with people writing fic involving Jewish characters during Yuletide, and I'm fine with people tagging the fics as containing Jewish characters, but I'm not as okay with people supporting a subchallenge within Yuletide specifically oriented around Jewish characters. But clearly other people believe in Fandom as Jewish Enterprise, and while I disagree with them, they're entitled to their opinion.
I'm also wary as hell that if we added an element to Yuletide that encouraged people to write Jewish stories, it would offer encouragement to the people who don't know Judaism well enough to pull it off. I'm wary we'd see the shitty culturally insensitive fic posted under the tag.
Of course, that can happen anyway. Nobody's guaranteed a good story for Yuletide, just a story. And I'm not going to oppose writing stories about Jews for Yuletide just because someone might write an insensitive story, and I myself sometimes request Jewish characters for Yuletide. But Yuletide is not a place where you can always rely on authors being sensitive about Jewish culture, and the idea of positioning a subchallenge about Jewish characters within Yuletide makes me nervous because I'm aware of Yuletide's limitations in this regard.
Anyway, tl;dr is that I was an asshole in chat and overreacted, and I should apologize to people I snapped at (anon memes seem confused about whether I mansplained, goysplained, Orthosplained, or what. It's enough to say that, as sometimes happens, I was an asshole.) , but I still don't like the idea of a Yuletide subchallenge oriented around Jewish fic. And of course, if other Jews want to do it it's not like I can stop them anyway.