Behind the Curtain: Anti-Shipping is a Bad Faith Position

TW: This column discusses harassment campaigns, radical feminism, suicide, death threats and indoctrination, as well as pedophilia in the context of false accusations.

Anti-shipping in fandom isn’t new. For as long as fandom has existed – our earliest sense of an organized fanclub for any book or franchise is the original Sherlock Holmes series — there have been people with strong opinions about pairings, romance, etc. Ship wars are practically synonymous with fandom at this point, whether it’s Ron/Hermione vs. Harry/Hermione vs. Draco/Hermione in Harry Potter, or all the way back in the 70s with Luke/Leia going to war against Han/Leia shippers. Anti-shipping at its most basic, then, is simply what it says on the tin; someone who is against a specific ship, sometimes to the point of getting angry or upset when it’s mentioned (odd but reasonable, since triggers are odd) or to harassing other shippers (not reasonable at all).

But if you’re not in fandom much, or you’re vestigial to it and have heard the term ‘anti’ here and there, you’re probably already frowning at this definition. Not only do people talk about antis as an actual threat, but antis themselves make posts claiming that “being an anti JUST means being against pedophiles/predators/etc.” Clearly it’s not just about ships anymore… and that’s, well, mostly true. Over the last ten years or so, as social justice ideology has trickled into the mainstream through sites like Tumblr, overall awareness of issues like BLM, Occupy and queer marriage equality, and other sources, anti-shipping has changed dramatically. Before about 2010, to be against a ship, a “hater” of a ship, etc. usually meant joining a forum specifically to bash on a female canon love interest, or hating a ship exclusively because it was gay and that was ‘weird’, etc. It was also something that was limited per fandom. One could be “anti” an FMA fandom ship and that only reflected on your specific shipping preferences for Fullmetal Alchemist. It still indicated a certain level of bad behaviour, but that bad behaviour still had a certain form.

The modern form of anti-shipping, by sharp contrast, isn’t just informed by social justice terminology; it’s informed by radical feminism, anti-sex politics, and Evangelical perspectives on things like pornography and transness, mixing with social justice buzzwords. Anti-shippers don’t just dislike specific ships; there’ll always be a moral or ethical reason attached, sometimes with some grounding, sometimes ludicrous and based on circumstantial evidence at best. Furthermore, the harassment that took one form in pre-2010 antishipping has evolved for a changing internet. More and more people have their identities attached to their work and their social media, which means now flaming someone isn’t just about rude comments on their work; it can extend to calling parents, calling workplaces, fabricating serious accusations and other actions with major, long-ranging consequences.

Take, for example, RoyEd from Fullmetal Alchemist. To be clear, disliking a ship is pretty normal for a fandom experience, especially a ship like RoyEd which has always been the juggernaut ship for the series. Prior to 2010, the complaints about the ship followed specific lines – “Roy is like his father”, “one/both of them are obviously straight”, “it’s not canon/Ed’s married to Winry/Roy is in love with Riza”, and the age gap was usually part of these complaints. [For those who don’t know the series, within canon, Edward is 15, and Roy is 29.] After 2010, however, these started to take a more personal bent. The shift from “this ship is gross because of the age difference” to “anybody who likes it is gross because of the age difference” to “people who like this must be sexual predators” is notable, and chilling, especially since it’s exactly what serves to justify the harassment going to the lengths it does. After all, what wouldn’t you do to stop a child predator? The change in language extends past that, too. Now it’s not just “porn of Edward Elric”; it’s “sexualizing a minor”. Nobody cared that much prior to 2010 or so, but now, well, it feels weird to try argue for sexualizing a minor.

This pattern repeats with ships over and over again, even when the “age gap” isn’t even worth worrying about, or even with fabricated supposed “family ties”. (Take Kaeya and Diluc in Genshin Impact, where antis insist that they’re brothers, despite that firmly not being the case.) But why am I laying this all out?

  1. It Sounds Good On Paper

One of the most agonizing, challenging things to try explain to anybody is why this is bad. As someone who’s autistic and struggles with things like insincerity, I also have a horrible time wrapping my head around the idea that someone could lie, or be operating in bad faith. Everybody hates pedophiles. Everybody hates child predators. And so when a friend of yours starts talking about the pedophiles in fandoms writing gross, predatory ships, and how they’ll say anything to justify sexualizing minors? Of course you want to agree with them.

So let’s break down that statement.

“….the pedophiles**** in fandoms** writing* gross, predatory ships***, [who will] say anything***** to justify sexualizing minors…” This is, for what it’s worth, composed of several anti statements that I’ve seen, and is one of the less straight-up bad faith ones I’ve seen, somehow. But let’s start here.

*[Writing]. Writing, as in, creating fiction. None of this is happening to real people. Now, that said, there’s been a lot of conversation about representation, and appropriate ways of writing difficult topics. It’s not something to dismiss entirely out of hand… but nobody is being physically hurt here, not directly.

**[Fandoms] …Except, in addition, these aren’t people with published books. There’s a separate convo to have about published books that still ends up pretty similar, but this is another one to break down. Fandom generally means tagged on AO3, or otherwise warned in some way; you know what ship you’re walking into (it’s horrible etiquette otherwise and going to get you flamed one way or another), and the fic will be rated and tagged or be deliberately *un*warned and *un*rated, which is a warning in and of itself. Fanfiction and fanart do not have a lot of reach, so conversations about representation that start with multimillion dollar franchises like Star Wars can’t be used as a 1-for-1 with fanfiction. That doesn’t mean there’s no conversation. But you can’t just slip the word ‘fandom’ in there like it doesn’t matter.

***[Predatory ships] You’ll also sometimes see them just straight up say ‘child porn’ or something equally vile. There’s a lot to unpack here just from two words, though. Ships – as in, pairings of two characters – aren’t an inherent measure of positivity. They aren’t always intended to be healthy anyway. Additionally, ships by definition are so open to interpretation. No character is ever written the same way twice, and this is just as true of ships. Wars are fought between people who ship the same two characters over top/bottom dynamics (something which I have… my own opinions about, but a tradition is a tradition), and AUs – alternate universe fics – thrive on ever-so-slightly changing character dynamics. It’s incredibly difficult to find even one character trait that remains in a character through every fanfiction about them! This applies just as much to age as anything else. Even if people who say this are referring to pairings with significant age gaps or where one is a child in canon, there’s a good chance that a significant number of people writing that ship do not write it in that way. When they do, there’s an equally good chance that it’s deliberately predatory, deliberately unhealthy, much in the same way that Fight Club and Lolita are not about aspirational human beings with iron-clad ethics. The other corollary to this, of course, is…

****[Pedophiles] Pedophile is a term with some controversy around it these days, but used in this sense it means “attracted to children and/or child abuser”, so pretty much what you expect. And… there’s literally no reason to think so. Setting aside how there’s plenty of reasons to write about these topics anyway, until you ask about the content, there’s just as good a chance that this is about shipping two 16 year old characters as it is anything that would be pedophilic in real life. Overwatch fandom is plagued by antis who consider a 20-year or so age gap between adults problematic (and off the top of my head, the younger of them is in his late twenties…), and anime in general has to fend off a lot of arguments about ‘minor-coding’ concerning young, cute-looking characters who canonically could be anywhere between 13 and 300. It also gives away a certain single-mindedness on the definition of “predatory ship”. A year or so ago, a drawing of Kuzco and Pacha from The Emperor’s New Groove went viral and sparked a round of anti-ship discourse because of the age difference between the two (which is extremely unclear even within the movie!)… and it was pro-shippers (that is, non-antis broadly, more on that in a bit) bringing up that if anything, given the events of the movie, there should be more concern about Kuzco preying on Pacha. No matter the age of a young emperor, after all, he has more power in his pinky finger than a peasant like Pacha has in his whole body.

*****[who will say anything…] And this is where you get into the real double-faced nature of this, which has done a number on a lot of people I know. This whole statement is already manipulative, but this sets up that no matter what someone says in their defense, you’ll read it as an excuse. The reason this works is because you’ve already been told that they’re pedophiles and child abusers. After all, there’s no reason to hear out an abuser. But what if they’re not?

This is much like the catch-22 that people incarcerated in mental institutions go through. (Addressed out loud in movies like Girl, Interrupted and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, for their flaws.) When everything you yourself say is discounted because of your supposed status, and you’re given no way to clear your name, what on earth are you meant to do? This isn’t helped by the specific way that the #MeToo movement has unfolded. #MeToo is a powerful, important movement about believing victims of harassment… that has spent relatively little time on how accusations of sexual abuse and predatory natures have also been used to silence marginalized people. So when someone accuses you of abuse, you’re expected in many leftist circles to sit silently and accept it, whether it’s true or not. (And to add insult to injury, actual abusers have much more ability to shrug off those accusations. The horrible truth is that if you manage to actually ruin someone’s life with an abuse accusation, they probably didn’t do it.) And even if you’re not actively accused of abuse, who wants to be the person who looks like they’re defending pedophilia? It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re technically right. You have to trust that other people will spend the time to find that out.

2. Some of Them Mean It

Alright, then. Say you’re taking this to heart, and the next time you see one of these arguments, you call bullshit.

And now you have an upset, triggered teenager on your hands.

What gives?

I mentioned earlier that modern anti-shipping pulls a lot from radical feminism and Evangelical thought. It’s worth citing The Handmaid’s Tale here (again, even with its flaws!) since the rise of Gilead is explicitly noted to be a result of a coalition between second-wave feminists and the conservative right. There’s a scene with the main character’s mother burning pornography, and the entire structure of the Handmaids is about protecting women’s virtue. Radical feminism, including the branches of trans-exclusionary radical feminism (TERFs), sex worker exclusionary radical feminism (SWERFs), and kink-critical radical feminism, has as one of its main purposes this idea of protecting womanhood – usually from men, always from an idea of sexual assault that is more fiction than fact. But the reason it works is precisely because of how omnipresent sexual assault is. Traumatized people suffering from often-untreated PTSD and other issues are desperate to be heard; desperate enough, in many cases, not to look too closely. This is doubly true for teenagers, who just don’t have the life experience to tell a good argument from a bad one yet, and who are in a stage of their life where every emotion, every feeling, is overwhelming and too much. Add into this trans teenagers who are battling dysphoria, discrimination and hopelessness at the future, and it’s an explosive mixture.

The result is, unfortunately, that many of these bad faith arguments are being repeated by people who believe them with their whole heart. It’s one thing to fend off accusations of pedophilia from people who have the same smugness as right-wingers trying to get some ironic dunk on you. It’s another when someone who you thought you’d agree with, who you want to agree with, seems to be genuinely upset and hurt, and all you can think of to do is tell them why they shouldn’t be. Which, well, of course that’s not going to work. There’s a reason why many people call radical feminism and modern anti-shipping a cult. Just like with any cult, there are people who stay because they’re scared, there are people pulling the strings, and then there are people who have drunk the kool-aid, not because they’re stupid or foolish, but because they were in search of something and don’t want to believe that their new purpose is poison. It’s even worse when it’s someone you know, which has happened to me a number of times.

I can’t tell anybody how to deal with these situations, except for this: just because somebody is very emotional about something does not make them correct. It means they are having very big feelings about it, and those feelings are true! But those feelings don’t lend them any more factual weight or authority over your life or opinions. I try to give people information where I can tell they have some wrong ideas, but largely, I try to disengage. No one processing triggers around this topic is going to be particularly able to process “I know you think I’m a pedophile, but Actually…” unless they’ve actively opened themselves up to it. The trick is, though, not to be taken in by it because someone’s crying now. Their stance isn’t any less harmful. They just aren’t cackling about how much they hate the people they’re hurting.

3. It’s Not Actually About Fandom

It’s so, so, so easy to dismiss all this as being fandom drama. If you’re not in fandom at all, why should you bother? Sarah Z’s recent video didn’t help this, either, nor have other takes on the situation from people far enough from it to have those stances. But one of the absolutely key things to understand about anti-shipping is that it’s not just about fandom. I’m citing the radical feminist underpinnings not to inflate the importance of ships, but to make this connection… because it is often then the same people fearmongering about kink at Pride (a complex topic, for sure, but not one that can be boiled down to ‘sex pests wear leather and normal safe people don’t’!) or harassing authors for published books on serious topics. It’s the same people, too, who mobilize against PornHub or OnlyFans for being supposed hubs of “sex trafficking” and cheer when sex workers are driven into the shadows.

Simply put, fandom is the entry point for this rhetoric. Much like how Gamergate and the alt-right used videogames and 4chan to get to young men, TERFs and radfems have happily used Tumblr and Twitter to disguise their talking points in “low-stakes” affairs like ships. This serves several purposes. One, nobody’s really going to think about it too hard. It’s fandom. It’s not that serious. Two, nobody outside of fandom will take you seriously. If you’re harassed or lose your job because of dumb fandom drama, it’s at least partially your own fault for engaging in “silly fandom stuff for children” – at least in many people’s eyes. And three, it gives them direct access to a receptive audience; marginalized people in fandom who feel shut out for other reasons. This has taken so many forms. Young queer transmascs frustrated at the state of m/m representation in fandom and the still omnipresent “yaoi” stereotyping end up in conversations with TERFs who talk to them seriously about fetishization. Perhaps they start with how it’s the sexual aspect that’s ‘really’ bad about all those Grown Women doing it, or how it’s taking space away from Them, The True Men; after a while, perhaps, the idea that maybe the trans men only “want” to be men because of the fetishized ideals and misogyny in fandom gets floated. If they hadn’t started with a real grievance, this wouldn’t work. But this is a trusted person, now. And now you have someone detransitioning or dropping their plans for transition because well, their Trusted Friend said they were just fetishizing men… and their misery and confusion worsens and makes them even more vulnerable to being used as a weapon. The same thing is happening with aces, especially after a long period of time in which TERFs had asexuals as a primary enemy. A young ace person in fandom expresses frustration at the focus on romance and sexuality in fandom, and a ‘concerned friend’ (who will never actually identify themselves as a TERF) comes to agree with them and talk about how all of these people making light of Serious Problems like Rape just don’t understand. Again, it begins with a genuine grievance, and once the trust is established, it goes from there.

The extra horror of this, which you’ve likely picked up on in part already, is how often this comes hand in hand with sexual and emotional abuse from the adults in question. Even when it doesn’t explicitly come with it, this sort of deceptive relationship between an adult and a teenager is far more serious and impactful than even the most well-illustrated piece of non-con artwork. Once someone’s geared for this type of rhetoric, though, it almost inevitably leaks into their other stances as well. You can’t consign pro and anti-shipping to “fandom discourse” and then fight for sex workers’ rights without acknowledging where this radicalization is happening.

4. It’s Very Targeted

Another thing that’s gotten played down by people like Lindsey Ellis and Sarah Z is the real targeting happening with anti-ship campaigns. Modern antishipping is cross-fandom, after all; while certain ships are the ‘du jour’ hatesink (KaeLuc has replaced BakuDeku for this, and BakuDeku unseated Shiro/Keith) what really unites antis? Anti-shipping rhetoric isn’t even consistent enough for that to be the unifying factor – in an amusing twist of events, certain VLD antis started going after Royai (Roy/Riza) in FMA because “Roy is Riza’s commanding officer, and therefore it’s predatory”… which was a rather nasty surprise for Royai shippers, who have a sizable contingent of antis themselves and spend a frustrating amount of time proudly proclaiming that they are the good, healthy alternative to RoyEd.

Nor is it as simple as antis being teenagers. Antis love to lean on the idea that they’re minors, but many of them are actually in their early to mid 20s, and simply just keep calling themselves minors while it’s convenient. When they’re called on it, they’ll often pivot to how they’re protecting minors. (And leave out how many minors are also the targets of their hate campaigns.) At least one major leftist account received a significant amount of backlash after claiming that “antishippers” were just aggrieved teenagers who wanted to be heard and then blocked everyone trying to correct them. (A perfect example, by the way, of how that initial argument I dissected kneecaps and silences any effort to counter it.)

But here’s the thing; the people who get harassed in this way over “bad content” are never allosexual/alloromantic, cisgender, heterosexual. They’re always queer of some variety, with VERY few exceptions. This perhaps doesn’t say too much on its own. Fandom on its own is pretty queer. Except, is it? There are plenty of horror stories about straight women who wrote m/m and then disowned their queer children, or supported real-life homophobia. An argument that claims that all fandom is queer doesn’t quite track with the history of fandom. It’s also true that – despite m/f ships being perfectly capable of being queer – they’re not largely the ones who receive harassment. When they do, it’s not oriented around pedophilia. This all starts to paint a pretty nasty picture. Perhaps this sounds forced, so let’s break it down a little. My biggest exposure to anti-shipping has been in two large fandoms – Fullmetal Alchemist and Voltron: Legendary Defender.

In the Fullmetal Alchemist fandom, the ships that received (and often still do) hate and accusations of pedophilia against creators were: Roy x Edward (m/m), Edward x Alphonse (m/m), and very occasionally Ed x Envy (m/m most commonly; it varies depending on writer) and Greed/Ling (m/m). The ships idolized in deliberate contrast by those harassers were Roy x Riza (m/f), Edward x Winry (m/f), Ed x Ling (m/f), and Ling x Ranfan (f/f).

In the Voltron: Legendary Defender fandom, the ships that receive(d) hate and accusations of pedophilia against creators were: Shiro x Keith (m/m), Shiro x Lance (m/m), Shiro x Pidge (usually m/f but frequently m/m as well) and less frequently, Keith x Allura (m/f), Shiro x Hunk (m/m) and Shiro x Allura (m/f). The idolized ships in contrast were Keith x Lance (m/m), Allura x Lance (m/f) and Pidge x Hunk (m/f; very occasionally m/m but not frequently for this ship).

Even from a casual glance, it’s clear that there’s at least some slant, in that there’s an awful lot more m/m ships on one side of the scale than the other. The intensity also varies massively depending on gender. Riza/Ed has some shippers, and those shippers still also deal with harassment and death threats; but Tumblr tags for those ships would largely have hate that got a bunch of ships at once, whereas RoyEd shippers repeatedly and constantly had to endure specially-drawn hate art in their tags. (Again, probably still do; it’s been a long time since I was on Tumblr.) I myself have a Riza/Alphonse fic, which has a near-identical age gap to RoyEd, but while the one or two RoyEd fics I’ve written have inevitably gotten one or two vile comments, my Riza/Alphonse fic has remained untouched. Some of this is absolutely attributable to popularity. But then you have to reckon with a historical truth: Gay men have been accused of pedophilia, specifically and noxiously, for decades. Lesbians, too, have to deal with this; but especially with the serophobia left over from the AIDS crisis, the idea of a “creepy old gay pedophile” lingers in the imagination. Once that’s mentioned, it’s hard to look at the spread of these ships in the same way.

Add into that the fact that even though there are definitely allocishet people in fandom… it is always queer people being harassed. The big smear campaigns that gain attention on Twitter and Tumblr are always targeting specific creators who are pretty openly queer, and by the time you get into fans of Hannibal going after openly gay Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller, it gets extremely notable. Yet there’s a lot done to try gloss over this little detail; when a proshipper made a “proship pin” featuring the pink triangle, there was a lot of discourse about how the pink triangle was a “Nazi symbol”, far less than there should have been about the use of it for decades in AIDS activism, and almost none on the right of the creator to reclaim the pink triangle. The fact that the people doing the harassing are also often queer isn’t as helpful as it should be. The existence of transphobic trans people and gay men who work for conversion therapy programs should make clear that it’s perfectly possible for us to work against our own interests. But there’s also a very specific transmisogynistic bent to this harassment. Especially once you look outside of fandom’s specific niches, it seems like a new transfem person is run off Twitter for “pedophilia” every week, whether it’s because she drew a dog in a diaper, has a private account where she likes age regression kink, or is dating someone a year or two younger than her. And just as notably, there are remarkably few openly transfem people on the antishipper side of things; when there are transfem antis, they seem to cheerfully go after other transfems and talk about ‘rooting out predators’ in their own community.

5. It Has A Body Count

I’ve used the term ‘proshipper’ a few times here, and while the meaning is probably fairly clear from context, it necessitates some explaining. ‘Proshipper’ was coined to replace the more aggressive and context-dependent term ‘anti-anti’ – it means, again, what it says on the tin. Pro shipping, pro shippers, pro the right of people to enjoy and cherish fiction as fiction. A number of antis have tried to claim that proshipper means ‘pedophile’ or ‘pedo apologist’ – unfortunately, this lie spreads more than I’d like it to. (Considering the lack of consequences for pedophiles, I think it’s cute that people think they need a codeword.) It doesn’t mean any such thing.

The other thing that shows up, though, is the idea of pro-shippers being ‘just as bad’. While I’m also interested in writing an article taking apart the idea of a singular pro-ship community, this also needs to be taken apart on its own. Yes, there are pro-shippers who harass people. I myself have been targeted by a smear campaign largely led by self-identified pro-shippers; I’ve also seen some pro-shippers go way too far in their responses to antis, including spamming them with porn or otherwise violating boundaries. I’m not disavowing these. But there are some notable differences, the first of which is that I have never heard of a death associated with these. I’m sure there’s been some close calls; and this is something which I am open to correction on. (The “I haven’t heard of” here is an important bit.) By contrast, there have been a number of confirmed deaths and near-deaths related to antishipping. A 15-year-old died by suicide a few months ago, confirmed by her mother; another account (who I’m not naming out of respect) went completely silent after posting about suicidal urges soon afterwards. These are only two, and I know there are significantly more. After the explosion of anti backlash against Tamsyn Muir for some old Homestuck fanfiction, I ended up in the hospital myself; this despite being well-acquainted with anti-shipping at the time. Again, this doesn’t mean that these incidents don’t have mirrors, or that the harassment of antishippers by proshippers isn’t bad. It’s a statement of scale – and one that makes sense. Proshippers largely talk about antishippers as annoying brats, or a thorn in their side; antishippers talk about proshippers as menaces and threats to children. It stands to reason that one group will stop long before a death, and the other won’t – even to the point of justifying the harassment after the death was confirmed. (I wish this wasn’t true.)

I’ve also never seen an anti-shipper step in to tell another anti-shipper to back off or stop, without that anti-shipper then being ejected from their circle and becoming the next target. In fact, any disagreement in anti circles often gets this treated. Pro-shippers have their own battles and fractures, but several times, I’ve watched a pro-shipper go too far – and other pro-shippers (or otherwise non-antis) step in to tell them off for crossing a line. A notable occasion of this was when an anti-shipper was fundraising for top surgery and a pro-shipper with a bad attitude made a point of saying “well, maybe we’d help you if you weren’t an anti”. The pro-shipper in question got a huge amount of backlash from their own community, and the anti-shipper – despite being an anti – got a significant amount of donations. Not every situation works out as nicely, but seeing it happen just a few times already influences how I see the two communities, even having been targeted by both.

So the anti-ship arguments may sound good – but even if you took to heart the idea that a written crime is equivalent to a real one (cf. Stranger than Fiction), that it is an ironclad predictor of a crime (cf. Minority Report), and/or that some ships “shouldn’t be shipped”, it’s difficult to justify the level of violence shown over what is at worst a red flag. It also puts a much darker light on things like directly tagging “known proshippers”, making lists of them, or warning zine applicants that they’ll be subject to “background checks”. If there wasn’t an ongoing history of these people being doxxed, mass-harassed or fired due to calls to their workplaces, it would already be sinister. As it is? It’s downright horrific.

6. So What Do I Do?

In this column, I’ve tried to dissect exactly why the anti-shipper position as given is bad-faith, and how certain lies or distortions of truth are used to get people on board with it. Heavily modified definitions of things like ‘pedophilia’, ‘predatory’, etc. are used in deliberately inflammatory statements that make you look like a bad person if you disagree. The strong emotions of marginalized and traumatized people are weaponized – sometimes by them, sometimes by people abusing and manipulating them – to make arguments look more convincing and distract from the logical issue into an emotional one. [Cf. “Don’t you care about CSA victims, you monster?”] The seriousness of the harassment is minimized as being fandom drama, while the arguments are uplifted as being more “broadly applicable” – which tricks people into applying radfem beliefs to the world outside of fandom, too. The marginalizations and demographics of proshippers are downplayed in favour of the privileges (they’re old, etc.) to erase the queerphobia present in the campaigns. And finally, the very real consequences of anti-shipping are ignored, written out or downplayed in favour of a narrative that makes pro-shippers look worse; usually by using real incidents out of context, leaving out the deaths and suicides caused by anti-ship rhetoric, and attaching things like garden-variety racism to a proship identity instead of… well, to whiteness.

Especially if you’re autistic like I am, this all sounds like a lot. It’s paranoia-inducing, that’s for sure. A lot of people decide to settle on a neutral position, thinking it’ll keep them safe or out of it (and sadly it rarely does); but I think it’s much simpler than that. If you believe that harassing people for fiction is bad, you’re a pro-shipper. Maybe you like a different word, maybe you don’t want to hang out with people who are way too invested in being pro-shippers; but the fact remains, if you don’t see the big deal? You will not be happy around antis. And that’s the main purpose for the label of pro-shipper; not to identify yourself with some existing ideology that is ever-shifting and largely in opposition to something else, but to tell anti-shippers, “I am not one of you”. Even if you’re a bit uncomfortable around some ships, but you’re quite happy to block and ignore, anti-shippers are not the friends you want. And once you’ve established that, you can choose your friends from pro-shippers however you choose. You’re not obligated to like or get along with everyone, or sign off on everybody’s decisions. You’re not even obligated to ship anything particularly spicy or problematic. All you have to do is look at the rhetoric used to justify harming others and decide, “No, not for me. Not today.”

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