New Warning Tags

Hello EF,

Finally, some news that is not related to the site acting wonky but rather to inform you that the Mods have listened to concerns from the membership and decided to add a couple of fic warnings that, effective immediately, will be mandatory on new content published on the site.

These warnings are as follows:

  • Depictions of Bigotry: contains characters making prejudicial statements and/or offensive slurs regarding race, gender, ability, orientation, religion, or class, including incidentally. (Not to be confused with authors making such remarks.) Authors are asked to use their discretion here as to what qualifies as bigotry, as a full explanation on where we're drawing lines could quickly become a six-page essay. If you have any questions on a specific fic, you can contact the mods— we are happy to consult. Please be aware that if you do not use the warning and it comes to Mod attention, we reserve the right to reach out and address the situation.
  • Incest: contains depictions of a romantic and/or sexual relationship between family members, whether related by blood or marriage. If the latter, situations in which the characters in question were raised as and/or regarded each other as family prior to their romantic and/or sexual involvement.

Now, on the Depictions of Bigotry, we spent a lot of time (really, a LOT of time) trying to come up with the appropriate definition only to realize, well, there isn’t one. We’re a fandom for an old show, and as such, problematic themes, characterizations, ideas, and beliefs were depicted and/or supported in the source material. The same can be said for a good amount of fic, where social and cultural norms of the day it was written have since been identified and recognized as Not Cool. Speaking personally, I’ve had several people let me know of things I wrote in old fics that I would never write today and intend to address when I edit those works. 

Point is, it's now 2023, and we are so proud to have cultivated a wonderfully diverse community that we have been told, numerous times, helps individuals in otherwise targeted communities feel heard and (hopefully) safe. The addition of this warning is a continued part of that outreach, as well as in line with our goal of empowering readers so they may confidently and safely engage with content published here.

That said, we also hope the membership understands that we do not have the resources to retroactively review all the fics published on this site to see what stories qualify for our new warnings, or ANY of the warnings that have been added since we launched in 2006, of which there are many. If you are already aware of such fics, we encourage you to let us know so we can reach out to the authors or apply the warning ourselves, if necessary. If in the future you encounter an older fic that isn’t tagged, again, let us know and we will handle it.

Just to reiterate to all EF authors, use your own discretion and reach out to us with questions. We understand that this is a very daunting, nebulous tag, which is why it took us so long to decide how to approach it, but we do think it’s essential to continue supporting the health and safety of community members. As always, if you include any warning in a fic that you would like to explain, you are encouraged to elaborate in the story notes. And rest assured, unless authors refuse to use the warnings or act with malicious intent, no one will be in trouble for neglecting to add a warning. The most you can expect from us is a private message requesting that the warning be added if we think it is warranted.

Likewise, under no circumstance should a member reach out to an author directly and confront them about depictions of bigotry (or any other warning) in their work. If there’s an issue or concern, let the Mod team know. That’s one of the things we’re here for.

I’m sure this is going to open the floor to a lot of questions, but we truly are going to rely heavily on the definition we drafted for this tag. Really, just use your best judgment, and if you aren’t sure, ask.

You can find all information regarding rating, category, genre, and warning definitions here.

Thank you!

--Holly and the Mods on July 26, 2023 04:14am 7 Comments

Thank you for all you hard and well thought out decisions on these difficult issues.  I appreciate all you MODs do for E.F.  heartsheartflowers

-- LovingWilliam on July 27, 2023 09:58pm

Thank you! heart

-- Holly on July 28, 2023 04:01am

I understand the reasons for this, and I'll try to remember to do it. As you may or may not know, I'm not a big fan of warnings in many circumstances, but I get the need for them. Obviously someone who just lost a parent, for instance, isn't going to want to read a fic that dwells on Buffy's finding her mother's body or some thing like that.

On the other hand, some terminology that is common now was not common when the show was on and may well be used in direct quotes from characters in canon. Or, even more problematic, possibly, was common when Spike was growing up (I'm thinking of him calling Angel/Liam a "bogtrotter" or, more likely to spark outrage, referring to Jenny as a gypsy). To me, putting words or terms more acceptable to modern sensibilities in a character's mouth is just going to be a glaring, throw-me-out-of-the-story moment for me as a reader. I'll be interested to see how this plays out.

-- slaymesoftly on July 29, 2023 02:21am

Need to amend that first sentence in the second paragraph to read "OTHH, some terms that were common when the show was on and may be used in direct quotes from canon, will not be common or accepted now."  I'm sure it's obvious what I meant to say, but just in case...

-- slaymesoftly on July 29, 2023 03:53am

We understand that there are conflicting views on the necessity of warnings, but EF has long taken the stance that warnings are necessary to empower readers to curate a safe and enjoyable reading experience. This is why ALL applicable warnings must be included in all works from the offset of publishing and/or added the second the author knows their work will contain warnable material.

We are not requiring anyone to put modern social sensibilities in their work, just including another warning to help readers prepare for usage of bigoted language or norms. This warning actually better empowers authors to use period appropriate language while clearly stating that it's being used intentionally but without intent to harm.

-- Holly on July 29, 2023 05:49am

That makes sense, Holly. I can work with that if and when I notice I need to. Probably not going to go looking for instances where I should warn for bigoted language from the characters, but if/when I know it's there, I will do so. If anyone complains, just let me know and I'll fix it.

-- slaymesoftly on July 30, 2023 07:41am

Only just catching up. Thank you for adding this, guys.

I think there's a special problem with the language of the British-born characters; the show's writers often used Brit slang as a way of getting around censorship, and some terms used to cast slurs on other characters would now be seen as, for example, unacceptable here in Britain, but might not be recognised as such by non-Brits. I'm thinking particularly of terms used by Spike to describe Angel in the shows. P*** (NOT Peaches!) and N****-B** particularly come to mind, but there are others.

No rational person can expect you mods to police this, but it's worth reminding people that what might seem to be "local colour/color" to a writer not from the same culture may feel very different to someone within it. Britpickers and their inverse are invaluable for such material. (Many moons ago I was on a forum which banned the f-word as offensive, but had no issues with "shag" or "wanker". Explanation was --- challenging.devil)

-- GillO on August 11, 2023 06:44am