not language but a map — why i want bisexual stiles (in 4,000 words or...

not language but a map

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why i want bisexual stiles (in 4,000 words or less)

Right, so, standard disclaimer (and especially for this post, oh man): hi, I’m gyzym, this post is full of my opinions on stuff! They’re just my opinions on stuff; it’s okay if they’re not your opinions on stuff, and I don’t expect them to be your opinions on stuff. I write a blog on the internet about my thoughts and feelings, from a place of personal bias, and do not claim to be doing anything else. So when I say things, below, like, “we should or should not do whatever,” I mean that I, personally, think that we should or should not do whatever. I don’t mean that WE MUST DO OR NOT DO WHATEVER or that EVERYONE MUST AGREE WITH ME or that DISAGREEING WITH ME IS WRONG. At all! If you read this post and agree with me, sweet; if you read this post and disagree with me, sweet; if you read this post and don’t know what I’m talking about, or don’t feel like you’ve got enough information to agree or disagree with me, I hugely encourage you to take some of the words I am using and stick them into google and inform yourself, whether you use that information to agree/disagree with me or not! Honestly, I care a lot more about people googling stuff than I do about people agreeing with me. Like, a lot more. A whole lot more.  

With that established: let’s talk about Stiles, and bisexuality, and the possibility (however likely or unlikely you think it may be) of canonically bisexual Stiles. 

So! First and foremost, allow me to be honest: I’m making this post in large part because I am, myself, deeply and inexorably bisexual. If, for some reason, you want to know more about my personal feelings about my sexuality before you read further, I once wrote 5,000 words about it; if you want to know more about bisexuality in general, I recommend, amongst other things, typing the words “Robyn Ochs” into google and doing some instructive reading! But there’s no question, at all, that I’m biased in writing this essay, and biased in my feelings about the topic of this essay, and biased in these discussions in general. I’m bisexual! So my feelings about bisexual characters, or potentially bisexual characters, are tied up with my feelings about my own bisexual self. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles, folks.

Having said that? There is some stuff going on in the discussion about the potential of Stiles being bi that is…unsettling me, let’s say. Making me worry that we may, as fans, be losing the forest for the trees. So what I’m going to talk about below, in a handy-dandy listed format, is some stuff I’ve seen in the ongoing discussion about the whole the-people-running-Teen-Wolf-are-visibly-flirting-with-this-concept thing, and why that stuff is making me nervous. Okay? Okay. Let’s do the damn thing. 

Thing The First: They Should Make Stiles Bi Because I Ship Sterek/They Shouldn’t Make Stiles Bi Because I Don’t Ship Sterek/Stiles Being Bi Is About Sterek. 

No. It’s not. 

Let me explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up: full disclosure, I personally ship Sterek, to a certain degree against my initial inclinations and very much to my own surprise. I can’t help but love them! But I also ship Stiles with Boyd and Scott and Jackson and Danny and Isaac and ACTUALLY PRETTY MUCH ANY CHARACTER THAT WILL ALLOW ME TO CALL STILES CANONICALLY BISEXUAL IF STILES DATES THEM. Because making Stiles bi isn’t about Sterek, except in the sense that Sterek would, inherently, mean there would be two bisexual characters on this show. Which would thrill me! But, again, that’s not the point. 

If you’re arguing that they should make Stiles bi because of Sterek shipping reasons, I don’t blame you and I don’t judge you but I encourage you to step back and look at the bigger issue. If you’re arguing that they shouldn’t make Stiles bi because of Sterek shipping reasons, I don’t blame you and I don’t judge you but I encourage you to step back and look at the bigger issue. Because the bigger issue is a LOT BIGGER, guys. Like, a lot bigger. Like, so much bigger that it’s kind of staggering, honestly.

Making Stiles bi isn’t about Sterek. Making Stiles bi is about bi representation in media, representation in media in general, and the power that we, as viewers discontent with the largely unfair and non-representative media currently being produced, have to affect change. If you ship Sterek, Sterek could be a perk of making Stiles bi; if you don’t ship Sterek, Sterek could be a negative side-effect of making Stiles bi. But the fact that this discussion is being framed as a Sterek argument first and a bi-Stiles argument second scares me. Don’t worry, I’m going to get to why. 

Thing The Second: If They Make Stiles Bi Now It Will Feel Forced/If They Make Stiles Bi Now I Won’t (Har-Har) Buy It/If They Make Stiles Bi Now There’s No Way It Could Possibly Feel Real.

That's…just not true. Also it’s a super dangerous assertion! Let’s talk about why it’s not true, and why it’s a dangerous assertion.

Why it’s not true: setting aside the assorted instances of Stiles, you know, having the sort of seemingly-unaware bisexual tendency moments that got fandom riled about about this to begin with (see: “Do you find me attractive, Danny? /falls down”; see: “I could be gay, DAD”; see: “Do you wanna make out a little, Scott?”; see: a million posts about this all over this website that get into it at much greater length than I do here), this character is sixteen years old. You know what I thought I was at 16 years old? Straight. Was it because I’d never had feelings for women? Nope. Was it because I’d been raised in a household that was prejudiced against queer folk? Definitely not. It was because, at sixteen, I was hormone-riddled, short on years of sexual awareness (seriously, really short on that) and, you know, bisexual! And when you’re bisexual, and hormone-riddled, and short on years of sexual awareness, and every piece of media available to you only shows hetero couples? And you, as a result of your bisexuality, actually do have feelings that present both internally and externally as heterosexual? It can sometimes take you awhile to recognize that your other feelings are also romantic and/or sexual feelings. It can sometimes take you awhile to recognize that bisexuality is a thing at all, let alone that bisexual is a thing that you might be. 

One time I saw Robyn Ochs, that lady I told you to google before, give this really awesome presentation on bisexuality, and one of the things she talked about that was the fact that bisexuality is to a certain extent invisible by nature. That means: if you see two dudes kissing on the street, you tend to assume they are gay. If you see a dude and a lady kissing on the street, you tend to assume they are straight. The only from-a-distance way to see a bisexual person acting on their bisexuality is to pass them on the street kissing a dude and a lady, and while there are definitely bi folk rocking the polyamory thing (and power to them), that’s not all of us. Or even most of us, really. And because we don’t get very many bi characters in movies or TV, and even fewer bi characters that are actually, you know, visibly/verbally acknowledged as bisexual (Glee, I’m looking at you; Steven Moffat, I’m not looking at you, but only because looking at you makes me want to cry), there’s not a lot of chances to correct that invisibility problem. The result of this is a lot of confused teenagers. Like, so many. Like, a ton of them. 

WHICH IS WHY IT’S OKAY TO MAKE A CHARACTER LIKE STILES BISEXUAL THREE SEASONS IN. OR SIX SEASONS IN. OR EIGHT SEASONS IN. IN FACT, IT WOULD BE OKAY TO MAKE STILES BISEXUAL 100 SEASONS IN, AT AGE 45. NOT EVERYBODY KNOWS THEY’RE BI WHEN THEY’RE SIXTEEN; IN FACT, MOST OF US DON’T. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO COME TO NEW CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THEIR SEXUALITY FAR LATER IN LIFE THAN THAT, AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM. THERE IS NOT A CLOCK ON FIGURING OUT YOUR SEXUALITY, AND I’M SORRY TO CAPS-YELL LIKE THIS, BUT IT’S *REALLY IMPORTANT*. It’s really important to acknowledge that teenagers are often confused and unsure and unaware of their sexuality! It’s really important to acknowledge this shit is a spectrum! It’s really important to show characters, especially teenaged characters, whose sexual awareness grows and changes as they grow and change, because that’s reality. It’s not everyone’s reality, but it is reality for a lot of people, and that’s the whole point of reflective media arguments: please put more realities on my screen. Please show me people like me, or people like my friends; please show me things I can relate to; please show me things I went through, am going through, or will go through; please show me more realities than just the tiny-ass little microcosm of options you’re playing over and over and over again now, because that doesn’t help me, resonate with me, or interest me anymore. 

Speaking of which–and I’m going to talk about this more in a minute, but–the reason this whole “No it’s too late to make Stiles bi now” thing is a dangerous assertion? Is because it implies that if a character isn’t bi–or gay or lesbian or trans or ace or anything else that doesn’t INSTANTANEOUSLY AND IRREVERSIBLY PHYSICALLY PRESENT–from conception, that character can never be any of those things. And, guys, that argument screws us. It totally fucking screws us in a huge way, because we’re not getting those characters the way we should be! We’re just not. The only way we’re going to get those characters is if we continue to demand them, and the people with motive to listen to us aren’t the people at the networks signing off on these shows from conception, because they KNOW they can make money and ratings on the current status quo. The people with motive to listen to us are the people currently making and trying to keep their shows on the air. So to say that you can’t make a character bi a few seasons in because it would feel forced–um, for my money? Force it. I don’t give a fuck if it’s crap; give me the opportunity to say a show made a character queer due to popular demand, let me run with that, and I promise you I can make it matter more than the quality of the character or show. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s move on to the next point. 

Thing The Third: But I Don’t Trust The Show To Handle It Right/But I Think Jeff Davis Is A Bag Of Dicks/But What If They Get It Wrong? 

No, but for real, let them fucking get it wrong. 

Like, okay, I could make the argument about how I personally believe that this show is unlikely to get it wrong, but that argument actually a) doesn’t mean shit because it hasn’t happened yet and b) doesn’t matter anyway. Would I prefer it if they made Stiles bisexual and got it right? Hell to the motherfucking yes I would. But given the choice between a bisexual character on a show marketed to teenagers written wrong, or NO BISEXUAL CHARACTER ON THAT SHOW MARKETED TO TEENAGERS AT ALL, I’m going to vote for the character written wrong every time.

Seriously, let them fucking get it wrong. In fact, let them get it DISASTROUSLY wrong, the kind of wrong that sends huge chunks of the internet into a frothing rage at said wrongness. Let them fuck it up so bad that people make post after post about how bad they fucked it up; let them make hideously terrible mistakes; let them put their proverbial paw between their proverbial lycanthropic jaws and chew on it hard. Not kidding! Let them get it wrong! Let them get it wrong and give me the chance to yell about how to do it right; let them get it wrong and give confused teenagers even the vaguest inkling of what to type into google; let them get it wrong and THEN LET THOSE CONFUSED TEENAGERS FIND THE REASONS WHY. This is the age of the internet, y'all; people look stuff up when they don’t understand it, when they’re confronted with it for the first time, when they’re trying to work it out. Let them get it wrong, because even done wrong it’s a jumping-off point, both for discussion of how to get it right and for people to, you know, start looking for resources, and we need those jumping off points! So let them get it wrong.

Thing The Most Important One: But Queerbaiting//But They Should Do This Instead Because It’s Needed More/But It’s Pandering.

Okay, guys, settle in, because this one is the long haul. 

I’m not saying that there isn’t a conversation to be had here about queerbaiting; the fact that it’s coming up so much argues conclusively that there is a conversation to be had, and I think that’s great! I’m all about conversation; I think it’s the best way to move forward. I’m not saying there’s not a conversation to be had here about other shit this show, and other shows, need to be doing, or need to be doing better–there are so many conversations to be had about that that I don’t even know where to begin, and they’re all incredibly important. And I’m definitely, 100% not saying that if they make Stiles bi, it won’t be pandering–it will, absolutely, be pandering. No question of it at all. What I am saying is the queerbaiting conversation can be had while still pushing for bi Stiles; what I am saying is that the conversations about other shit this show, and other shows, need to be doing/doing better can be had while still pushing for bi Stiles; what I am saying is that being pandered to? Is a really fucking good thing. 

No, wait. Let me explain that last one; I promise it’s not what you think. 

See, okay, here’s the thing is about representation in media: it’s a fight for power happening between the group of people who currently control the decisions, and thus have the power, and the group of people dissatisfied with their use of that control, who want to redefine that power and how its used. It’s a power struggle between two big-ass groups of humans: uh, guys? That’s a war. It’s a war for the status quo, or, to be more accurate, for what the average depiction of the status quo should look like, and it’s being passively won by people who believe in the very idea of the status quo they are being fed. Like, for real, you guys: the war for fair representation in media is currently being won for the Powers That Be by the frighteningly large part of their audience that has nooooo idea this war is going down. By the frightening large part of their audience that’s still watching the same stories about the same people because those are the only kinds of stories they’ve ever been exposed to. Because they’ve got literally no clue that there are alternative options, or because, when presented with alternative options, they recoil and react like horribly wads of dick because that status quo has taught them to fear the unfamiliar. Chew on that for a second; it’s okay. I know. It sucks a lot. 

But! In a lucky break! It’s not actually a hopeless war, because we have, uh, reality on our side. The world doesn’t look the way mainstream media would have us believe, at all, and, in the most globalized age in the history of this planet, that is becoming more apparent to more people all the time. It’s becoming apparent to them when they seek out information on their own, when they come in contact with information by accident, and–this is the big one–when something pushes them to seek information. It’s becoming apparent when they, whether through self-motivation or outside motivation or mistake, come to find the literal wealth of voices saying, “Hey, the world doesn’t look the way it does on TV, and it’s okay if your reality doesn’t either! Join us in wanting something better, something more reflective, something realer. Defect to the side of right.” They say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink, and I will grant you that there are certain horses out there that will never be interested in the water of fair representation, because they are in the group of people for whom media is an accurate representation of their lives. BUT THOSE PEOPLE ARE IN THE MINORITY. THE DRASTIC MINORITY. BECAUSE MEDIA PANDERS, CURRENTLY, TO A SHOCKINGLY SMALL GROUP OF HUMAN BEINGS. 

Speaking of that word–panders–now is where I’d like to point something out. This is a war, right? We’ve established that? So: wars are fought by soldiers, but they’re won with tactics. Pandering, as tactics go, is usually referred to as a cheap one; no one has ever called pandering a masterful manipulation technique. That’s because pandering isn’t a masterful manipulation technique: it’s a terrible manipulation technique. When you pander to a person or group of people, you are revealing your hand. You are showing them that you care about them, about their support or allegiance or what have you, enough to attempt to cater to their specific needs. You are showing your underbelly, and that underbelly has “Hey, receiver of my pandering, I need you!” spray-painted on it in giant neon letters. 

When somebody panders to you, they are putting their ball in your court. When somebody panders to you, they are revealing their weaknesses. When somebody panders to you, they are handing you power on a silver platter. They just are. That’s why it’s a terrible way to manipulate people: it gives those people too much control. 

The possibility of Stiles becoming bisexual as a response to fannish outcry is not about Sterek, and it’s not about whether the character arc will be believable, and it’s not about well or poorly how the show might do it, and it’s not about the other shit Teen Wolf is or isn’t getting wrong. It’s about pandering. It’s about power. It’s about the chance that we might get to say, “And here’s an example of a time we demanded a straight-to-queer character from a show and got one.”  It’s about the chance that we might get to say, “WE CAN DEMAND THINGS FROM SHOWS AND GET THEM,” and how much that will invigorate us to keep demanding them, and keep getting them. It’s about the opportunity to work an angle and slip another underrepresented character into that status quo that’s drowning us, because every time we do that, we pull more people, become more powerful. It’s about the fact that we, the dissatisfied, the content-starved, the change-hungry, are in a rare and exciting twist being acknowledged as an audience enough to be pandered to. And this isn’t a take-what-you-can-get argument, and this isn’t a tone argument, and this isn’t an argument about how we should be grateful to the creators for even discussing this possibility because, honestly, fuck that. I love this bedamned werewolf show, and I personally think they do a surprising number of things right, but I refuse to accept the idea that we need to be grateful every time media does something right, as opposed to, you know, upset when they do something wrong. This is an argument about tools, and using them. This is an argument about taking the hand we’ve been shown and prying it open until it gives us what we want. This is an argument about tactics. 

So here’s what I want to do: I want to ask you to go forth and fight from the depths of your souls. I want to ask you to redouble the outcry that got us to this point; I want to ask you to tweet it and tumble it and sing it from the rooftops harder than ever before; I want to ask you to run with the whole “Biles” thing that the canon just handed to us, goddamn. I want to ask you to fight for this, not because you want to see Sterek, and not because you want a well-developed bi character, and not because you think the show could do it right, although I would hugely agree with you on all of those points–I want to ask you to fight for this because we’re in a power struggle with a chance to grab some power, and I think we should grab it with both hands and run with it until we literally drop. 

But I’m afraid to ask that. I’m afraid in making this post. I’m afraid because I’m always afraid to want strides in fair representation in media too much, since I am so often disappointed; I’m afraid because I’m always afraid to ask you to join me in wanting those strides, because I know you, too, are so often disappointed. I’m afraid because I am hugely, hideously power hungry–I am so fucking sick of having the word “militant” applied to my activism when the very reason for my argument is that I am, for all intents and purposes, unarmed, and I am so fucking ready for those circumstances to change. I’m afraid that the hunger blinds me to reason; I’m afraid that the hunger makes me vulnerable; I’m afraid that the hunger strips me of my ability to be rational, and honestly, maybe it does. There’s the significant chance that this whole thing is so much smoke, that being as worked up about it as I am is just embarrassing myself, and that’s a risk I’m just going to have to take. I’m afraid I don’t have the right to ask that kind of thing of you, and I really, honestly, entirely don’t–if I did ask those things, I’d be doing so on behalf of the community, not on my own behalf, and I still wouldn’t feel right about it, because it’s not my place to speak for anyone.  

But mostly? Mostly I’m afraid of you guys. Mostly I’m afraid that the response to that kind of request would be to hit me with the things I responded to above, that this discourse is going to continue to be shaped by the things I responded to above, that in trying to point at least some of this energy towards that central point, that potential power grab, I will be shot down. And I’m not afraid of that because I fear my own inability to handle that kind of response; at this point, there’s not a lot the internet can throw at me that I can’t get past. I’m not even afraid of that because I’m afraid of being wrong, because honestly, when I’m wrong about shit, I like to be told. I’m afraid of that because if we can’t, as a community, come together and evaluate situations like this for the most salient tactical options, we are going to keep losing this war. And that breaks my fucking heart, you guys. That breaks my heart every time. 

So: my vote, now and always, is for bisexual Stiles. My vote is for bisexual Stiles whether he’s dating Derek or not; my vote is for bisexual Stiles whether he’s developed beautifully or not;  my vote is for bisexual Stiles whether it’s done correctly or not; my vote is for bisexual Stiles regardless of–and, in fact, BECAUSE of–the fact that it’s pandering. You guys can draw your own conclusions, and make your own choices, and fight your own battles. Should those battles line up with mine, it would be my honor to fight with you; if not, I am still honored to have had your consideration, your thought, and your willingness to read 4,000 words of me spewing opinions this way. <3