According to Henry Jenkins, the fact that most fan-fiction writers are female, is because women have more urgency to go beyond male-dominated narratives, and "to reclaim feminine interest from the margins of masculine texts” (477). He argues that fan fiction enables women to express themselves "outside the dominant modes of expression used by men” (477). However, no alternative mode of expression can be completely “outside" the dominant discourse, because the latter has deeply infiltrated our everyday life, especially our language. If writing empowers women, it is not through escaping the male-dominated discourse or looking for an “outside" space. Rather, empowerment is disturbance and transformation of the discourse from within.
Jenkins argues that “fans are empowered over mass culture”, because they are not only consumers but also producers, who interact with rather than reacting to the original text. Fan culture in Jenkins’ eyes reminds me of Foucault’s “transgressive space”, in the sense that it is a site that "both affirms the limits of being and affirms this limitlessness into which it leaps” (qtd. Lukinbeal and Aitken, 366; Miller 1993: 88). From transgressive spaces viewers can interpret and contest dominant narratives that have been societally naturalized. Unlike the the dominant discourse, these spaces are open for liberatory and fluid identities, and recognize difference “as empowering rather than threatening” (Lukinbeal and Aitken, 366). It seems that slash can be seen as such a transgressive space, where characters form non-conventional sexual and political roles. According to Lukinbeal and Aitken, one way to fabricate transgressive spaces is through “intimacy” (356). For most slash, in intimate spaces, characters negotiate their interior psychic space with the exterior physical space more openly. They transcend stable, normative gender roles, and they are relatively free from the exterior societal structure.
However, slash fictions, so as other fan fictions, are so diverse that cannot be generalized (as transgressive or not). Slash fans can reclaim female pleasure through slash writing, but ironically, in some slash fictions much of this pleasure is achieved in misogyny/at the expense of women. In this case, slash can be disempowerment of women rather than empowerment.
Lukinbeal, Christopher and Aitken, Stuart C. 1998. “Sex, Weather, and Violence: Male Hysteria, Scale, and the Fractal Geographies of Patriarchy”. In Places Through the Body. Edited by H. Nast and S. Pile. New York: Routledge, 356-80.
Miller, James. 1993. The Passion of Michel Foucault. New York: Anchor Books.