Thursday, August 6, 2020

The line I can't seem to cross

A fun little Twitter bit started going around last week, "Confessions that can get your BBC Sherlock card revoked," in which Sherlockians could express their most unpopular opinion. It's a light-hearted exercise, giving us a window into the diversity that exists under the same banner, and people participate freely because they know that you can't get your imaginary "BBC Sherlock card" revoked.

I hadn't really thought about that part, until a friend spelled it out -- fandom cards can't be revoked. You get to love what you love however you love it and still be in whatever fandom you choose. That shouldn't strike any nerves for anyone, right? Totally cool, right? You know what's coming now . . . a "but." Or maybe an "except."

Because this also happened to be the week that I'm struggling with a moral quandry where that thought pricks at me just a wee bit. We've come to that time of year when visions of the annual Baker Street Irregulars dinner comes up. Many an elder Sherlockian will now go, "Here comes the part where Brad hates the Baker Street Irregulars," roll their eyes, and write off anything that follows. But I've never hated the BSI en masse or the organization itself, I just this one little issue that evolved from the time when women were not allowed in the group based on the opinion of one man.

This is the time of year when members of the Baker Street Irregulars get to suggest their fellow Sherlockians for an invitation to the annual dinner or membership in the club. Our opinions of who should be given said fandom benefits then filter through the head of the club, whose opinion decides who gets those benefits. A one-man electoral college, so to speak, making sure that guest list limits aren't breeched and members don't bring a guest that could harm the proceedings. Makes sense, right?

Until that one-man filter decides he doesn't like women. Or hears an untrue rumor about a particular Sherlockian that takes years to clear up. Or just doesn't think you should have worn jeans to a certain event. The guy who didn't allow women used the term "benevolent dictator" to describe this gatekeeper position, which is pretty on target. One depends a lot on a dictator's benevolence, which is kind of a problem with that sort of system. You can't have your Sherlockian card revoked because you expressed a certain opinion, but . . . .

You can have your chance to attend a key event in the Sherlockian world revoked because you expressed an opinion that one guy didn't like. 

This is where my problem lies. We haven't yet crossed the line where the Baker Street Irregulars will kick you out for expressing an opinion, which is how I remain a member of the club. But the fact that that big flaw in the system still exists holds me back from participating in the annual suggesting of Sherlockians for an invitation, which I really wanted to do this year. But participating feels like accepting, and despite the fact that most traditional Sherlockians seem to think it's fine the way it is, as much as I want to play nice and get along, that's a line I still can't seem to cross.

Having had fandom hell rain down on me for being ashamed of belonging to a group that didn't allow women (based on the opinion of one man) has burned that line into me, a scar which most Sherlockians don't have. Even I sometimes want to go "Get over it!" and start typing up a recommendation for this person or that, but, nope. Until the invitation/membership policy of the Irregulars becomes a little more transparent and a little less "one man's opinion can block a good Sherlockian," I don't think I'll be able to indulge with a clear conscience. It's really not that much of a change to hope for, especially if one looks at every other change the group has made in the last three decades.

That's not hating the Baker Street Irregulars. The legacy the group was built on -- of fun, of encouraging the love of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockians of all kinds -- remains a worthwhile vision. It's the kind of vision that transcends one individual, and as our fandom has grown, being dependent on one individual to gatekeep the organization that used to be the very flagship of that fandom in America seems like an outmoded concept. Hope of change springs eternal. And maybe it has, or is about to happen, but nobody has told us yet. Sometimes those things happen, too.

And maybe I'm wrong. Maybe my little protest on this one point doesn't matter to anyone but me. But if you've ever found yourself in the sort of situation that can spoil your enjoyment of your favorite thing, and you're not a sociopath, you really don't want to see someone else wind up in that same spot. So you hold the line, even if your skills at pushing social change kinda suck, and, after writing a little blog post, go back to just having fun with the rest of Sherlock Holmes fandom, which is what we're here for anyway.

Even with a little damage from times past, and even with a line we can't seem to cross.

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