Daily WTF: The Bullying of Fanartist Zamii

Almost two weeks ago, popular fanartist Zamii attempted to take her own life. According to posts on her Tumblr, she is recovering though still, of course, struggling.

And the catalyst for this decision? Because the Steven Universe fandom decided that she didn’t deserve to live.

For some time now, Zamii has been catching constant, repeated, aggressive, and inescapable flak for her fanwork, including drawing the My Little Pony Fluttershy in stereotypical Native American style, reducing the size of some characters’ noses, and making Rose Quartz look skinnier. However, even when she takes down some of her work, apologizes, and attempts to correct her problematic style, she’s being stalked, harassed, and told to kill herself. If you click here, you can see a long list of the sort of harassment she faced, including a point-by-point FAQ on how awful she is. It’s horrific.

Naturally, there are two sides to this story. One is about Zamii, a young 20-ish artist just trying to be a fan, draw art, and occasionally garner submissions. Despite her best efforts, she is being bullied. The other side is from the people bullying her. Some of them are hateful individuals. Others have legitimate concerns and see her artwork as perpetrating violence against them, either by erasing the good representation from Steven Universe, contributing to stereotypes against their community, or being dismissive of their valid concerns. Perhaps these people didn’t intend to make her harm herself but perhaps they did.

Nevertheless, we must agree that bullying is wrong – regardless of your noble intentions. As a previous post illustrates, I do not believe in forcing victims to understand their oppressor, so I won’t ask Zamii’s bullies to try to understand what made Zamii do things they consider problematic. You do not have to like Zamii. You do not have to like her art. You do not have to look at it, but you cannot harass, stalk, and bully her or tell her to kill herself. She is a human being just like you. What you can do is refuse to engage with her or tell others what she is doing. You can talk to her about her art. You can try to educate her. You are not responsible for her attitude or her viewpoints, and you cannot erase her from existence just because you dislike her. That is wrong.

Fandom often forgets that there are other options beyond destroying a person or thing. We engage in black or white thinking that is only capable of idealization or complete devaluation. We go beyond critical thinking and analysis to knee jerk responses and the repetition of, “You’re offending me, you’re offending me, you’re offending me.” This does not mean we cannot be offended. It does not mean that we should not let others know when they’re being offensive. However, we need to break the spiral of hate that is the consequence of a lifetime of abuse and manipulation. We cannot further it because that doesn’t end it, and the longer we participate in this spiral, the more it will hurt us as individuals. Instead, we can disengage from it, and we can create new things. Steven Universe is an example of trying to break the spiral of hate, abuse, and belittlement that characterize so many cartoons, comics, and creators. It brought us wonderful characters with different body types, love types, orientations, races, personalities, and gender representations. We should honor the spirit behind Steven Universe and what it’s taught us about being a loving, supportive community. No, we cannot force one individual to change, but we can change ourselves, and by engaging in thoughtful discourse and joyous creation, we can begin to change the world around us.

* Photo property of Steven Universe, creator Rebecca Sugar, and Cartoon Network.


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