This is a defense of “gatekeeping.”
Let’s talk about subcultures.
When a subculture breaks off from the mainstream culture, it does so because the people within the subculture find certain elements of the mainstream culture to be lacking and, as a result, have trouble relating to the mainstream culture.
Nerds formed nerd subcultures because they felt ostracized and marginalized by the mainstream culture. They created subcultures based on standards they understood. Many of them formed subcultures based around the appreciation media they enjoyed that the mainstream culture often derided or didn’t understand. Persecution by people in the mainstream culture made them distrustful of those not in their subcultures.
And so we ended up with fandoms. However, as the media these fandoms build themselves around continued to proliferate and edge their way into mainstream culture, a schism emerged.
When it comes to the issue of who gets to “join” fandom, the dispute is portrayed as being between two distinct camps: Elitist “gatekeepers” trying to keep fandom their own little thing vs. people who want fandom to be open and welcoming.
It’s easy to see where the second group is coming from. They felt accepted and welcomed in subculture and want to extend that opportunity to as many people as possible, which is noble. The problem is that that mentality has caused them to lash out at any “gatekeeping” they see, rejecting the very concept of maintaining barriers to entry for a subculture.
From the hardcore gamer whining about “gamer girls,” to the anime club president willing to kick out that one guy who won’t shut up about “pedoshit,” when people “gatekeep” in subcultures, everyone thinks they’re doing the same thing: Keeping out people who would affect the culture negatively.
The difference is in the standards they keep, but in the eyes of those who push an inclusivity edict, gatekeeping is gatekeeping and it’s all bad.
Those who push against gatekeeping believe they’re being noble, but the inclusivity edict they promote erodes the subculture’s standards.
At the lowest levels, we get fans calling other fans pedophiles in order to feel better about themselves for their cartoon choices, or moe fans hypocritically hating on fujoshi over Kyoto Animation making an anime with cute guys in it.
At the highest levels, we get people hateful and self-centered enough to harass fanartists into attempting suicide, and we get people deeply sociopathic enough and malignantly narcissistic enough to use fandom status to take advantage of women.
Put simply, if we’re not allowed to gatekeep, then what do we do about the types of people many would agree are ruining the culture for other people?
It would be a wonderful world if everyone was genuine, but the reality is that some people will fake the funk, while contributing nothing, long enough to get what they want out of the subculture, whether that’s fame, status, money, or ill-gotten photos of cosplayers’ underwear.
The anti-gatekeeping camp, however, seems focused on only addressing toxic, damaging behaviour when it amounts to some elitist nerd questioning how much this or that girl really knows about anime, or when an anime Youtuber makes a joke about needing to see Kim Kardashian’s MyAnimeList before believing she’s an anime fan.
The problem with the outrage against “gatekeeping” is that it seeks only to preserve the “inclusivity” aspect of the subculture, rather than to actively push against harmful elements of the subculture. That would be gatekeeping, after all.
But while we concern ourselves with people who have zero power to determine who gets to stay in the fandom, all of the bullies, harassers, and sexual predators continue to stalk the shadows of the fandom, flying under the radar and pouncing on fans who lack the clout and influence to warrant a defense from the fandom’s opinion leaders.
Some people should’ve been stopped at the gate.