?

Log in

No account? Create an account
bear by san

March 2017

S M T W T F S
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
can't sleep books will eat me

don't want to put you in a pop coma

Please read this linked post before proceeding. This post has been closed to new comments.

State of the Bear:

1) I've participated in Warren Ellis's Blue Monday Signage Self-Portrait meme. Down the bottom.

2) I said I wasn't going to do this, and I already regret it.

But I'm on the horns of an ethical dilemma here. I'm still trying to stay out of the cultural appropriation debate. Yes, I am. Because it's not about me, and it hasn't honestly been about me in days, and honestly I don't care what people I don't know think of me. I'm not here to defend myself and I'm not here for a pat on the head.

Here's the thing: It's not about me. It's about people feeling marginalized and feeling that their voices are going unheard and being dismissed, and there's a lot of provocative language going around, and it's become personal enough that there's no way I can say much or anything at this point without seeming to choose sides. And since I have dear friends on both sides of the argument, and I currently disagree with things that most of them have said, and I am politically about the worst candidate for peacemaker around, I'll be over here wishing we could all stand down from our ego-defense and self-justification a little and maybe listen some.

I will, however, share something that I wrote in part as a reply to a comment by browngirl which seemed so wise and balanced to me that I needed to respond. I'm not going to link to her comment, because I don't want to lead the flamewar there, but here's what I've learned (am learning) during this past week.

I think there's an elephant in the room that I think is getting largely talked around, and I think it's because to half of the discussants, it's so invisible they don't realize it exists, and to the other half, it's so enormous they can't understand how anybody could MISS it.

It goes like this. (White people, please pay attention here.)

1) I, as a white writer, am coming at including COC in my work from an outsider perspective. I am aware of this, and even if I attempt to write those COC from a subject position rather than an object one--

2) a white audience may find my outsider-written characters more compelling than insider-written COC (because they conform to a pre-existing outsider bias)

3) which may mean that my outsider-written COC contribute to a dominant image of "what POC are like" in dominant/colonizing/assimilating culture

3a) which is perceived as competing for space with insider portrayals, and thus reinforcing the object position I meant to undermine

4) thus also leading to a perception or reality of silencing or further marginalization of writers of color, which is

5) entirely at odds with my own intention of *increasing* the representation of same in the field.

6) Facepalm, lather, rinse, repeat.

So, no, writers of pinky-beigeness, nobody is telling you you can't write characters of color. They're telling you, please listen when (and after) you do. I know that's not what it feels like you're being told, but that's because you are missing the context of existing marginalization. If you do choose to write characters of color, you are also choosing to accept the criticism of same. However, if you choose to write for publication, you are choosing to accept criticism of your work. Period.

Put on your big boy pants and suck it up. As nojojojo has pointed out, writers of color are also not immune from these criticisms and difficulties, either.

(in exemplia: in the post on othering in which I planted the seed for this meltdown, I criticized kenscholes's construction of women publicly. Ken is a friend of mine. We share an editor and an agent. You know what Ken did? He sent me a nice email saying "Thanks." Ken has big boy pants.)

And you know what? There is absolutely a place for outsider or commonly-othered characters as written by more mainstream creators.

I am thinking of this, because I am much more familiar with the insider trading of queer politics, as the Brokeback Mountain problem, and that one, I can comprehend from an insider point of view. Which is to say, BBM, a movie about two white gay closeted men, was created from a story written by a straight white woman (AFAIK?) and directed by a straight Asian male.

Mainstream society found this story a lot more accessible than many (all) queer movies about the queer experience, and I think in a lot of ways BBM *was* very narratively honest in its depiction of both closeted homosexuality and the collateral damage related to same. I ALSO think it changed the zeitgeist, awakened a lot of mainstream viewers to the idea that Gay People Are Human Beings, and may have made the world a better place.

However, comma, it is a movie about Tragic Gay Guys Who Die Or Are Miserable Because They Are Gay. And the queer community is really, really tired of that shit.

(I'm not equating the queer experience and the black experience, but I am drawing an analogy between the way art is perceived by insiders and outsiders to a marginalized subculture. So I think maybe we-collectively need to find a way to talk about and correct that sense of marginalization. Some of which is as simple as to, hello, encourage white readers to read Sherman Alexie instead of or at the very least in addition to what's-her-name.)

In other words, there's two such massively different sets of experiences at work here that we almost can't hear each other, and we really don't understand what each other are saying.


Both pursuant to and tangential to the discussion, I'm still reading Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, which is beautifully written, structurally problematic, and full of straight white guys with straight white guy problems. And yet it gave me this sentence last night, which I think has bearing:

"You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story properly. Too much truth confuses the facts."



Comments on this post are so, so very, very moderated. Feel free to agree or disagree with me or anyone else, but if you can't be polite, I'm not having you in my house. And I'm going out tonight and most of the day tomorrow, so I won't be responding or unscreening very much. I say this in advance so that nobody feels as if I am picking on them.



...and yes, the current music was serendipitous, not selected.

Comments

Page 1 of 4
<<[1] [2] [3] [4] >>
Well-said. Thank you.
You are very wise. I thank you, also.
"You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story properly. Too much truth confuses the facts."

I believe this statement to be full of truthiness. A writer's job is to tell pretty lies so compelling that you want to believe them. (And if those pretty lies are actually ugly truths, so much the better.)

(Anonymous)

A quote I scribbled down while I was reading Lloyd Alexander's [i]Arkadians[/i] last month:

[i]If a storyteller worried about the facts -- my dear Lucian, how could he ever get at the truth?[/i]

In a kid's book, natch, and spoken by a jackass, which is why Alexander ever was and ever will be a hero of mine. He gives good truth.
I will say the previous post gave me something to think about. I was actually wondering how things were going in that, since I couldn't keep up with all the comments.
Bear,

From a stranger, my hat's off to you. I'm taking notes in case I ever need to remember how to handle fire with grace. I've also been learning a lot.

Indi
I wonder if the BBM-type learning experience is analogous to the way I learned karate.

When I started with Shotokan karate many years ago, the sensei taught us methods for doing several things. It wasn't until we'd mastered that incorrect, or at least interim, technique that we could actually learn to do the techniques the right way. If we'd started out being taught the actual techniques, we would have damaged and frustrated ourselves, with only a couple of the more gifted students actually learning anything useful.

Instead, all of us (even me, the klutz) made progress in the class. I ended up dropping out instead of going on to purple belt, but I was enriched by the experience.
1) I, as a white writer, am coming at including COC in my work from an outsider perspective. I am aware of this, and even if I attempt to write those COC from a subject position rather than an object one--

2) a white audience may find my outsider-written characters more compelling than insider-written COC (because they conform to a pre-existing outsider bias)

3) which may mean that my outsider-written COC contribute to a dominant image of "what POC are like" in dominant/colonizing/assimilating culture

3a) which is perceived as competing for space with insider portrayals, and thus reinforcing the object position I meant to undermine

4) thus also leading to a perception or reality of silencing or further marginalization of writers of color, which is

5) entirely at odds with my own intention of *increasing* the representation of same in the field.

6) Facepalm, lather, rinse, repeat.


Oh, thank you!

Yes, this has been what I've been trying to say every time this topic comes up ... and its not because I don't think you have the very best intentions in the world! It's that it isn't the same to have PoCs (or queers, or women or Mormons, whatever!) written by non-PoCs ... we need more characters written from the PoC (or queer, female, Mormon, whatever) point of view!

And not just in a we want to bash straight white male (non-Mormon?) people so stand still and take it kind of way either!

In my view the real tragedy is that there are all kinds of institutional publishing barriers that keep SF&F writers of color out of mainstream SF&F, even when it is written! It is seen by the market as appealing to limited "exotic" or identity-based interest ... ie, only black readers would want to read Gloria Naylor's Mama Day ... an excellent fantasy written about an island in Georgia that is wrapped up in fascinating corner of black history ... and I'd have never discovered if I hadn't taken a class in African-American literature on purpose.

I'm sure you've come across How to Suppress Women's Writing by Johanna Russ at some point. Substitute PoC for Women and you'll see what I mean.








Right, and I absolutely have never meant to say that I think it's the same to have outsiders writing insider culture, as it were. (I think I said this explicitly in my post on othering, in fact, where I pointed out how much *better* the Jewish character is with a Jewish writer on the team.)

I have just been attempting to provide tools for *doing it* as best as one can.

And see? Elephant in the room.
Hell, even as a straight person I'm tired of the whole tragic/miserable gay [insert medium] that comes out. It does lead one to the falsehood that not being straight sucks.

You'd almost wonder why anybody does it. *g*
Very well said. I'm going to bookmark this and pull it out and think about it again the next time I think about writing something with characters of other colors/cultures/etc.
Thank you. *g*

BTW, I do NOT want to cramp your style, but I'm really looking forward to the rest of your critical reading of W&W B&I (get your own titles right, Bear). And I will sit on my hands and not comment. I promise. *g*

(But to clarify, in his native form, Whiskey is a piebald horse. Spotted animals are traditionally symbolic of the otherworld in Irish myth.)

Edited at 2009-01-19 09:08 pm (UTC)
You know I don't think outsider characters are necessarily compelling because they conform to an outsider bias but because an outsider can perhaps best represent to others what *they* see. If what they see is the stereotype, then they retransmit the stereotype, but yanno some people's appreciation of lions changes if you show them playing with their cubs as opposed to always showing them slaughtering zebras. I guess what I'm attempting to say is that if you have two sides one of which is perfectly happy ignoring the other, then maybe a mediator, a Marco Polo even, isn't a bad thing. And that if you're trying to represent side a to side b in ways that they feel will be understood by side b, the things about side a that they feel help them understand (and yes understand here is probably the fluffy fuzzy kind of not dismissing them out of hand rather than actually being able to walk a mile in their shoes) ar going to be treated as the most important to relay.

I was thinking that maybe part of the complication is that the first stage of representation is hard to make happen but easy compared... knowing the other side exists. (For simplicity I'm kind of skipping the possibility that there's been a stage where blacks gays or whatever exist as characters entirely to confirm to anyone not in that group that that kind of perversion shouldn't exist). Just having a black character, or a gay character, or whatever that means people see them. And then you get to struggle with moving from wallpaper through tokens and up to characters who have some positive attributes to which anyone who is not black gay or whatever can relate. Only these attributes may not be ones that side a believes are core or important and side a may, and may rightly, feel annoyed by such simplifications of complex issues that matter to them.

I'm not trying to make light when I say that histlory scholars get enraged by the simplifications of their subject (dear to their hearts) into bite sized pieces of popular culture... but done right it does at least give people an idea of what happened in the past (done wrong it's an ugly mess, of course, so it's right that history scholars tell us why Troy may not have had llamas).

And I think a lot of Western society is still in the phase where they're not ready, and can't be ready, for characters who embody every aspect that a black gay whatever person would like to see. And yes, that also means that black gay whatever writers either write for their own community and the few outside their community who are ready willing and able to enjoy what they serve up... or likewise have to be part of the mediation... of offering up characters who go that bit further than an outsider writer can take them but not so far that they become impenetrable to outsider readers. (And yes, insider conversation quickly becomes impenetrable to outsiders whatever the in or out groups may be). And yes that sucks. It's not right.

But unless we go through the mediation process, unless we try. Side a and side b just keep on yelling at each other, or worse, ignoring each other. And one day something really bad will happen. Again.

(and yeah I think that's more than enough mind blurt from me)
It's the 'baby steps' philosophy. Not everybody is ready for X, so you give them x first to get them used to the idea.
It goes like this.

I think that is a succinct and thoughtful breakdown of what I've been trying to think about and map out in my head. Thanks for posting it.
What you said.
Thanks for writing this -- it's a really cogent and useful summary of some of the underlying issues (especially the numbered list).
Page 1 of 4
<<[1] [2] [3] [4] >>