This morning, my inductive backbrain plugged together a bunch of input related to the ongoing conversations on cultural appropriation, story structure, feminist thought, and reading protocols, to advance the following hypothesis:
Othering is a luxury.
To explain more fully: If one is at the top of the social heap, one is in a position where it is not only nonessential to understand the positions of people different from one's self, but also easier to disregard the validity of those positions. As a woman in modern society, I have to understand the male perspective if I am going to succeed in navigating society. They, on the other hand, have the luxury of making a parlor game of wondering "what women want," and so forth--because they are not forced to understand the dominant (and external) paradigm. Not just forced to understand--constantly pressured to subscribe to it and support it, even when it's not in our own best interests.
The same goes for religious, sexual, ethnic, and social minorities.
And this ties directly into the reasons why it is easier for women to write good male characters (not that all women do--not that all women write good female characters!) than it is for men to write good women characters. Why it's easier for blacks to write good white characters than vice versa. Why it's easier, in short, to write up the imposed social ladder than down.
Because we are forced to understand people who are not like us. Whereas, if we are higher on the social heap, we have the luxury of believing that we are right and they are, if not wrong, at least deviant from the norm.
This also, not incidentally, explains a lot of world politics. Because the guys running the show and trying to negotiate with their opposite numbers are also the ones who have othered most of the human race--they are, in the US, overwhelmingly straight, wealthy, privileged, Protestant white males. And they really don't understand that what a single black mother of three with no high school education wants is to go to bed at night not worrying that her kids are hungry or coming down with something, or god forbid, she's getting sick and her mother's getting old and might not be able to watch the kids during the day much longer.
They are not trained, in other words, to step into her shoes. They have no understanding of the challenges she faces on a daily basis, and that the level playing field that they presume as a birthright is a glass mountain to her.
I'm as successful as I am in life because I do what I refer to as "passing for white." (By which I mean, well-spoken, middle-class, unradical, and so forth. This is the actual life skill they teach you in college, by the way--it's how to act like the lower echelons of the ruling class.) If I didn't have that knack for mimicry?
God knows where I'd be now.