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How much sympathy is left for people who still like traditional gender roles?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Mythopoet, Nov 23, 2015.

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  1. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Pretty much level 100 post here. Thank you, Caged Maiden.


    "I also appreciate how people who are affected by gay marriage feel, because it's something that is important to them, even though it doesn't affect me personally. I want all people to enjoy freedom and equality, but when it comes down to my own writing, I can only write what I think is right for a character. And for the record, I've never written a gay main character into a novel, not because I am somehow against the thought, but because when I write, I tend to stick with my instincts, and I just don't want the story to somehow become a study of that aspect of the human condition. I don't personally feel like it's my inclination to publicly explore something I don't personally feel I can relate to."

    I just want to point out that this sums it up for me. Who people take to bed and what they do with their lives is none of my business. I'm a housewife as well and we have a son. My life is the same as a lot of women and different than a lot of them, too. But I LOVE what you mentioned about writing from instinct because it's the only way something good comes out of what I create! I can sit here and think about what it might be like to write a homosexual character, or a genderless character (sorry guys, I don't really get that too much, just being honest) but I won't do anyone or anything justice because it's not what I'm familiar with. I'm Hispanic but I write about white people (although the main character in one of my series is Hispanic lol). I write about aspects of the adult woman's life I understand and can answer to. As writers, we're also philosophers in a way. Our best work comes from answers we're trying to discover or share. Aspects of the human walk we're trying to share with our fellow humans: our readers.

    So staying true to who you are and what you understand is the key to preserving our individuality in art. I think you hit the nail on the head, Maiden.



     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2017
  2. To be honest its hard not to feel some level of sympathy based on the fact that a person is...human. Maybe not all people share this though.

    I couldn't portray a pedophile, rapist, abuser of any sort, etc. sympathetically, but I guess that racism seems to me to be culturally ingrained evil that its perpetrators often aren't even completely conscious of. Even if a person wouldn't admit to hating people of a different skin color, and not even believe they do, they still might hold racist beliefs that they can't or don't or won't confront as not okay. Deliberately abusing another person is somewhat different. I think racism arises from inherent evil only in the sense that all humans have some level of inherent evil. I feel like xenophobia is a human instinct that has to be consciously confronted and overcome. But that's another discussion. I'm not a sociologist, either. As repugnant as racism is, someone being a racist doesn't utterly dehumanize them to the point that no sympathy is possible. The only things that do that are those things that demonstrate that a character has no sympathy or human compassion for others. That's the line at which I can't portray a character sympathetically.

    This is derailing the discussion though. I picked an unfortunate example; now it sounds like i'm making a comparison between writing an LGBT character and writing a racist character, and there shouldn't even be a comparison. O_O

    That's the thing, I guess. I was thinking of this as "must a writer avoid writing characters that don't align with their personal views?" but some people (not referring to anyone on this thread, but i've literally heard people tell me this before) see writing an LGBT character as closer to writing a rapist; that is, not a matter of personal views but of utter disgustingness. In that case, I guess it's different. -_-

    (No, really, I had someone tell me that if I wrote an LGBT character, that would be the equivalent of writing a rapist character.)
     
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  3. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Are you equating heads of corporations and non-environmentally-conscious people with pedophiles?
     
  4. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Sage

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    And this is the point I'm trying to make. In your worldview someone can be racist without necessarily being a bad person which allows you to portray characters who are racist but can still be sympathetic. But some people who've been on the receiving end of race-based discrimination might not be able to portray someone who is racist as sympathetic in their writing, because their life experience hasn't given them anything but completely negative experiences with racist people. They might not be able to understand why people would be so cruel to them unless those people were just cruel people.

    Being able to understand why people do the things they do, not just at an intellectual level but at an emotional level is really key to writing well rounded characters. So its not that all the characters have align with the author's personal views, its just I can't see someone who thinks homosexuality is unnatural being able to empathize with a lesbian character enough to make them a well-rounded (and therefore not stereotypical in a likely negative way) character.
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I think people often hear one or two tidbits about an individual and assume the worst, and I don't think that's always fair. I've known people who come across as racist on the surface who otherwise treat people fairly, and I've known people who don't sound racist at all but will quietly live a perfectly segregated life and not have it any other way. The absolute meanest things I've heard in person targeted at the LGBT community also happened to be followed by, "But whatever they do in their home, that's their business."

    I often think we get so "political" that we end up judging people on all the wrong things. The "meta-argument," as it were, doesn't always line up with people's actual behaviors.
     
  6. LWFlouisa

    LWFlouisa Troubadour

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    1. I'm lesbian and trans.
    2. I'll write about whatever characters I want to.
    3. I consider people telling me what characters to write about on the same level as telling me whom to bed with.

    I also don't think about whether my characters are sympathetic or not. I just write them.
     
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  7. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

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    Sorry but this really bugged me

    I don't think you understand the implications of what you are saying are. By this rational Salinger is responsible for the death of John Lennon and not Mark David Chapman. Does this mean McCartney and Lennon are responsible for the Manson murders and not Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel, and Charles Manson. Its a great way to shift responsibility.

    No idea can cause harm, an idea cannot get up and start beating people bloody. An idea is nothing more than an abstraction to group an underlying thought or theme.

    Stephen king is an great idiot for doing that.

    Its not even a miss reading it is a complete selective bastardization of Nietzsche. Common, Nietzsche hated the very thought of popular movements be they the church or nationalism (somehow the Nazis and Fascists didn't read that part). Hell his entire point with the uberman is the idea that people are going to have to Create their own values in the face of the nihilism that is/was the end product of how society has moved away from belief systems.
    Does this mean you are responsible if someone actually tried to do what you had in your original draft. Does that mean you should be tried for murder? After all you gave them the idea right? It's not like people have a choice to do terrible things. This is the problem with your entire premise. It completely takes the responsibility of ones conscious actions and places the responsibility upon a different persons thought, not their command. Your not commanding anyone to do anything are you? you are just putting pen to paper in creative expression. Tell me how are you responsible for the actions of another or are they simply slaves to your every word? People have a choice.

    We follow this to its conclusion where would that leave us? I guarantee we wont be writing diddly.
     
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    "An idea is not responsible for the people who believe in it. "
    Said by the immortal Don Marquis.
     
  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes, the Nietzsche argument made in this thread is sheer nonsense, and stems from a failure to have read (or at least understand) his writings. I'm not an expert on him by any means, but I have read enough of him and about him to know that the NAZI ideals bear no resemblance to his actual thoughts or philosophies.
     
  10. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Sorry, but this irresponsible way of thinking concerned me greatly.

    Let me start from the general and then move to the specific as I try to articulate my thoughts on this topic.

    Firstly, ideas can be dangerous when they are communicated to others or acted upon. The argument that ideas "don't punch people in the nose" as a great escape clause is just facile nonsense.

    The idea that one type of person is less human or less worthy can be a dangerous idea (for example). Communicating that idea is can be a dangerous act. It is simple enough to design other examples.

    Writing, or storytelling, is communicating for a purpose. That purpose may vary, it might be for education, entertainment, a call to action, to teach morals and standards etc. But writing or storytelling is an act that can have an impact on other people directly or indirectly. If you think your writing cannot or will not impact anyone, stop writing now.

    If we accept that fairly straightforward premise, then the second question is when or how should writers be held responsible for transmitting dangerous ideas. Now that is a really complicated question on some levels.

    In law we have a concept related to negligence that I think fits quite well here. People are held responsible when the negative outcome from their action (or inaction) is found to be "reasonably foreseeable." If I fire a gun into a crowd it is reasonably foreseeable that someone could be hurt or killed. If I dislodge a hidden marble while walking that then rolls six miles downhill, bounces across a river and then the ends up in a jet engine and causes $1,000,000 in damages that is not reasonably foreseeable. Then we can start debates about what is reasonably foreseeable and what is not. But that is not our purpose here.

    There is no reason a writer should not be held responsible for the reasonably foreseeable outcomes of their writing. That engenders a much longer discussion about how we balance that with the value of free expression, and how people can and should be held responsible for various acts in a criminal or civil context, but once again those are just details that need to be worked out. They take a bit longer than a post here can really accommodate.

    So you can apply this to the specific example that is under discussion here. I am fairly familiar with Nietzsche's work and don't think it was reasonably foreseeable that it could form part of the pseudo-intellectual underpinning for genocidal racism. Another legal concept helps us here called "remoteness", but that again is a long detour from my main point.

    But, say I wrote a piece of fiction called "The Protocols of the Elders of Orcdom" which made people think that Orcs did terrible things worthy of punishment and dangerous to my community? That is a different story. It may well be reasonably foreseeable that some group of people might read that and then boycott Orc businesses based on lies, thus causing economic harm that might well deserve redress.

    Writers, and storytellers, almost by definition are members of a community. To suggest their actions are above review in some special way is irresponsible and kind of childish. It fits a mindset where one wants the benefits of being a participating part of the community but don't want the responsibilities that go along with being part of the a community. It is unhelpful and perhaps even destructive.

    "Fire!" in a crowded movie theatre anyone?
     
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think this gets dangerous in a hurry. That's a lot of power to regulate speech that is potentially given over to a power structure. In the U.S., I think the First Amendment would protect against adopting a "negligence" standard against speech. The U.S. Supreme Court has pointed out in the past (I think in NY Times v. Sullivan) that an attempt to punish negligent speech would have a substantial chilling affect on speech that is intended to fall within the protection of that amendment. I think that strong protection should extend not only to the press, and to the type of advocacy most strongly associated with the amendment, but also to fiction, which often addresses exactly the same real world issues, but in a different manner. I would not be at all in favor of holding an author liable for someone purportedly acting on an "idea" embodied in their work.
     
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  12. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I am aware of this line of thinking and am glad you have brought it up. While this approach exists, it is important to understand it is a very American idea and quite unique in the world. The United States approach to freedom of expression is the most liberal in the world, and the rest of the democratic world manages to run very well while restricting speech more than the US does. When it comes to free speech protection, the US is an outlier. A loud and often discussed outlier, but an outlier none the less.

    For instance, hate speech laws that would never be upheld in the United States are common and constitutional in many other democracies.

    Even in the United States, negligent speech can attract negative remedies. If I negligently publish say my company's financials and people rely on that to their detriment, I can indeed be successfully sued. And rightly so.

    Now different types of speech, even in the US, attract different types of protection, with political speech usually getting the most protection, and commercial speech much less.

    Personally I argue for a middle ground. If a writer communicates something that they know could cause harm, and there is no special reason to protect that form of expression, that why should writers get a pass over everyone else in society?
     
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  13. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    How can I write about anything negative if I'm afraid some idiot will let my fiction writing influence him to act in that negative way? If my work states it is a work of fiction, is that enough to keep me from being held liable for someone else's actions, regardless of whether they say they were influenced by my words?
     
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  14. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    That would depend on what you write and where you published it. My argument though is no-one in society should get a free pass for doing things that could be foreseen to cause harm, not even writers.

    Fiction is a funny thing. People don't always treat it like fiction.
     
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  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes. I prefer our standards for speech protections to those others, personally.

    Of course, speech can lead to liability in the U.S., as you mentioned. Publishing private information, defamation, incitement, and the like. But when it comes merely to the expression of ideas, it is extremely difficult to punish that in the U.S., if not nearly impossible. I like that.
     
  16. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    If my intent with my fiction is to shed light on a negative aspect of society, but some reader takes it as a call to action, is it my fault? Should I have written it "better"? What if I have written it to the best of my ability? Does that mean I should have stayed silent instead?
     
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  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    What you're describing is exactly the "chilling effect" the First Amendment in the U.S. is meant to avoid. The idea that a fiction writer might opt to stay silent out of fear of being prosecuted for a miscommunication, lack of ability to communicate intent as well as desired, and the like is anathema to our concept of free speech.

    Also, I suppose I should note before the discussion proceeds that we should limit it to the context of writers, fiction, and expression relating to the same. I appreciate the fact that everyone has done so thus far, and that the exchanges have been courteous. Thank you for that.
     
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  18. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    If you publish in English, the short answer is "probably not" but it is hard to say without actually seeing the work in question.
     
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  19. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    If any of my work were ever published in some language other than English, it would have to be translated by someone other than me. Would I then be held accountable for the translation of my words, or would liability fall on the translator?
     
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  20. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    While this article is admittedly dated it certainly makes it clear that the first amendment offers no absolute protection for writers of fiction:

    ttps://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3638&context=lcp
     
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