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What I'm Saying Is, The Search For Equality Is Pretty Messy

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by A. E. Lowan, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    If you say that straight white dudes need to listen, you say that there exist straight white dudes. It is an out-and-out lie to say that "white" even exists as a thing outside of cultural constructions, and "straight" is at least more complicated than is often assumed. Besides, who decides who's allowed to not be a straight white dude? I don't "look" like a queer person, in the sense that I don't fit any obvious stereotypes that make people assume I'm queer, and I'm sick of being one of the people who's told to shut up. And besides the besides, even if we assume the existence of straight white folk, they have the right to talk about prejudice as it impacts them. How many times have you seen a boy who's never claimed to be gay assumed to be gay and gay-bashed just because he's slightly effeminate? And for one more "besides," let's not assume that being a minority member means you know what the hell you're talking about. One of the most horrifically racist books I've ever read is Native Speaker, written by a Korean-American about how he thought Korean-Americans could and couldn't be allowed to act lest they become "traitors."

    Angry? Yes, I'm angry. I don't like being told that owning and operating a penis means the only things I have to say are the things said by other penis owners. (Like my penis is what determines what I think and who I am. Which is, you know, sexist.)
     
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  2. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I can relate to this. I don't like it when people assume that, by virtue of being a straight white male, I somehow support racism, sexism, and homophobia. I see this fallacy endorsed both by "social justice" bloggers who treat us all as punching bags and other straight white males who brand me as some kind of self-disrespecting traitor to their cause. Being a straight white male can feel like a breeze as long as you kowtow to the straight white male party line, but if you don't, you can get sandwiched between a rock and a hard place.
     
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  3. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    To be engaged and effective in solving a problem, you first need to be educated about the problem. So far, what men consider "dialogue" has overwhelmingly been a demand to be educated about the basics of the issues then and there by marginalized people, coupled with dismissing and invalidating those people's experiences, rather than doing their own research in advance and then arguing the merits of the conclusions. (I speak from my own experience and those of many, many others.) The result of this mindset has already been linked in this thread. If you don't see a problem with straight white dude Joss Whedon being asked to tell the world every opinion he holds about feminism, this discussion probably can't go much further.

    I cribbed the term directly from people who identify that way. In this case, I modified the title of the article Shasjas posted. (I prefer "dude" to "male" for the same reasons I prefer "girl" to "female".)

    Never made a claim to the opposite. Race is a cultural construction. Gender is a cultural construction. Sexuality is a cultural construction. Inequality is a cultural construction. When people buy into those constructions so hard that they make them an identity and treat others they don't perceive as sharing that identity in harmful ways, it's still a cultural construction. It's also still harmful.

    I'm sorry you've been told that. I consistently find your posts valuable. There's that whole individual interaction thing. I had very little idea about how you identify, and what I gleaned from this statement is that you're queer, so you're not actually one of the people I said needs to stop and listen for a while.

    As it impacts them, not how the prejudice that impacts them personally invalidates prejudice that impacts others. The equivalent to the comment Shasjas cited would be if your slightly effeminate boy turned around and said "I just got gay-bashed, therefore I am as oppressed as people who identify as gay, and we need to eradicate broader notions of gay people and straight people and only ever relate to each other on an individual level." Again, it's a nice idea, but it does not actually fix attitudes or change the fact that gay people are oppressed.

    If you're trying to extrapolate from this that someone who has never been part of a marginalized group should get as much say on a matter that affects a marginalized group as actual members of that group, well, as established, I don't agree.

    Not actually what I said at all. See below.

    No one assumes you support these things. They are likely to assume that you know less about the effects of racism, sexism, and homophobia than someone who has actually been a victim of these things. You definitely don't have to "kowtow" to a "party line" to benefit from the privilege of your gender, race, and sexuality, or to be ignorant about other people's lives.

    Speaking individually here, I don't think you kowtow to the straight white male party line, whatever that is. You seem to have done more research than most. Nevertheless, I find problematic elements in your work, and you frequently mention that others do as well, in a context of extreme resistance to the notion that they might be right. You fiercely defend the choices you make and deny their unfortunate connotations, which is why, on an individual level, I'm not likely to ask your opinion on matters that affect marginalized people.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    This seems to me to be a separate issue; one that deals with the manner in which dialogue should be conducted in order to be most effective. Neither "shut up and listen" or "you're not entitled to a viewpoint" addresses the problem you mention, and in my view it makes it more difficult to effectively address the underlying issue.

    Personally, I don't have a problem with anyone asking any person what their view is on an issue. That's fine; as I said, thinking people can develop opinions on issues that impact them less directly than others. If the only viewpoint you're getting is coming from a narrow subset of individuals, then that's a problem, but the answer isn't to shut up the narrow subset, but rather to bring in the other voices that need to be there.
     
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  5. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Question for the mods on this forum:

    A lot of the viewpoints above make me wish to express my social and political beliefs in response. I feel this is a reasonable desire since a lot of the posts above certainly seem to be statements of social and political beliefs that are wholly unrelated to writing. My understanding of the forum rules, however, is that such statements aren't allowed.

    Am I misunderstanding the rules or am I misinterpretating, as a former president would have said, the content of the above posts?

    Thanks.

    Brian
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Brian - Black Dragon or other mods might step in and offer their view. My understanding is this: posts related directly to contemporary politics are verboten. If you want to talk about Obama and the mid-term elections, we don't allow that. When you're talking about issues in the abstract that have a political component, I think the moderators tend to be more lenient, so long as things don't get out of hand. Like with religion - discussion isn't forbidden, but people have to be civil.

    The sorts of issues that have arisen in this thread can impact writing, of course, and can influence how we choose to present stories, or even impact how we design the world and the character reactions to it (for example, a highly patriarchal society with rigid gender-based strictures is likely to look a certain way, and discussing issues around gender and patriarchy can be helpful to how you write that).

    So, that's my personal view. I'm not speaking for anyone else, of course. So long as the issues have some rational bearing on writing, stay civil, and don't go directly into contemporary political discussion (by which I mean specifics about elections, politicians, and so on), I tend to take a fairly open view.

    If Black Dragon disagrees, he may swoop down and breathe fire on me :)
     
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  7. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    I've noticed that of all the mods, you're the one most likely to directly get involved in these arguments. (For reference, Devor is the mod most likely to try to end the argument without arguing for or against any position--he's previously stated that arguments like this one need to relate directly to fantasy. I'm not sure what Black Dragon thinks.)
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think they're important issues, and I also think they're related to writing (maybe because I read a lot of work, including fantasy, that deals directly with real-world social issues; some of my favorite authors do this). I find the discussions interesting, so I like to get involved in them, so long as we're staying within the boundaries BD has envisioned for the forums.
     
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I do do that - but I get involved too, usually once I think the tone has settled.

    I'm of the mind that a thread like this should be on-topic for fantasy, so I am concerned about this one. Why open a can of worms if the whole thing is off topic? But I don't mind tangents.
     
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  10. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    Edit: Forget it, this is getting too heated. I'll back off.
     
  11. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Perhaps the problem is that different mods seem to interpret the rules differently.

    Some have clearly stated views on the subject of what can be argued much differently than you just stated. I'd love some clarification from on high.

    Thanks.

    Brian
     
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I don't think there's a disagreement. I think the less it's related to fantasy, the lower our tolerance for heated controversy. I don't think there's anything to be gained by defining it further.

    The discussion evolves - has evolved - from where it was before, and so does our ability to handle controversy as a community. We can come out and say "You need to treat others with respect," but the reality is that respect has to be earned over time. I think many of the individuals involved in these conversations have survived many, many rounds of debate. By and large, most people here have earned one another's respect, at least on some levels.

    While that respect more or less holds up, so can our flexibility for tackling more sensitive and unrelated subjects. If and where it begins to break down, we can take action as we need to.

    I should add, however, that we don't generally issue infractions just for getting into controversial subjects. So if you want to respond, it's important that people with a variety of opinions not feel afraid to speak up civilly.
     
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  13. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Discussion of social issues is not prohibited. Social understandings and representations are often reflected in writing. From my understanding of Mythic Scribe's guidelines, debate over social issues is acceptable. However, and this pervades all discussion, we need to be respectful of another's beliefs.

    It's very akin to the site's stance on religious discussions. Many members think conversation on religion is prohibited, yet this is not the case. Real world religions and knowledge about religious topics have a place in the creation of art. The trouble arises when people condescend, or lash out against, another's beliefs or perceptions. That would be unacceptable behavior.

    I would caution those involved in this thread to be mindful of the requirement to be respectful of your fellow scribes. This includes what they believe & why they perceive these issues in the manner they do. Everyone on this site has a right to expression & respect. No opinions should be diminished or ridiculed as unworthy. What we are after, is a healthy exchange of ideas & the opportunity to learn from one another.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2013
  14. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Earlier you said
    After implying that bolstering one's argument with personal experience is not valid, you bolstered your argument with personal experience.
    So, for example, the only people who should be able to vote on whether tax dollars should be used to aid a marginalized group are members of the marginalized group?
    Perhaps you don't, but you have no way of knowing what he experiences in day to day life outside this forum. Perhaps he does encounter a lot of people making that assumption about him. Assuming he doesn't is just like people who are not members of a marginalized group assuming know as much about what it's like to be a member of that group as the actual group members.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2013
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  15. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    There's a difference between me drawing on my own experience interacting with straight white dudes about issues of oppression and marginalization for the purposes of examples, and straight white dudes drawing on their own individual experiences in order to invalidate others' experiences of institutionalized oppression and marginalization. One is bolstering, as you put it; the other is erasure.

    Democratically speaking, no, everyone obviously gets a say in things like using tax dollars to aid a marginalized group. When it comes to, say, governments removing First Nations children from their biological parents "at an alarming rate," at this juncture we don't need to hear the perspectives of people who aren't from the marginalized group. For the purposes of this discussion, I mean to say that we don't need to respond by speculating on what the parents might have done to deserve losing custody of their children; instead, we need to listen.

    You're right; I can't speak for all women or people of color or other marginalized groups. I try not to, generally. Sorry for the slip-up.
     
  16. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    In that particular case, what matters is that the rate at which children are taken away be reduced.* For that purpose, it is necessary to learn why the children are being taken away. That does mean listening to the people who're taking them away, though it also means questioning statements they make that are inconsistent. It also means listening to those whose children were taken, to help determine potential inconsistencies, and it means listening to the statements of the children themselves, and it means listening to the statements of reporters studying the situation . . .

    I have the feeling this post will be edited for touching on current politics, so I'll end with a non-political and general statement. The solution is not to reduce the available voices. The solution is to collect all the available voices, use them to spot lies and misstatements, and from there to determine an optimal solution.

    * Not to zero, mind you--aboriginals can be abusive parents, too.
     
  17. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    I think that's exactly the reason we need to incorporate as many voices into genre fiction as possible - because, let's face it, people read more genre fiction than literary. Speculative fiction is not just predictive, it's reflective - I don't remember who said that, but it's absolutely true. Yeah, the search for equality is messy (really, really messy) but the more voices we have out there looking, the more we strive to reflect the true face of society in our fiction, regardless of our own backgrounds and experiences because we are writers and can walk in the footsteps of others, the closer we'll get to finding it.
     
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  18. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

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    So tired of these threads. This is a forum for constructing skills related to writing fantasy fiction, yet everytime an equality-issue post is brought up the same people post the same things over and over. I mean, I can sympathize with wanting to get a message across to people, but at the same time, this isn't the forum to do so. There are a ton of sites out there that specialize in this type of debate, where this forum, as I know it, specializes in the writing of fantasy fiction. It seems like everyone agrees for the most part that characters should be written as people, not gender, yet these threads keep popping up, magnifying specific ideologies and viewpoints that have nothing at all to do with fiction writing. Just tired of this muck, really.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013
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  19. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Devor,

    As you may have noticed, I'm big on rules - not just on writing but in general. I like the MS community and respect that the moderators wish to facilitate a specific kind of environment. Even if there is no "infraction" issued, I have no desire to run afoul of what the management of the site intends.

    My perception is that some moderators have felt the need to advise against this exact type of discussion previously. This discrepancy between my perception and what's currently being stated has led me to be a bit confused, which is why I sought clarification.

    Perhaps it was my perception that was off instead of the intent of various moderators. I understand what you, Steerpike, and T.Allen are saying. As long as that is the actual standard, I'm fine with following that as a rule. Thank you for the clarification!

    One minor note, however: I enjoy debating things. Even if I'm not particularly passionate about a subject, I like the act of exchanging ideas and trying to convince others of my POV (I once spent a half hour arguing, of all ridiculous premises, that The Man Show wasn't sexist.). Because of this personality trait, I find it more than mildly annoying when I'm in the middle of what I feel is a fun exchange of ideas, and the thread is suddenly closed. I wish greatly to avoid getting in the middle of such again if it's going to end similarly.

    Thanks.

    Brian
     
  20. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I think you missed Guy's point. He wasn't saying you claimed to speak on behalf of all women or non-Europeans or any other group. What I believe he meant was that you can't assume that people don't regard me as some kind of racist or sexist simply because I'm a straight white male.

    As it happens, I have received more than my fair share of flak from supposed "social justice" advocates that I believe I wouldn't get if I lay outside the white male demographic intersection. In one tumblr conversation over whether it was ever acceptable for white people to wear non-Western traditional clothes, I've had a correspondent dismiss my opinion on the grounds that I'm a white guy. In another conversation on sex-positive feminism, I've received a comment saying something like "Of course a white boy like you would support it." And then there are all the pseudo-feminists who call me a "fetishistic creeper" because of all the African female characters in my art and stories. Somehow I doubt I would receive those insults if I were drawing mostly white women like all the other white male artists.
     
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