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Thread: Cultural Appropriation Prize

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
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    Cultural Appropriation Prize

    It's been a huge issue here in Canada. Two editors have resigned over a twitter fire storm about appropriation where a prize was offered and here in Canada it's been on the radio and all over the news.

    Here's one of the many articles regarding this highly sensitive issue, an issue that stopped me from writing one of my stories.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...priation-prize

    I'm torn on the issue. I believe writers should be able to write outside of their own personal experience however I see where some cultures may be frustrated with their stories being shared without their consent. It's not just writing either, a painter who was to have her work shown in a Gallery in Toronto(I think it was Toronto) had her exhibit cancelled due to the controversy regarding her style of painting. I think her name is Amanda PL.

    So for us Canadians its a hot button issue. Just wondering how others feel. Does it prevent you from going outside what you know? I don't agree with having an appropriation prize I think that was stupidity to even suggest such a thing since it is a sensitive issue. Sometimes people should walk away from Facebook/twitter if it's past their bedtime or they've had a few drinks.

    Today on cbc radio they had a few people discussing the issue and one woman believes that the disabled should be off limits too, she stated you can write about a disabled character but don't write from the 1st point of view and don't have that character as the protagonist. Basically she believes if you don't experience it you shouldn't write it. I 100% disagree with that and I have a sister who is in a wheel chair so disability strikes close to home. Maybe the pendulum is going to swing too far on this issue.
    Last edited by Jan74; 05-18-2017 at 04:20 AM.

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  2. #2
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jan74 View Post
    Maybe the pendulum is going to swing too far on this issue.
    That's just how pendulums work. I think it is at least interesting - and positive - that the issue is being discussed. I doubt that there will be a blanket decision one way of the other. And yes - the Appropriation Prize was always a fairly tone-deaf, clueless suggestion. They might have predicted the result of that.
    Last edited by mccardey; 05-18-2017 at 04:33 AM. Reason: I'm giving up emojis. I'm fed up with them. They insert themselves everywhere.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
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    I should also correct myself, one editor resigned from Write magazine because of his editorial and the backlash from it. The other editor from Walrus magazine said his resignation was related to stress and multitude of other issues not necessarily related to the write editorial.

    "You fail only if you stop writing" ~Ray Bradbury~
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    WIP Romance or Women's fiction, hopefully by the end I'll know.
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  4. #4
    Just Another Lazy Perfectionist Brightdreamer's Avatar
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    This is one of those issues I can really see both sides of.

    On the one side, I can understand people being frustrated at seeing their culture used and (all too often) abused and misrepresented by others, especially given the History with a capital H of stereotyping, racism, and attempts at eradication.

    On the other... ideas flow, cultures merge and mingle, and I'm not sure I like the idea of building walls to prevent that inevitable mingling.

    A little anecdote/rambling on this subject: locally, a relative takes classes in woodcarving - and, around here, about the only carving classes one can find focus on the popular "Northwest Indian" style. Anyone without ties to a native tribe who tries to sell works in said style, though, can run into Real Troubles. Are there appropriation issues and historical theft and oppression behind this? Sure... but there's a bit of a twist. A local white man was instrumental in reviving the carving tradition around here after it had apparently nearly died out, helping reteach skills that had been lost. He was essentially adopted into a local tribe and high-ranking family for his efforts, and was well respected. My relative took classes from him before his recent death and he talked about this, so this isn't just a "friend-of-a-friend" anecdote. His philosophy was less strict - he'd teach anyone in his classes the Northwest style, and he had no issue with carvers creating and selling original designs inspired by native art. Was it his place to say so? I'm not sure it was, though I'm not sure it wasn't; if not for a little cultural mingling, the native carving tradition locally may well be extinct, and if the artist in question doesn't represent themselves or their work falsely as belonging to a specific tribe...

    As for me, it's one of those blurry lines. Slapdash stereotypes as characters or art themes - yeah, that's an insulting cash-in, and we should be moving beyond that as a society. If someone takes the time to do research and doesn't just grab at shallow tropes, though, I don't know if they should be wholesale barred from art or writing inspired by a culture other than their own. Art explores. Art travels. (Of course, I write mostly fantasy; I may draw inspiration from real-world cultures, but in my work they're pretty much made up.)
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  5. #5
    Are you gonna finish that bacon? Vince524's Avatar
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    Back in my day, it was called being influenced.

  6. #6
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vince524 View Post
    Back in my day, it was called being influenced.
    It can be, or it can be more than that. It can be robbing the ownership group of their chance to tell their story in their voice - simply because the heard voices tend to belong to the stronger, more dominant culture.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
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    I think it's just the tip of the ice-berg and I don't think this issue is going away anytime soon. For some they don't care how "well" you write or how "accurate and sensitive" you are when writing their stories or their culture they simply DON'T want it written. What then? What happens when they say you can write about their culture but they want a part of the profit from your book?

    "You fail only if you stop writing" ~Ray Bradbury~
    "The road to hell is paved with adverbs" ~Stephen King~
    WIP Romance or Women's fiction, hopefully by the end I'll know.
    "If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." ~Margaret Atwood~
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  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    It can be, or it can be more than that. It can be robbing the ownership group of their chance to tell their story in their voice - simply because the heard voices tend to belong to the stronger, more dominant culture.
    Very true, and that is part of the argument that it was white men with power who were in the industry touting for the prize.

    "You fail only if you stop writing" ~Ray Bradbury~
    "The road to hell is paved with adverbs" ~Stephen King~
    WIP Romance or Women's fiction, hopefully by the end I'll know.
    "If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." ~Margaret Atwood~
    "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." ~Mary Angelou~


  9. #9
    That's PastRyAlien PastyAlien's Avatar
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    Yes, it's been a media frenzy. I've been thinking of this a lot, especially because I've just finished writing a short story featuring a black MC. Part of me thinks: What right do I, a white female, have to tell the story of a black man? But I'm also tired of reading/writing about nothing but white characters, and I'd like to write more PoC characters to accurately reflect our diverse society. I think there are clear cases of cultural appropriation, but there's also a huge grey area. So, I dunno. Maybe the best we can do is try to avoid stereotypes/tropes, and do our research to try to represent that culture as accurately as possible. The next step for me will be to request black beta readers to tell me where I got it wrong (Erm. Any takers? PM me!).
    Last edited by PastyAlien; 05-18-2017 at 05:34 AM.
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  10. #10
    Travelling around the sun cbenoi1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brightdreamer View Post
    If someone takes the time to do research and doesn't just grab at shallow tropes, though, I don't know if they should be wholesale barred from art or writing inspired by a culture other than their own.
    This. Political correctness ain't my cup of tea.

    -cb

  11. #11
    Lost in the Fog rugcat's Avatar
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    What about modern artists like Modigliani and Picasso who created works heavily influenced by African art, esp African sculpture and masks -- much of which was sacred and steeped in cultural tradition?

    In Picasso's case, three years of his creative work life is even termed his "African period."

    He wasn't copying anything, but he certainly was channeling cultural creations to create his own work.

    Was this cultural appropriation or a valid artistic process?
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  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rugcat View Post
    What about modern artists like Modigliani and Picasso who created works heavily influenced by African art, esp African sculpture and masks -- much of which was sacred and steeped in cultural tradition?

    In Picasso's case, three years of his creative work life is even termed his "African period."

    He wasn't copying anything, but he certainly was channeling cultural creations to create his own work.

    Was this cultural appropriation or a valid artistic process?
    check out this story
    http://news.nationalpost.com/news/ca...-appropriation

    Even religions appropriate, Christians took rituals from the pagans to assimilate them more easily into their religion. Artists copy from other artists, musicians are inspired from other musicians.

    Maybe the question is "Who" gets to decide?

    "You fail only if you stop writing" ~Ray Bradbury~
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  13. #13
    That's PastRyAlien PastyAlien's Avatar
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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jan74
    Just wondering how others feel. Does it prevent you from going outside what you know?
    Yeah... I've been avoiding a lot of things I might not have avoided before learning cultural appropriation was a thing, not because I'm convinced that it's always best to avoid, but because it's a new-to-me issue with a complicated history, and I want to be more educated before sticking my toe into those waters.
    Last edited by Silva; 05-18-2017 at 06:26 AM.

  15. #15
    Are you gonna finish that bacon? Vince524's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rugcat View Post
    What about modern artists like Modigliani and Picasso who created works heavily influenced by African art, esp African sculpture and masks -- much of which was sacred and steeped in cultural tradition?

    In Picasso's case, three years of his creative work life is even termed his "African period."

    He wasn't copying anything, but he certainly was channeling cultural creations to create his own work.

    Was this cultural appropriation or a valid artistic process?
    Apparently, yes.

    He was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century and also one of the most controversial. And now, 33 years after his death, the first significant exhibition of Pablo Picasso's work in South Africa has provoked a furious row after a senior government official accused him of stealing the work of African artists to boost his "flagging talent".

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    Sometimes, human stupidity is incredible. And the results of Teh Stupid can sometimes highlight how hindsight is 20/20 and consequences exist for actions taken.

    It's also so telling when someone (Alicia Elliott in this case) has to point it out:

    The piece ignored that white, middle-class authors appropriate other cultures too often, said Alicia Elliott, one of the contributors to the issue. Their voices are lifted up, while the people who are from those cultures are pushed down and kept outside the industry, she wrote on Twitter.
    Definitely this, too:

    [O]thers described the piece as clueless and an insult to the indigenous writers who had contributed to the issue.
    Source: OP Article https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...priation-prize
    Last edited by Snitchcat; 05-18-2017 at 06:23 AM.
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    I am torn with this.

    On one hand, a culture or community has the right to be proud of their heritage and of their art, and to feel proprietary about it (especially if they have been on the receiving end of less than stellar treatment by the establishment). Recently Kris Jenner posted a picture of one of her daughters (I don't follow them so don't know which one) wearing an Aboriginal feather headdress and regalia. The Aboriginal peoples were outraged because not only is it cultural appropriation, but they are not cutsey costumes, they are donned for sacred dances and rituals. Totally tone deaf on Jenner's part.

    On the other hand, if you are an artist, you do want to explore something that speaks to you. I can't imagine being hindered by being told that I couldn't express myself because it's too similar to "x" culture or that I couldn't write about a person of a certain colour because I had no experience being that person. Imo art - written or visual - should be considered on it's own merits, not on the culture or colour of the person who painted or wrote it.

    And sometimes it's taken to absurd heights. There was a recent kerfuffle about hoop earrings which apparently belong to a certain demographic and they are annoyed that they are worn by those who don't belong to it. When something like this pops up, it minimizes real issues.
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  18. #18
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PastyAlien View Post
    Late night Twitterrhoea claims another victim. I think we need a smartphone function that delivers painful electric shocks to your hand if you try to be clever on social media after midnight. Think of the wasted lives.

    If these guys are so keen to write about exotic new cultures and perspectives other than their own, have they considered taking up SF/fantasy? Serious question.
    Last edited by Albedo; 05-18-2017 at 06:53 AM.

  19. #19
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    I would hope the authors who have murderers as their characters aren't speaking from personal experience.

  20. #20
    Are you gonna finish that bacon? Vince524's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albedo View Post
    Late night Twitterrhoea claims another victim. I think we need a smartphone function that delivers painful electric shocks to your hand if you try to be clever on social media after midnight. Think of the wasted lives.

    If these guys are so keen to write about exotic new cultures and perspectives other than their own, have they considered taking up SF/fantasy? Serious question.
    Well....
    In a new lawsuit filed, alien species from the alternate planet Xander claimed that they are tired of humans appropriating their cultures and nearly always getting them wrong. Aliens are upset because they're usually portrayed as evil, world dominating and un-artistic. Their biggest complaints, according to the brief filed on Monday are that in so many movies and TV shows, they're either shown wearing strange, non-appropriate clothing, or no clothing at all. Most of all, they hate the fact that so many of them appear to have no genitals.

    Their lawsuit demands the restoration in the form of gold pressed latinum, a supply of cats for consumption and a cease and desist on all the broadcasting of any and all space science fiction movies and TV shows. Except for Firefly. That they want back on.

  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PastyAlien View Post
    yes, I was just reading that after I posted. Thnx for sharing.
    Quote Originally Posted by Snitchcat View Post
    Sometimes, human stupidity is incredible. And the results of Teh Stupid can sometimes highlight how hindsight is 20/20 and consequences exist for actions taken. It's also so telling when someone (Alicia Elliott in this case) has to point it out:
    Definitely this, too:
    Source: OP Article https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...priation-prize
    I wonder though, are they kept out of the industry? Do they have writings that have been rejected? I'm genuinely curious.

    "You fail only if you stop writing" ~Ray Bradbury~
    "The road to hell is paved with adverbs" ~Stephen King~
    WIP Romance or Women's fiction, hopefully by the end I'll know.
    "If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." ~Margaret Atwood~
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  22. #22
    That's PastRyAlien PastyAlien's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albedo View Post
    I think we need a smartphone function that delivers painful electric shocks to your hand if you try to be clever on social media after midnight.
    ^So much this.
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  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kikazaru View Post
    I am torn with this.
    And sometimes it's taken to absurd heights. There was a recent kerfuffle about hoop earrings which apparently belong to a certain demographic and they are annoyed that they are worn by those who don't belong to it. When something like this pops up, it minimizes real issues.
    Yes it's a slippery slope!

    "You fail only if you stop writing" ~Ray Bradbury~
    "The road to hell is paved with adverbs" ~Stephen King~
    WIP Romance or Women's fiction, hopefully by the end I'll know.
    "If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." ~Margaret Atwood~
    "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." ~Mary Angelou~


  24. #24
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jan74 View Post
    I wonder though, are they kept out of the industry? Do they have writings that have been rejected? I'm genuinely curious.
    I think there was an article somewhere that showed the division of ethnicities of published authors in English. However, I may have mixed that up with the movie analysis of gendered speaking parts; don't think I did though.

    Anyhow, will attempt to find the link.

    Does anyone have a link to similar research or articles?
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  25. #25
    Just Another Lazy Perfectionist Brightdreamer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vince524 View Post
    Wandering slightly off-topic, but that reminds me a bit of the Babylon 5 episode with merchandising, and the Centauri ambassador complaining that the doll/action figure of himself lacked certain anatomical accuracy, to which the human second-in-command replied along the lines of "So you feel you've been publicly cast-" - quick catch/look from commander - "in a bad light."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jan74 View Post
    I wonder though, are they kept out of the industry? Do they have writings that have been rejected? I'm genuinely curious.
    Not the OP or the article writer, so this is all spitball speculation, but I'm thinking it's not so much a blatant "Keep Out" sign as a "white privilege" thing, the subtle but very real accumulation of preferences and biases and other factors that leads to white people tending to get more "wins" than minorities; in highly competitive fields like the arts, I'd guess this would be magnified. If aspiring authors in a given native culture have, say, less access to education that encourages writing (IIRC, education issues continue to plague many native communities), fewer role models in writing, etc., then go up against editors who might be more likely to prefer white-sounding names to something that sounds native (studies have shown how names affect employer reactions to resumes, and a query/manuscript is a writer's resume), or believe that there isn't as big a market for a native voice on native culture compared to a white voice (possibly one of those chicken-and-egg issues: they may not consider it as marketable because fewer native voices are published in the market)... It adds up.
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