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Thread: Cultural Appropriation and Celebration of Failure to Read the Screen

  1. #101
    ... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Witchhunt?

    If I was any more polite, I'd be fawning. Don't expect that--English courtesy has its limits.
    "Where shall the word be found, where will the word
    Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence."

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  2. #102
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    Witchhunt?

    If I was any more polite, I'd be fawning. Don't expect that--English courtesy has its limits.
    So do I. Fabio_of_Mullets has left the building.

  3. #103
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myrealana View Post
    I don't think guilt is at all the right response, and (aside from a few loud voices) it's not what anyone is trying to achieve.
    As a kid, I spent a lot of time with some older relatives who were racist as hell. I don't feel guilt. I don't even really feel embarrassment.

    Mostly I'm glad I'm not trapped by their blinders. And I recognize the fact that I have a choice of whether or not to be an insufferable bigot myself, and that, in itself, is a massive social privilege granted by nothing other than the color of my skin.

    I don't feel guilty because of my dead bigoted relatives who didn't listen to me when I was a kid. I would, however, feel guilty as hell if I didn't use my experience with them to recognize the unequal system in which we're living, and the ways that I benefit because I fit an arbitrary default.

    If, upon recognizing these inequities, I sit on my backside and say "Don't preach at me" to people who caught the short end of the system, then I should feel guilty.
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  4. #104
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    Quote Originally Posted by Earthling View Post
    You're both advocating ignoring the voices of marginalised people who don't have the privilege to ignore "PC" issues because, for them, they aren't interesting philosophical ponderings but real life. Everyday life.

    Do you really think that's okay, and right?
    Definition of political correctness from Merriam Webster: "conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated."

    Do I think that it's okay and right for a person to make a conscious decision not to defer to a PC speech or thought code, and to make his or her own decisions about what's right and wrong to think or say or write? Yes, I absolutely do.

    If I write about culture X, and a member of culture X gets upset because I'm not of culture X, neither of us has done anything wrong, and neither of us has committed any injustice against the other. I have a legal and moral right to do the writing; member of culture X has a moral and legal write to get upset about what I wrote. If member of culture X thinks my writing is in error, the remedy shouldn't be to silence me--it should be for for him or her to do her own writing and correct me--heck, even condemn me.

    Both member of culture X and I are better off in a free marketplace of ideas, with cultural norms that will allow us both to say what we want and then will judge who is more worthy of being listened to, than either of us would be under the cultural rubric of PC, which imposes a singular (and, in my view, flawed) view of the world and demands that all "language and practices which could offend political sensibilities" (in other words, non-conforming thought) be "eliminated."

  5. #105
    Tending bar by the litterbox. Thomas Vail's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myrealana View Post
    If I want to do right by his culture, I can either not write the story, or I can do my research and treat him like a person. I'm choosing to do the second one.
    That's the right way to do it. Being aware of the issues in the first place gives you a handle on how they can likely come across. It reminds me of hearing a comic book writer who described how eye opening an experience it was for him when he had a fun idea for a book he was doing for a big publisher (Marvel, iirc) and the blowback he got over it.

    He had a couple of ideas for the character - wasn't going to last long, because really, going from normal guy to hero in a dangerous world of supervillains is well... dangerous! Second idea - make him gay as well. More representation of alternate sexuality, that's a positive, right?

    I think he said something along the lines of, "I didn't understand why people were upset, until it was pointed out to me I was responsible for creating, and then immediately killing, 20% of the gay population in that universe."

    Quote Originally Posted by Hublocker View Post
    I generally spend my time writing, not pissing around on web sites trying to memorize the latest acronym for the XYZ groupe du jour.
    They're called PEOPLE and they happen to be all around you. I'm sorry that you find considering them as such such a herculean effort.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hublocker View Post
    I'll betcha nobody here even knows what or where Tsimshian is without looking it up.
    Pay up.

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    Last edited by Thomas Vail; 05-19-2017 at 10:58 PM.

  6. #106
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    Quote Originally Posted by JNG01 View Post
    Both member of culture X and I are better off in a free marketplace of ideas, with cultural norms that will allow us both to say what we want and then will judge who is more worthy of being listened to, than either of us would be under the cultural rubric of PC, which imposes a singular (and, in my view, flawed) view of the world and demands that all "language and practices which could offend political sensibilities" (in other words, non-conforming thought) be "eliminated."
    1. That's a really poor definition of a complicated phrase. Here's a slightly better one:

    politically correct
    adj. Abbr. PC
    Conforming to a particular sociopolitical ideology or point of view, especially to a liberal point of view concerned with promoting tolerance and avoiding offense in matters of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.
    First, political correctness is not a recent phrase. The OED (s.v. politically c2) notes that it is first attested in 1798:

    1798 A. J. Dallas Rep. Cases U.S. & Pennsylvania 2 462 Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our..language... ‘The United States’, instead of the ‘People of the United States’, is the toast given. This is not politically correct.
    Being politically correct more accurately refers to using phrases like "vertically challenged" for short. Or "sunshine units" to refer to measuring the potential damage of radiation levels. I suggest that Orwell's Politics and the English Language is still worth reading.

    "Politically correct" does not in fact encompass the notion of cultural appropriation, which is a much more recent concept.

    2. Nonetheless, I'm going to point out in more specific terms that "a free marketplace of ideas" does not make portraying a culture in terms that are inaccurate in matters of fact an ok thing to do. Portraying Jews as hunting Christian children to use in rituals, generally known as blood libel, is not socially, culturally or historically accurate.

    As writers, we generally should attempt to be believable, even in terms of our elves and orcs. It is particularly likely to make us look foolish if we portray other cultures, other places, and other times inaccurately. And it may even be so offensive that we lose readers.

    3. Now, I don't much care what you do in your own books. The market there will in fact sort the issue. I do care about what you do here. This is a community of writers. They're not all like you. You don't get to choose what's acceptable for other people.

    You are posting on a privately owned site, with a TOS you agreed to when you registered, and multiple reminders.
    Last edited by AW Admin; 05-21-2017 at 04:30 AM. Reason: I'm a softie

  7. #107
    I aim to misbehave Myrealana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JNG01 View Post
    Definition of political correctness from Merriam Webster: "conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated."

    Do I think that it's okay and right for a person to make a conscious decision not to defer to a PC speech or thought code, and to make his or her own decisions about what's right and wrong to think or say or write? Yes, I absolutely do.

    If I write about culture X, and a member of culture X gets upset because I'm not of culture X, neither of us has done anything wrong, and neither of us has committed any injustice against the other. I have a legal and moral right to do the writing; member of culture X has a moral and legal write to get upset about what I wrote. If member of culture X thinks my writing is in error, the remedy shouldn't be to silence me--it should be for for him or her to do her own writing and correct me--heck, even condemn me.

    Both member of culture X and I are better off in a free marketplace of ideas, with cultural norms that will allow us both to say what we want and then will judge who is more worthy of being listened to, than either of us would be under the cultural rubric of PC, which imposes a singular (and, in my view, flawed) view of the world and demands that all "language and practices which could offend political sensibilities" (in other words, non-conforming thought) be "eliminated."
    I find it interesting that the term "PC" is only ever brought into the conversation by people who want to use it to build a straw man.

    For instance: "The PC Police say white people can only write about other white people." -- Which is NOT what the cultural appropriation debate is about.

    As Scaachi Koul noted[FONT=Georgia], "no one, in the history of writing books, has ever suggested that white people are not allowed to write thoughtful portrayals of Indigenous people or people of colour, namely in fiction." Cultural Appropriation is not the expansive, empathetic imagining of the other -- it is rather, the theft of other's stories as if they were your own. How, possibly, could this be so difficult to understand? It isn't, of course, but it sure helps to be this obtuse when it comes to holding on to one's privilege.

    Source

    On the other hand, writing about marginalized people in a ham-handed and stereotypical way DOES DO HARM.

    Mickey Rooney's portrayal of a buck-toothed Japanese man in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is damaging to people's view of Asians. Portraying gay men as uniformly prissy distorts people's idea of what sexuality means.

    So, how about let's stop talking about what no one is suggesting and address the real issue which is that some people don't want to take the time to try and understand a culture other than their own, and since it's primarily white people who have the freedom to make that choice, it keeps going on.
    Last edited by Myrealana; 05-19-2017 at 11:36 PM.
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  8. #108
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Here are some references about cultural appropriation, which means, broadly, removing cultural identifiers from their context in ways that are damaging, offensive and potentially harmful.

    This definition from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary is helpful:

    the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture:
    Some see his use of African music as cultural appropriation.
    What is Cultural Appropriation is a fairly nuanced and rational discussion.

    Here's a core part:

    “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else's culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture's dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.

    It's most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”

    In the United States, cultural appropriation almost always involves members of the dominant culture (or those who identify with it) “borrowing” from the cultures of minority groups.
    As writers, we have a choice; we can do our very best to be authentic, and realistic, and that includes using research and, ideally, passing our work by cultural experts, especially in terms of living cultures, those experts from within the culture.

    We may still get it wrong, but it behooves us to try, and to pay attention when someone who knows tells us we're getting it wrong.

    It doesn't help to wring our hands and whine about it before hand. It's our job to portray things as truly as we can, even when we're writing about orcs or 14th century peasants.

    And when we get it wrong, fix it, and do better, or maybe, apologize.

    Also, it's worth being aware sometimes people who think they're experts might be expert in their particular culture, but not in others.

    The world is large. It is filled with richness, and variety, and it's old. Somethings are not unique to a particular culture. Somethings occur in multiple cultures.

    Consider a second opinion.
    Last edited by AW Admin; 05-21-2017 at 04:31 AM.

  9. #109
    That's PastRyAlien PastyAlien's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post
    As writers, we generally should attempt to be believable, even in terms of our elves and orcs. It is particularly likely to make us look foolish if we portray other cultures, other places, and other times inaccurately. And it may even be so offensive that we lose readers.
    ^So much this (bolding mine). I research the hell out of the science when I'm writing SF, because SF readers delight in making you look foolish if you get the science wrong. So why wouldn't I research the cultures I'm writing about? Isn't it better to try to get it right to avoid looking foolish? To get sensitivity readers to weed out the stupid shit before it goes public? Why is that such a chore? Oh! I get it, because white writers who moan about PC are writing for white readers, who won't know the difference. That's basically saying: no one else matters, and that not only blows goats, but entire herds of ungulates.
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  10. #110
    New kid...seven years ago! DancingMaenid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post
    Being politically correct more accurately refers to using phrases like "vertically challenged" for short. Or "sunshine units" to refer to measuring the potential damage of radiation levels. I suggest that Orwell's Politics and the English Language is still worth reading.
    Thank you for pointing this out. "Political correctness" carries an implication that we're talking about euphemistic language, especially euphemisms that exist more to satisfy the speaker's discomfort than to address an actual concern. In this regard, political correctness is not always in the best interests of inclusivity because it can mean pushing language that the subjects don't actually like.

    I think a lot of the problem is that many people are not good at distinguishing between euphemisms and things that really do make people feel more included or respected. A lot of people fall into a trap where they take for granted that because they grew up seeing something as normal, then any change must be forced and not actually matter to anyone. They can't really distinguish between calling short people "vertically challenged" and calling an ethnic group by the name the group prefers, because they may not listen enough to consider who is asking for the change and why.
    Last edited by DancingMaenid; 05-20-2017 at 12:20 AM.
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  11. #111
    practical experience, FTW Sword&Shield's Avatar
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    Wow, long thread.

    I am not understanding where the thought process of "soon, white people will feel like they can only write about white people" is coming from. I literally have not seen anyone anywhere advocate that.

    As your average white guy working in tech, I don't even pretend to understand the hardships marginalized groups face every day (including women). Especially when it is something that has been perpetuated on a generational scale. The very least I can do is listen and engage with people of every background with an open mind. I will never know what it is truly like to walk a day in their lives, but that doesn't mean I get to just close my eyes and ears and pretend nothing is wrong.

    Also, I don't get the "only Indians can use the word Indian... and they do." line in the OP. If they only want to call each other Indians but want folks of different backgrounds to use a more accurate term.. then that is up to them. My daughter calls me Daddy- it'd be really weird that just because she calls me that, my boss started to call me that too. A bit of a hyperbolic stretch? Yes. Just as absurd.

    Honestly, when OP decided to throw in the "Oops, I used the word Indian", it was very clear he was coming to this discussion with a closed mind. This thread clearly wasn't started to initiate a real discussion about Novels. It is a combative approach to the topic of bias/prejudices and a poorly veiled complaint standing up a straw man (an oppressive publisher who won't consider his book) because of a falsely perceived prejudice (white people can't write about non-white characters).

    Surely this thread would be better served in the "Activism, Current Events..." sub, because this discussion has nothing to do with writing a novel but more to do with someones false interpretations of modern day equality efforts. Or perhaps the Asylum is a better resting ground.

    I don't post much, but holy moly.

  12. #112
    Tending bar by the litterbox. Thomas Vail's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingMaenid View Post
    because they may not listen enough to consider who is asking for the change and why.
    It does rather bring to mind people who supported the name of the Redskins football team saying 'they've had that name for 80 years, it's part of our heritage and culture.'

    To actual Native-Americans who were protesting it.

    Which also reminds me that there are people who think saying 'native american' instead of 'indian' is PC ridiculousness (and never get stuck alone in a room with an engineer who's pissy because he got disciplined for saying 'n****r-rigged' on the plant floor...). I might not have any personal baggage with either of those, but I don't get to tell people who do, like, say people whose ancestors were already living here when European settlers showed up and slapped a new name on them, to 'stop being so PC!'

    It also begs the question - it is literally the least difficult thing to do to try and be more considerate and respectful to other people, and what is gained by making a concentrated effort NOT to be?
    Last edited by Thomas Vail; 05-20-2017 at 01:41 AM.

  13. #113
    practical experience, FTW buzhidao's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    There is a huuuge difference between "pleasing people" and "not wanting to hurt people". I ignore one and pay a lot of attention to the other.
    This is the thing I don't get.

    This issue is about taking other people into consideration. Yet so often people come at it from a perspective of "will I get in trouble" or "will I get criticized" or "will publishers avoid me because of PC-ness."

    What about other people? What about how it impacts their existence? Why don't people care about that?

    I can get how it's complicated. I mean, I think about this a lot, wondering about the right or wrong thing to do. I also understand fucking up, because I have fucked up a lot in my lifetime, and will probably continue to do so. But what I don't understand is not wanting to do better, or mocking people who are hurting. I don't understand just...dismissing the issue as an issue because it inconveniences you.

    If I'm punching you, and I think I'm doing it lightly and playfully, but I don't know my own strength and I am actually damaging you and causing internal bleeding, and you say "please stop that hurts"--if I said "no it doesn't, I'm barely hitting you" and just kept going till your arm broke, that would make me an asshole. Yes? So why is this different? People say it hurts. Ergo: it hurts.
    Last edited by buzhidao; 05-20-2017 at 04:14 AM.

  14. #114
    practical experience, FTW mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buzhidao View Post
    People say it hurts. Ergo: it hurts.
    In a nutshell.

  15. #115
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    Quote Originally Posted by Underdawg47 View Post
    I think that as long as you realize that everyone shares certain things in common like wanting to practice your particular religious belief without retribution, having the ability to provide your families, the ability to love who you choose to love, the ability to have autonomy over your own body, and writing these diverse characters as if you yourself happened to find yourself as a different sex, race, religion, culture, or time period and treat your characters as if they have real fleshed out lives with purpose and goals instead of being a cliche, a tool, a prop, or a decoration.
    Yes, I agree!

    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor Harbin View Post
    Just like a science fiction writer goes to a scientist to learn about outer space
    LOL! We're supposed to be talking to scientists to learn about space? I just read scifi or watch scifi movies.

    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    As an example, just look at the OP -- He wants to write First Nations characters, but proudly insists on calling them "Indians", a term which he *knows* isn't for him to use, but he feels entitled to use it anyway, because fuck FN people for wanting to define themselves, and THIS GUY is the guy you're telling to "write whatever the hell you want", because "people are offended over EVERYTHING these days". I mean...REALLY?? I get defending the rights of people who genuinely want to write PoC characters and approach it with respect and dignity, but THIS GUY?? I just...*headdesk*
    Yes, I would defend his right to tell his story however he wants. I'd defend the right of Trump supporters to rant about whatever they want, too, and I totally despise them for the most part. There are people out there who don't use the correct PC terms for various groups (clearly). Why can't his story be about one of those people? Are we only supposed to write about characters who are culturally sensitive? What if the character is a racist?

    And like I said in my other posts, if someone hates the character for being a racist, that's fine! I'm NOT saying people have to love these stories, just that we shouldn't try to stop them from existing. If anything, you could use them as examples of what's wrong with society, no?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabio_of_Mullets View Post
    I'd say stand your ground and defend your opinions no matter what. Many authors have taken hits for having a different opinion but they keep at it. If you don't get published you could always self-publish.
    Yep.

    Quote Originally Posted by JNG01 View Post
    Hublocker, just ignore all the PC noise. A lot of great works of fiction never would have come to be if their authors had been concerned with cultural pressure (like PC). Write your story, do your best to sell it, and let the chips fall where they may.
    Yep.

    Quote Originally Posted by nighttimer View Post
    EVERYONE is free to write about whatever the hell they want. Everyone is NOT free to stereotype, slight, demean, or make up stuff when they are writing. Not without being called out and held accountable for being a bad and lazy writer.
    I don't think anyone is arguing they should be immune to criticism.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sword&Shield View Post
    I am not understanding where the thought process of "soon, white people will feel like they can only write about white people" is coming from. I literally have not seen anyone anywhere advocate that.
    Then consider yourself lucky you haven't encountered some of the SJWs I have. I have seen it suggested that white people should not write POC quite a few times.


    Thanks to everyone who wrote me privately or gave me reputation to agree with my posts, by the way. I'm glad to see I'm not alone in my thoughts on this.

  16. #116
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sword&Shield View Post
    Wow, long thread.

    I am not understanding where the thought process of "soon, white people will feel like they can only write about white people" is coming from. I literally have not seen anyone anywhere advocate that.

    As your average white guy working in tech, I don't even pretend to understand the hardships marginalized groups face every day (including women). Especially when it is something that has been perpetuated on a generational scale. The very least I can do is listen and engage with people of every background with an open mind. I will never know what it is truly like to walk a day in their lives, but that doesn't mean I get to just close my eyes and ears and pretend nothing is wrong.

    Also, I don't get the "only Indians can use the word Indian... and they do." line in the OP. If they only want to call each other Indians but want folks of different backgrounds to use a more accurate term.. then that is up to them. My daughter calls me Daddy- it'd be really weird that just because she calls me that, my boss started to call me that too. A bit of a hyperbolic stretch? Yes. Just as absurd.

    Honestly, when OP decided to throw in the "Oops, I used the word Indian", it was very clear he was coming to this discussion with a closed mind. This thread clearly wasn't started to initiate a real discussion about Novels. It is a combative approach to the topic of bias/prejudices and a poorly veiled complaint standing up a straw man (an oppressive publisher who won't consider his book) because of a falsely perceived prejudice (white people can't write about non-white characters).

    Surely this thread would be better served in the "Activism, Current Events..." sub, because this discussion has nothing to do with writing a novel but more to do with someones false interpretations of modern day equality efforts. Or perhaps the Asylum is a better resting ground.

    I don't post much, but holy moly.
    ^^^ great post! The OP is bringing up issues regarding Non-aboriginals and Aboriginals that have no place in the Novels forum, and frankly no place on AW. There is a divide in this country a deep vast divide that has been going on for many many many years. It's complex it's ugly and I see no end in sight. I'll say this, when a white person says "Indian" its usually said with disdain, however growing up it was never like that it's just been the last decade or so the term has fallen out of PC. Times do change and we have to change with them.
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  17. #117
    practical experience, FTW buzhidao's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andiwrite View Post

    Yes, I would defend his right to tell his story however he wants. I'd defend the right of Trump supporters to rant about whatever they want, too, and I totally despise them for the most part.
    "Do I have the right to do this" and "is it right to do this" are completely different questions, though. People have the right to, for the most part, write or say what they want.

    But if they get passed over for professional opportunities, or criticized openly, that's not an infringement on a right. That's just a consequence of your actions. That's other people reacting, as they also have the right to do.

  18. #118
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Right we're done here. buzhidao has some wise words, and it seems to me that no matter how often I point out that it's a problem and why and that it's specifically mentioned in the Newbie Guide, we've got members who want to use "PC" in dismissive fashions.

    It's not only a problem in terms of the standards for AW, it's some really sloppy writing. It's possible that we may sort the wheat from the chaff in this thread, but not tonight.
    Last edited by AW Admin; 05-20-2017 at 07:47 AM. Reason: my screen reader hates me

  19. #119
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    Mod Note: We're reopening this topic here in Roundtable, even though I'm sure our AW Admin thinks there's something wrong in my upper works for agreeing to take it. It's an important topic—I don't think I'm overstating the case to say in today's world, it's a vital topic.

    I'm also keeping the Arkham title and all the posts for reasons. So here's the deal:

    • We debate ideas and viewpoints, not people. If you stick to that, I can promise to not make you unhappy with my response.
    • Make sure you thoroughly read a post before responding to it. (In fact, read all the posts to make sure you're participating in the whole conversation.)
    • Apply Socratic principles: i.e., ask probing questions and make sure you understand. (No snark.)
    • When you put forth your own ideas and views, aim for clarity. (Think before you post.)


    The thread is now open.
    Last edited by Ari Meermans; 05-20-2017 at 09:10 PM. Reason: *ahem*
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  20. #120
    Delerium ex Ennui Xelebes's Avatar
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    My simple rules:

    A) I have to be able to admit that my works simply suck and do not deserve to be published. If they do get published, well power to me. The problem with this is that I probably have put in so much effort to complete the works that I can't be emotionally divested. But I still have to own my failures.

    B) It's hard to hear that my works are criticised, especially for having done something wrong. Because it is my actions that have been judged long after the fact that I have done them. There is a long delay between getting feedback on whether I am doing things right. Editors likewise. Publishers and bookstores perhaps can receive the most direct feedback.

    C) The more direct the feedback, the more responsive I should be. Likewise, direct feedback from the editor would be nice. And the editor would want their feedback from the publisher as a courtesy. And the publisher would find it splendid if it got feedback from the bookstore.

    D) Cultural appropriation is a thing and it gets critiqued about as a potentially deleterious for social welfare.

    E) Cultural appropriation might be needed to keep the bookstore alive if the audience shows disinterest towards works preened to remove any such examples of it, and may be reflective of the social milieu at present.

    So we have the situation where Clueless Young Adult purchases a head dress and wears the head dress at a music festival. Or a Clueless Middle-Aged Man purchases clothes that resemble a military uniform alongside with purchased medals and badges so he can participate in a military ceremony.
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  21. #121
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    Maybe a good place to start is to define cultural appropriation. What does cultural appropriation mean to you?
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  22. #122
    reading all the things Anna Iguana's Avatar
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    Ari, I'm going to leave your important question--what is cultural appropriation?--to commenters after me. I read the whole thread (!) last night, and there's one piece of context that I haven't seen made explicit. Here goes.

    OP made comments that, to me, felt angry and confrontational. I don't condone them. Yet there seemed an emotion beneath his comments--or at least, in comments from Andi--that I want to acknowledge and address. I grew up in a rural, mostly white area, and I have loved ones who've expressed frustration that, from their perspectives, calls for cultural sensitivity feel like ever-shifting minefields. I am not saying their opinions are correct--stay with me, for a minute--but I am saying that they're genuinely afraid.

    In our lifetimes, social expectations have changed significantly, and they keep changing. Often for better! Civil rights, gay marriage, gender fluidity, and much more. Now, there are more adverse, social consequences (which is not to say there are enough consequences) for people who act and speak in ways that others perceive (often rightly) to be inadequately respectful. That's scary for people who are mean as hell, but it can also be scary for well-intentioned people, because being human means making mistakes and getting things wrong sometimes, for sure. When I hear people objecting to cultural sensitivity, sometimes people are being privileged assholes, but sometimes, I think, they are less ill-intentioned and more afraid.

    Yet, none of that excuses treating people with less than respect, including respect for our different historical and contemporary experiences. Here is what I say to my family--and to myself, as a person who is privileged in some ways and marginalized in others:

    I get that you are afraid. I get that this world feels harder that what you remember/thought you had. And that isn't fair, or right. None of us should have to face loss, or feel afraid. But whatever occasional, negative consequences you experience as we lurch, unevenly, toward greater social equality, your injuries pale next to the raw hatred and systemic disadvantages experienced by marginalized people 100% of the time. So, be strong, and deal with it. That's how this world will get better for all of us, as writers and humans.
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  23. #123
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andiwrite View Post


    Yes, I would defend his right to tell his story however he wants. I'd defend the right of Trump supporters to rant about whatever they want, too, and I totally despise them for the most part. There are people out there who don't use the correct PC terms for various groups (clearly). Why can't his story be about one of those people? Are we only supposed to write about characters who are culturally sensitive? What if the character is a racist?
    This is something that has come up before, in this thread and in others. I think the general consensus here on AW has always been that, yes, it's possible and desirable to write about characters (and times and places) with sensibilities that aren't aligned with our own, including racists and other kinds of bigots. There are ways to do this realistically without appearing to endorse these attitudes and sensibilities as a writer or narrator, just as there are ways to show other once-normalized behaviors many of us think of as harmful today.

    But I think what Puttputt was saying still holds here. If someone can't grasp the issue itself, or what's at stake, and if they're self righteously insisting that they're being oppressed by the PC police, creating straw men, and refusing to even acknowledge that people have valid reasons for being hurt or sensitive about these things, then how likely are they to be able to write a well-researched and thoughtful book with a racist protagonist, or one that thoughtfully explores different attitudes about a sensitive matter that affects members of a community not his own?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anna Iguana View Post

    OP made comments that, to me, felt angry and confrontational. I don't condone them. Yet there seemed an emotion beneath his comments--or at least, in comments from Andi--that I want to acknowledge and address. I grew up in a rural, mostly white area, and I have loved ones who've expressed frustration that, from their perspectives, calls for cultural sensitivity feel like ever-shifting minefields. I am not saying their opinions are correct--stay with me, for a minute--but I am saying that they're genuinely afraid.
    I do understand this, and I've been there too. I've been called out on occasion, here on AW and elsewhere, for turns of phrase, jokes or expressions that I thought were harmless but that bothered someone else, or that a mod maybe thought could be pushing the "respect your fellow writer" rule or setting the wrong tone for the site.

    Sometimes I've seen the point, sometimes I haven't, and yes, a normal gut reaction is to feel a bit put upon and to worry if someone now thinks I'm a Bad Person, and it's easy to pout and grumble that it wouldn't bother me if our roles were reversed and to worry whether I can say ANYTHING without offending or hurting someone. BUT then I get to thinking. How oppressed am I compared to the person who took issue with my words or expression? Why might the word or expression be problematic for that person?

    Again, I don't always agree, but isn't it better to live in a world where we at least know how others might take our words, and what the consequences of our words are, rather than the "good old days" when people of a certain background could say, write, and do pretty much as they liked, and no one dared call them on it openly. Maybe that felt safer for the more privileged groups, but if things still operated on that system, how many people would then be walking around, privately thinking I was an asshole? At least this way, it's out in the open, and if I feel bad for hurting someone and want their regard, I can apologize and try to do better in the future.

    I know my rationale here puts all the emphasis on the experience of a privileged person who has inadvertently hurt someone else. But I'm trying to point out that even from that limited perspective, cultural sensitivity isn't all bad.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 05-21-2017 at 02:18 AM.
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  24. #124
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    You both make great points. And I don't think cultural sensitivity is ever bad, which brings us back to my question: What does cultural appropriation mean to you?

    Something I noticed as I read and re-read the thread through the night and into this morning:

    There's an underlying theme to some posts that seems to indicate an honest desire to know why. Why can't we write about cultures not our own? Why should I have to worry about getting it wrong? Why can't I write it any way that fits the plot of my book?

    Since no one has yet answered the question, I'll tell you how I think of the term "cultural appropriation." The definition of "appropriation" is generally understood to mean the taking of something not our own for our own use. When we talk about cultural appropriation, we're really talking about cultural misappropriation which is the taking of something not our own for our own use in a way that causes harm to those to whom it does belong. This misrepresentation of a group of people or a culture isn't writing "true" because it causes harm—it perpetuates mistaken belief systems and it hurts those to whom the culture does belong.

    This doesn't mean we can't write about cultures not our own, only that we must take care to get it right. We can't be careless. To take less than the appropriate care is to be dishonest.
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  25. #125
    New kid...seven years ago! DancingMaenid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ari Meermans View Post
    Maybe a good place to start is to define cultural appropriation. What does cultural appropriation mean to you?
    I think it can mean a few different things, which can make it difficult to discuss it as a single topic. From my point of view, the biggest examples are:

    1. Taking something that is meaningful in a person's culture and using it as a mere decoration or altering it without recognizing its meaning or showing respect to it.

    2. When something becomes trendy when it is borrowed by the dominant culture but is marginalized in its original context.

    3. Stereotyping or fetishizing people.

    4. Profiting from or supporting commercialization of someone's culture, particularly when it involves behavior like examples 1-3 or if it can be seen as competing with artists/craftspeople/business people who are actually from that culture (an example might be something like a major corporation selling "Navajo" clothing that just has generic "tribal" prints and no actual connection to the Navajo people or their traditions).

    The final point is the tricky one, I think, because it's hard to know where to draw the line, especially with something like writing. There are issues in the publishing industry that can't necessarily be solved by individual writers opting not to publish books about marginalized people from other communities, and it can be hard to tell if, for example, a white person getting a book about a POC protagonist published is directly related to a POC author's book not getting published. I would also argue, personally, that there can be value in both in-group and out-group members writing about minority characters.

    But I think that as writers, we have consider both artistic and professional implications and recognize that neither of these exist in a vacuum. Yes, we can write "whatever we want," but if we write something stereotypical or offensive, people might not like it. But more to the point, I think, is that even if we write the most well-researched, sensitive works of fiction, that doesn't exempt us from being a part of this dialogue if we opt to publish our work. I think people sometimes want their progressiveness to act like a get out of jail free card, where they don't have to deal with the issues because they're not part of the problem. But I think it's good as writers to be mindful of how we give back to the communities that contribute to our success, and how we are making ourselves a part of a conversation whether that was our intent or not. People talk about cultural borrowing, but when people take an approach of "Hey, none of this is my problem. I just want to write what I want and make a living," that's not really an exchange.

    To give an example, when I look at the website or blog of a straight, cisgender writer who writes about LGBTQ characters and I see even little things where they show support for the LGBTQ community or where they show enthusiasm about books written by LGBTQ authors, that makes me like them more. I don't expect them to be activists, but it's nice to see that they're aware of something outside their own imaginations.
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