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Amadan
06-04-2015, 05:59 PM
From a letter to The Blunt Instrument: Should White Men Stop Writing? (http://electricliterature.com/should-white-men-stop-writing-the-blunt-instrument-on-publishing-and-privilege/#.VW4H0FUt0ZI.facebook)

BLUF for those too lazy to click the link: a white dude writes a letter in which he stews in angst and guilt for being a white dude who writes. The editor responds that maybe he doesn't have to stop writing, but he should make sure he feels properly guilty about it, pitch less, and submit less. Because editors are buried with submissions by sub-par white men because privilege.

This is the sort of thing that caused my turnabout on "Social Justice." The appropriately-named Blunt Instrument has taken a kernel of truth - I think John Scalzi's much-fawned-over "life on the easy setting" essay is more a work of self-flagellating cookie-scoring than an incisive analysis of privilege theory, but I do believe that privilege exists - and applied systemic principles on an individual level. It's the logical extension of the "easy setting" - not only should you be mindful that life is automatically easier for you and occasionally spare a thought to feeling guilty about it, but you should actively hobble your own efforts in order to make things fairer for everyone else. You, white man, are the problem. If you do what every writer is told to do (and must do) and submit as widely as you can, you are using your privilege. Writing is a zero-sum game, and every piece you get published has silenced some marginalized voice. If you're a white man, you should only dare to try to get published if you are really, truly super-sure that your writing is awesome and deserves to be published, and even then try to make sure you aren't being published at the expense of someone who's not a white man, and always remember that you are doing damage no matter what.

I do not think this is a helpful, or just, approach to addressing perceived imbalances in the publishing world (or any other domain).

Filigree
06-04-2015, 06:07 PM
Yeah, I have big problems with that part of the social justice portfolio. I don't believe this is a zero sum game: there's room for merit in all subgroups of the profession/avocation 'Writer'. I don't want to reach the summit because all the white guys bowed out and *allowed* me to have less competition.

mirandashell
06-04-2015, 06:32 PM
When did this start? This idea that there is only so much justice to go around? If I have some, you can't have any.

It's just plain stupid. On both sides.

Perks
06-04-2015, 06:41 PM
I might be feeling extra cynical this morning, but I can't help but sense that this guy just wanted to be told, "No! Please don't stop writing and submitting! You're worthy! We need you!"

Honestly, if it's not a bit of mental-Munchausen, then it's hard to trust that anyone who hauls this sort of cumbersome logic is much of a writer to begin with.

Myrealana
06-04-2015, 06:51 PM
No.

If White men try to be less than they are, it doesn't make the world more just, or lift less-served groups up.

No.

Now, should editors and agents make an effort to see beyond the piles of submissions from White men for the talented, hard-working but perhaps less assertive submissions from women, POC and LGBT writers? I think that would help increase diversity in the market, which is good for everyone. Don't hold people to a different standard on the final product--readers deserve good stories no matter the source--just look for the gems that might get lost in the crowd.

growingupblessings
06-04-2015, 06:53 PM
Do publishers actually care about the particular demographics of an author?

I read all of my books on a Kindle Reader, and as a result, I rarely see an image of an author. I can't tell by their names what demographic they belong to, and I know authors occasionally write under false names. It has never once occurred to me to check on the demographics of an author. If the book is well written, I shouldn't even know the author is there.

_Sian_
06-04-2015, 06:58 PM
For me, being aware of privilege is that - being aware of it. I don't think that should stop whoever from applying from a job, etc, but have the decency to not complain about people with less privilege getting picked over you, if it comes to it. Also, have the decency to not be dismissive if the reverse happens, and the person with less privilege complains about their reality.

It should just be about not being a dickhead, honestly.

amergina
06-04-2015, 06:58 PM
No, white men should keep writing and submitting and improving their craft.

White men should stop bitching that they have to share the pie, though, that maybe they might have to compete a bit more on the merit of their words. Welcome to the real world.

Amadan
06-04-2015, 07:01 PM
Do publishers actually care about the particular demographics of an author?

Most don't, though some consciously seek out more "diverse" contributions.

Per the link, the "privilege" argument is that a demographics-blind submissions process is inherently biased because white men are more likely to promote themselves and submit, and white editors are more likely to accept writing that is familiar to them, etc.

Jennifer_Laughran
06-04-2015, 07:02 PM
Apparently you missed the part in the article where the author gives TWO SPECIFIC ACTIONABLE ITEMS that this dude could do if he was really concerned -- and neither involve never writing again. I don't think these items are too much to ask, quite frankly:

* Read more books by women, POC, and LGBTQ writers. The asker claimed to be concerned about co-opting other people's narratives. A good solution for that is to READ, LISTEN, LEARN and AMPLIFY where you can. This will have a double-use: The asker will be being a mensch by promoting work that might be under the radar, and the asker will hopefully also take away ways to make his own stories more nuanced and true.

* Don’t be a problem submitter. I do not believe you could have any conception of the amount of rage-inducing submissions that slush piles receive. I'm not talking about "writing that isn't there yet" -- I'm talking about people who waste my time, do no research, follow no rules, throw half-baked submissions that haven't even been spell-checked out like tommy-gun fire, and lack any kind of basic email etiquette. I've been reading slush for almost a decade and I can tell you: The proportion of men to women who are problem submitters is like... ten to one. I haven't requested head-shots but I can pretty much guarantee the bulk of these problem submitters are white. And, interestingly, the worst offenders seem to be highly educated, upper-middle-class or higher gents - doctors, MBAs, lawyers, etc. These are people who DEFINE privilege, having, apparently, no fucking regard for anything past their own nose, and they fully expect that if they continually "break the rules!" or whatever, they will be met with resounding success. YES those people should stop writing - - or at the very least, take some time, do some research, and be generally open to, like, not being douchecanoes.

Myrealana
06-04-2015, 07:03 PM
Do publishers actually care about the particular demographics of an author?


Maybe not consciously, per se, but there is a lot of unconscious bias built into even people who consider themselves unprejudiced, and it's triggered by names, locations, and even the style of cover letters and the types of accomplishments listed.

Jamal Smith tends to get a different gut reaction than James Smith, and they both elicit different expectations than Jane Smith.

Amadan
06-04-2015, 07:11 PM
Apparently you missed the part in the article where the author gives TWO SPECIFIC ACTIONABLE ITEMS that this dude could do if he was really concerned -- and neither involve never writing again. I don't think these items are too much to ask, quite frankly:

No, I did not miss those parts, as I did not say she told him to stop writing (and in fact observed the opposite).


* Read more books by women, POC, and LGBTQ writers.

Not one of the things I had an issue with.

* Don’t be a problem submitter. I do not believe you could have any conception of the amount of rage-inducing submissions that slush piles receive. I'm not talking about "writing that isn't there yet" -- I'm talking about people who waste my time, do no research, follow no rules, throw half-baked submissions that haven't even been spell-checked out like tommy-gun fire, and lack any kind of basic email etiquette.

I do have some familiarity with slush piles, yes.


I've been reading slush for almost a decade and I can tell you: The proportion of men to women who are problem submitters is like... ten to one.

What is the proportion of men to women who are submitters?

it is likely that men feel more confident (and entitled) about submitting. But "Don't be a problem submitter" (i.e., learn the craft and do your research) should be a rule for everyone, and the implication seems to be that the quality of writing by white men is categorically lower.

Jamesaritchie
06-04-2015, 07:15 PM
I never once had anything resembling "life on the easy setting". I grew up in poverty that was considerably worse than inner city poverty is now because there were no foods stamps, no handouts at all, except a box of government army surplus powered milk and powdered eggs.

I was on my own at age fourteen, and spent more time the next few years sleeping in the back rooms of bars than in school.

"White privilege" is bullshit start to finish. Privilege comes in all colors, and I've known a huge number of black, Asian, and Latino kids who grew up with not only a silver spoon in their mouths, but surrounded by luxury. They never had to work for anything.

The great majority of "white privilege" occurs because someone, at some point, worked his or her ass off.

Putputt
06-04-2015, 07:21 PM
Although I would like to see more diversity in books, my take-away from this specific article is...

Click-bait article is click-baity.

mirandashell
06-04-2015, 07:25 PM
James, your experience is one of the millions and millions that have happened on this planet. Your own experience does not negate the experience of millions of others.

lilyWhite
06-04-2015, 07:27 PM
It bothers me that there are some in modern "equality" movements that genuinely believe in defining people entirely by their gender/race/sexuality, as per the submitter reducing their own work to "poems from a white, male perspective". (I really shouldn't say "race", because all too often this sort of thinking boils down to "white" and "not white", erasing the cultural identities of people from either group.) People are so much more than those traits, and views and experiences are varied and nuanced among people who would otherwise be identical along these lines.

The submitter's view of writing from other perspectives as a "Catch-22" also says a lot, in regards to contradictions some hold regarding "diverse" stories and "appropriation". As a lesbian, I certainly don't think I'm "appropriating another person's experience" when I write heterosexual male characters and I certainly don't care if a straight guy wants to write lesbian characters. (As long as they're not stupid stereotypes, but I don't tolerate hateful stereotypes of straight men either.)

Jamesaritchie
06-04-2015, 07:29 PM
Apparently you missed the part in the article where the author gives TWO SPECIFIC ACTIONABLE ITEMS that this dude could do if he was really concerned -- and neither involve never writing again. I don't think these items are too much to ask, quite frankly:

* Read more books by women, POC, and LGBTQ writers. The asker claimed to be concerned about co-opting other people's narratives. A good solution for that is to READ, LISTEN, LEARN and AMPLIFY where you can. This will have a double-use: The asker will be being a mensch by promoting work that might be under the radar, and the asker will hopefully also take away ways to make his own stories more nuanced and true.

* Don’t be a problem submitter. I do not believe you could have any conception of the amount of rage-inducing submissions that slush piles receive. I'm not talking about "writing that isn't there yet" -- I'm talking about people who waste my time, do no research, follow no rules, throw half-baked submissions that haven't even been spell-checked out like tommy-gun fire, and lack any kind of basic email etiquette. I've been reading slush for almost a decade and I can tell you: The proportion of men to women who are problem submitters is like... ten to one. I haven't requested head-shots but I can pretty much guarantee the bulk of these problem submitters are white. And, interestingly, the worst offenders seem to be highly educated, upper-middle-class or higher gents - doctors, MBAs, lawyers, etc. These are people who DEFINE privilege, having, apparently, no fucking regard for anything past their own nose, and they fully expect that if they continually "break the rules!" or whatever, they will be met with resounding success. YES those people should stop writing - - or at the very least, take some time, do some research, and be generally open to, like, not being douchecanoes.

How can you guarantee most are white without checking? I've been reading slush for thirty-six years, and I don't see any of this. I certainly can't tell who's white and who isn't.

As for the reading, read what you enjoy reading. Period. There are many books by many people that I have no intention of ever reading. I read for enjoyment, not so I'll know how someone writes. I'd rather learn from people by knowing people.

Then again, I'm not concerned with silliness like "preempting someone else's narrative". That's complete nonsense. No matter what I write, or how I write it, every other writer on the planet still has his or her own narrative. I can't preempt it in any way. They have it, will always have it, and can always write it. Every writer has the perfect right, and even the duty, to write about anything he wishes, or anyone he wishes, from any perspective he wishes. This stops no one else from doing the same, and preempts nothing.

This is not complicated. Anyone and everyone should write anything they want to write, in any way they want to write it, and people either buy it, read it, and like it or hate it. It is flat out no one else's business what anyone else writes, or how they write it.

If people of any type want more of this, more of that, or more of the other, they need to shut up and write it well enough to make large numbers of people want to buy it. Otherwise, they're just talking bull.

asroc
06-04-2015, 07:38 PM
I never once had anything resembling "life on the easy setting". I grew up in poverty that was considerably worse than inner city poverty is now because there were no foods stamps, no handouts at all, except a box of government army surplus powered milk and powdered eggs.

I was on my own at age fourteen, and spent more time the next few years sleeping in the back rooms of bars than in school.

"White privilege" is bullshit start to finish. Privilege comes in all colors, and I've known a huge number of black, Asian, and Latino kids who grew up with not only a silver spoon in their mouths, but surrounded by luxury. They never had to work for anything.

The great majority of "white privilege" occurs because someone, at some point, worked his or her ass off.

I don't think that's what "life on easy mode" is supposed to mean. It doesn't mean every white male will have an easier life than every woman and/or PoC. It means that there are obstacles for women or PoC that don't really exist for a white male. They may not exist for some non-whites or non-males either, but regardless of how poor and miserable you grew up, a recruiter won't file your job application in the round file cabinet because the applicant's name is "James." But it's been demonstrated that this happens to Jamals. People who see you on the street won't assume you're planning to mug them. You will not have a more difficult time getting a foothold in a STEM field, or have to worry about being seen as nothing more than an attractive piece of meat instead of a person by some of the men around you. Nobody will ever assume that the main reason you hold a particular job is to fill some sort of quota system and that there had to be other more qualified applicants who were rejected because of that. You can be dealt a shit hand as a white male too, but there are some really bad cards you simply won't get.

Perks
06-04-2015, 07:39 PM
James, your experience is one of the millions and millions that have happened on this planet. Your own experience does not negate the experience of millions of others.
Yeah, I have a background with quite a lot of that sort of thing and I know it would have been even harder if I'd been born not-white.

Jennifer_Laughran
06-04-2015, 07:41 PM
it is likely that men feel more confident (and entitled) about submitting. But "Don't be a problem submitter" (i.e., learn the craft and do your research) should be a rule for everyone, and the implication seems to be that the quality of writing by white men is categorically lower.

Yes, it absolutely should be a rule for everyone.

In my line of work, children's books, submissions by women either equal or outstrip submissions by men -- this is probably not the case in other fields, such as literary magazines. PROBLEM submissions are far more likely to be men than women. (So yes, "confident and entitled" indeed!)

Amadan
06-04-2015, 07:50 PM
Yes, it absolutely should be a rule for everyone.

In my line of work, children's books, submissions by women either equal or outstrip submissions by men -- this is probably not the case in other fields, such as literary magazines. PROBLEM submissions are far more likely to be men than women. (So yes, "confident and entitled" indeed!)

Fair enough. But "You should make sure your submissions are up to snuff" is very different advice than telling people that submitting at all is problematic because of who they are, and not to submit unless they're absolutely sure they won't take a place from someone more deserving.

EMaree
06-04-2015, 08:02 PM
Who's actually telling white guys *not* to submit, though? Most of the social justice stuff I've seen is about putting your privilege to good use, boosting marginalized voices and talking about books with PoC writers and PoC authors, and being aware of the struggles of people in different situations to your own. It's not about yelling at people not to submit.

Honestly, the only time I see that sort of argument is reactionary dudes responding to requests that be mindful of marginalized people with "SO YOU'RE SAYING THIS IS ALL MY FAULT AND I'M A TERRIBLE RACIST?"... which seems to just be a loud, misdirecting way of bringing the topic back to their hurt feelings.

Social justice, at least from where I'm standing, isn't supposed to be about sitting around feeling guilty -- it's about being conscious of the world, and all the ways it prejudices against people based on race or gender, and working to make it a better place.


I might be feeling extra cynical this morning, but I can't help but feel that this guy just wanted to be told, "No! Please don't don't stop writing and submitting! You're worthy! We need you!"

Honestly, if it's not a bit of mental-Munchausen, then it's hard to trust that anyone who hauls this sort of cumbersome logic is much of a writer to begin with.

Exactly this. Nothing in his post indicates eh was *told* to stop writing, he just seems to have twisted a movement for equality into an excuse to hold himself back. Dude should just procrastinate with Netflix and Ben & Jerrys like the rest of us.


No, white men should keep writing and submitting and improving their craft.

White men should stop bitching that they have to share the pie, though, that maybe they might have to compete a bit more on the merit of their words. Welcome to the real world.

Yes, this.

lilyWhite
06-04-2015, 08:05 PM
The problems I have with "privilege" is that it treats all people as having the same biases (which, if it were the case, this concept of "privilege" wouldn't exist) and that it focuses on viewing specific groups as being the sole benefactors of "privilege" rather than acknowledging how different groups of people can receive favourable treatment in different ways and from different people. (There's also the matter of how many don't acknowledge the privilege of being born into money...I wonder why many prominent people who talk about "privilege" never mention that?)

Ironically, the very concept of "privilege" can lead towards discrimination towards those viewed as "privileged", in the form of favoured treatment towards non-white/male/straight people. In my opinion, there's a difference between striving to treat people equally when others don't and answering unequal treatment (real or perceived) with unequal treatment.

Amadan
06-04-2015, 08:10 PM
Who's actually telling white guys *not* to submit, though?

Please read the article. The columnist did not, in fact, tell the white guy not to submit, but the writer (assuming he is to be taken at face value and isn't just looking for cookies, as Perks suggested, which is entirely possible) has absorbed the idea from SJ activism that he is doing damage just by pursuing his avocation as a white man, and she more or less supported that idea, while giving him a rationale by which he could justify continuing to do so.

It's that sort of thinking that is toxic.


Social justice, at least from where I'm standing, isn't supposed to be about sitting around feeling guilty -- it's about being conscious of the world, and all the ways it prejudices against people based on race or gender, and working to make it a better place.

That's the theory. It's a good theory.

EMaree
06-04-2015, 08:13 PM
Please read the article.

I did, and I think you misread my response, so I'll try and be clearer. The guy is saying "Sometimes I feel like the time to write from my experience has passed, that the need for poems from a white, male perspective just isn’t there anymore, and that the torch has passed to writers of other communities whose voices have too long been silenced or suppressed. "... nobody has told him not to write, he's TELLING HIMSELF this. And that's messed up.

The guy's projecting his own insecurities onto an entire movement. We all have a voice in our head that says we're not good enough, maybe we should just stop writing, but I don't turn around and go "yeah it's definitely THAT group's fault, they made me think this".

Equality (or the social justice movement, call it what you like) is not about avoiding pie for life because some people haven't tasted the pie. It's about sharing the damn pie.

Xelebes
06-04-2015, 09:08 PM
White men should absolutely stop writing. Or at least just stop writing so much. I mean, really, how hard can it be? I mean, if you have to really sit down and write, could you not play with a ball? Is that ball not that interesting? Look, this ball bounces! Bouncy-bouncy-bouncy! Oh, lift your head! Look me in the eyes when I say this! This ball, you could do stuff with it. Hey, have you heard of football? Oh! Oh! You know! Good! Take this ball and play football. Yes! Come on! What? What's wrong with football? It's not like a poem? Well, sir, you can. . . can. . . no wait, man? football! Bouncy-bouncy-bouncy!


To wit: the man writing the letter to the editor or what not is engaging in emotional blackmail. Sod off.

Amadan
06-04-2015, 09:17 PM
I did, and I think you misread my response, so I'll try and be clearer. The guy is saying "Sometimes I feel like the time to write from my experience has passed, that the need for poems from a white, male perspective just isn’t there anymore, and that the torch has passed to writers of other communities whose voices have too long been silenced or suppressed. "... nobody has told him not to write, he's TELLING HIMSELF this. And that's messed up.

No argument that he's an insecure, messed up individual. But where did those ideas come from? You seem to believe he spun them out of whole cloth, having received no such actual messages in the community he was steeped in. Yet the columnist did not disabuse him of his belief that writing and submitting his work is an act of privilege in itself, doing damage that he can at best "mitigate."

So your position that this is all one individual's hang-ups that haven't been reinforced anywhere else is, I think, not well grounded.



Equality (or the social justice movement, call it what you like) is not about avoiding pie for life because some people haven't tasted the pie. It's about sharing the damn pie.

That's the theory. It's a good theory.

Larry M
06-04-2015, 09:26 PM
White men should stop bitching that they have to share the pie, though, that maybe they might have to compete a bit more on the merit of their words. Welcome to the real world.

You seem to be of the opinion that white men bitch about having to "share the pie" and that we expect to have some privilege when submitting our writing. I'm curious as to where you came up with this (links/statistics to back up your assertions)? Your statements are quite insulting to those of us white men that do no such thing.

Layla Nahar
06-04-2015, 09:30 PM
A lot of my favorite books are written by white men.

TheNighSwan
06-04-2015, 09:31 PM
What I find interesting (I mean this earnestly, un-sarcastically) is that race-bias is one of the few cases where writers here seem willing to recognize that perhaps, publishers do not always publish the best books that are submitted to them, but will in fact sometimes publish lesser books for reasons that are neither artistically nor commercially defensible —whereas if you try to make the argument that the success of Twilight was dumb luck and that there are much better books that simply didn't get the same chances and exposure, you meet much more resistance.

mirandashell
06-04-2015, 09:35 PM
You seem to be of the opinion that white men bitch about having to "share the pie" and that we expect to have some privilege when submitting our writing. I'm curious as to where you came up with this (links/statistics to back up your assertions)? Your statements are quite insulting to those of us white men that do no such thing.


It was aimed at the white men who do bitch about it. Like the guy in the article.

If you don't do that, why are you offended? It's not about you.

Amadan
06-04-2015, 09:41 PM
What I find interesting (I mean this earnestly, un-sarcastically) is that race-bias is one of the few cases where writers here seem willing to recognize that perhaps, publishers do not always publish the best books that are submitted to them, but will in fact sometimes publish lesser books for reasons that are neither artistically nor commercially defensible —whereas if you try to make the argument that the success of Twilight was dumb luck and that there are much better books that simply didn't get the same chances and exposure, you meet much more resistance.

Really? I think the near-universal consensus is that there are much better books than Twilight that didn't get the same chance and exposure. I don't follow your race-bias argument either - you believe that publishers frequently choose to publish inferior books because of racial preference?




It was aimed at the white men who do bitch about it. Like the guy in the article.

The guy in the article is bitching about having to share the pie? That seems directly opposite of what I read.

mirandashell
06-04-2015, 09:45 PM
I didn't actually read it to be fair. I was going on what has been said on the thread. Teach me not to do that! LOL!

But it doesn't take away from my point that a lot of white men do bitch about sharing the pie. I even know white men who think there is no need for them to share. Their life is just fine and everyone else should just stop whinging, thank you very much.

So someone who does have privilege moaning about it being pointed out just makes me roll my eyes.

Amadan
06-04-2015, 09:52 PM
I didn't actually read it to be fair. I was going on what has been said on the thread. Teach me not to do that! LOL!

:facepalm:


But it doesn't take away from my point that a lot of white men do bitch about sharing the pie. I even know white men who think there is no need for them to share. Their life is just fine and everyone else should just stop whinging, thank you very much.

So someone who does have privilege moaning about it being pointed out just makes me roll my eyes.

If you read the article (or even my summary) you will see that what the original letter writer is moaning about is that he feels so guilty about his privilege that he questions whether he should even write at all.

As for grumpy white men whining about privilege and bootstraps, yes, they exist. But everyone who challenges privilege theory on some level is not in that category.

TheNighSwan
06-04-2015, 09:57 PM
Really? I think the near-universal consensus is that there are much better books than Twilight that didn't get the same chance and exposure.

That's not the impression I get from these forums. Maybe I am mistaken but I generally see discussions that go like this: "Twilight is a bad book, Meyer is a bad writer, and her work is occupying shelf-space that should go to better writers" — "well now that is really unfair, it sells a lot and therefore has a public and therefore is good in some way, plus you can't deny Meyer is a genius for achieving such popular success", with the general underlying idea that it's well, not wrong, but at least impolite to suggest publishers occasionally release bad books and that their status as gatekeeper is not in fact a guaranty of quality writing.




I don't follow your race-bias argument either - you believe that publishers frequently choose to publish inferior books because of racial preference?


I certainly didn't say "frequently", but the idea that (some) good books by POC get passed on while (some) bad books by white people get published seems to be the logical conclusion of the idea that publishers are affected by race privilege

Amadan
06-04-2015, 10:06 PM
That's not the impression I get from these forums. Maybe I am mistaken but I generally see discussions that go like this: "Twilight is a bad book, Meyer is a bad writer, and her work is occupying shelf-space that should go to better writers" — "well now that is really unfair, it sells a lot and therefore has a public and therefore is good in some way, plus you can't deny Meyer is a genius for achieving such popular success", with the general underlying idea that it's well, not wrong, but at least impolite to suggest publishers occasionally release bad books and that their status as gatekeeper is not in fact a guaranty of quality writing.

That's a couple of different issues there (and a whole separate thread or two). Most people agree that Twilight is not a great book, even if it is (to some) an enjoyable one. Arguing that it's "unfair" that it sells so well is a little different.

mirandashell
06-04-2015, 10:18 PM
As for grumpy white men whining about privilege and bootstraps, yes, they exist. But everyone who challenges privilege theory on some level is not in that category.

I never claimed they were. You're doing exactly the same as the poster I was responding to. Acting like everything is about him. That's what made me roll my eyes.

If the poster wants to put together a cogent argument about privilege theory and his objection to it, I will gladly engage. But whining that he has been insulted and how dare she say that is just going to get the reaction that he did. A roll of the eyes.

Amadan
06-04-2015, 10:22 PM
I never claimed they were. You're doing exactly the same as the poster I was responding to. Acting like everything is about him. That's what made me roll my eyes.

If the poster wants to put together a cogent argument about privilege theory and his objection to it, I will gladly engage. But whining that he has been insulted and how dare she say that is just going to get the reaction that he did. A roll of the eyes.

Well, I did share his reaction somewhat, because the comment that "white men need to get used to sharing the pie and actually compete on merit" seemed to come out of left field. If not referring to the letter writer, and not referring to anyone in this thread, who does it refer to and what was the point?

heza
06-04-2015, 10:45 PM
Well, I did share his reaction somewhat, because the comment that "white men need to get used to sharing the pie and actually compete on merit" seemed to come out of left field. If not referring to the letter writer, and not referring to anyone in this thread, who does it refer to and what was the point?

When I read it, I assumed it referred to the original question "Should white men stop writing?" as a solution to privilege in publishing. And the answer is, "No. What men should do instead is not do things like object when people start talking about how the overwhelming majority of award winning books are about men (http://nicolagriffith.com/2015/05/26/books-about-women-tend-not-to-win-awards/) and why that might be."

Because when someone says, "Hey, look at this phenomenon. Let's discuss this," and a man says, "I think the system is fine the way it is. Women should learn to write better if they want to win awards," (which are things that have been said out in the wild) that can look like someone doesn't want to share the pie. I.e., if they were truly intent on competing on merit, then there wouldn't be any resistance to making sure a fair shake is being given to diverse works and authors.

Here's a link (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/02/women-literary-prizes_n_7487556.html) to Huffington Post where they wrote an article about the one referenced above. Check out the comments for examples of men who look like they don't want to share the pie or acknowledge that some bias might be at work.

(I'm not saying you don't accept that might be true or trying to comment on what you or anyone else here might think... only trying to answer where the pie comment might have come from.)

mirandashell
06-04-2015, 10:54 PM
That's what I was about to say but you were nicer! :D

I don't want to answer for Amergina cos she is perfectly capable of doing that but I'm guessing she is as sick as me of seeing white men whine about sharing the pie. And I'm not saying all do but there is a lot of it. Not on here very much but on plenty of other sites and in real life.

And I'm guessing that Amergina has experienced the effects of not having White Man Privilege a lot more than Larry M.

aruna
06-04-2015, 11:04 PM
I certainly didn't say "frequently", but the idea that (some) good books by POC get passed on while (some) bad books by white people get published seems to be the logical conclusion of the idea that publishers are affected by race privilege

I don't think it's necessarily the non-white authors that get overlooked, but the fact that such authors generally choose to have non-white main characters or maybe few white characters, or non-mainstream locations in their books,. I think THAT is what publishers are wary of rather than the author's race per se. I think if a black person were to write a good book with all-white characters set in a typical all-white US neighbourhood, there wouldn't be a problem at all; it would compete with on an equal basis with other similar books.

But since we generally don't write such books with such characters, it looks as though the authors are being discriminated against.

Most of the books I've recently read are by white, female authors. Not one of them has a single black character, as far as I can remember.

nighttimer
06-04-2015, 11:06 PM
I never once had anything resembling "life on the easy setting". I grew up in poverty that was considerably worse than inner city poverty is now because there were no foods stamps, no handouts at all, except a box of government army surplus powered milk and powdered eggs.

I was on my own at age fourteen, and spent more time the next few years sleeping in the back rooms of bars than in school.

I think you left off the part where you had to walk to school 20 miles in a blizzard, tsunami and earthquake and you and your brother had to alternate the days you went because you were sharing the same pair of worn-out shoes.

How many drive-byes did you survive? How many crackheads lurking in the alley did you have to dodge? How many warehouses passed off as schools were you socially promoted through? How many needles and broken bottles of cheap alcohol in the grass did you have to step over as you played ball? How many of your childhood friends did you lose to drug addiction, gangs, state incarceration, or premature death?

These sort of "things were tougher back in my day" war stories always carry the musky odor of tales repeatedly told to bored grandchildren at each and every holiday and family gathering.


"White privilege" is bullshit start to finish. Privilege comes in all colors, and I've known a huge number of black, Asian, and Latino kids who grew up with not only a silver spoon in their mouths, but surrounded by luxury. They never had to work for anything.

The great majority of "white privilege" occurs because someone, at some point, worked his or her ass off.

That sounds like bullshit from start to finish too. One of the great things about having White Privilege is being blissfully unaware of it while enjoying the illusion everything broke your way simply due to putting your nose to the grindstone, the sweat off your brow and hustling harder than the next guy.

Nobody does it all alone. Everybody gets help somewhere even if is indirect and invisible.


James, your experience is one of the millions and millions that have happened on this planet. Your own experience does not negate the experience of millions of others.

Q.F.T. :Thumbs:

amergina
06-04-2015, 11:43 PM
When I read it, I assumed it referred to the original question "Should white men stop writing?" as a solution to privilege in publishing. And the answer is, "No. What men should do instead is not do things like object when people start talking about how the overwhelming majority of award winning books are about men (http://nicolagriffith.com/2015/05/26/books-about-women-tend-not-to-win-awards/) and why that might be."

Because when someone says, "Hey, look at this phenomenon. Let's discuss this," and a man says, "I think the system is fine the way it is. Women should learn to write better if they want to win awards," (which are things that have been said out in the wild) that can look like someone doesn't want to share the pie. I.e., if they were truly intent on competing on merit, then there wouldn't be any resistance to making sure a fair shake is being given to diverse works and authors.

Here's a link (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/02/women-literary-prizes_n_7487556.html) to Huffington Post where they wrote an article about the one referenced above. Check out the comments for examples of men who look like they don't want to share the pie or acknowledge that some bias might be at work.

(I'm not saying you don't accept that might be true or trying to comment on what you or anyone else here might think... only trying to answer where the pie comment might have come from.)

This is pretty much my point. I was answering not the answer in the article but question in the title of the thread and the question that spawned the answer in the article.

I'm tired of all the hang-wringing about how no one appreciates the white male (everyman) perspective anymore because of all those SJWs and that everyone HAS TO BE sensitive to women and PoC and all that but if a white guy writes from that POV they're appropriating and woe, maybe white males should just hang up their hats. (And no, not every single white man in existence thinks this. If you don't, good. Thumbs up!!)

It's bullshit. People still read from the white male POV. It still sells buttloads. But other perspectives are coming into play and also now selling and being in demand more. Part of it is because culture is shifting as it becomes more aware that there are other experiences beyond white male that are important and relevant too. As Amadan says, it's not a zero-sum game. It's just that everyman...isn't white and male. Everyperson can be PoC or female or queer or non-neurotypical or trans or whatever else.

And there are plenty of people who write from the perspective of someone they're not. I'm not a gay Jewish disabled guy with PTSD, but I wrote about one. I'm sure there are things I fucked up, but I did the best I could and if I am called on the carpet, I'll listen and do better next time.

heza
06-04-2015, 11:56 PM
That's not the impression I get from these forums. Maybe I am mistaken but I generally see discussions that go like this: "Twilight is a bad book, Meyer is a bad writer, and her work is occupying shelf-space that should go to better writers" — "well now that is really unfair, it sells a lot and therefore has a public and therefore is good in some way, plus you can't deny Meyer is a genius for achieving such popular success", with the general underlying idea that it's well, not wrong, but at least impolite to suggest publishers occasionally release bad books and that their status as gatekeeper is not in fact a guaranty of quality writing.

I don't want to derail this thread, but I'll point out two things: 1) Publishing is a business about producing content that will sell, not necessarily what has the most literary merit; therefore, Twilight was the most worthy book by that standard. 2) The statement about "Occupying shelf space" is really in the eye of the beholder, right? Someone who loved Twilight would probably prefer it be there instead of a literary book they wouldn't have enjoyed. Twilight might not have been a book of literary genius, but it did exactly what it was asked to do: sell copies. Whether Twilight was a "good book" is independent of whether it "deserved to be published," depending on your criteria. So there are two POVs, and neither is entirely wrong nor right.

So like Aruna said, it's not that publishers look at a black, female author and say, "Oh, I'm racist. I don't like publishing non-male, non-white authors." It's that these authors are often the ones writing authentically about non-male, non-white experiences, and publishers are not sure (for a variety of reasons) that these experiences will sell as well as white, male experiences, which has been the default experience for a very long time. If publishers thought that a book about a black woman would sell just as well as a book about a white man, then we'd see a lot more of them (good and bad) out in the marketplace. Until consumer preferences or publisher beliefs about consumer preferences change, this will continue to be an issue. That's why one of the best things you can do to increase diversity is, as a consumer, buy, read, and promote books about diverse experiences.

The real difference between the two situations (Twilight vs. racial bias), I think, is that Twilight is reflective of a majority society that would rather be entertained than made to think. It was escapist fantasy aimed a particular demographic. When we don't respect diverse voices or experiences in publishing, that's reflective of a racist/sexist society and I think that's more harmful to our society, as a whole, than it is just unfair, in general, to good writers.

(I already see that I've cross-posted with others. Oh, well.)

heza
06-05-2015, 12:09 AM
But where did those ideas come from? You seem to believe he spun them out of whole cloth, having received no such actual messages in the community he was steeped in. Yet the columnist did not disabuse him of his belief that writing and submitting his work is an act of privilege in itself, doing damage that he can at best "mitigate."

Personally, I think it comes from the language we use when we talk about it.

I think when this type of question is sincere, it comes from a tendency to internalize White, Male Guilt and when it's not sincere, it comes from a defensive gut reaction.

beckethm
06-05-2015, 12:13 AM
"White privilege" is bullshit start to finish. Privilege comes in all colors, and I've known a huge number of black, Asian, and Latino kids who grew up with not only a silver spoon in their mouths, but surrounded by luxury. They never had to work for anything.

The great majority of "white privilege" occurs because someone, at some point, worked his or her ass off.



That sounds like bullshit from start to finish too. One of the great things about White Privilege is being blissfully unaware of it while enjoying the illusion everything broke their way due to putting their nose to the grindstone, the sweat off their brows and just hustling harder than the other guy.


Q.F.T.

And as to the privileges supposedly enjoyed by those black, Asian, and Latino kids who were born into luxury, how much of a privilege is it when you are stopped by the police driving your own car in your own neighborhood for no reason other than your skin color? How much of a privilege is it to have women clutch their purses when you walk by, dressed in a suit and tie, on your way to work as a lawyer or accountant or architect? Does where you were born matter when security guards tail you around stores where you are planning to buy goods with your hard-earned cash? Or how about when a co-worker at the office where you have held a professional position for 20 years leaves a note on your desk saying "Get Out of Our Country," as happened to one of my Middle Eastern friends after 9/11?

White Privilege does not mean that all white people have it easy. It is simply the recognition that people of color, no matter what their socio-economic status, have suffered and continue to suffer indignities that those of us born with lighter skin do not. To deny that it exists is to deny that racism exists in our society, and I'm sorry, but it does. It just does.

beckethm
06-05-2015, 12:25 AM
I don't think it's necessarily the non-white authors that get overlooked, but the fact that such authors generally choose to have non-white main characters or maybe few white characters, or non-mainstream locations in their books,. I think THAT is what publishers are wary of rather than the author's race per se. I think if a black person were to write a good book with all-white characters set in a typical all-white US neighbourhood, there wouldn't be a problem at all; it would compete with on an equal basis with other similar books.


More on topic, I think this is the issue, really, and it correlates with the question of white privilege. The typical literary novel about a white man dealing with some kind of personal crisis is seen as somehow making a universal statement about human existence. Take the same kind of novel and make the protagonist a person of color, and suddenly the book becomes a statement about race, and its audience shrinks. Or at least publishers seem to assume that the audience will shrink. Content affects placement, marketing, etc.

It's not that white men should stop writing or that their views and experience aren't valued, but that as a society, I think we are coming to recognize that the white male experience is not a universal default, and that there is something to be learned from other lives and other stories.

nighttimer
06-05-2015, 12:40 AM
Getting to the heart of the matter, NO, we do not need to put a leash on the White Guy Perspective. Some of my favorites writers are White Guys.

As a POC, White Guilt is useless to me. Being conscious you will enjoy certain privileges due to the color of your skin or that you stand up to pee is simply acknowledging racism and sexism does not simply suppress one group; it favors another.

Even in a historically racist country such as this one, there are prerogatives available to me as a Black man which are denied to White women and gays. Not many, but they exist because there are still advantages to being a heterosexual male.

Larry M
06-05-2015, 12:41 AM
No, white men should keep writing and submitting and improving their craft.

White men should stop bitching that they have to share the pie, though, that maybe they might have to compete a bit more on the merit of their words. Welcome to the real world.


It was aimed at the white men who do bitch about it. Like the guy in the article.

If you don't do that, why are you offended? It's not about you.
I am offended by the blanket statement.

amergina
06-05-2015, 01:00 AM
I am offended by the blanket statement.

It's a generalization, kind of like saying "Women shouldn't be so sensitive about things."

And I'm guessing that the statement:

"White men should keep writing and submitting and improving their craft."

Doesn't offend. Certainly I don't mean that every single white man should keep writing and submitting and improving. Not all white men even write! I do mean a subset of white men. Those who write. Those white men shouldn't stop writing.

But when I say:

"White men should stop bitching that they have to share the pie, though, that maybe they might have to compete a bit more on the merit of their words."

There's a problem because it's a negative generalization. But no, I don't mean that every single white man should stop bitching that they have to share the pie. Not every single white man is bitching. Only the ones that *are* bitching about having to share are bitching. And they should stop.

Larry M
06-05-2015, 01:08 AM
There's a problem because it's a negative generalization. But no, I don't mean that every single white man should stop bitching that they have to share the pie. Not every single white man is bitching. Only the ones that *are* bitching about having to share are bitching. And they should stop.

Agreed.

UnluckyClover77
06-05-2015, 01:56 AM
Forgive me if I don't understand this correctly, but does it even matter? I thought they were just looking for books that can ...y'know... SELL. The only time "who the author is" should matter is when they are so very popular that people will buy anything they write no matter how good or bad it is, right?
... I feel more than a bit oblivious to this subject.

Helix
06-05-2015, 03:40 AM
Here's a hashtag for bleating white men: #NotAllWhiteMaleWriters

As for the 'my life as a white man was terrible, but I pulled myself up by my bootstraps (which I had to fashion from mouse tails, don't you know) without help, so that totally invalidates any problems anyone else has faced and continues to face because my lived experience outweighs everyone else's' category...luxury.

ethantribal
06-05-2015, 03:50 AM
White Male: The easiest setting to go through life on.

blacbird
06-05-2015, 04:34 AM
This is among the stupidest articles on writing I've ever encountered.

Sorry for being too subtle about it.

caw

Perks
06-05-2015, 04:36 AM
This is among the stupidest articles on writing I've ever encountered.

Sorry for being too subtle about it.

caw

I know. I can't tell if this guy is insincere, or just doesn't realize that he's insincere.

CassandraW
06-05-2015, 04:53 AM
Yeah, I think this particular white guy should indeed stop writing -- not because he's a white guy, but because he's annoying.

ETA:

My, I'm grumpy today.

lizo27
06-05-2015, 05:16 AM
Privilege is about systemic bias. It recognizes that, all other things being equal, members of one group will have an advantage over members of another. It's not particularly useful in comparing individual situations, because all other things are generally not equal at that level, and because there are various types of privilege that intersect. There's male privilege and white privilege, straight privilege and class privilege, able-bodied privilege and cis privilege, for example. One may be the beneficiary of one or more types of privilege. So there's little use in getting into a personal pissing match over who's had it harder in their life. The concept is about recognizing that these biases exist and correcting for them where possible. It does bear stating that even if a straight white man has overcome challenges in life, a black man or a woman or a gay man facing those same challenges would have had an additional hurdle to overcome as a result of those systemic biases. That's what privilege means.

So, to the question in the thread title: No, white men shouldn't stop writing. But more POC, women, and people on the QUILTBAG spectrum should be getting published and recognized. Is it possible that this will make it harder for white men to get published and recognized? Maybe. But then maybe that's just a correction the system needs to make. To put it succinctly: The white male perspective is still relevant. But it's not the only perspective. And it shouldn't be the default.

Ken
06-05-2015, 05:17 AM
White privilege? Sure seems so! You go to a bookstore and shelves are full of novels by white males. What is up with that?! White privilege, plain and simple, unless you wanna say white men have some sorta superior ability to write novels, yada yada yada. And I suggest you don't go there, unless you want me to ROLF !!!

:roll:

Kevin Nelson
06-05-2015, 10:22 AM
I think I can agree with 90% of what Gabbert said, but I do have a problem with the following statement: "We should tell men to submit less. Pitch less. Especially white men." It's not even clear what that means for any individual author; should you leave every third story on your hard drive without submitting it anywhere?

Maybe what she meant was something more like "We should tell men, especially white men, to make an extra effort to ensure their submissions are at a professional level and suitable for the market they are submitting to." Then I'd have no objection. Everyone should try to make their submissions professional, of course. But if white men are the ones most likely to fail at that, then it's reasonable for them to be especially on guard. If you're already a conscientious author, it won't be a huge burden to take a step back and ask yourself one more time "Is this really ready to go?" As soon as the answer is yes, fine--go ahead and submit.

Amadan has characterized the "submit less" comment as directed at Mr. Anonymous personally, but I don't think that's correct. It sounds to me like a very general comment--in fact, the problem is that it's too general. I just wish she had made it a little more specific.

DancingMaenid
06-05-2015, 11:37 AM
Forgive me if I don't understand this correctly, but does it even matter? I thought they were just looking for books that can ...y'know... SELL. The only time "who the author is" should matter is when they are so very popular that people will buy anything they write no matter how good or bad it is, right?
... I feel more than a bit oblivious to this subject.

Well, the trouble is that a lot of times, "what will sell" = "what will appeal to the majority." People sometimes come to the conclusion that the majority will only want to read stories by and about people who are like them. Boys will not want to read stories about girls, or stories written by women (I've heard that J.K. Rowling was encouraged to go by her initials to make herself more gender-neutral, though someone correct me if I'm wrong on that). White people aren't going to read books about black characters. A mainstream, mostly straight, audience isn't going to buy a book with a gay protagonist. I would argue that if there's any truth in this, it's a self-perpetuating cycle: boys get the idea that stories about girls aren't "for" them, so they don't read them. White people get used to seeing books about black protagonists marketed only for black audiences, so they don't bother with them.

None of this is precisely the same thing as who the author is (though I noted above that there can be an issue of female authors feeling like they should go by gender-neutral names when writing books in a male-dominated audience or books that are supposed to appeal to a mixed audience), but minority authors are often more likely to write about minority characters, so there's some overlap.

Ravioli
06-05-2015, 12:35 PM
Considering there are people who truly believe the essence of that post, I find the whole "white man is bad, knows no trouble, must feel guilty, and relinquish his spot to the less privileged even if earned" attitude cringeworthy. It's not because people of color, women, disabled people, LGBT etc. tend to get less than they deserve, that the privileged should, too. One needs to be elevated, not the other put down. I don't care who wrote what I read. I care that it entertains me. I wouldn't boycott Hitler and binge on Angelou except for content quality. Social justice is NOT to find a new group to put down, in this case, the white man. Social justice is to see everyone at a/the same level where efforts are fairly rewarded for their merit, not their maker.

And if you have to withdraw from competition in a skill not affected by your background, just so someone else has a better chance at winning, then that is simply pathetic and wrong. If everyone writes to the best of their ability, then everyone gets to pitch and market their work accordingly. I'm a white woman, and if I happen to be a better writer than the black woman who has submitted her WIP to the same publisher, then I get to take the cake and eat it loudly, and not feel a drop of guilt. And I'm also fat and have to take pills for my depression, so I'm also disadvantaged by society. Yet, if a healthy, athletic white male is a better writer, then he gets to beat me with pride, and I don't get to whine.

Seriously, rewarding disadvantage makes me sick. At a fancy rat show (for pedigree rats), this really happened: I entered 10 beautifully bred rats and won nothing. A little boy in a wheelchair enters what he could've fished from the sewers and wins a trophy and gets printed all over the rat club magazine. What. The. Fuck. This is NOT fair competition. What you breed or what you write, should be rewarded or rejected for its quality, not for your hardship. Everyone has hardship. Even white people. And no one's hardship should be either a dealbreaker or a VIP pass.

Also, I ain't sharing the pie with those who didn't earn it. If I got published and a socially disadvantaged person didn't and it's clear that this is solely due to content quality, then I will eat my pie and if they complain, I'll smash the empty plate over their skull. Earn your own damn pie. Most white male writers did fairly earn theirs, so why share instead of having the pie-less party earn theirs the same way? Earning something and then having to share it with those who didn't earn it lest you be guilt-tripped, isn't justice, it's coerced charity. Which isn't really charity.

Amadan
06-05-2015, 03:13 PM
Amadan has characterized the "submit less" comment as directed at Mr. Anonymous personally, but I don't think that's correct. It sounds to me like a very general comment--in fact, the problem is that it's too general. I just wish she had made it a little more specific.

No, I think she was directing it at white men in general.

Let's say what she (and some people in this thread) have claimed is true, that white men are more likely to be shitty writers who submit shitty work. (I said more likely - no, I do not think anyone here is claiming all white men are shitty writers.) Telling them "Up your game" and encouraging them (and everyone else) to put more polish and professionalism into their efforts is fine. But the underlying message that white dudes collectively (yes, I realize she was speaking in generalities and not about every single individual white dude) suffer from Dunning Kruger syndrome, and that a conscientious white guy like the letter writer should feel bad because he might be submitting work that's less good than a non-white guy would dare to submit because society affords him the privilege to do so, is a crap message. Even to the degree that that one bit might be true (white men are more willing to put work out there that non-white men would be hesitant about), the remedy should still be the same - a dual message of "only submit your very best work" and "sell yourself as hard as you can, because no one else will." It shouldn't be tailored to ethnicities and genders and tied to white guilt and privilege theory.

Taylor Harbin
06-05-2015, 04:04 PM
To me, the ideas of white privilege and social justice have never made logical sense. My ethnicity didn't bring any scholarships in college, and it certainly hasn't given me an advantage in publishing fiction.

I could write a lot more, but I think it's best served in its own thread.

Larry M
06-05-2015, 04:18 PM
Considering there are people who truly believe the essence of that post, I find the whole "white man is bad, knows no trouble, must feel guilty, and relinquish his spot to the less privileged even if earned" attitude cringeworthy. It's not because people of color, women, disabled people, LGBT etc. tend to get less than they deserve, that the privileged should, too. One needs to be elevated, not the other put down. I don't care who wrote what I read. I care that it entertains me. I wouldn't boycott Hitler and binge on Angelou except for content quality. Social justice is NOT to find a new group to put down, in this case, the white man. Social justice is to see everyone at a/the same level where efforts are fairly rewarded for their merit, not their maker.

And if you have to withdraw from competition in a skill not affected by your background, just so someone else has a better chance at winning, then that is simply pathetic and wrong. If everyone writes to the best of their ability, then everyone gets to pitch and market their work accordingly. I'm a white woman, and if I happen to be a better writer than the black woman who has submitted her WIP to the same publisher, then I get to take the cake and eat it loudly, and not feel a drop of guilt. And I'm also fat and have to take pills for my depression, so I'm also disadvantaged by society. Yet, if a healthy, athletic white male is a better writer, then he gets to beat me with pride, and I don't get to whine.

Seriously, rewarding disadvantage makes me sick. At a fancy rat show (for pedigree rats), this really happened: I entered 10 beautifully bred rats and won nothing. A little boy in a wheelchair enters what he could've fished from the sewers and wins a trophy and gets printed all over the rat club magazine. What. The. Fuck. This is NOT fair competition. What you breed or what you write, should be rewarded or rejected for its quality, not for your hardship. Everyone has hardship. Even white people. And no one's hardship should be either a dealbreaker or a VIP pass.

Also, I ain't sharing the pie with those who didn't earn it. If I got published and a socially disadvantaged person didn't and it's clear that this is solely due to content quality, then I will eat my pie and if they complain, I'll smash the empty plate over their skull. Earn your own damn pie. Most white male writers did fairly earn theirs, so why share instead of having the pie-less party earn theirs the same way? Earning something and then having to share it with those who didn't earn it lest you be guilt-tripped, isn't justice, it's coerced charity. Which isn't really charity.

Well put, excellent post.

lance.schukies
06-05-2015, 05:18 PM
I call bs on the letter, it a hoax, just a media stunt to go viral.

move on nothing to see here.

Larry M
06-05-2015, 05:23 PM
White Male: The easiest setting to go through life on.

What a remarkably trite comment.

Amadan
06-05-2015, 05:29 PM
I call bs on the letter, it a hoax, just a media stunt to go viral.

move on nothing to see here.

I doubt it.

The point being missed by people who call the letter writer insincere or fake is that these people exist and they actually think like that. Maybe they represent a small but disproportionately vocal element of the online community, but they are certainly real. I've met a few face to face, and many more online, in prolonged enough interactions that I do not think they are all constructs, trolls, or performance artists.

Kylabelle
06-05-2015, 05:31 PM
Ah, people. Let's back off the snark a little bit please. For a hot button topic with a rather touchy title, we've had some good rounds of exchange in this thread, expressing different takes without insulting each other. Keep to that high road please.

Thank you kindly.

Axl Prose
06-05-2015, 05:34 PM
Black, white, green or purple, man or woman, if you let any person or society tell you what you should or shouldn't do with your life, you are f*ckin' up big time.

beckethm
06-05-2015, 05:39 PM
Even to the degree that that one bit might be true (white men are more willing to put work out there that non-white men would be hesitant about), the remedy should still be the same - a dual message of "only submit your very best work" and "sell yourself as hard as you can, because no one else will." It shouldn't be tailored to ethnicities and genders and tied to white guilt and privilege theory.

I have to say that the "submit less" advice made no sense to me, either. Even if slush piles are clogged with sloppy, half-assed submissions that come mostly from white men, it's hard to see how that phenomenon translates to white men getting published more often than women or POC.

ETA: I do agree with the other advice in the article, to submit your best work and to support the work of writers from historically marginalized groups as a reader, buyer, or editor, if one occupies that position.

Lillith1991
06-05-2015, 05:43 PM
No, I think she was directing it at white men in general.

Let's say what she (and some people in this thread) have claimed is true, that white men are more likely to be shitty writers who submit shitty work. (I said more likely - no, I do not think anyone here is claiming all white men are shitty writers.) Telling them "Up your game" and encouraging them (and everyone else) to put more polish and professionalism into their efforts is fine. But the underlying message that white dudes collectively (yes, I realize she was speaking in generalities and not about every single individual white dude) suffer from Dunning Kruger syndrome, and that a conscientious white guy like the letter writer should feel bad because he might be submitting work that's less good than a non-white guy would dare to submit because society affords him the privilege to do so, is a crap message. Even to the degree that that one bit might be true (white men are more willing to put work out there that non-white men would be hesitant about), the remedy should still be the same - a dual message of "only submit your very best work" and "sell yourself as hard as you can, because no one else will." It shouldn't be tailored to ethnicities and genders and tied to white guilt and privilege theory.

White privilege is hardly just some theory, it is a very real thing. Privilege is the fact a poor white parent doesn't have to warn their children to be wary of how they handle the police as a matter of course, while poor minority parents do. Privilege is the fact a well dressed Black Professional will likely be followed around a department store or any store really, while their white counterpart won't be. The fact that a white person can be proud of their accomplishments, while minorities are always subtly reminded they're just filling some quota and didn't earn shit. I've got a million examples of things that don't apply to even the poorest of White people, but apply to Black people and other minorities at almost all strata of society.

Amadan
06-05-2015, 05:54 PM
White privilege is hardly just some theory, it is a very real thing.

I said in an earlier post that I believe privilege exists. But when I referenced "privilege theory" I was referring to just that - there are a host of beliefs and theories surrounding the concept of privilege that are very much theories. (Theories, of course, can be true, but they are not the same as proven facts.)

So your examples are irrelevant. I am not disputing that Jamal is less likely to get a callback on a job interview than James. I am disputing the takeaways from this particular incident.

Lillith1991
06-05-2015, 06:01 PM
What a remarkably trite comment.

I disagree. Your typical poor White male is both straight and abled-bodied, if he raises himself from poverty through his own ingenuity he will garner praise and be hailed as the everyman who made it big. Make him Black, gay, or both and he will garner the vast majority of his praise from those communities. In the case of someone who is both, the praise will likely be mainly from the Black portion of the gay community. That's just a current fact of life.

Comparitivly, making that man an extremely dark-skinned transwoman and she will get much less praise than either man. None of them deserve praise more than the others, but the straight White male will still get more than the other two anyway.


I have to say that the "submit less" advice made no sense to me, either. Even if slush piles are clogged with sloppy, half-assed submissions that come mostly from white men, it's hard to see how that phenomenon translates to white men getting published more often than women or POC.

Made sense to me. If most of the crappy stories in slush piles are by white men, then they should be focusing on quality versus output. If they were doing that, then they probably would be submitting less because they were taking more time with each story.

Larry M
06-05-2015, 06:32 PM
Comparitivly, making that man an extremely dark-skinned transwoman and she will get much less praise than either man. None of them deserve praise more than the others, but the straight White male will still get more than the other two anyway.

I agree.

My opinion remains that white male bashing (including the 'easiest setting' comment I referenced) solves nothing for anyone.

Lillith1991
06-05-2015, 07:34 PM
I agree.

My opinion remains that white male bashing (including the 'easiest setting' comment I referenced) solves nothing for anyone.

It isn't bashing though, it's the truth. In our society straight, white, and male is the default or "easy" setting. The way our society opperates benefits white males, especially those who are straight and neither mentally or physically disabled, in a way that is wildly disproportionate to the rest of society. That is what people mean when they talk about the easy setting.

Amadan
06-05-2015, 07:57 PM
It isn't bashing though, it's the truth. In our society straight, white, and male is the default or "easy" setting. The way our society opperates benefits white males, especially those who are straight and neither mentally or physically disabled, in a way that is wildly disproportionate to the rest of society. That is what people mean when they talk about the easy setting.

That is a reasonable point, but I can see why Larry M. felt that a drive-by comment consisting of nothing more than "life on the easy setting" didn't contribute much.

That is also the problem with using memes as arguments. "Easy setting" has certain connotations - that your life is easy and all challenges have been nerfed (to use more gamer lingo) for you because you are a white male. "Many challenges that other people have to deal with you do not" is subtly but significantly different from "You don't have as many challenges as other people do, and your challenges are all easier." The first is a statement about how being a member of a group advantages or disadvantages someone - the second is a statement about someone's individual circumstances that you are not qualified to make knowing only what their race and gender is.

Layla Nahar
06-05-2015, 08:05 PM
I guess I'm wondering how it's white male bashing to say that there are significant advantages to being white and male

Larry M
06-05-2015, 08:38 PM
I guess I'm wondering how it's white male bashing to say that there are significant advantages to being white and male

No one is saying that.

mirandashell
06-05-2015, 09:04 PM
No one is saying that.'

Errmmm.... yes you are. Life on 'the easy setting' is a shorthand way of saying that Straight White Man privilege does exist. That SWM do often have a easier path through life in the sense that there are challenges that they will never have to face because they are SWM. This is a FACT. And to say that pointing it out is SWM-bashing is completely missing the point.

mirandashell
06-05-2015, 09:06 PM
That is a reasonable point, but I can see why Larry M. felt that a drive-by comment consisting of nothing more than "life on the easy setting" didn't contribute much.

And neither does whining about white-man-bashing where there isn't any. If Larry wants to produce a cogent reasoned argument, as you have done, then we'll engage with it. As we have with you.

Ravioli
06-05-2015, 09:18 PM
Straight white male privilege definitely exists. But straight white men still shouldn't be denied what they're due. Nobody should.

mirandashell
06-05-2015, 09:41 PM
No-one is saying they should be. As I said right at the start, social justice is not a finite resource. You shouldn't lose yours cos I get mine. We should all be level.

I'm a fifty year old white woman and in my lifetime I've had a lot of prejudice and sexism. I was a teenager in the 70s where it was acceptable to treat me as a second-class citizen in a lot of circumstances. I had to fight hard against it along with a lot of other women. And I am damn proud that my 16 year old neice doesn't have to face the same challenges that I did because of what was acheived by the women who went before her.

And I still didn't have it as bad as a lot of other people who weren't white. Or were disabled. Or gay. Or transgender.

So I'm sorry but whining about a perceived and untrue loss of privilege after centuries of having it your own way? Nah.

And I'm sorry that you lost a competition in to a child in a wheelchair. But that changes nothing for anyone else. As I said to James, your experience does not negate anyone else's.

Perks
06-05-2015, 10:13 PM
I doubt it.

The point being missed by people who call the letter writer insincere or fake is that these people exist and they actually think like that. Maybe they represent a small but disproportionately vocal element of the online community, but they are certainly real. I've met a few face to face, and many more online, in prolonged enough interactions that I do not think they are all constructs, trolls, or performance artists.

I don't doubt there are people who think it's true what this letter gags up. I'm just not convinced he's one of them. It reads one part headcase, two parts shit-stirrer, and zero parts legitimate writer.

amergina
06-05-2015, 10:25 PM
There are also people (person A) who totally think they deserve X because they think what they bring to the table is the bestest best to ever best.

And they're wrong. It's not.

In reality, another person (person B) has brought something even better to the table and they get X instead.

And it pisses person A off and person A will then look for any reason why person B got X other than the fact that what person B brought to the table was better. They'll claim that person B's offering was worse and that whoever made the decision was stupid or that they're just filling some quota because person B is PoC or a woman or disabled or a SJW or whatever. They were ROBBED, man!

Because person A will never ever except that maaaaaaaaaybe what they had just wasn't good enough. Maybe it was in the past, but this time, no. Or maybe it never was.

mirandashell
06-05-2015, 10:28 PM
QfT

Larry M
06-05-2015, 10:51 PM
And neither does whining about white-man-bashing where there isn't any. If Larry wants to produce a cogent reasoned argument, as you have done, then we'll engage with it. As we have with you.

Happily, I owe you nothing, especially as you have sunk to name-calling and baiting.

mirandashell
06-05-2015, 11:17 PM
And there's a surprise.

Look, you're entitled to your opinion and I'm entitled to mine. If you choose not to engage with me, that's your decision.

But try talking to me like I'm a grown-up and I will do the same for you.

Fruitbat
06-05-2015, 11:30 PM
My writing is my own little world, nobody else's. I wouldn't allow anyone to dictate anything I do about it and can't imagine that being any different if my position in the world was different.

Toothpaste
06-06-2015, 12:01 AM
Larry M - just for some context, this is where the "easy setting" comment came from. It's an article that's become so intwined with the privilege debate that I think sometimes people forget that not everyone has read it and wouldn't understand the reference. It was not at all intended as a man bashing comment at all, though I can absolutely see how it could be read that way. It's why, I feel, when engaging on a sensitive topic such as this it's best to refrain from sarcasm and snark as it is an issue that is rather emotionally heated and complex intellectually. Communication needs to be clear with such issues I think.

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

Jackx
06-06-2015, 01:01 AM
White men should totally stop writing. And while we're making rules based on race and sex, bookstores should be divided accordingly. Blacks to the left, Asians to the right, Gays in the corner by the coffee shop, Transgender next to the bathrooms, etc... It would also be helpful if we could have separate bathrooms and drinking fountains than white men. I mean, who wants to share with those people, am I right?

I, for one, am totally in on this idea.

No more Gaiman, King, or GRM crowding the bestseller lists and the airwaves with their dumb "white men" stories.

Then, once we get rid of white men books, I say we start on the Jews and their books.

Bonfire, anyone?

amergina
06-06-2015, 01:06 AM
White men should totally stop writing. And while we're making rules based on race and sex, bookstores should be divided accordingly. Blacks to the left, Asians to the right, Gays in the corner by the coffee shop, Transgender next to the bathrooms, etc... It would also be helpful if we could have separate bathrooms and drinking fountains than white men. I mean, who wants to share with those people, am I right?

I, for one, am totally in on this idea.

No more Gaiman, King, or GRM crowding the bestseller lists and the airwaves with their dumb "white men" stories.

Then, once we get rid of white men books, I say we start on the Jews and their books.

Bonfire, anyone?

You know, some of us are actually trying to have a decent discussion here...

You could join us.

mirandashell
06-06-2015, 01:12 AM
Nah... that would be far too difficult. Much easier to post a knee-jerk reaction than actually take it seriously.

I'm backing out of this cos it's late and I'm just going to get angry.

amergina
06-06-2015, 01:31 AM
Actually, one more thing before I go. I'm going to post the Easy Setting piece in full because it's the best explanation of privilege that I've seen. And I know links are not always read.

Except posting the full article is a violation of copyright.

mirandashell
06-06-2015, 01:34 AM
Is it? I did name him and can put the link on if necessary.

But if it is a violation, I'll take it off.

Ken
06-06-2015, 01:46 AM
It's neat the letter has inspired a dialogue, here and most likes elsewhere. Dialogues are always beneficial, IMO. Always things to be learnt and new things considered. Not to say things are entirely hunky dory ;-)

Kylabelle
06-06-2015, 01:53 AM
Thread closed for the evening. I was away for a few hours and during that time received three post reports. I'll take some time with this and reopen in the morning, probably.

Mirandshell, it is not acceptable here to post entire articles regardless of whether attribution is given. I'm going to disappear that post.

Kylabelle
06-06-2015, 05:23 AM
Okay. I've read through the posts I hadn't gotten to yet.

A few points:

If you find yourself unable to comment without using sarcasm, refrain please. What you have to say isn't that important, no matter who you are and no matter how strongly you feel like slapping down on the opposition. As a writer you are no doubt capable of expressing whatever it is strongly but without being sarcastic or taking digs at others' points of view.

If you find yourself in a back-and-forth argument with someone and it isn't clarifying things for either of you, then take responsibility to stop it by bowing out of the back-and-forth. Do this sooner rather than after one more clever comment.

Do not tell others what they mean by what they say, or tell them what they really think. If someone says "I didn't mean it that way" or the like, offer the respect of believing them and refrain from attempting to school them about what they intended to say.

Benefit of the doubt. Extend it.

There have been some excellent exchanges in the thread and it's probably worth continuing to explore here. I'll open the thread again in the morning.

ETA: Thread is now reopened.

TheNighSwan
06-06-2015, 03:28 PM
While there's no question that white privilege exists and does what it does, I do wonder about the validity of the claim that "white straight male is the easiest difficulty setting" —as in, not so much with the idea that "actually some other group has it better", but rather about whether such a broad, sweeping claim can be meaningful at all.

One problematic point of data regarding this is that, at least in the US, Asian Americans generally perform better than white: on average, a higher proportion of Asian Americans go to university, they have higher wages, less unemployment, more stable and prestigious jobs (there are multiple reliable sources attesting of this phenomenon, here's one: http://www.dol.gov/_sec/media/reports/20140828-AAPI.pdf ). This is more true for East Asians than for Indians and Middle-Easterners, but it also apply to the latters to a degree.

It gets more complicated if you include religion. Religion commands some privilege, but the most privileged religion are not necessarily the one you think of: for instance, if you look at white people only, you find that Mormons and Jews actually outperform mainstream Protestants and Catholics, even reaching, on average, a level of success comparable to that of East Asians. Likewise, among Indians, we find that Sikhs outperform Muslims and Hindus.

There's also the datapoint of recent African immigrants, who outperform not only African Americans, but also many whites, in categories such as higher education and employment. Some people suggested it was no accident that the first black president of the US was the son of an african man and of a white american woman, with no cultural tie to the traditional african american community.

All of this suggests that, beyond prejudice, privilege is also the product of many complicated internal cultural factors (that is, Mormons outperform Protestants not because the latter have positive prejudice about the former, but because the former's cultural values are more conductive of success, on average), and that the reason so many people protest the statement "white straight male is the easiest difficulty setting" is that it does indeed conflict, by its lack of nuance, with some observations that can be made.

buz
06-06-2015, 04:32 PM
No argument that he's an insecure, messed up individual. But where did those ideas come from? You seem to believe he spun them out of whole cloth, having received no such actual messages in the community he was steeped in.

I think he probably did extrapolate his insecurity from messages he was hearing. I could easily see how that could happen.

But people can extrapolate all kinds of shit from messages they hear. All ideas get twisted by personal perceptions at some point, often to extremes. That doesn't mean the idea is wrong or false. Though I don't think that's what you're saying either--all I'm saying is, the fact that he built this extreme perception from milder input is not surprising or limited to this issue. ;)


Yet the columnist did not disabuse him of his belief that writing and submitting his work is an act of privilege in itself, doing damage that he can at best "mitigate."

I did think that was a bit weird. Or I didn't understand it. I agreed with some of it, but then the whole "don't firebomb and submit stupid things like a man" stuff confused me, because I'm a woman and totally firebomb and submit stupid things :p

I mean--I submit to markets that publish/agents that represent my genre, follow the sub guidelines, and I try to make it the best I can, but after that I just submit, because I'm not a mind-reader and don't feel like trying to be. Maybe that's not exactly what he's talking about--but I don't feel like that's wrong. (Though I could be wrong about that :D) Also I don't understand how submitting new work right after rejection is "boredom and entitlement" (and even if you are bored, who cares? Is it only "correct" to write stories for some grander purpose than mitigating boredom?). Hell, if you have work to submit, you're writing, aren't you?

I do think that the volume of submissions pushes some people out. That there are only so many books and stories a publisher can afford to put out per year, and therefore they have to turn down a lot of submissions, even very good submissions, even submissions that might otherwise be published if there was a bigger budget or the market was different at that moment. I could even see how the volume of submissions would make an editor's eyes glaze over and make it harder to devote a significant amount of time to each one.

But those don't seem to be the sort of submissions the columnist is talking about, I don't think? It seems like they're talking about stuff that can be rejected in thirty seconds or less, if it's inappropriate and sloppy, right? The type of thing you don't need time to consider? If the sub is good enough to compete for consideration, then I don't think it matters whether you're a white guy or not. If it's not, then it's not any competition to begin with, is it?

--Or have I got that all wrong? I mean, I could have it wrong; the only slush I've dealt with is query slush rather than lit-mag slush, so let me know if I'm being stupid :D

Perhaps I'm not understanding what the columnist is saying about being a problem submitter, regardless of the gender distinction. I don't think they're saying "you're a man, so you should hold back your work and submit less, even if it's great, to make room for everyone else." It seems like they're saying not to fap out a load of tripe and submit randomly to everywhere under the sun because this makes things wearying for editors, and that males tend to do this more often, so if you're a man, be aware of your tripe-fapping?

But: this seems like a weak argument, to me, in terms of its connection to gender and privilege. I feel like, as a general rule, okay, yes, don't sub sloppy things to publishers who don't rep your genre, but that seems only loosely-connected, and if it's sloppy and inappropriate, then I'm not sure how it works to push out non-sloppy and appropriate submissions. Also, if that is in fact the argument, it's somewhat confusingly worded. I could be misinterpreting the whole thing, actually.

Or I'm just a problem submitter and want to justify myself? :D Luckily, while I'm bored and entitled, I am also too lazy to have new work to constantly submit.



So your position that this is all one individual's hang-ups that haven't been reinforced anywhere else is, I think, not well grounded.

Well, I don't doubt this individual's hang-ups have come from real messages, but there's also the fact that any hang-up can be reinforced by anything, no matter how mild. I have hang-ups about sucking at things, so every time I make a minor mistake my hang-up is "reinforced" if I allow it to be so, regardless of all the mistakes I don't make. And sometimes people tell me I've made a mistake when I haven't, which doesn't help my hang-ups, but doesn't make the thing we're both striving for incorrect. Just makes their perception wrong, too ;)

So yeah, I agree with some of the response, about reading more from other perspectives and such, but the part of the columnist's response about submitting is weird, to me. Unless I'm just a jerk who does it all wrong...which, you guys can tell me :D

lance.schukies
06-06-2015, 10:48 PM
maybe he can write about cats "Chapter Twelve Literary Men Who Have Loved Cats" http://bartelby.org/234/12.html

Lillith1991
06-07-2015, 03:29 AM
While there's no question that white privilege exists and does what it does, I do wonder about the validity of the claim that "white straight male is the easiest difficulty setting" —as in, not so much with the idea that "actually some other group has it better", but rather about whether such a broad, sweeping claim can be meaningful at all.

One problematic point of data regarding this is that, at least in the US, Asian Americans generally perform better than white: on average, a higher proportion of Asian Americans go to university, they have higher wages, less unemployment, more stable and prestigious jobs (there are multiple reliable sources attesting of this phenomenon, here's one: http://www.dol.gov/_sec/media/reports/20140828-AAPI.pdf ). This is more true for East Asians than for Indians and Middle-Easterners, but it also apply to the latters to a degree.

It gets more complicated if you include religion. Religion commands some privilege, but the most privileged religion are not necessarily the one you think of: for instance, if you look at white people only, you find that Mormons and Jews actually outperform mainstream Protestants and Catholics, even reaching, on average, a level of success comparable to that of East Asians. Likewise, among Indians, we find that Sikhs outperform Muslims and Hindus.

There's also the datapoint of recent African immigrants, who outperform not only African Americans, but also many whites, in categories such as higher education and employment. Some people suggested it was no accident that the first black president of the US was the son of an african man and of a white american woman, with no cultural tie to the traditional african american community.

All of this suggests that, beyond prejudice, privilege is also the product of many complicated internal cultural factors (that is, Mormons outperform Protestants not because the latter have positive prejudice about the former, but because the former's cultural values are more conductive of success, on average), and that the reason so many people protest the statement "white straight male is the easiest difficulty setting" is that it does indeed conflict, by its lack of nuance, with some observations that can be made.

Easiest setting doesn't mean what you think it does. It means that whatever challenges the person has, they're not dealing with societal racism, sexism, being disabled, or homophobia. It means that when they do get to this elevated status, society has a habit of praising them more. It isn't about statistics, but the way society actually opperates. And while statistics are fine, the hardly provide the nuance you're attributing to them.

TheNighSwan
06-07-2015, 04:32 AM
It isn't about statistics, but the way society actually opperates. And while statistics are fine, the hardly provide the nuance you're attributing to them.

I can accept the bulk of your response, but this bit is problematic: so white privilege is not about the individual history of each and every white person… but it's also not about average tendencies that can be expressed in statistics??? Aren't you arguing yourself into a corner here? If white privilege is a real, factual, objective thing which is not reflected in individual experiences, but is also not reflected in average trends, then what does it surface at, how is it observed, how is it measured?

I personally think that white privilege is in fact a matter of statistics and average, and that it can in fact be measured by various indicators. These indicators show us that white people in the US, on average, outperfom many other racial groups in many areas, but that they do not outperform all racial groups in all areas, and that furthermore the picture is increasingly complicated if gender, religion, sexual orientation and other factors are integrated into the mix (for instance, in 2004, white median income was significantly higher than black median income, but white female median income was actually lower than black male median income and barely above black female median income).

Thus, is is correct to say that white people in the US are strongly advantaged compared to many other groupes in many areas, but it is not correct to say that they are systematically more strongly advantaged than everyone else in all areas, which is what the phrase "easiest setting" implies. If this is not what the phrase means, then it is a poor choice of phrase, since it creates confusion.

Layla Nahar
06-07-2015, 04:43 AM
I'm not crazy about the term "X privilege" - I think advantage is a little more neutral. Because you can be X and not be among the privileged X, but compared to non-X you have an advantage. I think this is why members of group X have a hard time with discussions like these. I would really like to see us start to say 'white advantage' and 'male advantage'. But that would be a lot less confrontational. Then we'd have to actually have conversations rather than be defensive and reactionary.

Lillith1991
06-07-2015, 04:48 AM
I can accept the bulk of your response, but this bit is problematic: so white privilege is not about the individual history of each and every white person… but it's also not about average tendencies that can be expressed in statistics??? Aren't you arguing yourself into a corner here? If white privilege is a real, factual, objective thing which is not reflected in individual experiences, but is also not reflected in average trends, then what does it surface at, how is it observed, how is it measured?

I personally think that white privilege is in fact a matter of statistics and average, and that it can in fact be measured by various indicators. These indicators show us that white people in the US, on average, outperfom many other racial groups in many areas, but that they do not outperform all racial groups in all areas, and that furthermore the picture is increasingly complicated if gender, religion, sexual orientation and other factors are integrated into the mix (for instance, in 2004, white median income was significantly higher than black median income, but white female median income was actually lower than black male median income and barely above black female median income).

Thus, is is correct to say that white people in the US are strongly advantaged compared to many other groupes in many areas, but it is not correct to say that they are systematically more strongly advantaged than everyone else in all areas, which is what the phrase "easiest setting" implies. If this is not what the phrase means, then it is a poor choice of phrase, since it creates confusion.

Nope. I haven't backed myself into a corner at all. White privilege is more than just statistics, more nuanced than statistics can show with the way we use them. For example, say Asians go on to college, grad school, and good professional jobs more than White people. Do they make more or less money than their White counterparts? Are their White counterparts more likely to get pulled over in their own neighborhood?

Amadan
06-07-2015, 04:53 AM
What "white privilege" means (and what John Scalzi's "easy setting" essay was trying to get at) is that there are a number of challenges non-white people face that do not exist, or are greatly reduced, for white people. Default assumptions, stereotypes, a higher probability of starting from a disadvantaged position in life, etc. So if for example you are a white person whose life sucks for any number of reasons, it would probably suck even more if you had all your existing challenges and were also not white.

Which is all fair, and I think not even particularly controversial, when stated that way.

The word "privilege," and the phrase "life on the easy setting" in particular, tends to get (white) people's backs up because the way it is heard (and frankly, the way it is often used) is: "Because you are a white person, your life is easy." Or, "Because you are a white person, your life is automatically easier than any non-white person's." And additionally, "Anything you have achieved in life, as a white person, is because everything was made easier for you."

That may or may not be what is intended by people who use those terms, and a deeper understanding of privilege theory would probably make a lot of white people, even the grumpy old conservative white dudes most likely to bristle at it, be more willing to consider the ways in which privilege is actually a real thing. But, to use this thread as an example, when someone drops by to post something that consists of nothing more than "White Male: The easiest setting to go through life on (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?307401-Should-White-Men-Stop-Writing&p=9444030&viewfull=1#post9444030)," when the thread is about one particular white male's efforts to grapple (however clumsily) with privilege, what is that meant to convey? Is everyone supposed to be familiar with John Scalzi's essay, and have the same understanding of it, and be in agreement about every particular? Is it really surprising that someone of the white male persuasion would see comments like that as mocking the idea that white males could have non-easy lives?

A screed like the one posted earlier saying "Nothing in my life was easy therefore privilege doesn't exist" is rightfully dismissed as completely missing the point, but so does flinging "privilege" and "easy setting" around as if those phrases are a mic-drop.

Lillith1991
06-07-2015, 04:53 AM
I'm not crazy about the term "X privilege" - I think advantage is a little more neutral. Because you can be X and not be among the privileged X, but compared to non-X you have an advantage. I think this is why members of group X have a hard time with discussions like these. I would really like to see us start to say 'white advantage' and 'male advantage'. But that would be a lot less confrontational. Then we'd have to actually have conversations rather than be defensive and reactionary.

Yeah. No. If it was simply advantage then I would agree, but it is privilege. The advantaged group gets to ignore something because it doesn't effect them and therefore doesn't matter, that's the deffinition of social privilege. Making the term used to describe it more neutral would lose that nuance, which is important in these kinds of dicussions.

amergina
06-07-2015, 05:04 AM
As a white person, my life *is* easy. It's far easier than it would be if I were black. Look, my family did work themselves out of poverty. They *could* because they were white. It doesn't diminish their struggle. It makes me furious that the same opportunities aren't available for PoCs because there's NO REASON they shouldn't be.

And yes, my life would be easier in many many ways if I were a man. Hands down.

Also, Swan, you do realize there is discrimination against Asians in the US, right? Because there is.

TheNighSwan
06-07-2015, 05:05 AM
So if statistics do not show that white privilege is the "easiest setting", then the statistics are wrong/biased/inaccurate and we need to come up with more oriented statitics that show this? This starts to sound a lot like we've decided what the conclusion will be beforethand and we're now looking for the evidence that backs it up.

From what I know, thinner statitics show that even when comparing equal income groups (eg: African Americans who earn $50,000 a year vs White Americans who earn $50,000 a year vs Chinese Americans who earn $50,000 a year), Chinese Americans still have the better outcomes, with higher rates of school attendance, lower rates of intra-group violence, teenage pregnancy or drug use, lower risks of ending up in jail, etc.

Again, none of this negates the idea of white privilege, but it paints a considerably more complex picture of it than "the easiest difficulty setting" (which has kinda unfortunate implications: if every white person plays on easy and every chinese person plays on hard, yet the chinese persons still overwhelmingly end up with better performances, you have to wonder if white people aren't congenitally stupid).

Williebee
06-07-2015, 05:18 AM
"Should White Men Stop Writing?" Yes. In fact, if all of you would count off by threes, and the ones and twos would stop writing, entirely, that would be great. More readers for me, thanks.

What? I thought we were debating stupid ideas.

ETA: It occurs to me that I should perhaps be less flip. Yes, there is privilege. It's a real thing, in writing, in employment, (http://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/w9873.html) in housing (http://fusion.net/story/137351/how-racist-housing-laws-are-keeping-new-orleans-white/).

But I don't write because I'm a white, male and I thought it would be easier for me. I write because I have stories to tell and because, if I stop, the dreams stop. Without dreams, sleep is just death waiting for sunrise.

C.Bronco said it better (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?307401-Should-White-Men-Stop-Writing&p=9446322&viewfull=1#post9446322) than I, a few posts below this one.

Layla Nahar
06-07-2015, 05:23 AM
The advantaged group gets to ignore something because it doesn't effect them and therefore doesn't matter, that's the deffinition of social privilege.

Hmm. It's my first time to hear that definition.



Making the term used to describe it more neutral would lose that nuance, which is important in these kinds of dicussions.

I wonder. I find that when trying to have a discussion with the adversary, one is much more likely to reach consensus when one at least *begins* by using neutral terms.

Xelebes
06-07-2015, 05:33 AM
I wonder. I find that when trying to have a discussion with the adversary, one is much more likely to reach consensus when one at least *begins* by using neutral terms.

The other hand, any neutral term can have its neutrality forfeited when it is used in any non-neutral way.

Lillith1991
06-07-2015, 05:44 AM
Hmm. Is it?

Yes. If you are a member of a certain group, let's use White and LGBT, and someone who is both a POC and LGBT tries to talk to you about racism within the community. And you wave it off because you just can't see it even when they give you examples, then that is a consequence of privilege. If it effected you, you wouldn't be blind to it. But since it doesn't then it can't be a real problem.


I wonder. I find that when trying to have a discussion with the adversary, one is much more likely to reach consensus when one at least *begins* by using neutral terms.

This is where we differ. Unless they explicitly state they're open to a different POV then theirs, I'm not going to even attempt to pull much punches.

cornflake
06-07-2015, 05:49 AM
Considering there are people who truly believe the essence of that post, I find the whole "white man is bad, knows no trouble, must feel guilty, and relinquish his spot to the less privileged even if earned" attitude cringeworthy. It's not because people of color, women, disabled people, LGBT etc. tend to get less than they deserve, that the privileged should, too. One needs to be elevated, not the other put down. I don't care who wrote what I read. I care that it entertains me. I wouldn't boycott Hitler and binge on Angelou except for content quality. Social justice is NOT to find a new group to put down, in this case, the white man. Social justice is to see everyone at a/the same level where efforts are fairly rewarded for their merit, not their maker.

And if you have to withdraw from competition in a skill not affected by your background, just so someone else has a better chance at winning, then that is simply pathetic and wrong. If everyone writes to the best of their ability, then everyone gets to pitch and market their work accordingly. I'm a white woman, and if I happen to be a better writer than the black woman who has submitted her WIP to the same publisher, then I get to take the cake and eat it loudly, and not feel a drop of guilt. And I'm also fat and have to take pills for my depression, so I'm also disadvantaged by society. Yet, if a healthy, athletic white male is a better writer, then he gets to beat me with pride, and I don't get to whine.

Seriously, rewarding disadvantage makes me sick. At a fancy rat show (for pedigree rats), this really happened: I entered 10 beautifully bred rats and won nothing. A little boy in a wheelchair enters what he could've fished from the sewers and wins a trophy and gets printed all over the rat club magazine. What. The. Fuck. This is NOT fair competition. What you breed or what you write, should be rewarded or rejected for its quality, not for your hardship. Everyone has hardship. Even white people. And no one's hardship should be either a dealbreaker or a VIP pass.

Also, I ain't sharing the pie with those who didn't earn it. If I got published and a socially disadvantaged person didn't and it's clear that this is solely due to content quality, then I will eat my pie and if they complain, I'll smash the empty plate over their skull. Earn your own damn pie. Most white male writers did fairly earn theirs, so why share instead of having the pie-less party earn theirs the same way? Earning something and then having to share it with those who didn't earn it lest you be guilt-tripped, isn't justice, it's coerced charity. Which isn't really charity.

It's not that any particular writers are pointed at as not having 'deserved' publication or success, but the thing of it is, that's like saying all the successful, famed, white, male painters of the 1700s and 1800s fairly earned their success, so why should they have to share with any women, painters of colour, painters of other races, etc.? Those people should have all gone out and earned their success the same way.

It's not just a coincidence that the huge majority of those published are white men.



To me, the ideas of white privilege and social justice have never made logical sense. My ethnicity didn't bring any scholarships in college, and it certainly hasn't given me an advantage in publishing fiction.

I could write a lot more, but I think it's best served in its own thread.

Advantages aren't always seen or specific.



White privilege is hardly just some theory, it is a very real thing. Privilege is the fact a poor white parent doesn't have to warn their children to be wary of how they handle the police as a matter of course, while poor minority parents do. Privilege is the fact a well dressed Black Professional will likely be followed around a department store or any store really, while their white counterpart won't be. The fact that a white person can be proud of their accomplishments, while minorities are always subtly reminded they're just filling some quota and didn't earn shit. I've got a million examples of things that don't apply to even the poorest of White people, but apply to Black people and other minorities at almost all strata of society.

Exactly this.


While there's no question that white privilege exists and does what it does, I do wonder about the validity of the claim that "white straight male is the easiest difficulty setting" —as in, not so much with the idea that "actually some other group has it better", but rather about whether such a broad, sweeping claim can be meaningful at all.

One problematic point of data regarding this is that, at least in the US, Asian Americans generally perform better than white: on average, a higher proportion of Asian Americans go to university, they have higher wages, less unemployment, more stable and prestigious jobs (there are multiple reliable sources attesting of this phenomenon, here's one: http://www.dol.gov/_sec/media/reports/20140828-AAPI.pdf ). This is more true for East Asians than for Indians and Middle-Easterners, but it also apply to the latters to a degree.

It gets more complicated if you include religion. Religion commands some privilege, but the most privileged religion are not necessarily the one you think of: for instance, if you look at white people only, you find that Mormons and Jews actually outperform mainstream Protestants and Catholics, even reaching, on average, a level of success comparable to that of East Asians. Likewise, among Indians, we find that Sikhs outperform Muslims and Hindus.

There's also the datapoint of recent African immigrants, who outperform not only African Americans, but also many whites, in categories such as higher education and employment. Some people suggested it was no accident that the first black president of the US was the son of an african man and of a white american woman, with no cultural tie to the traditional african american community.

All of this suggests that, beyond prejudice, privilege is also the product of many complicated internal cultural factors (that is, Mormons outperform Protestants not because the latter have positive prejudice about the former, but because the former's cultural values are more conductive of success, on average), and that the reason so many people protest the statement "white straight male is the easiest difficulty setting" is that it does indeed conflict, by its lack of nuance, with some observations that can be made.


So if statistics do not show that white privilege is the "easiest setting", then the statistics are wrong/biased/inaccurate and we need to come up with more oriented statitics that show this? This starts to sound a lot like we've decided what the conclusion will be beforethand and we're now looking for the evidence that backs it up.

From what I know, thinner statitics show that even when comparing equal income groups (eg: African Americans who earn $50,000 a year vs White Americans who earn $50,000 a year vs Chinese Americans who earn $50,000 a year), Chinese Americans still have the better outcomes, with higher rates of school attendance, lower rates of intra-group violence, teenage pregnancy or drug use, lower risks of ending up in jail, etc.

Again, none of this negates the idea of white privilege, but it paints a considerably more complex picture of it than "the easiest difficulty setting" (which has kinda unfortunate implications: if every white person plays on easy and every chinese person plays on hard, yet the chinese persons still overwhelmingly end up with better performances, you have to wonder if white people aren't congenitally stupid).

I don't understand why you're equating privilege with success.

There are advantages to being a white male in the U.S. It conveys privilege. That doesn't mean white people will necessarily be more successful. That's about what you do with privilege. You can not take advantage of it, while someone else works twice as hard to overcome their lack of privilege.

Some groups, and immigrants especially, have historically worked exceptionally hard to get ahead in this country.

Conrad Hilton (the younger) grew up with incredible advantage and privilege. He's done nothing but piss it away. He's not currently successful by any measure I know of. Doesn't have anything to do with the privilege he enjoys. Dante DeBlasio (son of the mayor of NYC) grew up with advantages, but lacked certain aspects of privilege we're talking about. I'm guessing DeBlasio will end up more professionally successful than Hilton. Doesn't mean Hilton didn't and doesn't enjoy white male privilege. Doesn't mean DeBlasio won't get followed around in a shop or stopped by cops, though he's not had any convictions and Hilton has.

Viridian
06-07-2015, 05:52 AM
I'm not crazy about the term "X privilege" - I think advantage is a little more neutral. Because you can be X and not be among the privileged X, but compared to non-X you have an advantage. I think this is why members of group X have a hard time with discussions like these. I would really like to see us start to say 'white advantage' and 'male advantage'. But that would be a lot less confrontational. Then we'd have to actually have conversations rather than be defensive and reactionary.


Yeah. No. If it was simply advantage then I would agree, but it is privilege. The advantaged group gets to ignore something because it doesn't effect them and therefore doesn't matter, that's the deffinition of social privilege. Making the term used to describe it more neutral would lose that nuance, which is important in these kinds of dicussions.
Hrm. I actually think "advantage" is a pretty good idea. I don't think it loses any nuance. If you say, "White people have the advantage of being able to ignore racism," it makes just as much sense.

I think "advantage" actually makes a lot more sense. The word "privilege" carries a lot of connotations about wealth which don't make sense here.

I mean, every single conversation I've ever had about privilege includes at least one person shrieking they don't have privilege because they're poor. And then we have to go through this entire goddamn conversation about what "white privilege" actually means. It gets old.

[/sidles back out of thread]

C.bronco
06-07-2015, 05:58 AM
No one should be discouraged from writing because of his or her identity. Why should anyone question their passion because of his or her demographic?

Roxxsmom
06-07-2015, 06:00 AM
Well of course he should stop writing his books filled with rape and oppression! :sarcasm: Dudes can't write anything else, because it's just in male nature to rape and oppress, because they have rape and oppression modules in their brains.

(actually, I think I saw a dude making that argument somewhere on the web, but it was being used to explain why feminism is hopeless and why no book where women prevail over misogyny or that are devoid of rape and oppression of women is realistic, not to make the case that white men shouldn't write).

And of course, writing is totally a zero sum game, so if a white dude writes a book, that means all the readers will read that instead of some book a woman or person of color writes. Sounds almost like the argument I saw recently that an increased number of women and people of color writing books means there won't be anything for white dudes to read.

Gee, there are some idiots in the social justice movement. Some are so idiotic that they overlap in idiocy with people on the other "side" of the social justice spectrum. This does not surprise me, but it doesn't make me abandon my feminist leanings either, nor does it mean I think the publishing industry is doing a perfect job of creating a level playing field for authors who aren't white (or male) in many genres.

And yes, there is discrimination against male writers in romance too, and some have to take pseudonyms. This is also wrong and a product of the same prejudice that makes some readers assume that every novel written by a woman outside of the romance genre is *really* a stealth romance.

C.bronco
06-07-2015, 06:14 AM
I know some of this is tongue in cheek, but I have a son, brothers and a father who write as much as I, my mom and my sister do.

It's easy to lay blame on others for our own frustrations. Many of my favorite writers are male, and many are female. Race and gender of authors shouldn't determine what anyone should read, and white males need as much protection from prejudice as anyone else.

Layla Nahar
06-07-2015, 06:40 AM
Yes. If you are a member of a certain group, let's use White and LGBT, and someone who is both a POC and LGBT tries to talk to you about racism within the community. And you wave it off because you just can't see it even when they give you examples, then that is a consequence of privilege. If it effected you, you wouldn't be blind to it. But since it doesn't then it can't be a real problem.

This is where we differ. Unless they explicitly state they're open to a different POV then theirs, I'm not going to even attempt to pull much punches.

I think there are many people who might be able to see things - depending on how it's pointed out to them. However, I'm pretty sure that if someone thinks they are personally being criticized they will close down and react defensively. Also, when and how do you get a person to explicitly state that they are open to a different point of view than their own? Do you wait for someone to volunteer that? And what if the person might be open, but they have yet to see it? I think the perception of being personally criticized makes many react defensively. If we go into conversations like this using terms which are open to differing interpretations, it is much easier to have conflict. So, the next thing I'm wondering is - are discussions about issues like this about conflict or consensus?

Lillith1991
06-07-2015, 06:52 AM
I think there are many people who might be able to see things - depending on how it's pointed out to them. However, I'm pretty sure that if someone thinks they are personally being criticized they will close down and react defensively. Also, when and how do you get a person to explicitly state that they are open to a different point of view than their own? Do you wait for someone to volunteer that? And what if the person might be open, but they have yet to see it? I think the perception of being personally criticized makes many react defensively. If we go into conversations like this using terms which are open to differing interpretations, it is much easier to have conflict. So, the next thing I'm wondering is - are discussions about issues like this about conflict or consensus?

This seems to be willfully ignoring things, and assuming in the first place that the adversary in this debate even cares to hear anothers POV. Someone who brings up racism, transphobia, biphobia etc. in the LGBT community can be gentle as they want in pointing out a dozen examples of those things. But that doesn't matter if the other persons ears and heart are shut to the possibility that someone hasn't experienced the same thing because of their race or what have you.

If they are however, body language and tone of voice when talking the person bringing it up are good and pretty explicit indicators of whether the person is open. People act and sound different when open vs when closed to something.

Roxxsmom
06-07-2015, 07:05 AM
It's easy to lay blame on others for our own frustrations. Many of my favorite writers are male, and many are female. Race and gender of authors shouldn't determine what anyone should read, and white males need as much protection from prejudice as anyone else.

I don't think anyone should be discriminated against, nor do I think there aren't ways in which guys have it rough or are damaged by patriarchy, but I don't think white males have historically needed as much protection from discrimination as women or people of color. Nor do I think the historical context that made it necessary to have laws that specifically emancipated African Americans or granted women the vote, nor that necessitated affirmative action for women and people of color is as much behind us as we want to think.

In addition to a plethora of anecdotal accounts (like this one (http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/male-privilege-trans-men/)), there's a lot of research that strongly suggests that institutional discrimination is still a real thing, as are the messages that are sent to girls and to children who aren't white by the media and even their parents and teachers.

http://www.cepr.net/documents/black-coll-grads-2014-05.pdf
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/weekinreview/06Luo.html?_r=0
http://www.forbes.com/sites/ruchikatulshyan/2014/06/13/have-a-foreign-sounding-name-change-it-to-get-a-job/
http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474.full
http://www.nber.org/papers/w9873.pdf
http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/08/black-men-need-more-education-to-get-the-same-jobs/375770/
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/11/26/study-muslim-job-candidates-may-face-discrimination-in-republican-states/
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/11/22/fake-cvs-reveal-discrimination-against-muslims-in-french-job-market/#.VXO0VUaJLE0
http://www.npr.org/2012/07/12/156664337/stereotype-threat-why-women-quit-science-jobs

And even in nursing, a female-dominated profession, men get paid more.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/24/stubborn-pay-gap-is-found-in-nursing/

The list goes on.

And here's the 2014 Strange Horizons count.

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2015/20150330/sfcount-a.shtml


Does this mean there are no privileges associated with being female or being a PoC, or LGBT? Certainly not, but I think there are more privileges associated with being white, straight, male etc. I also think that female privilege (such as not having to register for the draft) is an ironic consequence of the belief that women are less competent, or that their natural role is confined to the domestic front.

So I'm not going to turn my back on the so-called social justice movement just because there are some horrific people (like RH) associated with it. That's a bit like asking someone to bail on libertarianism or Christianity because VD claims to be an advocate of those philosophies.

Viridian
06-07-2015, 08:06 AM
I mean, every single conversation I've ever had about privilege includes at least one person saying they don't have privilege because they're poor. And then we have to go through this entire goddamn conversation about what "white privilege" actually means. It gets old.


I guess I squandered my white privilege on a 9 year old Ford with squeaky brakes and a job on the loading dock.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Some general life advice:

Listen before you talk.

jjdebenedictis
06-07-2015, 08:59 AM
:e2point: 'Tis a privilege to blithely think others are automatically interested in what you have to say when you demonstrably haven't taken an interest in what they have to say.

mccardey
06-07-2015, 09:10 AM
Thanks for editing your post and removing the sentence proclaiming your insultedness. Since I don't believe I have the right to live free from insult, I don't grant it to others. (Of course the mods here strenuously disagree with me, granting nearly everyone the right to live free from offense. Without your editing, they surely would have locked the thread again.)

FYI, I also squandered my white privilege on boxed wine. While Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Kobe Bryant are sipping champagne in the VIP section, I'm getting drunk on a bug-infested couch with my five year old laptop on my lap. I'll probably eat some pork rinds later, too. Or maybe tinned sardines. Perhaps I'll redeem my soul later with a round of reading NPR and Huffpo.

Do I assume from this that you are multi-multi-multi talented? Or that you like sardines?

Putputt
06-07-2015, 09:11 AM
:e2point: 'Tis a privilege to blithely think others are automatically interested in what you have to say when you demonstrably haven't taken an interest in what they have to say.

Excuse you, I am a talking pink hippo. I assume everyone would be interested in what I have to say, even if it's freshly yanked out of my butt.

mccardey
06-07-2015, 09:17 AM
Multi-talented like you wouldn't believe. Pork rinds, boxed wine, and typing up the next best selling novel that will rock the literary world all at the same time. I'll put a picture of my pasty white acne-scared face on my query letters and those literary elites will welcome me with open arms.

As long as it's good :)

mccardey
06-07-2015, 09:27 AM
Ranked in order of goodness:
1. Pork rinds.
2. Sardines (would have been number one if they did not have fish feces in them. They do! Open one up in a can and you will see it.)
3. Boxed wine.
4. My manuscript. Yep, that's right - my manuscript is worse than fish dung.

Oh, my. Well - is it finished? If it's finished you can edit it. Or move on to the next one, and worry less about Toni, Maya and Kobi.

Have you put some up on SYW? I hear that's useful :)

Helix
06-07-2015, 09:34 AM
Well, I suppose it depends on the fish. The dung of humphead parrotfish is pretty much all coral sand. So that's not so bad.

hth

mccardey
06-07-2015, 09:37 AM
I wonder if you should think about going to bed now...?


Let me tell you something about SYW. Don't post there. Here's what I do (while drinking boxed wine and basking in my white privilege): I surreptitiously post a thread on a vbulletin message board that is unrelated to writing. The thread title will be something like, "What do you guys think about this lawyer?" and it will be a sample of my writing about a fictional defense lawyer who used to be a prosecutor. If I get replies that are totally unrelated to the narrative structure, and are only about the subject matter, then I know I have written well. (I actually posted that thread on a board and everyone was outraged and the scumbag lawyer who gets his defendants off scot free.)

However, once I got a reply that said "I GOT A HEADACHE READING THAT!" Then I knew I had to go back and edit.

Pay not attention to what writers say about your writing. Listen to what readers have to say.

mccardey
06-07-2015, 09:40 AM
Hells to the no, mccardey. We're just getting started. Sit down and let me pour you a glass of fine (ha!) wine.

O-okay :)

But I have nothing to contribute on the topic of fish dung. Just totally nothing. :(

tylermarab1987
06-07-2015, 09:54 AM
"If you're a white man, you should only dare to try to get published if you are really, truly super-sure that your writing is awesome and deserves to be published, and even then try to make sure you aren't being published at the expense of someone who's not a white man, and always remember that you are doing damage no matter what."

Seriously. Everyone is a freaking victim nowadays. To be white and male in the US of A is to be among the most privileged in the world. No one gives a shit what race you are or gender, at least no one worth respecting.

- - - Updated - - -


Mccardey, you still there? Look, the mods are going to read this crap tomorrow and ban me. You gotta get in there and stand up for me. Tell them what a great guy I am and how I wouldn't have posted all of this stuff if I hadn't been under the influence of boxed wine and insect bites. You gotta help me out here. I would ask James Ritchie to help me but they hate him more than me. OMG. Just lol.

Viridian
06-07-2015, 09:57 AM
I have 5000 word essay around here somewhere about fish dung. But before I break it out I'm gonna sneak over here to the window and check something.

Yep. There she is. She's hiding behind the bush waiting for someone to ask her to come back in.

"Come on back in, Viridian Chick! I still love ya babe! I won't be mean or even insulting. I promise. Here, have a tin of fish."
Man, I just...

I don't even know what to say. Other than that this isn't funny to me, and I'm sorry it's funny to you.

There's been some thoughtful posts in this thread and plenty of people to listen to. I hope in the future, you read a bit, and it matters to you.

RichardGarfinkle
06-07-2015, 01:49 PM
Jumping back a bit, people seem a bit confused about the "easy mode" metaphor for privilege. There seems to be an idea that easy mode would automatically produce better outcomes. That's not what the metaphor means.

Many computer games have difficulty levels. Players in those games have the same tasks to accomplish regardless of the difficulty level. But the tasks themselves are easier for one reason or another. For example, in many computer RPGs, higher difficulty mode means more monsters to fight and those monsters are often tougher. So, the player will need to fight a group of monsters in one place in order to get on to the next part of the game. In easy mode those monsters may be weaker or there may be fewer of them.

So, to push the metaphor back to privilege. Consider a person trying to get a promotion and raise at their job. They have to fight the boss monster (as all the gamers groan) to get that treasure of promotion and raise. The easy mode metaphor comes up in it being in general more likely that a cis straight white male will have an easier time with that boss fight than someone who lacks those checkboxes.

This doesn't mean that any such person will automatically succeed and others automatically fail, it simply means that the game makes the task easier for that person.

People seem to be confusing easy mode with god mode wherein you can automatically succeed and even skip any tasks you don't feel like.
There's a weird idea that anything less than god mode is not privileged.

SheepDip
06-07-2015, 02:04 PM
Lets turn it around;

Black people should stop writing. Jews should stop writing. Women and POC should stop writing. If anyone from those groups said that about their own group we would go spare and tell them no, you keep on writing and to hell with the people making you think that way.

As part of the online atheist community, I've seen this sort of thing happen before with the rise of Atheism Plus. It ends up in a movement or industry dissolving in internecine battles and civil wars. It cripples evolution of the medium.

White guilt is a thing and I'm not going to say that anyone should feel bad for feeling it; for the last three hundred years (or there about) white eurotypes have been the powerhouse demographic in the eurozone and the Americas.

A lot of people say that you shouldn't be a dick to people, but you should also being a dick to yourself.

Kylabelle
06-07-2015, 03:30 PM
Mccardey, you still there? Look, the mods are going to read this crap tomorrow and ban me. You gotta get in there and stand up for me. Tell them what a great guy I am and how I wouldn't have posted all of this stuff if I hadn't been under the influence of boxed wine and insect bites. You gotta help me out here. I would ask James Ritchie to help me but they hate him more than me.

I'm quoting this for the record and then going back up thread to delete it from the flow of conversation.

No idea why you are single-handedly attempting to kill the thread but that's sure what it looks like. Stop now.

Amadan
06-07-2015, 05:37 PM
Hoping that this thread has not been locked yet by pork rinds and boxed wine... :rolleyes


"If you're a white man, you should only dare to try to get published if you are really, truly super-sure that your writing is awesome and deserves to be published, and even then try to make sure you aren't being published at the expense of someone who's not a white man, and always remember that you are doing damage no matter what."

Seriously. Everyone is a freaking victim nowadays. To be white and male in the US of A is to be among the most privileged in the world. No one gives a shit what race you are or gender, at least no one worth respecting.

If you think my point was "Cry for poor victimized white men," you badly misunderstood my point. I realize there are, in fact, white guys who cry that they are the oppressed ones now because of all those uppity colored folks and Affirmative Action and so on, but I am nowhere in that camp.

My problem is with the particular strain of "Social Justice" activism that teaches a modern form of Original Sin accruing to anyone who possesses "privilege," and which engages in elaborate games of point-scoring by which they can position themselves as "less privileged than thou" in any argument. The outcome of which is this poor, pitiful white guy who (again, I am taking his letter at face value because I've met folks who think like this, even if he is in fact a troll) has absorbed the message that everything he does is wrong and no matter how hard he tries, he's going to hurt non-privileged people, and maybe he should just give up on writing. And if the columnist had responded with "Get over yourself, and just be mindful," I'd have thought that was a perfectly appropriate response, but she pretty much said "Yes, you're right" and then gave him some genteel advice on how he could maybe be a little less damaging with his presence.



Jumping back a bit, people seem a bit confused about the "easy mode" metaphor for privilege. There seems to be an idea that easy mode would automatically produce better outcomes. That's not what the metaphor means.

That's pretty much what I said a few posts back.

Layla Nahar
06-07-2015, 06:08 PM
..there are, in fact, white guys who cry that they are the oppressed ones now because of all those uppity colored folks and Affirmative Action and so on, but I am nowhere in that camp.

Ditto. It's a very distasteful (and beyond petty) response on their part, IMO.



My problem is with the particular strain of "Social Justice" activism that teaches a modern form of Original Sin accruing to anyone who possesses "privilege," and which engages in elaborate games of point-scoring by which they can position themselves as "less privileged than thou" in any argument.

Amadan puts things a little more eloquently than me.

This again, is why I propose using the term 'white advantage' or 'male advantage'.

aquinas01
06-07-2015, 06:12 PM
I think this man should stop fretting and just carry on writing. For one thing, 'white privilege' is relatively recent. Before 1750, Europe was poor and under-developed. Research suggests that over a million Europeans were kidnapped and sold into slavery by North Africans between the 16th and 18th centuries. (Oh yes, really. Really. Check out Robert Davis, Ohio State University, plus numerous other sources). But I don't see anyone demanding that modern Arabs stop writing because their ancestors were once the top dogs.

We could all find something that shows our ancestors as victims, but for anyone to even consider that they should feel guilt about writing - whether it be poetry, fiction or anything else - is just plain pitiful. And as for us white men? Well, just like everyone else, we've done some positive things too. Like the industrial revolution, modern science, modern medicine... oh, and some great writing!

Layla Nahar
06-07-2015, 06:18 PM
. Like the industrial revolution ...

^ just ... not ... sure how how much of a positive that really is...

mirandashell
06-07-2015, 06:20 PM
Depends on whether your ancestors got rich off it or not. It didn't do my ancestors many favours.

Kylabelle
06-07-2015, 06:21 PM
*sees a derail forming*

*decides to go outside for a while*

*cough*

TheNighSwan
06-07-2015, 06:37 PM
I think I've made it clear that I perfectly understand what the "easiest setting metaphor" entails and that "white privilege" is not about individual outcomes, that neither idea entails the conclusion that all white people are doing better than all black people. I understand these concepts.

Where I start to get confused is that I'm also told that "white privilege" is also not about average outcomes. If the fact that white americans have better average outcomes than african americans is not a constitutive element of white privilege, than what is? If the concept of privilege is not used to explain the differences in average outcomes between different groups, then what is it used for, what does it measure, how is it measured?

Let's ask the question another way: under what definition of privilege do we operate such that white americans doing better on average than african americans consitutes proof of the existence of a white privilege, but asian americans doing better on average than both african americans and white americans does not constitue proof of the existence of an asian privilege?


Until someone provides an adequate definition that answers these questions, I'll keep going back to an empirical, measurable definition of privilege: a group is privileged if it has better average outcomes than another group. And under that definition, no, "white privilege", is not the "easiest setting", because if it was then white people would have better average outcomes than all other groups, which is not the case.

This doesn't mean white privilege doesn't exist, and this doesn't mean asian americans don't face difficulties that are unknown to white americans. It means the unique struggles of the asian american community are offset by unique advantages that other groups do not have.

buz
06-07-2015, 07:19 PM
*sees a derail forming*

*decides to go outside for a while*

*cough*


So, in an effort to help with rails...?

I was looking through the comments on the column (http://electricliterature.com/should-white-men-stop-writing-the-blunt-instrument-on-publishing-and-privilege/#.VW4H0FUt0ZI.facebook), and found that someone asked directly about the whole "wtf does submitting have to do with it?" issue, which seems to be the problematic part of the columnist's response:


Originally Posted by A. Joachim Glage

In the original article... there *seems* to be a connection drawn between writers (especially male ones) oversubmitting, submitting work that is sloppy or inappropriate for the publication, on the one hand, and the problem of the underrepresentation in literary journals of POC, LGBTQ, women writers, etc., on the other.[...]

I’m not sure how all the sloppy, oversubmitting writers complained of in the article are really doing any of the harm here. It seems those writers’ submissions should easily and quickly be spotted and weeded out. The hard part, rather, is all the *good* submissions the editors receive.And if in fact the hard part–the time-consuming part–is sifting through all the *good* submissions; and if what results from that process is still an over-representation of a white male perspective, then doesn’t the responsibility for that overrepresentation belong to the editors, and not the writers? [...] I don’t know, it seems like that’s more an editor issue than a writer issue. [...]

To put this all in a maybe-too blunt form: Lets say the obviously sloppy, bad, inappropriate submissions suddenly stopped altogether–would that have any real effect on the underrepresentation problem? How?


The columnist responded:

Originally Posted by Elisa Gabbert

I think this is a valid question, but the person who wrote in was asking for advice *as* a writer, not an editor. I’d have a whole different set of recommendations for editors.

An answer which, I think, misses the point, and makes as little sense to me as the original statements about submitting. Unless, again, I'm missing something.

Am I missing something? Or else, can we say her response regarding the submitting issue as related to underrepresentation is rather nonsensical and not a representation of Social Justice as a whole? Or is there really something there and I'm too dumb to see it?

beckethm
06-07-2015, 07:59 PM
So, in an effort to help with rails...?

I was looking through the comments on the column (http://electricliterature.com/should-white-men-stop-writing-the-blunt-instrument-on-publishing-and-privilege/#.VW4H0FUt0ZI.facebook), and found that someone asked directly about the whole "wtf does submitting have to do with it?" issue, which seems to be the problematic part of the columnist's response:



The columnist responded:


An answer which, I think, misses the point, and makes as little sense to me as the original statements about submitting. Unless, again, I'm missing something.

Am I missing something? Or else, can we say her response regarding the submitting issue as related to underrepresentation is rather nonsensical and not a representation of Social Justice as a whole? Or is there really something there and I'm too dumb to see it?

Well, I'm not seeing it either. The comment you quoted expressed exactly my reaction to that suggestion. Even if one takes as a given that there is a mountain of sloppy, ill-conceived submissions written mostly by white men swamping the marketplace, to say that that phenomenon leads to underrepresentation of women and people of color seems to suggest that editors choose what to publish entirely at random, like picking raffle tickets, so that whoever has the most entries wins.

I do believe there is bias in publishing (at least in some segments of the publishing world), but I believe it stems more from editorial preferences and from marketing practices that tend to marginalize or compartmentalize work by women, people of color, and LGBTQ writers. That's not something that's going to be fixed by silencing any one group of writers.

CrastersBabies
06-07-2015, 10:13 PM
To the original post, this is the type of response that is typical of MRA and "meninists" today. They don't see that privilege exists. Or, if they do, they get defensive about it. It takes time for this stuff to sink in and for folks to remember that just because they ARE part of a privileged group (I am as a Caucasian in America), that:

1. They're not the "bad guy."
2. Nobody is trying to take anything away from them.

Often the biggest step one can take is realizing they ARE part of that privileged group. That's a huge deal. The awareness matters. While folks have to come to this on their own, one should realize that fighting "so hard" against the existence of privilege is so incredibly counterproductive in these types of conversations. Especially when the non-privileged parties or person experience what it's like to be on the outside in pretty intense ways. It's a passive aggressive invalidation to keep saying, "Well, I just don't get it," or "I just don't see it." This is not meant to inflame, but to ask people to take a step back and consider perspective.

The website and words linked here really are not constructive. It's akin to a 3-year-old being told they can't have a cookie before dinner. The toddler screams, "Well, I just won't EVER HAVE COOKIES THEN."

What does that solve?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

buz
06-07-2015, 10:26 PM
To the original post, this is the type of response that is typical of MRA and "meninists" today. They don't see that privilege exists. Or, if they do, they get defensive about it. It takes time for this stuff to sink in and for folks to remember that just because they ARE part of a privileged group (I am as a Caucasian in America), that:

1. They're not the "bad guy."
2. Nobody is trying to take anything away from them.

Often the biggest step one can take is realizing they ARE part of that privileged group. That's a huge deal. The awareness matters. While folks have to come to this on their own, one should realize that fighting "so hard" against the existence of privilege is so incredibly counterproductive in these types of conversations. Especially when the non-privileged parties or person experience what it's like to be on the outside in pretty intense ways. It's a passive aggressive invalidation to keep saying, "Well, I just don't get it," or "I just don't see it." This is not meant to inflame, but to ask people to take a step back and consider perspective.

The website and words linked here really are not constructive. It's akin to a 3-year-old being told they can't have a cookie before dinner. The toddler screams, "Well, I just won't EVER HAVE COOKIES THEN."

What does that solve?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I really didn't see that in the guy's question.

He seemed to be saying "the white male voice is already overrepresented and I'm not sure I should add to it." Which may be something of an extreme response after the recognition of the situation, but I really didn't see a toddler tantrum or meninist thing in there at all.

Amadan
06-07-2015, 10:27 PM
To the original post, this is the type of response that is typical of MRA and "meninists" today. They don't see that privilege exists. Or, if they do, they get defensive about it. It takes time for this stuff to sink in and for folks to remember that just because they ARE part of a privileged group (I am as a Caucasian in America), that:

I am not clear on which response you are referring to.

Is it the response of the letter-writer, to which I linked? It's pretty clear that he does think that privilege exists. That was his whole point.

Is it my response? Because I also said privilege exists, and I'd really like to know how you inferred MRA or "meninist" (that's a new one) sentiments on my part.

If neither, then I am confused.

CrastersBabies
06-07-2015, 10:27 PM
I read it differently. I think it's a pity party and meant to attract attention (and ad revenue), but I can appreciate another perspective.

The privilege part comes from this conversation here on this thread. Sorry, should have been more clear.

rwm4768
06-07-2015, 11:31 PM
The simple and common sense way to look at privilege.

Privilege as a concept applies on a societal level, not on an individual level. Not every white male is automatically more privileged overall than any other group. They merely have advantages on the race and gender side of privilege. Other things, such as socioeconomic conditions and physical and mental health, also play a role in overall privilege. A comment on societal trends is not an attack on an individual, nor is it meant to invalidate an individual's overall experience of privilege. It is a way to see the problems we're facing regarding equality so that we can all work together to address them.

Likewise, we should not make assumptions about a person's overall level of privilege based on their skin color and gender. It's more complex than that. If we keep things at the societal level, where they should be, I think the discourse about privilege can be a lot more civil.

nighttimer
06-08-2015, 02:04 AM
It's easy to lay blame on others for our own frustrations. Many of my favorite writers are male, and many are female. Race and gender of authors shouldn't determine what anyone should read, and white males need as much protection from prejudice as anyone else. (bolding added)

I was with you until the second half of that last sentence.

White males don't need as much protection from prejudice as anyone else. White males need to stop being more prejudiced than anyone else.

William Haskins
06-08-2015, 02:10 AM
White males need to stop being more prejudiced than anyone else.

no pre-judging there. bravo.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 02:12 AM
(bolding added)

I was with you until the second half of that last sentence.

White males don't need as much protection from prejudice as anyone else. White males need to stop being more prejudiced than anyone else.

Are they really though, NT? I wouldn't even know how to begin to tackle that question in a way that would promise reliable statistics. There is racial privilege, sexual orientation privilege, able-body privilege, gender privilege, but to me the privilege that trumps 'em all, other than maybe able-body, is economic privilege.

Kylabelle
06-08-2015, 02:28 AM
Yeah, no. Let's please try not to make unsupportable blanket generalizations. We can, I believe, postulate that white or even white male privilege/advantage exists without concluding anything about the level of prejudice held by every member of the group defined as white males.

Larry M
06-08-2015, 02:55 AM
...White males need to stop being more prejudiced than anyone else.

I would be hard pressed to come up with a more prejudiced statement than that.

Manuel Royal
06-08-2015, 03:48 AM
The great majority of "white privilege" occurs because someone, at some point, worked his or her ass off.No, it occurs just because somebody is white, and is most easily seen in what doesn't happen; the great amount of crap that you're far less likely to have to put up with (in the U.S.) if you're Caucasian. Like me; I can drive a new Mercedes (in theory; unlikely to happen) without worrying that a cop will pull me over because he thinks I don't "look" like the sort of person who can afford such a vehicle. When I go in a store, nobody follows me around to see if I steal anything. Statistically, I'm far less likely than a black man to be killed by a police officer for no particular reason. And so on.

But -- are there really white male writers complaining about having to share the pie? I haven't seen that, but considering that idiotic things like a "Men's Rights" movement exist, I guess it's not that surprising. If so, they should get over it and concentrate on doing their best work. And, yes, they should keep writing. I guess I'm still a bit idealistic in my image of a worldwide writing community.

Manuel Royal
06-08-2015, 03:53 AM
It's just that everyman...isn't white and male. Everyperson can be PoC or female or queer or non-neurotypical or trans or whatever else.In terms of the numbers, I guess an Everyman would be a brown-skinned woman; that's your generic human.

Fruitbat
06-08-2015, 03:55 AM
How would editors know whether submissions are from Black or White men?

William Haskins
06-08-2015, 03:59 AM
they pull dna samples off the pages.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 04:04 AM
How would the editors know whether the submission was from a Black or White man?

I was thinking the same thing. And women could always use initials instead of their first name. The last book I subbed I did so using initials, and a pen name that could easily have been black or white, with good results. I have to say that I'm surprised to hear that there would be a bias against women authors, since my understanding is that women in general read more than men do, and so stories told from that perspective might be thought to have a larger market potential. I can see how if someone, white or black or other were to write a story with POC MCs how it might be seen as having a smaller potential market. Shouldn't be, and I think it will be less and less so. This generation, 20-30, is pretty sharp, and seems to have had it with all this nonsense. Let's hope.

Viridian
06-08-2015, 04:14 AM
How would editors know whether submissions are from Black or White men?
I don't know about everywhere, but in the US, names are often an indication.

amergina
06-08-2015, 04:22 AM
How would editors know whether submissions are from Black or White men?

Could be from their name.

Jamal vs. James, for example. Or Ajit vs. Adam.

Aisha vs. Alyssa. Jung vs. Jane.

I mean, I suppose people *could* chose a more "white" sounding name, but why should they?

And why should women have to use their initials to disguise their gender?

buz
06-08-2015, 04:28 AM
Or they don't know at all, but think, "hey, here's a good story about a nonwhite-male experience told in a non-dunderhead sort of way, maybe I'll consider this," instead of "this story is about nonwhite-male experiences and therefore people in this market won't want to read it."

It doesn't have to be terribly scientific, IMO. All people seem to be asking for is a shift from the idea of defaults. It don't think it's that much to ask.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 04:34 AM
Could be from their name.

Jamal vs. James, for example. Or Ajit vs. Adam.

Aisha vs. Alyssa. Jung vs. Jane.

I mean, I suppose people *could* chose a more "white" sounding name, but why should they?

And why should women have to use their initials to disguise their gender?

No, I totally agree, and I was waiting for someone to pick up on it. Just for the record, I used initials not to disguise my gender, and chose a surname not to hide from my very ethnic sounding birth surname, but only because I liked the way it sounded, and always wished I had a last name that people could spell. I've since exchanged the initials for my middle name, which is clearly a male name, and kept the nice 'n easy surname.

As far as distinguishing black names from white names, I find it very hard to believe that anybody of any intelligence would screen subs that way, and the only bias I can see would be if the characters are all POC, and that would be a bias of assumed market potential, I believe, and not of racial prejudice. Racial prejudice of course does exist, to an extent that shocks me sometimes, but I'd think that the main motivation for anyone who's in business is to make money.

buz
06-08-2015, 04:57 AM
As far as distinguishing black names from white names, I find it very hard to believe that anybody of any intelligence would screen subs that way, and the only bias I can see would be if the characters are all POC, and that would be a bias of assumed market potential, I believe, and not of racial prejudice.

I can't say if it's technically prejudice or not (it seems to me that it is), but assuming it isn't, it's still certainly not helping anything for people to pick and choose based on "assumed" decrease in market potential of POC-filled stories, and if people are doing that, it's part of the problem.

White men not submitting isn't going to help, but publishers not assigning bullshit "assumed" decreased potential to POC-populated stories would.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 05:05 AM
Hey, I agree with you. The first book I wrote had a POC protagonist, and many of the others were POC as well. The culture represented was even more of a minority than Black or Latino or Asian Americans--a very small subset, and what's worse it's the subset that I belong to and know very well and so there were a lot of references to things that most people black, white, or other would not get. However, in my possible naivete, I thought it was a book about "Americans", and the story was one that was very American--rags to riches in one of the hardest ways imaginable, in the boxing ring. I sweat bullets over that MS, it was very personal to me, and you know what? It went nowhere. Now, was it Hemingway level stuff? I'm sure not even close. Did "my" ethnicity come into play? Doubtful, though I did sub that book under my ethnic name. Was the fact that it revolved around a very obscure, and actually at this time, an ethnicity that attracts a lot of prejudice? Maybe, but I honestly doubt that, too. I just had to accept that it wasn't very good, and that was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life.

Viridian
06-08-2015, 05:07 AM
As far as distinguishing black names from white names, I find it very hard to believe that anybody of any intelligence would screen subs that way, and the only bias I can see would be if the characters are all POC, and that would be a bias of assumed market potential, I believe, and not of racial prejudice. Racial prejudice of course does exist, to an extent that shocks me sometimes, but I'd think that the main motivation for anyone who's in business is to make money.
You're thinking of bias like this:

"Oh, a person with a weird-sounding name. They must be a person of color. This manuscript is really good, and I could totally make money off of it, but I hate people of color, so I'm not going to take this."

But really, bias is more like this:

"Oh, a funny sounding name. I can't pronounce that. Their characters are probably PoC, too, which is hard to market. I'm not racist, it's just that this would be harder to sell, and I don't identify with it personally. It's probably not very good, anyway."

Bias is an unthinking, automatic judgment. It is not a well-reasoned thought process.

DancingMaenid
06-08-2015, 05:13 AM
The bias might be totally subconscious, too. An editor might not even consciously think that a POC author is a harder sell, but might have an unconscious assumption that an author named Jamal is unlikely to have written something that interests them.

buz
06-08-2015, 05:14 AM
The bias might be totally subconscious, too. An editor might not even consciously think that a POC author is a harder sell, but might have an unconscious assumption that an author named Jamal is unlikely to have written something that interests them.

Trufax.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 05:21 AM
Well, if the people who to a large extent hold our futures in their hands are making those kinds of rash, subconscious decisions, we're all in a lot of trouble. Because not only will it extend to things mentioned on this thread, but to the quality of the material as well. It could be I am giving them more credit than they deserve. I have a habit of doing just that. I have to assume that "you" have more experience in this business than I do, 'cause I admittedly have not much at all. I hope you're wrong. I will concede that you could be right, but I find it very depressing. Hard enough to make a go at this business without people making decisions based on this nonsense.

DancingMaenid
06-08-2015, 05:27 AM
Well, if the people who to a large extent hold our futures in their hands are making those kinds of rash, subconscious decisions, we're all in a lot of trouble. Because not only will it extend to things mentioned on this thread, but to the quality of the material as well. It could be I am giving them more credit than they deserve. I have a habit of doing just that. I have to assume that "you" have more experience in this business than I do, 'cause I admittedly have not much at all. I hope you're wrong. I will concede that you could be right, but I find it very depressing. Hard enough to make a go at this business without people making decisions based on this nonsense.

Well, editors are human. It's been shown that hiring managers are more likely to offer interviews with people with "white" names, so I don't think it'd be that surprising if editors showed a similar bias sometimes. Also, considering the sheer number of submissions many editors get, I would be very surprised if they didn't make rash decisions sometimes. That's why there's so much emphasis placed on writing a strong query.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 05:33 AM
Well, editors are human. It's been shown that hiring managers are more likely to offer interviews with people with "white" names, so I don't think it'd be that surprising if editors showed a similar bias sometimes. Also, considering the sheer number of submissions many editors get, I would be very surprised if they didn't make rash decisions sometimes. That's why there's so much emphasis placed on writing a strong query.

The overworked thing, I get. The mountains of submissions to wade through I'm sure is daunting. Human, of course. You'd think that they're very bright though, (that would be my bias in their favor) and that they would know, even on a subconscious level, that most black people have European surnames. Believe me, you saw my surname, you might not know what I am, but European you'd know I am not. Again, I think I have some bias towards these types, thinking they must all be very bright and would go out of their way not to make decisions this way.

buz
06-08-2015, 05:38 AM
Well, if the people who to a large extent hold our futures in their hands are making those kinds of rash, subconscious decisions, we're all in a lot of trouble.

Well...you yourself make all sorts of rash, subconscious decisions. Your brain makes decisions on movements before you're aware of them, and some things it does you are never aware of. And you and I have our own biases, and are hopelessly seated in the swirl of our own perceptions without being able to reach out and experience the outside directly, only a fraction of which are available to us for conscious analysis. :D


Because not only will it extend to things mentioned on this thread, but to the quality of the material as well.

Of course. Past a certain point it's very subjective, I believe.


It could be I am giving them more credit than they deserve. I have a habit of doing just that. I have to assume that "you" have more experience in this business than I do, 'cause I admittedly have not much at all. I hope you're wrong. I will concede that you could be right, but I find it very depressing. Hard enough to make a go at this business without people making decisions based on this nonsense.

People are not fully rational beings who make all judgments and decisions consciously and after lengthy thought processes based on objective measurements; this is no exception. ;)

But we do have conscious bits, which are capable of saying, "I should be more aware of this thing in the future and try to exert more care over what I do with it." That's why the overall point is that it's important for people to be aware of this stuff, I thought. :)

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 05:46 AM
But we do have conscious bits, which are capable of saying, "I should be more aware of this thing in the future and try to exert more care over what I do with it." That's why the overall point is that it's important for people to, you know, be aware of this, I thought. :)

Right, exactly what I was thinking while reading the front part of your post. If we're aware of it, they should be aware of it, and make sure their readers are aware of it, because it is their business. Yes, we/I/all of us make rash, subconscious decisions, but when it's our business, what we profess to specialize in, then I'd think they'd make a point of being more conscious of these kinds of things. Are some not? I'm sure. Are some out and out racists and/or misogynists? Maybe, but again I think we're dealing with people of above average intelligence, and when they're engaged in a vital part of what makes their business run, I'd think, I'd hope that they'd take care not to make (even rash) decisions this way. Once again, though, I have subbed exactly two books to this date, so as I've said, I could be wrong. Hope not.

jjdebenedictis
06-08-2015, 05:53 AM
Currently, a lot of people hiring for companies look for a "cultural fit", meaning they want to hire someone who will fit in with the sort of people who already work at the company. The idea is this will increase harmony and decrease the turnover rate. There's probably merit to the idea; if you feel like your coworkers are your buddies, you're more likely to feel happy and not go looking for a job elsewhere.

The problem is what if a lot of white men work at your company? Are you going to turn down a woman because you think her sense of humour won't fit well with that of the guys? It maybe won't -- but that hiring decision is functionally equivalent to sexism, regardless of the reasoning behind it. Also, the decision is based on someone's hand-wavey, intuitive "feel" for the job candidate, not on any rational thought process. It's the perfect opportunities for un-examined biases and prejudices to push someone's decision one way or the other.

I remember reading about a female scriptwriter here on AW who lost out on a lucrative job writing for a sitcom because, although the existing writing team thought she was the best candidate, they didn't think a woman would fit in with their existing (guys-only) cultural dynamic. She was furious, and the fellow who told her this (who was on the team, and who mentioned it to her only because he'd run into her at an industry function and they started chatting amiably) looked very uncomfortable after he finished telling her. It was probably the first time he'd realized they'd made a blatantly sexist decision.

So no, I don't think (even good-hearted) people are aware of it, even in a business situation.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 06:06 AM
Jesus, if this stuff is true, this country is devolving. Could be I've been lying to myself all these years, or could be that I've buried it in "my" subconscious because I saw early on that it would do me no good. I had to make it, and I've made it pretty good in business, regardless of my very non-European ethnicity and surname. I do have the advantage of being a man, and I fully acknowledge that it's been advantage, but the two people I care most about in this world are my wife and my daughter who've not only been straddled with a surname that can be very problematic in our times, but with the added disadvantage of their gender. I know I'm naive, but it's worked for me.

buz
06-08-2015, 06:20 AM
Jesus, if this stuff is true, this country is devolving.

Huh?

Was there a time here when bias didn't exist?

Roxxsmom
06-08-2015, 06:25 AM
I don't know about everywhere, but in the US, names are often an indication.

There have been studies that have clearly shown (I linked some up thread) that in double-blind, controlled submissions of resumes and applications where the only thing different is the name sounding black versus white, that the black names get fewer callbacks.

http://www.chicagobooth.edu/capideas/spring03/racialbias.html

Also, black students are more likely to have attended traditionally black colleges or to have things like a membership in racially focused scholarly or service organizations listed as extracurricular activities on their resumes. Some suggest they take those things off their applications, as it's actually better to have fewer extracurricular activities or society memberships listed than to list ones that give away one's race.

I also linked a similar study up thread that was done with female versus male names on resumes/vitas for STEM jobs. Applicants with male names were 2x more likely to be chosen. Identical applications, but subbed under different names.


I was thinking the same thing. And women could always use initials instead of their first name.

That's exactly what many black and female applicants are told to do. But there's still the issue of them seeing the person's race or gender when you show up for the interview. And of course, if only women and people of color hide their names that way, people get hip to it. I've run across men, for instance, who assume that any author with initials is female (and discriminates accordingly).

Plus, I'm not sure how the fact that members of certain groups have to think/worry about things like this in no way disproves that the bias exists or that it's not a big deal.:cry:

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 06:27 AM
Huh?

Was there a time here when bias didn't exist?

Huh yourself? What I'm saying is that we are supposed to be Evolving, in other words improving, getting better, not going backwards. And yes, if companies are making decisions on whether or not to hire someone based on whether they would be a good "Cultural Fit" with the rest of their employees, that's something I've never heard of before. We all know the history of the country, okay?

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 06:32 AM
There have been studies that have clearly shown (I linked some up thread) that in double-blind, controlled submissions of resumes and applications where the only thing different is the name sounding black versus white, that the black names get fewer callbacks.

http://www.chicagobooth.edu/capideas/spring03/racialbias.html

Also, black students are more likely to have attended traditionally black colleges or to have things like a membership in racially focused scholarly or service organizations listed as extracurricular activities on their resumes. Some suggest they take those things off their applications, as it's actually better to have fewer extracurricular activities or society memberships listed than to list ones that give away one's race.

I also linked a similar study up thread that was done with female versus male names on resumes/vitas for STEM jobs. Applicants with male names were 2x more likely to be chosen. Identical applications, but subbed under different names.

I'm assuming you mean black sounding first names.

lizmonster
06-08-2015, 06:36 AM
Huh yourself? What I'm saying is that we are supposed to be Evolving, in other words improving, getting better, not going backwards. And yes, if companies are making decisions on whether or not to hire someone based on whether they would be a good "Cultural Fit" with the rest of their employees, that's something I've never heard of before. We all know the history of the country, okay?

FWIW, when US companies use the term "cultural fit," they are explicitly not talking about race, sex, or gender identity (all of which are protected classes). They're talking about someone who "fits in" with the social norms of the current set of employees: someone who'll do the same kind of chatting around the water cooler, laugh at the same jokes, do the same sorts of things with their lunch hour, that kind of stuff. They state that they're looking for personality fit.

And in reality, that almost always comes down to people of similar racial and cultural backgrounds. It's true, for example, that the reason there aren't that many women in STEM is because there aren't that many women in STEM. It's very easy to turn down an otherwise talented candidate by saying they're not a "cultural fit."

It's extraordinarily difficult to prove discrimination based on a protected class. Companies have become adept at language that shields them from liability. And if you make noise...it's usually pretty easy for them to come up with a credible reason to fire you. Even if you sue them and win, you're almost certainly out a lot of time and money for very little return.

TBF, these are my opinions based on working in one industry (software) for 28 years. And no, I don't see us evolving. I see it getting worse.

ETA: To keep this rant marginally on topic: I don't find it at all difficult to believe that publishing at various levels would still be fighting institutionalized (and, tbf, often unconscious) discrimination at all levels. The stat about how much promotion women writers get is only one small piece of this. But I'm very new to this business, so I can't yet speak from direct experience.

buz
06-08-2015, 06:38 AM
Huh yourself? Lol, fair. :D

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 06:38 AM
There have been studies that have clearly shown (I linked some up thread) that in double-blind, controlled submissions of resumes and applications where the only thing different is the name sounding black versus white, that the black names get fewer callbacks.

http://www.chicagobooth.edu/capideas/spring03/racialbias.html

Also, black students are more likely to have attended traditionally black colleges or to have things like a membership in racially focused scholarly or service organizations listed as extracurricular activities on their resumes. Some suggest they take those things off their applications, as it's actually better to have fewer extracurricular activities or society memberships listed than to list ones that give away one's race.

I also linked a similar study up thread that was done with female versus male names on resumes/vitas for STEM jobs. Applicants with male names were 2x more likely to be chosen. Identical applications, but subbed under different names.



That's exactly what many black and female applicants are told to do. But there's still the issue of them seeing the person's race or gender when you show up for the interview. And of course, if only women and people of color hide their names that way, people get hip to it. I've run across men, for instance, who assume that any author with initials is female (and discriminates accordingly).

Plus, I'm not sure how the fact that members of certain groups have to think/worry about things like this in no way disproves that the bias exists or that it's not a big deal.:cry:

Fully agree on the bolded.

Roxxsmom, this is a sincere request, would you, if you have a thought, explain why there would be a bias in the publishing world against women authors, when I believe, I think it's true, that more women read books (fiction anyway) then men do? I'd think it would be the other way around for those market considerations and I wouldn't complain if it were, for that reason.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 06:41 AM
Lol, fair. :D



Well, I didn't mean to sound like a jerk about it :D I was just confused. It seems to me that people striving to have awareness of stuff like this, that voices getting louder about it, that editors and agents asking specifically for more diverse works by diverse authors (which they are), is not a sign of devolution, but the opposite, and that such biases have been going on forever, so it's not really backwards so much as the same, where they exist?

That was my impression. It was merely a point of confusion :D

It's okay, I'm probably a lot older than you, and remember those kinds of discussions way back when. As far as the awareness growing today and publishers actively searching for, can we say, writers from "previously marginalized" groups, then that was MY misunderstanding and I apologize.

Roxxsmom
06-08-2015, 06:41 AM
Jesus, if this stuff is true, this country is devolving. Could be I've been lying to myself all these years, or could be that I've buried it in "my" subconscious because I saw early on that it would do me no good.

Sadly, I think things are better than they used to be. When I was a girl, they told us there were scientific reasons we couldn't be as good at math and science, and that women were less aggressive than men, so that's why there were almost no females in upper management or politics above the local level (the high school teacher explaining this added that the women who did make it had "very sharp teeth"). We were also told that we wouldn't see a woman president or women in combat, even, in our lifetimes, because society just couldn't support it.

And slut shaming? The word hadn't been invented. Women and men having different standards of sexual conduct? That's just how things are. Most of the guys (and many of the women I knew) growing up hoped they'd never have daughters, because girls were so much harder to raise than boys.

I was the only person I knew who ever argued against these things, and people thought I was weird because of it. The only good thing I can really remember is that legos, and play doh and many other kid's toys hadn't been so darned genderized yet. But girls still had to take cooking and sewing in junior high, and boys still had to take shop.

Obviously, things are better in many ways. But the battle isn't over. I think some of us have been fortunate enough to move in circles where our gender or race has been less of a liability. Maybe we had successful or progressive parents, or we connected with the right mentor at the right time, or we had an extraordinary gift, or we were healthy enough and had the familial support that allowed us to work twice as hard as most people.

After all, the 2 to 1 bias against women in STEM hiring and the lower average pay for women doesn't mean that no women get hired or that some women don't make more money than most men. The bias against black graduates doesn't mean none ever get hired.

If we're doing okay ourselves, we tend to not see the experiences of others who haven't been as fortunate. And there's a very human tendency to believe that the good things that have come to us are 100% because of our hard work and talent. We also love to blame people who have had worse outcomes, because it's terrifying to believe that with a different toss of the dice, that might have been us.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 06:45 AM
FWIW, when US companies use the term "cultural fit," they are explicitly not talking about race, sex, or gender identity (all of which are protected classes). They're talking about someone who "fits in" with the social norms of the current set of employees: someone who'll do the same kind of chatting around the water cooler, laugh at the same jokes, do the same sorts of things with their lunch hour, that kind of stuff. They state that they're looking for personality fit.

And in reality, that almost always comes down to people of similar racial and cultural backgrounds. It's true, for example, that the reason there aren't that many women in STEM is because there aren't that many women in STEM. It's very easy to turn down an otherwise talented candidate by saying they're not a "cultural fit."

It's extraordinarily difficult to prove discrimination based on a protected class. Companies have become adept at language that shields them from liability. And if you make noise...it's usually pretty easy for them to come up with a credible reason to fire you. Even if you sue them and win, you're almost certainly out a lot of time and money for very little return.

TBF, these are my opinions based on working in one industry (software) for 28 years. And no, I don't see us evolving. I see it getting worse.

ETA: To keep this rant marginally on topic: I don't find it at all difficult to believe that publishing at various levels would still be fighting institutionalized (and, tbf, often unconscious) discrimination at all levels. The stat about how much promotion women writers get is only one small piece of this. But I'm very new to this business, so I can't yet speak from direct experience.

I could never hack it in the corporate world. I was never much for the water cooler, other than this one of course. I understand what you're saying and I thank you for the elaboration. People are so disappointing, especially in groups. Petty, small, and what's even worse, focused on all the wrong things.

lizmonster
06-08-2015, 06:54 AM
I could never hack it in the corporate world. I was never much for the water cooler, other than this one of course. I understand what you're saying and I thank you for the elaboration. People are so disappointing, especially in groups. Petty, small, and what's even worse, focused on all the wrong things.

Like I said - and this may be my own survival instincts filling in things that aren't there - I think for an awful lot of people it's unconscious. And I think there's a huge measure of "but this is the way it's always been," and people at all levels befuddled by the fact that anyone at all is up in arms about it. Because it's been working, you know? And nobody has sued us, so we must be OK, right? And of course our employees are the best ones for the job, because otherwise why would we have hired them?

Which is kind of the definition of privilege.

And like I said...I have no trouble believing that publishing would have a big dose of "but this is the way it's always been" inertia built into the way things are done. Change can happen - I think it is happening - but I don't think it'll be fast.

Roxxsmom
06-08-2015, 06:55 AM
Fully agree on the bolded.

Roxxsmom, this is a sincere request, would you, if you have a thought, explain why there would be a bias in the publishing world against women authors, when I believe, I think it's true, that more women read books (fiction anyway) then men do? I'd think it would be the other way around for those market considerations and I wouldn't complain if it were, for that reason.

Probably for the same reason that women discriminate against other women in STEM hiring. To a certain extent, we've drunk the kool aid that tells us that we're less interesting and competent than men as well. We're certainly more used to reading books by and about men than men are at reading books by and about women.

I have met women (and read posts in SF and F forums by even more) who openly admit to generally disliking books by women or about women, because women are so "annoying." They're probably a minority, but I suspect there are quite a few others who have a subconscious bias.

And I, feminist to the bone, felt proud when one of those gender tester writing thingies told me my writing style is male.

FFS, why? Yes, I'm sexist, because deep down inside, I believe that doing things the "male" way (insofar as such a way even exists in writing and can really be detected by an algorithm) is better. :e2bummed:

Plus, even if women are equally receptive to books by both genders or actually slightly favor their own gender, but men are much more strongly biased overall against women writers, even in genres they like to read (like SF and F), then the male readership can have a larger impact, even if it's smaller.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 06:59 AM
Thanks, Liz, and please know that I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I just don't get why women, in the publishing business, would be biased against. I'm really just trying to understand. Women read more fiction, yes? I'd say that way more than half the agents I subbed to were women, so why wouldn't they be actively looking for female writers? As I said above, it would make perfect business sense to me if they were, and I would not complain because it was a business decision. I'm confused.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 07:03 AM
Probably for the same reason that women discriminate against other women in STEM hiring. To a certain extent, we've drunk the kool aid that tells us that we're less interesting and competent than men as well. We're certainly more used to reading books by and about men than men are at reading books by and about women.

I have met women (and read posts in SF and F forums by even more) who openly admit to generally disliking books by women or about women, because women are so "annoying."

And I, feminist to the bone, felt proud when one of those gender tester writing thingies told me my writing style is male.

FFS, why? Yes, I'm sexist, because deep down inside, I believe that doing things the "male" way (insofar as such a way even exists in writing and can really be detected by an algorithm) is better. :e2bummed:

Wow, okay. But you're talking to a guy who was raised by the most loving, brightest, coolest, strongest women, and so I've never thought that--and this is why this just baffles me. I honestly think the opposite is true. I've always thought that the average woman was smarter and more competent and trustworthy than the average man was, but now that I hear you say it, I do remember hearing other women say pretty much the same thing. I just don't get it. But thanks.

lance.schukies
06-08-2015, 07:06 AM
one thought reading the last few posts http://www.therichest.com/expensive-lifestyle/lifestyle/famous-females-who-have-used-male-pen-names/
" Famous Females Who Have Used Male Pen Names"

lizmonster
06-08-2015, 07:08 AM
Women read more fiction, yes? I'd say that way more than half the agents I subbed to were women, so why wouldn't they be actively looking for female writers?

IMHO? 1) Even if women read more fiction, they've been reading all this fiction by men* througout the centuries, so why mess with a successful formula? 2) Agents want to rep what they can sell. Publishers want to buy what they can sell. Deviation from the formula (see 1) is risky. 3) Women are not necessarily any less sexist than men, and they're certainly no less racist or homophobic, consciously or unconsciously. We all live in the same society, and racism/sexism/heterocentrism is part of the air we all breathe. 4) I think discrimination against non-white-cis-male writers is easing, but it's easing from the bottom up (see: marketing and book reviews disproportionately favoring male writers).

The world changes, but so slowly.

*One exception being romance novels, which are routinely denigrated as fluffy or unimportant.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 07:13 AM
Yeah, I hear you. Just comes as a surprise to me. Thanks.

TheNighSwan
06-08-2015, 07:18 AM
My mother, who is in a high ranking position in the Paris office of an american company, has this to say on the subject (paraphrasing): we'll never get business companies to hire more women by telling them it's the moral thing to do, because they don't care; we'll never get them to hire more women by forcing them to do so legally, because they'll always find ways to get around it; we'll get them to hire more women by proving to them it's the profitable thing to do, by showing to them, again and again, continuously, over years and years, that boards of directors with more gender parity in them perform better than those mostly or exclusively composed of men, that companies with more diverse employees make more money and are better at adapting to new situations and come up with new ideas than those where everyone belongs to the same demographics. This can't be done overnight, this can't be done just once, this is a long, arduous and continuous process.

Maze Runner
06-08-2015, 07:18 AM
Thanks all, the cocktail hour is upon me. Lots to think about. Have a good night.

jjdebenedictis
06-08-2015, 08:55 AM
we'll get them to hire more women by proving to them it's the profitable thing to do, by showing to them, again and again, continuously, over years and years, that boards of directors with more gender parity in them perform better than those mostly or exclusively composed of men, that companies with more diverse employees make more money and are better at adapting to new situations and come up with new ideas than those where everyone belongs to the same demographics. Something that is kind of interesting, and related to this, is that the Marvel movies have been proving for quite a few years now that women will go see well-made action movies about comic book heroes. In the past few years, their movies have been drawing an audience that is nearly 50-50 men and women.

This completely flies in the face of conventional wisdom, of course. And since studios have had increasing trouble getting people off the internet and into theatres, they're very motivated to make a lot of "four quadrants" movies that appeal equally to men, women, the old and the young. The fact that these lucrative summer blockbuster action movies that Marvel has been making are demonstrably four-quadrant movies is, I think (and hope), starting to drill the idea into studio execs' heads that portraying women as people, strong and interesting with plot arcs of their own, and not as trophies for the men, can be extremely profitable. Fan-service to men chops the audience in half, and that's no longer seen as acceptable because they now know it's not a truism that women just don't go to see these movies.

Roxxsmom
06-08-2015, 10:21 AM
Wow, okay. But you're talking to a guy who was raised by the most loving, brightest, coolest, strongest women, and so I've never thought that--and this is why this just baffles me.

I don't think it consciously, and I have a smart, strong mother (though my dad was definitely the breadwinner and the dominant personality in my family). No one in my family of origin told me I couldn't do something because of my gender. But I lived in a world where there were just fewer women in movies, books, TV shows, and the media doing the kinds of things I thought were cool. Even cartoon animals were almost always male. Even the Disney princesses are almost always surrounded by a mostly male support cast.

Hollywood is far more horrible than publishing too. Even today, 70% of the speaking roles in movies go to men (the number is actually getting worse). Only a tiny percentage of movies are directed by women. Women in their late thirties are told they're too old to play the love interests of male actors in their fifties!

And most of the time when there's an expert on something that's meant to be important to everyone (and not just women) on television, it's a man. There was actually some show on the other day where there was a woman scientist being interviewed about something she was an expert on, and it wasn't about her being a woman in science or about how she balanced her career with a family! :hooray:That made me take notice, because it never used to happen.

The point is, growing up in this milieu has had an effect on many of us. Maybe some women are stronger than I am and didn't internalize that message (that we're not as interesting or important overall), but I know I sure as heck did. I absolutely repudiate it consciously, but I have to be on guard against it.

I am willing to bet that this has affected people from racial and cultural groups that are underrepresented too. Never seeing people like you doing many of the things that society says are cool, challenging, interesting, and valuable sends a message.

cornflake
06-08-2015, 10:43 AM
Fully agree on the bolded.

Roxxsmom, this is a sincere request, would you, if you have a thought, explain why there would be a bias in the publishing world against women authors, when I believe, I think it's true, that more women read books (fiction anyway) then men do? I'd think it would be the other way around for those market considerations and I wouldn't complain if it were, for that reason.


Thanks, Liz, and please know that I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I just don't get why women, in the publishing business, would be biased against. I'm really just trying to understand. Women read more fiction, yes? I'd say that way more than half the agents I subbed to were women, so why wouldn't they be actively looking for female writers? As I said above, it would make perfect business sense to me if they were, and I would not complain because it was a business decision. I'm confused.

As Roxx said, to begin with.

However, why would you think that women would, by their nature apparently, would want to read books by women?

The underlying assumption seems - I may be misinterpreting you - that because women read more, books by women would be more sought-after. That only seems to make sense to me if women would naturally want to read books by women. Why would they?

Fruitbat
06-08-2015, 12:05 PM
As Roxx said, to begin with.

However, why would you think that women would, by their nature apparently, would want to read books by women?

The underlying assumption seems - I may be misinterpreting you - that because women read more, books by women would be more sought-after. That only seems to make sense to me if women would naturally want to read books by women. Why would they?

I do. I guess I've just tended to relate better to books written by other women so I will pick one of them up quicker, just sort of automatically without putting a whole lot of thought into my preferences. Why wouldn't I? I'm sure we're all different but I don't find it an unusual assumption.

autumnleaf
06-08-2015, 12:11 PM
Are there any stats on gender of published authors? % female to % male authors? Submissions vs publications? Sales numbers?Differences between genres?

Because I could guess, for example, that a male name would be an advantage in High Fantasy and a female name an advantage in Romance, but I'd like to see some figures before I state that as fact.

backslashbaby
06-08-2015, 01:01 PM
I think part of the reason guys get the best out of being writers while reading less frequently is because women don't much care about the author's gender. Male readers do care much more frequently about that. So play to the male readers and the female readers won't mind, because they have no qualms reading books by and about men. The marketing made monetary sense that way, unfortunately.

I believe some of those women are sexist against women themselves, but a lot of it was women finding men's stories interesting because they are people, I think. Relating to a male character isn't difficult. Relating to a female character is only difficult due to sexism. Same with race, etc.

As for the OP, I don't understand why a white male should be hesitant about submitting, no, and the answer was stupid, imho. I can understand the guy wondering what to do when folks start taking white male as a literal character identity instead of 'everyman'. And there are valid concerns about appropriation, so that's worth wondering about. I'd say that the guy's 'own' story just has to be interesting enough that everyone will want to read about some white guy doing it. If that's difficult, fair enough, but that really is the minimum everyone else faces with any other sort of character, too!

mayqueen
06-08-2015, 04:48 PM
Apologies if this has been posted already, but I thought that Nicola Griffith's breakdown about how books by and about women don't win major prizes (http://nicolagriffith.com/2015/05/26/books-about-women-tend-not-to-win-awards/) might be relevant to the conversation. There seems to be a bias among these types of awards (and I would say probably the reading public more broadly) that "women's stuff" tends to be less serious. I'm thinking of Hilary Mantel's comment about how historical fiction is often "chicklit in wimples" (she of course won the Man Booker for writing about a man).

Amadan
06-08-2015, 05:37 PM
Apologies if this has been posted already, but I thought that Nicola Griffith's breakdown about how books by and about women don't win major prizes (http://nicolagriffith.com/2015/05/26/books-about-women-tend-not-to-win-awards/) might be relevant to the conversation. There seems to be a bias among these types of awards (and I would say probably the reading public more broadly) that "women's stuff" tends to be less serious. I'm thinking of Hilary Mantel's comment about how historical fiction is often "chicklit in wimples" (she of course won the Man Booker for writing about a man).

Even if this is true, what should be done about it? More to the point, I don't think white men writing less is going to translate into non-white men winning more awards.

Layla Nahar
06-08-2015, 05:44 PM
Even if this is true, what should be done about it? More to the point, I don't think white men writing less is going to translate into non-white men winning more awards.

Stop having literary competitions. Stupid, anyway, IMO. How can anyone say any one work has some kind of 'more merit' than another. People like it, or they don't.

But - I was thinking about the point mayqueen posted - which speaks to white, male priviledge/advantage - men write serious things, women write... for women

Amadan
06-08-2015, 05:59 PM
Stop having literary competitions. Stupid, anyway, IMO. How can anyone say any one work has some kind of 'more merit' than another. People like it, or they don't.

Can't tell if you're serious or not.


But - I was thinking about the point mayqueen posted - which speaks to white, male priviledge/advantage - men write serious things, women write... for women

This perception undoubtedly exists. Other than doing away with all competition in which men tend to outperform women, though, I don't see a remedy other than recommending people read more widely.

"Women's fiction" is a slippery category. Jane Austen and other marriage-market-classics tends to be put in that category, though the audience at the time certainly included plenty of men. And I like Jane Austen and George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell.

I've read a bit of modern women's fiction, including Jodi Picoult and Shashi Deshpande, and it's true, they don't hold much appeal for me. It's not that I don't think the things they write about are serious, but yeah, they are writing for women.

Layla Nahar
06-08-2015, 06:05 PM
Completely serious.

Amadan
06-08-2015, 06:14 PM
Completely serious.


Why? Because men win too much? Because nothing subjective should be judged? Should we do away with all arts competitions, dance competitions, music competitions, as well?

beckethm
06-08-2015, 06:23 PM
I've read a bit of modern women's fiction, including Jodi Picoult and Shashi Deshpande, and it's true, they don't hold much appeal for me. It's not that I don't think the things they write about are serious, but yeah, they are writing for women.

Amadan, I wonder if you could expand on this comment. I'm not questioning your conclusion, but I'd like to know what it is about these books that makes you think they were written for women, and why you don't have the same reaction to Jane Austen, for instance?

Amadan
06-08-2015, 07:03 PM
Amadan, I wonder if you could expand on this comment. I'm not questioning your conclusion, but I'd like to know what it is about these books that makes you think they were written for women, and why you don't have the same reaction to Jane Austen, for instance?

Well, when I say they were written for women, obviously I don't mean no man could possibly find them interesting or that Jodi Picoult or Shashi Deshpande don't want men to read their books. But the subject matter is very much the interior landscape of women's emotional lives. The lens of the story is how the female protagonist feels about everything. This does not make for a particularly interesting novel to me, and I don't think I am atypical.

(I also found Jodi Picoult (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/245148562) to be an utterly pedestrian author, whereas Shashi Deshpande (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/489726883) wrote beautifully and in rich, immersive detail.)

Jane Austen novels also focus on female protagonists and how they feel, but I think for modern readers, there is a remove there, that we're also reading about a different and more dramatic time and place, and for her contemporary audience, novels were still a relatively new art form, "genres" were not established, and Austen was, while writing from a women's perspective, addressing what she considered to be issues of interest to everyone. If she were writing today, though, I am pretty sure she'd be shelved as "chick lit" too. (Whereas I think Charlotte Bronte would be writing paranormal romances and George Eliot would be writing epic fantasy....)

Layla Nahar
06-08-2015, 07:11 PM
Because nothing subjective should be judged? Should we do away with all arts competitions, dance competitions, music competitions, as well?

Well, people can keep doing it. I don't care. But I think it's meaningless to rank subjective things. People either like it or they don't. It seems meaningless to me to say that one work is better - but then again - I also think it's meaningless to say something subjective is good or bad. You either like it or you don't. For me what counts is: is it 'from the heart'

Amadan
06-08-2015, 07:15 PM
Well, people can keep doing it. I don't care. But I think it's meaningless to rank subjective things. People either like it or they don't. It seems meaningless to me to say that one work is better - but then again - I also think it's meaningless to say something subjective is good or bad. You either like it or you don't. For me what counts is: is it 'from the heart'

Do you believe some writers are better than others?

Layla Nahar
06-08-2015, 07:27 PM
I reject that idea. I like the work of some writers. I dislike the work of some writers. I find the writing of some easy to read, some difficult. I find some annoying. I might think the creative choices of some are stupid, and some are brilliant, but that's *my* opinion.

I'm willing to say that someone has failed at their objective (conveying meaning & a story) if they make grammar mistakes and their prose is incoherent.

nighttimer
06-08-2015, 07:34 PM
(bolding added)

I was with you until the second half of that last sentence.

White males don't need as much protection from prejudice as anyone else. White males need to stop being more prejudiced than anyone else.


no pre-judging there. bravo.


"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
John Adams

"Facts are stupid things."
Ronald Reagan-at the 1988 Republican National Convention, attempting to quote John Adams, who said, "Facts are stubborn things"

You must be new here.


Are they really though, NT? I wouldn't even know how to begin to tackle that question in a way that would promise reliable statistics. There is racial privilege, sexual orientation privilege, able-body privilege, gender privilege, but to me the privilege that trumps 'em all, other than maybe able-body, is economic privilege.


Yeah, no. Let's please try not to make unsupportable blanket generalizations. We can, I believe, postulate that white or even white male privilege/advantage exists without concluding anything about the level of prejudice held by every member of the group defined as white males.

Who says it's an unsupportable blanket generalization? Let's see what the Anti-Defamation League (http://archive.adl.org/hate-patrol/racism.html#.VXWgskZwvAQ) says about racism and who is perpetrating it.


Racism has existed throughout human history. It may be defined as the hatred of one person by another -- or the belief that another person is less than human -- because of skin color, language, customs, place of birth or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person. It has influenced wars, slavery, the formation of nations, and legal codes.


During the past 500-1000 years, racism on the part of Western powers toward non-Westerners has had a far more significant impact on history than any other form of racism (such as racism among Western groups or among Easterners, such as Asians, Africans, and others). The most notorious example of racism by the West has been slavery, particularly the enslavement of Africans in the New World (slavery itself dates back thousands of years). This enslavement was accomplished because of the racist belief that Black Africans were less fully human than white Europeans and their descendants.


This belief was not "automatic": that is, Africans were not originally considered inferior. When Portuguese sailors first explored Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries, they came upon empires and cities as advanced as their own, and they considered Africans to be serious rivals. Over time, though, as African civilizations failed to match the technological advances of Europe, and the major European powers began to plunder the continent and forcibly remove its inhabitants to work as slave laborers in new colonies across the Atlantic, Africans came to be seen as a deficient "species," as "savages." To an important extent, this view was necessary to justify the slave trade at a time when Western culture had begun to promote individual rights and human equality. The willingness of some Africans to sell other Africans to European slave traders also led to claims of savagery, based on the false belief that the "dark people" were all kinsmen, all part of one society - as opposed to many different, sometimes warring nations.


One important feature of racism, especially toward Blacks and immigrant groups, is clear in attitudes regarding slaves and slavery. Jews are usually seen by anti-Semites as subhuman but also superhuman: devilishly cunning, skilled, and powerful. Blacks and others are seen by racists as merely subhuman, more like beasts than men. If the focus of anti-Semitism is evil, the focus of racism is inferiority -- directed toward those who have sometimes been considered to lack even the ability to be evil (though in the 20th century, especially, victims of racism are often considered morally degraded).


In the second half of the 19th century, Darwinism, the decline of Christian belief, and growing immigration were all perceived by many white Westerners as a threat to their cultural control. European and, to a lesser degree, American scientists and philosophers devised a false racial "science" to "prove" the supremacy of non-Jewish whites. While the Nazi annihilation of Jews discredited most of these supposedly scientific efforts to elevate one race over another, small numbers of scientists and social scientists have continued throughout the 20th century to argue the inborn shortcomings of certain races, especially Blacks. At the same time, some public figures in the American Black community have championed the supremacy of their own race and the inferiority of whites - using nearly the identical language of white racists.

All of these arguments are based on a false understanding of race; in fact, contemporary scientists are not agreed on whether race is a valid way to classify people. What may seem to be significant "racial" differences to some people - skin color, hair, facial shape - are not of much scientific significance. In fact, genetic differences within a so-called race may be greater than those between races. One philosopher writes: "There are few genetic characteristics to be found in the population of England that are not found in similar proportions in Zaire or in China….those differences that most deeply affect us in our dealings with each other are not to any significant degree biologically determined."



Racism is not a condition reserved to any specific group. As the song goes, "Everybody's a little bit racist," but it is not an exaggeration or an inaccuracy or a slander to state White males have raised the ante.


I would be hard pressed to come up with a more prejudiced statement than that.

If you really think that's a prejudiced statement you're either not in possession of the historical facts or unaware of them.

Racism existed before White men. Anti-Semitism existed before White men. Sexism and homophobia existed before White men. But from Christopher Columbus "discovering" America to Manifest Destiny and eradication of the Native Americans to Western imperialism to colonialism to slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow to The Master Race and the Holocaust and the Final Solution to denial any of this has anything to do with White Privilege, you don't have to be a scholar to know the long, bloody and terrible history of how White men have elevated racism from a personal sentiment of prejudice to a policy of conquest, oppression, and supremacy.

Knowing this may be unpleasant and unsettling for some, but it's not inaccurate.

beckethm
06-08-2015, 07:41 PM
Well, when I say they were written for women, obviously I don't mean no man could possibly find them interesting or that Jodi Picoult or Shashi Deshpande don't want men to read their books. But the subject matter is very much the interior landscape of women's emotional lives. The lens of the story is how the female protagonist feels about everything. This does not make for a particularly interesting novel to me, and I don't think I am atypical.

(I also found Jodi Picoult (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/245148562) to be an utterly pedestrian author, whereas Shashi Deshpande (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/489726883) wrote beautifully and in rich, immersive detail.)

Jane Austen novels also focus on female protagonists and how they feel, but I think for modern readers, there is a remove there, that we're also reading about a different and more dramatic time and place, and for her contemporary audience, novels were still a relatively new art form, "genres" were not established, and Austen was, while writing from a women's perspective, addressing what she considered to be issues of interest to everyone. If she were writing today, though, I am pretty sure she'd be shelved as "chick lit" too. (Whereas I think Charlotte Bronte would be writing paranormal romances and George Eliot would be writing epic fantasy....)

Thanks, that's an interesting perspective. And no, I don't think you're atypical in finding the heavily character-driven variety of women's fiction uninteresting. I think many women feel the same.

The second part of your post makes me wonder if the evolution of genres hasn't been something of a disservice to readers. Of course, in the 19th century, the reading public was smaller and books far more expense, in relative terms, than they are today, so novelists had to appeal to a broader audience if they wanted to make money from their work. At the same time, people who wanted to read had fewer books to choose from, so they read whatever they could get their hands on, and were probably exposed to a greater variety of styles and subjects than the average reader today. The existence of a category called "women's fiction" creates the (possibly false) impression that women and men are interested in reading about different things and also requires authors to craft stories to suit those perceived differences in tastes.

But now I'm rambling.

Would Charlotte Bronte write PNR today? Yes, I can see that. But George Eliot and epic fantasy? I think she'd be writing impenetrable literary fiction. However, I'm not really a fan. I found Middlemarch ponderous and have never tried any of her other books.

rwm4768
06-08-2015, 07:46 PM
Who says it's an unsupportable blanket generalization? Let's see what the Anti-Defamation League (http://archive.adl.org/hate-patrol/racism.html#.VXWgskZwvAQ) says about racism and who is perpetrating it.

Do you honestly believe every white male is prejudiced against black people, or did you just misunderstand what Kylabelle was saying? No reasonable person will argue that there isn't systemic racism on the societal level. But painting every person of a group with the same brush is an unsupportable blanket generalization. Do you really know what's in every white person's heart?

Saying that all white men is prejudiced is like saying all young black men are criminals. Both are sweeping generalizations that are patently untrue.

Let's judge people based on their own actions, not on the actions of other people who belong to the same racial group.

Amadan
06-08-2015, 07:52 PM
I think by and large, men and women are interested in reading about different things. It's not necessarily hardcoded by evolution, and of course there is overlap and a lot of books with crossover appeal, but it's foolish to pretend that there are no marked gender preferences.

What to do about the disparity in awards, I don't know. Jodi Picoult may feel hard done by because she doesn't get nominated for the Man-Booker Prize, but I don't see Stephen King or Dan Brown being put up for many literary awards either.

Lillith1991
06-08-2015, 07:59 PM
I think by and large, men and women are interested in reading about different things. It's not necessarily hardcoded by evolution, and of course there is overlap and a lot of books with crossover appeal, but it's foolish to pretend that there are no marked gender preferences.

What to do about the disparity in awards, I don't know. Jodi Picoult may feel hard done by because she doesn't get nominated for the Man-Booker Prize, but I don't see Stephen King or Dan Brown being put up for many literary awards either.

False equivalency here. You're comparing a writer of contemporary/Literary work to two who are genre writers. Generally Literary or Lit-Genre hybrids are likely to be the prize winners, not something purely genre. And either way, say we take the genre/lit thing away, she would still be less likely to get the Man-Booker because of what she writes. And it doesn't help that the vast majority of people who are nominated and win are white men writing about white men, and also being judged by white men. You seeing a pattern here?

Layla Nahar
06-08-2015, 08:01 PM
Racism existed before White men. Anti-Semitism existed before White men. Sexism and homophobia existed before White men. But from Christopher Columbus "discovering" America to Manifest Destiny and eradication of the Native Americans to Western imperialism to colonialism to slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow to The Master Race and the Holocaust and the Final Solution to denial any of this has anything to do with White Privilege, you don't have to be a scholar to know the long, bloody and terrible history of how White men have elevated racism from a personal sentiment of prejudice to a policy of conquest, oppression, and supremacy.

Knowing this may be unpleasant and unsettling for some, but it's not inaccurate.

^And, of course, there are many members of the adversary group who fully wholly know and accept this.

For those who have yet to properly and empathetically open their eyes - I really believe how you sell the point will make a difference. I keep saying - is the goal conflict or consensus? What's that old saw - you catch more flies with honey? If the fight is for equal human treatment it's hard for me to see how it can come from people who are reacting defensively to something the perceive to be an accusation, as Amadan pointed out, of a kind of Original Sin.

"It is a privilege to ignore the consequences of race in America"
^ I like this. It makes it's point quietly and completely.



Saying that all white men is prejudiced is like saying all young black men are criminals. Both are sweeping generalizations that are patently untrue.

Let's judge people based on their own actions, not on the actions of other people who belong to the same racial group.

^sigh. But you see, the argument to be made here is - well, the shoe is on the other foot now. Now *you* (meaning white people, for example) get to see how it feels. And you know what - it's true! Not much to be said to refute that, really...

TheNighSwan
06-08-2015, 08:01 PM
Nighttimer > You and the anti defamation league appear to be confusing racism and xenophobia.

Amadan
06-08-2015, 08:05 PM
False equivalency here. You're comparing a writer of contemporary/Literary work to two how are genre writers.

I'm comparing two genre writers (Jodi Picoult and Stephen King) who are both bestsellers and also both known to be somewhat resentful that they are not taken seriously as "serious" writers.


Generally Literary or Lit-Genre hybrids are likely to be the prize winners, not something purely genre. And either way, say we take the genre/lit thing away, she would still be less likely to get the Man-Booker because of what she writes. And it doesn't help that the vast majority of people who are nominated and win are white men writing about white men, and also being judged by white men. You seeing a pattern here?

If you look at the Man-Booker and the Pulitzer prize for fiction over the last couple of decades, I think you will see that it's an overstatement to claim that the "vast majority" of nominees and winners are white men.

lizmonster
06-08-2015, 08:20 PM
Saying that all white men is prejudiced is like saying all young black men are criminals. Both are sweeping generalizations that are patently untrue.

I don't think the two statements are equivalent, actually, although I get you're talking about what people perceive.

I'm not going to articulate this well, so bear with me.

I think most people aren't racist in their hearts. (Maybe I'm an optimist.) But this is an entirely different thing than not being racist in one's reactions and behaviors in the real world. I still catch myself sometimes, which means I probably have a lot of reactions and behaviors that I don't even recognize. It's so woven into what's "normal" in our society that it takes real effort to even recognize it, never mind change it.

Racism doesn't have to be conscious. I'd bet that in most cases it's not. That's what makes it so hard to eradicate.

Kylabelle
06-08-2015, 08:26 PM
I agree those two statements are not equivalent. However, I do maintain that while racism of some form exists in a way that lives in all of us, and that in general the privileged groups carry more of it (often in ignorance, to give benefit of the doubt there) saying that ALL white men are prejudiced is at best sloppy expression, and justifiable only with great and numerous qualifications, and as such, is not a useful statement at all and certainly not in this discussion.

I did appreciate buzhi's suggestion that it might help the skew in published work if publishers could begin to think past any automatic reaction to PoC characters as somehow less market-pleasing. That makes sense to me.

We do need to keep most of the focus on how racism (ETA: or other white male privlege/advantage) affects publishing and writing for publication, and pull back the heavy guns directed at the larger social problems, please. Thread ain't gonna survive long if we keep going there.

nighttimer
06-08-2015, 09:24 PM
As far as distinguishing black names from white names, I find it very hard to believe that anybody of any intelligence would screen subs that way, and the only bias I can see would be if the characters are all POC, and that would be a bias of assumed market potential, I believe, and not of racial prejudice. Racial prejudice of course does exist, to an extent that shocks me sometimes, but I'd think that the main motivation for anyone who's in business is to make money.


The bias might be totally subconscious, too. An editor might not even consciously think that a POC author is a harder sell, but might have an unconscious assumption that an author named Jamal is unlikely to have written something that interests them.

It would be nice if this could be chalked up to simple and correctable subconscious bias, but sadly, prejudice in publishing can be both conscious and quite deliberate. (http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2012/12/10/it-matters-if-youre-black-or-white-the-racism-of-ya-book-covers/)


Most of the time, I love young adult literature and am proud to be a YA librarian. But there’s usually a moment once a month when I feel sick, tired, and embarrassed to be working with YA books for a living — and that’s when I flip through my stack of review journals and see a menagerie of gorgeous white girls staring back at me from the covers of upcoming releases.

If a YA book features a white, female protagonist (and this accounts for a not insignificant portion of YA released each year), it seems inevitable that the book cover will display an idealized and airbrushed masterpiece of her on the cover. And when a YA book actually does have a protagonist of color, too often one of three things seems to happen:




The cover is “whitewashed” and shows a Caucasian model instead of a person of color;

The cover depicts someone whose race seems purposefully ambiguous or difficult to discern; or
The character is shown in silhouette


Whitewashing happens when a publishing company represents a non-white character on the cover of a book with a white representation. This has been going on for decades — probably centuries — and seems to show no signs of letting up. There have been a couple widely publicized examples of this (Liar by Justine Larbalestier and Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolomore), which have forced publishers to re-release the covers with more accurate character depictions. Yet this public shaming hasn’t stopped it as a widespread industry practice.

Whitewashing used to be a common practice in jazz where albums by Black musicians would feature a pretty White woman on the cover such as Wes Montgomery's California Dreaming (http://www.project-audio.com/inhalt/bilder/wesmontgomerycaliforniadreaming.jpg).

It wasn't subconscious then and it's not subconscious now.


Huh?

Was there a time here when bias didn't exist?


Huh yourself? What I'm saying is that we are supposed to be Evolving, in other words improving, getting better, not going backwards. And yes, if companies are making decisions on whether or not to hire someone based on whether they would be a good "Cultural Fit" with the rest of their employees, that's something I've never heard of before. We all know the history of the country, okay?

We do? Americans are becoming historical illiterates. (http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2015/04/16/americans-become-history-illiterate/25837747/)


A study released on the 150th anniversary of the tragic night John Wilkes Booth slipped into Ford’s Theater and shot President Lincoln revealed another tragedy: Lincoln — and much of his legacy — is being lost to the ages. Today, half of the American public doesn’t know when the Civil War took place.
One in 5 Americans failed to identify John Wilkes Booth as Lincoln’s assassin and 1 in 3 could not identify Lincoln as a leader of the Union Army, in a multiple choice survey. Just 18 percent knew the effect of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. And when asked to identify Lincoln’s words, more respondents chose a passage from the Declaration of Independence than Lincoln’s famous phrase from the Gettysburg Address “that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”


College graduates, too, struggled with the survey. More than a third of graduates didn’t know when the Civil War took place and only 28 percent knew the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation. Less than 40 percent correctly identified the phrase from the Gettysburg Address as Lincoln’s.


Today, not even 1 in 5 colleges requires students to take a single course in American history or government, according to the “What Will They Learn?” study. Here in Michigan, only three of 28 colleges in the study require the course.


At Oakland University, American history can be swapped with “Foundations of Rock,” “Dance in American Culture” or “Human Sexuality.”


At the University of California-Berkeley, the requirement can be replaced with “Dutch Culture and Society: Amsterdam, and Berkeley in the Sixties.”


And at the University of Colorado, American history can be replaced with “America through Baseball,” “Horror Films in American Culture” or even “Wops and Dons to Movers and Shakers: The Italian-American Experience.”


Niche classes on sex, zombies and musical artists should never be substituted for the basics of our history and system of government. We’re trading Lincoln for Lady Gaga; World War I for One Direction.


Employers are noticing. Fully 80 percent of employers believe all college students, regardless of major, should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

David McCullough (http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304432304576369421525987128), the popular historian, despairs at how little Americans know about history and how much they don't know they don't know.

If people don't even know their history they can't possibly begin to understand it.

heza
06-08-2015, 09:53 PM
Well, when I say they were written for women, obviously I don't mean no man could possibly find them interesting or that Jodi Picoult or Shashi Deshpande don't want men to read their books. But the subject matter is very much the interior landscape of women's emotional lives. The lens of the story is how the female protagonist feels about everything. This does not make for a particularly interesting novel to me, and I don't think I am atypical.

And therein, I think, lies the issue.


ETA: I realize that probably sounded like a drive-by, so I'm adding an explanation:


I think part of the argument is that perhaps Jodi Picoult and similar female authors shouldn't be considered "genre."

Take, for example, one of her book summaries picked at random: "The Storyteller".

Sage Singer is a baker, a loner, until she befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses—and then he confesses his darkest secret – he deserves to die because he had been a Nazi SS guard. And Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. How do you react to evil living next door? Can someone who's committed truly heinous acts ever atone with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And, if Sage even considers the request, is it revenge…or justice?

What in that plopt screams "This is only for women"?


Ah, but the narrative deals with emotions and relationships... and these things are of women and therefore "women's fiction." That's basically it, right? A woman's head is nowhere a man would want to be.

So again, this means that books about things men care about are literature and are more worthy of awards and reviews and marketing. Books about things women care about aren't. That seems to be the trend.

You could say, "Well, the books being categorized as general fiction or literary fiction are being read by both men and women, so this proves the point." But while saying that, you also have to take into consideration that women, for so, so long have been conditioned to accept the default male experience as entertaining. Men have not been forced to do the same.

asroc
06-08-2015, 10:00 PM
Huh yourself? What I'm saying is that we are supposed to be Evolving, in other words improving, getting better, not going backwards. And yes, if companies are making decisions on whether or not to hire someone based on whether they would be a good "Cultural Fit" with the rest of their employees, that's something I've never heard of before. We all know the history of the country, okay?

As a biologist I feel compelled to point out that evolving doesn't mean getting better, it means adapting to the given circumstances to increase your fitness. In a society where being white presents an advantage you'd try your hardest to make up for your "shortcoming." You'd use a white-sounding name and so on. (Individuals can't actually evolve, of course. This kind of problem doesn't really benefit from bringing in biology.)




The point is, growing up in this milieu has had an effect on many of us. Maybe some women are stronger than I am and didn't internalize that message (that we're not as interesting or important overall), but I know I sure as heck did. I absolutely repudiate it consciously, but I have to be on guard against it.

Same. My father didn't know squat about raising children, especially girls, so he raised me the way he was--like a boy. I've come to realize that I'm not just glad about it, I'm proud. I'm happy that in my male-dominated job I count as "one of the guys" instead of "a girl." It's a very uncomfortable realization.



^sigh. But you see, the argument to be made here is - well, the shoe is on the other foot now. Now *you* (meaning white people, for example) get to see how it feels. And you know what - it's true! Not much to be said to refute that, really...

I'm not sure I'm following you here. How is the shoe on the other foot? Are white people being discriminated against? All I'm seeing is a little leveling of the playing field. And blanket generalizations are detrimental regardless.

Layla Nahar
06-08-2015, 10:33 PM
My point is the latter. I'm pretty sure that statements like 'black people this' and 'black people that' were very common in the media and in social discourse, but now there are also statements to the effect 'white people this' and 'white people that'. My point is - if you're white, what good is it to say 'hey, not all white people are like this or that' because, um. Haven't black people been putting up with such generalizations for a long time? So, might the response be - well, now you know how it feels.

I dislike all kinds of putting people into a basket by race.

asroc
06-08-2015, 10:43 PM
Ah, gotcha. Thanks.

Amadan
06-08-2015, 10:55 PM
I think part of the argument is that perhaps Jodi Picoult and similar female authors shouldn't be considered "genre."

Take, for example, one of her book summaries picked at random: "The Storyteller".

Sage Singer is a baker, a loner, until she befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses—and then he confesses his darkest secret – he deserves to die because he had been a Nazi SS guard. And Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. How do you react to evil living next door? Can someone who's committed truly heinous acts ever atone with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And, if Sage even considers the request, is it revenge…or justice?

What in that plopt screams "This is only for women"?

Actually, it sounds derivative of Apt Pupil.


Ah, but the narrative deals with emotions and relationships... and these things are of women and therefore "women's fiction." That's basically it, right? A woman's head is nowhere a man would want to be.

Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but yes, books that are focused on emotions and relationships are generally more appealing to women than men.


So again, this means that books about things men care about are literature and are more worthy of awards and reviews and marketing. Books about things women care about aren't. That seems to be the trend.

Women win plenty of literary awards (Pulitzers, Man-Bookers, etc.), but not usually with books about someone's inner emotional life.

You don't see too many technothrillers or space operas winning Pulitzers or Man-Bookers either.

nighttimer
06-08-2015, 11:00 PM
Do you honestly believe every white male is prejudiced against black people, or did you just misunderstand what Kylabelle was saying?


Neither. What I honestly believe is prejudice is an ailment any sentient human being can be afflicted by.

What I honestly believe can be stated and proven as provable fact is unchecked prejudice can metastasize into virulent racism and White men have disproportionately been afflicted by that disease.

I don't believe I said "every White male" is anything.


No reasonable person will argue that there isn't systemic racism on the societal level. But painting every person of a group with the same brush is an unsupportable blanket generalization. Do you really know what's in every white person's heart?

Of course I don't, but then I don't have to because I didn't paint every person of a group with the same brush as an unsupportable blanket generalization.

It's not a blanket generalization to stay the majority of the players in the NBA are over six feet tall and Black. Why the majority of the players in the NBA are six feet tall and Black requires a more nuanced answer.

The same applies as to why White men are so frequently found playing a predominant part in matters of racism.


Saying that all white men is prejudiced is like saying all young black men are criminals. Both are sweeping generalizations that are patently untrue.


It is also true both are sweeping generalizations of your creation, not mine.


Let's judge people based on their own actions, not on the actions of other people who belong to the same racial group.

Thanks for the advice, but I've already been doing that for some time now.


Nighttimer > You and the anti defamation league appear to be confusing racism and xenophobia.

I can't speak for the ADL but I respectfully disagree I've confused anything.

mayqueen
06-08-2015, 11:02 PM
Women win plenty of literary awards (Pulitzers, Man-Bookers, etc.), but not usually with books about someone's inner emotional life.
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. Could you explain, please?

I have WOLF HALL fresh in my mind right now, as well as the recent THE LUMINARIES. Both of these were focused on the male characters' inner emotional lives. And, as the link I posted shows, books that win prestigious awards tend to be about men -- whether or not they are written by women.

Amadan
06-08-2015, 11:18 PM
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. Could you explain, please?

I have WOLF HALL fresh in my mind right now, as well as the recent THE LUMINARIES. Both of these were focused on the male characters' inner emotional lives. And, as the link I posted shows, books that win prestigious awards tend to be about men -- whether or not they are written by women.

I have not read Wolf Hall. Is that really the sum total of its plot?

If your argument is that the exact same novel written about a woman would become no longer a contender for a Man-Booker, you'd need better evidence, but let's say it's true - what do you think the remedy is?

Kylabelle
06-08-2015, 11:20 PM
(bolding added)

I was with you until the second half of that last sentence.

White males don't need as much protection from prejudice as anyone else. White males need to stop being more prejudiced than anyone else.

I'd like the thread to get past this sticking point if possible.

It's true that nighttimer did not state "all" white males. I still maintain it is a blanket generalization referring to a class "white males" as having a quality of being "more prejudiced." As such, it is a tinderbox in this kind of conversation, and not useful, IMO.

I could argue that those who are most prejudiced DO in fact need as much if not more protection, of a kind, from the prejudice that is their own. They need to be understood, not in some touch-feely "there, there" kind of way, but with a laser vision that penetrates to what is really going on, and why, and how it in fact does damage their lives as well as the lives of the underclass it is directed at.

But I won't.

In terms of writers who are white, and male, and publishers who are also white, and male, pointing a finger and yelling at them that they should change their ways doesn't seem to be very effective. No one here is doing that, of course. But are we advancing each other's understanding? Arguing and getting steamed usually doesn't do that very well.

Layla Nahar
06-08-2015, 11:24 PM
books that win prestigious awards tend to be about men -- whether or not they are written by women.

*That's* interesting...

amergina
06-08-2015, 11:38 PM
Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but yes, books that are focused on emotions and relationships are generally more appealing to women than men.

You know, when I read The Twin (http://www.amazon.com/Twin-Gerbrand-Bakker-ebook/dp/B0031RS1VE/) by Gerbrand Bakker (translated from Dutch to English), I couldn't help think that if it had been written by a woman from a woman's POV with the exact same type of content... it would have never been translated or praised because it would have been a woman's book that of course would appeal only to women.

It is entirely focused on the male protagonists emotions and relationships. Entirely. The book is seeped in the internal world of the male protagonist.

mayqueen
06-08-2015, 11:41 PM
but let's say it's true - what do you think the remedy is?
I don't agree that it's for white men to stop writing and submitting. But when we're talking about systemic bias, there is no one solution that works. There need to be multiple approaches that target different processes of discrimination. But the general idea that everyone should be aware of the problem is an important first step. People do need to consciously make choices that reverse the process. Part of that is, yes, that white men need to become aware of the advantages that they have in the publishing world and make choices that help even out the playing field. Not submitting seems extreme to me, but as the response to the letter writer's question says, fixing their own problem behaviors in submissions and supporting diverse authors are good steps.

Think about other fields. I study medical doctors. That's a historically very white, very male job. It is becoming a lot more diverse and a lot more friendly to people who aren't white men. That didn't happen by accident. It happened top down AND bottom up -- by laws and institutional changes, and by people making choices. If someone said, White men should stop applying to medical school, I'd laugh them out of the room. But if someone said, Hey, we need cultural competency training for doctors, I'd be like, hell yes, do it.

So I guess we need cultural competency for the publishing industry. :P

Layla Nahar
06-08-2015, 11:42 PM
I'm trying to be careful about the derail points - but they are so interesting. And they also are part of the context that the original question 'should white men give up writing' comes from.

Amadan
06-08-2015, 11:49 PM
You know, when I read The Twin (http://www.amazon.com/Twin-Gerbrand-Bakker-ebook/dp/B0031RS1VE/) by Gerbrand Bakker (translated from Dutch to English), I couldn't help think that if it had been written by a woman from a woman's POV with the exact same type of content... it would have never been translated or praised because it would have been a woman's book that of course would appeal only to women.

It is entirely focused on the male protagonists emotions and relationships. Entirely. The book is seeped in the internal world of the male protagonist.



What you describe also sounds like The Sea, by John Banville (which I also found tedious if well-written).

There's a bit of a chicken and egg problem here, in that if books about women aren't read by men but books about men are read by women... well, yes, it's probably driven largely by ingrained sexism, but it also means it's empirically true that books about women are not as interesting to as many people. The long slow process of convincing people to shed their prejudices may eventually change that, but in the meantime, I don't know how, as a practical matter, you can make people read books they are not interested in, or demand that they give them awards.

heza
06-08-2015, 11:55 PM
I have not read Wolf Hall. Is that really the sum total of its plot?

Similarly, is "inner emotional lives" the sum total of the plot of "The Storyteller"?


If your argument is that the exact same novel written about a woman would become no longer a contender for a Man-Booker, you'd need better evidence, but let's say it's true - what do you think the remedy is?

The argument is that if the same book were written by a woman about a woman, it would very likely no longer be a contender. Women have more luck getting books about men taken more seriously, and men can write books about women and family (The Marriage Plot, The Corrections) and have them taken seriously. Women writing about women tend to get relegated Women's Fiction and are considered fluff. And the question is, is that fair or is it something we should explore the reasoning behind and try to correct some misconceptions?

Roxxsmom
06-09-2015, 12:03 AM
As Roxx said, to begin with.

However, why would you think that women would, by their nature apparently, would want to read books by women?

The underlying assumption seems - I may be misinterpreting you - that because women read more, books by women would be more sought-after. That only seems to make sense to me if women would naturally want to read books by women. Why would they?

Well, if we're operating on the assumption that men and women do have some differences in their experiences and interests (overlapping means, not two separate peaks), it's possible that there are a subset of experiences that women find interesting and relevant to their lives that men are, on average, less likely to write about or to write well. Especially since men are often conditioned to be less interested in experiences that are mostly female. I'm guessing that's what so-called women's fiction is. Stories about women dealing with things that are more unique or ubiquitous to women in our society (or other ones), whether through biological differences (like being able to give birth), moterh-daughter relationships, or ones that are more culture-specific (like struggling to be taken seriously in a male-dominated profession or balancing work and family in that way that women usually worry about but men don't).

Now as a rule, we don't call books about fatherhood, father-son relationships, men balancing their work-relationship obligations, or struggling to succeed professionally, "men's fiction." And women are often very interested in male characters, even when they're dealing with experiences that are influenced by their gender.

When I was taking social psychology, ages ago, this was attributed to the fact that subordinate groups are much more cognizant of, and interested in, the doings of their social "superiors" than the reverse.

Women's fiction does seem to be pretty lucrative (many agents say they take it, at least). And it mostly written by women. Romance is also very popular, and that's mostly written by and for women too. But that's a different issue from women writing fiction aimed at demographics that are more mixed, or even traditionally favored by males (even if this is no longer true), like SF and F. There, women are more conscious of the fact that a reasonably high percentage of their target readers are likely male, and that some of these may well be turned off by a female name on the cover or a blurb that makes it sounds like there might be (horrors) a romantic element to the story (never mind that most male fantasy writers also have romantic subplots).

The interesting thing is that many agents and editors who take SF and F right now seem to have fiction told from diverse or non-traditional perspectives on their wish lists. I am guessing this is a response to the fact that there's been a lot of talk about this in the SF and F blogosphere lately. But they must have reason to think that such stories have salability too, because it ultimately is profit driven. Someone probably realized that approximately half of all SF and F readers are women, and that YA fantasy is a growing demographic that is popular with adult women (maybe because many of the protagonists in these stories are teenaged girls/young women), and that one reason PoC don't read as much SF and F proportionally as white people do is because they don't see themselves in its pages all that often.

So I'm guessing they're seeing some untapped potential that might bear fruit if it's nurtured?

heza
06-09-2015, 12:04 AM
There's a bit of a chicken and egg problem here, in that if books about women aren't read by men but books about men are read by women... well, yes, it's probably driven largely by ingrained sexism...

So let's accept that as true. So we have a problem.


... but it also means it's empirically true that books about women are not as interesting to as many people.

But not intrinsically. If it were, if there was a such a huge difference between genders, women wouldn't find "men's fiction" entertaining either. But, again, we've been taught to value men's experiences while men are taught to dismiss women's.


The long slow process of convincing people to shed their prejudices may eventually change that, but in the meantime, I don't know how, as a practical matter, you can make people read books they are not interested in, or demand that they give them awards.

I don't think the answer is to throw our hands up and expect it to take care of itself. Part of it is going to be, overall, helping to combat sexism in general in society so that women's experiences aren't dismissed and are thought to have intrinsic worth. The other part is helping within the industry by reading, reviewing, promoting, and nominating works by and about women. We can also help it along by being aware of these biases, by saying, "Hmm... you know, I think it's problematic that we don't have any women on this panel of judges," and, "I notice most of our nominees are men; why do we think that is?"

And these, btw, are the same things we need to do to promote all diversity in publishing. And yes, that's going to be a slow process, and there are no quick fixes.

amergina
06-09-2015, 12:04 AM
I don't know how, as a practical matter, you can make people read books they are not interested in, or demand that they give them awards.

By marketing them and reviewing them the same way as if they were written by men.

Men are often not interested in books by women because they're not coded and marketed for men (or neurally, you could say).

(For the most part, I'm talking about literary fiction. Genre fiction has its own issues.)

heza
06-09-2015, 12:07 AM
Well, if we're operating on the assumption that men and women do have some differences in their experiences and interests (overlapping means, not two separate peaks), it's possible that there are a subset of experiences that women find interesting and relevant to their lives that men are, on average, less likely to write about or to write well. Especially since men are often conditioned to be less interested in experiences that are mostly female. I'm guessing that's what so-called women's fiction is. Stories about women dealing with things that are more unique or ubiquitous to women in our society (or other ones), whether through biological differences (like being able to give birth), moterh-daughter relationships, or ones that are more culture-specific (like struggling to be taken seriously in a male-dominated profession or balancing work and family in that way that women usually worry about but men don't).

As cultural expectations change, I wonder what the reception would be of these types of "domestic" and "family" books among, say, stay-at-home dads. Would they find these topics more interesting than their non-caregiver counterparts?

nighttimer
06-09-2015, 12:22 AM
I'd like the thread to get past this sticking point if possible.

It's true that nighttimer did not state "all" white males. I still maintain it is a blanket generalization referring to a class "white males" as having a quality of being "more prejudiced." As such, it is a tinderbox in this kind of conversation, and not useful, IMO.

I concur, and with the point made I'm prepared to move on from it as it is an ancillary discussion unlikely to be resolved within the parameters of this debate.

backslashbaby
06-09-2015, 12:43 AM
By marketing them and reviewing them the same way as if they were written by men.

Men are often not interested in books by women because they're not coded and marketed for men (or neurally, you could say).

(For the most part, I'm talking about literary fiction. Genre fiction has its own issues.)

I think this is an especially good point.



I also wish we'd decide as a culture that it's not really acceptable to be uninterested in someone because they aren't male, or white, or from your own culture. Regarding the sexism part, females have been taught that others' stories are interesting, and that really does work fine for us. I don't think males have any brain defect or anything that would keep them from identifying with something not male ;) I think we'd tackle it the same way we tackle racism, etc. By pointing it out when we see it, explaining it to children, etc.

Right now I think we stop at 'well women's stories really are less interesting to as many people' with a shrug. That's true, but it's unacceptable to stop there, I think! It's because of an ingrained '-ism' that needs to be called out, like many before have.

Roxxsmom
06-09-2015, 06:41 AM
You don't see too many technothrillers or space operas winning Pulitzers or Man-Bookers either.

Or even Hugo awards, according to some people :e2violin:

Seriously, though, stories with strong emotional content, and not always just male emotions, are often considered very literary and win awards, but they're nearly always more than simple love stories. Genre fiction of all stripes tends to be ignored by awards committees, unless they're awards specifically for that genre.

I'm not enough of an expert on modern literary fiction to say (I don't think it's whether or not the stories have emotion but a matter of how they're portrayed and handled, and of course, it's expected to be a bit experimental and look at things from unexpected angles). One of my favorite writers, Margaret Atwood, has been short listed for the Booker prize five times, and won it once, and she's won some SF and F awards too, though, so I am extremely confused about what defines someone as literary versus genre in some ways. I've heard that women are underrepresented in literary fiction and are less likely to get reviews by the big literary venues like the NYT review of books. Can't say if the relative numbers support these assertions, though, as I'm much more up on the issue as it relates to SFF, the genre I am (trying) to write.

amergina
06-09-2015, 07:53 AM
By marketing them and reviewing them the same way as if they were written by men.

Men are often not interested in books by women because they're not coded and marketed for men (or neurally, you could say).

(For the most part, I'm talking about literary fiction. Genre fiction has its own issues.)

Gah, Neurally should be Neutrally. I can't even blame autocorrect. (I'd edit the post, but it's been quoted.)

Errant Lobe
07-07-2015, 06:42 AM
Nice to meet everyone here. I hope we can get to know each other.
I am troubled by something which I would like to air. In order to forestall confusion I have to disclose that I am African American.

I see a troubling trend of people of color to forget the rights of Caucasian citizens to experience to their fullest potential the pursuit of happiness, wealth, freedoms and a financial legacy for their children. I truly believe that they deserve to have these things. It puzzles me why even basic human rights of caucasian americans should go out the window to satisfy a wrongly and canvas - wide imputation that the majority of white Americans today are somehow responsible for our lack of self-fulfillment.

I work in the retail industry and am friendly with all of my customers and I have to tell you that I see tired, helpless, baffled and hurting humans of all kinds unable to cope with this life. I don't feel right saying to a white person you can fix the majority of my problems in life, because I suspect that they cannot even fix their own.
Is it right for them to carry the blame for the ills of people of color? I don't think so and here's why, I think that they also are influenced to be of their own world views by things in a lot of ways outside their control also.

I have a lot to say on this subject and I know that I am going to be derided for my views from my own people.

We shouldn't want to take away the pie or make it less accessible to any caucasian; the dream is to share the pie.

A religious mentor told me once that there is a law that was given to the Israelites back in Moses' times, A father should not be punished for the sins of his children nor should his children be punished for something that the father did.
Then was spelled out the rule, For his own sin, each man must stand or fall.

I truly believe that the caucasian majority mean well and I know that there is a reactionary minority. But even on this board I appreciate the care the posters take with their words and refusal to comment on any over-the-top accusations.

White people have problems too in this world, what can we do to help them get ahead as well? They have children, elderly parents, insecurities and deal with unpleasant people everyday too personal shortcomings and unendurable illnesses.
What is our responsibility to dial that back where they are concerned for their security?

I guess what I am saying is that their out cries and insecurities about the current state of things is coming from somewhere also, which should not be discounted.

Vegetarian Cannibal
07-07-2015, 10:03 AM
::laughs::

Errant Lobe
07-07-2015, 04:31 PM
::laughs::

I have no idea what that means.

Twick
07-07-2015, 05:36 PM
Nor do I. It seems unnecessarily cryptic in this situation.

aruna
07-07-2015, 08:44 PM
... a sinister cackle echoes in the night...