mari4212: calla lily against a black background (Default)
http://synecdochic.livejournal.com/317851.html

I was linked to that post by [livejournal.com profile] cheshire23 as part of the ongoing response to Racefail09, and I think it is highly important and a very good articulation of what people with a privilege need to accept in any situation like this. I've added it to my own memories, but I wanted to make sure that people on my flist who wouldn't see cheshire's post would see this link.
mari4212: Text: Divide by Cucumber Error, Please Reinstall Universe and Reboot (cucumber)
Context is the comments being made in this post: http://matociquala.livejournal.com/1544999.html

I've probably spent about two years now, paying active attention to issues of racism, homophobia, sexism, and other assorted isms in fandom, and trying (with varied success) to apply that out into the real world. I still consider myself a novice at a lot of this, and I probably make a lot more mistakes than I realize now.

But I've been paying attention long enough to get thoroughly used to, and sick of, a lot of the comments that come in whenever someone points out an instance or pattern of racism, homophobia, sexism, et cet. There's the denials, the 'you're overreacting's, the 'well, it's justified because of this's, the 'insert oppressed group of people does it back to the people in power, so it's fair for us to do this' arguments, and the 'my friend is insert oppressed group, and she's just fine with it, so there's nothing wrong' arguments.

And all of those arguments can and will make me froth at the mouth and rant to the nearest available person around me.

But the one that keeps driving me up a wall, and which is leading me to ranting now, is this learned helplessness argument that people keep making. It tends to go along the lines of: 'Everything I do you say is wrong, so you need to sit there and coach me through the basics of writing a character of insert oppressed group right now, and if you don't help me now, then I'm going to take my toys and leave just give up and write only white males from now on.

It ends up coming across as a form of blaming the victims. That it's their fault that a writer doesn't take the time to do research on their own before they write a character or set up a fictional world. Or that it's their fault that when they call someone out for perpetuating a negative stereotype, they're too upset to want to sit there and walk them through how to write a character or situation that doesn't hit five different hotspots at once.

You know, I really do get the confusion that hits when you first start confronting aspects of your own privilege. I know I freaked out about trying not to inadvertently cause offense or hurt someone after I started dealing with the fact that I grew up with a metric ton of unconscious privileges. I'm still freaking out about it as I write this, because yeah, I'm pretty sure I don't get it all right. But the way to respond is not to immediately demand that the person who has been hurt drop everything to teach you what to do. (There's been a lot of great posts on this topic already from a bunch of FOC, and they've covered it a lot more comprehensively than I am, with a lot more background on it than I've got.)

So what do you do? That is, if you actually do want to figure out how to do a better job in the future, and you're not just looking for an excuse to give up and not deal with the issue. Because a lot of the time, it's really obvious that people complaining about not knowing what to do don't want to learn any better, they just want to not have to deal with any of it anymore.

Well, for starters, you find resources. Multiple resources, and without focusing on the people who you have already hurt and are frustrating the hell out of. You read books written by people from within that context, you talk to people you know about their own experiences of being a part of that group. You don't let one person's views stand for the entire group, and you don't expect the entire group to be exactly the same on issues, any more than you yourself would want someone to assume that you were exactly like everyone else who is of your gender, or racial group, or religion. You read and analyze, or watch and analyze, the media and genre you're working in, and pay attention to the repeated tropes and figure out why someone might find them offensive. And you listen to what people say when they yell about something, and that gives you a lot of the negative space of what is wrong to avoid.

And then you drop your excuses and write your characters as people, and you figure out how their being a member of an oppressed group would shape them, without making everything about their character be about them being that oppressed group. And yeah, it's not easy, and yeah, I'm definitely far from perfect in my own right, but you do have to try. And if you fail, you keep on trying, with more information.

Comments and critique more than welcome, and here's hoping I didn't just put my foot halfway down my esophagus at some point in here.

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