You all like and remember this video of a well-off woman getting dressed, and a few days ago, the same creative team (Crows Eye production) now brings us the working woman version. I’m sure you’ll all love it!
As I write, as I develop stories about queer characters and characters of color in historical settings that might not be entirely hospitable to them, I’ve decided to keep positive representation on the forefront of mind too. Because I know what I like to read, and it’s not sad stories where bad things happen to people like me or stories that casually drop microaggression with no awareness whatsoever.
If I wouldn’t feel comfortable or happy reading something, why on earth am I dedicating my time to writing it?
The word you want is brown.
Not “melted chocolate”, not “caramel fudge”, not “cafe au lait”, not “cinnamon”, not “coffee”.
A short guide
If you create things and share those creations with others then you have opened
yourself to your audience.They will react. Being told that you messed
something up, possibly badly, is not an attack, it is negative feedback, so suck it up and listen up. Here is what comes next:
1. Apologize. Don’t offer excuses. Your intent doesn’t matter. What you did does.
2. Take the fic/ art down ASAP!
3. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH into what you did wrong and how to
* The person/people calling you out DO NOT owe you an
education on what you did, why it was wrong, or what you need to do to fix it.You do that work on your own or you will just repeat the same mistakes.
Make the needed repairs.
Repost only if/when the work has been repaired.
Anyone can make these mistakes but how you handle it, learn and grow from it, shows your true intent as an artist or writer.
So um… I wrote this thing (but because I’m anxious and scatterbrained, ya’ll are getting this over a month after it was posted) .
However! Not only should y’all head over to ComicsAlliance to read my post on Horimiya but you should head out and buy the first volume because it’s a really cute series with a whole lot of meaning that speaks to me (and might speak to ya’ll).
I’m basically THE WORST at figuring out what an audience wants from me, but I did this little poll for patrons and people who might want to be patrons in order to figure out what works for y’all when it comes to the fiction that I write and post on Patreon!
Thanks and feel free to share with interested people!
(Also if you want to know what I write, drop me a message and I’ll fill you in on the stories and different universes!)
when you sitting there staring at a fic wondering what happens next and then you’re like oh shit i’m the writer
On White Fear & Creating Diverse Transformative Works
So whenever fandom tries to address the question “Why aren’t there more works featuring characters of color?” there are a myriad of (predictable) responses. One of which is appearing with increasing frequency: “Because we (usually: white creators of transformative works) are afraid of getting it wrong.”
And like. I’ve already addressed how ‘thinking you’ll get it wrong’ is a failure of both imagination and of craft/skill (and a symptom of the racial empathy gap, which I forgot had a proper name when I wrote that post). Meanwhile, @stitchmediamix absolutely accurately pointed out that the ‘fear’ being discussed is fear of being called racist, not necessarily fear of failure.
Now, we could go into the whole absurdity of white fragility here, but google is a thing and “white fragility” is discussed all over the place and I trust ya’ll to do the work if you actually give a shit about this subject… which I assume you do, if you’re reading this – but if you’re just here to find a way to dismiss the issue at hand, I’m gonna save you some time and recommend you scroll past.
Writers can also be fragile, especially in transformative works communities, where “if you don’t have anything nice to say, hit the back button and keep your mouth shut” is the primary expectation wrt feedback, and anything that deviates from that is considered a mortal insult (do you vageublog about my fic, sir?). But if we’re willing to deploy an array of tools to make our writing not-My-Immortal-bad, from spellcheck to wikipedia to in-depth historical research to betas and britpickers and so on, then we should be willing to employ equivalent tools to avoid writing racist stories.
Incidentally, writing stories that erase/ignore extant characters of color, especially if they’re prominent in the source text? is racist. So avoiding writing characters of color altogether is not the solution to making your writing not-racist.
And, okay. I feel it’s important to acknowledge here, as I have before, that the Fear of Fucking Up is a very real fear that genuinely does affect people’s enthusiasm for / likelihood to write, regardless of the validity or fairness of that Fear’s origins, and I’m going to be generous enough to assume that there are some people who are acting in good faith when they say “I want to, but I’m scared.”
So. This is for those who are acting in good faith, from the perspective of a white fan who has written fic about characters of color in several fandoms and never gotten pilloried for it, even when I know for a fact (in retrospect) that I’ve fucked up details.
(oh, side note: I know this is mostly tackling things from a writing perspective, but a lot of this can apply to creating transformative works overall with a few tweaks.)
First: realize that the likelihood of getting called out is actually pretty low. And fans of color aren’t as Mean and Angry and Unfairly Sensitive as some people want us to believe. (Do you vagueblog about That Dumpster Fire Meta, sir? / No, sir, I do not vagueblog about That Meta sir; but I do vagueblog, sir.)
This is not to say that there aren’t people out there who’re more than willing to make a (justified) stink about egregiously racist writing. But it’s actually very rare to get targeted, especially publicly by a large number of unhappy fans. Because you know what? most fans, including fans of color, want to just have fun in fandom as much as anyone else.
It’s just, y’know, a little harder for fans of color to ‘just have fun’ when us white fans are showing our asses with stories involving “Dragon Lady” Elektra or “Angry Black Woman” Sally Donovan or “Spicy Latin Lover” Poe Dameron. And sometimes us white fans only listen to what fans of color are saying when they make a Big Deal out of it.
That’s not a failure of their ability to stay calm. That’s our failure to listen before they get loud and organized. Because I’m willing to bet that people who get called out publicly? got a few polite, private messages about their screwup first, and they doubled down instead of listening.
Also: there is a thing where, no matter how politely they word their critique, fans of color, especially black fans, are more likely to be unjustly perceived as ‘mean’ and ‘angry’ by white fans. Again, that’s our failure, not theirs. Plus, even if they are angry, that doesn’t automatically mean they’re wrong (see: Tone Argument).
Step Two is: pay attention to discussions about racist tropes in fiction. Yes, even when it’s crit of our favorite shows/movies/characters/etc. If you understand the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope and why it’s harmful, or you understand the Bechdel-Wallace test, or you can have a meaningful discussion about Mary Sues, or you can (justifiably) rail about how Bury Your Gays sucks, then you can develop a similar appreciation for racial biases and stereotypes. And then you can find ways to avoid them.
No, no one’s expecting you to memorize bell hooks so you can write a drabble about Iris West, or demanding you write a dissertation on media stereotypes wrt the simultaneous fetishization and desexualization of Asian women (who aren’t a monolith, either, but Hollywood doesn’t seem to know that) before you’re ‘allowed’ to write Melinda May in a story, but like. Pay attention when people, especially fans of color, are talking about common tropes so that you don’t unthinkingly replicate or perpetuate them in your fic.
Yes, racist writing can involve more than just thoughtless parroting of harmful tropes, but my best guess is, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, fanwork getting ‘called out’ in fandom involves those tropes. So avoiding them takes your chances of getting criticized from ‘low’ to ‘almost nonexistent.’ Less to fear, see?
Step Three is: more research – basically, at least as much as you’d be willing to invest in any equivalent white character. @writingwithcolor is a great blog, and has links to additional resources; . If you’re the type to get a beta or a britpicker, find a sensitivity reader or a beta of the appropriate background. Not all fans of color are willing to do this kind of unpaid labor, just as not all fans are willing to britpick/beta, but they’re out there. Approach them respectfully, and listen to them if they say that something in your story looks off.
It’s worth noting here that writing about characters of color doesn’t need to involve – and in fact, some advice recommends avoiding – telling Special Stories About Racism. Stories about characters of color don’t need to be about slavery or civil rights or the constant parade of microaggressions they have to deal with daily in order to be realistic or compelling (or angsty, for those who love writing angst, as I do). Research can turn up useful information that can inform our choices as writers, but if we don’t share the oppression our characters face, it’s not our job to tell stories specifically about that oppression.
Step Four is: before posting, anticipate the worst. What will you do if someone says you fucked up? If your answer is “argue with them and talk over their concerns,” stop. Remember that you’re not a victim of a ‘mean fan of color,’ but that you’ve probably written something that they consider harmful. Being told that you wrote something racist isn’t an attack on your moral fiber. You’re not an irredeemable monster if you fuck up, but your response to being told you fucked up is far more telling. Acknowledge their concerns, fix the issue if you can, learn from your mistake, and fail better next time.
You cannot improve if you don’t try in the first place. Failure to try is failure, so try your best, and improve incrementally – just as you already do as a writer with any story.
In conclusion: The 4 Steps to Getting Over Yourself as a White Fanfic Writer:
(1) recognize that the likelihood of getting called out is pretty low;
(2) educate yourself about the most common racist writing issues, so that likelihood will be even lower;
(3) do your due diligence when writing;
(4) in case of the worst: apologize, fix the issue, learn from the experience, fail better in the future.
(And again, google is your friend – there are a lot of people who’ve written about this subject, like Kayla Ancrum, Morgan Jenkins, the mods at Writing with Color, Thao Le, and Monica Zepeda, among many, many, others. I’m merely sharing my own perspective from what I’ve learned from listening to a lot of smart people, in case it might help some of you – if it doesn’t, keep looking, a ton of great resources are out there.)
So 2016 is almost over and I just wanted to share the writing I’ve done this year that I’m most proud of. Thank you all so much for reading and sharing my work.
If you enjoy my writing (or have enjoyed it throughout the year and change I’ve had my main blog up), please share this post and consider buying me a cup of coffee/donating!
After four years working on my AO3 Ship Stats project, and having
previously addressed issues of misogyny in this data set, I feel like
it’s past time to talk about the elephant in the room:
Fandom is kinda racist.
(Hold on folks, this is going to be a long one… If you don’t want to read all the details, skip to ‘Conclusions’ at the end.)
“…While “shippability” is something I have yet to quantify, the dismal 12.5% minority races in Western media fandom is less than half of the proportion of non-white characters in media overall, and the discrepancy is even greater towards Black characters.
“Fandom has gradually been edging towards greater inclusion of POC, but the pace of change is slow, and there are still huge barriers to overcome. The fact that mainstream culture is saturated with racism and colourism explains these trends, but it does not excuse them; for fandom to make good on its promises of diversity, we must all contemplate the part we play in supporting or erasing characters of colour in our fics and other fanworks.”
An interesting discussion. It would probably take an anonymous survey to find out how many authors hesitate to write characters of a different color or ethnicity than their own for fear of the Scylla and Charybdis of stereotyping and magical minority.
Okay I’m going to start this off by acknowledging that some people do perceive this as a problem, and it does affect their writing choices within transformative works fandom and elsewhere.
HOWEVER. There’s an slightly-inaccurate-but-very-true quote by Kwame Dawes that’s floating around which I think is valuable here: racist writing is a craft failure.
What this means is that racist tropes – the “scylla and charybdis” you mention above are two examples of racial tropes, but aren’t the only ones by any means – are just that: lazy tropes and cliches that expose a lack of imagination on behalf of the author to see or even imagine characters of color beyond the “single story” (see: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk on same) that those of us raised in a white supremacist culture are trained from childhood (look up ‘the doll test’ and ‘implicit bias’) to consider “true” or “believable” or “complete” or even narratively compelling…
Yes, it’s a cultural issue; it’s a fault of our media (not enough representation / not enough varied or good representation), but it’s also a failure of personal imagination and a lack of willingness to put the same amount of research and world-building effort into stories about characters of color as we do for white men.
I could list a thousand and one examples of minor white male characters, some of them heroic but some of them downright evil, who’ve been elevated by fandom, whose cannibalistic, genocidal, abusive traits have been excused or even valorized, while characters of color are crammed into the nearest stereotype pigeonhole and given no second thought, when they are remembered at all.
And you know what? That first part is fine. You’re allowed to like ‘bad’ characters. That isn’t the issue here. The point is that white ‘bad’ characters are fandom faves that get woobified and defended, and ‘good’ characters of color are hypothesized to be evil – and then their ‘badness’ becomes a reason to discard the characters of color instead of celebrating them along with the white villainous faves.
Writers fret about stereotypes, yes. Writers should be conscious of lazy cliches and offensive tropes and the whole lot. It’s one of the things that makes for better stories and especially one of the incredible strengths of transformative works fandoms: finding the stories that aren’t being told, the stories lurking within the murky subtext beyond the two-dimensional surface, and telling better stories for ourselves (see also: how fandom adds queerness when there is none in canon).
But when confronted with a cliche of a white man and a nuanced character of color, fandom has proven time and time again that they’re willing to stick their creative neck out and do every bit of work that it takes to add nuance to the white guy, while ignoring it in (or taking it away from) the character of color.
(Incidentally, there are SO MANY resources nowadays for writing characters of color effectively and non-offensively, especially because this is a conversation that’s been happening both in fandom and in mainstream publishing for YEARS.)
What’s worse is that people will defend not writing characters of color at all because they honestly cannot perceive or imagine that a character of color is worth their time and effort. They honestly cannot perceive or imagine that there’s any way they could come up with a story for that character that won’t be a cliche or stereotype.
And that’s not fear.
It’s a lack of imagination. It’s a craft failure.
And it’s not at all ‘transformative.’
I’ve written about this before, this myth that writers aren’t writing diversity because they’re afraid of getting yelled at. That they’re just so scared of the nasty, angry marginalized people who have opinions about how their cultures and identity are portrayed that they just leave these marginalized folks out entirely. You know… Because they’re afraid.
(Note that they’re not afraid of messing up, not necessarily, but of being confronted by their screw-ups if they make some.)
Blaming diverse fans’ passionate responses over things like racism in the media they consume (even if those works are fanworks) is an attempt at passing the buck. It’s a way of deflecting and placing the blame on the very people who are not only asking for positive representation, but providing resources to help creators do well.
But the thing is that these writers who don’t write characters of color in fandom and outside of it aren’t doing it because they actually want to center authentic stories by diverse creators or because they care about how their works impact their audience.
No. They just don’t want to deal with any pushback against their works.
They want to write stories that reduce black women to nannies and black men to their genitals.
They want to write about Lusty Latin Lovers seducing everyone they can.
They want to use Native cultures and the history of government sanctioned violence against Natives as backdrops to their stories about how two white people really belong together.
It’s not about a fear of fucking up. It’s about a fear of being questioned or called out.
It’s a fear of being told to do better by people in your fandom or audience.
It’s a fear of accountability because “fandom is supposed to be fun”.
It’s kind of pathetic.