Diversity in Writing Vs Appropriation?


CloverReef
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So I came across this article on facebook today and it got me thinking about writers, like me, who write about cultures other than their own. Barring the obvious like exploiting stereotypes and fetishizing a culture, or claiming a piece of that culture as your own and ignoring the history behind it, where do you think the line in the sand is? Between crafting a diverse world with fully fleshed out characters of existing cultures and appropriating and exploiting? How can writers avoid white-washing stories and still be 100% respectful?

Are there certain things in stories you see that makes you happy? Or are there certain mistakes some of us make that piss you off? Or do you have tips to go by to avoid appropriating in your own stories?

Edited by CloverReef
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Honestly? I think the entire notion of cultural appropriation is a bit of a tempest in a Tumblr teapot. It's just another face of the "ban the patriarchy" hysteria, and largely as well thought out.

We have, all throughout history, appropriated bits and pieces from other cultures. If we strip the English language of all it has "borrowed," we'd be reduced to grunts. Shakespeare borrowed Roman culture and traditions freely, among others, and we're not burning his plays in the street. Hemingway, hack that he was, is lauded for his depiction of people from other cultures. I am prone to borrowing bits and pieces from the mythology of various cultures, and I am not at all inclined to apologize, especially if it's my own cultural background.

Being 100% respectful is impossible in a world where opinions are shared as widely and as swiftly as the flicker of electrons over a fiber optic line. Someone, somewhere, is going to take umbrage, and broadcast that ire over social media, where others will take up the cause to make themselves feel a part of something in an increasingly isolated world.

I notice no one is defending the rights of witches, or correcting the misuse of the term warlock by JK Rowling and pretty much everyone else out there writing about things they don't understand. As a pagan, I could take umbrage a dozen times a day, but because I'm a rational human being who was born before the urge to share every single thought that crosses one's mind, I behave like the adult I'm supposed to be. I remind myself that people derive most of their education from the media, and therefore know nothing about my beliefs, and I just smile. As a person of Irish ancestry, I get to endure the farce known as St Patrick's Day, with green beer and drunken idiots wearing shamrocks. The Viking portion of my ancestors are not rolling over in their graves over the Marvel depictions of their gods, so why should I growl?

So, personally, I think people need to take a step back, and stop expecting the world to be perfect. Then again, I'm a cranky old thing. :)

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Huge rant about the article itself:

I noticed when I read the article that everyone complaining seemed to be very young (early 20s if not teens). Hasn't tumblr made the world an amazing place? Too often people don't listen to their own arguments. Some of those tweets made me shake my head because I doubt they realized what they were saying. Many of those tweets don't pass the "Old-white-guy-in-a-white-linen-suit-with-a-southern-accent-on-a-porch racism litmus test". The trick is to imagine an old white guy in his 80's on a porch in a white linen suit saying the same thing while sipping sweet tea. If a phrase coming such a person in your mind sounds a little racist or xenophobic... it probably is. One specific tweet in the bundle stood out to me "Again, Non-natives are not entitled to our stories, cultures, histories, imagery & identities, not even in the name of artistic freedom," now imagine an old guy on a porch with a southern accent saying that but trade out non-natives with non-whites. Do you see where the problem is? That argument when boiled down is essentially saying that you can't have an African American fantasy writer who writes anything Arthurian because it's not a part of their culture. Doesn't that just make you feel a little wrong inside? I know it makes me feel a little queasy. Psst, Tumblr, in your fight to end racism you've just created more racism!

Response to actual post:

As far as writers in general, we shouldn't worry about it. People are going to complain regardless of how much research you do. Like Bronxie said, there's no pleasing everyone. All you can do is research enough that you feel comfortable about what you're doing. Beyond that...don't sweat it or you'll give yourself an ulcer.

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:goodpost: I need a Like button so bad, Crissy beat me to my whole planned ravings and did it alot nicer than I would have. All I can add is that we spend all day in our shoes, is it any wonder we sneak out in our writing to wonder around in someone else's from time to time? So no, don't feel bad doing it. I'd like to do a good job of it if I can, but I'm not going to make my inner world or my efforts less interesting because there is no way I can know the plights of someone who has a lifetime of burdens unfamiliar to me. I'll just do what I can and when I'm wrong, be mindful of the corrections lobbed my way.

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"Doesn't that just make you feel a little wrong inside?"

LOL Yes, Chrissy it does. The whole topic of that article made me feel a little wrong inside.

Bronxwench, I never really thought about it like that - the way our language borrows from other cultures in ways that a lot of people would call appropriating if it happened now. (Admittedly, though, I'm sick of seeing witches lumped in with satanists in movies.)

Muse, I agree. I have no intention of writing only white characters just because I'm white. I've never liked stories that only revolve around things the author has experienced (unless that author is like, a zombie or something)

I worry about this issue. Although I know, rationally that best way to go is rely on your common sense and just don't be a racist turd, a lot of racist turds don't think they're racist. So on one hand, I understand that I can't understand the experiences of most marginalized groups and the last thing I want to do is add to the problem. On the other hand, white-washing would definitely be adding to the problem. And on the ... third hand? Censorship sucks, and policing art really annoys the hell out of me most of the time.

Fighting the urge to rant more about censorship lol.

Does it all boil down to just not being a racist turd and doing your research?

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I think people tend to lean too far one way or the other. More often than not, the people crying appropriation are not rallying against well written, fleshed out characters, their rallying against characters like dead crow, from the lone ranger. A whit actor presenting themselves as a person belonging to a race and a culture they know little about, about their cultural identity being twisted and misconstrued to fit a romanticized view that was almost entirely constructed by a white persons interpretation. That is appropriation. Are there some people who take the anti-appropriation crusade a bit too far? Yes definitely, the same can be said of any social movement. But over all they do have a very important point. There was an argument I read, this is one I've taken to heart. When a white person write a book about people of colour, they are not simply writing something inclusivley, more often than not, they are presenting themselves as a person of colour. This may not be intentional, but that's the thing about books, if a person picks up a book written from the perspective of, say, an australian aboriginal person, from the Koori nation they are, more often than not, going to assume the author is an Koori themselves, it's not intentional, just something that we do subconsciously. And that gives an author power, for good or ill, to present a view of an entire culture of people that may, or may not be correct, and that can hurt if used for ill. How many times have you read or watched something that played up "the nerdy Asian" the "thuggish black guy" the "gossipy vapid Hispanic?" these tropes hurt, and I promise, it's usually white people who establish and perpetuate them. And more often than not, those white takes on other cultures, are held above those that actually belong to minority groups. And that's a genuine problem that authors should be aware of. Does that mean white people should never write about other cultures? Of course not. But we should all remember what sort of influence our writing, and our characters can have on real people.

As for the article, these tweets are cherry picked, but when you read the pottermore passage and listen to what these people are saying, they have a very important point. J.K. Rowling wrote about the "Native American" people and culture almost entirely in the past tense, as if they weren't still around, which is really cringey. And further more, she spoke about their culture, their people and society as if they were just one big conglomerate. They're not. They were, and are, individual nations each with their own unique cultural identity, their own languages and customs. If your going to write about a nation of people, at least learn, and call them by their name. It's like lumping in all the European nations in togetehr and referencing them exclusively as the native Europeans. I mean, lets just search replace part of the pottermore article, replacing American specific language with European.

"The legend of the Native European ‘selkie’ – an evil witch or wizard that can transform into an animal at will – has its basis in fact. A legend grew up around the Native European Animagi, that they had sacrificed close family members to gain their powers of transformation. In fact, the majority of Animagi assumed animal forms to escape persecution or to hunt for the village. Such derogatory rumours often originated with muggle midwives, who were sometimes faking magical powers themselves, and fearful of exposure."

See what I mean, its incredibly unspecific, we know that the myth of a selkie is of irish origin, a simple google would tell you so, and yet we lump in the irish with an entire continents worth of different nations and call it good, and then go so far as to say "those silly europeans were wrong anyway, the real reason is wizards." The skin walker comes from Navajo culture, and if you going to talk about Navajo culture, give them the courtesy of calling them by their name!

This article cherry picks extreme comments and radical statements, but if you peel back the outrage, there are genuine complaints here, and important issues that we need to discuss. Lets not dismiss that offhand.

Edited by LockedBox
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The thing you're forgetting about, LockedBox, is that she's writing a Fantasy series about Wizards and Witches. No one is going to assume she's an authoritative voice on Native American culture with her made up world. I'll further say that in the way she's referring to them, past tense is completely appropriate. Just like we talk about ancient Greeks in past tense, and the American colonists. The passage literally states it's about the 1300's - 1600's, so yes... she should be using past tense. She's creating her own wizarding world; for all we know there are no navajo :) . There is no real issue here. This is a case of people blowing something out of proportion to feel good about themselves. I read the passage on Pottermore and I didn't see anything wrong with it. No she's not being specific but she doesn't have to be and its not even insensitive to use Native American as opposed to Navajo in the specific passage. It's nitpicking of the worst sort. There are no genuine complaints in the case of J.K Rowling, and I'm not even a fan of her work. She's not writing a history book, she could frankly say that Skin-changers were Chinese Leprechauns. She's writing fiction and not painting a derogatory picture of a culture of peoples time to move on.

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And Chrissy has said it perfectly for me as well.

JK Rowling hasn't even held herself out as an expert on actual witchcraft, or any actual pagan faith. She uses bastardized Latin for her spells, and her witches and wizards celebrate Christian holidays. If we're going to treat her North American wizarding world as a factual discourse on North American history, then I rather imagine we'll need to start treating Wikipedia as an unimpeachable reference as well.

It's called fantasy for a reason, people.

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But that's not the point, that's not why people are upset. I'm not saying that she's an expert, I'm not saying that she should be held up as a source. I'm saying that people are upset for good reason. Their criticism is valid and well grounded. She's taken a real culture, then put it in her fantasy world. Her writing is fantasy, but the culture she's writing about is real. Putting them into a fantasy setting does not change the fact that these people are real, they exist. They have the right to be upset, and to object to the way that they are represented. We shouldn't make light of that just because it's fantasy. I'm not saying that we should all nod our heads and agree, just that we should listen to what these people are saying, we owe people that courtesy. If someone tells you that something you did hurt their feelings, you don't get to decided that you didn't. If the Navajo people say that this representation is hurtful to them, we don't get to decide that it isn't. We don't have to agree with them, but that doesn't change the fact that their feelings are hurt. We don't get to decide what offends them and what doesn't. If you saw no issue with this, great! That's fine, but you don't get to decide that everyone else has to be okay with it too. Discussion and discourse is important. We shouldn't shut it down just because we, as individuals, aren't interested in the topic at hand.

Edited by LockedBox
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Does it all boil down to just not being a racist turd and doing your research?

Pretty much! :)

I have a WIP set in a slightly AU version of Wales in the 4th Century CE, I say AU because I am not using actual place names, and it's a male/male story. While the Romans were certainly familiar with catamites, and Romanized Britain would have no doubt been exposed to the Roman habit of taking pretty youths to bed, an arranged marriage between two males would be well out of the realm of historical reality. But it's fiction, and I'm taking liberties. If someone wants to take umbrage because I've appropriated something or someone, let them. They have a choice. Don't buy the book. Vote with your wallet.

If people are that offended by JK Rowling's new book, then they can simply not buy it. How very radical--decline to provide economic support for something you don't care for. The alternate is that we all stop writing, because we're all going to offend someone somewhere at some point in time.

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But that's not the point, that's not why people are upset. I'm not saying that she's an expert, I'm not saying that she should be held up as a source. I'm saying that people are upset for good reason. Their criticism is valid and well grounded. She's taken a real culture, then put it in her fantasy world. Her writing is fantasy, but the culture she's writing about are real. Putting them into a fantasy setting does not change the fact that these people are real, they exist. They have the right to be upset, and to object to the way that they are represented. We shouldn't make light of that just because it's fantasy.

I don't think anyone is making light of it. But on the other hand, at some point in time, we need to stop bubble-wrapping the world in case someone's feelings get hurt. You now what? Life hurts. That's what makes us stronger people and often better people. It's how we deal with adversity.

When I had a miscarriage, should everyone have hidden infants from my sight, in case I felt diminished by my inability to carry that pregnancy to term? Should there have been a separate practice, so I wouldn't have had to go to my OB's office for a post-miscarriage exam, to make sure all the placental tissue had been expelled? I mean, I saw pregnant women there. It was hard as hell, but you simply need to deal with it. The world goes on.

This is no different, when you think about it. Yes, there are living Navajo, and dozens of other tribes whose beliefs may or may not resemble what JK Rowling has written. Should we not mention any of their beliefs? Should the health insurance I had when I worked, insurance that covered Navajo singing-ways, have specified that only Navajo would be allowed to take advantage of that because no one else could possibly believe what they do? Do you see how silly this can get?

Edited by BronxWench
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I'd very much like to reconcile both sides. I don't mind that there will always be someone who's offended. It -is- fantasy. And with most types of creative writing, artistic license is critical. Wouldn't be much of a creative outlet if it wasn't. Different cultures are fascinating and inspiring, and I think there is a risk of writers to run a little too wild with it and make insensitive mistakes, either from ignorance or just getting carried away in general. There's also a risk of writers being too afraid to make those mistakes and shying away from what could be really awesome tales.

So really I agree with everyone here and totally contradict myself.

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Hey Bronx, I edited my post because I just thought of a way to make my point clearer, then I saw your post after. I wasn't trying to undermine you or anything, just rephrase myself a bit.

Back to the matter of hand, nobody has said that we should stop writing, not on this board or in the article, no one is saying that. I'm not sure why you're bringing it up. All I've been trying to say is that when people say that something is appropriating their culture, we don't get to say it isn't, because it isn't our culture and it isn't our call to make. It doesn't matter if it's fantasy or not. I'm not saying no one should write about it, I'm saying that when people say, "hey, this isn't okay" we should listen. We don't have to agree, just listen, and let them speak. That's all.

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If the Navajo people say that this representation is hurtful to them, we don't get to decide that it isn't.

But they're not, if it was hurtful to them as a people tribal leaders would have come out with a comment by now. They haven't said anything, it's mainly little shit kids and people desperately seeking validation on twitter and tumblr who have commented. She has taken one aspect of their culture the Skin-Changers, that doesn't automatically make the native culture she's referring to Navajo since it is a fantasy world she's writing in. The sad thing is that if she didn't include Native Americans everyone would be making more of a fuss.

You might say "No one is saying that we should stop writing" but things like this are why a lot of people don't write, or why they stop writing. This sort of needless backlash doesn't help anyone.

Edited by ChrissyQuinn
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But they're not, if it was hurtful to them as a people tribal leaders would have come out with a comment by now. They haven't said anything, it's mainly little shit kids and people desperately seeking validation on twitter and tumblr who have commented. She has taken one aspect of their culture the Skin-Changers, that doesn't automatically make the native culture she's referring to Navajo since it is a fantasy world she's writing in. The sad thing is that if she didn't include Native Americans everyone would be making more of a fuss.

You might say "No one is saying that we should stop writing" but things like this are why a lot of people don't write, or why they stop writing. This sort of needless backlash doesn't help anyone.

And how do you know that? You're making a very broad and sweeping generalization there. Are you basing that opinion on the tweets presented in the article, or have you looked into this issue on a broader level? How do you know whether or not they're Navajo? Do you know them personally? Did you do background checks on each and every one of them? Because either way, I find it very difficult to take you seriously when you use demeaning language that way. That's not called for and, frankly, it's not particularly relevant either. To raise my initial point, again, you don't get to decide whether or not they are upset, no matter who they are. That is not your call to make.

And again, you say that because it's fantasy, it shouldn't be taken seriously, but that is not the point and you know it. She has taken a Navajo myth, a part of Navajo culture and is using it to her own ends. Placing it into her fantasy setting does change the fact that the skin-changer is a part of Navajo culture and lore. No matter what she does with it, it's still a part of Navajo culture. It doesn't matter if it's fantasy or not. This is not something that can be hand waved away by "it's fantasy, I don't have to justify it."

And to address your last point, who cares? Seriously, if the thought that people might be offended and cry racism or sexism stops a person from writing a thing, then good. That means that we are becoming more conscious as a society and aware of the importantace of respecting other cultures and the value of minority groups. It's a good thing. This isn't needless backlash. It's important discussion and discourse about what is and isn't appropriate representations of cultures not our own. This is important. This is how we learn.

Edited by LockedBox
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JK Rowling also took parts of my faith, and incorporated them into her fantasy world, and you don't hear me, or most pagans, for that matter, running around, tearing hair out and sobbing about the appropriation of religious and often cultural beliefs.

Being American, I do happen to know people of Native ancestry. My ex-boyfriend had been engaged to a Navajo woman, who was sadly killed by a drunk driver. He spent time on the reservation where she lived, and they had plans to live there after they married, had she not died. Her brother wasn't happy, but her grandmother overruled him. So, really, what would he have been doing, had he lived among the Navajo, as a member of their tribe by marriage? He was as white as they come, Slovine and Finn mix by way of Northern Minnesota. I worked with Native people, and for the most part, I can tell you... they are pretty much people like everyone else. They have the same needs, desires, and goals as, well, people like me. (Entitled white people who are obviously supposed to apologize for our very entitled existence, apparently. So, to steal from the Christians, because they won't care, either: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.)

The broad brush here is being wielded by the few shrill voices screaming cultural appropriation, and not all those voices belong to people who actually have a dog in this fight, as my dad would have said.

This isn't worthy of discussion. It's bullying via public excoriation, and it's shameful.

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I know that no Navajo leaders have spoken on it because there was no official statement issued because I looked further into the situation. People who are heads of large organizations such as tribes, nations etc, tend to do things called press releases to condemn offensive media. And I'm sorry I insulted your demographic but as someone who is forced to spend quite a bit of time around early college goers, they are a large part of the problem and a blight to progress in race relations in general. They like to talk a lot about things... and then they don't even interact with people outside of their own race or culture aside from the people in the service industry, or people who were once their "friends" in high school (people who they never hung out with outside of school).

"And again, you say that because it's fantasy, it shouldn't be taken seriously, but that is not the point and you know it. She has taken a Navajo myth, a part of Navajo culture and is using it to her own ends. Placing it into her fantasy setting does change the fact that the skin-changer is a part of Navajo culture and lore. No matter what she does with it, it's still a part of Navajo culture. It doesn't matter if it's fantasy or not. This is not something that can be hand waved away by "it's fantasy, I don't have to justify it.""

By this logic no one should never change the Arthurian legend for the same reason. And how dare anyone Latino or African American deign to touch European or Asian legends and myths or interpret them in their versions of fantasy. How dare someone of Jewish faith write about Christianity. How dare a Muslim write about the Hindu faith. How dare a Latino write about white people. See, it's a very slippery slope that can be used to justify some very nasty sorts of racism. Frankly, I find the segregation of cultures you're proposing offensive. Essentially, whether you realize you're saying it or not, your argument is no one can interpret any culture other than their own which is frankly disgusting and leads to a whole treasure trove of ignorance that breeds hate and bigotry.

"if the thought that people might be offended and cry racism or sexism stops a person from writing a thing, then good. That means that we are becoming more conscious as a society and aware of the importantace of respecting other cultures and the value of minority groups. It's a good thing"

Fear of reprisal doesn't breed respect or understanding-- it enforces white washing. Fear also breeds more racism. Then you end up with the Oscars (why not have more non-white writers? because they can't find jobs outside of writing about non-white people thanks to the problem created by your argument). People being afraid of writing something because of the backlash they might receive is the opposite of progress. When no one attempts to engage with cultures outside of their own it props up racism because it promotes Othering and exoticism that leads to fetishizing.

So yes, this is needless backlash.There are real issues out there facing the native community that this trite is taking attention away from.

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Those issues being inadequate healthcare, inadequate educational opportunities, job discrimination, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, broken families, to name a few. Tony Hillerman used his novels about Navajo life to illustrate the issues that are real, but you know, as a white man, that was probably wrong of him to try to shine a spotlight on these very serious issues.

It's a good thing he didn't mention Skinwalkers. Oh, wait...

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Alrighty... I haven't read Rowlings new story, which is the cause of all this, but I have to agree with the notion that this whole thing is a bit of a storm in a Tumblr teapot.

I am not going to say that none of those tweeters are Navaho, or of any other Native American nation, but in my experience, most of them probably aren't.

I've seen this before, in what became called "Kimono-gate". There a small group of young people screamed "cultural appropriation" when an art museum offered museum guests to put on a Japanese kimono and pose for a camera, in front of a Monet painting. It was an exhibition of Monet paintings, and the kimono was a replica of the kimono in the painting. These same youngsters, (as I recall, white, hispanic and one Chinese-American) then actually argued with a group of Japanese-American women, who showed up in authentic kimono. The Japanese-American women, some of whom were born in Japan and raised by Japanese parents in America, and many other Japanese-Americans were thrilled that the museum had come up with this idea (an idea that had been extremely well received at the sister museum in Japan), and were excited to share a part of their history and culture with the world, even though it was via a French impressionist painter.

And these protesters argued with the Japanese-American women, and told them they should be offended.

The end result was that the museum buckled and only displayed the kimono, instead of letting people try it on, and imitate a French impressionist painting.

Now, from my own point of view, as Bronx has said more than once...

There is no outrage when Marvel appropriates one of my ancient gods, and turns him into a blond, pantyhose wearing pansy. My people just think that's funny, and we know our Thor could take that Thor any day in a fight, blind drunk, with a blindfold and one leg tied behind his back.

We don't go crazy and cry appropriation when Spanish people, or Americans, or Australians don horned helmets and cry "We're Viking". We just giggle and roll our eyes and remind ourselves, "Vikings didn't put horns on their heads." And then we sell the damned things to the tourists, because... wait for it... that's what tourists expect!

I do believe that, yes, as writers, as people in general, we should respect other peoples beliefs, and cultural heritage, but that does not mean that we should avoid writing about anything but our "own heritage". My writing would be horrendously boring if I did.

A good example of this very argument, which I have not seen anyone go up in arms about is Neil Gaiman's "American Gods".

That is fantasy, and dear gods, how many religions and cultural heritages does Gaiman "appropriate" for that one book? It's an awesome book, and I actually found myself looking up some of the things that he wrote about, so I could learn about the very myths and gods that he was writing about.

And also, since it was mentioned, whenever I pick up a book written in English, I always, without exception assume that the writer is a white American, unless the name is obviously Japanese, or Spanish, or Russian or Polish. Which is why I usually start by reading the back of the book to see if I can figure out where the writer is from. It is not because I am a white American. It is simply because I am as white as they come Scandinavian, but my country has been quite "American-ized". So, it has become an automatic reaction to seeing an English "white-sounding" name, to assume the person is white American.

I know that I am not anywhere near as eloquent as Bronx, and Chrissy, and I don't have any real argument like they do but I whole heartedly agree with them. Especially with Chrissy, on this part:

Fear of reprisal doesn't breed respect or understanding-- it enforces white washing. Fear also breeds more racism. Then you end up with the Oscars (why not have more non-white writers? because they can't find jobs outside of writing about non-white people thanks to the problem created by your argument). People being afraid of writing something because of the backlash they might receive is the opposite of progress. When no one attempts to engage with cultures outside of their own it props up racism because it promotes Othering and exoticism that leads to fetishizing.

End quote

As a writer, I could not agree with this more. If I only wrote about my culture I would be the most boring writer in history, and we honestly don't need that many stories about flea bitten vikings, eating sheep and going on raids. Or about depressed detectives solving murders, and having bad relationships with their pregnant, junkie daughters. The market is limited, in that respect, really.

So, that's my two very lousy cents.

Diversity is necessary in writing. We just have to do it respectfully and do our research before we write. And as readers, we must remember that, unless it is an official auto-biography, or biography, it is all fiction, and much of fiction is fantasy.

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I think you put it very eloquently, WillowDarkling. I do, though, agree with LockedBox. I don't think they were suggesting not writing about other cultures at all, just not dismissing it when someone takes offense. People are going to be touchy and some easily offended regardless of what we write. I understand some people of any race or culture might take offence at the drop of a hat. But for me, I don't know enough about their personal experiences to decide if their outrage is justified or not. Of course racism is bad, we all agree there. It's when it comes that large grey territory where the difference between appreciation and appropriation is muddled that it becomes very much a matter of personal choice for writers about who to and who to not listen to.

A lot of people do shy away from it though because they don't know where that line is. That's crazy unfortunate. For me, listening to well reasoned arguments for and against bits and pieces of suspected appropriation is a valid way to go.

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It's impossible to write without tripping over that spectre of cultural appropriation, however. So yes, in a very real sense, the message is that we all need to only write that which we've lived. In which case, we've rung the death knell for literature, not that I think these strident, self-important, self appointed arbiters of "What Is Fair" actually care.

As a parent, I am pleased that I've managed to raise a college student who can think on their own, without resorting to the protective coloration of an Internet cabal of bullies. And I use that word deliberately, because their language and actions are those of a group of bullies. They are no more interested in dialogue than they are in giving up one speck of their own privilege, privilege that affords them the ability to offer their sanctimonious judgments without regard to the harm they do.

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Look, Bronx, have you read my posts at all? I am making one, very simple point here. It is not our place to decide whether or not other people are allowed to be upset or not. It is not our job to police other peoples feelings. If people feel that a piece of writing is cultural appropriation, then it is not up to us to just decide that they are wrong. If she appropriated parts of your culture, then I am sorry, but just because you chose not to make a fuss about it doesn't mean that other people are obliged to do the same. There isn't a union system here, they aren't obligated to consult all the other cultural groups and gain consensus before they raise their voices about something, and take action.

"And again, you say that because it's fantasy, it shouldn't be taken seriously, but that is not the point and you know it. She has taken a Navajo myth, a part of Navajo culture and is using it to her own ends. Placing it into her fantasy setting does change the fact that the skin-changer is a part of Navajo culture and lore. No matter what she does with it, it's still a part of Navajo culture. It doesn't matter if it's fantasy or not. This is not something that can be hand waved away by "it's fantasy, I don't have to justify it.""

By this logic no one should never change the Arthurian legend for the same reason. And how dare anyone Latino or African American deign to touch European or Asian legends and myths or interpret them in their versions of fantasy. How dare someone of Jewish faith write about Christianity. How dare a Muslim write about the Hindu faith. How dare a Latino write about white people. See, it's a very slippery slope that can be used to justify some very nasty sorts of racism. Frankly, I find the segregation of cultures you're proposing offensive. Essentially, whether you realize you're saying it or not, your argument is no one can interpret any culture other than their own which is frankly disgusting and leads to a whole treasure trove of ignorance that breeds hate and bigotry.

For heavens sake, this is not the point, you couldn't have missed the point I was making harder if you tried. I'm not saying that she can't, or even that she shouldn't. I'm saying that, no matter what she does with it, it is going to remain a part of Navajo Culture. You can change the Arthurian legend if you want. You can set it in Africa and make it about African characters and mythological figures, and that's great! But that doesn't change the fact that it's a part of Britannic culture. This is the nature of reinterpretation, you can do whatever you want, but that doesn't grant you ownership over the source material you are reinterpreting. That material is unchanging, and people are going to compare it against it's source. It doesn't matter that she's writing a fantasy setting or not, it is derived from Navajo culture. You keep on saying "its just fantasy" as a means of invalidating these peoples complaints, but that doesn't matter. The reinterpretation does not invalidate the source material, no matter how you interpret it. Because it is a reinterpretation, not an original concept. I never, ever said that no one should write about cultures that are not their own. I simply stated that, writing about something does not make it yours. This is a very simple concept! i don't understand why people keep on trying to put words in my mouth.

Edited by LockedBox
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JK Rowling isn't trying to own the concept of Skinwalkers, any more than Tony Hillerman was trying to own it in his novels. She didn't try to own any of the Eurocentric concepts she used in the first seven novels, either. So, let me be blunt.

Is it only wrong because it's a Navajo belief? Because I haven't seen any Navajo tribal leader weigh in on this nonsense, and their word would carry a lot more weight with me than the Twitter feed of passionate youth who think everything is supposed to be "fair."

Oh, and to clarify one point, I don't make a fuss because I'm pagan, and we understand that there is no one truth. I don't need to defend the witches. They're pretty good at it on their own. They're rational adults and can decide for themselves if they're offended. I on the other hand would be very happy if I could be spared the condescension of being told that I don't understand reverse racism when I see it.

Edited by BronxWench
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Maybe that's true, but you know what? It's not my job to look into each and every persons background and give them their license to complain. I'm not trying to say that they are right, or that they are wrong, I'm just trying to reinforce that they have their right to voice their concerns about it and not be attacked or belittled for doing so. That's it. I honestly don't know if it's cultural appropriation or not, I'm not Navajo, I just read the arguments presented and, upon reading the source, found I could understand why they were upset. That doesn't mean that I am upset about it. That doesn't mean that I don't see JK's side of things here too. But my feelings are irrelevant to that matter anyway.

What did upset me was when Chrissy threw around words like censorship, and segregation, and actively demeaned these people for voicing criticism. What is happening here is not censorship. You cannot advocate an authors right to write about anything she wants with one breath, and then condemn her readers for voicing criticism of what she writes with the next. Do you not understand how hypocritical that is? If people are allowed to write whatever they want, which they should be, then readers, too, have the right to say whatever they want about it in response. You cannot have one without the other, because to suppress that criticism would be censorship. It is honestly upsetting to see people here cluck their tongues and demean these people just for voicing simple criticisms. To quote a very famous, and very important quote: "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" You can disagree with these people all you want, but do not insult them and demean them like that. We're better than that, damn it.

Edited by LockedBox
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To be fair I think I was the one who brought up censorship. I did not, however mean to use it in a way that implied criticism and concerns aren't valid. My intention was to consider both sides of the argument, and I tried not to get too caught up in my censorship related pet peeves in mostly unrelated issues.

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