sexism

Political Writing: A Little Clarification

I want to clarify something. Maybe this is simply a way for me to think ‘out loud’, but …

As a patriotic American, I certainly recognize the legitimacy of the President-elect. Donald Trump will wind up being our next President. I will obviously show the proper respect to the office of the President so in that sense, he is ‘my President’.

But me, along with many others, can also rightfully claim that he is ‘not our President’, in the sense that, by his own words and statements in regard to his plans as President, Donald Trump does not even begin to represent our beliefs, our goals, or even seem to care about our basic rights to happiness, freedom, and human dignity.

It’s simple, perhaps, to look at my profile picture and assume that I’m simply a white cis guy who has no dog in the fight. But I may be white and I may be a guy, but I am not ‘cis’ or ‘straight’ or ‘heterosexual’ or whatever word you want to use.

So there, for those of you that might be wondering how people can say that Trump is ‘not their President’ and still be patriots who respect the republic of the United States, that’s how.

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Looking at Character: He, She, or People? Characterization and Gender Identification

Hey there folks!

As I wait for the Amazon and Smashwords engines to chug forward in publishing my latest book, it would be a good time to get back in the swing of things and get a new Looking at Character article out.  This is one I’d been meaning to do for weeks now, inspired by some strangely coincidental input I’d received from multiple sources, all within a day or two of each other.  Let’s talk about characterization in light of gender, which is a way of asking ‘Is gender an elemental part of characterization?’

Maybe I should explain better.  Some people believe that a character should be identifiable as a gender simply through characterization.  A woman, for instance, should be recognizable as such without direct gender tags simply by how her actions and personality.  Others believe that this isn’t necessarily the case.  While a character might have identifiable gender traits outside of direct description, it isn’t always the case, the argument being that people are, at their core, people regardless of gender.  One could even expand these two opposing arguments to include ethnicity, sexuality, and other ‘intrinsic’ characteristics.

Which is right and which is wrong?

Gender politics aside (one could make a very strong case that the ‘gender is a base personality trait’ is sexist to both genders), I think the best approach to finding the answer is to talk to people.  Ask a man if he thinks that being a ‘man’ is more important than being a ‘human’ and the same with women.  I can tell you what I have discovered from asking everyone I know over the past few weeks.

No one wants to be stereotyped by their gender.  Well, most people don’t, at any rate.  Most people believe that who they are, their personality, is more important to their identity than their gender.  If that’s the case, why treat the characters in your writing any differently?

Obviously, there WILL be times when gender is important to plot and characterization.  There are gender issues, political, social, and physical, that can play a role in things and, yes, sometimes even be vital to a character’s overall personality.  However, these are not the norm and shouldn’t form a baseline of personality traits to add on to.  A person is a person first, then a man or woman.

I can’t claim to be an authority on this.  However, from both my writing instinct and my moral compass, treating a man or a woman as a person is simply the right way to characterize them.

This might be a divisive topic but I would also love to hear other takes on this.  Whether you agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your comments as long as you keep your tone and arguments civil and rational.

Until I can make an official post on my book publication or the next Starving Review, good luck and good writing!

We’ve All Signed It: Authors and the social contract

I mentioned in a previous articles, as an aside, that writers are judged by what they write and how they write it.  At the time, it was merely a small comment relevant to the topic of the article but I realize that I want to revisit that and expand upon that.  Really, it goes beyond a simple matter of image, with authors judged personally by what they write.  I believe that authors, as much as anyone else who creates things for the public consumption, have a duty to their readers and to themselves to not spread certain harmful social constructs.  That sounds all academic, but it’s really something that should be common sense.

 

Books have many purposes: education and entertainment are foremost among them.  One can certainly argue that authors, like any artist, should have unlimited freedom to pursue their creative goals.  While I would argue we do deserve a huge amount of said freedom, at the same time, there is such a thing as harmful speech and what, if nothing else, is a book but written speech?  The point being is that books, like speech, have the power to spread ideas and emotion, both for good and for ill.

 

Going forward from that idea, can we not agree then that it is important for us as the generators of this speech to be held responsible for its effects?  Certainly, good works and enlightening works should be held up and respected.  Likewise, those who write harmful or slanderous tracts need to be looked on with scorn.  It is sadly easy for fictional works to be dismissed as ‘harmless’ when instead they spread harmful notions and ideas.  Sure, it may ‘just be a book’, but all books, fictional or not, plant the seeds of thoughts and ideas.  Maybe that harmful seed is ignored, expunged from the soil of the mind like the foul thing it is, but just as often it can take root and spread, plunging the garden of thought into a dark, weed-filled, and decaying morass.

 

Just as with the ideal government, authors too sign, whether they wish to or not, a social contract with the public.  I think it’s important for us to realize this and keep it in mind always.  While I certainly don’t wish to suggest that there shouldn’t be books that look at the negative parts of life, they should be handled factually and appropriately.  There are things that shouldn’t be glamorized or put on a pedestal.  There are cultures and activities around even today that, when brought to life on the page, should be cast in the dark shadows that they rightfully should be.  Rape culture, sexism, racism, injustice, slavery, any violation of human rights, murder … you may not be able to avoid them coming into your works, especially realistic ones, and there is good reason to confront these things … but it’s important to avoid the temptation to sensationalize or elevate any of these things into something to be tolerated, admired, or even loved.

 

No matter what you write or how you write it, remember what you signed before you even began to put a word on the page.  Remember your fellow man and the involuntary impact your word can have on his or her life.  Be responsible.