Hi SEers, John here with you again. Today I want to discuss authorship in light of the changing environment within our social framework. What do I mean by that statement? Well, to put it bluntly, I think it is time to take a look at how we write characters and stories in an atmosphere of ever-increasing sensitivity to the possibility of offending individuals and groups of people. Put another way, maybe it is time to seriously ponder the question, “Am I knowingly or unknowingly writing characters or a story which casts aspersions on anyone relative to their race, nationality, gender, sexual preference, religion, disabilities, or age?”
Now you may wonder why I suggest asking the question that I posed. I’m sure none of us would knowingly write any situation that in our heart knew discriminated against others. The key to the question is we may write something that we didn’t think would discriminate but did that exactly. How could this be? Think of how the concept of individual rights has changed over the years. These changes have come about through education and evolving acceptance within social norms.
An example is the lack of shock value of same-sex relationships on prime-time T.V. programming today. The first was L.A. Law in 1991 and showed a romantic kiss between two women. Such a physical demonstration between the two would never have been acceptable to the network censors before that time. Sure, same-sex relationships existed in real life, but networks were reluctant to include that slice of life in their shows.
To take it one step further, could you picture yourself writing a story where there is criticism of such a relationship. Of course, you can. A historical novel could have all kinds of criticism for same-sex intimacy depending on when it takes place. So, what is my point? It is a simple one. In writing the story of the same-sex relationship, are you the author taking the view of those doing the criticisms or the view of the lovers? One more question. If you are taking the position of the lovers, how do you know your opinion is correct?
The sweater begins to unravel quickly with the first pull of the string. Here’s how. Unless you are in a same-sex relationship, are you confident you have the feeling and emotions of that relationship, correct? I think most of us would have to say, in all honesty, we are not sure.
What is the downside of writing about a relationship that we don’t fully understand? The first is we could be laughed out of town by those we write about since we obviously don’t get it. Secondly, we could inadvertently write untruths that serve to hurt the feelings and maybe even denigrate those who read them. The first is all about us becoming a joke. The second is all about becoming a voice of discrimination.
I don’t mean to isolate just same-sex relationships in this discussion. The same applies to race, gender, sexual preference, religion, disabilities, and age. The caution here is that if you are not part of a group you are writing about, be very diligent in your research. Some would say unless you are a part of a group, don’t write about them. I disagree since I do not want to believe that writers can only write what they know.
I hope this post has given you some food for thought.
Do you have any thoughts about writing outside your situation or other items raised by this post? Let me know in the comments.