There’s been some… “intense discussions” online about “including” women, people of color, and other minorities in fiction.
These discussions include articles all over the internet, Twitter hashtags, and a good chunk of GamerGate.
The discussions I have witnessed seem to boil down to “We need more diverse books” vs “writing about minorities is hard and uninteresting, so let’s stick with something comfortable.”
Here’s what I have to say about it.
Saying that writing stories with minorities in them – much less as lead characters – is “hard,” shows a tremendous lack of imagination and empathy. Even, I daresay, an unwillingness to try and empathize with them.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “But I’m not a black woman/asian person/lesbian/gay man/blind person/ etc. and I don’t want to write something and risk offending them by saying something wrong.”
And that’s a fair enough concern. Everyone’s experience is different. My view on life as a poor white genderqueer person sexually attracted to dudes is very different from, say, a black lesbian woman, or a wealthy white heterosexual man, or…you get the idea.
Should that deter us from trying to understand the point of view we want to write, that is outside of our realm of experience? No.
If anything, it should encourage us.
Part of the fun and challenge of writing any character (that is not a white man) is that you can talk to people of that demographic, and learn about them. And you take what you learned and make stories with that knowledge.
Even if you don’t do the research, you’re still a step ahead of those who won’t even write these types of characters. Just the act of writing characters outside of your experience is rebellious and rewarding.
Here’s the thing: I love the comics I make. The main characters I draw include a young trans girl, a genderqueer elf policeman, and most recently, a young, black, goth punk woman.
Am I any of those? No.
Do I make stories starring these characters? Yep.
I write and illustrate these stories because I want to understand my characters. Making these stories helps me explore their world, what they experience, and how they feel about their experiences, because I don’t get that easily outside of fiction.
I do my best to research as much as I can. If I get something wrong, that’s ok – I learn something new everyday. And if I get to learn about people outside of my experience, that’s awesome!
In making these stories to seek understanding, it helps me become more empathetic to others out in the real world. It helps me understand the lives of others. It makes me want to listen and learn more about them.
Writing these fictions helps me to become more human.
That’s why I love making diverse comics, and why I believe we need more diverse media.
For those of you who want to stick to writing about white dudes, that’s ok. Just be warned that
1. There are already plenty of stories about white heterosexual men, because
2. mass media tries to make characters generic enough that the audience can empathize with them immediately and have traits that are desirable. So they make their main characters white men. They figure white men are simple enough and common enough to create that the audience can insert themselves into that character. However,
3. White men become the default main character because they fit mass media formulas so well. And therefore
4. It makes women and PoC main characters hard to empathize with because they are not the default main character and don’t fit the formulas very well.
Hank Green did a really good job of discussing this in regard to Batman. You can watch that video here.
And if you still have reservations about writing or even reading stories with minority characters, please check out this awesome speech by Gene Luen Yang. He made some truly excellent points. (If the video won’t work, here’s a transcript.)
Don’t be afraid to make diverse characters and stories!
If you have any reading suggestions for books starring minority characters, leave them in comments below!
Have any questions? Still have reservations? Voice them in comments, too!
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you on Friday.