I started writing this post in the midst of some arguments surrounding people claiming complaining about diversity in fiction. Yeah, I know. What the hell? Then I didn’t hear any more about it for a few days, so I’d planned to scrap this post since what I had to say had already been said far better by everyone else, but then along came a twenty-minute monster of a video that I refuse to link here. If you want to torture yourself, here’s a transcript so the offender doesn’t get any views.
I don’t even know what to say to that thing, so I’m just going to talk about the issue in general since it’s been floating around social media for a while now.
Apparently marginalised people are “demanding” authors write about their identities. Because talking about the continued dearth of diverse literature in any tone, even the most polite, is apparently being construed as an attack by the people who already see themselves represented in fiction. White people, straight people, cis people. Men are also complaining about YA fiction being female dominated as per usual, but that seems to have been drowned out by the other fragile privileged groups for the time being. It’ll come around again. It always does.
The typical argument, especially coming from white and straight people, is that many authors from privileged groups are too scared of writing marginalised identities because they’ll be criticised, and that somehow means we shouldn’t call them out for creating worlds with a lack of people of colour and LGBT people. No one can stop you from sticking to the status quo, but the fact writers should be exempt from any kind of criticism on that front is utterly ridiculous. You know what a fictional world without people of colour or LGBT people screams to us? That we shouldn’t exist. I feel like this tweet accurately summarises my feelings on the matter:
I, a bisexual woman, did not read a book with a character sharing my identity until this year (thank you, Tess Sharpe). I’m 23. Had queer identities been normalised while I was a kid, would I have had as much difficulty coming to terms with who I am? If I, a white person, had been exposed on a regular basis to normalised representations of people of colour, would it have taken me as long as it did to have any kind of recognition of my own privilege? Not to mention the impact it would’ve had on kids of colour to see themselves represented in fictional worlds.
Is it so unreasonable for marginalised people to want to see themselves represented? We’re not hurting anyone by wanting to be included. Books with white and straight characters will still exist. They’re not going anywhere. This isn’t a zero-sum situation where in order to include someone we have to exclude someone else.
Honestly, if you, as a white or straight person, feel threatened by diversity, you need to do some soul-searching. Why exactly does it upset you that people other than you are getting the limelight? We exist. We deserve to be acknowledged as much as you do. Read this entire Twitter thread, the beginning of which is below, and think about the harm that is done to people who don’t get to see themselves in fiction, who are constantly told that we don’t deserve to be represented. And grow a goddamn heart.
Because Twitter people have said all this so much better than I can, I’m just gonna throw this one in here too. Read the whole damn thread.
Anyway, I’m getting incoherent and, honestly, the tweets I’ve shared in this post are far more eloquent than I am. Read those. Listen to marginalised people when we talk about diversity. We want to be represented and see ourselves in stories. White cis straight people need to learn how to share. I, as a white cis person, need to listen to what’s being said. We all need to listen and show some goddamn respect for people, even if we’re different. Especially if we’re different.
Whatever these people do, we’re not going away. Because we have every right to be here as they do. White and straight authors aren’t being forced to write about us. That claim is ridiculous. One thing that makes me laugh about this whole thing is people like this telling us that, if we want to see more diversity, we should write it ourselves. As if we’re not already doing that. It’s absolutely possible to talk about the lack of diversity in general while doing something about the problem ourselves. Multi-tasking is a thing.
I’ve spent more than enough time on this nonsense. I have my own diverse manuscript that needs some TLC.
PS: I just found this thread right after I posted. I feel this one’s worth reading, too:
Okay, I’m going, I’m going.