Doing Diversity in Writing
Season 1 Episode 6 - Essentialism and Affirmative Myopia in Literature

Season 1 Episode 6 - Essentialism and Affirmative Myopia in Literature

November 3, 2021

In this episode of Doing Diversity in Writing, we—Bethany and Mariëlle—talk about two very common pitfalls when representing diverse characters: essentialism and affirmative myopia.

 

More specifically, we talk about:

  • what essentialism is and what makes it problematic
  • the fact that a lot of stereotypes that persist today are based on pseudo-scientific practices we don’t consider science anymore
  • what affirmative myopia is and why we need to avoid it
  • how the movies Stonewall (2015) and Carol (2015) both fell into the affirmative myopia trap
  • why bringing down the dominant group upholds the structures we are trying to overthrow

 

Some quotes from this week’s episode:

From Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin: “Essentialism is the assumption that groups, categories or classes of objects have one or several
defining features exclusive to all members of that category. Some studies of race or gender, for
instance, assume the presence of essential characteristics distinguishing one race from another
or the feminine from the masculine.” 

 

“If we believe people are determined by their biological make-up, we’re basically saying that the way the world functions and our positions and situations within that world can’t really be changed. If existing power relations are in place because there is some inherent logic in our DNA that defines our place and role within society, how do you challenge the status quo?”

 

“Those essentialised stereotypes, which are often based on science we no longer consider real science, are still running rampant. We still have so many assumptions about the ‘other’ – those with different identity markers – floating around in our collective unconsciousness.” 

 

“This doesn’t mean we can’t have late black people, angry black women, violent Muslims, perfectly styled gay guys and butch lesbians in our work. But, whenever we write a character, we should make sure we didn’t give them these characteristics just because they are gay, lesbian, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim, young, old, poor, rich, and so on. We need to give them solid reasons and explainable circumstances for why they are being this way or why they are acting that way, one that goes beyond mere biology.” 

 

“If we, in our attempts to elevate those voices by representing them in better ways, fall into the affirmative myopia trap by, for example, negatively depicting those who’ve always been in power, we’re perpetuating the same structures that created that status quo in the first place. We lift one group by bringing another down.”

 

And here are the (re)sources we mentioned on the show:

 

This week’s bonus material can be found here: https://representationmatters.art/2021/11/04/episode6/

 

To be the first to know when our next episode drops, subscribe to our newsletter here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/r3p6g8 

 

As always, we’d love for you to join the conversation by filling out our questionnaires. 

 

Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Writer Questionnaire can be filled in at https://forms.gle/UUEbeEvxsdwk1kuy5

 

Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Reader Questionnaire can be filled in at https://forms.gle/gTAg4qrvaCPtqVJ36 

 

Don’t forget, you can find us at https://representationmatters.art/ and on https://www.facebook.com/doingdiversityinwriting 

Season 1 Episode 5 - How Does Representation Work for Writers?

Season 1 Episode 5 - How Does Representation Work for Writers?

October 28, 2021

In this episode of Doing Diversity in Writing, we—Bethany and Mariëlle—talk about how representation actually works.

 

We talk about: 

  • at representation is about who we make visible and who are rendered invisible because of those decisions
  • why minority voices are automatically amplified when they are represented
  • that representation is not just about who is present within works of fiction but also about HOW they are present
  • why shoehorning diverse characters into your work isn’t the answer
  • Netflix’s Bridgerton showing us how we can reinvent the world without erasing painful histories
  • why it’s so hard to go against existing stereotypes and tropes in our writing (which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying!)

 

Some quotes from this week’s episode:

When there’s very little or no representation, or all the representations are the same, that one character, that one characterisation, can be all a reader knows for a long time.”

 

“It’s not just the case that certain groups of people are culturally absent or not as present, there’s also the fact that those few representations of them out there tend to be stereotypical and potentially harmful.”

“If we want to make a real effort, is it enough to sneak in a single homosexual character or someone belonging to an ethnic minority? Are we doing our bit to change the world by adding one black woman to our very white cast? Or one Muslim family to our otherwise Christian or secular world?”

 

“Inclusion matters, but representation just for the sake of inclusion isn’t really the answer.” 

 

“There’s more to diversity than race and gender. Don’t think you can’t write diverse characters just because it doesn’t make sense to include a cast of black or Asian or Hispanic characters in your world.” 

 

“Each society comes with its own set of stereotypes for those who are considered ‘other’, and it’s really difficult to counter or break down these different ‘types’ and provide better alternatives.”

 

“Representation is not only about who we make present, it’s also about how we make them present. Doing representation right means we should think through both steps.”

 

And here are the (re)sources we mentioned on the show:

 

This week’s bonus material can be found here: https://representationmatters.art/2021/10/28/episode5/ 

 

To be the first to know when our next episode drops, subscribe to our newsletter here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/r3p6g8 

 

As always, we’d love for you to join the conversation by filling out our questionnaires. 

 

Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Writer Questionnaire can be filled in at https://forms.gle/UUEbeEvxsdwk1kuy5

 

Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Reader Questionnaire can be filled in at https://forms.gle/gTAg4qrvaCPtqVJ36 

 

Don’t forget, you can find us at https://representationmatters.art/ and on https://www.facebook.com/doingdiversityinwriting 

 

Season 1 Episode 4 - The Fear of Cultural Appropriation

Season 1 Episode 4 - The Fear of Cultural Appropriation

October 21, 2021

In this episode of Doing Diversity in Writing, we—Bethany and Mariëlle—talk about the fear of cultural appropriation.

More specifically, we talk about: 

  • How we define cultural appropriation
  • The difference between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange
  • Assassin’s Creed III vs. Disney’s Pocahontas, and why Assassin’s Creed III does it better than Pocahontas did
  • The “So sorry about colonialism” narrative
  • Marvel’s Black Panther, and why the museum scene made Mariëlle say “Fuck yes!” aloud in the theater

Some quotes from this week’s episode:

“These days, cultural appropriation is understood to focus on those moments, those points of interaction and usage, where certain customs, practices, ideas, and so on, are being employed by usually a more dominant culture without any of the positives. There is no positive exchange going on that somehow benefits those whose culture is being used by that other, often more dominant, culture.”

“I can understand why some acknowledgement might feel like worth having, especially when there’s been almost none, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the bigger, disturbing picture remains solidly rooted within our dominant culture and history. And Pocahontas the Disney film did only acknowledge a fraction of it, while erasing the absolute tragedy and evil enacted on Pocahontas herself in real history.” 

 

And here are the (re)sources we mentioned on the show:

 

This week’s bonus material can be found here: https://representationmatters.art/2021/10/21/episode4/

 

To be the first to know when our next episode drops, subscribe to our newsletter here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/r3p6g8 

 

As always, we’d love for you to join the conversation by filling out our questionnaires. 

 

Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Writer Questionnaire can be filled in at https://forms.gle/UUEbeEvxsdwk1kuy5

 

Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Reader Questionnaire can be filled in at https://forms.gle/gTAg4qrvaCPtqVJ36 

 

Don’t forget, you can find us at https://representationmatters.art/ and on https://www.facebook.com/doingdiversityinwriting 

Season 1 Episode 3 - Common Fears and Frustrations

Season 1 Episode 3 - Common Fears and Frustrations

October 14, 2021

Show notes episode 3 – Common fears and frustrations

In this episode of Doing Diversity in Writing, we—Bethany and Mariëlle—discuss some of the fears and frustrations that might come up when writing diverse characters.

More specifically, we talk about the following fears: 

  • Representing someone in the wrong way…
  • …and why that shouldn’t keep us from trying
  • Taking someone else’s voice away by trying to speak for them…
  • …and where we stand in the Own Voices vs. Allies debate
  • Misrepresenting your own community…
  • and why this calls for a multiplicity of voices from each and every community

Some quotes from this week’s episode:

“Not all differences are considered equal. Depending on where we are as a society, and which society you’re writing about, some identity markers might carry more charge than others. Which is why some misrepresentations cause more outrage than others, and why we might be more scared of representing this character the wrong way than that character.”

 

“What we would love to see happen all around us is that people, instead of stepping away from the challenge because something is at stake, lean into the challenge and start taking those steps.”

 

“There are loads of things that are hard to get right as an author. The feel of a place, of an era, dialogue, how characters interact, character and story arcs that come full circle. Writing diverse characters is just one of those aspects. You don’t stop describing a place or cut out all your dialogue because it’s hard getting it right or needs more research.”

 

“Why put all of that labour on those diverse authors when we can actively contribute to creating a more diverse reading experience? Why can we not both create space for diverse authors and their voices WHILE we ourselves are working as hard to turn this world into a better place?”

 

And here are the (re)sources we mentioned on the show:

 

This week’s bonus material can be found here: https://representationmatters.art/2021/10/14/episode3/

 

To be the first to know when our next episode drops, subscribe to our newsletter here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/r3p6g8 

 

As always, we’d love for you to join the conversation by filling out our questionnaires. 

 

Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Writer Questionnaire can be filled in at https://forms.gle/UUEbeEvxsdwk1kuy5

 

Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Reader Questionnaire can be filled in at https://forms.gle/gTAg4qrvaCPtqVJ36 

 

Don’t forget, you can find us at https://representationmatters.art/ and on https://www.facebook.com/doingdiversityinwriting 

Season 1 - Episode 2 – Diversity and Representation in Fiction

Season 1 - Episode 2 – Diversity and Representation in Fiction

October 7, 2021

Episode 2 – Diversity and representation in fiction

In this episode of Doing Diversity in Writing, we—Bethany and Mariëlle—explain why a conversation about diversity and representation in fiction is necessary. 

We also talk about: 

    • the fact some characters are overrepresented while others are severely underrepresented in fiction
    • positive, and less positive, examples from our childhood and adult reading 
  • Mariëlle’s #ownvoices project My Voice, My Story
  • some of the reasons our literary canon is the way it is, even though things are slowly changing
  • how representing diverse characters is not just about quantity, it’s also about the quality of those representations

Some quotes from this week’s episode:

“It’s about being able to recognize yourself in the people around you, whether you meet them on the page, on the screen, in the park.”

 

“Are there no books that made you open your mind to something or turned your whole world upside down? Stories that made you feel understood, that made you feel less alone, that helped you keep going when you didn’t know how to?”

 

“Not seeing something can create a void, but if we do see something and that something is a negative or highly stereotypical, then there we have another problem.”

 

Here are the (re)sources we mentioned on the show:

And you can find this week’s bonus material here: https://representationmatters.art/2021/10/07/episode2/

To be the first to know when our next episode drops, subscribe to our newsletter here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/r3p6g8

 

Season 1 Episode 1 - Introduction

Season 1 Episode 1 - Introduction

September 29, 2021

In this first episode of Doing Diversity in Writing, we—Bethany A. Tucker and Mariëlle S. Smith—talk about why we started this podcast, what our goals are for the show, and what topics we will be discussing in our first season and beyond.  

 

We also talk about: 

 

  • who this podcast is for—fiction writers wanting to write characters who aren’t like them in one or multiple ways
  • our personal experiences with diversity and how these influenced both our writing and editing 
  • why we need to have a conversation about writing diversity in fiction
  • why we believe anyone can write about diverse characters
  • the privilege of not having to care about diversity and why this is exactly why you should take up your pen and join the cause
  • how our podcast will help you work through any fears around writing diverse characters you may have

And here are the (re)sources we mentioned on the show:

  • You can find our website at https://representationmatters.art
  • You can find Bethany’s Edit Your Novel’s Structure (the brilliant book that made Mariëlle want to work with her on diversity and representation) at https://theartandscienceofwords.com/new-book-for-authors
  • The Minorities in Publishing podcast can be found at https://www.jennifernbaker.com/podcast
  • Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Writer Questionnaire can be filled in at https://forms.gle/UUEbeEvxsdwk1kuy5
  • Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Reader Questionnaire can be filled in at https://forms.gle/gTAg4qrvaCPtqVJ36 

 

To be the first to know when our next episode drops, subscribe to our newsletter here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/r3p6g8 

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