A couple of years ago, a male friend who wrote from a female POV got back a letter telling him this was unethical. Not just bad writing, mind – which knowing my friend it wouldn’t be – but wrong on a moral level. He couldn’t write women, because he wasn’t one.
This worried me because I’m one of those writers who writes preferentially as the opposite gender. There have always been half a dozen of them (Heinlein was about even) and in my case, when I started writing, I just didn’t feel comfortable writing as a woman. Part of this was that I was raised to be a tomboy and, having attended an all girls’ school for five years, know that I’m not only NOT a typical female, I have no clue how typical females work. But on top of that, I didn’t know how AMERICAN females worked. (Yes, they’re more different than males. Partly, I think because women are more “creatures of the group” by evolutionary design.)
However, when I looked further into this, I found out that the problem was not writing something you’re not – phew! Those of us who have written aliens ARE grateful – but this thing called “stealing victimhood.” You’re not supposed to write anyone who can be considered down the totem pole from you and “victims of society.” Yes, yes, for this they use the whole Marxist thought thing which, as you know, makes my teeth hurt (as the fangs come out.)
But let’s forget that for a moment, because if I start beating up on Marx I’ll be here all day and I have a book to finish.
Let’s just assume that they are right and that there is inherent “victimhood” in being female, “of color” (as opposed to those translucent people you see all around. Total yucko, them. Also, they get run over all the time because people can’t see them), gay or handicapped.
Okay, so there’s “victimhood”. And? What do they mean “stealing victimhood?” Is it points in a game that you collect and can convert into cash?
My dears, I know that it doesn’t make sense, but yes, in their minds – which means the minds of many recent college graduates, editors included – YES. Yes, there’s inherent value in being a victim. Yes, this will convert into mountains of cash.
Take a deep breath. What this means is that … Yes, yes, indeed… These people BUY BOOKS because of that. And I don’t mean just for their private consumption, but for selling to other people.
Now think about it, boys, girls and dragons, when IS the last time you picked up a book in the store or downloaded a sample from Amazon, for that matter and went “This book is about a deaf pacific islander lesbian! It’s a total buy!” Right. Unless for some reason I’m interested about the life of deaf pacific islander lesbians at THAT moment, then the book better have a lot more to recommend it. I suspect most people are the same.
Except possibly editors and glitterati. The books my kids are forced to read for school, which are a fair sample of what the “intellectuals” consider good are often exactly like that “oppressed minority gets oppress” IS the book.
And the fact they think that “victimhood” is something to steal just about tells you why the publishing houses are almost all scrambling on the verge of bankruptcy.
Look, kiddies, if I want to experience someone who gets victimized I can look at being a writer struggling to survive while everyone has their hand in your pocket. Only that’s not likely to be bought and would probably confuse the readers who know we’re all rich.
I write characters of all colors, including some that don’t exist in reality. I write characters of all sexual orientations, including some that don’t exist in reality (dragons turn them on. No, really. Um… I should release that story for kindle), I write characters from every possible origin and of some impossible genders (shape changing/gender changing elf.)
What I DO NOT write are victims. Oh, some of my characters are up against huge obstacles and some of them get crushed in the end, but they go down swinging. (Not usually that type of swinging, no. I get bored writing it, guys. Sorry.) If they lose, they lose with fists balled and yelling defiance to the world.
Why? Because I have no time for victims. And I PARTICULARLY, STRONGLY despise people who think being born something like woman or melanin enhanced or gay makes you a victim. It’s funny, but none of my friends in that situation feel that way. Oh, they’re sometimes annoyed at the way people behave to them – like, who isn’t? – but that’s part of being human. None of them lies down groaning and muttering “oh, the injustice.”
So, I’ll continue writing whatever and whomever I d*mn well please. If I do it badly, you can stomp me. But you CANNOT accuse me of “stealing victimhood.”
I didn’t do it, guv. Ain’t taken no victimhood. You won’t find it anywhere on me.
*crossposted at According To Hoyt*