Wednesday, March 14, 2018
A Year of Diverse Polls
For the next twelve months and change, Writing About Writing will be running polls in the spirit of K.T. Bradford's challenge to stop reading cishet white dudes for a year. Every. Single. Poll. we run here for the next year will have an overarching rule of no cishet white dudes.
Recently I reran this post and our very last poll (about women and gender variant folks of color), and one of the most common bits of....feedback (yes, let's use that nice, steril word) I got was that people don't know and/or care who an author is when picking a book up. They just buy stacks and stacks of "good books" and somehow against all statistical odds their shelves fill with cishet white dudes. Magically.
The point of this exercise is that maybe it's time to think about these things. Maybe the publishing industry is so whitewashed because folks with reasonably good intentions will perpetuate the agendas of folks with absolutely shitstain horrible intentions if the former don't make an active, conscious effort to work against the latter. Maybe cishet white guys have a lot of unearned advantages in publishing (and everywhere else) and leveling the playing field just the tiniest bit will lift up everyone else and if it hurts any of them, it will really only be the mediocre ones.
Besides, it sounds like you all could use some fucking recommendations if you literally can't think of a book by a person of color OR a woman OR someone under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella that would be worth reading. So for the next year, we're going to do all our greatest hits–just without the cis het white dudes.
Here are the guidelines for our next year of polls that I will link with each new poll:
1) I'm not here to gate keep identity. If someone has talked about their race as non-white (in more than a "I'm 1/8th Cherokee" kind of way) or their sexuality in a meaningful way, they're in. They don't have to be living a particular life for us to believe them. (For example, I'm not here for any bi-erasure because someone has a traditional looking marriage.) On the other hand, James Franco....not so much.
2) Passing privilege is a very real and extremely complex and fraught phenomenon where people trade erasure of their identity against the experience of oppression in our society. (I pass as a cishet white dude even though only one of those things is arguably true [and even that I would caveat to anyone close enough to listen to the buy-me-lunch version]. However, I wouldn't be muscling to get onto these polls either as I know my life mostly operates as if I am a cishet white dude.) Let's all admit right now that we don't know (and can't know) all about every biographical detail of every author. We will stick to what we know and what these writers share openly with the world and remember that the spirit of this whole endeavor isn't to be "technically correct" but to encourage ourselves to read outside our normal comfort zone of voices.
3) I know this will likely lead to a lot of polls with cis het dudes of color or cis white women or cis white men who identify as queer. And folks from these groups sometimes focus on their own experiences with marginalization while being a little insensitive to others'. However in keeping with the spirit of Bradford's challenge, we're only ousting the cishet white dudes this time.