My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Year of Diverse Polls

ETA NOTE: I link this post in every version of calls for nominations and calls to vote and results for the given polls. Yet every time, someone who clearly hasn't read it jumps into the comments on my Facebook page to talk about how they would never let an author's whatever affect their love of a book. (Yes, of course you don't. That is exactly the point. Read on.) Let this added edit serve as a clearly marked disclaimer and warning that such comments will be cheerfully deleted and if its progenitor brings any "you liberals/you SJWs and your" or "THIS is the real racism" crap to the table as well, the cheerfulness will extend to their banning. 

Please consider there is an entire menu of articles here called Social Justice Bard. If you think using "SJW" as a pejorative on FB is going to get you *anything* but banned from my page, please allow me to divest you of your misunderstanding. 

I have a big announcement for our next twelve months (or so) of polls. This post is going to be half announcement and half rules that I can link back to each subsequent poll.

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) Similarly "whiteness" can said to be a complex and fraught phenomenon with a moving umbrella of who "counts" and who doesn't. White hispanics, for example have a very complicated relationship with whiteness and it's not so simple as just ethnicity, just skin color, or just nationality. Historically, for example, Jews have very much been OUTSIDE of whiteness, in the last generation or so they tentatively been within whiteness, and are beginning to get pushed towards the edges again by the Nazis, white supremacists, and other members of the extreme right. I don't claim I haven't been raised and treated as white even if my mother's mother's maiden name was Rosencrantz. My point isn't to exclude any one group that is starting to lose their white privilege in the last couple of years to rising bigotry, but many authors (say, for example Neil Gaiman) have enjoyed much of white privilege for most of their career.

4) 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.

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