It isn’t just about representation. It’s about normalization. It’s about allowing people to realize that their sheltered life of limited experiences is not all that exists in the world. That there are others besides themselves, who maybe don’t look the same, and maybe don’t love the same, and maybe don’t believe the same things, but all the things they are, are just as valid as all the things you are, or I am.
It isn’t just about making sure that little girl grows up knowing she can be on TV, too, it’s also about teaching all the little girls and boys who have never doubted that they can be on television, that being on television isn’t just THEIRS to dream. That more than just people who look like them and talk like them and believe like them EXIST, and they have as much a right to that future job/life/dream/fantasy/world as anyone else.
Why do we have a skewed perception of what the “Average woman” looks like? Because the media and the entertainment industry has normalized a small subset of body types. But wouldn’t it be awesome if we could use that same TREMENDOUS power to normalize diversity? Race, creed, sexuality, form, substance, you name it.
As a writer, I know this is a weakness of mine. That I need to include more diversity in my works. As a writer, I’m trying to change, to be better about it, to do more. to do my part. I want to be part of normalizing, not abnormalizing. I want to open minds with my fiction, not close them.
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I will never 100% get what it is like to be a man, because I'm a woman. But it doesn't stop me from writing male characters. I mean, it isn't a perfect parallel, because we're inundated with the male experience, the male gaze, the male-as-default through media, but I think it's valid.
I will never 100% know what it is to be British, but I wrote British characters. I will never 100% know what it is to grow up and be raised French-nobility, but I wrote French Noblemen. I will never 100% know what it is to be a Bronze Age Greek, but I definitely don't let that stop me from exploring what might have been, what was, and creating characters who might have lived that life.
Writing diversity requires the same skill set. The same desire to research and learn and imagine, and I think there is nothing inauthentic in making the genuine attempt to include them. Including diverse characters and culture as window dressing is something else altogether, but I know that isn't the writer you are, and the writers who genuinely care about fighting this battle to normalize diversity aren't those kinds of writers, either, I would imagine. Will people critique my attempts at diversity? Sure. While some people find it problematic? I would imagine so. But since some people are bound to find my writing of a character with all the same advantages and upbringing and cultural everything as myself problematic, I don't see why we should let that concern stop us from trying, and, hopefully, learning from those critiques so that we can do better next time.
The other thing to consider, too, is that if you're writing a fantasy book set in another world, in another time, there isn't any reason why you can't include diverse characters, and because that is a fantasy world, and those people would not have been in our world, experiencing what people here experience, maybe it would be less of a target, while still accomplishing something toward normalization and representation, superficially at the least! It isn't perfect, but it still helps.
(reposted from here.)
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