A List of Words I Can’t Use in my Writing Class

Regular
Standard
Normal
Common
Traditional
Expected
Minority” as defined “I was among the minority” (as a white man in a class of non-white women)
Soul” as defined “it has soul,” i.e. It has character, depth, spirit. I am the wrong skin color to use this word.
Native American (even though we are referring to tribes that identify themselves as such)
Indian (even though we were referring to one of Indiana’s Native cultures that explicitly identifies as such), but can use Native Indian
Generalized as defined “I feel generalized” – because I can’t.
Marginalized as defined “I feel marginalized” – because I can’t.

I feel trapped and oddly policed. lol As if I’m being shoved into a blanket statement narration of who I am and what I’ve been through in my life. Continue reading

Cultural Appropriation: When the Chicken Doesn’t Hatch from the Egg

I recently wrote a short story for a creative writing class that had a heavy emphasis on feminism, equality, and the removal of appropriative stereotypes (not the story; the class). Throughout this class, I’ve felt more and more dour about my place in it: every day we meet, I am told how I have flouted my power to oppress and dehumanize everyone not me. I am aware of this. I work hard to remove the bias in my life. I work hard to use my privilege for good, if possible. I watch preference given to others who have had to work twice as hard as me to get where they are, and I respect the preference. I don’t know how to write about what I want to write anymore because of all the boundaries and expectations. This gives me a whole new twist on “write what you know.”

But this short story has me confused and bewildered. A long while back, I wrote a story about the most fierce and independent women I had ever met: my ex wife. She was a warrior, a fighter, broken and not, flawed and abusive and everything complex about a person you could possibly want. And exotic. And powerful. Given this class is about the empowering of women, and minorities, and those traditionally without voice, and she’s as untraditional a person I had ever met, I revived it, revised it, reviewed it, revised it again, and handed it in.

If I had problems with the insane amount of, “you can’t write effectively about this because you’re white,” and, “you can’t write about this because you’re male,” restrictions–and then being told I must write it in a social justice vein, where I’m expected to write about an issue I have no business writing about–surely I found a way around it by telling a fairy tale story based strongly on a real life, honest-to-god person.

Not so much. Continue reading

A Short Note on Sexism and Feminism

I want more of these colors in my life.

I want more of these colors in my life.

Hey everybody!

Before I go into what I’m certain is a hot topic, I do not condone inequality. In fact, I feel men and women are entirely equal, racism is a social construct meant only to subvert others, and I have a profound respect for everyone. I am a feminist.

So my partially-partially finished novel, Red Wing Black, went to a friend of mine. I wrote it from the point of view of an ignorantly misogynistic guy who knows nothing of himself, and up until the novel’s start had skated on his male white privilege.  There are several examples of this throughout the book, along with several examples of ladies doing–ahem–their thing as well.

This friend of mine handed it back, half-read, and said, “No. No I can’t read any more of this. I can’t.”

Why not?

Continue reading

What is the Bechdel Test (and Other Tests), as it Pertains to Writing?

Mako Mori, via Pacific Rim.

Mako Mori, via Pacific Rim.

I was doing research over at Red Sofa Literary, and under one of the literary agent’s (Laura Zats) scifi/fantasy reading requirements, I read “must pass either the Mako Mori or Bechdel tests.” I know who Mako Mori is, given I have an anime/manga obsessed friend who absolutely loved Pacific Rim (she’s one of two protagonists in the film), but I didn’t know she had a test to go along with her character. I’ve never heard of Bechdel, so I decided to dig deeper.

Research on Wikipedia (I know! Super-high tech research engine) shows they are “feminist” tests in movies. What does this mean?

Continue reading

A Complication concerning Feminism.

This isn’t directly about feminism. It’s actually a lot more about philosophy. Or something.

The way I write certain things comes out as a big ball of inspiration, or crazy–I don’t know which. To the subconscious, primordial soup that is my “muse,” I pile all things of interest day in and day out, sometimes months or years at a time, until one day I wake up with a huge brick of… muse excrement… that looks something like a painting.

I recently posted one of those bricks to a critiquing group. Six people tried to read and understand it, and I dare say, only one made it to where I was hoping; he was able to critique it, criticize it, and give me an incredible amount of insight to what I was writing, and how to make it better. He even touched something inside me when he said, “I think you are unlike most people and like me. You read for fun, yes, but you prefer to read to get something out of it.” English is his third language, and he understood more of it than any of the other critiquers on the site. He fumbled through a lot, lost a lot of information, but ticked through, line for line, each image and idea. It was incredible.

The story begins with a woman sitting in the middle of a stone-walled room, on a couch, staring at the incense smoke coming from a burner on the side of the couch. She followed it, and she sets out on an internal journey that follows objects in the room–tapestries, a bone cage, a skeleton of a bird–and she comes to the realization that she wants to leave the room, leave the house, and become like her husband, a warrior. It’s complicated in that I used several paintings of fire imagry–flame without smoke, smoke without flame, an empty fireplace, incense smoke–to denote the observation of fire with no heat. The woman needs heat. Feels warm. Wants to warm others.

It was a work that tickled me pink: I focused on a Taoist ideal, a tenent, which states that thought is divine, but the moment one acts on thought, one destroys the divinity and becomes destructive. The woman embodies a Taoist ideal in her thinking, in her observation, in her creation. The woman looks at the painting of Gelke, the Seraph-li (which is my word for a firefly angel), trapped in a bottle. Up until that moment, she embodied Gelke, a god. She was stoic, perfect, caged yet allowed to be caged. She stood as a person of absolute discipline: her freedom was inside, and her strength was there. Yet from the outside her husband had kept her at home, squandering her external qualities. So she came to a crossroads, a decision she had to make inside:

Remain, of her own volition, spiritually perfect, a symbol and sign of Gelke and Taoist belief? Or change, act, and destroy that perfection in lieu of physical equality to her husband and male counterpart, and become a warrior like him? Opposing the Seraph-li painting is the painting of a field of lilies in the water, denoting and symbolising a great battle fought in the same swamp. It was titled The Massacre of Lilies, and her husband had helped to create it. It is the decision between the two that this story hangs its climax on. She chooses the feministic side, touching the blue eggshells of Gelke’s hands one last time before leaving the room entirely.

It was lost on everyone. Taoist. Feminism. Everything. Lost. I wish I could portray this aspect as well as I want to. Yet with this frustration comes the one critique that can help me directly: he’s a spiritual man. I know this from his interest in suffering to understand, fighting to learn. He’s not a native American, either. He lives in some Swedish state. I enjoyed his critique so much, and it made me so happy to read it.

I’ll work on my piece and continue making it better. Maybe someday people will read it and go, “My God. She Chose Feminism over Taoism!” ~x