What do authors Enid Blyton, Muriel Barbery, J.K Rowling, K.A Applegate, Suzanne Collins, Kim Harrison, Christine Harris, Aimee Friedman, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Eleanor H. Porter, Daphne DuMaurier, Fiona Barton, Harper Lee, Sue Townsend, Anne Frank, Louisa May Alcott and Natalie Babbitt, have in common? Other than being among the authors that hugely inspired my own writing, they have one thing in common. They’re women.
But there’s a problem. These women are white women. Despite being writers with diverse life situations—with situations as varied as Anne Frank, a Dutch-German journal-writer who died of typhus in a concentration camp in 1945, to timeless children’s authors like Blyton, Montgomery and Porter, to writers of riveting suspense fiction like duMaurier and satirists like Townsend. There are more than just these authors. You’ve got the classics like Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Mary Shelley. You’ve got contemporary lit that my mum enjoys, like Sheila O’Flanagan, Maeve Binchy, and Rachael Johns. You’ve got so many successful women throughout modern literature, but that’s not enough for those who reside in social justice circles.
I have nothing against equality and diversity. I’m libertarian/centre-left on the political scale, and support most left-leaning causes, with a tiny fraction of right-leaning ones. My problem, as I’ve blogged before, are the radical communists and anarchofeminists on my side of politics—more commonly known as intersectional feminists. I love to read books by all sorts of different authors—as long as they have an intriguing plot—and enjoy books by the likes of authors like my current #amreading, Marie Kondo, and if you have any book recommendations, please leave me some in the comments. I’m always looking to increase my TBR List!
My problem is not with finding books to read. There are millions of books floating around, thanks to the invasion of self-publishing services like Amazon and Smashwords. On the contrary, there are too many books to read, and not enough time to read them all! My issue is with the media’s current obsession with “diversifying fiction”. They’ve done it with video games and movies, and now they’re doing it with fiction and nonfiction. It’s the aforementioned intersectional feminists who claim:
We long for the day when we don’t have to single out authors – or anyone of any walk of life, for that matter – for their gender —The Guardian
Why is this such a problem? you may ask. I would answer by saying there’s no problem with this—if anything, it’s too noble. We shouldn’t have to focus on the gender, race or sexuality of an author to enjoy their work, unless their work specifically asks us to do that. The Guardian, who is responsible for this little quote, says we should not have to single out authors, and then singles out authors for their specific gender: female. It’s not just The Guardian who is doing this. A quick Google search of the term “white female author” leads to a bunch of articles from news sites and blogs alike calling for us to read more books by diverse/POC authors. The first one that caught my eye, by Bustle, purports that 79% of the publishing industry is white, and that we should get past the “myth that only white voices sell”, which makes me think these people think it’s still the pre-Civil Rights Movement. Nonwhite people—or People of Colour, as these modern racists like to call them—are not living a life akin to those in the pro-KKK movie Birth of a Nation, but articles like these make it sound like there are lynchings on the street every second day. Continuing on, you also have this article listing 34 books by Women of Colour (there’s that term again), in which the writer says the only female writers they realised they enjoyed were—God Forbid—WHITE.
So, I tried to right the balance; before long, I did. Good! — Electric Literate
It apparently beggars belief by these authors that white people, just like nonwhite people, aren’t all the same. There is no simple “black culture” and no simple “white culture”. There is, in fact, respective Afrikaans, Sudanese, Zulu, Maori, Greek, Celtic, Welsh, Irish, etc, cultures. It drives me (figuratively) insane that these people harp on about needing more “POC” artistic types, without realising the inherent racism behind what they are saying. Putting thousands of different cultures under the “diverse” or “coloured person” label is so disgusting, I’m amazed it still gets coverage in the media and on Twitter through hashtags such as #INeedDiverseBooks. Unless this person is specifically writing a story about their specific culture, there is no need to warrant any mention about their race. Writing a manuscript is generally a long and arduous process. It involves many months of effort (unless you’re Stephen King, who as the old joke goes, has probably written 10 novels in the time it’s taken for you to read this paragraph). It involves, quite frankly, a shit-ton of effort. And that’s even before the editing, and the query letters, and the submissions, and working with agents and publishers, and especially before post-publication. When I have my manuscripts published in the future, I will want people to enjoy them because they like my work, not just because I’m a woman. Being a woman, nonwhite, LGBT, or whatever, is not a character trait or a feature of your personality, unless you’ve experienced hardships due to those (being in a refugee camp, arrested simply for your sexuality, being denied the right to vote based on who you are).
There is nothing inherently wrong with things like #INeedDiverseBooks and raising the voices of authors and others creative types at a basic level. My main issue is that it’s treating these people as if they’re less than human, that we must treat them like weak, meek little kids who need mummy and daddy’s hand to do anything in life, when this isn’t true. Plenty of people from marginalised communities have risen beyond what is expected of them and become icons for generations. Not all people who are considered “diverse” are poor, struggling beings who can only function with the help of the privileged souls living in beacons of money and influence like San Francisco, New York, and the inner-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. This is a stereotype that furthers the divide between those who are white and non-white, men and women, straight and LGBT people. This divisiveness perpetuated by the modern media and the privileged Veruca Salt’s of the world needs to stop and it needs to stop right now.
It should not be a struggle to get published if you are not white simply because white people dominated the publishing industry up until the last few decades. A man should not have issues being published because he is a man and men of the past had “privilege”. White women should not be ignored because they are too privileged and because 53% of white American women voted for Trump, then all white women in the world are evil. Women (both white and nonwhite) have only been positively accepted in the publishing industry as early as the early 20th century. Regular, non-upper-class men have only been accepted for a few hundred years. Ignoring people’s stories because of the behaviour of past human behaviour is a disgusting form of discrimination. It needs to stop.
The only way to move forward is to publish all sorts of stories, all sorts of video games, all sorts of movies. Publish stories for and by men and women. Publish stories about hetero and homosexual love stories. Publish stories by authors from the wide rainbow of nations and races across this great earth. Because a true reader will read anything, as long as it’s written reasonably well (and it doesn’t have to be reasonable—many of the greatest stories of all time are barely literate!). Gender and skin colour don’t negate writing ability.
Just bloody read. Anything and everything. Even if you disagree with it. Especially if you disagree with it. It’s the only way to a truly diverse society.