Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Best Intentions...

I've come to value perspective and empathy: I don't have it, but over the years, I've become aware that I don't have these qualities.

One of the problems when we talk about topics like diversity, privilege, racism, feminism, misogyny, etc. is that some participants think they see the entire picture. And despite the best intentions, we have shortcomings. For example, in 2012, some prominent bloggers tackle "World SF" in their own way. There was one person who talked about African Science Fiction but only chose to include Mike Resnick in his title. Or another who wanted more Chinese Science Fiction, but was asking to see more space-oriented fiction akin to the "Golden Age" of Western science fiction with China's space program. That's not to shame them, and they had the best of intentions, but it's also ignorant and they're probably unaware of what they did wrong (and I'm guilty of this too).

But what I want to talk about is how sometimes, in supporting a particular cause, we can end up neglecting others. Just look at the difference between third-wave feminism and second-wave feminism: the former addresses a lot of concerns for people who don't conform to the gender binary, while the latter does not. In practical terms, I might produce an anthology highlighting People of Color (POC) for example, but leave out women, or vice versa.

One not-so-recent Twitter conversation I saw for example was a publisher asking for gender stats from a magazine and the managing editor smartly replied that they couldn't just give out stats divided into male/female--at least not based on name alone (which, in itself, isn't exactly the most accurate way). Some contributors identify themselves with different gender identities so the binary statistics model doesn't fit. It didn't occur to me back then, but they made great sense. And again, it's a shortcoming of my existing paradigm.

That's not to say that we should give up on our causes since they're going to be flawed, but rather we need to keep an open mind and progress the conversation. While not all change is necessarily good, if we are to evolve to be better people in general, our ideas and beliefs also need to grow and develop.

1 comment:

TansyRR said...

Great post, Charles! This is really important stuff.

Being inclusive of and aware of intersectionality is one of the key issues that has affected and changed feminism in recent years.

It's really difficult at times to accept criticisms about failing to take these issues into account, not least because many of the legitimate criticisms around lack of intersectionality can at times sound VERY similar to the arguments that people often use to derail issues - like, your feminism isn't perfect, you're not helping everyone, therefore you should stop trying.

There's always more to learn about how people work, and how diverse humans really are! I think as long as we keep trying to do better (and encouraging others to keep trying), we're on the right path.