when alien races only have two genders. when those two genders are male and female. when that alien race adheres to the human gender binary. when female aliens have breasts. when alien races look exactly like humans except maybe they’re orange or purple
are you a boy? your clothes are boy clothes.
are you a girl? your clothes are girl clothes.
are you outside the binary of boy and girl? so are your clothes.
did someone just tell you your clothes don’t match your gender identity? they are a trashcan and their clothes are trashcan clothes.
Or in the words of Eddie Izzard..
I have been thinking about this a lot lately, curious to hear from all of you.
I have always thought of Science Fiction and fantasy as progressive genres. In particular, some powerful allegorical stories formed a lot of my opinions as a kid, regarding racism and intolerance, when I lived surrounded by those things in a very small, very rural farming community with little access to any kind of diversity.
But I am questioning these genres a bit lately. First, there’s a lot of stuff to question, even very recently, like known bigots being up for awards. And the lack of diversity in some of the most prominent fantasy works is hard to excuse (though people continue to try).
But I’ve been thinking…why allegory? Why so MUCH allegory?
Why should the audience accept stories about gender fluidity and trans issues and racism and the like, as told by white guys using robots and aliens?
I understand that these stories can be powerful and that sometimes the coded stuff was very meaningful in its time. And I understand that marginalized people often appropriate these magic or science fiction conceptual characters as their own, even when not explicitly stated so in the text.
But aren’t we past the point where that is necessary? Why is the audience still more accepting of a robot that represents a marginalized person, than an actual character that is explicitly from a marginalized group?
I see it all the time. And there’s a lot of coded criticism every time ANY character from a marginalized group is given prominence. Criticism that doesn’t show up when the same group is represented metaphorically with a fantasy stand-in.
You know, you just nailed something I ADORE about Saga.
The alien robots are the status quo/ruling class, and the marginalized actually resemble the marginalized of our world.
I’m not disagreeing with the heart of Ms. Simone’s article. We need more representation. We need more representation that isn’t allegorical or masked in robots, etc. Allow me to repeat myself: we need more representation.
But we’re still in an age where a heavier amount of our representation remains problematic. It’s far more important that we stop seeing stereotypes and caricatures of bisexuals (trans, aces, et al) in our media than we not have a marginalized robot. It’s far more important that we see bisexuals openly, happily rejecting the magical lands where bisexuality doesn’t exist than it is to toss aside the bisexual elves residing in other magical lands.
I don’t think the problem is too many trans robots, pansexual imps, or bisexual elves. I think the problem is too few honest and decent representations of our communities all across the board.
This is my “artistic” take on this discussion: I disagree that fiction has to represent the “real world.” When a writer is creating a work of fantasy, they are writing in their private space. If what they are creating is truly a personal work then they have no responsibility to adhere to anyone’s vision but their own. Yes, it’s entirely possible that readers may hate the work, they may find it unrealistic, or the work may simply not be some other thing that readers like better. But, as artists, that is the chance we take when creating our art. (On the other hand, I do understand that authors who make their livings as “employees” of publishers often have to bow to the demands of their benefactors. In these cases the author’s work is somewhat less about the art and more about creating a pleasing product.)
More representation of diverse people in fiction is important. This is how progress is made. But please don’t be angry with a writer, one who has a genuine vision for their work, if their work doesn’t have all the things you wish it did. The writer writes what they feel they must. If a writer’s work doesn’t give you what you want, then there are literally millions of other works out there for you to try. You may think the upcoming “Star Wars” films don’t have enough diversity in the cast (and I would agree with you), but the filmmakers don’t owe anybody (other than Disney) a thing. They can create a white-male-centric story if they want and YOU, as their intended audience, can choose to not support such a story by not watching the movies.
As a final note, I have to say I take issue with Simone’s question about why audiences “accept stories about gender fluidity and trans issues and racism and the like, as told by white guys using robots and aliens?” Is her point that robots and aliens should not be used as allegories, or is it that “white guys” should not be the ones writing them? If her point is the latter, then I disagree wholeheartedly that audiences should not accept the stories. If “white guys” shouldn’t write about gender fluidity, trans issues and racism, then that implies no writer should write about any kinds of people other than themselves. And where would that lead us on the matter of diverse representation?
I’m a white guy. I’m also bisexual, Jewish, in an interracial relationship, and was partly raised by a black woman who is like a second mother to me. White guys can be diverse, too! :D
But that is personalizing a much larger problem. No one cares that much one one author does in one story, that could be an exception. One all-white, all-straight cast doesn’t mean THAT much, if the rest of an author’s work is more diverse.
We aren’t talking about taking away a writer’s ‘personal vision.’ We are talking about a trend, an overwhelming ocean that consistently fails to portray marginalized people except as drops in that ocean. One story, not a big deal, several stories could still be the exception. But when the vast tsunami is all white and all straight and hugely skewing male, it is ridiculous not to acknowledge that reality. It didn’t happen by accident. It’s all choices people make deliberately.
There’s also just a whiff of the default that straight, white and male is ‘normal,’ and the baseline, and everything else is an ‘agenda,’ or ‘social justice,’ or ‘heavy-handed pandering,’ or whatever other bullshit people use to complain about giving anything like equal time to other people.
Complaining about a grain of sand is maybe not a huge priority. But when you are buried under a mountain of it, suddenly it takes on a bit more import, right?
And people always act like “artistic vision” is some sort of sacred cow, and like, if the author just doesn’t see the characters in their story as P.O.C. or QUILTBAG+ people or women, well then, you CAN’T question that because ARTISTIC VISION. And as a writer, I disagree with that wholeheartedly. As creators of new worlds, we ought to constantly be questioning and pushing the boundaries and asking *why* the world is the way it is, instead of blindly accepting it. We should be saying “Ok, but why are all your characters straight/white/male? Is it because they could only be straight/white/male? Or is it because you are so terribly used to all the people in all the stories being straight/white/male that you’re just going with it because it’s the default?” Going off what Gail said above about straight, white male being the baseline, I’ve been asked frequently when talking about my planned books and stories what the *reason* is for my characters being female, non-white, and QUILTBAG+. And I always respond, if they were straight, white, and male, would you be asking me that question? The reality is that in our societal mentality, characters that are not straight/white/male are seen as needing justification for their very existence, while characters that are just get to be.
One of the common anti-SJ tropes is “ugh, next they’ll be wanting fat black lesbians in wheelchairs or something.” To which I respond “…Yes, there are in fact people in our world who are fat black lesbians in wheelchairs, and they have thoughts and feelings and stories and experiences too. Your point?” I mean, I get it. I’m a straight white able-bodied girl, so all the protagonists in my stories prior to a couple of years ago were straight white able-bodied girls. And then I started reading up on diversity and the importance of representation in fiction, and I thought “damn, I’ve just been doing my default. I can do better.” So I started talking to my friends with different experiences, and learning how they experienced life, and trying to create complex and compelling characters who weren’t your average straight white able-bodied girls. And I’m sure that I’ve failed or fallen into stereotype at times along the way, but by God I have tried. So my original “artistic vision”, colored by my privilege, has not been diminished by the fact that I’ve started writing more diverse works; if anything, it’s vastly improved my writing because I’ve been *listening more to people and observing more.*
There’s an old saying that “some people see the things that are and ask why; others see the things that aren’t and ask why not.” When writers and fans call for and create diversity, they’re representing both groups. And until you can come up with a more compelling reason than “but THOSE people don’t do THAT stuff because history!!!” when I ask you “why not” to my bisexual biracial steampunk pirate queen, my disabled Asian dragon rider, my queer retelling of The Snow Queen, I’m gonna laugh in your face, tell you to do some reading, and continue to write the characters *I* want. It’s funny because asking for diversity and representation is always presented as some kind of creativity curb…but people who don’t want diversity always mock and make fun of and protest the writers who try to do it. And I’m kind of over it.
there is a startling and unfortunate deficiency of gender variant characters in fiction, one that is extremely unlikely to be remedied in popular media in any remotely satisfying fashion in the foreseeable future, so if people want to interpret existing characters in such a way then seriously just fucking let them
its ok if you didnt always know you were trans
its ok if you really felt like your designated gender. its ok if you really were a boy or girl at some point. its ok if you really would rather view your transness as changing from one thing to another (instead of a process of revealing what was already there). its ok if you didnt know that you were trans when you were a kid. its ok if youre only just starting to think about gender stuff now. its ok if you approached transness deliberately, experimentally, as a conscious choice. its ok to approach your gender as mutable
it doesnt mean your transness is less valid or like the gender you are now is less “real” just because its not something youve always been perfectly aware of. youre great and powerful and whatever you want for yourself in your future right now is important and worthy no matter how long youve wanted it
Mareep —> Flaaffy —> Sinaries (Trade w/ Ominous Horn, Male only)
Electric / Dark
'they' is a gender neutral pronoun. and therefore nonbinary, or at least not-necessarily-binary
ze/xe/ce/fae/etc. are nonbinary pronouns… but they are not gender neutral. they are *specifically* nonbinary. they are gender-specific like he and she, perhaps not in as consistent a way, but still.
you use singular they all the time
someone’s knocking on the door, i wonder what they want
there’s a person waving their hands at me from over there but i can’t hear them
does mysterycop follow you? i love their username
can you tell whichever person was in the bathroom last to please close the door behind them on their way out?
they IS properly, officially used to refer to a single individual person, quite a lot, in a plethora of different scenarios
all the opposition comes when it’s suggested that you can still use they once you’ve seen the person or heard their name, because you know someone’s gender once you’ve seen them or heard their name, of course
the opposition is not grammatical
Don’t refer to Andrej Pejic as a male model, don’t refer to Andrej Pejic using male pronouns, stop doing whatever it is you’re doing in regards to attempting to commodify and reinterpret trans/androgynous/gender non-conforming amab people’s identities to suit your desire to see and glorify cis men in women’s spaces and cis men celebrating and performing femininity when both cis and trans women can’t do that without ridicule and marginalization, thanks.