Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Discriminating Writing (WW? #19)

Even coming in late with an answer to Jess’ latest Writer’s Weekly Question, I’m still finding it tough to answer this one.

Writer's Weekly Question #19:
We are a society that is literally besieged by historical, political, social, and even religious upheaval and decisions due to our connection to an information driven world. Do these things impact our creative process and do our opinions concerning various historical, political, social, and religious questions show up in our products (this can be writing, or art, or other things that involve creative process)? If so, how?

I’d say there’s little doubt that my answer is “Yes.” In fact, I’m surprised by how much of my political and religious views just sneak in there when I’m writing. I was born in 1973, so I was quite a ways post-civil rights movement. Even so, I grew up in a “New South” where equality of sex and race were a never-ending source of angst despite the fact such matters were supposedly resolved in the Constitution and the courts. Certainly, the South doesn’t have the market cornered on equality issues. One need only watch a half hour of news anywhere in this nation, and you’re almost guaranteed to find some story about someone’s rights being trampled upon because of their race, sex, religious beliefs and/or sexual orientation.

I could list lots of other issues, but for the sake of keeping this entry from growing too long, I’ll focus on equality. Perhaps the most telling element to my writing where equality is concerned has to do with women. I’ve even written a previous entry bemoaning how women are treated in most fantasy novels. Women are equals. Yes, they come with their unique quirks, but we guys do, too. In the end, there truly is little a man can do that a woman can’t and vice versa. I grew up with a sister who was a tomboy. She taught me sports, not my father. I didn’t just grow up being told women were equal. I grew up expecting a woman to be my equal, and if she behaved as anything less, I just couldn’t really respect her. I can’t say that view has changed much.

If the barrage of information in the news and other media about equality influenced me in anyway, it was to make me tired of hearing about it. I can’t tell you how many times I read a story about some young woman thrust into what has typically a “man’s” title and must overcome the doubts and scorn of the men and women around her. Whenever I read these stories, I just cringe. What I love are the stories that don’t beat me over the head with these things. I’ve heard about it in the news and in my home. Guess what. I’m far past sold on the idea of judging a person based on their actions versus their genetics.

In my last rant about women in fiction, I praised Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series. The reason I enjoy it so much is that we aren’t constantly hit over the head with the stereotype of women being treated as inferior. The playing field is a lot more equal in those books, but it’s still a far cry from a perfect world. The men and women still can’t get along. The men vent about how women treat them; the women still complain about the mule-headed men, but you don’t see these women being questioned for being able to hold power. Even when these female rulers are feared, it’s not about their sex or their race. It’s fear of their power alone, not a fear of women with power.

The irony is that I’m not so much tired of the women worrying about being underestimated by men. I’m tired of the men always being treated as doubting the ability of women. There are men who think a woman is just as capable; I’m one of them. I’d rather read more about guys like that.

One of my favorite moments in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight is when one of the old-timer dragonriders learns the “modern day” riders don’t let their queens fight in order to protect them. The modern rider is floored by this reaction and asks if the old-timers really allow their queens to fight. The old-timer practically laughs at him and says, “Allow?...You can’t stop them.”

So let me bring this roundabout answer full circle. Yes, I’m influenced by the information glut around me. I’m quite the sponge when it comes to that stuff, but it’s not always a matter or mimicking what I see and read. Sometimes, when I write, my goal is to take these things to the next step.

The issue of tolerance in its many forms shows up quite often within my writing. There are elements of racism, nationalism and religious discrimination throughout. I’m not so much interested in these struggles as they apply to the individual who is being discriminated against. What fascinates me is how a society must change to accept these differences and still find a way to retain its beliefs and identity.


Sandra Ruttan said...

I agree. I think our attitudes do sneak into our writing. I see evidence of that in my longer work, for sure.

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Yeah, I've found when writing a book, I reach a point where I'm on "auto pilot," so to speak. I think this is where a lot of these things sneak into my writing, and it often seems like the best stuff.