To think this is ridiculous? Re: Guardian opinion piece on cultural appropriation

(157 Posts)
Feminazi Sat 10-Sep-16 18:02:57

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/10/as-lionel-shriver-made-light-of-identity-i-had-no-choice-but-to-walk-out-on-her

This writer sounds like a spoilt child, unable to listen to anyone else's opinion!

Her own point is quite frankly ridiculous too! She claims that nobody should write about what they can't experience, it's cultural appropriation if they do! hmm

DesolateWaist Sat 10-Sep-16 18:11:14

So no man could ever write about a woman and no woman could ever write about a man?

I do see the point to an extent. I find the Number One Ladies Detective Agency leaves a bad taste in my mouth. How can a white Scottish man write as a black Botswanan woman?

Still, she lost me when she looked at a text from a friend while leaving meaning that she had been texting though the talk.

DeathStare Sat 10-Sep-16 18:12:48

I think she has a valid point.

It is a complex and nuanced issue but I think her point is a valid one.

Arfarfanarf Sat 10-Sep-16 18:21:09

She has a point.
Cultural appropriation is an important issue that is often arrogantly dismissed.

JellyPlum Sat 10-Sep-16 18:26:27

I also think she made a good point.

BiggerBoatNeeded Sat 10-Sep-16 18:32:33

As an aside I think her writing style is awful, really overblown. But I see aspects of her point certainly.

Wellywife Sat 10-Sep-16 18:41:08

So someone can only ever write about something they have experienced themselves? Whatever happened to using imagination?

Feminazi Sat 10-Sep-16 18:42:29

Fiction is by definition 'false'. If we only wrote about what we knew, literature would be very different. There would be no Shajespeare, Vanterbury Tales, or Harry Potter!

Further to that, this lady was exceptionally rude to be talking, texting, and then making a scene, during someone else's lecture!

Wellywife Sat 10-Sep-16 18:43:32

I don't think there's any evidence that Shakespeare had ever been to Italy, nor was he Danish. Nor was he female. So bye bye to Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

bluecashmere Sat 10-Sep-16 18:44:01

Although there's perhaps an issue of someone profiting from someone else's story that they can never fully understand, fiction has to be based on imagination to a certain extent.

If a writer is only able to write about what's within their own experience, surely that applies to the protagonist and all supporting characters. Does that mean they are only to have characters of their own sex, orientation, ethnicity and class? Sure to sell a lot of books based on that.

Sherlock35 Sat 10-Sep-16 18:45:36

I think she has a point too. I found the bit where she said that people with authentic experiences weren't getting published whilst people who were writing from other perspectives were was a good one. Why aren't publishers publishing African women writing about detectives? Or white male Scottish writers?

Feminazi Sat 10-Sep-16 18:46:06

Guess we need to say goodbye to fancy dress shops too then?

bluecashmere Sat 10-Sep-16 18:49:58

If writers from minority groups aren't being published, that is down to the publishing industry and potentially they would argue the book-buying public. It's not down to other writers, surely?

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Sat 10-Sep-16 18:55:33

I can kind of see what she's getting at but i just can't see how you can expect writers to only write about their direct experiences.

welly makes an excellent point about Shakespeare

nobodysbabynow Sat 10-Sep-16 18:56:41

I can't get past the terrible writing, the melodrama or the texting.

BombadierFritz Sat 10-Sep-16 18:58:38

sigh
talk about missing the entire point of the word fiction

KickAssAngel Sat 10-Sep-16 18:59:02

Jane Austen only ever wrote about what she knew about.

And there are MANY objections to the racism, sexism, religious bigotry and outright plagiarism within Shakespeare (and other dead white men).

And yes, First Nations people or Native Indian Americans also voice a lot of anger when white people write stories which allegedly represent them.

I also wonder why Rick Riordan can have half a book written from the POV of female characters but never make one of them the eponymous hero.

And there are plenty of fancy dress costumes without having to use black face racial appropriation.

So - yes, there is definitely a point to the argument that white people trying to represent other cultures is just another form of white colonialism. We may have stopped running the government, but we still think we can tell their stories for them.

OvariesBeforeBrovaries Sat 10-Sep-16 19:00:13

I think the writing style is wanky and she's being a bit ridiculous re: writers can only write what they've experienced, but cultural appropriation is a major problem. The biggest example being the treatment of Native/Indigenous Americans in the USA.

The use of "red-indian style" headbands on girls at festivals etc; the horrendous appropriation by the Washington Redskins, not only in their name but the merch (BuzzFeed did a great video on this the other day), shows how insensitive many people are to cultures other than their own. The appropriation of bindis with those little stick-on ones they used to sell is a similar problem.

EnquiringMingeWantsToKnow Sat 10-Sep-16 19:00:22

She has a point, and the people who are saying "We should burn Harry Potter because JK Rowling isn't a boy wizard then LOL!" are idiots, but at full stretch her argument would certainly deprive us of Anna Karenina, Vanity Fair, Moll Flanders and Madame Bovary. More selfishly it would destroy my current favourite books, the Rivers of London books and Game of Thrones, both of which are potentially rife with cultural appropriation and written by straight white non-disabled men. Not forgetting Buffy the Vampire Slayer of course.

The focus has to be on getting voices from underrepresented groups heard and publicised in their own right, and calling out writers who are genuinely doing a crap job of their cultural appropriation, rather than blanket restrictions on the stories more privileged people are able to tell.

venusinscorpio Sat 10-Sep-16 19:03:36

It's funny that the guardian, so horrified by these incidents, places so much importance onto what men think about what they cannot experience, isn't it? The "cultural appropriation" of trans politics is really quite breathtaking. But that's ok, obvs.

Pettywoman Sat 10-Sep-16 19:10:24

Well said Minge, I agree.

VeryPunny Sat 10-Sep-16 19:11:17

She has a point. It's an extremely important issue. Take the upcoming film of Ghost in the Shell, one of the classic Japanese manga. They've cast Scarlett Johansson in the lead role. WTF?

VeryBitchyRestingFace Sat 10-Sep-16 19:11:25

I don't agree with everything she says but I do think she has a valid point.

Am seeing a similar theme elsewhere at the moment in social media with Deaf people complaining about hearing actors being used to portray Deaf (BSL using) characters in film/TV/theatre.

A11TheSmallTh1ngs Sat 10-Sep-16 19:11:37

It's not ridiculous, this post is.

The problem isn't that old white guys write about women and minorities. The problem is that DISPROPORTIONATELY white guys write about them. Publishing is based on who you know, not what you can actually do. Writing pays very little money often. Literary magazines, journals and publishers are biased towards people who look like them. This makes it very difficult for women and minorities to be published.

That's why you've needed prizes like the Orange Prize to champion women's writing.

What's embarrassing is that someone who calls themselves a "feminazi" knows so little about intersectional feminism. This is why as a black woman, I would NEVER call myself a feminist.

WardrobeMalfunction Sat 10-Sep-16 19:13:26

The author of the article only gives us a couple of decontexualised comments but it sounds as if Shriver was a bit smug and insensitive in her speech.

That said, it is more likely that a work of fiction promotes empathy for and understanding of minorities and, except for established celeb authors, I doubt if most readers are interested in the personal circumstances of the authors. In that case, rather than cultural appropriation, the author is promoting cultural understanding.

Writers must make money or they will have to find other work, so of course they're going to profit from their subject matter if they give it a decent treatment.

What has happened is Abdel-Magied seems to have conflated the sexism and racism in the publishing industry with a writer's right to explore anything (s)he wants in a work of fiction.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now