Writing about race and culture

Phyrebrat

ba-Ba-ba-brat
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
4,260
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
But "Oriental"? That colonialist, racist term will make me want to take a stick and beat whoever calls me that on the head with it. The British Empire is no more, yo! It's not the Victorian period anymore!
:LOL::LOL:

It’s dreadful to my ears. My sisters fiancé used to insist on it! I always asked him why he wanted to use such an antiquated term with such unsavoury connections and he never gave me an answer I understood. But that’s the point here; these terms and where we place ourselves are deeply nuanced despite our own misgivings.

I even have black friends who prefer the term ‘coloured’ (!!!) and these days we have the term ‘brown’ for non Afro-Caribbean people.

However identity and culture are two different things and you can’t tell someone what to call themselves.

I personally loathe the word ‘queer’ and despise its use. I think it’s pejorative and othering and over-general, but plenty of gay people are happy with it.

Such is the minefield the author navigates when writing.

pH
 

The Bluestocking

Bloody Mary in Blue
Joined
Feb 20, 2014
Messages
1,381
Location
The Afterlife
:LOL::LOL:

It’s dreadful to my ears. My sisters fiancé used to insist on it! I always asked him why he wanted to use such an antiquated term with such unsavoury connections and he never gave me an answer I understood. But that’s the point here; these terms and where we place ourselves are deeply nuanced despite our own misgivings.

However identity and culture are two different things and you can’t tell someone what to call themselves.

pH
Sigh... my mother - bless her socks - has always called my looks "China Doll", particularly when I was younger. She means well - that she thinks I'm pretty and petite with up-tilted eyes and a porcelain complexion that's much sought-after based on Chinese beauty standards. (Me? I just think that Mum's got Mum-perspective glasses on so...)

But I have warned everyone else that ONLY my family (and even then, mostly only my mother, aunts, and remaining grandmother) are allowed to describe me as such because they grew up under British rule and were taught these terms. It's a bit hard to teach them new terms since it would be treated as disrespectful impertinence under the Confucian family system.

Anyone else who isn't Chinese or who is Chinese (and should know better) who calls me "China Doll" should anticipate getting a lecture about not objectifying me (or any other Chinese woman), Victorian-style.

And yes - definitely a minefield an author who is not of my culture (but wants to set stories based on my culture etc) needs to navigate. Ditto for all other cultures that are not their own.
 
Last edited:

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
2,180
Re The BBC thing (and indeed a lot of the other things Bluestocking said) - something that I think is one of the most important things for depicting fictional made-up cultures and ethnicities is -

These things do not exist in neat national boundaries. Never have, never will. Look at the distribution of ethnic Greeks fighting in the Persian Wars; look at 12th century Scotland, where the Norse of Caithness, English of Lothain, Norse-Gaels of Galloway, Brythonic of Strathclyde and the Irish-Picts of Dal Riata/Alba are considered different peoples, but mostly all part of Scotland. People travel and the world changes.

You want to ensure that your clash between olive-skinned and dark-skinned ethnicities doesn't look like a fight between good and evil? Mix it up. Have some of one ethnicity as part of the territory of the other, and fighting for their ruler vs people of their own ethnicity and culture. Have the ethnicities parts of different tribes, with different beliefs and attitudes. Etc.etc.
 

Dragonlady

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 4, 2007
Messages
90
The big peat, that's an excellent point, I already have a minority ethnic group/religion, and am trying to work out whether to give them a homeland, and whether the ones in the homeland have the same relationship to magic. Two marjority Ahiminian tribes/city states with different relationships to magic could make for some interesting dynamics I guess.
 
Top