This post might be offensive to some people. There aren't, hopefully, going to be triggers, but there will be offensive language.
There is something that's been on my mind lately. I'm sure by now, everyone has heard about removing the word 'nigger' from Huck Finn
. That, and a post in the LJ community Roleplay Secrets
. Specifically this secret
Why? Because a lot of people made the point that the Victorian Age was not PC
and in fact they had a lot of offensive things that happened, and were said and considered polite in their age.
Why is this on my mind?
Because I've been struggling this month to write a steampunk novel. Something that I actually enjoy and couldn't figure out why I was so back and forth about writing it. And then I wrote a line and realized what my problem was. You see, one of the main characters is of Chinese descent. In Victorian times, they were not particularly cared for, and there were a great many slurs against them. You see, today, if you call someone a 'Chinaman' or an 'Oriental', people are going to jump down your throat and be offended. But, the words fit perfectly in the time period and are even accepted
modes of address.
The main character even had a thought:They were supposed to be itinerant workers, driven out of their last jobs because he was a good Christian lad that had married a heathen Chinaman – never mind that she could quote more scripture than him.
She's a noblewoman, in a different society, but traveling in other countries, she's coming to realize that her heritage - of which she knows barely anything - makes her a target in other places. At home, she's insulated because of her rank. Out in the wild world? Not so much.
I've been struggling with it, trying to think of how to mitigate the rampant racism and worrying that the story will be less if I take it out.
That was when I realized that if I do take it out, the story is missing something. It's apologetic and something that isn't true to itself. I don't have to be a racism apologist in what I write, because the characters
are products of their times, and if that means that they're raging racists, that's okay
. They are what they are and why should I make excuses for them?
This realization is making the story a lot easier to write. I'm currently in a scene now where three characters are on a train (one man - white - and two women - one Chinese, one Japanese) and the conductor thinks they are a pimp with two of his 'girls'. They're being chastised by the conductor and asked to go somewhere else, because the other passengers are uncomfortable. No, the scene isn't PC and it isn't polite. But it points out very bluntly that this is not a nice time and this is the sort of thing that had to be dealt with.
If that means people don't want to read it? Then that's their problem. Yes, it's racist and so very unPC, but it's true to itself and that's the most important thing about it.
To add to this, I'm coming to understand some things about my writing. Writing a book, especially one that's outside of my comfort zone like steampunk is, is truly a self-discovery time. I started thinking about the racist aspects of the story because they made me
In real life, I try to be as unracist as possible. I know I don't always succeed, but if it's pointed out to me, I will not do it again. I've pointed out racist/homophobic comments to other people because it's really
not going to stop unless people speak up. So I try.
Writing it, I've tried not
to put in that I don't approve. Why? Because I think people are smart enough to realize that what I write isn't always what I approve of. There are things that I will write that are very much triggering and are not polite and are written to point out some really screwed up things in our lives. But I don't approve of them.
Writing like that is also a catharsis for me. I'm going to admit something here that normally is kept for my personal journal. I'm a rape survivor. I was raped by a man I was married to. I'm also a domestic abuse survivor. Both from that man and then the second man that I married. So I'm very
aware of how things could be triggering and how they can't be put into fiction without some really true
However, more and more I'm coming to realize that I can't shy away from those topics if they are needed in the story - and I mean that. They have to be needed
. I have a romance story on my hard drive somewhere. The MC is a domestic abuse/stalking/rape survivor. I am not treating that story lightly. I know how hard it is to recover from things like that.
There are a few subjects I'm not comfortable touching: non-cis-gendered issues, same sex rape, and child abuse are the three big ones that I can think of. Why? Because I don't think I could write them realistically (yet) and do not want to downplay the truth behind those issues. I do write same sex couples. Why? Because I do have some first hand knowledge of what those couples face. I do understand some of that, and have a couple of people that I feel comfortable asking questions of.
Back to this being a journey of self-discovery (wow does that sound corny or what?). I'm finding things out about myself that I wouldn't even think
about if I wasn't writing them out.
I'm kinda glad to be finding them out. Because as I figure them out, I know I have issues, and I know that I'm not dealing with them. But I'm trying to find them out and that's what matters. Writing is helping me get to the point where I can get help for them.
If I offended anyone with this post, I'm not going to apologize for what I wrote. I am going to apologize that you took this personal enough to be offended. It is meant to be a personal reflection post and not something directed at any one person/group. Discussion is welcome as always.