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fiction theory

The artist is not afraid


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Because writing a book for fun and profit is totally just like what happened at Bataan
beauty&thebeast, WTF?
fiction_theory
Because some people really never learn.

Usually I have a policy of ignoring Elizabeth Bear and the things she's involved under the Fuckmuppetry Doctrine, which I reserve to myself and all other human beings as the right to disengage from people who conduct themselves as Fuckmuppets on or off the internet.

But sometimes, the fuckmuppetry just cannot be ignored and needs to be called out, pointed at, and told "NO!".

Her response to someone telling her how hurtful the use of the "deathmarch" tag and phrase to describe the act of WRITING A BOOK?

I am aware of that history, and I'm sorry that this use of the word causes you discomfort.

I have very mixed emotions about political correctness in language: I believe that it's our responsibility to be aware of the language we use, but I also have a sense that mythologizing language only gives it power.

I think part of the process of winning free of a history of blood is, indeed, common use--compare "decimated," "witch hunt," "massacre," and similar words, all of which refer to real atrocities, but the sands of time have worn them clean(er).

I think by refusing to allow terrible things to be banal and mundane, we mythologize them.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but I'm pretty sure avoiding the phrase "Soup Nazi" isn't it. I'm going to go away now and think hard about it, though, because I'm also not keen on causing random damage to well-meaning passersby.




Also, she isn't the only one who uses "deathmarch" to inaccurately, offensively, and hurtfully describe marathon sessions of writing to finish a book that I've seen. Funny how it's pretty exclusively white American folks who do this.

The commenter mentioned the absolute horror and tragedy of the Bataan death march, as the OP identified as Filipino, and that person - who is brave and who I commend for commenting - was 100% to call out Bear on this matter and to show how the cultural scars of that event, of all the tragedies of that part of history, many of which are still ongoing get erased and covered over.

And that person was also right to point out that Bataan was not the only deathmarch.

Want examples? Let's take the many forced, fatal marches and shipping of human beings to death camps in Nazi Germany.

Or the abysmally brutal, excruciating march of the Cherokee people, the Trail of Tears, which killed an estimated 4,000 human beings of the 15,000 (give or take) who were forcibly removed from their lands by a President who did so AGAINST the ruling of the United States Supreme Court and is now on $20 dollar bills. And the Cherokee were far from alone in being groups that the government blatantly tried to exterminate. Yeah, that's right. Ethnic cleansing, genocide. And the people who did it have statues made of them and halls and buildings and schools named after them. They're on our fucking currency and we have days to celebrate them and we call them heroes and they did this and you tell us that it's good that we've let the suffering YOU AND I benefit from every day become banal.

And we do benefit so disgustingly from the rape, murder, torture, extermination, enslavement, and abuse of other peoples. Everything from the very land we're standing on to the wealth that allows us to have jobs and educations when others can't or get a much worse one is because of that.

I'm not better or less implicated than you by any means. I'm not. And I don't pretend that somehow it even makes me better that I get this and I want to change it. My good wishes and guilt and White Woman's Tears don't wash clean anything. And if the sands of time bury something so that the sting of it doesn't touch me or the stink of it doesn't cling to me, that is a tragedy, not something to be desired.

So fuck you, Elizabeth Bear, fuck you so, so, so, MUCH. Murder and genocide and torture and suffering and oppression are already mundane and banal enough in our culture. Fuck you and all those like you who think that if oppressed groups fight erasure and remember their history and openly grieve for what they've suffered and try to account for the damage done to them as part of their healing and rebuilding that they're "mythologizing". Just fuck you. God, I can't even begin to think of harsh enough words for you, I just can't. Not without turning to as oppressive and hurtful a tone as you've taken here.

But your disrespect is obvious and long standing, and it doesn't surprise me. Enrages me, yes. But surprise, no?

I mean, since you obviously couldn't be bothered to "walk away and think hard" about this BEFORE you dismissed the person who bravely spoke up to you. You couldn't have given them that decency or respect, could you?

Because what's a deathmarch to you, after all? Just a word for you to play with. Because it's not part of your history as a white citizen of the U.S. Because you don't look back and get to say "I don't know what nation any of my ancestors come from because they were rounded up, enslaved, had their names stripped, and became animals to those who bred, sold, and used them like property." Because nobody's ever rounded up your friends and neighbors and family members and shipped them like boxes or cattle to a place where they were intended to be worked to death or killed outright. Because nobody's ever come to you and said "sorry, this home you live in isn't yours, gotta go" and held a gun to you and make you walk from GEORGIA TO OKLAHOMA. Because your home, the place where you reside, has not seen active aggression from a foreign combatant in centuries. Because of course murder and torture and genocide are banal to you. They don't touch or affect you personally or culturally, so why shouldn't you play around with those words.

They don't hurt you after all. So why shouldn't you say "Soup Nazi" or "deathmarch" or any of those things. It isn't like it hurts you, and if it doesn't hurt you, it's obviously not important, is it?

I don't expect Elizabeth Bear to learn from this. After all, this interview here shows how willfully and deliberately clueless you keep yourself, and the hypocrisy inherent in such a thing.

A person can talk Nice White Lady things about "queering SF", but when to do so claiming one grew up so differently from the mainstream and are sort of beyond that White Male influence, but it's their words and actions that will tell me if they're a hypocrite or not.

When someone then asks you, after you talk about how populated with oppressed voices your childhood bookshelves were, what authors amazed and inspired you and only ONE is of color (and is Octavia Butler - because WOW, white people never read/like Octavia Butler. How radically diverse of you!), you absolutely are NOT beyond that influence whatsoever and in fact, you're rolling it.

That, friends and neighbors, is willful cluelessness. (Note: the first person who uses "blindness" in this discussion and isn't talking, literally, about a visual impairment of some kind, gets booted out of my space for good. Blindness is the lack of ability to see something, it describes a disability that many people have. Cluelessness is being able to see something and just not caring to. It's the ACTUAL descriptor of the hurtful things people do. It has nothing to do with blindness. Don't use that word. People who are blind don't deserve that shit, so don't exclude and disrespect them in this conversation.)

Saying you're beyond the influence of the dominant in literature and in society while acting out the same oppression-enforcing patterns shows me that you really have learned nothing and don't want to.

You think society isn't telling white people and indeed, all people, to make tragedy and horror banal and mundane on a daily basis? You think we somehow need more training in how to make ourselves immune to recognizing suffering in others and how it's wrong, and why we need to stop causing it and remember it so that we don't fucking do it again? We don't, especially not here in the U.S. We really, really don't. In fact, we need the opposite.

You can talk about how you want to get it right, and you can talk about how different your upbringing was and how you're beyond these influences or not as touched by them as everyone else or how you want to think hard about things - but it's your results that tell me the truth.

You may say you were brought up different, but your words and actions are no different than others who were brought up in those White, Protestant, Straight, Middle-Class homes and their culture that you think you're so removed from

You say you want to think hard, but you say the things that come from the mouth or the fingertips of people who aren't thinking at all and don't want to.

And maybe I'm holding this one person up as an example, but Elizabeth Bear? Is a drop of seawater in the OCEAN of this vast problem. If the micro describes the macro and gives an example, that's useful. Especially to me, because I'm another drop.

Because if I say "fuck you" Elizabeth Bear, fuck me for the comforts I enjoy at other people's expense. Fuck me for all the times I haven't listened, for how long it's taken to realize I need to. Fuck me if I ever think I'm better or beyond or exempt or finished. Fuck me if I forget. Fuck me if other's pain and suffering becomes banal and mundane to me.

And to miir, who spoke up and said something? Who pointed out what I've seen but kept my mouth closed about (to my shame)? Thank you for being brave and righteous. Thank you.




ETA: I will be moderating comments closely and carefully. Check yourself for privilege and then CHECK YOURSELF AGAIN before you comment. If you don't, I will shut down the thread and possibly ban you. I make no apologies. You want to spew your *isms, you can take it elsewhere.

And if anyone wants to try to Bear-'splain to me (oh yes, she's an adjective now) why that reply isn't as bad or horrible as I think it is? Just DON'T.


ETA 2: Spelling mistakes corrected, and I apologize for not having been more diligent about the spelling of Bataan.


ETA 3 (7-August): A cursory look seems to reveal that EBear has removed the deathmarching tags from her tags list and edited the offending entry to remove that word. However, no statement that she understands why it was offensive and will be making any effort in the future not to repeat her actions does not seem to be forthcoming.
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You can talk about how you want to get it right

And, then she turns around and gives all kinds of excuses as to why she can't be bothered (by you people, you little, brown people), and why she's justified (her enlightened, white writer self)...

She's already assumed she's right, therefore she can't bother to -take effort- to get it right.

Yeah, pretty much this. In the sense of: exactly this. Because what those little brown people is a HONKY to tell them how best to cope with their own tragedies and history. Writing books about two headed stags and Shakespeare among the faeries TOTALLY QUALIFIES YOU TO DO THIS. *shakes head*

She's already assumed she's right, therefore she can't bother to -take effort- to get it right.

Because if you weren't sure what "the solution" is, wouldn't you at least take the time out to consider that your theory that using certain words offensively to make them banal is maybe WRONG?


am I imagining that she got called out on this a couple of years back? was it someone else?

What is particularly horrid is: if she wants to say that writing the book is difficult, there are so many ways she could say it ("long slog," etc). If she wants to say that it's painful, there are so many ways she could say it ("journey to Mt. Doom," etc). This is not a situation where choosing not to use "death march" means destroying her meaning...

Unless her intended meaning actually is "writing this book is as hard as being on the Trail of Tears, or the Bataan Death March."

So basically, I'm left with (1) she really thinks that her writing process is as hard as a real death march in which people die, or (2) she's actually not a very good writer because her language is so imprecise, in addition to being a heartless jerk.

I'm voting #2.

"Journey to Mt. Doom" -- I like it!

I vote for #2 as well, since she defaulted to a cliche.

(Deleted comment)
I think it's because a lot of this end with many people calling her out and telling her she's been hurtful, and then a lot of others piling on to reassure her that she's such a nice person and all those mean people are way off base and they're orcing or sock puppeting or whatever the Whitesplain Du Jour was last time and...yeah.

It fails at basic human compassion AND logic. Twofer.

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Did she not get the memo where it's the people who were actually oppressed who get do decide what's reclaiming and what isn't?

I apologize for getting personal here.

She got the memo, read it, and decided it didn't apply to her or that she's actually very oppressed because she has Magical Indian Princess Blood and has Dark Slavic Humor running through her veins.

*shakes head*

My husband's family is Ukranian, and not in her "well, some distant great great great grandfather..." sense of the word, either. Like, fresh off the boat Ukranian. His father was the first to be born here in the States. And my husband's family would NEVER EVER engage in this kind of douchebaggery and I don't hear them making genocide and torture jokes or treating OTHER PEOPLE'S HISTORY as though it's theirs to laugh about it. I've only ever known them to be wonderful people and I don't care what her fucking ancestry is, this shit is not genetic or her heritage. So could she please stop using her Ukranian ancestry as an excuse before I have to punching walls?

Also, even if it were somehow true (it's not), that doesn't give her the right to use her Slavic ancestry as an excuse to appropriate another people's history.

We're not gonna talk about the comments about her Cherokee ancestry because my grandfather was straight up Cherokee and right now I have bile burning my throat over how it's okay that she doesn't find it offensive in that sense so APPARENTLY IT'S OKAY ACROSS THE BOARD.

What the fucking fuck? IDE. Seriously. Just. How? How lacking in empathy can one get to the point of yet ANOTHER race-related FAIL like this?

Or the abysmally brutal, excruciating march of the Cherokee people, the Trail of Tears, which killed an estimated 4,000 human beings of the 15,000 (give or take) who were forcibly removed from their lands by a President who did so AGAINST the ruling of the United States Supreme Court and is now on $20 dollar bills. And the Cherokee were far from alone in being groups that the government blatantly tried to exterminate. Yeah, that's right. Ethnic cleansing, genocide. And the people who did it have statues made of them and halls and buildings and schools named after them. They're on our fucking currency and we have days to celebrate them and we call them heroes and they did this and you tell us that it's good that we've let the suffering YOU AND I benefit from every day become banal.

And we do benefit so disgustingly from the rape, murder, torture, extermination, enslavement, and abuse of other peoples. Everything from the very land we're standing on to the wealth that allows us to have jobs and educations when others can't or get a much worse one is because of that.


So fucking true.

For that matter, even if she didn't know about any of this history (and I'm sure she does), you'd think that even a little tiny bit of empathy would make her realize that she should not have made such a smug, self-satisfied response to a cry of pain. It's interesting that someone who is so interested in exploring the emotional lives of fictional characters could be so willfully heedless of the feelings of actual human beings.


It's interesting that someone who is so interested in exploring the emotional lives of fictional characters could be so willfully heedless of the feelings of actual human beings.

Somewhere in this is a very interesting exploration of the fact that it seems a lot of privileged writers seem to empathize more with fictional characters that they create and control than with actual human beings who, you know, they don't control at all. Something interesting AND creepy. Not sure what it is.

What's worse? This person would probably not appreciate and would yell at someone if they referred to finishing their novel as "beating the redheaded stepchild" or referenced child abuse in a flippant way or rape or any of the other things she does have experience with (or cares about, I guess), but when it's something she has no experience with?

This is why usually I ignore her under the Fuckmuppetry Doctrine. Because somehow, someway everything always comes back to her and her experiences as being the center of all things and if it doesn't fit within her view and she hurts or offends you? All you get is a smiling fauxpology before she spits in your face and tells you how invalid you are for trying to criticize her in the first place.

Hm.

At the moment, I am really having to check my privilege, because all of my default reactions are that this is an overreaction. Not that Bear's actions and her responses are not negative, but that the degree of offense is being exaggerated.

I am *not* asserting that that is actually the case. Even if it were, obviously I am not one of the offended parties and I don't get to decide that. Only that it feels like it to me, and my own reaction is baffling to me here.

Go read: Patalim. That's my suggestion right now. I'm glad that you're sitting with your confusion/discomfort and I'm glad you're attempting to check your privileges, but please make sure that you're getting the other side of this and that you're really, really listening to their voices and not to the ones that our very nasty culture puts in our heads to tell us "no, no, don't listen to them!"

Because I do get your response. I don't know how you identify, but I know that as a white American (regardless of any kind of ancestry I may have), I do not have a frame of reference to understand what it is like to face not only the horrors of genocide, rape, murder, torture, and forcible removal from home on a mass scale or even a small one and I certainly don't have one to understand how erasure feels.

Because as a white American, one thing that my culture is constantly telling me is that not only is my history Real, Right, and Worthy to Be Remembered - but every statue of a famous white historical figure, every monument to them, every textbook filled with white faces, every textbook I've read since I was handed textbooks tells me that my history is solidly remembered and that it's been CARVED into the bedrock of reality. I've never had to fear that the wars we've fought and any hardships this country (and white people) have endured will be forgotten.

The worst thing to happen in my lifetime (9/11 and the Iraqi War) are in no danger of being forgotten. I don't have to worry that people are going to start using 9/11'ing as a verb or a cute phrase in their tag cloud while I sit there and think of how I watched, a 17-year-old girl in a classroom in Tennessee, as the second tower went down and we all just sat there and we wondered just how bad it was going to get when we heard the Pentagon had been hit, too. I don't have to worry that my experience of being horrified and the people who died in those towers are going to be somehow erased or turned into SOMEONE ELSE'S PITHY PHRASE.

So my advice here, as a white person struggling to also check my own privileges and do what is moral and right would be to really, really read and consider these things and know that erasure is not something white Americans have a frame of reference for, so more empathy and closer listening are required.

At this point, my problem isnt so much w/ the use of the phrase but how she has responded to people commenting to her on it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Yeah. That reply? That's just...I mean, even though she's taken the tags/words down in that entry (though the other entry where she uses Bataan Death March to describe something at a con remains in pristine condition), she still hasn't addressed her response and dismissal TWICE of those concerns, her assertion that to remember and respect other people's pain is somehow wrong and amounts to mythologizing or some such bullshittery, and that she was called on this a long time ago and did nothing and just claims to have "forgotten".

Or that friends of her are using some pretty damn ugly and ablist language to defend her and assert that K. Tempest Bradford is the one who needs "to be forcibly changed", not the world. I advise not reading comments. Or that entry, even. I'm sorry I did.

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