ZERO :: the Fool (annwyd) wrote,
ZERO :: the Fool

An open question

This is directed especially at those people on my friendslist who take interest in racism and white privilege in fiction, but I welcome any answers.

I've been developing an idea for a novel over the past couple of months. It has as one of its core themes the othering and marginalization of people, with a focus on gender. I think I can handle this.

My issue is this: how do I explore the theme of othering and marginalization with a focus on gender without being a privileged white dick by completely ignoring the role race plays in these impulses? I want to keep the focus on gender, because that's what I'm most familiar with and that's what the story is calling for--I don't want to force major themes that don't quite fit. At the same time, though, I don't want to be a privileged white dick.

So far my options are these:
1) Make sure to have fleshed-out, fairly-treated characters of color, but do not otherwise touch upon the issue.
PROS: Does not risk tangling up my themes and weighing down the story with Issues that don't quite fit.
CONS: Does not really address the problem, duh.
2) Make the heroine black or mixed-race and occasionally touch upon this through the subversion of racist tropes (i.e. start her off seeming like a Magical Negro, then slowly question this, building up to a dramatic reveal that she is in fact quite the opposite).
PROS: Allows the integration of racial themes into the gender-focused whole without making them intrusive.
CONS: Might make race seem like the elephant in the room.
3) Make the Mysterious Othered Woman (or small group of them, I'm not entirely sure yet) dark-skinned and Different.
PROS: Allows the introduction, if not integration, of racial themes into the gender-focused whole without disrupting the other themes.
CONS: Has horrible potential to be offensive through seeming like a fake treatment of race that only further others people of color.
ETA: 4) #1, except giving at least one set of characters of color their own more race-based section of the narrative that ties into the overall theme. Would center particularly on a woman of color, thus uniting it with the gender issues.
PROS: Ties the different themes together well; runs the lowest risk of alienating readers of color and perpetuating white privilege. Fleshes out the story.
CONS: May be difficult to integrate properly with the other themes and with the overall mood and tone of the story.

Complicating the matter is the fact that the gender issue itself is going to be handled largely in subtext, if I can pull it off; characters won't be giving speeches about how oppressed women are, regardless of how true said speeches would be. I want the story to speak for itself. However I wind up dealing with the race issue, I'd like to keep it as subtextual as possible in the same way.

At the moment, I'm leaning towards #2 above with possible very light touches of #3 #4, but I'm not sure if any of them is really satisfactory. Thoughts?
Tags: writing

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