You know, I’m always…

You know, I'm always telling people that it's okay to write characters of color, even if they're not one themselves. I wrote a whole essay about it. But, given that we already have a problem, a big problem, with fiction that relies on women being raped for cheap thrills and easy motivation, I'm finding myself remarkably hesitant to start this new book, which will have a woman assaulted in it. The assault is not the point of the book, or even the primary motivation. But it's important to the book and to her character; I don't want to just excise it from the story. But I have no personal experience with sexual or physical assault myself.

I've worked on a violence hotline for a year, I've read widely from survivors' stories; I think I can do the research to do a decent job. I'm not so much worried about getting it wrong as about...I don't know. Having the authority to tell this story? Something like that. Yet at the same time, I would tell people that avoiding writing characters of color is its own problem, because it inevitably contributes to the whitewashing effect in literature, to generations growing up with most of the characters available to them for identifying with as white. I think I can make a similar argument here, that shying away from portraying something that happens to women all the time is its own form of erasure. Does the parallel hold?

2 thoughts on “You know, I’m always…”

  1. Can’t you find another substitute for the assault of a woman? Or at least make it non-sexual. The way current fiction reads, it’s the only motivation for women besides protection of children and I’m tired of it.

    By the way, I know you have similar reactions so the fact that you’re using the assault probably means it somehow is necessary, but I felt it necessary to whine because I’m deeply sick of it in fiction.

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