Offended Guardian writer walks out of talk on “cultural appropriation” of fiction

Since it’s important to the article I’m going to mention, I note that its author, Yasmin Abdel-Magied, is a black Australian Muslim woman. Her piece in yesterday’s Guardian, “As Lionel Shriver made light of identity, I had no choice but to walk out on her,” is a long whine about how authors of one gender or ethnicity have no right to write fiction that take the viewpoint of someone of another gender or ethnicity—at least when those other people are minorities. By so doing, Abdel-Magied says, they not only appropriate viewpoints about which they have no expertise, but prevent other marginalized writers from getting their voices heard.

This is all bogus, I think, but let’s see what Abdel-Magied has to say. She begins by mentioning that she went to a lecture by Lionel Shriver, who, despite the name, is a woman—a journalist and writer most famous for writing We Need to Talk About Kevin. 

Apparently (there’s no record of the lecture, so all we have is Abdel-Magied’s invidious characterization), Shriver began by making light of those who were offended by students at Bowdoin College in Maine who wore sombreros at a tequila party (something similar happened at the University of Chicago about two years ago).  The Bowdoin sombrero-wearers were criticized for cultural appropriation, and other students tried to impeach two of them who were members of student government. Shriver’s failure to criticize the sombrero-wearers further exacerbated Abdel-Magied when she, Shriver, began talking about writing from the viewpoints of different people. Finally, deeply and terminally upset, Abdel-Magied stalked out of Shriver’s talk:

We were 20 minutes into the speech when I turned to my mother, sitting next to me in the front row.

“Mama, I can’t sit here,” I said, the corners of my mouth dragging downwards. “I cannot legitimise this …”

As my heels thudded against they grey plastic of the flooring, harmonising with the beat of the adrenaline pumping through my veins, my mind was blank save for one question.

“How is this happening?”

Right there is Abdel-Magied’s first mistake: assuming that listening to something that offends her “legitimises” it. Where on earth did she get that notion? But of course we’ve heard it before. Inviting a speaker with controversial views to a university somehow “legimitizes” that speaker—somehow giving credence to their views. Of course that’s nonsense.

She goes on:

So what did happen? What did Shriver say in her keynote that could drive a woman who has heard every slur under the sun to discard social convention and make such an obviously political exit?

Her question was — or could have been — an interesting question: What are fiction writers “allowed” to write, given they will never truly know another person’s experience?

. . . Shriver’s real targets were cultural appropriation, identity politics and political correctness. It was a monologue about the right to exploit the stories of “others”, simply because it is useful for one’s story.

Shriver began by making light of a recent incident in the US, where students faced prosecution for what was argued by some as “casual racial and ethnic stereotyping and cultural insensitivity” at a Mexican-themed party.

“Can you believe,” Shriver asked at the beginning of her speech, “that these students were so sensitive about the wearing of sombreros?”

The audience, compliant, chuckled. I started looking forward to the point in the speech where she was to subvert the argument.

It never came.

On and on it went. Rather than focus on the ultimate question around how we can know an experience we have not had, the argument became a tirade. It became about the fact that a white man should be able to write the experience of a young Nigerian woman and if he sells millions and does a “decent” job — in the eyes of a white woman — he should not be questioned or pilloried in any way. It became about mocking those who ask people to seek permission to use their stories. It became a celebration of the unfettered exploitation of the experiences of others, under the guise of fiction. (For more, Yen-Rong, a volunteer at the festival, wrote a summary on her personal blog about it.)

It was a poisoned package wrapped up in arrogance and delivered with condescension. . . The stench of privilege hung heavy in the air, and I was reminded of my “place” in the world.

Well, I suspect that, given Abdel-Magied’s hypersensivitity, some of that characterization is exaggerated . You can read Yen-Rong’s description of the talk, which is pretty similar except sees herself “othered” as an Asian. One quote from Yen-Rong’s piece:

Identity is important, and yes, making sure that we don’t pigeon hole ourselves into one thing, or into what others want us to be is also important. But it’s easy to say that ‘Asian isn’t an identity’ when you haven’t experienced what it’s like to have to confront racism (both casual and overt) in your everyday life. I’m not saying that you should go out and seek such experiences, because it’s pretty awful and no one should be subject to racism – I’m just saying that there’s a big difference between empathising with an experience and undergoing it yourself. You cannot trick or convince yourself into having no identity if other people continue to see you as *that* particular identity.

. . . As a semi-aspiring writer myself, and one who has sunk a significant amount of time and brain power to discussing subversive women and Othered characters in non-Western societies, Shriver’s address was alarming, to say the least. The publishing industry is chock full of white men, and advocating for their ‘right’ to write from the perspective of someone in a marginalised position takes opportunities away from those with authentic experiences to share. In other words, the subaltern continue to be silenced, and still cannot speak.

Is there a whiff of sour grapes there?

But back to Abdel-Magied, who echoes this same idea: that whites (especially males) shouldn’t be writing about, or in the voices of, marginalized people, for by so doing they’re preventing those people from speaking:

It’s not always OK if a white guy writes the story of a Nigerian woman because the actual Nigerian woman can’t get published or reviewed to begin with. It’s not always OK if a straight white woman writes the story of a queer Indigenous man, because when was the last time you heard a queer Indigenous man tell his own story? How is it that said straight white woman will profit from an experience that is not hers, and those with the actual experience never be provided the opportunity? It’s not always OK for a person with the privilege of education and wealth to write the story of a young Indigenous man, filtering the experience of the latter through their own skewed and biased lens, telling a story that likely reinforces an existing narrative which only serves to entrench a disadvantage they need never experience. [JAC: Whose lens isn’t “skewed and biased”, for crying out loud?]

. . . The reality is that those from marginalised groups, even today, do not get the luxury of defining their own place in a norm that is profoundly white, straight and, often, patriarchal. And in demanding that the right to identity should be given up, Shriver epitomised the kind of attitude that led to the normalisation of imperialist, colonial rule: “I want this, and therefore I shall take it.”

The attitude drips of racial supremacy, and the implication is clear: “I don’t care what you deem is important or sacred. I want to do with it what I will. Your experience is simply a tool for me to use, because you are less human than me. You are less than human…”

Whoa, Nelly! Stop right there. How did we get from white people writing tales about other groups to overt accusations of racism, imperialism and dehumanization? I seriously doubt that Shriver conveyed anything of the sort; rather, what we have here is the Regressive Two-Step: someone claiming racism because only those from their group can write about their group. Further, as Yen-Rong notes above, if you don’t enforce that rule, the minorities get “silenced.”

Well, I don’t know whether a “queer Indigenous man” has told his own story (I assume she’s referring here to the Aboriginal people of Australia), but that’s not because white people have silenced them by coopting their stories. It’s more likely that Aboriginals, who were indeed the victims of persecution and racism, haven’t had the chance to become writers. But seriously, are minority writers really silenced by white colonialists coopting their narration in a literary form of “cultural appropriation”? I doubt it. Think of all the popular black writers we have, from Toni Morrison to Maya Angelou to Ta-Nehesi Coates to Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes. . . the list is long. They may have been victims of racism, but were not prevented from publishing because white people told their stories first, and better. Do I need to name famous Indian and Asian writers, too? I don’t think I need to; you can Google as well as I.

I decry any racism that takes away people’s opportunities, but I can’t get on board with Abdel-Magied’s view that only black people can write about black people, only Asians can write about Asians, and so on. The truth is that Asians and blacks all differ from each other, even within their ethnic group. In fact, it’s a form of bigotry to assume that all black people speak with one authentic and unified voice about their experiences. It’s true that the authenticity of some “black experience” or “the Asian experience” may be best conveyed by those who have lived that life, but why should others be prevented from having a try? Remember that imaginative fiction requires that you step into the shoes of someone else and imagine life from their viewpoint. John Steinbeck did that with “Okies” in The Grapes of Wrath, Harper Lee and Carson McCullers took the viewpoint of children in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Member of the Wedding. Paul Scott did it for Indians in The Raj Quartet, and Robert Graves for Romans in I, Claudius (was the work worthless because he wasn’t an ancient Roman?). Did Steinbeck engage in “unfettered exploitation” of the oppressed farmers? I don’t think so. Was Anna Karenina “invalid” because Tolstoy had only one X chromosome? No again.

And, to use an example of a white writing “black fiction,” what about the The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron? Granted, it was criticized by some African Americans, but it was also defended by Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin, not exactly Uncle Toms! That itself shows you the diversity of opinion about “authentic” fiction among members of a single ethnic group.

I see no bar to someone writing imaginative fiction from the viewpoint of somebody else, but of course the quality of that fiction will be proportional to the amount of research going into the effort. Steinbeck, for instance, researched and lived among the poverty-stricken Dust Bowl farmers for a long time before writing about them. Melville knew whaling well, and Conrad, as a captain, also knew the sea; both wrote fiction involving seagoing.

It’s my experience that publishers are actively seeking out literature from “othered” groups, not only because it can offer some unusual and moving narratives, and because those viewpoints haven’t been the subject of much popular fiction, but also but because colleges are increasingly incorporating such books into their curricula as a way of increasing diversity. And among those books are some very great works.

In the end, I see Abdel-Magied’s plaints as largely without merit, a cry of “pay attention to ME” from the Perpetually Offended. Let everyone write as they will, for the good stuff will indeed rise to the top, but let us also ensure that those who have unique viewpoints do not have their ambition and talent smothered by bigotry.

98 Comments

  1. Paul Beard
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    At first I though this was a rather tedious parody. On second reading it looks no better.

  2. jaxkayaker
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I’d bet that if writers from majority demographic groups didn’t include minorities among their characters they’d then be criticized for a lack of diverse characters.

    • Lurker111
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      THIS ^ .

      I’m trying to establish myself as a specfic writer and I try from time to time to draw my protagonist from different walks of life and even the opposite gender (granted, _that_ is difficult–but satisfying when you bring your oeuvre to your writers’ group and no one says anything about the character being unbelievable).

      If I always only wrote stories from the POV of a white male, I’m sure they’d get old pretty quickly.

      • Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

        It seems to me that choosing a protagonist from the opposite sex sometimes helps the story to be interesting for readers of both sexes.

    • Ariel Karlinsky
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly.

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      + 1. As you see, the only “good” option given to members of groups viewed as superior is to shut up.

  3. Posted September 11, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    If writers aren’t allowed to write from an “other” viewpoint, fiction is dead. Or was Elmore Leonard actually a criminal? How about Walter Mosley? Was Shakespeare a murderous king? Or queen, for that matter? How many lives do authors of fiction lead?!? It must be very exciting.

    • steve
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:06 am | Permalink

      And what about stories (there must be some) about illiterate people who can neither read nor write?

      Who gets to write those fictions?

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Shakespeare is a great example. I remember overhearing some (black) teens discussing how they were amazed and impressed that a white guy would write (sympathetically) about black guys in the 17th century. It was the opposite off all these “appropriation” nonsense.

      And what *counts* as other? Am I not allowed to write a novel about a white, heterosexual Anglophone man from NDG rather than Montreal West?

      Of course one should be sensitive, but the idea that one “crowds out” the rest is silly.

      Also, if one has to be a member of any group to write about them, how does one write a science fiction or fantasy novel with non-human intelligence?

  4. E.A. Blair
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    So what Yasmin Abdel-Magied is saying is the equivalent of saying that nobody who hasn’t died can write about death. Would she say that Tolkien couldn’t write Lord of the Rings because he wasn’t a hobbit?

    • Flemur
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      The stench of privileged imperialist educated wealthy normalized indigenous hobbits wearing sacred sombreros culturally appropriated from disadvantaged queer 13th century Mongolian horsemen doesn’t drip of racial supremacy, so Tolkien was not dehumanizing.

  5. Posted September 11, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Wow. I see this as a glaring example of a lack of empathy and menatlizing within the othered-left.

    If “writing imaginative fiction from the viewpoint of somebody else” is considered taboo, this teaches that empathy, the act of trying to feel/think/see someone else’s mind state is not worth doing.

    What a terrible reality it is that this is being perpetuated through our universities that claim that doing this increases diversity. It doesn’t. It teaches that a lack of empathy is a moral virtue.

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      At this year’s Skepticon guests were issued with colour-coded badges to signify which people are willing to talk to strangers, and which are not.

      We are also seeing the introduction of legalistic sexual codes of conduct, seemingly written by Sheldon Cooper, and we are constantly informed that ‘intent isn’t magic’.

      A lot of this seems to be – for want of a better term – culturally appropriated from the autistic community.

  6. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Jerry here. This can be extended in many ways. By Abdel-Magied’s assessment, men cannot have female characters in their books and vice versa, LGBT writers cannot include straight characters, no one can write novels set in a time before they were born.

    She should have stayed to the end of the talk too – as Jerry said, listening to someone you don’t agree with is absolutely NOT legitimizing them. I watch Fox News all the time. The attitudes I come across among some there have only reinforced my liberalism and made me more determined to speak out against the ignorance of racism, sexism, homophobia, pandering to religion etc. Knowing the arguments they will use in any given situation has also made me better at arguing against them. My point is to use experiences like being upset by a speaker to make yourself a better writer. Descending into bitterness is counter-productive.

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      I once read a well-known* author’s comment that men can write better female characters than women can write male characters because, even in the twenty-first century, children are still raised with a woman as the principal caregiver, and, therefore, grow up with a closer view of a woman’s experiences than women do of a man’s.

      In my own life, I had a stay-at-home mom until I was about ten or so (after which she returned to work), and grew up helping with household tasks and otherwise being very close to her. Many years later, I found that I had a far more domestic sensibility than most of the women I knew, including my wife. I found it far easier to see things from her point of view than she could do likewise for me.

      *Don’t ask me who it was – I lost track of those comments, but it was a woman, and someone with a few best-sellers under her belt.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        I think anything like that is always going to be a generalization. It always depends on the individual writer and their own interests, knowledge and experience.

  7. Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I somehow doubt she’d support Salman Rushdie writing from his own experience.

    Apart from metafiction – which is fiction about writing fiction – writers always have to stand outside their own experiences. Even Stephen King never actually fell into the hands of his No. 1 fan.

    I recently took part in an arts project in which volunteers recorded a page of Ulysses each. Can anyone really claim that final chapter fell short because Joyce was a man?

    • Merilee
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      …no I said no I won’t NO:-)

  8. Sigmund
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I loved the comment thanking Ms Abdel-Magied for enabling him to feel deep shame for enjoying reading ‘Watership Down’, a story written by an author who almost certainly wasn’t a rabbit!

  9. Robin
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    What happened to the concept of ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes?’ Why can’t we take the perception of someone else? Taking part in someone else’s cultural heritage through learning a language, cuisine, art, history, or music brings us closer together. We learn that our differences are rather small as opposed to great gaps. The ultra-sensitive are actually INCREASING a divide not reducing misunderstandings among peoples from different cultures. By insisting that we are at variance with one another to the point that open discussions among us are impossible is dangerous. We are losing our humanity by isolating ourselves into cultural and/or racial silos. We are moving backwards.

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      ”Before criticising a man you should walk a mile in his shoes. That way you’ll be a mile away. And you’ll have his shoes.”

      – Jimmy Carr

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Love that joke…

    • lkr
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      I can imagine walking that mile, my heels thudding on the grey plastic flooring.

      — the plagiarism above is intended, but don’t try it at home. We Plagiars are easily micro-aggressed.

  10. ploubere
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, the concept is deeply flawed and only increases divisions in society. It seems to be coming from a sense of indignant self-identity based on a premise that anybody identifying with another group is stealing from or denigrating it. Really, I can’t wear a sombrero without insulting Mexicans?

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      “Really, I can’t wear a sombrero without insulting Mexicans?”

      And if a Mexican tells you he has no problem with you wearing a sombrero, he’s the equivalent of an uncle Tom. So it’s not just about authentic voices being heard, it’s just as much about them saying the “correct” things.

      • jeffery
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        The “purging” of incorrect attitudes MUST continue!

      • Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        I find it hard to understand what is wrong with the original uncle Tom. As far as I can get it, he is vilified for not resisting in a definitely hopeless situation, or for not committing a murder.

  11. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    As usual the Guardian BTL comments are considerably more interesting and reasonable than the preposterous, finger-wagging article itself.

    I grew up with the Grauniad; I used to ride on the back of my dad’s bike as he took his drawings to its offices. I was proud to tell people he was involved with it more than any other paper. But now…it’s just slipped so badly, and it’s playing a kind of game of far-left chicken with the Independent: whoever writes the most asinine, identity politicking drivel ‘wins’. Its print edition is still good but the shite on its website means it’s committing slow suicide. This is especially true in a print industry where a paper’s only means of survival is to focus on quality and an overall identity(Private Eye are doing well for example).

    I still read it occasionally but some of the articles are just…idiotic.

    This one in particular is just intellectually and artistically contemptible. Imagine the artistic wilderness in which we’d live if any of the rules this woman believes in were actually put into practice.

  12. Willard Bolinger
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I am “white”, actually Chippewa Indian but put up for adoption at 2.5 yrs and adopted by a white family in Iowa. I am a history major but worked at an auto assembly plant from 1962-2006. I just finished reading “Warriors Don’t Cry” by Melba Pattillo Beals about the 9 black students attempt to go to Central High School in Little Rock High School, Arkansas in 1957. The abuse they suffered was astounding! And a way to try to imagine the lives of others through their experiences.

  13. Sastra
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if Abdel-Magiad would concede that some ‘people of privilege’ have written fiction which better attacked that privilege by speaking from the point of view of someone without? I would think the message matters.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Yes. I’m trying to envisage The Sound and the Fury written in accordance with Ms Abdel-Magied’s writing principles.

  14. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Strangely, in a blog (http://www.yassminam.com/rtn/we-must-listen-to-pauline-hanson-trump-and-leave-supporters) on 4 July 2016, Yassmin Abdel-Magiad said:

    Listening doesn’t mean agreeing. But what it might help us to do is *understand* why populism is taking on the hold is has, and understand what needs to be done to tackle it.

  15. Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    For people who think you can’t know enough about other people’s experience, to write about it, they seem to have no problem writing about white cis-gendered males experience as privileged.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      Touché

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 3:26 am | Permalink

      Let alone old white cis-gendered males, or disabled old white cis-gendered males, or atheist disabled old white cis-gendered males…

      If you try hard enough you will always find a category for your victimhood. Which is part of the attraction for SJW – there’s always fresh victims to feel offended about.

  16. Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Hello people.

    I am a 20 year old male.

    I was brought up in England, but I was born in Johannesburg. My mother is from Johannesburg; my father is from South Africa. I have lived in social housing for most of my life but luckily I’ve been able to interact with all segments of society. My best friends were from Sudan, I know Somalians and Pakistanis, Indians and Afghans, I was born a Muslim and practices. I have spoken to hardcore rationalists and also religious fanatics. I go to a prestigious university where there are not many people with my socioeconomic background and even less with my ethnic background.

    I cannot tell you how much reverence I have for this lady Lionel Shiver, she is a hero, she is fighting against those who want us not to empathise and express admiration to the rich tapestry of cultures and ideologies that forms humanity.

    The Guardian should be deeply ashamed for encouraging the anti-intellectual regressive scourge that is its identity politics. It is also highly ironic considering how the guardians employees come from the rarefied Oxbridge atmosphere, where they wipe their arses with fifty pound notes.

    Guardian need to start publishing less bullshit. And don’t any of you criticise what I’m saying as you are not half Iranian half south African Muslim males – that is, if you believe the driver the author writes

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 1:01 am | Permalink

      As an Oxbrudge graduate, I can assure you that most people at either university are pretty normal, pretty decent people. As for indecent people, you’ll find them everywhere. No need to go to Oxbridge for that.

      • Posted September 12, 2016 at 2:16 am | Permalink

        I was being flippant. My point wasn’t even about indecency but about inability to empathise across social strata, I know this because I’ve interacted with many Oxford students and most of them have live sheltered lives, and on average they certainly are wealthier and tend to come from private schools – this isn’t a bad thing it’s just a fact. Somewhat ironic that the majority of these people who incidentally write for The Guardian should by the authors book not be allowed to write from the perspective or with the perspective of working class people in mind.

  17. Vinovian
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Anna Sewell wrote “Black Beauty”. That should cause outrage in many quarters.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      … particularly equine ones.

      But surely not nearly as offensive as ‘Tarka the Otter’ or ‘Watership Down’ …

      cr

      • merilee
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        equine hind-quarters??

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:52 am | Permalink

          My brain is trying to translate that as ‘horse’s a**’ but I squelched it.

          By the way, the legend that ‘Black Beauty’ was once banned in South Africa due to a misapprehension over the title seems to be, sadly, untrue.

          cr

  18. Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps interesting, whether writers are allowed to write fiction outside of the “correct” identity was the first major kerfuffle spawned by the “social justice” movement. It took place in the fiction writer community, and was dubbed “RaceFail ’09”. This is also the place where the term “social justice warrior” was coined.

    Two years later, 2011, followed atheism-skepticism, where the inflammation was called “Elevatorgate” (though a highly misleading term, since it was about the accusation that atheism was a rape culture. The lift incident was merely the hook, with a red herring attached). One episode known as “Dear Muslima” makes a lot of sense in hindsight, but nobody knew of regressives (or SJWs) at the time in our corner.

    In 2014, it hit video games, this time dubbed “GamerGate”, with the same script as in atheism. Again, the focus was on whoever is opposite of the SJWs. Then, in 2015, the postmodern inflammation reached Campus and Jerry began covering it frequently, and it seems a wider audience became aware that there really is some kind of bizarre movement/zeitgeist confusing the minds.

    If you’re interested: the immediate precursor was known as “social justice blogging”, which was a thing in the 2000s, potentially when the Critical Race Theory movement went online. Notorious was Tumblr for this ideology. Early on, the image macro “social justice sally” was making the rounds, mocking the now familiar SJW stereotype.

    And here we are, full circle. The “original” issue is back, but now in the Guardian. And I thought it was already starting to be seen as a joke. It now looks like postmodernism lost in the late 1990s, defeated by Sokal’s Army, but jumped online and began to rot the minds of younger people, who are now in employment at the Guardian and other papers.

  19. eric
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    the ultimate question around how we can know an experience we have not had

    Well, writing a character from that perspective seems like a good way to at least try. You might not get it right but trying to think through how another person would respond, act, and speak seems like a good way to make the attempt.

    The publishing industry is chock full of white men, and advocating for their ‘right’ to write from the perspective of someone in a marginalised position takes opportunities away from those with authentic experiences to share. In other words, the subaltern continue to be silenced, and still cannot speak.

    “Being published” is not a right, so not publishing someone is not silencing. You always have the town square and vanity press availability. Moreover, while this is not my industry and I don’t know much about it, I gather that most publishing houses receiving a fiction submission don’t even bother with the author’s bio until after they’ve read at least part-ways through a submission and decided they like it. IOW, the first cut is done wholly on merit. Now granted, they may not be able to tell authentic from non-authentic at that stage, but still, we probably shouldn’t be complaining when publishing houses evaluate what to publish based primarily on which submissions they think are written the best.

    • Richard
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 3:45 am | Permalink

      And, lest we all forget, publishing houses are actually commercial operations: they publish what they think the public will want to *buy* and read – if they didn’t, they would go bust, and would publish nothing!

  20. db
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never heard Joyce called anti-Semitic for writing a Jewish character. On the contrary I admire him for exploring how a Jew would actually experience anti-Semitism – and honestly, without making Bloom an oppressed hero of limitless virtue or blameless for his alienation. I wonder if any writer would get away with that today. Possibly in this case, because the threshold for accusations of anti-Semitism is much higher than for “misogyny” – which I’m sure Joyce has received plenty of, not that I can stand to read the lit crit.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      Identity Politics Rule No. 3678345: Jews don’t count.

  21. Pliny the in Between
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Well, based on these criteria, I guess I’ve produced my last xenomorph panel.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Well, it’s worse than that. Because half your characters are male and half of them female (roughly). So, without even knowing your gender, I can say that you’ll have to lose half your characters.

      cr

      • Pliny the in Between
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

        I have that covered – I create my art within a Schrödinger Box so the gender function doesn’t collapse until post time.

  22. Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    The only problem I see with people writing from point of view they haven’t experienced is that too often they write it badly. (I’ve refused ever to read again some authors who include small children in their books but somehow having the children never interferes with the adult characters’ pursuit of the plot. Idiot writers.)

    Well written, well researched books by empathetic authors should all be celebrated, whatever the combination of ethnicity of authors and characters.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 4:38 am | Permalink

      Yes, and that’s no different to having a problem with any example of bad writing. Dull, or unconvincing plots, stilted dialogue, poorly described action, unbelievable characters and pedestrian language are all good reasons for hating a book. The fact that an author has sought to imagine what it is like to be someone else (or even something else) is not.

  23. Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Someone could write a Strunk & White-type guide for regressive/authoritarian left writing. This piece would tick pretty much all the boxes.

    * Walking out of a speech after 20 minutes but still feeling justified in writing an article about it.

    * Failure to quote or summarize the opponent’s position at all (to say nothing of fairly) — Her question was — or could have been — an interesting question: What are fiction writers “allowed” to write, given they will never truly know another person’s experience? (We only hear what the talk “should” have been about.)

    * Failure to distinguish between observation and inference — Shriver began by making light of a recent incident in the US (Was she really “making light” of this exactly or using it to illustrate a point?)

    * Asserting conclusions rather than constructing an argument — It was a monologue about the right to exploit the stories of “others”, simply because it is useful for one’s story…. It became a celebration of the unfettered exploitation of the experiences of others, under the guise of fiction…. The fact Shriver was given such a prominent platform from which to spew such vitriol (The two sentences from Shriver she quoted do not support any of her conclusions.)

    * Treating own value system as an objective ethical measure that needs no justification or argument. Simply measuring the subject matter against this standard and pronouncing judgment is sufficient

    * Mistaking subjective experience for objective reality and judging the actions of others accordingly — I could feel the eyes of the hundreds of audience members on my back: questioning, querying, judging.

    * If anyone at all listens to an argument, they legitimize it — As the chuckles of the audience swelled around me, reinforcing and legitimising the words coming from behind the lectern

    * Taking action- walking out or preventing an argument to be heard delegitimizes an argument — “I cannot legitimise this …”

    * Self-aggrandizement and inflation of a “me against them” mentality — The stench of privilege hung heavy in the air, and I was reminded of my “place” in the world.

    * Dehumanizing those deemed to be opponents and treating them as an amorphous, bigoted mass — I turned to face the crowd, lifted up my chin and walked down the main aisle, my pace deliberate. “Look back into the audience,” a friend had texted me moments earlier. The faces around me blurred. [Uhuh, and texting during those 20 minutes!],“and let them see your face.” The faces around me blurred.

    * Once the monolithic opponent has been identified, connect them to extremists — The kind of disrespect for others infused in Lionel Shriver’s keynote is the same force that sees people vote for Pauline Hanson. (Don’t use Hitler though. Not because it’s cheap and exaggerated, but because you don’t need to — they are in fact equivalent to Hitler.)

    • Mrilee
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      Excellent summary, Yakaru!

  24. Historian
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I should not write about another race because I really don’t understand it.
    I should not write about another ethnic group because I really don’t understand it.
    I should not write about another sexual orientation because I really don’t understand it.
    I should not write about another gender because I really don’t understand it.
    I should not write about another religion or belief system because I really don’t understand it.
    I should not write about another economic group because I really don’t understand it.
    I should not write about another social group because I really don’t understand it.
    I should not write about myself because who really knows oneself?
    I should not write about anything. Neither should anyone else.

  25. Christopher Bonds
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Is it a slippery slope to say that we are heading toward the marginalization of everybody? Hey, I feel marginalized because I play the violin! Nobody except a violinist should be able to write a novel about a violinist, because they would be depriving me of my opportunity to write one.

    OK, maybe not. But I’m thinking of the example of novelist Tony Hillerman, who wrote all the mysteries featuring Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, Navajo law enforcement officers in northeastern Arizona. How dare he presume to understand the mind and culture of the Navajo!

    Marginalization could mean simply letting others define who you are. Collectively, there have been and are appalling abuses of power of one group over others. There’s no doubt about that. But on the individual level, people should be able to deal with their feelings in non-whiny ways. To me, whining about something means that you are permitting the abuse to continue and are thus contributing to the problem.

    James Baldwin was one of the great American writers of the 20th century. When I read his work, I often hear anger–a lot of anger. But I don’t hear whining. I wish more people would follow his example and speak out in literate, pro-active ways.

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Tony Hillerman was honored by at least one of the tribes he wrote about; they found his voice authentic.

      • Christopher Bonds
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        That doesn’t surprise me. His novels have an authentic ring. He did his homework, of course, but he would also have had to get to know many Hopi and Navajo fairly well, to the point they felt comfortable sharing things. It’s all about respect for the culture.

    • Cindy
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:39 am | Permalink

      Only cat owners can talk about cats!!

      Sorry PCC…but you must stop marginalizing cat owners, you are in no position to talk about kitties, not being a cat servant yourself!!

      😛

      • Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        Even if you are a cat owner, this doesn’t give you a right to write about cats. Only cats have the right to write about themselves. Humans deprive cats of their voice by writing about them. Need any proof? Have you ever read anything written by a cat? (BTW, “right to write” is a nice homophone, I must concentrate to write it properly.)

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 12, 2016 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

          “Have you ever read anything written by a cat?”

          Yep, many of the comments on this website are written by cats. They sneak onto the keyboard when their staff aren’t looking. (On the Internet, how can anybody tell?)

          cr

          😉

  26. Curt Nelson
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Your imagination is gonna tempt you to see things from the standpoint of another, but don’t let it!

  27. chris moffatt
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    The overwhelming emotion, and it is all emotion, I perceive from Abdel-Magiad’s rant is deep bitter jealousy. Is she a frustrated novelist recently rejected by publishers?

  28. Henry Fitzgerald
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Following Tom Lehrer, I’d like to say my cause is cultural appropriation, and I’m [i]for[/i] it.

    Other people writing about “her” people’s experience is surely to Abdel-Magied’s benefit, even if to no one else’s. If a successful writer – regardless of that writer’s own sex or race – tells a popular story about black women, for instance, the only likely effect this will have is to [i]open the market[/i], making readers and potential buyers more likely to want [i]more[/i] such stories. And if she, Abdel-Magied, really can do it so much better, and I’m not saying she can’t, then she’s among those who stand to reap the rewards.

    Side note: I encountered this soon after it was published after an approving re-tweeted by a friend of mine (well, she’s been in another city for some years and we haven’t corresponded) – something that made me feel kind of awful, for I thought Abdel-Magied’s complaints embarrassingly wrong in every possible direction; I wondered how anyone could fall for them.

    • Henry Fitzgerald
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Damn. Always forget to use angle brackets.

  29. Posted September 11, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I am writing a novella (which will probably never see the light of day — I’m not a very good creative writer, though I’m working on it) where the chief protagonist is *gasp!* a man. I am, as my name might suggest, a woman. Now, I’m a firm believer that one can only write about what one knows, and that man is a composite of several individuals I’ve worked with over the years, with maybe a dash of Husband thrown in (don’t tell him 🙂 ).

    Yet, according to this cranky person, I can’t possibly write this man authentically, because I’m a woman.

    Likewise, I can’t possibly have support characters who are Jewish, because I’m not Jewish (again, these characters are modeled on composites of people I know).

    In fact, the only character I can authentically write is the main character’s love interest, maybe. I was merely an engineer; she has a PhD in computer science, and works on far more exotic stuff than I ever did.

    Gah.

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      There must be diversity officers for writers; then, you could consult in time what you may write and what not. Though I find it difficult to see anything that will remain in the former category.

  30. Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    If historically people hadn’t spoken for the voiceless, and told us of their experience, they’d likely still have no voice.

  31. Ken Phelps
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    “…and make such an obviously political exit?”

    Perhaps, if she grows up some day, she will recognize that her exit did no more than brand her as a petulant twit. Fill your boots, Honey, you’re a self-made laughingstock.

    • jeffery
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t have put it past her to have stomped her feet as she walked out, just so she’d be sure to be noticed….

  32. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Maybe all culturally acceptable books should carry the following on their cover: “All characters herein depicted are of the same gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, occupation, religious belief and cultural identity as the author”.

    Just in case we might accidentally, err, legitimise cultural appropriation by reading an unsuitable book…

    cr

  33. tubby
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how she feels about that Japanese comic about Wyatt Earp. He’s even portrayed as a hilariously stereotypical pretty man.

  34. ladyatheist
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin promoted a sympathetic view toward slaves. As an abolitionist she knew more about slaves than most others, but her audience wasn’t enslaved people. Her audience was white people. It may take an “other” to tell your story to other “others.” There’s nothing wrong with that.

    And really, should we read nothing but autobiography? All fiction writers are adopting someone else’s point of view. Those who repeatedly mine their own experiences are either 1) Marcel Proust or 2) university English lit teachers with no time to get themselves out of the ivory tower.

  35. Steve Gerrard
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    I find it odd that there is so little mention of the reader in all this. The good writers I have read about are generally quite sensitive to who their audience is, as well as to their subject matter. Good writing demands that.

    I might very well find that someone closer to me culturally than a black Australian Muslim woman writes in a way that is more informative and engaging to me. A writer is a go-between in some sense, and must know my culture as well, or perhaps even better, than they know the culture they are writing about. Otherwise their effort will fall on deaf ears.

  36. Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Well, these complaints are exactly why I, as a privileged white male, never read anything Jerry writes. After all, our experiences are the same because we’re both white! All people of the same race have the same experience, if you disagree, obviously you’re racist and part of the problem! 😉

  37. jeffery
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    These tedious, self-proclaimed “Social Justice Warriors” have about as much of a sense of humor as Joseph Stalin did; it’s absolutely amazing to me that they can’t see the irony of them thinking they are preventing the “silencing” of certain writers, by “silencing” everyone else!
    So- I guess no one is to be “allowed” to write about anything that actually didn’t happen to them, huh? There goes all fiction out the window! These pukes are the worst kind of “thought-Nazis”. The world must be a VERY upsetting place for them (I hope).

  38. Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Even non-human animals observe the actions of others of their kind, reflect on possible significance, and may incorporate certain elements of the observed behavior if deemed useful. This has seemed to lead to empathy, a sense of community and morality in groups. The more we human beings of whatever appearance, behavior and/or culture can relate to others like this, the better we may become. Differences in humanity are very interesting and worth knowing about, but may be alienating if pushed to the extremes we are seeing today.

    As has been noted, a huge amount of literature has been written by individuals throughout history describing “other” people, cultures and situations they don’t really know. Imagination and art are like that. Critics will tell writers if they are thought to be grossly off the mark. Interaction, efforts to understand each other and communication are essential.

  39. phil
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    While not exactly fiction, one might wonder whether the story of Schindler’s List would have made the light of day if not written up by a white Australian of catholic Irish decent.

  40. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    Surely the whole point of a work of the imagination is that it seeks to go beyond the direct experience of the writer?

    • chrism
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:03 am | Permalink

      I’m glad to see that everyone else has picked up on the fact that fiction is supposed to be made up. It doesn’t have to be based on someone’s experience (a talking lion with delusions of godly grandeur? There’s a story still waiting to be told if it has to be written by a talking lion!) Fiction has to entertain. Readers will decide whose books they buy based not on the author’s race, gender, but on their writing ability. No guarantees that in this world a ‘queer indigenous man’ will get to tell his story as fiction in the commercial press, though no one will stop him babbling on endlessly on his blog etc. That a writer such as Abdel-Magied believes that the publishing world ought to work in the exact opposite way suggests to me that she hasn’t had the success she would like, and would prefer to change the rules rather than work on improving her writing or simmply accepting that the career of literary superstar might not be open to her.

  41. VRandom
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    I think Jerry should read her comments more carefully:

    It’s not always OK if a white guy writes the story of a Nigerian woman because the actual Nigerian woman can’t get published or reviewed to begin with. It’s not b>always OK if a straight white woman writes the story of a queer Indigenous man, because when was the last time you heard a queer Indigenous man tell his own story? How is it that said straight white woman will profit from an experience that is not hers, and those with the actual experience never be provided the opportunity?

    “It is not always OK” does not translate to “it is never okay”. It just means people should be mindful when writing stories from the point of view of the minorities which is a fair point. The actual details of what happened in the lecture could be up to debate but the overall point of hers seems very reasonable.

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      Yeah, and her walking out, her accusations of racism and colonialism, her claim that if you write about a marginalized group you’re silencing them. . . those are okay, right?
      I suggest you read this comment on the thread to see the problems: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/offended-guardian-writer-walks-out-of-talk-on-cultural-appropriation/#comment-1395175
      Those things constitute the “overall point”.

      Oh, and “Jerry” is not a “her” but a “he”. I suggest you read my website more carefully.

      • VRandom
        Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, “her” in “her comments” referred to Yasmin Abdel-Magied.

        About her walking out, it seems the audience was also influential in that decision since she wrote: “The audience, compliant, chuckled” so it sounds like she did not have a pleasant experience in that atmosphere and she has the right to walk out if that is the case.

        Her comments of racism seem to refer to colonialism and colonialism was obviously racist: “The attitude drips of racial supremacy, and the implication is clear: “I don’t care what you deem is important or sacred. I want to do with it what I will. Your experience is simply a tool for me to use, because you are less human than me. You are less than human…”
        And that part is a correct description of colonialism.

        So I don’t think she necessarily means that Shriver believes non-whites are less than human (if Yasmin truly believes that then, yes she is taking it way too far). In fact, the next paragraph where she discusses “intent” tells me that it is very likely that Yasmin does not believe that Shriver considers non-whites less than human.

        Her point seems to be that she finds the attitude that “I can write about whomever I want regardless of historical baggage” a problematic attitude and it is that attitude that reminds Yasmin of the attitude behind colonialism. Also, I think this historical baggage is central to her point: “See, here is the thing: if the world were equal, this discussion would be different. But alas, that utopia is far from realised.

        As for the comment that you linked, yes it is true that the piece is not very good on standards of journalism so I agree with some of the criticism linked there. But my point is that I don’t see why her whole argument can be completely dismissed despite its flaws.

        And I also would like to reiterate that she never says that “authors of one gender or ethnicity have no right to write fiction that take the viewpoint of someone of another gender or ethnicity—at least when those other people are minorities” and in fact, a fair reading of her paragraph that I originally quoted makes this interpretation highly unlikely.

        • Pabs
          Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

          Agreed on two points. First, that the inclusion of “always” in “not always okay” makes a logical distinction worth acknowledging (philosophy student here; we always want to pay close attention to language choices). However, in this case acknowledging it does not appear to significantly alter one of the author’s major points; later in the paragraph you quote we see said point, namely that it is unjust for person A to “profit” from telling a story about things that have not happened to person A, when person B, to whom things like those may have happened, has not yet had an opportunity to tell a story about them. Incidentally, she chooses to say person B is “never” provided an opportunity to tell their story, which not only makes her concern less realistic (logically speaking) but also removes a great deal of its rhetorical strength, for it implies that a story about B’s kinds of experiences is more justly never told at all than told by somebody other than B. Ergo the several criticisms of jealousy/petulance/spite found in the comments here.

          Second, I agree that the author did have every right to walk out of the lecture, and that would be the case whether it was the speaker, the audience, or even the lighting that made her uncomfortable there. The author has the right to take care of herself according to her standards, and she does not need to justify it to me or anyone else. Strangely, her piece reads as an account of her justifications, and some of her justifications happen to be her beliefs about what other people are thinking (e.g. that Shriver holds an attitude similar to racist colonialism, or that the audience agrees with such an attitude because they chuckled). She probably should refrain from attempting to divine the private thoughts of others whose personal experiences and ideas she cannot know. *wink*

          Interestingly, the main criticism leveled at her because of that – hypersensitivity – actually seems more to me like a trend of poor coping skills. Perhaps the rise of apparent hypersensitivity correlates with the rise in diagnoses of anxiety disorders. I am a mental health counselor, and the most frequent problem I encounter with my clients is an inability to cope with unpleasant thoughts. When struggling with anxiety, the mind can be trapped in the grip of a single troubling thought which then demands the client’s obsessive attention and can color the rest of their associations, thereby increasing the anxious feeling. Having poor anxiety coping skills often makes the client appear outwardly as self-absorbed and overly dramatic. I think humans generally would do well to increase their tolerance for anxiety-provoking thoughts and their coping skills for dealing with them. It might improve things re. “campus safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” “victimhood culture,” “hypersensitive SJWs,” and the rest of these kinds of alleged issues catalogued on WEIT.

        • VRandom
          Posted September 13, 2016 at 5:08 am | Permalink

          However, in this case acknowledging it does not appear to significantly alter one of the author’s major points;

          I disagree. The way I read it, she thought that Shriver believes that authors can always tell choose whatever story they want to tell without any regard to history or culture of the people featured in the story. She disagrees and believes that “it is not always OK” and to justify it she says that Shriver’s logic reminds her of attitude of colonialism. The last part is a bit of exaggeration but is not an uncommon rhetorical approach.

          later in the paragraph you quote we see said point, namely that it is unjust for person A to “profit” from telling a story about things that have not happened to person A, when person B, to whom things like those may have happened, has not yet had an opportunity to tell a story about them.

          I understand that paragraph in the context of the discussion, that is, an author picking up a story from different culture with no regard to the criticism (“It became about the fact that a white man should be able to write the experience of a young Nigerian woman and if he sells millions and does a “decent” job — in the eyes of a white woman — he should not be questioned or pilloried in any way.“)

          So yes, in this context I actually agree with her that it is distasteful for an author to paint their story with some random culture and “[filter] the experience … through their own skewed and biased lens, telling a story that likely reinforces an existing narrative”. And I don’t think that statement is unreasonable.

          We can have a debate about whether or not she actually understood what Shriver was talking about because it is very possible that she did not.

          But to reiterate, I don’t see where she claims “white men cannot write about non-white cultures”.

  42. Coolred38
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I thought the whole point of fiction is to “make stuff up”? Why do you have to be anyone specifically (from a specific group) when an active imagination is your one qualification that allows you to write decent fiction? IMO

    • Coolred38
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Oh I see I’m not the only one who picked up on that. Great.

  43. Cindy
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Related…

    Extremely liberal actor Mark Ruffalo is in trouble with SJWs for casting a gay cis man to play a trans woman over actual trans women.

    Several tweets in the story strongly imply that trans women will be ‘literally’ murdered if cis men continue to portray them in movies:

    http://heatst.com/culture-wars/mark-ruffalo-outrages-transgender-community-by-casting-cisgendered-actor-in-new-movie/

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      On another note, that story says Ruffalo is a 9/11 truther? We’ve got SJWs who hate cis-gendered white males running the Government yelling at a conspiracy theorist who doesn’t trust the same Government. This seems like something out of a Monly Python sketch.

  44. Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I wish I had been at this lecture! I saw Shriver speak at the Melbourne Writer’s Fest 8 days ago, giving the closing address and was slightly less controversially speaking about gender. My opinion of Shriver has only gone up, I’m very happy I managed to get my copy of We Need to Talk About Kevin signed

  45. Cindy
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    The full transcript of Lionel Shriver’s keynote address:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/13/lionel-shrivers-full-speech-i-hope-the-concept-of-cultural-appropriation-is-a-passing-fad

    She is great!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 5:25 am | Permalink

      Excellent!

      I’m surprised Miz Wotsit lasted 20 minutes; the start of Shriver’s speech:

      “I hate to disappoint you folks, but unless we stretch the topic to breaking point this address will not be about “community and belonging.” In fact, you have to hand it to this festival’s organisers: inviting a renowned iconoclast to speak about “community and belonging” is like expecting a great white shark to balance a beach ball on its nose.”

      cr

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 13, 2016 at 5:43 am | Permalink

        … said speech being published, I hope everybody is taking note, by the much-maligned Guardian

        It’s a damn good speech too, by the way.

        cr

  46. Posted September 15, 2016 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Well, I guess we need to dump Mark Twain, right?

    • kategladstone
      Posted September 18, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      And dump TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD because Harper Lee wasn’t Atticus Finch. Destroy any book, film, or play with a female character (if the writer was male) and any book, film, or play with a male character (if the writer was female)

  47. kategladstone
    Posted September 18, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    To accept Yasmin Abdul-Magied’s premises would be to forbid her to speak or write about Lionel Shriver — or about anyone, anywhere, who isn’t a black Australian Muslim woman.

    • kategladstone
      Posted September 18, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Further, to accept Yasmin Abdul-Magied’s premises would prevent anyone, anywhere — (except for black Australian Muslim women) — from discussing (even favorably) the premises — and other ideas — held by Yasmin Abdul-Magied. (How DARE anyone but a black Muslim Australian woman want to think or speak or write about any thought that is formed by a black Muslim Australian woman?!)


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