First, dear readers, a confession: I never read the Batgirl of Burnside comics, more out of a disinterest in Batgirl as a character and DC’s New 52 as a whole than out of any particular feeling for the aesthetic or storytelling. I bring this up because the creative team from that Batgirl comic (comprised of Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr) has found a new home in Motor Crush, an indie comic with a cyberpunk feel that focuses on a motorcycle street racer with a strange problem and everything to lose. It’s my first outing with this particular trio of creators, and I’m mostly having a fun ride of it (that’s a pun, folks) so far.
By now, you all have probably heard about the extremely white cast for the upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This is extremely disappointing for those of us who were hoping that the film would have more diversity, as we certainly thought that a film set in 1920s New York would have at least a few characters of color. Alas, that was not the case, but apparently enough people have complained about this issue that producer David Heyman felt the need to speak out about the issue.
Like all of Jo Rowling’s works, [Fantastic Beasts] is populated with a variety of people and that will be the same in this series over the course of the films. There will be people of various types of ethnicities. In New York in the 1920s, there was a segregation between white and black, the neighborhoods were largely separate, and that is reflected in [the film]. But the wizarding world is a much more open and tolerant society where people of color and different ethnic backgrounds exist harmoniously together. There are people of color filling this world in an organic way.
There is so much about this comment that disappoints me that I barely know where to begin. That outrage aside, there are several issues at play here that need to be discussed.
I was into a lot of geeky things as a kid, but Harry Potter was my number one fandom, and back then, the Harry Potterstories could basically do no wrong. Now, as an adult, I realize that there are definitely things in Harry Potter that were problematic or simply things that I think J.K. Rowling could have done better, both from a writing and from an intersectional feminist perspective. We have already discussed on this site how problematic it is that many of the characters that are analogous with discrimination are all white, cisgender, heterosexual, and able-bodied, and relatedly, recently I have been seeing a lot of racebent pictures of Harry Potter characters in the fandom. It seems the two most popular are Black Hermione and Indian or biracial Harry, both of which I love, but it got me thinking about the lack of any real discussion on the intersectionality of discrimination in Harry Potter.
Writers are commonly taught to write what they know, but in recent years that’s been held up as the reason why we’ve been constantly innudated with stories of white cishet male protagonists. These stories are certainly still meaningful and approachable, but the white cishet male experience isn’t the only experience that counts as human. So, in an attempt to better representation and show that women and people of color are also part of the human experience, many writers are now doing their utmost to write what they don’t know.
But how to do research on experiences which are not your own? This doesn’t just apply to race and ethnicity—what if your character is Catholic but you yourself aren’t religious? What if your character has mental health issues, but you’ve always been pretty neurotypical? Books and other forms of academic research are a great first step. But as with most things, talking to a primary source—ie, a person who has actually lived the life experiences you’re trying to describe—is the best way to go about it. That’s where today’s web crush comes in.
The being was ten feet tall, radiant, so bright against the sunrise that she couldn’t look directly at it at first. When she did she could see that some of its eyes were solid white and others more humanoid. In two of its hands it held – her old backpack, the one she wore to class at the community college, until she was chosen in the Intern Lottery and took a leave of indefinite absence, the one she lent her girlfriend when her girlfriend’s got covered in ectoplasm and needed dry cleaning just before Poetry Week.
The angel knelt so that it could gently place the backpack in front of her. Its face, or what was the best approximation of its face, tilted down so it could meet Dana’s eye level. In a voice that sounded like the most grief-filled rejoicing, or the most joyful of all grieving, it said to her, I was. I’m sorry.
Welcome to Night Vale is definitely one of my favorite fandoms, especially when it comes to fanfiction. This is because while Night Vale already has a diverse cast of characters, fanfiction writers make things even more diverse and intersectional. The above excerpt is from known and be known by raven_aorla, which focuses on interns Dana and Vithya.
Let’s face it: sometimes being a feminist is hard. I mean, we have a branding problem—not that the word “feminist” is bad, as Joss Whedon was helpful enough to let us know *side-eye* but that there’s not enough pride in the word, in my opinion. I personally think that feminism is great, and we need to own our achievements. To the left is one of my favorite quotations about feminism, courtesy of Caitlin Moran (click for full-size). Caitlin Moran herself raises serious questions of intersectionality, like “How can I own my own identity, not drown out the voices of others, but still maintain a truly intersectional feminism?” After all, and repeat after me—“My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit,” or put another way, “feminism is for everybody.” Not just open to everyone, but for everyone. Which raises the question of where I, a black man, get off telling anyone anything about feminism. Can I even be a feminist, or must I be relegated to the status of “pro-feminist” or “feminist ally?” I’ve decided that the answer is “yes, I’m a feminist,” but that doesn’t even begin to approach all of the horrific and/or subtle ways in which we participate in a society structured to degrade women and the feminine to deleterious effect for almost all persons.
Sometimes, fellow feminists, it helps to have something to laugh at, and who better than ourselves? Is This Feminist? is a Tumblr devoted to answering its titular question in a way that satirizes all the hard work of being a feminist and the hit-and-miss nature of having your critical eye open all the time. The blog is not updating anymore, but its twenty-five or so posts are good for a relaxing laugh when you’ve just put down Half the Sky because reading it is too hard, or the news out of Ohio, New Zealand, or New Delhi is enough to make you throw up.