If you’re a boy writer, it’s a simple rule: you’ve gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women and that the worst women writer can write a better man than the best male writer can write a good woman. And it’s just the minimum. Because the thing about the sort of heteronormative masculine privilege, whether it’s in Santo Domingo, or the United States, is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity. And because you grow up with this, it’s this huge surprise when you go to college and realize that, “Oh, women aren’t people who does my shit and fucks me.”
And I think that this a huge challenge for boys, because they want to pretend they can write girls. Every time I’m teaching boys to write, I read their women to them, and I’m like, “Yo, you think this is good writing?” These motherfuckers attack each other over cliche lines but they won’t attack each other over these toxic representations of women that they have inherited… their sexist shorthand, they think that is observation. They think that their sexist distortions are insight. And if you’re in a writing program and you say to a guy that their characters are sexist, this guy, it’s like you said they fucking love Hitler. They will fight tooth and nail because they want to preserve this really vicious sexism in the art because that is what they have been taught.
And I think the first step is to admit that you, because of your privilege, have a very distorted sense of women’s subjectivity. And without an enormous amount of assistance, you’re not even going to get a D. I think with male writers the most that you can hope for is a D with an occasional C thrown in. Where the average women writer, when she writes men, she gets a B right off the bat, because they spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity. In fact, part of the whole feminism revolution was saying, “Me too, motherfuckers.” So women come with it built in because of the society.
It’s the same way when people write about race. If you didn’t grow up being a subaltern person in the United States, you might need help writing about race. Motherfuckers are like ‘I got a black boy friend,’ and their shit sounds like Klan Fiction 101.
The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons. And if you want to be a good artist, it means writing, really, about the world. And when you write cliches, whether they are sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, that is a fucking cliche. And motherfuckers will kill you for their cliches about x, but they want their cliches about their race, class, queerness. They want it in there because they feel lost without it. So for me, this has always been the great challenge.
As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track. They tell you, “You know what? You’re a bit of a fucking homophobe.” You can’t write about the world with these simplistic distortions. They are cliches. People know art, always, because they are uncomfortable. Art discomforts. The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real. And sexism is a way to avoid the real, avoiding the reality of women. Homophobia is to avoid the real, the reality of queerness. All these things are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that.
Self reblogging to add a thing I found:
The account @Anti_Racism_Dog didn’t last long. Twitter suspended it quickly, a fate reserved only for the most aggressive, abusive and hateful users. What could a dog – an anti-racist one, at that – do to deserve it? @Anti_Racism_Dog had one real function: to bark at racist speech on Twitter. The account responded to tweets it deemed racist with the simple response ‘bark bark bark!’ Sometimes it would send wags to supporters but that was pretty much it.
For the short time it lasted, it was amazing to watch how people reacted to @Anti_Racism_Dog. The account would respond mostly to what the sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva would call ‘colour-blind racism’, that is, racisms that are generally right-libertarian in orientation and justified through appeals to supposedly objective discourses like science and statistics. It’s a notoriously insidious white-supremacist ideology, a virulent strain evolved specifically to resist anti-racist language. Colour-blind racism defends itself by appeals to neutrality and meritocracy, accusing its adversaries of being ‘the real racists’. Although its moves are predictable, they’re hard to combat rhetorically since they’re able to ingest the conventional opposition scripts. Colour-blind racists feed on good-faith debate, and engaging with them, especially online, is almost always futile. But when they’re barked at by a dog, one whose only quality is anti-racism, they flip the fuck out. They demand to be engaged in debate (‘Tell me how what I said was racist!’) or appeal to objective definitions (‘The dictionary says racist means X, therefore nothing I said was racist’), but @Anti_Racism_Dog just barks.
@Anti_Racism_Dog inverted the usual balance of energy in online dialogs about race. Precisely because the dominant global discourse is white-supremacist, it is rhetorically easier to make a racist argument than an anti-racist one. Look at almost any comment thread or discussion board about race and you can see anti-racists working laboriously to be convincing and to play on their opponents’ ‘logical’ turf, and racists repeating the same simple lines they were taught (‘I didn’t own slaves’, ‘I’m just stating the facts’, ‘The Irish were persecuted too’, etc.) ‘Trolling’ as a certain kind of internet harassment is tied to time: the successful troll expends much less time and energy on the interaction than their targets do. It’s the most micro of micro-politics, an interpersonal tug of war for the only thing that matters. But have you ever played tug of war with a dog?
A true troll doesn’t have a position to protect because to establish one would leave it vulnerable to attack, and playing defence takes time. @Anti_Racism_Dog, by fully assuming the persona of an animal, was invulnerable to counter-attack. You can’t explain yourself to a dog and you look like an idiot trying. The only way to win is not to play but this is the colour-blind racist’s Achilles Heel: they’re compelled to defend themselves against accusations of racism. It’s the anti-racist argument that gives them content; theirs is an ideology that’s in large part a list of counter-arguments. After all, white-supremacists are already winning – their task now is to keep the same racist structures in place while making plausibly colour-blind arguments against dismantling them. @Anti_Racism_Dog was empty of anything other than accusation and so left its targets sputtering.
The account served a second purpose: as a sort of anti-racist hunting dog. @Anti_Racism_Dog quickly attracted a lot of like-minded followers who understood the dynamics at play. Whenever it would start barking at another user, this was a cue to the dog’s followers to troll the offender as well. There’s only so much one dog can do alone. Colour-blind racism is particularly dangerous because it isn’t immediately visible as such. It provokes good-faith discussion from liberals about what counts as racism, muddying the water. But @Anti_Racism_Dog’s strategy draws new lines about what constitutes acceptable discourse on race, placing colour-blind racists on the other side by speaking to them like an animal. What would be taken as totally insane in flesh space can be infuriatingly clever online.
All @anti_racism_dogs go to heaven. And with any luck, we get countless sequels.