2007 Jul 3

The conversation about portraying others is continuing. I just wrote a couple pages of text for Story Games, trying to show how creative works can potentially harm other people. But then Shreyas’ nailed in very concisely.

When you write about a subject, you endanger it. It’s your responsibility to recognise and respond to this endangerment.

When you write about yourself as a subject, or about a group of which you are a member, I trust you to write about it with care and grace and knowledge, knowing that your sense of self-responsibility motivates you to take appropriate precautions about what you’re saying.

When you write about something else, then to earn that trust, you have to assertively demonstrate that you are aware of the danger inherent in your expression, and you’ve taken appropriate and complete measures to protect your subject.

4 Responses to “Endangerment”

  1. Brand Robins Says:

    I agree with what you say save the part about not endangering your own thing.

    I have seen endless examples of people exploiting, degrading, reducing, and stereotyping their own culture, religion, place, nation, or whatever to the point that I can not assume that someone will write about it well.

    This becomes doubly true when the person is just repeating and reinforcing damaging interior elements of the culture. Like how many American works about America are jingoistic to the point of madness.

    So, yea, you have to be really careful when writing about other people’s stuff because you are putting other people’s stuff on the hotseat. But hell, you have to be kinda careful about your own stuff too or you’ll end up looking dumb and further fucking yourself and all your friends.

  2. shreyas Says:

    Brand, I think that’s a really good point. How do you feel about revising that statement to, “I expect you to be motivated to write in a way that you feel is appropriately protecting?” Succeeding at that is another matter entirely, as is the author’s notion of appropriateness, but I think that the motivation is present in cases that aren’t very unusual.

  3. Brand Robins Says:


    That’s better. Still though… I have this feeling that a lot of people either don’t hold their culture or whatever in a very high degree of respect, and/or hold it in a way that is problematic. I know a lot of copy writers who target and prey upon women, who just happen to be women. I know a few Desi folk who talk constant trash about India. I know a lot of Americans who think they’re saying the best thing for America, but are really just spewing jingoism that turns everyone not American right off.

    I do agree that people inside a culture have some real embedded reasons to do better than those outside the culture. I’m just not sure those embedded reasons always prevail, or even do so in the majority of cases, against the host of reasons and distractions against.

  4. shreyas Says:

    Right, I think we’re areeing – that stuff you’re describing is what I’d call “not succeeding.”

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