Cultural Appropriation is the concept of writing about a culture of which you don't belong. Lots of writers have done this over the years - indeed the very notion of fiction requires an author to create a story that is not simply a recount of their own experience. But in recent years a debate has emerged. Is it right - for example - for a white author such as myself, to write about the experiences of a person of colour, when a) I couldn't possibly understand that experience for real, and b) there are plenty of people who live that experience and should be heard before the likes of me pipe up? Any subsequent debate means privilege raises its head. And then intersectionality. It all gets thrown into the mix. Can I authentically write the character of a gay man when I'm not a gay man myself but a straight woman? I haven't lived with homophobia but I have experienced sexism? Can I transfer understanding of one area of oppression to another to inform a character, or does that mean I'm a) being rubbish, b) silencing the stories of actual gay male writers who might want to concentrate on this area, or c) all of the above? B is an academic debate in reality - I'm silencing no one from my titchy corner of the book market, but the wider questions persist. The topic is full of shades of grey with no black and white answers. (Apologies for the heavy-handed metaphor but you really should recognise my clunky style by now.) A bunch of brilliant writers have their say here, and it's a mixed bag of thoughts and feelings. Cultural appropriation is a bit of a minefield. Something to avoid? Something to recognise? Something to go ahead with, regardless? I think about it a lot when I'm creating new characters - it seems important to have in mind even if they all end up having the same ethnicity, sexuality and socio-economic status as myself.
So why this week? What has brought it all to a head? Well, brace yourself for Nigella . There is always time for Nigella. This week I chanced upon a video clip where she said she didn't agree with the idea of having guilty pleasures. Pleasure shouldn't be guilty, it should be embraced. I've paraphrased slightly so check out her actual words here. But it made me think. I'm definitely with her on the chocolate biscuit thing. If you want to eat something, you should eat it and enjoy it. Absolutely don't feel bad about it. Feeling bad about biscuits (or *cough* roast potatoes) is pointless. I heard her words and thought, Yes, Nigella, once again you and I are in sync. But then I thought again. There are some pleasures for which I do think I should feel guilt. Not food-related but culture-related. One of those pleasures is drag.
|Please don't judge me.|
Hope Mill Theatre,
|Smörgåsbord - or a |
buffet on one big plate!
|Aquavit with special |
glasses from eBay
Worrying too much about these pleasures stops them from being pleasurable, so I won't. But I am aware of them. I'm aware they belong to other people, and hopefully those other people are on board with me loving their culture. I am aware I am an appreciative outsider. I support from the edges not from within. And when it comes to creating made up characters whose stories I want to explore, I am aware of the tentative mine field across which I tread.
In Carry the Beautiful, I explicitly included two of people of colour and two gay characters. These were almost incidental to the plot. (Almost. The existence of a couple of them highlighted the prejudices of another character.) Was I being representative or tokenistic? Was I being aware or naive? Not sure. But I think about it a lot. Especially when I'm warming glögg, cooking cinnamon buns and lip-syncing for my life. Especially then. The minefield continues but we must always remember it's there.
Have a lovely week, folks.