Should White Men Stop Writing? The Blunt Instrument on Publishing and Privilege Elisa Gabbert June 2, 2015 Essays 176 Comments The Blunt Instrument is a monthly advice column for writers. If you need tough advice for a writing problem, send your question to email@example.com. I am a white, male poet—a white, male poet who is aware of his privilege and sensitive to inequalities facing women, POC, and LGBTQ individuals in and out of the writing community—but despite this awareness and sensitivity, I am still white and still male. Sometimes I feel like the time to write from my experience has passed, that the need for poems from a white, male perspective just isn’t there anymore, and that the torch has passed to writers of other communities whose voices have too long been silenced or suppressed. I feel terrible about feeling terrible about this, since I also know that for so long, white men made other people feel terrible about who they were. Sometimes I write from other perspectives via persona poems in order to understand and empathize with the so-called “other”; but I fear that this could be construed as yet another example of my privilege—that I am appropriating another person’s experience, violating that person by telling his or her story. It feels like a Catch-22. Write what you know and risk denying voices whose stories are more urgent; write to learn what you don’t know and risk colonizing someone else’s story. I genuinely am troubled by this. I want to listen but I also want to write—yet at times these impulses feel at odds with one another. How can I reconcile the two? — Anonymous Dear Anonymous, I have thought a lot about your letter. I know that you’re not the only white male writer asking these questions. As a white writer myself, I’m not necessarily the best person to answer. But this is my column, so I’m going to do my best, because I think it’s an important issue. I want to come at your question from a different angle though. You ask whether the time to write from your experience – the “white, male perspective” – has passed. I think this is the wrong question. The white male experience was not more important in the past than it is now. In Western culture, the white male experience has been overexposed, at the expense of other experiences, for centuries. The only difference is that the culture – at least the subculture that’s important to you – no longer accepts the white male perspective as default. You can and should respond to this shift, but I don’t think the answer is to stop writing. Instead, you should do what you can to make sure your own perspective is not getting more exposure than it deserves – that you’re not taking up more than your fair share of space. Many people have been angered, rightfully, by recent stunts in conceptual poetry that exploit real tragedies, like the death of Michael Brown, for the benefit of white artists. So I think you’re right to be concerned that persona poems could come off as a form of exploitation and appropriation; there’s also a risk of self-congratulation and unexamined complicity. Even if your goal is to learn and to empathize, one wonders why your act of inhabiting a woman’s or POC’s perspective would be more deserving of readership than writing by someone who has lived that experience? And the problem is, because of your status as a white male, whatever you do write is easier to publish, all other things being equal. Whether or not you or your editors and readers are aware of it, you get automatic bonus points. You’re at the lowest difficulty setting in the video game of life. When the VIDA counts come out and multiple publications are shown to publish far more men than women (with the numbers for POC writers looking even worse), editors make excuses about their submission pools – they get far more submissions and pitches from men than women. Then people inevitably respond by telling women to write more, submit more, and pitch more. I think this is exactly the wrong response: Instead we should tell men to submit less. Pitch less. Especially white men. You are already over-represented. Most literary magazines are drowning in submissions. Instead of making things even harder for overworked, underpaid editors, let’s improve the ratios in the submission pool by reducing the number of inappropriate, firebombed submissions from men. You – white men – have all the advantages here, so you should work to solve the problem of imbalance, instead of putting all the burden on women, POC, and LGBTQ to fix it themselves. (And I’m suspicious in any case that perfectly balanced submission queues would always lead to gender parity on the other side.) So here are my suggestions for things you can do – so you can “listen” while also writing, so you can write your own experience without denying anyone else’s or colonizing their stories: Read more books by women, POC, and LGBTQ writers. Make their experience a bigger proportion of your reading, and learn that way instead of by appropriating their voices. Then amplify what you love – recommend those books to friends, teach them if you teach, give them away as presents. If you edit a magazine, make sure you’re not overexposing white male authors, giving them too much space because it’s what you relate to. Even if you don’t edit or teach anything, you can promote more diverse authors to editors and teachers you know. Don’t be a problem submitter. When I edited a magazine, we got far more submissions from men, and men were far more likely to submit work that was sloppy and/or inappropriate for the magazine; they were also far more likely to submit more work immediately after being rejected. When you submit writing, you’re taking up other people’s time. Be respectful of that. I said in my last column that getting published takes a lot of work, which is true—but most of that work should take the form of writing, and revising, and engaging with people in the writing world, not just constantly sending out new work, which starts to look like boredom and entitlement. Think of this as something like carbon offsets. You are not going to solve the greater problem this way, on your own, but you might mitigate the damage. I’m sure some people would tell you to stop writing; I’m not going to. There is already more writing produced every day than anyone could ever be expected to read, and producing writing is not necessarily an imposition, since people have the option not to read it. I’m not even going to tell you not to write about race or gender; you might even be obligated to. There are surely non-exploitative ways to do so; I wish I knew the formula for how. The best approach is likely to work toward good writing regardless of your subject matter; to me that means choosing complexity over obvious, trite sentiments, and avoiding self-flattery—don’t cast yourself as the white savior. The Blunt Instrument 176 Responses « Older Comments Writers’ Blog Mulls Whether White Men Should Stop Writing - Exploring the News June 4, 2015 […] women, POC, and LGBTQ individuals in and out of the writing community,” an anonymous letter asks The Blunt Instrument, a feature at the online literary journal Electric Lit. “But despite this awareness and […] Reply walter adams June 4, 2015 Go stand on the corner and start talking. If the people passing by find something of value in what you say, they will stop to hear more. If they don’t, they will walk on by. The idea that everyone else should be silent so they will have no one to listen to but you is patently offensive. That is the reasoning of a child. Value, in writing or any other field of endeavor, will find its audience, or rather, its audience will find it. People are beating the bushes looking for it. They spend endless hours in the bookstores searching it out. Editors and publishers wade thru endless garbage hoping to find it. If your writing isn’t selling either it’s no good or it hasn’t been found yet. With all the possible venues for written material in this brave new world it is more likely the former. Reply Charlotte June 5, 2015 What a eunuch. Reply Alan Smithee June 8, 2015 How very ironic, then that white men are being shamed away from doing anything because of a defunct power structure. Whatever happened to “It takes all kinds to make a world” eh? Who gives one eighth of a damn about race these days? Racists, that’s who. and you don’t have to be white to be racist, contrary to what one might be led to believe. Frankly I find this needless villification to be stomach churning in the worst way. I love to see art and writing from people of all types, it doesn’t matter to me whether they’re white, black, asian or hispanic, and it shouldn’t matter to any of you, either. Reply David June 10, 2015 If an editor does not want to publish men or white men, please post that on your web and in your submissions guidelines. That would help me not waste their or my time. And if another editor does not want women, minorities, old people, young people, etc. , please post that too— much like the old Nineteenth Century ads that said NINA (no Irish need apply). This would save much time. And I would not want my poetry published in their journals for ethical reasons and aesthetic reasons. Reply Oliver June 13, 2015 Yeah I am sorry the moment you encourage someone who can not do something because of their gender or race which by the way is something you don’t chose. You are a sexist and racist. Reply James Ph. Kotsybar December 31, 2015 STANDING UNSPECIFIED — James Ph. Kotsybar My gender’s not the fairer one, My student status … past, mine is not the voice of region nor a specific caste. No network calls me “one of us” nor seeks to mollify, I’m not considered ethnic, thus I do not qualify. The journals, competitions and calls for anthology don’t explicitly ask for bland, old, white-guy poetry. Reply David Grove June 4, 2015 If you’re a real poet nothing can stop you from writing, not even being a white male. Reply David June 10, 2015 Amen Reply Nicolas June 15, 2015 But you can make your writing worthless by subordinating it to ideology. Reply rushmc July 21, 2015 Absolutely. Of course, she isn’t telling us not to write, only to shut up, shut down, and keep it to ourselves. I am not a white male, despite being a white male. I am an individual, a human being with an approach to writing poetry that is entirely my own (as evidenced by how difficult I find it to get published, even when I dare to submit my work and risk squeezing in in front of others). The inability to see me as other than the representative of some group I never chose to join and cannot choose to leave demonstrates only the poverty of the imagination of this writer, not any kind of rational argument sufficient to persuade me to change my practices. How is this kind of reductive thinking any different than (or any preferable to) those who exercise a bias against women, people of color, homosexuals, or members of any other supposedly underrepresented group? Equating my poetry (or even my point of view) with that of some arbitrarily defined group based on the color of my skin, my gender, or some cultural association you presume I share is not only preposterous, it’s insulting. Reply Melissa June 4, 2015 I apologize for the tone of my earlier comment; I was responding more to the person that wrote to you rather than to you personally. Your advice and comment is worthy and not for me to judge anyway. Which brings me to my advice for your reader — No one is your judge or that of your questioner. Write the way you speak. Some people will enjoy it, others will not. To do anything else is to be untrue to yourself and will eventually be revealed. An editor usually won’t tutor would-be writers. Too many writers, not enough editors (or readers for that matter). It isn’t a substitute for an education. When I first imagined myself to be a writer, and imagined my writing to be very good, I was astonished and hurt to be rejected. I attended some writing classes, attended some history classes, and eventually humbled myself to realize that what a writer needs more than anything is something to write about, namely, experience that she has that at least some others lack and would like to read about. Curiously, the more I learn the less interested I am in telling the whole world about it. I earned my knowledge; go earn your own! But art, such as poetry, painting and music, isn’t informative; it is expressive. So express! Reply A. Joachim Glage June 4, 2015 I have a question for any editors out there. In the original article (which I do think many people posting here have lost sight of), there *seems* to be a connection drawn between writers (especially male ones) oversubmitting, submitting work that is sloppy or inappropriate for the publication, on the one hand, and the problem of the underrepresentation in literary journals of POC, LGBTQ, women writers, etc., on the other. I am not sure I fully understand the connection here, and I would love to hear a little more explanation. The reason I am not sure I fully understand the connection, is because in virtually every conversation I’ve had with an editor (usually these are “off the record,” since no one ever wants to admit such things publicly), what I hear is something like the following: * Yes, we are flooded with way too many submissions. * BUT, probably a good 90% of those submissions are *obviously* inappropriate for our publication (wrong genre, horribly written, spelling and grammar not up to par, the same basic story about a breakup that we’ve already read five times that day, or just clearly abiding by a different aesthetic than what we like to publish [long sprawling Faulknerian sentences when we obviously prefer clean, spare ones, etc.]). * Because 90% of the submissions are so obviously inappropriate, we throw most of these into the “No” pile after reading a page or two. Like it maybe takes a minute or two to figure it out. It’s just a very clear “no,” right from the start, and this in a huge majority of the submissions. * It’s annoying that we have to sift through all those obvious “no” submissions, but those submission are actually not THAT huge a problem, not THAT time-consuming. What *is* really time-consuming is the quantity of *good* submissions we receive: the well-written ones, the ones that do follow our aesthetic, etc., the ones that it breaks our hearts to say “no” to. If the above is true, then I’m not sure how all the sloppy, oversubmitting writers complained of in the article are really doing any of the harm here. It seems those writers’ submissions should easily and quickly be spotted and weeded out. The hard part, rather, is all the *good* submissions the editors receive. And if in fact the hard part–the time-consuming part–is sifting through all the *good* submissions; and if what results from that process is still an over-representation of a white male perspective, then doesn’t the responsibility for that overrepresentation belong to the editors, and not the writers? They’re the ones doing the picking, after all. If out of a thousand submissions, only a hundred are really good, and if the editors still end up picking out of that hundred only white male perspectives…I don’t know, it seems like that’s more an editor issue than a writer issue. I’m genuinely curious; I concede straightaway that I might have a truly warped view of the editorial process. All I can draw upon are some conversations I’ve had, and my experience as a reader for my college literary magazine some twenty years ago…. To put this all in a maybe-too blunt form: Lets say the obviously sloppy, bad, inappropriate submissions suddenly stopped altogether–would that have any real effect on the underrepresentation problem? How? Reply Elisa June 4, 2015 I think this is a valid question, but the person who wrote in was asking for advice *as* a writer, not an editor. I’d have a whole different set of recommendations for editors. wanna be in my next column?! Reply Mike June 14, 2015 “Lets say the obviously sloppy, bad, inappropriate submissions suddenly stopped altogether–would that have any real effect on the underrepresentation problem? How?” Elisa, you’re ducking the question. “…the person who wrote in was asking for advice *as* a writer, not an editor.” So? If the answer to Joachim’s question is, “No, when you put it that way, I guess not,” then that completely invalidates the advice you gave to Anonymous to stop submitting so much work because he’s a white male. Which, by the way, is discrimination on the basis of race and sex. Which is racist and sexist. Steve June 8, 2015 A little about my background: I worked for several years as a contracted ghostwriter for an author management company. The editor I was attached to was female and she specialized in thrillers/suspense. You are correct that the editors themselves play a large role in what is accepted. In the case of the company I worked for, anything that was submitted had to be accepted by a team of editors. It was then assigned to (or chosen by) a lead editor. The lead editor would be responsible for working with the author to get the submission up to publishing standards and sorting out any issues to make it more marketable. The overall goal was, of course, to sell the work to a publishing house so they had very specific goals for the themes, plot and writing style. From my experiences in this specific facet of the publishing industry, the plot and themes seemed far more important than writing style and sentence structure. You would probably be shocked and appalled at how poor some of the writing actually was. I assume I got the worst of the group, otherwise they would have had the original author do the rewrite, but there were times I thought, “Wow, they actually accepted this and wanted to represent it?” I have no idea what the gender, race or sexuality of the original author was, but a vast majority of the novels I worked on had a white female protagonist. For what it’s worth, I am a white male. I’m not sure any of that factors very much into the choices the editors made. They are looking for something that was marketable and they didn’t really care who wrote it. Reply S.M. Stirling June 4, 2015 Writing fiction should not be autobiography; thinly-disguised autobiography is almost universally boring crap. Your writing should not be about you. Don’t be self-referential. You’re not particularly interesting to others and there’s no reason beyond egotism that you should be to yourself. I don’t read (or write) to “see myself reflected”. If I want to see myself reflected, I walk into the bathroom and face the mirror and turn on the light. This works like a charm and is far less work. Reading to find yourself is to the true experience of literature as masturbation is to real sex. You read to find out things you don’t know and people who aren’t like you. Nor does anybody have literary “turf” because of their personal experience. Write whatever the hell you feel like and about whatever the hell you want and whatever types of characters you want — I certainly do, and anyone who doesn’t like it can do that other thing. An infant thinks it is the universe. A baby thinks it’s the most important thing in the universe. An adolescent thinks the vast yeasty emotions pullulating in their breast are of cosmic significance. A basic part of growing up and becoming a worthwhile adult human being, rather than a childish, narcissistic waste of otherwise perfectly good oxygen, is realizing how profoundly unimportant you are. Your feels, even less important. It’s a big universe; you are not a significant part of it. Reply Don Jolley June 5, 2015 Stop. Just, stop. Why are you so angry? How are you driven to such angst? Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. When people read that line their hope swells as they pat themselves on the back for being so “advanced” as to truly love one’s neighbor regardless of their color, picturing their perfect world where our nation is colorblind. They congratulate themselves for being so gifted that they, unlike the commoners, actually embody the radical notion of judging a man by his character, although if you ask them to quote the actual words King spoke they’ll be challenged to do anything but paraphrase. Then they lay into their conjured evil, unscrupulous, all-consuming and self-interested enemy and suppress them – after all, they’re white males, living in privilege! King dreamed a future. He placed a picture in our heads of good men, racial harmony, and respect for all, and oh, how we cheer as part of our heart cries that the day hasn’t yet arrived. “Why? Why isn’t it here? Have we learned so little in five decades?” we condition ourselves to ask. How righteous our motives, we must act! We must stop the perpetrators, we must love the poor victims. Then, being imperfect, we do strange things. We tell people to shut up. Not all people. Just whites. Not females. Just males. No, they’ve contributed too much; look where we are. Yes, they must be silenced, and since they’re being silenced, we must point out how “angry” it makes them! We must invalidate the man before we possibly consider the qualities of his words! “Yes, instead of living in a world of ideas arising from the many racial, political, sexual oriented, gay/straight, nationalistic, and religious boxes we’ve constructed over time, we’ll have only two boxes!” And just like that, we’ve created another group to… hate. This time, however, we’ll do it right. We’ll actually BLAME them for the evil. Can you not see that this is morally wrong, and demands we be hypocrites! Our own actions allow us to hate the stranger in the other neighborhood and love with a blank check the stranger just across that arbitrary national border. It’s the only possible way in which we can justify valuing, even celebrating and importing a culture in which the massacres of Christians, the execution of homosexuals, and the subjugation of women is incubated, while ignoring hundreds of years of difficult progress and courage in order to hammer a stake into those who have a different moral compass from us. Different is good, because different is not the way of the white male! King wrote “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright days of justice emerge. And that is something I must say to my people who stand on worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” King knew the inclination of humanity and warned us not to take this road. He warned us against this path that would be constantly traveled, but never delivering us to our destination. He warned us of the Baltimore we own. Congratulations. We’ve successfully joined those standing on worn threshold, mulling about to polish the stones, carefully making sure we can never actually move to that palace as we declare how ready we are to feast together at its tables. In this column I’ve slipped into a counseling session in a world where self-flagellation is the accepted norm, the rightful conviction, the just morale. But the world I actually live in has a woman in the role of my regular physician, and she makes sure my prostrate is within specs. She’s Jewish, too, come to think of it! My foot surgeon and pain management doctor are the very definition of African-American. It’s not only the quality of my life, but my life itself that is in their hands. When I eat at a fancy restaurant, I don’t stop and think “Hey, am I getting enough food cooked by Central American immigrants?”, but instead have an expectation of an excellent meal. I selected each on merit and reference, not an effort to balance the ills of society itself. It’s my soul that thirsts for humanity to truly love one another, not my skin. It’s my soul, not my organ, that holds part of the key to that heavy door. I refuse to be satisfied in your world to just look at the door to the palace and dream. That frustration you detect is not bitterness at the shifting status quo, or merely caused by the scoffing and denigration of those who choose to define what resides within me. I live on the red hills of Georgia, longing for the day sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. And I think on the actual words he spoke when I was still crawling, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Enough. Enough. Leave those chains you feel you simply must place on someone else, and be my companion. Love me. Or, hate me. It’s the path itself, and the steps each of us takes in these different directions that creates the distance that each of us feels at this moment. Reply Greyhawk July 11, 2015 Amen. Reply You're Reading This 6/6 | Josh Spilker June 6, 2015 […] should white men stop writing? […] Reply Moe Lane » Permit me to cut through the chaff of this ‘Oh, woe! I am a white, male poet…’ June 7, 2015 […] is utterly too privileged to be allowed to stay a white, male poet in this milieu’ nonsense. I don’t actually want to slam Conor Friedersdorf’s response: it’s kindly […] Reply Rebutting The Anonymous Lickspittle : The Other McCain June 8, 2015 […] be clear, you silly twerp, That your sins are yours alone. Accidents of genes and […] Reply Steve June 8, 2015 I like how the anonymous poet decided to “check his privilege” by switching from poetry to satire. It’s sure to have a tremendous influence on what the publishing houses put into print and what the public at large chooses to purchase. Reply erejnion June 8, 2015 “Instead, you should do what you can to make sure your own perspective is not getting more exposure than it deserves – that you’re not taking up more than your fair share of space.” Wait, are you for real? Who can ever tell what his “fair share of space” is? Maybe that “fair share of space” is at the back of the bus? Maybe that “fair share of space” is on top of everybody else? But no, when in doubt, when you pose the question like this, the natural response while trying to oblige you would be to undershoot instead of overshoot. Undershoot a lot. Go to the back of the bus as if your fair share is really there. This is the natural response. And, if the author of this article actually understands what he is saying, this is also what he is aiming for. Oppression. Reply Matt June 8, 2015 With respect Elisa, I think it’s very patronising for you to suggest that white males should submit less work because it hints that those who are not white males are incapable of submitting good work themselves. We should not be held back by racial and sexual barriers at all, and your response to anon is only contributing to this problem. I thought we left all that behind in the 19th and 20th centuries. I also think it’s unfair that you think that white males should submit less work, as being white and male doesn’t necessarily determine your background. Do you think that disadvantaged white males should not submit their work either? Finally, why should the background of a writer matter at all? What should matter is the quality of their work, whether white or black, male or female, disabled or non-disabled. If we put people into categories and say that a certain category should not submit their work, that’s discrimination and it limits the amount of writing out there. We should treat people as individuals instead. To those who share similar anxieties to anon, don’t be held back by your gender or skin colour. You shouldn’t feel ashamed of what other people have done. You should judge yourself on your actions alone. You may look the same as them, but inside you are different. Reply Elizabeth June 8, 2015 I would love to know whether my work is good. One way to guarantee that I never find out is to silence everyone else because they were born different to me, they are the Other. That those people would willingly throw themselves under the bus because they think they oppress me by the mere fact that they were born and god forbid, did something with their lives, is pretty damned revealing. And you have the gall to dictate to those people who is and isn’t privileged when you wield that kind of social power. The fact that you exploit it reveals much about your character and ability. When I was a child I read what I wanted to and kept everything that I read. At the time I couldn’t tell you what the hell the authors were barring Stephen King as he was my favourite (I had interesting taste at 6 years old). Nor could I tell you what my favourite musicians looked like. Literally the only people whose name and appearance I was familiar with were actors. In my teens I arranged all of my books by author and wrote them all down, nearly all my favourite books were by men. My favourite authors are mostly men. I prefer the characters written by men. There are general, as in not universal differences between the styles and they mostly cater to different audiences. There is one very annoying general difference between characters written by men and women from what I’ve read (and I have read many hundreds of books). Those written by men are more often varied, three dimensional, flawed by not overly so and you can see their motivations and understand them. Those written by women tend to be more argumentative, drama queens, flawed only in the sense that they have no real flaws, or indeed any personality. Reason being that women generally prefer to project themselves onto the character, they have to be empty in order for them to insert their own personalities into them and find their own justifications for their behaviour. It’s actually quite fascinating. While men generally prefer to observe the events taking place with individual entities with their own distinct characters and personalities. It’s similar to how women generally prefer their porn to be in literary form while men tend to watch it in a live action format. This isn’t a problem mind you, nor is it true of all authors, it’s just a general trend and there are plenty of examples showing the opposite. Men tend to write for audiences of a genre, women tend to write for women. Just as men compete to be the best but women compete to be the best woman. It’s not ~patriarchy~ that dictates male and female behaviour, give humans more credit than that, there are evolutionary reasons but this comment is getting long enough. We should be enjoying and encouraging creative expression, broadening the range and increasing the voices, not suppressing them because you don’t personally like the way they look, or because you think you can’t compete and thus they need to be handicapped. It is an insult to you as an individual, to honestly believe that shit. Often the most important and poignant works come from those who suffered hardship, censorship, whose voices were forbidden, the only thing that will be achieved by oppressing others will be to inspire great works. Reply ogunsiron June 8, 2015 I think it’d be wonderful if all the white males who think like the letter writer did shut their mouth and did stop writing and talking and taking up space. It’d be wonderful if that “ally” and all other “allies of POCs” took their role as carpets and punching bags seriously and just STFU for good. That way the only white males who would keep on writing would be ones with some shreds of fortitude and pride left. By all means, if you’re white and think of yourself as an ally and you feel bad about feeling bad about it and you’re ashamed that you’re not ashamed enough etc, by all mean STFU! – a black male who’d rather hang out with white supremacists to with tapewormy, slimy “allies” Reply ZNH June 8, 2015 Funny. When I was in Iraq being shot at I could have sworn white, blonde upper middle class women were more privileged that myself. I stand corrected. Reply Shut Up, She Explained | The Political Hat June 8, 2015 […] to Elisa Gabbert over at “Electric Literature“, the answer is to Shut […] Reply LZB June 9, 2015 I vaguely have issues with the advice to the White Male Poet. His focus should be on creating the best work he’s capable of. He should view his perspective as that of an individual, rather than some kind of social identity. A good piece will go beyond race, class, gender, etc. lines. No one put down Their Eyes Were Watching God and thought “well, that would have really affected me, if only I could identify with the author.” If he writes good work, it speaks for itself. If his work (like most of all work in the universe) is mediocre, or average, but beating out superior work from NWMs, he’s most likely ceding his “spot” to some other White Male, not a woman or LGB or POC. Anonymous Symoblic Gestures are rarely worth it. Reply SherrieMiranda June 9, 2015 I hope that one day we will all be judged by the character of . . . Okay, I don’t know exactly how MLK put it, but where I live, we have GLBs present at most get-togethers. Sometimes we know it; sometimes we don’t. Most of the people I know judge people by what they talk about, not because they are straight, gay or bi. If you don’t want to be judged negatively, don’t judge others negatively. We have minority friends who are NeoCon Teapartiers. I personally don’t get it, but these are real people, real friends. One guy, my hubby has known for more than 40 years & he used to be at the other end of the spectrum. If someone makes art that moves us, it shouldn’t matter what sex or race they are. If they turn out to be an a-hole, I am not even sure we should judge their work differently. Besides, many rumors get started so you may never know who the artist/person really is. I am just glad that people are usually much kinder in person, at least the ones I know are. Sherrie Do you know a/b my debut novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador”? A young American woman goes to war-torn El Salvador: http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y My husband made a video about the novel. He wrote the song too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P11Ch5chkAc Reply sherrieMiranda July 22, 2015 Although I came by to say “Here, here!” to the recent comment (that I can’t seem to find), I also want to say that I stand by what I said in the previous post. To some extent, our ancestors are a part of us, but recent visits with family members reminds me how different we all are no matter where we come from. I am much more to the left than the majority of my “minority” friends, husbands and exes. To believe that any group thinks alike is to TRULY be a RACIST. We are all individuals and should be accepted or declined that way: As individuals. I hope we can all get past our racist past soon, but I realize that much like Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” the majority of people are still stuck in “Revenge” mode. Do you know a/b my debut novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador”? A young American woman goes to war-torn El Salvador: http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y Jeffrey Gibbs June 12, 2015 I am a 43 year old white male, graduated from an MFA program and have been writing all my life. While it is a fact that minority voices have historically been given no opportunity for publication, I find it completely missing the point to ask if a “white male” should write and odd to even take the time to answer such a question. I think more privilege comes from class than anything else these days. Upper middle class people get published a lot more, hands down–whatever their race or gender. It has also not been my experience, in literary fiction at least, that white males dominate–not at all. In fact in the upper middle class left leaning literary writing world, it seems quite frankly, a hindrance. Maybe it’s just the wheel of karma and it’s got to be that way for while. Fine, I say. But I won’t be asking anyone for their permission to write. Reply Mike June 12, 2015 This is insanity Reply GuerillaOntology June 12, 2015 I’m troubled by these folks labeling themselves “white” people, because it indicates that they are still thinking in terms of race. At heart they are still racists, they still believe in the “races” that their ancestors invented to justify colonialism. In regards to the question posed in the article, this paralyzing conflict is nothing but a double bind. Writing is an art, and art is not about ideology. Art is the product of being in the zone, when your conscious mind shuts off and your body automatically does everything the right way. If your art contradicts your ideology, it doesn’t mean that your art is harmful, it means your ideology is wrong. Reply SherrieMiranda June 14, 2015 Anthropologist do not believe in the concept of race. There is one race: the Human race. We all came from Africa, whether a few thousand years ago or a few hundred or a week ago. So, you are right, guerrilla, but you made need to tell your own people about this. 99.9% of the people in the world believe in the concept of race. Write an article detailing this misnomer and get it translated into every language. Now, it is time to move on with life & leave all this BS behind! DO THE RIGHT THING! Karma can be a bitch if you don’t! Sherrie Do you know a/b my debut novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador”? A young American woman goes to war-torn El Salvador: http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y My husband made a video for my novel. He wrote the song too: Reply Melissa June 16, 2015 andyhunter777 says: “I’m troubled by these folks labeling themselves white people, because it indicates that they are still thinking in terms of race. At heart they are still racists, they still believe in the races that their ancestors invented to justify colonialism.” Why are you troubled? It isn’t your problem, neither is the solution yours to impose on others. The fact you feel superior to them suggests you too are racist. I have no problem being racist. Of course I am racist and so is everyone I have ever met. Where we differ is what I do about it; which in my case is very little. It is plain to see you understand perfectly what is meant by “race” and that is the only purpose of a word; to convey meaning. Many white races exist with varying amounts of color and vast differences in culture; many black races exist also with varying amounts of color and vast differences in culture: Masai, Nubian, Ethiopian, Nuer, Dinka, Hutu, and so on. What does it mean to be living in Washington DC, descended from a slave with perhaps a bit of Irish, Italian or German? It is its own culture, not adequately described by any single convenience word. In the news today is a white woman who identifies as black and was the president of the Spokane chapter of NAACP — but is she a woman? Who can say; the word no longer has predicable meaning. Neither does “black” which used to be just a color; now it seems it can indicate a preference for something — not sure what: http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/15/us/washington-rachel-dolezal-naacp/ Welcome to the world of politically corrected speech. This sentence means nothing predictable. Reply Melissa June 16, 2015 Whups, ascribed the quote to the wrong person. It was GuerillaOntology that complained about using the word “race”. Blah June 13, 2015 Pretty sure this will be ignored but: Rather than sit around, guilt tripping yourself all day, why not be GRATEFUL for your life? Why waste it? Get to writing. Reply Melissa June 16, 2015 “Get to writing.” That is exactly what the author did — wrote out a complaint. That might be his magnum opus. Perhaps you were expecting something more literary. Reply Wochenrückblick | Wrag! June 13, 2015 […] Im amerikanischen Raum tobt ebenfalls eine Debatte um Diskriminerung. Angezettelt hat sie eine Kolumne auf Electric Literature, die Leserfragen zum literarischen Handwerk beantwortet. Ein weisser Mann fragte, ob es noch […] Reply JohnathanSwiftJr. June 15, 2015 My god, write, submit, blog, publish what you want, when you want and tell all of the scolds, social justice harridans and self-appointed egalitarian enforcers to f__k off. You shouldn’t put your testicles in a safety deposit box when you enroll in college or chose a creative career where these petite totalitarians hold sway. Fight back. Say your peace. In any creative field, the question is and should always be the quality of your work and how it moves people. There is no reason that a person born in Whitebread, New Hampshire can’t get inside the head of a 12th century Mongol or a writer from South America write a first person account of the Middle Passage. We call works of imagination, works of imagination for a reason. Men imagine the interior lives of women all the time, women write in the characters of men. No one needs some self-appointed censor’s permission to avoid the hanging offense of “cultural appropriation. When I see John Wayne playing Ghengis Khan, it doesn’t bother me that someone wanted a major film star to play the role, it bothers be because it wasn’t believable. I like seeing American Indians in film roles that call for them because it makes the film more believable. However, should we require a Lakota to play a Lakota, a Mandan to play a Mandan, or is it fine for a Crow to play an Iroquois? All this P.C. policing goes too too far. Perhaps everyone needs to simply start publishing under a nom de plume, offering only their work for judgment. Then, we could actually judge the work on its merits without checking into whether the writer agrees with every current approved opinion, nostrum and social convention on everything from birth control to sexual orientation to the Virgin Birth held by the mandarins of political correctness. Reply Nicolas June 15, 2015 American women are overrepresented in college attendance and degrees. Is it time for them to attend less and forgo degrees? Reply White Privilege Gets You Published: A Fisk | The Catholic Geeks June 16, 2015 […] Bet you didn’t know that the only reason you get published is because of white male privilege. […] Reply NYC Literary Scene: Atlas Review – VIDA Reading | June 16, 2015 […] males in the audience of the feminist reading. I felt like a little of an outlier since by birth I am the new enemy of literary world or at least in the poetry community. Doesn’t there seem to be a touch of hypocrisy there? Anyway, never mind… but trust me […] Reply Kenneth Goldsmith: Racist? Or just completely obtuse? | Tribrach June 17, 2015 […] a letter in an advice column that’s been making its way around the Internet, called “Should White Men Stop Writing? The Blunt Instrument on Poetry and Prestige.” (“The Blunt Instrument” is an advice column for writers. For those […] Reply Randy Wickersham June 30, 2015 “the entire autism report of Michael Brown” Your getting your blog pieces mixed up. Reply daily cleanse June 18, 2015 Good web site you have got here.. It’s difficult to find high quality writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!! Reply Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male White Poet | Marlena Chertock June 20, 2015 […] Literature published an advice column in early June where a white male poet addressed his privilege head-on and asked if the time for […] Reply Litblog Roundup » Real Pants June 22, 2015 […] was an anonymous letter published in Electric Literature […] Reply Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male White Poet | My Muse June 22, 2015 […] Literature published an advice column in early June where a white male poet addressed his privilege head-on and asked if the time for […] Reply construction sites June 29, 2015 Hi friends, its wonderful piece of writing regarding educationand completely explained, keep it up all the time. Reply White Privilege: Debatte über männliche, weiße Autoren — Zebrabutter July 4, 2015 […] Elisa Gabbert antwortete: […] Reply skjype July 28, 2015 I every time spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s posts daily along with a mug of coffee. Reply Surface Tensions: Character vs. Creator Diversity - Women Write About Comics July 28, 2015 […] recent Blunt Instrument column examines whether the “time of the white male author” has passed and answers, […] Reply Tiny Projects: Read Your Bookshelf | Digging the Groove July 29, 2015 […] month and a few weeks ago, Elisa Gabbert published an article on Electric Literature titled, “Should White Men Stop Writing? The Blunt Instrument on Publishing and Privilege.” This article – or advice column – was written in response to a white, male […] Reply Why I Cried Last Night | Victoria Weisfeld August 6, 2015 […] white male writers have been urged to acknowledge that “the white male experience has been overexposed, at the expense of other experiences, for […] Reply Early progression of an amateur writer | Anthony Martin August 18, 2015 […] White privilege in publishing; […] Reply OUR SUNDAY LINKS | GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine October 19, 2015 […] Should White Men Stop Writing? […] Reply House Clearance Service London November 10, 2015 Hi there, after reading this amazing piece of writing i am also glad to share my experience here with friends. Reply An interview with Emily Berry - The London Magazine January 8, 2016 […] was a piece in Electric Literature’s The Blunt Instrument column published over the summer, written by Elisa […] Reply Why I’m Taking a Break from White Male Writers ¶ Alisha Ebling January 11, 2016 […] Elisa Gabbert’s writing advice column, The Blunt Instrument, became suddenly very popular with a question from a white male poet. The question was in earnest, a writer who admitted to being aware of his own privilege both within […] Reply S. Stockwell May 13, 2016 It is inevitable to write from your own perspective and experience I think. Those are some of the major things that define you as a person after all. I agree about exploring other type of works though, thus enriching your cultural awareness and understanding. 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