Authors Respond To “Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year Challenge”

Ernest Hemingway Passport Photo in 1923 (via archives.gov)

Recently, an article published on xojane.com challenged readers to stop reading fiction from white, straight, cis males for a year in an effort to diversify people’s reading experiences.

Before long the article received criticism, such as this blog post and this one and the comments therein. Many felt that the exclusion of this specific demographic was unfair, as many of these talented works were going to be overlooked by a few readers for a year. They also felt this challenge was hypocritical to the values that they expected diversity to uphold.

“Any exploration of gender that excludes the experiences of anyone is, by its very nature, already limiting and policing the ways in which we conceive of gender expression,” argues a blogger on Brevity.

An actual white, straight, cis male author had this to say about the challenge:

“Everybody is different. Everyone has differing tastes. That’s why you introduce them to a wide variety of books. I’m talking real diversity, not the skin-deep superficial diversity SJWs glom onto, but real diversity of thoughts, ideas, and imagination,” says fantasy fiction novelist, Larry Correia in a blog post.

Despite criticisms, other white, straight, cis male authors, including Neil Gaiman, the poster author for this challenge, felt the proposition was good for readers:

Writer and Blogger, John Scalzi, expressed similar shoulder shrugging sentiments:

“I see no reason to feel threatened.”

Later he added that:

“the number of people only or primarily reading [whatever combination of not white and/or straight and/or male and/or cis] is likely relatively small compared to those reading only/primarily straight white cis males, which is to the point about bias in the system, and is worth thinking about, rather than sort of eliding in a rush to get to another point entirely.”

Instead of reading from the white, straight, cis male demographic, the article suggests that readers check out works from groups that have been historically underrepresented or marginalized such as people of color, transgender people, or even works that Americans are simply less familiar with like those from outside the U.S.

Regardless it seems the representation in fiction is largely disproportionate–even the stories themselves. Fantasy Fiction Novelist, Patrick Rothfuss, spoke a little bit about the underrepresentation of women in the genre at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo last year.

“Who has never realized until this moment that there are no women in The Hobbit,” he asked his fans. They began to raise their hands in resignation. “Isn’t that fucking creepy?”

What are your thoughts on xojane’s challenge? 

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