Another day, another White Man Prospers…
So last night as I tried to process my rage over a few things:
- The footage of Laquan McDonald’s murder by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke being released with the rampant anticipation of Drake’s latest video
- That same footage being been made into a gif and recklessly tweeted out by The Daily Beast
- 5 people at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis getting shot by white supremacists and the police “mulling” over whether to charge the suspects with a hate crime
- Police just can’t stop killing people in fucking general
…I see this story via Publishers Weekly linked on Twitter (h/t @veronikellymars): YA Debut Gets Six-Figure Deal, Sold to 16 Territories and Jerry Bruckheimer. Sounds holy shit awesome, right?! Like, go Team YA!
Until you realize it’s the not-so-rags-to-even-richer tale of a White Dude who decided to leave the ad world and dive into young adult writing (because how hard could that be really) and while he’s at it, completely transform how girl characters are written because so far nobody has been able to get it right.
And what had international auction houses and movie studios creaming themselves? Had to be something mindblowing that would shock the industry to get this kind of attention, right? Nope. A story with literally thin characterization–fat girl sheds pounds and gains badassery–and the plot points of a zillion different “troubled White Girl” espionage thrillers before it.
Eh. That’s the gist. But I encourage you to read it and draw your own conclusions.
So Writer Twitter did its thing with an assist from Book and Reader Twitter and formed a GTFOH Voltron that rightfully excoriated this bullshit down to the bone. Hence #MorallyComplicatedYA was born (shout out to @PunkinOnWheels for its creation). There’s some really fantastic stuff there strongly refuting the aforementioned soon-to-be YA’s Next Big Thing’s asinine assertion that his book fulfills the genre’s dearth of morally complex and ambiguous material and strong, girl characters.
And while this latest round of bile-inducing praise being heaped upon yet another White Male YA Savior is worthy of the epic dragging it’s receiving, somewhere around the third or fourth tongue-in-cheek joke lobbed to the TL, shit stopped being funny. At least for me.Because what I wasn’t seeing in the conversations was any discussion of the big, old white elephant in the room.
So I started talking. First about the sexism, one of my intersections. And while I got a ton of faves and RTs for comments about the patriarchy,
when it came down to another intersection, my blackness, and asking White women to examine how devastating their privilege is, particularly in the women-dominated publishing industry, it was basically *crickets*.
And I didn’t even really dig into what representation looks like for the various other intersections that I embody or for the multitudes of multi-faceted, supremely talented writers of color who are routinely turned away from publishing’s gates. There’s countless studies out there that provide hard data but I can tell you from lived experience as a lifelong reader and writer that it’s shitty. And it’s getting worse, even as awareness increases.
So while it’s extremely important to lift our voices and let publishing know we’re sick to death of being told the women who consistently write amazing books and create complex, multi-layered, characters don’t mean shit compared to the latest Mediocre White Dude, here’s what everyone keeps glossing over: nearly everyone involved in making publishing decisions is a white woman.
Let me say that again for those in the back:
NEARLY EVERYONE INVOLVED IN MAKING PUBLISHING DECISIONS IS A WHITE WOMAN
The same folks on my TL who shame women Tea Partiers and Republicans for voting against their own interests and the interests of other women don’t even blink at these White women in publishing and affiliated industries who elevate White men above all else. These White women rail against patriarchy while offering their backs for it to stand on. At the same time, they engage their own White privilege by overwhelmingly supporting white narratives. They consistently rep, edit, publish, promote, rec, and review White all the time. They literally cannot see anything else therefore nothing else is seen.
It’s really quite simple. Privilege is the problem here, even more so than patriarchy. Once the women who actually run publishing industry get sick of this shit, take a hard look at their privilege, dismantle this system for real, and address its issues of diversity at the human resources level rather than just on the surface, then we might actually get somewhere.
Until then, well…you see where that’s led us.