I've been thinking a lot recently about the different stages of, I guess, ideological and empathetic growth I went through to kind of end up where I am, and I imagine a lot of people had similar journeys.
Step 1 - I started kinda centering on fictional representation. Asian American cartoon characters like Jubilee were a huge deal to me, and I guess I developed an understanding that it's important to see yourself exist in the popular imagination. It's affirming, particularly for young people, but it doesn't often consider the IRL people behind the fiction.
Step 2 - I realize that, actually, industry representation is poor, and that often creators with mostly good intentions who occupy hegemonic spaces still systemically benefit the most from their industries, and that sometimes media representation doesn't always materially benefit people of color, women, queer folks, disabled folks, etc.
Step 3 - This is the Hashtag OwnVoices Step where in an effort to figure out a way around cultural misappropriation and trying to give marginalized folks room to tell their own stories, I end up pigeonhole marginalized writers into writing about themselves and aspects of themselves without recognizing that maybe they just want to write a fun thriller or pursue their own passions outside of being educators on social issues.
Step 3 cont'd: This also drew unfair, arbitrary, and oftentimes oppressive delineations over whose cultural voices were or were not valid over certain topics. It insinuated cultural essentialism and a bit of nationalism, which did not include people who occupy liminal marginalized identities. It passes over biracial people, diasporic immigrants, etc. The pursuit of "Only the most Genuine Voice" is problematic because it reifies the erasure of people who have been culturally displaced.
Step 4 - I figure out that I need to get out of my head and do my best to materially support the marginalized folks who are making work where I can find it. This worked fine up until I realized I was sometimes supporting projects that I didn't quite think were up to snuff just because someone asked, and that there are many, many creators from marginalized backgrounds whose works *are* highly skilled I could support.
I guess I'm kind at Step 5-ish now - Just doing my best to meet people where they are. Being able to think about oppression in terms of thought exercises and theoretical approcahes is helpful to a point and useful to an even smaller point. There's not a perfect, one-size-fits-all way to do it, and I need to always be intentional and considerate about wherever I find myself in my work and the media I consume.
@Trungles Yeah, I really feel this.
Generally, I want to be generous and make allowances always for non-white writers even if they're writing "outside their lane". It's often more nuanced and sensitive.
But, it's so hard to balance with my identity, sometimes it's just too close and the cooption and misappropriation too painful for me to maintain a level of generosity and distance.
@Trungles It's even harder with white writers to the point where the only way I can deal is by strictly deciding what I'm going to read based on how I feel about it.
I want to say "writers can write what they want", but it's so exhausting when particularly white writers have really only one kind of Asian they know how to write (see FOOLISH HEARTS). And I do feel a lot of this would be mitigated if there were 20 different Asian chars per 1 stereotypical ex, but we're not at that point. =/