Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

Discussion in 'Literature' started by CooperTFN, Sep 2, 2012.

  1. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    You say "positively", I say "at all". And media vs. education is not an either/or proposition - the things you're saying are correct, but Star Wars is not a vehicle for genetics education, it's a vehicle for kick-ass superheroes with spaceships and laser swords. I'm saying we need both.
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  2. JediFreac Force Ghost

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    I wouldn't have gone with the label of trolling, but your approach did come with a certain sense of entitlement. I think the thread has been pretty transparent in setting out it's position. There is also some degree of fear because sometimes people come in asking us to explain ourselves when in fact they've already made up their mind or even project or imagine what they think we're advocating for. (Eg. Immediately assuming that we want ratios, assuming that we're "celebrating" racial categories.)

    A lot of your arguments could easily be used to point out why the current lack of diversity is wrong.

    No character has been tossed into Star Wars for being Asian. Multiple, multiple characters have been placed in the EU canon because they are white, or male, or straight. Yet it is only seen as some sort of unjust or racially determined special treatment when this approach is suggested for a minority. If you don't think characters should be a specific race because of their race (eg. editorial insisting that the Galfridians be white) then we are in total agreement. We just think all characters should be held to this same rubric.

    I'd hazard to say that we all agree with this as well. The difference is that you are implying that this standard should only apply for characters of color while characters who are white are allowed to continue to proliferate just because. You can see why that would be a double standard. The creators who deliberately or inadvertently prioritize straight white male characters are the ones who may actually think and are conveying consciously or subconsciously that race matters so much that only a single race can be widely featured. Your critique is much more strongly accurate when leveled at the actual works that have been produced.

    We argue that the race of the character shouldn't matter and therefore as a result we should see a much broader distribution of diverse characters.

    Agreed, race is a social construction that has been used to divide people and position some people above others,it really says nothing about a person, which is why it is so disturbing to see book after book after book in the Star Wars universe only depict one race. If more characters of different real world phenotypes were depicted in Star Wars then this series would better convey that message.

    Because of our natural propensity to assume that white males should just be in everything and the inclusion of a woman or a character of color or god forbid a woman of color is some sort of imposition of gender or race, we lose sight of the fact that white dudes have a race and gender too and that their position as the default human being results in them predominating in media franchises like Star Wars. This can only change if there is increased awareness of this literary trope.
  3. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    I would like to note that there is almost certainly a much greater degree of fear in the other direction. This thread has a very small number of regular posters considering its length. It's something like a dozen, really. The majority of those posters have staked out a very, very, liberal position on this issue and have a tendency to come down hard on any challenges to it. Considering that I have been the only person on the other end of a number of arguments, even though I approach this issue from a very left-of-center position and challenge the arguments presented primarily on process and data-driven issues, I suspect the discussion here is very intimidating to the average poster on this board and in the lit section overall.

    We can observe through other threads, such as the Homosexuality in the Prequels discussion that happened a while ago, that the average fan on these boards is nowhere near the position of tolerance primarily advocated by this thread. Given that, launching a personal attack against anyone who builds up the courage to post in this thread, however retrograde that position may seem (so long as it doesn't violate forum policy of course) rather than debating their position itself, is not helping.
  4. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

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    I wasn't aware wanting better representation for minorities qualified as a "very, very liberal position."
  5. Skaddix Jedi Grand Master

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  6. Random Comments Force Ghost

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    Rather depends on the definition of "minority," I expect.
  7. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    There is nothing liberal about wanting a Waru in every book.

    Waru is just common sense, no?
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  8. Random Comments Force Ghost

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    I think I've missed something...why does everyone love Waru so much here? Is it a board thing, like the Bib Fortuna book?

    [/sidetracking]
    Last edited by Random Comments, Feb 9, 2013
  9. Robimus Force Ghost

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    Have there really been that many personal attacks launched?

    At times I don't feel that credit has always been given where credit is due. We(as a group) tend to gloss over books like No Prisoners or Shatterpoint which have presented us with some of the diversity we are asking for. We have also determined that sometimes the eye of the beholder can vary from one person to the next, as in the case of Treis Sinde or Antares Draco.

    A few pages back when I took a look at human Senators in Star Wars I seem to recall getting back about a 5/1 ratio of white to other skin colors. That number would go to likely 20/1 or 25/1 or 100/1 in a heartbeat if I took out the human Senators from the films and moved the focus only to the EU. I might be mistaken, but having gone through that list I don't know if I can recall a single human Senator that was created by the EU that is identified as anything but unknown or white. All the known diversity came from the films.

    Now look at Luke's NJO, another creation of the EU. Is there a single Jedi we could name that we know for certain does not have white skin?

    So lets do the math. I'm all for that. I suspect the numbers will end up coming out pretty white, as they did when I went through the Senators a few weeks back.
    Last edited by Robimus, Feb 9, 2013
  10. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    The general thrust of this thread goes several miles further than 'wanting better representation for minorities.' There is obviously a spectrum of views on issues of diversity, on how fast and how important they are in any given context, and so forth. The primary position of this thread is very far to the left of the general public on this issue, it's in the very thread title for crying out loud: Ignorance is Bias would be a highly contentious assertion to a general US audience.
  11. Rilwen_Shadowflame Force Ghost

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    How much benefit of the doubt does someone really need, when they use a quote from a guy arguing for a more inclusive society to argue that if we're really into equality, we shouldn't mind all our characters being white men? I suppose I could have suggested he can't even hear his own argument for what it sounds like, though. Because there aren't that many interpretations to something that absurd.
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  12. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    That's something you're going to have to figure out for yourself. Waru is not something that can be taught. Go for a long walk, perhaps in the desert or forest, and maybe you'll receive your epiphany, if Waru wishes it.
  13. AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature

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    RE: Today's episode of the Clone Wars, the various non-Jedi Temple hangar workers were a nicely diverse bunch. Male & female humans, at least two Mon Calamari, an Ishi Tib, an Abyssian, a Pantoran, and a few other species. Ditto for the various Jedi Knights and Masters we see in the Temple.

    The Coruscant underctiy part techincally scores high on diversity as well, but we all know that the undercity is where old background characters go to die and get reused with slight alterations to populate the city's denizens. :p

    I'll tell you this much. For a species that loves forests and open spaces, Coruscant's undercity sure attracts alot of Ithorians. I mean ALOT. It is almost as bad as the large number of Quarren seen on Tatooine. [face_tee_hee]

    --Adm. Nick
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  14. MistrX Force Ghost

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    Medjev is the only one who comes to mind.
  15. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

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    What's a "general U[.]S[.] audience"? What's the "primary position of this thread", and why is it "very far to the left of the general public"?

    I'm not sure how a discussion thread can have a primary position when it consists of a variety of differing points of view (unless you're talking strictly about Coop's position, whatever that may be) and to the extent that it exists, I'm not sure what being to the left of the general public would actually entail.


    I would submit that -- based on earlier discussions of novelists and movie releases -- what you call the "general public" would better be characterized as "mass media positioning." Namely, I posit that because the mass media still continues to privilege white males, you imagine that the saturation of these characters suggests the approbation of a general public which I would prefer to characterize as acquiescent. As a consequence, the thesis that the general U.S. public is not amenable (or is, indeed, hostile) to diversity in media cannot be sustained simply by the lack of diversity that currently exists in media.
  16. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Actually it would be more of 'political positioning.' Diversity, tolerance, and race/gender/sexual orientation relations are all issues upon which political positions are staked, and therefore measured. Less than 100 days ago slightly more than 60 million americans, representing 47% of the voting public, cast a vote for Mitt Romney. The Romney/Ryan ticket had positions on this issue that are so far to the right of the average poster in this thread you'd have trouble graphing them on the same scale. Indeed, the Obama/Biden ticket is substantially to the right of the average poster in this thread on these issues. In fact, I don't think there's any politician of prominence today (expect perhaps Sanders or Kucinich) that would stand behind the general position staked here.

    That is not to suggest that such positions are wrong, indeed the US congress and political system in general certainly lags on these sorts of issues on a regular basis, and a great many Americans espouse positions that I find morally repugnant on these issues, but those people exist, and Star Wars product is sold to them. Moreover, people with more moderately liberal positions but who are skeptical of rapid change on any issue, or simply have never thought about this issue in depth are liable to hold positions that are considerably more measured than much of what is proposed here.

    Ah, nevermind. This is far from the initial point anyway, which was simply that however several of the posters here might be afraid of someone jumping into this thread with an anti-diversity position that is close-minded, there's probably several times that who avoid this thread because they feel anything less than full agreement over everything raised will result in getting into a bitter argument. Finally, since the purpose of this thread is to shift that status quo in one direction the onus is on bringing people into the discussion not driving them away. People who disagree should be welcomed, and met with reasoned points and discussion, that's the only way that the advocacy can be expanded and epistemic closure avoided.
  17. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

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    Ah, I wasn't aware that people who voted for a candidate agreed with their platforms 100% on every issue. Glad that you were able to correct the error of my ways, Mechalich.

    I think you'll find that politicians are inherently cautious people and will refuse to take a stand on any issue until it's become incredibly safe -- wanna guess how long it took mainstream politicians to outwardly support interracial marriage?

    Judging the position of the American people based on political platforms is just as bad as judging their position based on media tactics.
    Last edited by GrandAdmiralJello, Feb 9, 2013
  18. JediFreac Force Ghost

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    Whether we want it to or not, Star Wars probably almost certainly is serving as a vehicle of education for kids.

    So, looking at the science about media...there are a lot of studies demonstrating how consuming media (like Star Wars, I presume) impacts how kids learn about and understand the world and by extension how they feel about themselves.

    For example, last year the academic journal Communication Research published a study by two Indiana University professors called “Racial and gender differences in the relationship between children’s television use and self esteem: a longitudinal panel study.” This unique piece of research studied 396 black and white preteens in communities in the Midwest United States over a yearlong period. Researchers focused on how much the kids watched TV, and how that impacted their self esteem. Television exposure predicted a decrease in self-esteem for white and black girls and black boys, and an increase in self-esteem among white boys. In discussing the results of their findings, the authors pointed to three potential explanations:
    1. Male characters are portrayed as powerful, strong, rational, and the main character, while in contrast, female characters are portrayed as emotional, sensitive, and more likely to be a sidekick or love interest. In contrast to white characters, black male characters are more likely to be depicted as menacing or unruly, and black female characters are more likely to be shown as exotic and sexually available. As a result, young white boys have greater access to positive media representation. Social identity theory would argue that exposure to this coded messaging helps young white boys believe that anything is possible, and that they can attain, achieve, and be heroes.
    2. If television serves to reinforce gender and racial stereotypes, then social identity theory also predicts that the white girls, black girls, and black boys in the study used messages from the media to evaluate themselves, and that these comparisons can impact self esteem. In addition to messages kids get from family members, peers, community members, and other areas in their lives, if white and black girls and black boys also absorb messages from the media, it could impact their self esteem if they do not see themselves as successful, as main characters, or as heroes.
    3. If kids are watching television, this might be displacing real-life experiences that could otherwise build self esteem. (The study found that black kids watched 10 hours more of television a week than white kids did.) Arguably, these kids could be learning more about themselves through activities other than television, which could otherwise have raised self esteem. (The authors note that this theory does not explain why watching television hurts self esteem for girls and kids of color but raises self esteem in white boys who watch a lot of TV.)
    A 1997 National Survey of Kids between ages 10-17 on Television and Gender Roles. Found that seven out of ten girls -- and 40 percent of boys -- say they have ever wanted to look like a character(s) in television. About a quarter (31% of girls and 22% of boys) say they did change something about their appearance to be more like a television character. When asked to name people they most admire on television, the top ten selections by boys were all male. Seven out of ten people most frequently named by girls were also male.

    There's also a 2009 study about how college students could detect racial biases even just in body language portrayal on television. "When white recruits filled in a survey that measured their attitudes towards black people, they showed significantly fewer signs of racial prejudice if they had seen the [clips depicting black people positively.]" This study also found that you didn't have to actually notice negative portrayals to internalize them. This study used something called Implicit Association Tests...there's a bunch of free ones here at the Harvard website and I strongly recommend trying them! https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/

    (I mean, this all makes makes total sense. Do you guys remember that little girl who was bullied by her classmates because "Star Wars is for boys" ? How many of those little boys do you actually think were explicitly told by their parents that Star Wars is boys only, and how many of those boys do you think picked this up from observing their environment, from toy aisles at the store, Star Wars commercials and happy meal toys that almost always only feature male characters, or from watching the films? How many little black boys do you think are told on the playground that they can only ever play Lando and never take turns as Han or Luke?

    Yes, it is important for parents to sit down and tell those kids they shouldn't think that way and that Star Wars is for everyone, including girls, or that just because their friend is black doesn't mean he has to be Lando. But how convincing is this educational message when environmentally it is undermined by every turn? This is why being consistent in what we say and what we show or depict is so important. Telling a kid Star Wars fan they shouldn't be treated differently because they are a girl or a person of color or gay or all three at once--look at this data on genetics I have--is pretty ineffective if at the same time characters who are women, poc, gay, or all three receive clearly unequal treatment. There is a difference between explaining for or against a disparity versus actually taking steps to amend it.)
    Last edited by JediFreac, Feb 9, 2013
  19. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

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    Oh also, to address Mechalich's last paragraph: people are free to disagree with people. And I won't speak for anybody else, but I'd welcome a reasoned, principled, and intelligent disagreement with the central premise of this thread (assuming arguendo that there is such a thing).

    It's just that so far I see disagreement tending towards the limp, uninspired, and downright canned. The oft-trotted claim that "I'm not racist/sexist/whatever, I just hate the political correctness of inserting [X] for the sake of it" is rather difficult to respond to without alleging crypto-discrimination. It's the sort of thing that prejudiced people say in order to make themselves feel principled and to mask their bigotry. Because, of course, if it weren't for this haunting spectre of political correctness, their chosen viewpoint would be the only one people would ever see because (according to them) it's the only valid one and everything else is just pandering to a minority.

    There's a term for that: privilege.
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  20. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Sigh...

    Do you really want to deny, truly, that the US has a very large fraction of people who are pretty darned prejudiced? Whether it's towards women/minorities/gays/whatever else? Or that, as you move away from those harsh and discriminatory positions there's not a vast mass of the populace arrayed across a slate of moderate and/or hesitant positions that are considerably less substantial than the full-throated embrace of diversity that you and others in this thread regularly espouse?

    From my perspective, I tend to feel like I've somehow ended up as the conservative voice in this thread. Guess what, by any metric of the US population I represent a very, very liberal person on a wide range of issues including this one. If you're to my left by a measurable margin, you're part of a fairly small percentage. Exactly what that is I don't know, but considering that only ~20% of Americans even self-identify as liberal that's probably a decent approximation of the upper bound for inclusiveness.

    The purpose of this thread is pointing out and potentially offering solutions to an issue observed in the actions of a company that produces mass-market entertainment products (which btw, is almost certain to be way more cautious in its moves than any politician), but if LFL percieves that this issue is something only considered important by a tiny fraction of the fandom - and that's what the bruhing off by the powers that be several posters have reported suggests - then building a broader more inclusive conversation is pretty darned important toward the overall goal.
    Last edited by Mechalich, Feb 9, 2013
  21. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

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    Well, I certainly don't self-identify as liberal. I don't very much think that I'd want to. I'm not sure how that's a prerequisite for realizing that there are more people in the U.S. these days than white males. You talked about Romney voters earlier -- would a Catholic Hispanic have the same views about inclusiveness as a white Baptist? People join political groupings for a myriad of reasons. I firmly reject your assertions about the character of the U.S. population in this regard, for the basic reasons that you have failed to justify your beliefs. Even if you're right, you haven't done the work -- you haven't shown me why you can confidently generalize about the population on these bases.

    Further, because you persistently fail to answer my challenge about the "primary position of this thread," I am unable to credibly determine the accuracy of your assertion that the general public would find it extreme.

    So once again I'll ask two simple questions:

    I. How do you know where the U.S. general public stands on these issues?

    II. What is the idea put forth by this thread that is allegedly so far from general U.S. norms?

    Forget the long-winded responses -- just answer those questions to satisfaction.
  22. Zeta1127 Force Ghost

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    Am I prejudiced because I don't want gay characters in the fictional universes I enjoy?
  23. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Am I "really, really liberal" for wanting to see more aliens in prominent story roles?
  24. Rilwen_Shadowflame Force Ghost

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    Yes. But you already knew that.
  25. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

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    I'm usually more cautious about applying labels to people than most. I won't necessarily call you that -- however, you basically suggest that your enjoyment will be diminished because of the inclusion of characters who have traits (inborn, natural traits) to which you seem to object. I would ask whether you didn't see something problematic with that, but clearly you don't.

    So instead, let's take a different tack. Presumably, some characters in Star Wars have opinions with which you disagree -- these are mutable, non-permanent things. Presumably you have learned to deal with that. Why is that you can do that, but not deal with characters who have inborn traits which you find objectionable?

    Unlike others, I won't ask you to change your views, no matter my opinion on them. I will ask you to deal with the fact that the world will not and cannot cater to your views to the exclusion of others.
    Last edited by GrandAdmiralJello, Feb 9, 2013