It’s not a new idea–we’ve certainly seen it raising its ugly head in media repeatedly, but it’s become popular again–the “flipped prejudice” fiction. Victoria Foyt’s racist Save The Pearls did it for race and we now have the homophobic versions: a Kickstarter for the book Out by Laura Preble and the film Love Is All You Need. I hate linking to them but they need to be seen. They both have the same premise: an all gay world that persecutes the straight minority.
So that’s more appropriating the issues we live with: our history, our suffering, and then shitting on it all by making us the perpetrators of the violations committed against us. How can they not see how offensive this is? How can they not see how offensive taking the severe bigotry thrown at us every day and throughout history–bigotry that has cost us so much and then making our oppressors the victims and us the attackers–is? This is appropriative. This is offensive. It’s disrespectful–and it’s outright bigoted.
Y’know, if you actually want to talk about prejudice and persecution and how they can affect people’s lives, why not use actual marginalised people? You want to show how a person navigates a society that has extreme prejudice against their skin colour? Why not make your protagonist a POC? You want to show a society that persecutes people based on who they’re attracted to and who they love? Why not make your protagonist gay?
Oh, but then that becomes a specialist subject, right? A “niche,” dealing with marginalised issues. A POC book. A gay/lesbian book. Totally inappropriate for mainstream audience–when we can take the same story and flip it to bizarre bigot world and make the poor straight, white person the persecuted victim and we’re back in mainstream land. Funny, that.
Is that what this is? This whole offensive, bullshit trend (I mean, apart from prejudiced arsehattery, which kind of goes without saying)? A desire to use prejudice as a plot point but not sully your main character by making them an actual minority?
And don’t tell me it will help straight/white people understand oppression. Because if a privileged person will only hear about prejudiced issues when it comes from a privileged mouth, then what is the point? I’ve said this before when we’ve had similar bullshit, how are you going to encourage people to address prejudice and marginalisation while at the same time training them that it’s only worth listening to privileged people?
Because that’s what I hear when this excuse is trawled out. Straight, white people can’t possibly empathise with a POC or GBLT protagonist so we have to present these prejudiced issues through a privileged lens, from a privileged mouth. Either by making being privileged a marginalisation like in the examples above–or by making up an entirely new, fictional prejudice. As we’ve mentioned before with the appropriation of marginalised groups for “fantastic prejudice” where vampires/fae/witches are persecuted for not being mundane humans. This can even be doubly offensive when we mix both offensive appropriations–such as in Lost Girl–with the white Kenzi being oppressed by the Black fae for being human.
All of this completely puts the lie to the idea that these stories and storylines encourage empathy. If you had empathy, you could empathise with the real marginalised people who are actually suffering. You wouldn’t need a privileged person to make up a ridiculous and offensive marginalisation for you to cry for.
And don’t tell me it’s for marginalised people, so we can see a world where we’re dominant. Would I like to read a book where marginalised people are the majority and in charge? Sure–but not through the eyes of a poor, oppressed straight/white person who is suffering so awfully at the hands of the big, mean, prejudiced gay/black people. Because maginalised people being cast as evil villains? Been done, and it’s not fun.
If you needed any more proof that this is offensive, just take to the ‘net and start googling these storylines. Google “heterophobia” google “straight or white pride.” Google “reverse racism”; google “anti-white racism.” Google “Christian prejudice.” You probably got some truly vile sites and vile people right there. These memes already exist: from the oppressors, from the hate groups. and from the bigots trying to create the idea of these oppressive minorities have to be fought, controlled and kept in their place or you will become the victims. We already have this narrative: it’s in the mouths of the hate groups, the pro-segregationists, the politicians and the religious leaders denying human rights. In the shadow of these organisations, these books and films read more like cautionary tales– warnings for straight and white folks–than a call for empathy.
Just stop. You want to include marginalised people, then do it. But don’t make free with the severe issues that have shaped and attacked us for generations and appropriate them for your own ends. And certainly don’t do it while making our oppressor’s the victims and the persecuted the attackers in these lazy, shallow, ridiculous worlds.