The Artdog Quote(s) of the Week

Who owns our voices? If you run in the circles I do, you’re aware of the “own voices” movement, which has been growing since 2015. It started in children’s books, but it’s reaching far beyond that now, because it’s a sound idea.

In simplest terms, as Blue Crow Publishing lays it out, “Own voices’ means that if you are writing a main character who is part of marginalized group, you are part of that marginalized group.

This quote from actor and activist Rosario Dawson reads, "It's extremely important for women to be writing their own stories, truly crafting those stories, writing them down, directing them and giving them to people to really emotionally become impacted by."
(image quote courtesy of a tumblr that no longer exists, via Pinterest)

It’s a simple, elegant, empowering idea

For so many, many years, marginalized voices went unheard. Drawing on Blue Crow’s explanation above, if, for example, you were a trans* person writing about a trans* main character in the past, you wouldn’t even be able to get published at all.  The gatekeepers were all white cis folk who didn’t have a clue about the issues, drama, and authentic visions of trans* persons. 

Heck, most of the traditional media still have a problem letting more marginalized voices speak up. Remember #Oscarssowhite? That was a few years ago (2015), but it seems the lessons keep on having to be re-learned.  

Sorry to all the wishful thinkers. No, we are not yet “post-racial. We have a long, long, long way to go, before we get there.

I remain convinced that until the rise of indie publishing, and the success of niche markets such as gay erotica (which doesn’t even seem so “niche” any more), we would have seen the “own voices” movement rise even more slowly.

This quote from John Leguizamo reads, "I had to [do my own projects]. It was an antidote to the system, to the Hollywouldn't-ness of it all . . .because I didn't want to be a drug dealer or a murderer for the rest of my life. That's not me, that's not my people.
(Photo from the Huffington Post)

Why are authentic “own voices” needed?

Environmental science, biology, history, business experience, and common sense all teach us the same lesson. A diverse community brings a variety of strengths to the table. More approaches. More interesting meetings of minds and cultures and perspectives. Diverse communities are stronger and more adaptable. Yet humans’ instinct for tribalism fights this truth.

Likewise, intellectual communities are more adaptable, versatile, and robust when they accept many inputs. Our own individual world-views are deepened and enhanced by knowledge of wider ranges of possibility. When we pay attention to writers who tell their own stories and speak in their own voices, our understandings expand.

I recently blogged on my publisher’s website about the book American Dirt, and the need to read works by people who really know what they’re writing about. Such accounts tend (when well-written) to be more powerful and more realistic. And interesting

This quote image from Idris Elba says, "I was busy, I was getting lots of work, but I realized I could only play so many 'best friends' or gang leaders.'  I knew I wasn't going to land a lead role.  I knew there wasn't enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead."
(Photo from the Huffington Post).


Many thanks to The Huffington Post, which published two features that provided all of these posts. They are “18 Times Black Actors Nailed Why We Need Representation in Film,” and its sidebar slide show (scroll to the bottom), “16 Times Latinos Were Brutally Honest about Hollywood’s Lack of Diversity.”