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Acing the Rainbow Bechdel - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Acing the Rainbow Bechdel
Here's an article about revising the Bechdel Test (for female characters in entertainment) to cover people of color.

Gosh, that's easy for me.  I have whole settings where there aren't  any white people, or very few.  The Whispering Sands Desert is one.  Almost all the Northerners in Torn World are golden-skinned; some of the Southerners are people of other colors.  Kande's Quest is sword & soul, set in an African-flavored fantasy world ... but I probably shouldn't count that since I designed the demons after white people, or wait, maybe I can since the unpublished poem is talking about something else.

The Schrodinger's Heroes  cast is racially diverse; they're usually talking about quantum physics and/or saving the world.  The Steamsmith  has a black protagonist, who talks with other black people in several poems, notably her mother in "Coils and Brass" and her valet Ned in "Putting the Past on a Pedestal."  Fledgling Grace has some black characters, discussing their neighborhood news in "The Wingdresser's Kitchen" and an unexpected miracle in "On a Wing and a Prayer."  Other featured people of color include Native American, Jewish, Japanese-Australian, Australian Aboriginal, mixed Hawaiian, mixed Hispanic ... I'm sure I'm forgetting some.    Kung Fu Robots is Asian wuxia science fiction and The Origami Mage is Asian fantasy.  "Starfather" has an Egyptian-descended hero talking with an Asian-descended troopmate.

If you write, how's your Rainbow Bechdel score?

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valarltd From: valarltd Date: January 14th, 2013 07:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Define People of Color...

My co-author classes Middle-eastern people as PoC. I do not. (my half-Greek&Lebanese step-sisters considered themselves white, because they weren't black) She also includes Jews, but again, not seeing it.

Sticking to novels:

Nikolai has James Ligatos (Greek) talks to Iakobos, his cousin, thanking him for his help. James also talks to Stephen (African American) about Kentucky trying to secede from the Confederated States and their estimated travel time. He also talks to Benta (Israeli) in Rome, but we do not hear their conversation. (It can be assumed it is about matters of great importance, since he runs North America for her)

Alive on the Inside has a few of people of color: Ming Xia, Nagina, Marvello, Marie Leveau. But they interact mostly with the white main character, from whose POV the story is told. (one white character even freaks out over talking to marie Leveau, partly because the woman is black)

Privateer's Treasure has a cast with a lot of PoC, including an interracial main romance. The men talk to each other about piracy and sailing and all the other business of their lives. The Moroccan and the Barbadan (?) talk of many things including sex and torture.

Power in the Blood has a variety of PoC, including Gilgamesh, Josh (Judean), Samil (Issacharite), Martin Luther King Jr., and Lielit. None of them are main characters and they tend to not talk to each other.

Hard Reboot, mostly white, mostly Celtic. (My co-author griped that everyone was Anglo. I told him that of the 8 main characters, ONE was Anglo. We had 2 Israelis, and 5 Irish, of varying descent) There is color on the streets, but the book is focused on Sean O'Neill and his wife, Tara McLean, and the abuses the powerful people are committing in their lives. For Sean, only Tara and his brother Niall are really real, the rest of the world is wall-paper.

Spellbound Desire: Demarco Jackson, head of the Memphis combat mages, Officer Thomas, Galena Ortiz of Las Quatras Brujas, a Tejano combat mage unit. The old Polynesian tattoo artist. But again, they mostly talk to the (white, Scottish) hero who is in town to fight his ancient foe. And of course, being Memphis, there is a lot of local wall-paper color, people not important to the romance or combat plot, who move through our characters' lives.

Curse of the Pharaoh's Manicurists: touchy. There are Egyptians, if you consider them PoC. They talk about their work, and about Charlie (white, American), on whom they are working. They're getting him ready to meet Osiris...

Glad Hands: Native American. Several Cherokee, including the main character. Mohawk and Crow as well. High Chief Mankiller gives Chuck a job. Fred Half-Moon loses his temper. Stan gives Chuck directions. John Littlefeather and Chuck talk. Charles and Linda Hummingbird talk to their son about Charles making partner at the ad agency, Linda's altar guild, the international incident he caused. Hannah talks to Chuck about her due date. Mother Vivian talks about God, interpretations, weddings and her wife's pregnancy. Dr. Singh lectures Chuck.

Shell-shocked: wall-paper. The clerk at the local grocery, a DHS inspector.

Heart of a Forest: set in 1216 England hinterlands. No PoC to be seen

(coming in Feb)
Barbarossa's Bitch: the Wildpack is a mixed batch, but is shown almost exclusively through the eyes of the lead character. Therefore, when they aren't interacting with him, they're background. OTOH, he has three biracial daughters and we see the older teaching the younger the alphabet song and sign language.

(coming in May)
Heart's Bounty: Hevik is light-skinned mainstock human. Miho is somewhat darker Human+, Rejan is dark-skinned mainstock human. The three of them have an interesting BDSM scene. We also have exotics (humans with custom pigmentations, green, purple and blue) It's space opera, and Earth race doesn't apply.

Blackhall's Transtemporal Medicine Show:
Eliza and Cassius Masterson are a married couple. They talk about many things, including their babies and their jobs.
Fenyang is South African, Samira is Egyptian. They are having a romance.

I have a tendency to make the PoC wallpaper, unless they are the main characters. Then again, I tend to make all the supporting and bit players into wall-paper.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2013 07:34 am (UTC) (Link)

Wow!

That's a lot!
valarltd From: valarltd Date: January 14th, 2013 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Wow!

I did a whole post:
http://valarltd.livejournal.com/1721158.html

About 6 of the 13 novels pass all three criteria.
One fails to have any PoC at all, and that's mainly because of setting.

My short stories fare much more poorly. 26 of the 70 have PoC in them at all. Only 6 pass. The short work is often much more focused on two or three main characters so there isn't a lot of outside interaction.

And most of my stuff fails the Beshdel because I write male same-sex romance.
cadenzamuse From: cadenzamuse Date: January 14th, 2013 11:44 am (UTC) (Link)

FYI (you may already know this)

Totally beside the point, but two of my best friends' mother* is from Barbados, and the colloquial name for people from Barbados is "Basian." One of them suggested that the likely linguistic path was "Barbadian"->"Barbasian"->"Basian."

*They're twins. They have the same mother. :)
valarltd From: valarltd Date: January 14th, 2013 01:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: FYI (you may already know this)

Thank you. I hadn't actually needed the term so I found myself confused.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 15th, 2013 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: FYI (you may already know this)

Fascinating. I don't think I've encountered the term before. Thanks for sharing.
robling_t From: robling_t Date: January 14th, 2013 08:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I was just thinking the other day that Trevor is more or less the only unambiguously Straight White Male in "Hiraeth" who's got any sort of a speaking part...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2013 08:35 am (UTC) (Link)

*laugh*

I'm amused to see someone else doing that. I kind of do it with Chris in Schrodinger's Heroes, and his cousins keep getting the short end of the stick too. I am so planning to shaft Luke again.
robling_t From: robling_t Date: January 14th, 2013 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

The funny thing is that it wasn't a conscious decision; for this project the characters have all been turning up for my consideration with distinct ethnic identities -- and even the "white" characters would all have been considered 'white-ethnic' at one point or another of history -- without it being something I've set out to do, though I do appreciate how it's shaken out! It's also defaulting to a lot of the background characters like cops and random co-workers being female, too...
cat_sanctuary From: cat_sanctuary Date: January 14th, 2013 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm surprised she doesn't mention Neil Gaiman's "Anansi Boys."

I've never even tried writing about people in the real world who don't have at least one ethnic root in common with me, having been told that that was disrespectful and exploitative and so on. But when I used to write conceptual fiction about an alternative world I did play with the idea of race. The people in that world were a really alien race, having structural and not only surface differences from us, but the majority of them looked more or less like Caucasian humans. A large minority group, nearly all of whom had chosen to segregate themselves and develop a distinctive culture, were albinos; one of their inventions was a way to give themselves enough artificial pigmentation that they could enjoy bright sunlight, so they were the ones with the pre-punk hair dyes that used to identity low-budget science fiction shows. Relative to the COLORED People, or albinos, the rest of that world were obviously Brown People, and didn't worry too much about shades of brown--some of them were melanistic, but they hadn't isolated themselves and bred for that trait, so it could crop up anywhere, as albinism does in the real world. The only people who might have called themselves "White" would have been rebellious young albinos, but I never wrote about that possibility.

Probably not Theangryblackwoman's idea of a strong statement, or any young person's, today...but it reflected real cutting-edge science and felt daring at the time.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2013 11:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Wow!

What a fascinating scenario. Thanks for sharing!
thesilentpoet From: thesilentpoet Date: January 14th, 2013 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Be very careful in defining "Jewish" as people of color. As much as Jews claim to be a race, culture, tradition, AND religion, in itself it covers a broad range of spectrums.

As for my own characters, the 64-squared cast is ethically diverse, certainly. Ryan's black. Charlie is Chinese-American. Miles identifies with her Latin/Hispanic roots, although she is also half-German. Lior is half-Iranian, and yes, Jewish. Reid is... well, he's a combination of things. Anya doesn't talk about her past, although Russian seems to be her first language, and most people assume Declan is Irish. They're mostly correct. Hunter and Rook are a mixture too.

And there are other characters not introduced yet, who are also a varied mix.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2013 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

>> Be very careful in defining "Jewish" as people of color. As much as Jews claim to be a race, culture, tradition, AND religion, in itself it covers a broad range of spectrums. <<

The concept "people of color" varies depending on who you ask, because it's a superset made up of multiple subsets. Ask a black person: they'll probably say Jews are not people of color. Ask a Ku Klux Klan member: k*k*s and n*gg*rs are in the same group. And Jews themselves seem to vary on that issue; I'm not sure if that's random or if it divides along major geographical or ideological lines.

So I just consider the superset to have fuzzy, shifting boundaries.
thesilentpoet From: thesilentpoet Date: January 14th, 2013 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...


I'd say both geographical and ideological, honestly. In personal experience, I experienced it more idealogically when visting Israel, I experience it more geographically in the U.S. But then not many people understand the idealogical differences of Judaism if not Jewish. Honestly, I'm not sure if Jews do. *wry grin*

Of course the Kaifeng/Chinese Jews sort of spin both on their heads. China was a very popular destination for those Jews escaping the Holocaust, and pockets of the culture does still exist, although in many cases it's dwindled due to inter-marriage. (Side note: I feel like this needs to find its way into Silk Road Allies, somehow.)

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2013 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

>> But then not many people understand the idealogical differences of Judaism if not Jewish. Honestly, I'm not sure if Jews do. *wry grin* <<

I have a slight familiarity with it, enough to look it up if I need more detail for something. *chuckle* I remember the kerfluffle over the ordination of women as rabbis and the addition of an orange to the seder plate that some of them picked up as a result.

>> (Side note: I feel like this needs to find its way into Silk Road Allies, somehow.) <<

That would be awesome! Well, we've got that one poem about rescued artworks; this would make a good companion piece to that. Clearly there was an exit route from Italy to China. So alter-China may have wound up with even more Jews than historic-China did.
thesilentpoet From: thesilentpoet Date: January 14th, 2013 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...


If you should ask...

As part of the currently-going Poetry for the Masses, I have written the poem 'Lost Jews'. When Nixon opened the China Trade, he hoped to find the lost paintings, he certainly did not expect to find lost Jews.

This poem ties into the Silk Road Allies' verse. Poetry for the Masses is a pay-what-you-will.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2013 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Woohoo! I love that line in the sample. That is brilliant.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 18th, 2013 01:45 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Thank you! I have listed this on the Silk Road Allies page, and in a post about poetry from my prompts.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: January 14th, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, it all hinges on how one defines 'PoC'.

I discovered some time ago that I can't write anything narrative that doesn't involve Chinese characters, but no Chinese I ever spoke with see themselves as people of color.

That said 'Ming Li and the Charmed Phoenix' has no non-Chinese characters at all, 'Cai Luoma and the Partians' has a lenghty conversation about the dangers of sea-travel (are Parthians PoC? No idea), the romance I'm writing and serializing now is set in Italy (and I've met quite a few US folks who think 'white = WASP, Italian= not-WASP = PoC'to wonder where we fit), the male main character, the antagonist,and another important character are Chinese, there is also a Moroccan character (if you consider Berbers PoC, I don't), more will enter later on and there will be plenty of conversation that has noting to do with Europeans at all.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2013 07:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> I discovered some time ago that I can't write anything narrative that doesn't involve Chinese characters, but no Chinese I ever spoke with see themselves as people of color. <<

Huh. Fascinating. Some of the Chinese-American folks definitely do, although not all of them seem to.

I suspect a key factor in this is how much racial discrimination a person experiences locally. The higher that goes, the more likely they may be to consider themselves people of color.

>> the romance I'm writing and serializing now is set in Italy (and I've met quite a few US folks who think 'white = WASP, Italian= not-WASP = PoC'to wonder where we fit), <<

That's another point of variation, although I did not include Fiorenza the Wisewoman (which I think is ALL Italian except for the Spanish vampire) in my list.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: January 14th, 2013 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>Huh. Fascinating. Some of the Chinese-American folks definitely do, although not all of them seem to.

I suspect a key factor in this is how much racial discrimination a person experiences locally. The higher that goes, the more likely they may be to consider themselves people of color.<

Indeed, but I believe other factors come into play as well.

For one, Italy's history is mainly one of emigration, mass immigration is a very recent thing for us (in 1992 the Chinese residents in Italy were 15,000 in 2011 they were 209,934)so while there are problems we don't have the kind of luggage the USA have.

Moreover, most of the Chinese here are Han born and raised in the PRC, so they are used to being the 'ethnic norm', it's the ethnic minorities who are the PoCs of China.

another thing is that, in the way we use it when speaking Putonghua, 'waiguoren' ('person from outside', 'foreigner') really means 'non-Chinese'. I use it in the same way, so I speak of myself a 'Putonghua-speaking foreigner' even though I was born here (and it took a conversation with my co-ordinator to realize it, it didn't really register before).
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 15th, 2013 12:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>Moreover, most of the Chinese here are Han born and raised in the PRC, so they are used to being the 'ethnic norm', it's the ethnic minorities who are the PoCs of China.<<

That makes sense.

>>another thing is that, in the way we use it when speaking Putonghua, 'waiguoren' ('person from outside', 'foreigner') really means 'non-Chinese'. I use it in the same way, so I speak of myself a 'Putonghua-speaking foreigner' even though I was born here (and it took a conversation with my co-ordinator to realize it, it didn't really register before).<<

*laugh* Well, yeah, it's the applicable term because it's like 'goy' referring to outside-a-People not outside-a-place in terms of foreign-ness.

It's interesting to see where people draw lines.
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