With any and all media, information and ideals are exchanged and enforced. If you create something, be it a Hollywood blockbuster or a self-published romance novel, you have become a part of the cultural dialogue, and you are opening not only yourself up to criticism but also whatever the ideal people interpret from it, which may be not at all what you intended.
The important thing you have to remember (and I have to remind myself of this all the time) is that it’s not always about you. If someone is pissed at you for something you said, wrote or liked, it’s because there’s a precedent for it in the life of the person giving criticism. It’s all part of a dialogue. Everything is derivative, all media is interdependent, and it’s never completely about you.
Themes, ideas and what people will read into your art is always a balance, and I believe that balance is different for everyone. Everyone’s process is different, what they like is different, their goals are different.
The key is, it is natural for us to get defensive about the things we like, create, or may someday create, but it is important also to fight against that natural impulse to get defensive and to listen to the dialogue others point out. Perhaps you misrepresented a certain viewpoint, or omitted another. Perhaps these things didn’t even cross your mind, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. An important part of our dialogue is to be open to different mindsets; you might learn from this sort of criticism, and end up with a far better product than you might have before.
…unless of course that person is being a miserable, unreasonable cockasaur. Those people suck. You don’t need that.
I was asked in an interview once: You’re writing another book with a female lead? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to be pigeonholed? And I thought, I write a team superhero book, an uplifting solo hero book, I write a horror-western, and I write a ghost story. What am I gonna be pigeonholed as?
Has a man in the history of men ever been asked if he was going to be pigeonholed because he wrote two consecutive books with male leads? Half of the population is women. I lose my temper here. And it’s certainly not at you. It’s just this pervasive notion that “white male” is the default. And you have to justify any variation from it.
I am so lucky to count Kelly Sue as one of my dearest friends. She’s amazing.
This is also referred to as The Just World Fallacy. If the world is “good and just,” then bad things must only happen to people who “deserved it or caused it.” Except the world is not good and just. And despite individual people choosing to be good and/or just, structures, institutions and systems remain corrupt overall. Primarily through the media is the idea that bad only happens to those who deserve suffering conveyed. Add this to the manifestations of oppression based on gender, race, class, nationality, citizenship, sexual orientation, size, etc. and things like rape culture for example, thrive. And even ideologies that appear “harmless” to some people like prosperity gospel, positivity culture, the law of attraction and American exceptionalism are based on ignoring systemic inequality and focusing on exceptional cases. They stand firm in this particular fallacy.
See, it requires quite a bit from a person to be willing to challenge the world as is. It is psychologically, emotionally and intellectually easier to victim blame. It also helps people protect their psyches from the thought that something bad could happen to them or worse, that they are the causes of those bad things happening to others.
Still…it’s unacceptable. Victim blaming = unacceptable. The right thing to do is listen and support victims/survivors of anything and the oppressed of any form of oppression and work to deconstruct the structures, institutions and systems that make it possible. On an individual level, it requires accountability.
I understand why people have allowed horrible shit to happen in the past. I typically understand why. But that is different from condoning it.
E. M. Forster
READ EVERY WORD OF THIS
This is the most important thing to understand: something that may seem innocent to you may be painful to others
I recently had someone say to me, “Well X group can’t just expect us all to be mentally updating our list of words that are insulting to them.” I was like “Yes… they can?” It’s not “ooooh evil political correctness,” it’s basic human decency.