Language again: inclusion v erasure

19 Jul

(Please see update at end of post)

I often harp on language usage, and I’m often irked when authors use it thoughtlessly.¹

This post by Alexis Hall expands on a couple of reasons why we all should think a bit more about how we express ourselves:

And for that matter, LGBTQ+ has issues as a term because it implies the inclusion of groups of people who are often, in reality, excluded by the mainstream LGBTQ+ community. And, bringing this back to publishing, it’s especially problematic in romance because very often LGBTQ+ is used to basically mean m/m. And part of me says that the use of inclusive language is a necessary precursor to genuine inclusion, but part of me says that it can be used as a smokescreen to disguise to absence of that inclusion. And my poor word choice at the RITAs is a good example of this. I instinctively used the more general term and, in so doing, betrayed my own failure to recognise the achievement of a writer of non-m/m LGBTQ+ romance.

(…) this is a reason not an excuse but quite simply I didn’t mention The Saint in my RITA acceptance speech because it hadn’t registered with me as an LGBTQ+ romance, and it hadn’t registered with me as an LGBTQ+ romance because it wasn’t marketed as one. And, actually, this overlaps very strongly with the language issues I was talking about earlier. There is such a strong tendency for the LGBTQ+ romance community to view LGBTQ+ and m/m as synonymous that we often ignore romances with LGBTQ+ protagonists that aren’t targeted at our very m/m focused corner of the market.

This is the same thing that happens with people harping that ‘all lives matter!’² Yes, in theory, all lives matter. In reality, it’s pretty fucking obvious that some lives are valued more than others. Even if you live inside a hermit crab’s shell, you know that social equality is a lovely myth; a goal worth pursuing, to be sure, but not one that has been achieved, by any measure.

We all can do better. We should.

~ * ~

Update: via Courtney Milan’s twitter account, this post from Dylan St Jaymes:

Words have power. They can enlighten or enrage. They can bring people together or push them apart. They can build people up or break them down. They can be the first, last, or only line of defense against inequality or injustice. My words are my sword and shield. I will wield them mindfully, purposefully, and with intention but I will wield them.

~ * ~

¹ Interesting update is interesting: the last time I checked that post, well before today, it had about 50 likes in WordPress, about a thousand facebook shares, and close to thirty re-blogs. Now, the post has been deleted, and I have seen nothing through #notchilled, or elsewhere, addressing the deletion.
² I have quoted from this letter in more than a few places, but it’s definitely worth doing so again:

Premise: There is an invisible ‘only’ in front of “Black Lives Matter”
Critique: There is a difference between focus and exclusion. If something matters, this doesn’t imply that nothing else does. If I say, “Law Students Matter,” it does not imply that my colleagues, friends and family do not. Here is something else that matters: context. The Black Lives Matter movement arose in a context of evidence that they don’t. When people are receiving messages from the culture in which they live that their lives are less important than other lives, it’s a cruel distortion of reality to scold them for not being inclusive enough.

There are some implicit words that precede “Black Lives Matter,” and they go something like this:
Because of the brutalization and killing of black people at the hands of police, and the indifference of society in general, and the criminal justice system in particular, it is important that we say that…

Black Lives Matter is about focus, not exclusion. As a general matter, seeing the world and the people in it in mutually exclusive, either/or terms, impedes your own thought processes.

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