Censorship and the PC Movement. Writers, Put Up Your Shields!

DL Hammons is hosting a deja vu blog hop today. The idea is to take a post from this last year and give it a do-over on the blog. Since I have been MIA here due to my OWFI Presidential duties, this was a great chance for me to show up without having to do double duty. (I have blog duties on the OWFI site. Check us out: www.owfi.org) I picked this post because this is an ongoing issue today. Writers have to be cognizant of the dangers of avoiding honesty in the guise of being politically correct.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 2.53.58 AMOne of my professors in grad school preached a lot about the danger writers might fall prey to the political correctness bug. While there is nothing wrong with being kinder and gentler as a society in our discourse with each other, being PC has not really had that effect. In fact, it appears to have had the opposite. People get into bitter discussions and vitriol flows freely in comment threads and on social media sites. If it sends the average Joe down that path, what is it doing to writers?

Brock Pope informs student writers this is a daily battle. We have to guard against it every time we sit down at the keyboard. The PC mentality is so engrained in our society that all rational thought leaves the building. Everything has become an attempt to ‘marginalize’ people. Recently, I had a scene with my detective, a Native Samoan. My critique partners both suggested it be cut as it was stereotyping. I trust my girls, and I always take their suggestions seriously. However, as writers we have to know when to fall back on our own counsel and what we know and have learned.

When I was going over the piece later, I kept hearing Pope ranting in my head against writers who cave to the pressure “not to offend” or to maintain a “PC” approach. Ultimately, I cut the bulk of the paragraph in question, not because it was stereotyping but because it was info dumping. I researched Native Samoans thoroughly and what I said was not stereotype but fact. There is a difference. When we make every male black character a basketball player, it’s stereotyping. They are not all brilliant basketball players, and they don’t even all like the sport. However, if I write an Italian character who talks with his/her hands, I am not stereotyping. Talking with our hands is a genetic factor in who we are. Attend my family reunions, you can pull major muscle groups dodging the arms.

What bothers me most about this PC culture is we’re slowly wiping out and demeaning our own histories. By demanding others not acknowledge who we are, we are also denying it. I grew up on Italian jokes, loved them, still do. Do we probably look silly talking with our hands? No doubt. But it’s part of who we are, and I wouldn’t change it anymore than I would my name. There are hazards to writing characters that have diversity. We’re encouraged to do it, yet told not to write characters outside our own culture. These things are in opposition. Trust writers to write. Allow them to create characters from any number of cultures, full of a richness that is part their culture and part their own unique personalities.

Writers today can spend too much time worrying about offending people and not enough time writing real characters. As writers, we must ignore the culture wars when we sit down to write. Otherwise, we are censoring our writing more than we’re editing.

How do you silence the inner editor who seeks to censor you?


Filed under Writing

10 responses to “Censorship and the PC Movement. Writers, Put Up Your Shields!

  1. Another Deja Vu blogger re-posted an article along similar lines today. It’s an important topic and one that should continually be highlighted!

    Thank you for re-sharing it for us today! 🙂

  2. Challenging question. It’s hard to do anything when your main driving goal is to not give offense. It waters everything down to lukewarm pap. And besides — “Offense” is a personal emotional reaction initiated by one’s own internal response. It can’t be “given” — it’s generated entirely within the perception of the reader.

    There is clearly a difference between trying to offend someone and someone choosing to be offended by everything.

    I also find it interesting how society has become so hyper-sensitive to some areas where offense might occur (ethnicity, sexual preference, etc) at the same time that popular entertainment strives to continually push the envelope and be so insensitive in other areas (sex, drugs, and graphic violence in movies, music, etc).

    Happy Deja Vu!

  3. Arlee Bird

    Oh this is so relevant to me, not so much in my writing, but in my everyday attempts at having conversations. So often I find my opinions stifled by those who prefer to avoid controversy. How can we learn without having our own ideas challenged and in turn challenging those with whom we disagree?

    Tossing It Out

  4. I agree. I think the whole PC thing has gotten a little out of hand.

  5. I think we’ve gotten a little crazy with the concept of offending or being offended. Someone says “I’m offended” by that action, statement, etc. and the PC police deem the action or statement unacceptable.

  6. greyzoned/angelsbark

    Excellent post! “Trust writers to write.” YES, YES, YES!!! Great points and very valid topic. Thanks for choosing this as your repost!
    Happy Deja Vu weekend!
    michele at Angels Bark

  7. Oh don’t get me started on this one! I do think we should be mindful not to offend, but it seems that the only people that have a problem with anything is the political correctness brigade! x

    • I know. I never want to deliberately be offensive and I am careful with my phrasing at times. But for writers to censor their work leads to shallow work that tells more lies than truth. I don’t want to read that.

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