1. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Messages:
    2,418
    Likes Received:
    3,884

    Dusky/Olive skin - Yea or Nay?

    Discussion in 'Romance Forums' started by Laurin Kelly, Jan 6, 2018.

    As posted in my Progress Journal, I just got the edits back from LT3 on Kneadful Things, my short story about a regular Joe and a shapeshifting, genderfluid genie who fall in love among many wishes and baked goods. While I normally don't belabor the physical appearance of my characters, in this case I want to make a point of how totally different Jin looks each time Adam sees him - his skin, eye and hair color change drastically every single day, and it's very much noticed by the POV character, Adam.

    While I know that there are certain no-go ways of describing darker skin tones (like "mocha" or "chocolate") there were two I've seen commonly used that I hadn't heard were potentially offensive: "olive" and "dusky". The editor admitted that she hasn't traditionally flagged them as offensive, but very recently she's heard that some people find them off-putting.

    I don't have a problem changing them - I literally use each word once and I always err on the side of caution with this kind of critique/edit. I was really more wondering if any of you (especially @BayView as she works with editors/agents/publishers on a regular basis) have heard anything similar that these two terms are starting to slide into the ill-advised category?
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,854
    Likes Received:
    11,673
    I haven't heard a problem with "olive" - I mean, I guess it's officially a food-reference, so maybe that's not great, but it's pretty far removed from the actual food, isn't it?

    "Dusky", though, I can see maybe being an issue. I can't give an exact reference or citation, though.

    Interesting challenge, though, isn't it?
     
  3. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2017
    Messages:
    700
    Likes Received:
    1,421
    Location:
    Kennel
    Huh.

    I've never heard that before.

    I googled "olive skin offensive" and couldn't find anything. The only complaint I've ever seen about "olive" is that it's too ambiguous.

    But, interestingly enough, when you google "dusky skin offensive," this comes up. (link) According to Macmillan, the word "dusky" is now considered mildly offensive. On other sites, though, people commented that "dusky" seems old-fashioned but not necessarily bad.
     
  4. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Messages:
    2,418
    Likes Received:
    3,884
    It's funny you mentioned this - I was talking to my 20 year old daughter about the critique, and she'd never heard the term dusky before! So I think the idea that it's old fashioned is potentially accurate. The olive thing still really confuses me, but thank you both for confirming that this isn't something I should totally have been aware of.

    I think I'm going to replace the words with "tanned" and "bronzed" and see if that passes muster.
     
  5. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,854
    Likes Received:
    11,673
    I'm not sure how the "tanned" will work - I've heard that criticized because it suggests an external influence rather than something inherent to the person. Like, white people who get tanned aren't people of colour, or whatever.

    In terms of "dusky", I'm wondering if it's just sort of an overused cliche in the "wrong" kind of writing? When I hear it I think of erotic literature that kind of focuses on the exotic, like a white man fetishizing women of colour? But I'm pulling that out from pretty deep in my subconscious. Could be total nonsense!
     
  6. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    7,547
    Likes Received:
    10,212
    Location:
    London, UK
    I wouldn't use dusky but I'm confused over the issue with olive. What race is Jin supposed to be when he has olive skin? I'm assuming Mediterranean. If not, maybe that's the problem?

    'Tanned' or 'tan' skin always sounds weird to me for that reason, but I thought it was because we don't use it in the UK for PoC. It's only ever used for a white person who's been in the sun.
     
  7. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Messages:
    2,418
    Likes Received:
    3,884
    Yep, Mediterranean - I based him in that scene as looking like someone who likely had Italian or Greek heritage. So not really a race but more of an ethnicity.

    I think where this gets complicated for me is that the character himself is not a PoC (unless you count his non-human green genie skin at the end where he reveals his true form). My POV character Adam is just noticing Jin's skin tone along with his hair and eye color, and that skin could easily be the same color as a white person who spends a lot of time in the sun. Adam doesn't use a specific ethnicity in any of his descriptions.
     
  8. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    7,547
    Likes Received:
    10,212
    Location:
    London, UK
    That sounds fine to me. People with Mediterranean-like looks aren't generally discriminated against (at least here) or fetishised so I don't see why describing their skin tone would be problematic.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice