1. Aviandalek

    Aviandalek New Member

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    Is a character gaining a limb back ableist?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Aviandalek, Jun 3, 2019.

    Hey, all! In my story, a character is introduced and they have a prosthetic leg. They disappear and come back in later chapters after being experimented on and now they have two bird legs. No one really makes a big deal about it, and the character lost their memory, so they don't remember not having both legs. I was wondering if this was ableist writing. I am abled and thought that adding more diverse characters would be better because representation, y'know? But I don't want to be one of those writers who throws away part of a character's personality because ~~now they're """"whole""""~~.
    Any other solutions or workarounds would be nice to hear, too. The only one I have so far is that they get a metal bird leg where the missing one is. Thanks! :)
     
  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    I don't think so, but then again I don't know if it is or wrong or not to be able to walk
    with a prosthetic or some sci-fi/magic new legs.
    [​IMG]
     
  3. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Florida Man in Training Contributor

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    Ableism is (I'm googling this, so I might be wrong) making fun of handicapped people. As far as I can tell, you're not poking fun at your people with robo-feet, so technically, no. But in the court of public opinion because humans are a retarded species, maybe, if some non-gmo anti-vaxxer pothead busybody granola hippie with nothing better to do decides that it is, then you might be in trouble.
     
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  4. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    It's a little more complicated than that.

    MythCreants' article Five Common Harmful Representations of Disability has some good explanations of why each trope can be harmful (beyond simply "SJWs love whining about nothing because they're stoopid") and how one might use a potentially-harmful element in a way that isn't harmful.

    The one most relevant to @Aviandalek would be #2: Cosmetic Disability ("All too often, a disabled character gains magic or technology that gives them the same abilities as an able-bodied person..." )
     
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  5. Aviandalek

    Aviandalek New Member

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    I skimmed through the article and that seems like exactly what I need! The "what to do instead" part of it gave me some better ideas than what I had in mind originally. Thank you sm! :D
     
  6. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Happy to help :) Good luck!
     
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  7. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Florida Man in Training Contributor

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    I just read the article, and while I'm sure that these points are valid to people who read on a more detailed level, I don't think casual readers would even think of some of these. Which proves the point that disabilities are not properly represented when the general population is not even aware of what's behind the scenes of their favorite characters with disabilities. However, this is an issue of prior underreprentation up until this point, which is a hard thing to work with, since flexing closer to one side or the other may lose the audience. If the disability doesn't seriously affect their life, such as the Skywalker biomech hand, then the audience won't even remember that they are disabled, but if the associated struggles are too focused upon, then the audience might wonder why the hell this person is even a character when they can barely function in "normal" society. It really is a balancing act either way, and the complex "political correctness" rules don't really help. (Example, there's no such thing as stupid people anymore, everyone's got a "learning disorder", but then that same rule applied in a non-academic light makes no sense, but questioning it is somehow wrong)
    So yeah, in certain circumstances, this might be construed as ableism, but only if the audience looks at the story with a microscope, which would take the enjoyment out of a good story anyway. Ultimately up to the OP what they do, but as always there are two sides to the story, what the general audience perceives, and what comes up that not even God would have thought of when they read it eight hundred times
     
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  8. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    And let's not forget that Skywalker's biomech hand is, albeit not limited to, a foreshadowing of him becoming Darth Vader.

    Or as I think Freud once said, sometimes losing a hand, is just losing a hand.

    ---

    Dear OP,

    One can construe anything to mean whatever they want it to mean. Astrologers and palm readers and propagandists are masters at this.

    Your job as the author is to stack the deck in your own favor. Or you can opt to use professional outragers as free publicity; a risky bet, but one that can really pay dividends. Especially that little kick of satisfaction one gets from bamboozling them.

    Judging from your posts though, the latter option probably wouldn't appeal to you. So do your research, ask yourself if *reasonable* people would misinterpret your work as being ableist, and accept the fact that you won't please everyone anyway; there are readers who are seeking to find any way of furthering their agenda, and then there are the vast majority of readers who, uhhh, want a good story.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    As long as you portray your own views honestly—via a character or via your author attitude towards a character—you should be in the clear. You don't want your own views misinterpreted, I presume. So write honestly, then get feedback, if you can.

    There is always that gap between what you think you wrote and what other people pick up. That's the gap you can close, via your alpha and beta readers. Attempt to close that gap, if one exists. And carry on.

    It doesn't matter what you write. Somebody isn't going to like it. That's kinduva universal truth! :) (Name me a famous author or story that everybody loves. I don't think they exist.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
  10. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    :supersmile::superidea:
    [​IMG]
     
  11. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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  12. flawed personality

    flawed personality Contributor Contributor

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    If we're gonna talk Green Eggs and Ham, I know a good audio of it... :supercheeky:
     
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  13. D.Clarke

    D.Clarke Active Member

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    No.

    Lordy, political correctness has invaded writing. This is getting out of hand. No artform is safe.
     
  14. KiraAnn

    KiraAnn Active Member

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    I did not see anything from the OP stating the why of this character's disability.

    Like anything else, if it has nothing to do with the plot, leave it out.

    That said, one of Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry novellas involves an enemy agent turned into a cyborg by the Merseians. The agent lost a large portion of his body as a soldier for Merseia, and they rebuilt him into a cyborg with a boxy body, not even remotely shaped like his old one. By promising a new body, Flandry is able too turn the agent and win the day. Cannot remember which book this story is in...getting older and read too many :)
     
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  15. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Not even "casual readers" who live with the disability that's being portrayed untruthfully?

    ... Where are you getting that, exactly?

    Your profile says you're a man.

    Let's say that 95% of the stories in a culture's popular mainstream featured no male characters, and let's say that most of the other 5% featured men who were cartoonishly caricatured compared to the overwhelming preeminence of female characters being portrayed as 3-dimensional human beings.

    Let's say that you, a man, tried to tell the truth about a male life experience that was near-universally lied about, and that you asked writers to consider doing the research to write a story that would include the truth instead of pandering to the popular lie.

    Let's say that somebody told you, "well, sure, if you look at stories like this through a microscope, then you might see a problem, but you shouldn't be doing that anyway. Why not just enjoy the story, instead of trying to invent a problem that God Herself wouldn't even see if She looked at these same stories 800 times?"

    You would see the problem with this, right?

    But isn't the point of fiction writing that we're trying to convey human life experiences to human readers?

    How is researching human life experiences, so as to portray those experiences truthfully, "political correctness"?

    Writers are legendary for our obsession with researching the most obscure minutia for truthfully portraying the most obscure topics, like "what was the weather like in northern France on December 19th, 1920?" or "What shade of pink was used in dying fabrics by late-18th century London?"

    What makes the life experiences of marginalized people so different a subject matter – in this case, disabled people – that researching the subject matter becomes a bad thing?
     
  16. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    We know the topic is flammable and that passions can run high when discussing this stuff but lets all keep it calm and reasonable, huh?

    The topic at hand is whether it is is or isn't ableist for the OP to write the character as described... we aren't going to let it spin out in to a debate about the rights and wrongs of political correctness in general
     
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  17. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Are hand transplants ableist medicine?
     
  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    With my mod hat off

    I have a character in the dusty miller series who loses a lower leg while serving as a Royal Marine in afghanistan - in the later books he has gained about 90% of the ability of an 'able' character back - and the various disabled vets who beta read for me didn't have a problem with that because it is an accurate representation of ex service life with a lower limb prosthetic

    their feedback which i hope i have represented accurately in the various books is that the loss of a limb is not so much a physical problem these days since prosthetic technology gives you the ability to walk, run, even fight but one of psychological impact

    And I think that is where you are going to run into trouble - there's nothing wrong with giving a character cyborg limbs, or two bird legs or whatever, and there's nothing wrong with that not being especially remarkable if that's the norm in the society you are operating in, but i think giving your character memory loss so he doesn't remember having 'normal' legs is going to be problematic - even with chronological memory loss your character is going to know on a basic level that he's suffered some trauma and that hes been operated on to 'fix it' - especially if not everyone around him also has bird legs... and that's going to have some impact on his psyche.
     
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  19. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Prince of Typos Contributor

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    The highlight of this thread for me was learning that someone here has a pool of disabled veterans who beta read for them. So lucky.
     
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  20. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Stop by a Legion. They're not hard to find.
     
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  21. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Prince of Typos Contributor

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    Do strangers normally beta read for you? So lucky.
     
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  22. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Yeah, usually. Strangers or people I have a tenuous working relationship with. Friends and relatives are the worst kind of people to review your stuff because they: a) usually come from a background that's not terribly different than your own, and b) are generally more concerned about your feelings rather than honestly critiquing your work. I know it's a bit weird at first, approaching people like that, but you get used to it.

    ETA: To be honest, though, if you're writing about someone with a disability you yourself don't have, then finding these people and talking with them really should be a part of your pre-writing and research rather than after you've written the story as beta readers, then when it gets to that point you'll already have an in.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
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  23. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    In my experience, when people are part of a group, or have expertise in a certain topic, they are more than happy to help writers because it really sucks for them to consistently see themselves or something they have a an investment in misrepresented in media. When I first started talking about writing my 3rd book on here, @Shenanigator, who was more or less a stranger at the time (I think we'd had a bit of back and forth on the forums), reached out to me via PM to offer her expertise on the music industry and L.A. scene. She became an integral part of making my book as accurate as as possible, not only in fact, but in overall feel.

    If someone wanted me to Beta read their book to check the authenticity of some thing like gourmet home cooking or Middle Eastern dance, I'd do it in a heartbeat!
     
  24. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Prince of Typos Contributor

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    I believe you.
     
  25. Aviandalek

    Aviandalek New Member

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    Those are good points. I hadn't really considered the fact that they would notice that not everyone else has human legs lol. The memory loss portion of it was supposed to be more like brainwashing, but I'm thinking of reworking that part into something else. Not sure, I'll see lol. Thanks for the feedback tho!
     
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