Rachel Swirsky (rachel_swirsky) wrote,
Rachel Swirsky

Call for Comments on How to Deal with Racism & Sexism in a Workshop Environment

Hi everyone,

I’m putting together an article on how feminist and anti-racist writers deal with sexism and racism when it comes up in workshop environments. I hope some of you will be willing to share your methods.

Preferably, I'm looking for responses of 200-750 words in which people explore their own ideas about reacting to sexism and racism in workshop -- but shorter responses are fine, too. I'd love it if people would wing off on their own based on the topic, but I've also included more description and some questions to help people get started. If you're interested, feel free post your comments on this post, or to email me at rachel dot swirsky at gmail dot com.

I am primarily looking for answers from people who are women, people of color, feminists, anti-racists, or several of the above. If you don't identify with one of those groups, I probably can't use your material for this article -- sorry.

Here are some of my starting points:

Many workshops are voluntary, so one can choose to leave when racist or sexist material comes up — but only if one is willing to deprive oneself of the feedback. Some workshops are compulsory, however, particularly when one has signed up for a class. Voluntary or compulsory, workshops are always a unique combination of work and play. On the one hand, one is usually friend with ones workshop peers -- but on the other, for working writers a workshop can also be a functional and essential part of how one prepares one’s work.

Workshops can also become hotbeds for emotional turmoil, since the material in question is so personal.

If you’re planning to stay in a workshop, you have to create a business relationship with the other people involved. So what do you do when one of them writes a story with blatant racist or sexist content? I think this has happened to all of us; certainly, it happens in the workshops I’m in.

*When you encounter racist or sexist (or otherwise bigoted) material in a workshop setting, how do you deal with it? Do you ignore it? Do you call it out? How do you decide whether to ignore it or call it out?

*How do you call out racist and sexist material while preserving your relationships in the workshop? What techniques do you use? How do you vary them based on context (power dynamics in the group, your own place in the group, the type of racist or sexist material being presented)?

*Have you ever decided not to call something out? What happened? How did you feel afterward?

*Have you ever regretted calling something out? Why? What happened?

*Have you ever quit a workshop because of racist or sexist material?

*What was the most offensive thing (on the lines of bigotry) you’ve ever encountered in workshop? (Please describe it in generic terms.) How did you react?

*How do other people in workshop situations tend to react when you note offensive material? How does it vary between workshops you’ve been in, and why do you think it varies that way?

*Anecdotes that you can tell without compromising yourself or anyone else (changing names and story subject matter helps) would be quite appreciated.

*Have you ever been in a workshop that was a safe space for race or sex? What was it like? Did it feel limiting or limited?

*How can workshop leaders (or the group in an acephalous workshop) create a positive environment? What environments have worked best for you?

I need responses by this Sunday, November 4th.

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