In this episode of Doing Diversity in Writing, we—Bethany and Mariëlle—conclude our conversation about marking the unmarked by discussing description.
To listen to the episode, find us on Podbean or your favourite podcast app.
What we talked about
- marking and unmarking in terms of description
- the Twilight series and the problematic use of dark and light
- why we, as writers, have to consistently ask ourselves what the outcome is of the descriptive choices we make
Quotes from this week’s episode
“Describing things as good or bad, welcoming or frightening, is done differently depending on history, religion, region, and the history that the people involved have.”
“The associations we create as authors need to be mindful, and we need to be watching for what kind of implications those descriptions can have.”
“As writers, when we’re looking at describing places, we need to consider who we’re placing in that place and how we want our readers to think about them. If we’re using terms like “high-crime” and “distressed”, that paints a certain picture of anyone we place in that area.”
(Re)sources mentioned on the show
- “‘Twilight’: How much money did all 5 movies make?” by Abeni Tinubu: https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/twilight-how-much-money-did-all-5-movies-make.html
- “Civilized Vampires Versus Save Werewolves: Race and Ethnicity in the Twilight Series,” by Natalie Wilson: https://www.academia.edu/28684886/Civilized_Vampires_Versus_Savage_Werewolves_Race_and_Ethnicity_in_the_Twilight_Series
- “Recognizing that words have the power to harm, we commit to using more just language to describe places,” by Jennifer S. Vey and Hanna Love: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/07/13/recognizing-that-words-have-the-power-to-harm-we-commit-to-using-more-just-language-to-describe-places
- “Adjusting the focus on Twilight’s misconceptions,” a collaboration between the Burke Museum and the Quileute Tribe: https://www.burkemuseum.org/static/truth_vs_twilight
Additional resources for our fellow word nerds
- For those curious how deep into our culture(s) and markes vs. unmarked goes: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/marked-and-unmarked-terms
- Excellent article with concrete real world examples, especially showing how almost everything an adult woman does is actually marked and why “dinette” or “ette” added to the end of the word usually means less serious but is also considered feminine: http://www.analytictech.com/mb119/markedne.htm
- Deep lingual analysis of marked and unmarked forms. Way too much to include in our podcast, but one may enjoy taking a peak: https://twpl.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/twpl/article/view/6559/3524
- On the origins of the dominance of unmarked terms over marked terms: https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/2138/what-is-the-origin-of-the-dominance-of-unmarked-terms
- On different theories on markedness within linguistic theory: https://www.unm.edu/~jbybee/downloads/Bybee2010Markedness.pdf
- A more readable copy of the Deborah Tannen article we discussed last week: https://academics.otc.edu/media/uploads/sites/2/2015/10/There-is-No-Unmarked-Women.pdf
- On feminine and masculine words in English (https://ielts.com.au/articles/grammar-101-feminine-and-masculine-words-in-english) and the questions and reflections to go with the article: https://thesafezoneproject.com/marked-vs-unmarked-identities
Pro tip from Bethany: One of the best ways to study the marking and unmarking of characters is to get those big glossy photo books with the behind the scenes of film and TV shows. They usually talk about the decisions directors and artistic directors made around dressing and preparing the visual impact of actors on the screen. Pay attention to when they say: “We wanted viewers to believe this, so we did that.”
This week’s sponsor
This week’s episode is sponsored by Crystal Shelley’s Conscious Language Toolkit for Writers. You can find this handy resource by going to: https://www.rabbitwitharedpen.com/conscious-language-toolkit-for-writers. Listeners of this podcast now get 20% off by using the promo code DIVERSITYINWRITING.
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