The question When developing a stage play, whose gender matters more? The characters' or the actors'? is asking, as I understand it, a question about gender representation in playwriting (within a specific situation).

In favor: The issue of representing women and minorities in fiction is a big and often thorny one. I've seen it rear up, in the context of writing craft and career - from literary criticism which deliberately examines the roles of women (like this and this), to 2009's RaceFail. Therefore, these are clearly topics many writers care about and pay attention to.

Against: On the other hand, these topics are hotly debated. They can be seen as both controversial, and highly subjective. More to the point, discussing these topics in the context of writing can very easily bleed into discussing much larger issues of feminism and racism, which would be far out of the scope of this site, and probably quite inappropriate to the Stack Exchange platform. I'm a little concerned that this runs against our "we discuss craft, not content" guideline - just as Writers.SE is a poor venue to discuss whether Glenn Beck's latest book is "correct," maybe we also shouldn't be discussing whether some particular writing is "feminist enough."

  • 3
    This is a very good meta question. Not sure what the answer is, but my gut feeling is to err on the side of cautiously leaving it open. Jun 12 '13 at 17:17
  • ...but it's interesting that this question hasn't gotten a single close vote so far. Jun 13 '13 at 13:34
  • Is it? We're a merciful (i.e., lily-livered) bunch when it comes to casting close votes. And a mod (that's me!) got to it first, with a comment, an answer, and a meta question. I don't think many of our regulars are inclined to close-vote on a borderline case that's already being attended.
    – Standback
    Jun 13 '13 at 13:37
  • Possibly true. I did some editing to the question that may help. I upvoted Psicofrenia's answer - I think this a development question, and is more an issue of title and tagging than anything else. Jun 13 '13 at 13:40

In my experience, gender and race representation is an issue that writers deal with. For example, How do you develop a strong female character? is perfectly on topic, and the other examples I gave in the question demonstrate that there's great interest in the subject in the wider field of writing, publishing and criticism. Therefore,

Question about gender and race representation should be on-topic.

If, over time, we see that these questions start dragging us into untenable discussions or taking us away from our primary topics, we can reconsider. As a starting point, this seems on-topic enough that I'm not inclined to bar it.

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    These questions should be on-topic if focused on the writing, not the societal pressures. So in the question that prompted this discussion, asking or answering about changing the pool of actors or otherwise changing the motivation are out of scope; this isn't theatre.SE or sociology.SE. Jun 12 '13 at 16:07
  • @MonicaCellio: Consider if the question was rewritten to something like: Is it problematic to write a school play with no female roles (if I let girls play male roles)? Equivalently, I'd love your opinion on whether the answers there (like mine!) feels "appropriate" to Writers.SE - often, the best way to judge a question is by the answers it elicits.
    – Standback
    Jun 12 '13 at 16:58
  • I think that formulation of the question would work better (well, maybe with "wrong" language replaced with "what are the considerations" language). Right now it's partly about writing and partly about logistics for their pool of actors, and the latter doesn't feel like a good fit. But your answer did an excellent job of addressing the issues. (One point not mentioned in either answer: does every role have to have a gender constraint? Major characters do, but can the smaller parts be left undeclared?) Jun 12 '13 at 17:24
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    @MonicaCellio: Crucial question: Addressing the writing-related issues, or just "whatever issues happened to be pertinent to OP"?
    – Standback
    Jun 12 '13 at 18:03
  • Sorry, I meant you did a good job of addressing the writing-related issues. You took OP's context into account but didn't limit your answer to "what should our actors do", which would not be likely to be useful to future readers. (I think this is shaping up to be an example of a good answer to a not-so-good question.) Jun 12 '13 at 18:13

Gender/race/minorities representation in fiction is not related to writing itself. For me, that's clearly a social aspect. It's more or less a company paying for a writer to include its products in his texts, as you have the society - not paying but requiring - to have genre and minorities quotes being included as well.

It's related to customers directly "hiring" a writer to create specific work. A writer, in normal circumstances, won't bother with quotes. This question deals with a writer - as a worker - dealing with his employer - or audience - to fulfil some pre-accorded requirements.

But on the other hand, this forum deals also with professional aspects of writing. Under that aspect, such questions are perfectly reasonable as somebody can be hired - or have a demanding audience - to create a text were minorities representation is relevant, even essential.

I think this topic should be considered as on-topic but, maybe, some more specific tag - I'm not sure how to call it right now - could be created to classify all such questions.

  • I don't understand what you mean by being "more or less a company paying for a writer to include its products in his texts". Maybe my phrasing of "representation" wasn't entirely clear? I'm talking about issues like "What does the Bechdel test mean for my writing," "I want to write about other cultures but I don't know how to portray them well," "What do I do when people are offended by my writing," or "I've got a story outline but I'd like to make its cast more diverse". (Well, OK, these are "safe" and striaghtforward questions.)
    – Standback
    Jun 12 '13 at 11:44
  • (cont.) I'm not really seeing how product-placement or work-for-hire applies... could you clarify?
    – Standback
    Jun 12 '13 at 11:44
  • It's not unusual to have CIAs sponsoring writers, song writers, even movie directors to have their products mentioned in their works as a form of marketing. In this case, you don't have marketing demands, but you have a specific group of actors demanding a play fit to genre representation. Both approaches are similar because you have non-creative groups, directly interested in the final result of the work, with specific demands. Being money or social fairness (in lack of better words) the end is the creative work being limited by those who demanded it. Jun 12 '13 at 11:54
  • It's not the same thing as "I want to write a play where genre proportion is important". It's something like "I need to take genre representation in consideration because I need to make it fair to the actors and actress that will play the roles". Backing to sponsoring, it's not "I want to write a book where the main char smokes Marlboro"; it's "I need to make the main char to smoke Marlboro because Marlboro pays me to do so". Jun 12 '13 at 11:57

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