Diversity Standards: Your thoughts?


#1

I personally have issues with the diversity standards in that I think that people fall into the trap of thinking that just adding in a few minority characters is enough to make your story more diverse. I think that diversity standards can do more harm than good when approached without education, so I was thinking of starting a thread so that we can help people tackle diversity in a sensitive way. Diversity standards on their own don’t work, in my opinion. We need to keep improving!

I would love to hear your thoughts on diversity standards, stereotypes and recurring tropes, and whether or not these have affected the way you read a story or if you like it! Personally, I was absolutely delighted to see the Black History Month section on Episode, but there’s a lot more progress to be made! Diversity, in my mind, isn’t something that we can ever stop improving on!

I would love to hear from absolutely everyone about this! It would be great to hear people from all sides of the debate. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind! Let’s make this a safe place to talk about diversity and how it affects your experience on Episode.

Personally, I have the following problems with diversity standards:

  1. If we don’t also educate people on how to do them properly, we could actually do more harm than good. People could feel like they’re filling a quota rather than representing real people in their stories.
  2. Avoiding stories in which the fact that the MC is part of a minority group defines their character is actually kinda difficult. I mean, it’s great to see stories with a gay or lesbian lead, but I think we can also grow as a community and become more aware of the fact that their sexuality, ethnicity, gender, nationality or anything else doesn’t have to define who they are.
  3. At the moment, I think that clothing is very gender normative. I would love to see more diversity in clothing choices. We shouldn’t feel like girls have to dress one way and boys another! I would love to see more options for clothing which are for men and women
  4. I think it would be a super idea to have more religious diversity in the stories. We often forget that there are more religions in the world than the three Abrahamic ones.

Can you think of anything you’d like to add? I would love to hear all of your thoughts and opinions, and I hope that we can all respect what others say.

If you want to know a little more about my opinions as a bisexual, mixed race girl, please feel free to have a look at my blog post.


Diversity rant: my thoughts
Diversity rant **again**
Diversity Feedback ✨
#2

I agree that diversity is something that can make a story better - but it’s not particularly necessary. I don’t think that the gender, sexuality, or skin color of a character should matter too much if they’re interesting, and the plot is engaging.
… Though, I’m all for seeing more of all of that, because seeing the same cis-white-straight-characters dominate the top shelves is absolutely, just… Terrible. The plots aren’t even good.

I would love to see some diversity in the white characters in some of the Episode stories, too, embracing their culture, right? Where’s the Irish folk speaking Gaelic and celebrating Saint Patty’s Day? Or the differences in American’s states culture - someone from Texas won’t act the same way as a Californian. I know that it’s not normal to see some white people embracing their roots, but still, I think it’d be nice if it touched on those cultures, just like most diverse stories do with their main characters.
I’m not to best at articulating my opinions, but, hopefully that makes sense.

I feel that Episode has also… not fulfilled a lot of their promises. Their ‘diversity standards’ post was made last year and they haven’t really… you know. Set any real standards by now. The company promised something, and, I think they really need to work on that. I rarely see non-white people in featured stories, unless you count the best friend, or the asshole bad boy love interest. If not that, they’re customizable. Which doesn’t equal diversity.


#3

Episode have made great strides in improving diversity… on their story covers.
They have a bunch of POC on the covers, but as soon as you open the story, all the major characters are customizable.


#4

Exactly! I’m tired of all these custom MC’s. I mean, obviously they have to use some kind of character for a filler on the cover, but it’s very misleading.
Stop giving me customization stories and give me a good story with fully-fleshed out MC and a diverse cast of characters!


#5

I think customizing characters is great and a lot of fun, but it CAN work along with having diversity, if Episode would just do it! For stories with a POC on the cover, they should limit the customization. Change hairstyle, lip color, what-have-you, but keep the skin tones in the right realm, keep other facial features uncustomizable (excuse me while I make up words), so if you have a black, Hispanic, Arab, Asian, etc. MC, you don’t have to sacrifice any reference to the cultural background so people can customize however they want.

But they don’t do that. They’d rather totally ignore any context of a different race so people don’t complain that they can’t have a blonde-haired, blue-eyed MC. If there’s any POC, or even neurodivergent characters, it’s the entire. plot. I just want someone to give me a POC, neurodivergent, LGBT+ MC whose plot has zero to do with any of that. (Also, whose plot has nothing to do with love triangles, but I digress.)

They could also easily have LGBT+ stories on main shelves and stop offering a choice in every single LGBT story. In stories that are expected to be hetero-romantic they don’t give a choice between genders, why is it only in stories advertised as LGBT? Will they have fewer readers? Probably. But they’ll also still make money, and follow up on a promise they made. And it can be, you know, an actual LGBT story.

But they don’t do that, either. I haven’t found a single “main” LGBT story that doesn’t let me back out of the LGBT plot, or a story that isn’t advertised as LGBT that lets me choose between genders. Oh! And how about a story with NO romance on a main shelf for aromantics and asexuals?

…it’s 2:30 in the morning so I’m really just word-vomiting here. I’m just frustrated with the lack of diversity after waiting a year to see it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely better than it was, but it’s not what we were promised. Not yet.

Actually, on the subject, you know what I REALLY want? Wheelchairs. Crutches. Trachs. Clothing options that make it clear one of the limbs are fake. Like really, trachs and fake limbs would be super easy to add, just make them a clothing feature, they don’t have to have a bunch of extra coding. Color a pant leg like a prosthetic. Categorize an oxygen tank as a bag. A wheelchair could be added to a background. I want people with unhealthy bodies. It’s one arm of diversity that’s been totally ignored, up until the new contest banner - but of course you can’t make a superhero in a wheelchair for real!

…I might be a bit salty about this.

EDIT: I made a request for assistive devices. Fingers crossed.


#6

This is so true, I’m currently working on a new story to which I’m trying to add some diversity, but since I’m white, hetero and the same goes for my direct environment, I’m a bit afraid I will do something wrong.
It’s really hard because I easily make a white character dumb in my stories, but I’m not sure if I can do the same thing with a black character, because I don’t want people to interpret it in a wrong way. On the other hand it can happen I make a character smart and it still comes out wrong. I mean is it okay if you have an Asian character who is good at Maths? It’s a positive stereotype, but still a stereotype…
I’m so confused :smiley:


#7

I am part of a minority, but I still am not that aware of what most minorities suffer or how to portray them. I can only write what I know and I’ve never really learned about diversity. Education is a major part of all these stereotypes and poorly written perspectives. Perhaps we should open a thread with some cultural stereotypes to avoid?


#8

I would love to talk about that here! I have a few tips for young writers that should help them with some diversity points.

  1. Humanise all of your characters. Make sure that everyone has a well-rounded character, an interesting back-story and a reason for the way they act. No character should be totally evil or totally good. In the words of Regina and pretty much every other character in Once Upon a Time, “Evil isn’t born. It’s made”. When you consider this, not only does it make your story much, much better overall, but it also means that the villain and the hero are both human, no matter what their character.
  2. Try to make sure that you don’t have characters whose only point in the plot is to be diverse. What I mean by that is that the minority characters should also have important things to do in your plot and not just be there. Otherwise, it does make it seem like they’re there to fit a quota and that they’re completely defined by the fact that they’re a POC or a member of the LGBT+ community or something. That can come across as offensive. In order to prevent this, maybe try something like changing the sexuality, gender or ethnicity of a character you already have! That way, you treat them like a normal person instead of a quota-filler.
  3. Research, research, research. For example, in my current story, I have a Muslim character called Zaynah. She’s a great, strong character and I absolutely love her. She immediately breaks away from the stereotype of a Muslim woman being submissive or ‘oppressed’, because that’s actually something we claim here in the west. There are a lot of Muslim women who use their faith to empower them all over the world, so I decided to read up about them and watch some YouTube videos with them so that I could try to break from this silly notion that we’ve been given from our media. Then I found out some interesting things about the faith (like the fact that the Holy Day - the Islamic equivalent of the Christian Sunday - is on Friday) and tried to add that a little bit into her character. She doesn’t work in the palace on Fridays!
  4. Make sure that most of your characters don’t care about the fact that they’re part of this minority. there are so many coming out stories or films about racism, sexism, homophobia, etc out there, which is great - as long as you portray this as bad! We are identifying the fact that these problems exist, which is definitely the first step. However, if we try making everyone completely okay with the fact that they are part of that minority and even that they barely notice it, it makes it really interesting and inclusive! Ask that lesbian friend if she is seeing anyone. Tease her about the girl she likes! Treat her like a normal human being!
  5. Always ask. I am here for help if you need it. I may not always be an expert, but I have done a lot of research into different cultures, etc, and I have received a lot of positive feedback about diversity and representation. If you want to ask a few questions, I am always around - and I am sure that you can find lots of people from all different walks of life on Episode who will be happy to tell you more about what makes them special!

#9

But then are you saying that a story can only have a POC on the cover if customisation is limited?
Plenty of stories have white characters on the cover with full CC too.

Personally, I like CC. If customisation of skin tones (and other features) is limited (or not available), then I’d like there to be a reason rather than “just because” (e.g ethnicity, very specific character development etc.). For example, Instant Princess is great. The character’s cultural background is important to the story.

It would be nice to see a featured LGBT+ story without the option to choose your sexuality!


#10

I think it would be a super idea to have more religious diversity in the stories. We often forget that there are more religions in the world than the three Abrahamic ones.

I haven’t seen too many Jewish or Muslim MCs. “Abrahamic” might be stretching it a bit. (Please let me know where I can find them.)

But they don’t do that, either. I haven’t found a single “main” LGBT story that doesn’t let me back out of the LGBT plot, or a story that isn’t advertised as LGBT that lets me choose between genders.

This is so true! It’s either optional or a coming out story. While I like getting the option, I’d like some LGBT stories that have the protagonist’s identity be defined but incidental to their character (I don’t like to say it doesn’t “define” them, because I think all of our identities and experiences “define” us, just that it’s not the entire point of the plot), or that aren’t cliche modern high-school coming-out stories. (Honestly, it would be neat to see a coming out story that was set in the past, or a fantasy setting, or about an adult.) And for stories that have options, define the character as bi or pan?
I’d also like to see depictions of homophobia more nuanced than "cartoonish fundamentalist nutjob in a MAGA hat."
Not to mention- I’d like stories that are LGBT beyond just the MC. I’d like more stories with a bunch of LGBT characters, including trans/non binary characters.

With regards to character customization: it’s fun, but I’m getting bored of it. ESPECIALLY when it’s not just the main character- you’re the writer! Write me a love interest and make me like them! Or, have me play as a character and not as a self-insert and then they just have to impress the character.

I think in order to have more actual diversity, more protagonists need to be more defined. A lot of MCs are customizable and it’s a cool gimmick, but it’s a gimmick and it doesn’t need to be everywhere.


#11

Personally what religious stories are even on the app lol? If I ever find any it’s ones that are going against it or it’s of no importance. If there any I haven’t seen serious stories surrounding any religion (Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Jewish, Buddhism, and the many others).

And I agree on your other points!


#12

I have read a few stories in which the main character was depicted as Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist, but I have yet to read anything that made a big deal out of religion.


#14

I actually meant in general! We seem to forget as a society that other religions exist! Also, I agree with @interactivereader75 about religions on Episode! I would love a story that educates me a little when it comes to a different religion.


#15

Yes. I completely agree with these opinions. I another topic for diversity I would bring up is freckles. Episode always talks about diversity, their standards, pride, and equality. But I can’t even make myself (with freckles)! If they are to talk about equality then I would suggest that we would be able to have more choices. I love episode, and I know that Classic style has freckles. But I would love to be able to make more diverse characters in Ink and Limelight.

~ Laney M.


#16

Exactly! I hardly ever see stories where religion is mentioned, unless it’s like you said, a main character who feels oppressed by her religion and eventually ends up breaking away. I want to see a character embrace their religion for once and actually practice it and defend her beliefs. This does happen in my story, but not until chapter 9.


#17

That’s definitely a story I would love to read, especially as a religious person (Catholic Christian). We seem to be promoting abandoning religion as a society, which is kinda sad!


#18

They need more diversity in episode .


#19

On the topic of religion, I avoid it in any of my stories. I’m never going to include it. People get triggered way too easily with the topic.


#20

When it comes to religion I think part of the problem is that so many characters aren’t fleshed out, they are reader-inserts meant to be as bland and nondescript as possible and secondary or tertiary characters are usually an after thought only used as props to guide the plot for the MC and love interest (even in stories that aren’t in the romance section).


#21

People will always be triggered one way or another. I think the most important thing is that you make sure you’re sensitive to these issues and do lots of research. I mean, some people will always complain, but at least most will understand that you’ve represented their religion in a positive, appropriate way.