The practice of gender or race-swapping in storytelling has become increasingly popular in recent years. This involves taking a character who is traditionally male and making them female, or vice versa, or changing the race of a character to increase representation.
While this may seem like a positive step towards inclusivity, in reality, it often does more harm than good. In this article, I will argue that gender or race-swapping does not help with representation and diversity in storytelling, and can actually reinforce harmful stereotypes and discrimination.
Representation And Diversity In Storytelling
One of the main arguments for gender or race-swapping is that it increases representation and diversity in storytelling. However, this argument is flawed for several reasons. First of all, simply changing the gender or race of a character does not automatically make a story more diverse or representative.
Diversity is about more than just the superficial characteristics of a character – it involves a range of experiences, perspectives, and identities.
A story with a diverse range of characters will include people of different ages, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and abilities, among other things. Simply swapping the gender or race of a character does not necessarily address any of these other aspects of diversity.
Moreover, gender or race-swapping can actually be counterproductive when it comes to increasing representation and diversity. This is because it often reinforces harmful stereotypes and discrimination.
For example, when a traditionally male character is gender-swapped to be female, she may be portrayed as overly emotional, weak, or submissive, playing into gender stereotypes that women are less capable or competent than men.
Similarly, when a character of color is race-swapped to be white, they may lose the unique experiences and perspectives that come with being a person of color, perpetuating the idea that white experiences are the default or norm.
Historical Imbalances In Representation
Another argument for gender or race-swapping is that it can help to address historical imbalances in representation. For example, in many historical contexts, women and people of color were excluded from certain professions or positions of power, so gender or race-swapping can be seen as a way to rectify this imbalance.
However, this argument also has its flaws. Firstly, it assumes that simply swapping the gender or race of a character is enough to address the historical imbalance.
In reality, addressing historical imbalances requires more than just a superficial change – it involves examining the systemic and institutional factors that have led to these imbalances and working to create structural change.
Moreover, gender or race-swapping can actually be counterproductive in addressing historical imbalances, as it can reinforce harmful stereotypes and discrimination.
For example, if a historically male profession is gender-swapped to be female, this may be seen as a way to address historical imbalances, but it also reinforces the idea that women are not capable of pursuing traditionally male professions.
Similarly, if a character of color is race-swapped to be white in a story set in a historically white-dominated context, this reinforces the idea that white experiences are the norm, and people of color are not important or valuable.
In addition to reinforcing harmful stereotypes and discrimination, gender or race-swapping can also be seen as a form of tokenism. Tokenism is the practice of including a member of a marginalized group solely for the purpose of appearing diverse or inclusive, rather than for any genuine interest in including a diversity of perspectives.
When characters are gender or race-swapped, it can be seen as a form of tokenism, as it suggests that the only way to include diverse perspectives is to change the gender or race of a character, rather than creating new characters with unique experiences and perspectives.
For example, Elizabeth Banks gender-swapped the Cocaine Bear to better fit the narrative that she was making. Without the swap, the script would not be as good as it is now. This is due to mother bears being the protective parents of their cubs which is an essential fact to include in the film.