Suppose an author is writing a novel. The novel has nothing to do with politics, our society, or any of the hot questions of the daily news. It's, say... maybe a fantasy or sci-fi novel, set in a completely different world, revolving around a completely harmless topic.
Unfortunately for the author, certain scenes and ideas can't help but touch on the politically hot topics of today. They aren't designed to do so; they simply do because of what they are. The author knows that the scene/idea is a political minefield, and if handled wrong, could upset and possibly alienate a lot of potential readers. If things snowball, it could even taint the opinions of the critics, and the whole novel could get labeled as an anti-this or anti-that political rant. What is the author to do?
For example, I am writing a short sci-fi tale. The tale features a robot apocalypse, with humanity enslaved on a distant moon (not as cliche as it sounds, don't worry). Within the early pages of this tale, a young girl is frightened by a nightmare. The young male protagonist is close by, and he comforts her as best he knows how. She falls asleep next to him, and he - having grown up completely isolated - experiences for the first time the sensation of protecting someone. This scene is very pivotal for the protagonist, and leads him into a lot of character-defining chapters.
Here's the problem: Certain people will doubtless see this as the strong male protecting the helpless or weak female. While such is certainly not my intention, it is unavoidable. The fact is that women equality is currently a very hot political topic. Such a scene as the above could very easily be taken to mean that I view all women as weak, or somehow inferior to men. Which is obviously not the point of the scene.
So what should I do? Assuming I cannot remove or rework the scene, I can only see two options:
- I give the male protagonist thoughts indicating that he doesn't think the girl is helpless or weak, but that he just wants to protect her. An in-story disclaimer of sorts.
- I ignore the possible political implications, and continue with the story as it was meant to be told, without having the characters be politically correct (or at least politically conscious).
Option one deals with the issue, but introduces elements which are not part of the story or characters. I essentially make sure my world is politically correct when it has nothing to do with politics. I sacrifice 'immersion' as it were for safety in today's market.
Option two ignores the problem and tells the story the way it is meant to be told. It doesn't let the current politics dictate how to write my story (something I strongly believe in), but it also throws caution (and possibly readers) to the winds.
I like neither option. Which one should I choose? Is there a third option?
Note: Not a duplicate of this question. That question deals with political writing. This question deals with non-political fiction which happens to run afoul of the current politics unintentionally.