The title is a riff on Lionel Trilling's book of nearly the same name (still sitting, I confess, in my "to be read one of these weeks when I'm not dodging quite so many bullets" pile). The upshot of the idea came in the form of a question I popped to a friend during a discussion of how mainstream media struggles to be inclusive: Do people who complain that there's no media for them have a moral obligation to create it?
A complicated issue, not least of all because few people in the audience consider themselves creators as well as consumers. Those that do, don't always intend to create something to be provided through mainstream distribution mechanisms (e.g., fanfiction); and the few that do find that the mainstream isn't always receptive to what they have to provide. The Saladin Ahmeds and N.K. Jemisins of the world are few and far between, but they're growing in number, and I'm always grateful for that.
But the most complex — or maybe I should say confounding — part of this problem comes by way of people who say something along these lines: "If you want to make a real difference about participation by your subset in a given form of popular media, go out and make something. Quit whining." It's a not-so-subtle jab at the Anita Sarkeesians of the world, who serve a perfectly valid function and seem to be doing a fine job of showing up how dismayingly thin-skinned some folks are.
Being a systematic critic of the shortcomings of something can be just as valid a form of participation as creating things that intend to address those flaws. In fact, I fail to see how the first is not a form of the second, when you're creating discourse instead of artifacts. Both in time can lead to the same result: a new understanding. I don't find one approach any less valuable than the other, as long as either one is approached constructively and intelligently.