Andrew writes at The Pewter Wolf, been Sorted into Hufflepuff on Pottermore (& got a Cat as his Patronus), owns far too many books, lives with his Partner & cat, Bagheera.
And, one day, will write that story – after reading one more book…
Check him out on Twitter at @
Diversity Isn’t A Buzzword
A few days ago (at the time of writing this post, not the time of you guys reading this), I read an article on Twitter. It was about the actor, David Oyelowo, telling a story about him telling his son that he had a role in a Disney film (I believe it’s the upcoming Queen of Katwe). His son’s reply confirmed something I have been thinking about for quite some time but, unfortunately, I can not seem to find the quote so will have to paraphrase: “Oh cool. Will you be playing the best friend?”
This confirmed something I have been thinking about. That there are some people that see the word “diversity” as a buzzword, as today’s hot topic that will make them a profit or will make their product more noticeable because we are aware of it.
Diversity is not a buzzword. And it should never be seen as one.
I wonder if it is because the word itself – diversity – is such a heavy word. It’s a fully-loaded word. When you say it, it’s shorthand for something bigger and scarier. It’s like the word “feminist”. When someone says it, it punches you because it’s a heavy word. Most people, when you say that word, will say “Oh, you hate men/you’re angry/you burn bras/you don’t want to wear make-up/etc”, when actually, the word means “A support of feminism” (and “feminism” means “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”).
Diversity is a heavy word, like feminist. But the reason for this is because diversity is a like a tree. Stay with me on this. But when you say or think “diversity”, there are so many branches of that word – race, sex, sexuality, age, physical & mental health, and religion among others. And then, with each of those branches, you have smaller branches. Let’s say sexuality: you have gay man, lesbian women, bisexual, transgender, bi-curious, queer, asexual, pansexual, polysexual. And that’s to name a few.
And let’s look at race. Now, with most books I have read, the main character’s skin colour is, mostly, NEVER referenced. And, because of this, we reader instantly think that the main character is white. However, this isn’t the same if the character is non-white. Their skin colour is always referenced. It’s stated within the text or on the cover by using a model.
The same goes with sexuality, religion, physical and mental health. All these have to be stated because, if not, we instantly think the main character is white, straight, physically and mentally well.
We have been told or lead to believe that if you are not white, male, straight, middle-class, physically and mentally well, you are ‘other’, therefore you must define your ‘otherness’ to make people comfort.
Sorry to state something that we all know but we don’t live in a world where everyone is the same. Our world is full of uniqueness and otherness. Our world is full of diverse people, places, ideas, hopes, dreams, nightmares….
Unfortunately, the world around us doesn’t seem to realise this fact.
It happens all the time. And we probably don’t realise it. Because we rarely see/hear/read it.
Imagine going on the London Underground and people giving you looks because you’re a young Muslin wearing a backpack, and everyone wonders if you’re a terrorist. Or imagine someone being stop in the street by a Police because you’re black, wearing a hoodie and they think you’re a criminal. Or a security guard tell you to stop holding your same-sexed partner’s hand as it’s making other people uncomfortable. Or having someone make vile sexual remarks at you, because you’re a woman and you’re wearing a dress that, until a few minutes ago, made you happy. Or needing a mental health day because your depression is bad and everyone is saying “Oh, pull yourself together.”
Unless you have been in that situation, you can’t possible imagine it.
This is why books, films, TV and radio (and other mediums, of course) must catch up and must play its part. We need more films with female leads. We need more TV shows where the bad lead isn’t a stereotype. We need books where the gay character isn’t just the best friend. We need radio programmes where being physical or mentally unwell isn’t the end of the world for that person.
And we, as reader/viewers/listeners must do our part to champion diversity. To fight for diversity. To check our privilege and do more. To demand more.