(Diversity n: 1. The state of being diverse; variety. Etym: mid-14c., "quality of being diverse," mostly in a neutral sense, from O.Fr. diversité (12c.) "difference, diversity, unique feature, oddness:" also "wickedness, perversity," from L.diversitatem (nom. diversitas) "contrariety, contradiction, disagreement)
I really struggled to think of WoTW this week. I've been a bit up and down recently - holidays, work, shoulder debacle and also forgot to take my anti-depressants too (norty me) - so a lot of the words I was thinking about, I've already touched on eg: individuality, motivation, integrity. These are all words I come back to, as they help me focus when I feel a bit wobbly. So I think it's time to do something a little less self absorbed - hence today's word.
Firstly, let me clarify what I mean by diversity - generally I mean accepting and being as open as possible in all ways to people from all walks of life. The Equality Act in the UK has 9 strands of diversity including gender, sexuality, race, religion and disability. I want to make sure that my attitudes, my life and my outlook are as inclusive and open to diversity as possible. In some ways this blog is great for that - I have *no* idea about majority of the readers of this blog - if you actively follow me/the blog I can see some of those strands but for most of you I don't know. Which is great!
So I think you can tell, diversity is a subject close to my heart - I work to encourage diversity at work and so I'm passionate about it. I feel that in some ways, I tick a lot of the boxes in diversity:
- female (gender)
- jewish (religion)
- deaf (disability)
But I am also:
- middle class
- privately educated
So internally, I often feel a lot of conflict around diversity. I may be passionate about it, but how often can I show that (outside of work)? I grew up in a predominantly white, middle-class, affluent area. And yet I now live 5-6 miles away from there in an area of London that is predominately made up of ethnic minorities who do not all have the upbringing that I had. I have chosen to live somewhere different, because oddly, I feel that I fit in! If everyone is different, there is no need to conform - individuality is to be celebrated here - as anyone who has been to Brixton will testify.
But why am I writing about diversity tonight, and what has it got to do with writing I hear you ask. Well, I guess I'm writing about it tonight after watching Made In Chelsea, a reality TV show that follows affluent young posh people in a rather nice area of London (like The Hills). And yet apparently I speak just like them - and they're not far from some of the people I know. I recognised their behaviours and body language. I know a lot of it is `enhanced` for entertainment, but there is an element of truth in what they do. The piss-taking on Twitter - which I joined in with a little - was a bit tongue in cheek though because I was cringing for some of it. I still can't believe that's how I sound. Huh! Blame the deafness.....
But watching that - and the media reaction - made me think carefully about my own biases and attitudes. Am I really as liberal as I think? I have to be totally honest here and say that all my close friends actually, are white. Yes, thinking about it, they are. Is that good or bad? I don't want to have a friend purely for their ethnic background!! But then I do have friends who aren't straight - and one of my parents isn't straight either. Is it possible to get a mix - a properly diverse group of friends - without tokenism?
You might be interested in this little assessment tool that I was sent recently - it's really aimed at businesses, to help everyone consider what your own conscious - and subconscious biases are, but it's fascinating to do! After all, it's only by owning up to these, and understanding them, can you do something about it. I have to say that I was a little surprised by my results - and I generally think I am extremely liberal. So anyway have a go - do it in private, there's no need to share the results with anyone - but it is thought provoking and challenging. Which is good and refreshing IMO.
So finally....how is this relevant to us as writers/authors/bloggers? Well, who is your writing aimed at? Is there a target market for that? Are you missing anyone? Are you alienating anyone? When I look at my bookshelves, the majority of my books are written by white people. Why am I not more well read?(blames self here) And within my writing, I've got characters with disabilities and who are gay but er, (ashamed now I realise this) everyone is white. Why is that? How do I write so that it is inclusive and open but not tokenistic?
Lots of questions for everyone tonight - as I certainly don't have any answers whatsoever. I am totally open to being called on for my ignorance - but thoughts going forward (eeep business speak, cringe) would be fabby. Do you guys worry about this? Am I over-thinking the issue, is it paying lip-service to diversity to segment the book buying + reading market in this way? Do all people buy all books? And also my book and blog is clearly not meant to be all things to all people. I suspect there will be people who will disagree with this post or my views on Equality - and why shouldn't they - they're entitled to their opinion.And finally, am I being horrendously patronising? By trying to do the right thing am I doing the wrong thing?
I guess I'm not really sure what I'm trying to get at here. Essentially, diversity and inclusivity is important to me at work, how do I make sure it is at play - and in my writing. Have other writers considered this and what do you think about it all.
Please, please comment below - although do bear in mind that given the sensitivity of this subject, offensive, libellous and derogatory comments will not be tolerated - it is *my* blog! Although I know you are all lovely people and wouldn't do such things.
Thank you and good night
Stupidgirl has left the building