February 19, 2015

On Diversity For All

Simply put, diversity should exist in all types of media and favor all types of people. 

This is, however, never simple.

Because when it comes to diversity, there is always someone left out. In books, if we write about race we cannot write about all races. If we write about gender, we cannot write about the specifics of all genders. If we write about love, we cannot write about everyone.

Everyone is unique. 

Recently, there have been several accounts of people (authors, bloggers, readers) who are unhappy with the state of diversity in literature, film, and media. I agree. We need more. We will always need more. But I also think, and this is a very personal opinion of mine, that we must understand that we cannot please everyone at once. This is an uphill battle. One that we must reinforce with positivity and love. If we continue to point out every single negative thing about how the world is treating diversity, every single thing we are unhappy with, without highlighting the positive nature of this diverse movement, we fall farther and farther behind where we want to be. 

We cannot please everyone, and we certainly should not ignore those who throw negativity in the face of equality, but love does grow stronger than hate. And I've been seeing a lot of hate coming from those in favor of diversity. Those who claim diversity is done a certain way. That mindset is hateful. Where is the positivity? The safe haven? The equality for all? 

While we cannot please everyone, we can change the lives of those individuals who relate to the very universal themes in our individual books. After all, who would want to read a book that was meant for everyone? Often, when we write to please everyone, we please no one. Our themes end up being too vague, too much. And we forget that no matter our race, sexuality, or gender, we all experience many of the same universal experiences - love, sadness, happiness, sexual awakenings, death, tragedy. Diversity should not be forced, but natural - because it is natural. 

So I ask this, a question I do not know the answer to because I'm not sure there is a true answer: Is diversity better written when it is focused on a specific diverse topic, or when it is simply part of the genre story?

For me, I think the answer is both. We need stories that feature diverse characters talking and dealing with diverse ideas and things. We need those stories to learn, relate, and grow. We need personal experiences to help others know they are valued. Important information is being missed by the world because these stories don't exist in bulk. But we also need stories where diversity is not part of a lecture, but part of the genre story. Where all genders and all sexualities and all races and all people can be the main characters in the blockbuster stories we love to read and discuss.

We need both. The options of both. The freedoms that both bring. And their unique hopes. 

We need to see ourselves in books and movies.

What we do not need is the negativity that comes from people telling us one thing is better than the other. That we are doing diversity wrong. 

That is impossible. 

We are all unique individuals. Look in the mirror. You are the only you. The only one. We all have shared experiences, but then again, we don't. No matter our race, sexuality, gender, we all face the world differently. We all see things differently. We all live and love and grow differently. And yet a lot of our experiences are shared. We love. We die. We hate. We cry. We laugh. We smile. And so even in genre stories without strict diversity storylines, we are able to find pieces of our individual humanities in the lives of these fictional characters. 

For the character you write or read or watch, there is a person who will relate. That person just might not be you. And that's okay. It's diversity. 

One diversity is not more diverse than another. 

This is a celebration of us all. Of positivity for everyone. Every single one of us. It is also a celebration of unity. This movement of diversity is helping the world see in color, not just black and white. We cannot damn those who are not like us just because they are different. We cannot damn those who are trying to understand. We cannot damn those who are trying to help. We cannot damn those who are being positive about love and freedom and happiness for all, just because they are not doing it in the way we think is best.

Specifically, when it comes to books and film, readers and viewers both are influenced by traditionally made media and independently made media. We need to highlight both, because both matter. When making diversity lists, we need to include everything. Isn't that what diversity is all about? Or are we still focusing on gaps that rarely exist in the eyes of readers and viewers? Are those gaps not examples of hate and poor diversity? 

This is a celebration for all. Throw away your negativity. It's time to be in this together.

Read everything. Watch everything. Support everything you love. 

And talk. Spread the word about books and movies that mean something to you no matter what they look like. 

Don't be afraid. This is about love and equality. This is about you. And you are important. 

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