Some thoughts by Steve Heron OAM
What is diversity?
It is the state of being diverse. Der.
Diversity: Variety, difference.
Diversity in literature circles usually refers to stories featuring significant characters who identify as LGBTQ+, are people of colour, have disabilities, or are part of any other oppressed and/or underrepresented group. This includes anyone who has been colonised or stereotyped.
What is stereotyping?
Stereotyping is about someone trying to have power over other people they don’t understand or are afraid of, in order to normalise or pigeonhole.
This includes typecasting, pigeonholing, standardising, categorising, labelling. Normalising.
It could be said that diversity in literature is about unnormalizing or unstereotyping.
Some people might say, “Diversity has gone so far nowadays that it doesn’t recognise normal people.” Who or what is normal anyway?
Let’s have a look at normalising. What is it? Normalising is conforming someone to a standard, usual, typical or expected state or condition. Normalising is labelling someone as ‘different.’
I believe diversity in literature nowadays is attempting to go further to help us realise that all people are normal and that all people are different. After all, I think the purpose of diversity in literature is to enable all people, especially the underrepresented to be accepted, to be normal.
It is similar to the argument about using the word ‘disabled’. It has been suggested to use ‘other–abled’. Doesn’t this stereotype and suggest that those who are ‘abled’ are the norm? Imagine if we classed everyone who is talented as ‘gifted’ and those that aren’t as ‘disgifted’ or ‘ungifted’, but to try to include them we call them ‘other–gifted’. Everyone, EVERYONE is gifted. We all have different gifts, diverse gifts.
Why is diversity in literature important?
Diversity is not about telling the stories of people that are not normal. Diversity is about telling the stories of unrepresented people so that they and others realise they are normal … accepted … appreciated … respected … gifted … not judged.
Diversity in writing means understanding that each individual is unique as well as recognising and celebrating differences. These differences include race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical or mental abilities, religious beliefs, or ideologies.
Honouring diversity in our writing can be achieved by:
- Broad research
- Inclusive language
- Better understanding
- Balancing the power
- Acknowledging that no one is superior
- Fostering respect
- Championing sensitivity
- Endorsing cultural relevance
“Everyone has the right to feel safe and be respected.”
Diversity in writing is about helping the reader to come to a view that everything and everyone is normal but everything and everyone shouldn’t be normalised.
So, diversity in writing is about not normalising (as in stereotyping)but normalising (as in accepting). Our language can be strange at times.
Diversity is about balancing the power by understanding and respecting people so that they are not made to feel abnormal.
“No one should be allowed to get ahead be denigrating another.”
One day the phrase ‘diversity in literature’ may not need to exist.