Saturday, 10 September 2016

5 Diversity Myths Debunked

In case you aren't aware, there's been a lot of discussion about diversity in the online bookish community this past week.

Now, the purpose of this post is not to get into the who-said-what's or the intricacies of the (fairly heated) words which were exchanged on all sides.

No, the purpose of this blogpost is to debunk some of the misconceptions about diversity that seem to be floating around.

I figured it was time to set some things straight. (Particularly since the video at the centre of all this seems to have perpetuated a lot of these misconceptions.)

I'd like to point out that it's ok to disagree with what I'm saying. Just don't act like a jerk. (Great motto for life, actually.)

Myth 1 - If I read diversely, I won't be 'allowed' to read books by white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied, neuro-typical, authors with no mental health problems.

No-one is telling you to stop reading the books you would normally read. THE POINT IS TO ADD VOICES, NOT TAKE THEM AWAY.

This means you'll get a varied outlook on life, and a chance to look at things from a different perspective.

Think of it this way - if the only song you ever heard was 'row, row, row your boat,' then you'd think it was the only song in existence. There's nothing wrong with 'row, row, row your boat.' But you'd miss out on so many other great songs.

That's what you're doing when you don't read diversely - you're hearing the same song over and over without realising there are other songs out there.

Myth 2 - This is all a conspiracy against white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, neurot-typical, able-bodied people with no mental health problems.

Are you hearing yourself right now?



This is about the other billions of people on this planet (yes, I mean billions - there are over 1 billion Han Chinese people alone.)

How we got to the point where such a specific set of identifying characteristics was deemed the 'norm,' and dominated the global culture, (certainly Western culture,) is really beyond me.

It's about representation for other people. It's about the world not being geared to a 'select' group of people.

Sorry, but it's not about you. It's about everyone else.

Myth 3 - Diverse books aren't of the best quality. That's why they're less popular.

Think about this. It's ok to dislike a particular book, or dislike the way a particular author writes.

But if you can't find quality among any diverse books, then the problem isn't with the authors, it's with you.

The reason non-diverse books (for want of a better phrase,) are more likely to be bestsellers is down to marketing, opportunities, and the fact that biases - conscious or sub-conscious - will mean that people head for what has been established as the 'norm.'

Publishers are more likely to look favourably on white authors. Maybe they don't ask outright what your background is, but there are ways of telling.

An author named Mr Mohammed is more likely to be either a person of colour (PoC,) a Muslim, or both, than an author named Mr Jones. Of course Mr Jones could be a PoC and/or Muslim, and Mr Mohammed could be a white atheist.

But in one snap second, the person reading your manuscript will make a judgement.

And many agents and publishers ask for a biography.

You shouldn't have to hide who you are, but every word you write - from 'I was born in place with a high percentage of PoC...' to 'I and my same-sex spouse or partner live in...' - will form a picture of who you are in the mind of the person reviewing the application.

And people, unfortunately, are biased.

Myth 4 - There are no biases in stories.

Honestly, I would love it if this were true. It's not.

When the hero is almost always the white, straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied, neuro-typical person with no mental health issues, it gives a skewed view of the world.

How many PoC heroes can you name? A lot less, probably.

How many LGBTQ+ heroes can you think of? How many of those are queer women?

How about disabled heroes who don't get magically cured within a chapter or two?

How many confirmed autistic-spectrum characters can you name? How about characters with mental health problems who aren't walking stereotypes?

Where diverse characters are included, all too often they are either villain or victim. They are the people who either need protecting, or that the 'normal' people need to be protected from.

The other day, a book made me feel physically sick. The subtext confused gay men with paedophiles, then quickly threw a smoke-screen by having those same characters also be homophobic.

Yes, the only gay characters in this book were homophobic paedophiles.

This was not a self-published book, neither was it a book from decades ago.

It was published by an imprint of a major publishing house. It was published last year.

How many hands must this book have passed through without the clear issues being brought up? How did the editor let all this slide? WHY ARE THERE PEOPLE ONLINE GIVING THIS BOOK A RANKING OF 5/5????

Myth 5 - I shouldn't read stories about diverse characters, because they're not 'for' me.

I'm going to point out two things to you.

Firstly, even if a book wasn't written with you in mind, or about people like you, then you can still read it. You can still enjoy it. You can still love it.

Would you stop a queer girl reading Harry Potter because there aren't any queer female characters in it? Would you stop a deaf kid reading about Narnia because the Pevensie kids can hear?

Secondly, if you are able to read about, and relate to, historical characters from a time you'll never visit, or future characters from a time you'll never see, then why can't you relate to characters who are actually like the people around you?

People are people. (Even when they're aliens, vampires, werewolves, etc.)

If you can accept a human kissing a lizard-person in a TV show, then why is the issue that they're both female??????

(Yes, I know books and TV shows are different. But you get my point.)

Shall I sum-up for you lovely people?

Don't be afraid to read diversely.

Diversity is not a threat. It's a way of hearing different voices. It's a way of listening to each other. It's a way of beginning to understand each other.

Diversity is not a threat. It's a gift.

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  1. I'd really like to print out copies of this post and staple it to people's faces, but apparently that's not socially acceptable. Really though, this post is one big YES. I'm so happy that I know you, and therefore get to read all these incredible posts you do on diversity. MORE PLEASE.

    1. Ha, it's the staples that do it - try to find a less painful method, like sellotape ;)

      And ok - I don't really write about diversity all that much... do I? I don't know, I just write what I feel like writing (hence the fact that I bombard you all with blogposts almost every single day) and since bookish diversity is something I support, when I have something to say about it, I say it ;)

  2. The "diverse books are not good quality" is the stupidest thing I have ever heard! Diverse authors are just like any other author, and their books are just as good! Also, even though I am white, cis, and heterosexual, I will never stop reading diverse books because they teach me things! They make us less ignorant!

    1. I know - but that was clearly one of the points being made in *that* video so I figured it REALLY needed to be addressed!

  3. I've been hearing a lot about there being a massive debate, but I don't actually know what the debate is about xD But I really like that this is post nonetheless! I think it is speaking a lot of truth. Diversity is for everyone, and you shouldn't go solo diversity, or anti-diversity, because in both cases you'll be missing out a lot!

    1. In a nutshell - someone criticised Victoria Schwab for not having PoC in a book, Victoria Schwab got a little defensive and RT'd the tweets of the person who criticised her who was then attacked by the Twitter mob. Then some idiot got it into her head to 'defend' Victoria Schwab by saying diversity is b*llsh** & ranting on YouTube and basically saying diversity is a conspiracy against white people etc. and PoC aren't published b/c they don't have talent, and many other vile and stupid things. And then the various sh** hit various fans.

      So yeah. Interesting week. So I thought I'd explain things to people who might've got the wrong idea about the diversity movement.

      Thanks for the comment Liv :)

  4. Thank you so much writing this!
    I tweeted about it and basically started a mini-thread because you inspired me. :)

    1. Ha, it's normally you inspiring me ;P I had so many notifications this morning - nice surprise, thank you ;)


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