On Diversity, Privilege and Feeling Uneducated

I woke up this morning feeling inspired to write this post. I knew I had to write it soon before I forgot it. I have never really made a diversity-post. Don’t get me wrong, I highly support diversity. I think it is a necessity to include all perspectives of human life in all aspects of our lives -and thus literature too. I follow the discussions on your posts, comment, follow them on Twitter and so on. But I’ve never written a post myself. Here’s why. 

I recognize my privilege. I am a privileged person. Let me count all the ways I am privileged: I am a white person, from a middle class family, well educated, come from a European country, an atheist, never had any money trouble, don’t have any illnesses whether that is mental health related or physical, have never had a truly traumatic experience, have a loving family and have only ever lost one family member close to me. That’s a lot of privilege. And I recognize that. 

A privilege I do not have is being a man. So what I have experienced is being catcalled, frightened when walking alone at night, frightened when followed by a man in the streets and other sexist remarks. Because I have had this experience, I am a feminist. I think everyone should be. Yet unfortunately, most feminists are people who have had these experiences -not those who haven’t. The feminist movement is big though, and we have made a lot of progress in the past years (and decades). 

I thought of this topic when Ely told me she didn’t like how disability was portrayed in Me Before You. I kindly asked her to expand her opinion, so she did. And it opened my eyes. I had never seen a problem with the story line before, but when Ely told me, I could see how it can come over as problematic. And then I was left thinking: how many books with problematic representation have I read, but never noticed? 

Here’s the thing. I support all the diversity and equality movements, like #BlackLivesMatter. I don’t even know how we are still in a society that doesn’t respect all humans equally. And I understand and support the need of every human experience having to be in literature, especially YA, because that’s the time we all try to find a place where we belong, and for someone to say that are experiences are normal, okay and most of all: that you are not alone. 

But I also feel like I am uneducated about most diversity-issues because I haven’t experienced them first hand. I want to feel educated, so I can be a better person and participate in the movements more actively. I want to be educated, so I recognize bad representation. My privilege has kept me sheltered from a lot of issues in the world, and it’s time to take action and actively seek out information. It’s not enough to passively come across it anymore. I need to seek it out now. 

I want to learn about all the different cultures in the world. About mental health problems that are still taboo. About physical illnesses no one talks about or still aren’t talked about enough. About skin color and the difference it shouldn’t (but does) make. About sexuality (all types). About gender. About poverty. About oppression. About migration. About war. About political instability in your country.