This post is inspired by a six-person student tour going on at my job. I didn’t see any black people on the tour. Five white people and an Asian person.
Why are there so many men? Why are there so many straight people? Why are there so many white people? Why are there so many cisgender people? Where are the people like me? This is something that people belonging in marginalized groups have often asked. Even I have started asking this question.
First, I personally believe that representation of different ethnicities was better back in the 1990s and early 2000s than it was now. The 1990s had many sitcoms where the cast was majority black or African-American. People who had (and still have) HBO on their TV could watch Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child on HBO Family (that show retold fairy tales with characters from different ethniticies and countries) with a Latin American Cinderella, a Chinese Little Red Riding Hood, an African-American Steadfast Tin Soldier, and others. Now, minority main characters are so few and far between outside of minority-centric television stations that shows like Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat are seen as gimmicks.
Even though the LGBT community (yes, all aspects. Not just gay people) are getting more representation in the media, there still could be some more representation. Shows that are known for LGBT representation include Glee, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and Steven Universe. Billions, a show on Showtime, has a non-binary character named Taylor Mason (the character explicitly says their pronouns are “they/them/theirs”) who is played by non-binary acting profession Asia Kate Dillion (who also uses “they/them/theirs” as their pronouns). Other shows have LGBT characters, but not all shows have positive representation of the LGBT community…
…Which is why my blog post is titled “The Importance of Positive Representation In and Out of the Media” instead of “The Importance of Representation In and Out of the Media.” Let me make it clear that I think representation is important, but positive representation helps to break negative stereotypes of marginalized people. Most of the time, bisexual representation plays upon the harmful stereotypes of bisexuals being greedy or promiscuous.
What about representation outside of media? I’m going to use the example of the workplace. The tech industry is filled with white men (and if they’re not white, they’re most likely Asian). A woman walks into an office for an interview and only sees men. How would she feel about that? Would she think there are no women who work there (they could just be in a part of the office she never walks by)? Would she fear sexist language and actions? Let’s take a black person who just started a new job. They see only one or two black people in the office. Everyone else is white or Asian. Even though there are others like them, would they fear they will be the target of racism, especially in this political climate?
Representation is important, whether you are someone with a disability, someone who doesn’t identify as a guy, a person of color, transgender, or not heterosexual. The world isn’t filled with able-bodied cisgender straight white men.