Thursday, March 26, 2015

Artists of "Difference" (Disabled and Otherwise)

Humans are incredibly diverse.  Most desire to include as many different types of people as possible in every aspect of life.  Others, naturally, aren't as accepting or open-minded.  The arts are no different with exclusionists and advocates, detractors and champions.

And yet, even among those who wish to invite variation, there are difficulties.  Some focus on the minority or difference they feel most important and ignore everything else.  Others try to include so many religions, orientations, races, etc. that they are accused of tokenism.
Either way, someone is going to be displeased.  So the best way to go about it is to include who you can.

Those who say they can't find a writer or artist of a specific difference to speak at their conference, lead a workshop, or attend their retreat are lying.  There are very vocal artists in every community and walk of life.  Heck, many minorities even have specific organisations to contact.  They are an online search away.  Often, what stops places and people from welcoming variation is the extra work it requires.
There are plenty of artists who don't advertise their differences.  Some think it will work against them (and it can).  Some think it can give them things they don't deserve (and it's possible).  Perhaps not everyone enjoys being labelled.

If someone labelled me, they'd probably say that "fat, disabled writer".  "Fat" might not come into everybody's description, but "disabled" would.  It strikes them as important, somehow alien and other.  And, believe it or not, I'm okay with it.  Anything outside our sphere of knowing is often cast in the sacred light of STRANGE and isn't malicious until there is intent.

Do I want to be labelled as such?  Eh, I'm practical.  A brief description doesn't encompass everything I am, but it is accurate in its limits.  It isn't supposed to tell my life story.  Though I'd love to be known as "that amazing poet with the 165 IQ"!
But, just because I'm a disabled writer doesn't mean I should be speaking at a conference... and it doesn't mean I shouldn't.  My merits should be measured against other writers.  Did my writing captivate?  Was my blog the reason for contact?  Why choose me if this able-bodied woman is clearly more qualified?

It's an easy way out for naysayers though, to just say the few disabled people they researched or contacted didn't qualify.  Minorities with a certain skill or expertise may not be as easy to find (they are called "minorities" for a reason) as their majority counterparts but they exist.
It just depends on if inclusion is truly important (to those who run things) or not.  Even if it's never me presenting or attending, I still have a right to be represented!  The world was never made worse from equality.
Do you feel the writing industry is doing enough to include minorities?  Do you ever feel unrepresented in the arts?


  1. I'd say the best place to start is with writers' organizations. Organizations like Romance Writers of America, SCBWI, and the mystery writers' association can probably help. If they don't keep a list for such occasions, they should.

    1. I've thought about starting an organisation for disabled writers. There are retreats, conferences, etc. for most differences, but not disability. Worldwide, we are the largest minority.

      It would be grand if organisations helped keep track but they will insist it isn't in the scope of their mission. They may have a point... I don't know.