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Posted by Philip on 16 May 2016, 12:04 pm in , , , , , , , ,

When diversity isn't diversity

I was disappointed but not surprised that a diversity debate at the Auckland Writers Festival yesterday turned out to be an ethnicity debate, with a little parlance about binary gender thrown in for good measure.


Image | Auckland Writers Festival

When I asked at the end why in 2016 a diversity debate's scope would be so narrow (apart from author Victor Rodger mentioning a fa'afafine character in one of his novels), after a resounding applause from the audience, I was met with varying levels of defensiveness, including:

  • "There are only four of us."
  • "Well, I may be gay or disabled." (If you are, why not say so?)
  • And finally, from the chair, "This debate was about ethnicity, so it's my fault."

But if you read the description on the website, it was neither billed nor described as an Ethnicity Debate.

The pity about omitting other aspects of diversity from the narrative — non-binary gender, sexual, functional, relational, age, religious, lifestyle etc — is that you remove the reality that all ethnicities include these other aspects as part of their collective identities. Instead, ethnic diversity remains heteronormative, binary gendered, middle-aged, functionally common, monoganormative and so on.

And the "vanilla-ising" of society is perpetuated.

You can read a Storify version of my increasingly exasperated tweets here.

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