Tech & Media
Why Representation In Media Matters for Kids
BY DANIELLA OSMAN, DANIE O
May 29, 2017
Growing up, I had a hard time identifying with the cartoons on TV and the dolls on the shelves.
I’d say I really noticed it when I was about six years old. Nothing and no one looked like me apart from my family members. The few dolls I had were not my complexion. They had long, curly, blonde hair and blue eyes.
If a series isn’t inclusive and sends messages I can’t get jiggy with, [my son] doesn’t get to watch it.
My classmates were also dissimilar and they often reminded me that I was different. They weren’t always mean about it, but they had questions that I could not answer. I couldn’t blame them — if you never see anyone that looks different, how are you expected to embrace their differences?
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I thought I was over it when I got into my teen years — after all, much had changed. I did see more of myself reflected on the television and so, I began to embrace myself. It gave me visions of things I, too, could aspire to. But I still thought my hair wasn’t straight enough. And then there were those blue contacts I had to have (why weren’t my brown eyes good enough?).
Fast forward to my twenties, where the lightbulb really came on and I could begin to truly embrace myself and understand my worth. I vowed that I would be who I am. This is not to say there is anything wrong with blue-coloured contacts or bone straight hair. However, if I were to use them now, it wouldn’t be because I was hiding who I am. I decided that someday when I had kids, I would do what I could to allow my kids to embrace who they are as they were created.
How are we to build an inclusive society when certain races are still represented as second class?
Having my son has opened my eyes up to the work there is to be done in relation to representation. I would love to say that times are so different and that I have no work to do, but the sad truth is it’s not that different. There are very limited resources available out there when it comes to diversity and inclusivity.
If you look at all the kids’ animation available, you’ll find animals are more represented than several of the human races. That is a problem. It’s great that my son can aspire to learn and discover with bears and cats, but what if he could see people who looked like him doing amazing things? Can you imagine what that spark could do in his mind for his future?
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How are we to build an inclusive society when certain races are still represented as second class? Everyone wants to see themselves, and not in stereotypical or negative ways. Maybe if people were used to seeing inclusivity represented, (especially in a positive way because negative representation happens and it's not helpful), they wouldn’t be so angry when their favorite super hero is cast as a different race or taken aback by people who are different than them overall. Representation matters for all sides.
Believe me, as the parent, I observe and I do the work in our home. If a series isn’t inclusive and sends messages I can’t get jiggy with, he doesn’t get to watch it. The same goes for books, toys and everything else because I can’t be raising a son in 2017 like we’re stuck in the '60s.