Here are some snippets from a beautifully written article in the Guardian by Michaela Cole. I’ll have to check out her series Chewing Gum!
All women are disadvantaged to varying degrees in our patriarchal society; and class, race, sexuality, disability and the number of those boxes you tick can make a staggering difference to your status in the creative industry. Having a disability, being trans or brown or female can often give you a distinct, culturally intriguing perspective on life – but it can also, ultimately, be a disadvantage (albeit a beautiful one). .
A report by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that “more than 95% of characters with disabilities are played by able-bodied actors on television”. The academics Irena Grugulis and Dimitrinka Stoyanova found that women and people from ethnic minorities were underrepresented in UK film and TV. So if we can conclude that not being a white male might make things a little harder, being at a “disadvantage” in multiple ways (a gay, trans, Asian woman from a working-class background with a disability, for instance) will make things harder than having the singular setback of being able-bodied but from a working-class background.
I wondered whether it wasn’t race but class that made me feel like a complete outsider, even though I was the first black female the school had had in five years. I’d been the “only black girl” so many times, but it had never felt quite like this: I’d never been the only working-class one.
The differences between myself and my year, many of whom were friends, intrigued me, so I wrote and spoke about it. An emergency meeting was suddenly called. One day before lunch, I was given a tipoff by my gay, working-class mate that this covert operation had been in the making for a few days: “Beware, Michaela, this is an ambush: the sole subject of this meeting is you.”
My entire year gathered in a big circle – I sat in silence as they awkwardly revealed the intention behind it. It was explained to me that I’d caused offence by saying that I felt different because I was a working-class Londoner with immigrant parents. My female classmates bounced frantically between grief, panic and irritation: they didn’t see class, so why should I?
Of course there are exceptions. I have wonderful, empathetic white girlfriends from wealthy backgrounds who are no longer comfortable defending solely their own causes. One of the girls who secretly orchestrated that “emergency meeting” at drama school privately apologised two years later. But to bring about real change a private apology is never enough – in fact, it’s lame. The first expectation for a person of privilege should be that they speak especially to your equally privileged but ignorant friends.
Do you have an Amy Schumer in your life? Weed her out. Highlight your sensitivity and disappointment in her for partaking in the micro-aggressions and subtle forms of prejudice that are quietly poisoning the era of progress and equality in which we live. And those of us who are content creators have a duty to make room for those we know are less privileged than we are.