Now Reading
We Still Have a Long Way to Go for Diversity & Representation In the Media

We Still Have a Long Way to Go for Diversity & Representation In the Media

I remember being a little girl at school, and on the day in which we were allowed to bring in dolls I would bring in a book or a Rubix Cube – something that would occupy my mind, because I knew there were no dolls in the stores looked like me.
At the time, I was an awkward individual who wore the hijab and didn’t understand; I didn’t understand why when I went to the stores with my mum and siblings, I would see white faces with blue eyes staring back at me. I didn’t understand why there were no dolls that were my skin tone or darker.

I remember being a little girl at school, and on the day in which we were allowed to bring in dolls I would bring in a book or a Rubix Cube – something that would occupy my mind, because I knew there were no dolls in the stores looked like me.

I’m not saying I didn’t have any dolls.
In fact, I would buy and love them, brush their hair and give them names, almost as if they were real people, all the whilst feeling as though I wasn’t pretty enough to be one.  I felt as though the reason the dolls looked like the majority of my classmates — and not me — was because I was somehow defective; that I came out wrong.

I felt as though the reason the dolls looked like the majority of my classmates — and not me — was because I was somehow defective; that I came out wrong.

When I got to that awkward age when we started acting older than our real age, I began trading in dolls for TV shows and books for magazines. Unfortunately, I found I had the same issue — a lack of representation — but this time it was elevated. The TV shows that my peers enjoyed and related to did not include the same struggles or issues I had, nor did the characters resemble me physically. When it came time to say which character you wish you were, I would laugh it off and allow my friends to answer.

The TV shows that my peers enjoyed and related to did not include the same struggles or issues I had, nor did the characters resemble me physically. 

My friends would excitedly say who they wanted to be on the show, and then without any obstacles, go out and get the same haircut to resemble their favorite celebrity from shows on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
Meanwhile, I would go home and have similar thoughts, but mine were melancholy rather than hopeful. For me, it wasn’t a haircut that would magically transform me into what — at that age — was seen as pretty. I would have to become a whole other person. My skin wasn’t light enough, and my eyes weren’t the right color.

For me, it wasn’t a haircut that would magically transform me into what — at that age — was seen as pretty. I would have to become a whole other person. My skin wasn’t light enough, and my eyes weren’t the right color.

Looking at a TV screen and not seeing people who look like you can be defeating for a young girl. The TV and media as a whole shape our perceptions of what we view as beautiful, and when nothing and no one who resembles you is properly represented, you feel ugly, and your self esteem drops.
I don’t want this for younger generations.
The thought of a little girl feeling less than beautiful because she doesn’t look like her favorite character on a show is unacceptable. I don’t want to see people being affected by something that is not their fault.
It’s time for a plot twist. We still have a long way to go as far as representation and diversity in the media.

We still have a long way to go as far as representation and diversity in the media.

We need to come to the realization that WE don’t need to change.  We are here and we are not going anywhere. We exist. People of Color exist – and the media should reflect how the world looks today and the world today – colorful, with different ages, religions, orientations etc. If the media fails to do this, (and it is failing), they are doing us an injustice.
The only time I see a brown girl on TV shouldn’t be as the daughter of a terrorist on an episode of SVU. The only time I see a brown man shouldn’t be as a taxi driver or corner store owner. The only time I see Islam mentioned shouldn’t be on some debate about terrorism.

The only time I see a brown girl on TV shouldn’t be as the daughter of a terrorist on an episode of SVU. The only time I see a brown man shouldn’t be as a taxi driver or corner store owner. The only time I see Islam mentioned shouldn’t be on some debate about terrorism.

We are not how you see us. We are communities of people with dreams and hopes for the future. We are teachers, doctors and lawyers. We contribute to society just as much as you do, and deserve to be represented as such. We are more than your narrow views on us, more than your racism and your Islamophobia. We deserve more than to be props for political statements.
Today, I am no longer that little girl who was sat in front of the TV, confused and waiting for people who looked or acted like me to appear.
Today, I am 19. I now know I wasn’t the only one that faced this identity crisis, and that it’s one faced by all minorities. I now know that it’s gotten to the point where we can’t knock and ask to come in, but that it’s time for us to break down the doors and proclaim our presence.

See Also

I now know that it’s gotten to the point where we can’t knock and ask to come in, but that it’s time for us to break down the doors and proclaim our presence.

You don’t get to use our culture as props, but deny us in your shows, modeling agencies, magazines, platforms etc.
You don’t get to pick the pieces of us you like, and then leave us out in the cold, looking on as you get praised for things that you did not create.

You don’t get to use our culture as props, but deny us in your shows, modeling agencies, magazines, platforms etc. You don’t get to pick the pieces of us you like, and then leave us out in the cold, looking on as you get praised for things that you did not create.

You don’t get to make a little girl or boy feel the way you made me feel.
Times are changing, and I now go to the same stores for whatever reason I choose. Maybe I come in out of a warped sense that I can take back what I feel you stole from me, by walking in and looking at those white dolls, knowing they didn’t end up robbing me of my self esteem.
Today, I do see change. Small changes, but change nonetheless. I see dolls of color, varying in skin tone – but it’s not enough.
The world we see on TV should always represent the world we live in.
We live in a diverse society, where we see people of varying skin tones, various belief systems, and various ages, living together.
The world isn’t just white, straight, and male. We need to get to a place where we see ourselves on TV represented in away that doesn’t offend or shock us, but comforts us.  We belong.  We need to be in a place where our youth aren’t made to feel insecure simply because you aren’t doing your job as casting directors and TV executives properly.
When you do represent us, do not do it through your lens; rather, call on us. It is, after all, us living the lives you seem to enjoy exploiting.

When you do represent us, do not do it through your lens; rather, call on us. It is, after all, us living the lives you seem to enjoy exploiting.

Our communities are rich with talent:  Creators, writers, actors, directors, artists, and more. There are people you neglect when you do make rare attempts to tell our stories. Call on them. Allow them to tell you their stories and their struggles; I can assure you the end result will be better than it is right now.
We exist. We aren’t going anywhere. It’s time you either let us in, or accept that we’re coming. It’s time you either open the door of diversity, or step back as we break it open.
 
 Submitted by Iqra Mehdi

View Comments (5)
  • You’re angry that products and popular culture in a country where whites are the majority caters more to the white consumer? Girl, I don’t know what you’re majoring in, but take a class in economics ffs.

    • You really did isolate the wrong subject in this article as (one of) the intended messages. Why do you sound angry? Doesn’t Mrs. Mehdi have the right to experience her own environment from her cultures perspective? That is in fact (one of) the powerful reminders I felt in this article is the vast array of cultural experiences within a free and diverse country that are far greater in importance than economic perspective. Re-read the article?

      • She was complaining that the majority of children’s toys and characters on television looked Caucasian. I’m saying that that’s to be expected in a country where most people are white. “Why do you sound angry?” Angry? No. Exasperated by the victim attitude you see online lately? Yeah. “Doesn’t Mrs. Mehdi have the right to experience her own environment from her cultures perspective?” If by that you mean can she reasonably expect to be specifically catered to as a minority consumer, the answer is no. Just as you couldn’t emigrate to Japan and reasonably expect TV shows and popular culture to cater to your white American tastes.

        • “We exist. We aren’t going anywhere. It’s time you either let us in, or accept that we’re coming. It’s time you either open the door of diversity, or step back as we break it open.”
          Iqra Mehdi
          That is no victim card. That is a woman who knows who she is,where she came from and where she is going. Thank you, sincerely for being civil in your response. I aspire to that.

          • That’s very poetic. But regardless of where she came from, she’s essentially upset that where she’s gone is not conforming to her own cultural expectation. That’s fundamentally what I’m criticizing.

Leave a Reply

Scroll To Top