Thursday, 27 August 2015

Diversity in advertising - some recent thoughts and action

Five years ago, NSW and Victorian families of adults with Down syndrome looked back on the changes they had been part of, for Views from the front lines: more than thirty years of family life, published in Voice (now the journal of Down Syndrome Australia). Their answers to the first question, What is the biggest change you have seen for people with Down syndrome in general? were summarised as ...
“Visibility. People with Down syndrome are no longer confined to family homes into old age. They are out and about – on public transport, in the supermarkets, at the beach, at the movies, on TV and in film.”

“There is a greater acceptance and understanding by the community in general.”

“Many people still have not had any contact with people with Down syndrome and do not realise their potential. People are still amazed that a person with Down syndrome can read, write, use mobile phones and use public transport.”
(Voice, September 2010)

The evolution of the concepts of 'awareness', 'advocacy','inclusion' and 'acceptance', towards greater visibility, more appropriate representation in all forms of media and inclusion in all aspects of life remains a key interest of the Down syndrome community (and those interested in all people with disabilities), and has become the subject of more focussed campaigns and study, as in these very recent examples:

Starting with Julius
You might be aware of this Western-Australia based campaign (it has featured in the Australian Women's Weekly, as well as online) that is part of an emerging international drive (see Changing the Face of Beauty on Facebook).

Its website was launched last week, and includes a new blog well worth reading, with an initial post by Robert Hoge. Julius's mother, Catia Malaquias, advocates on a number of fronts in addition to her focus on advertising - she is interested in  the nature of 'awareness' and advocacy, international rights, and inclusive education, for example.
'We are committed to the equal representation of people with disability in advertising, media and beyond and the use of empowering and inclusive imagery and messages.'

Where Are All the Disabled People in the Body Positivity Campaigns?
Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, The Body is Not an Apology, 23rd August 2015
... I was shocked when I realized that theories built on an awareness of the devaluation and stigmatization of bodily difference often ignore the category into which everyone might someday fit: disability ... In the popular media, so-called “body positivity” campaigns leave out disability to a remarkable extent. The body about which we are supposed to feel positive is nearly always the able body. That body might be fat or thin, white or black, Hispanic or Asian, tall or short, rich or poor, but it is almost always able ...

What people don't get about the hot model with Down syndrome
Love That Max, 20th August 2015
As the world cheers on Madeline Stuart, the Australian model with Down syndrome who just announced she'll walk the runway at New York Fashion Week, I'm cheering too. Yet I'm also feeling uneasy, because negative perceptions of people with disability are rearing their heads ...

Edit: added 30th August 2015:

Yes, fashion has flirted with using models with disabilities, but it has to do much more if it is serious about catwalk diversity

Hannah Marriott, The Guardian, 30th August 2015
... This handful of examples is a drop in the ocean of a multibillion-pound global industry, but it does represent “some increase” in the use of models with disabilities, says Cat Smith, a doctoral researcher at London College of Fashion. “In general there is real cultural invisibility when it comes to those with disabilities – in fashion, on TV, in film, in politics, in writing,” she says. “So it’s certainly important to see disabled models, because seeing people who look like you is important in fostering empowerment and making you feel a little less invisible. Visibility also creates a more realistic representation and understanding of the lives of people with disabilities ...

No comments: