“We Need to Be Braver”: Voices for Diversity in 2016

Every year is challenging for members of minority and marginalized groups. Extreme rhetoric and public expressions of bigotry seem to have come louder and more freely in 2016, however, which is why it’s so important to celebrate those who speak up against hate and for a culture of inclusion.

We’re proud that WordPress.com is home to so many such voices, even if the selection below doesn’t begin to cover the numerous communities that promote diversity through their sites here. We share these as an invitation to all readers to dive deeper and engage in more conversations in 2017.

“It’s Okay to Say Autism”

For more resources on neurodiversity-related advocacy and education, check out this post by veteran WordPress developer Ryan Boren.

Autism spectrum diagnoses may be more common these days, but discussing them is still fraught for many. Stef, the queer grad student who blogs at The Autistic Beekeeper, writes with great care about the difficulty neurotypical people — including close friends and family — face when talking about autism:

So, a lot of people know I’m autistic: my professors, classmates, coworkers, friends, family, acquaintances. And no one says autism or autistic or disabled. Why? Why don’t they say it? “You won’t catch it if you say it,” the words I repeated so often as a teenager to my mother, pop up each time it’s ghosted over.

Live from Standing Rock

The organized resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline was a rare — and inspiring — moment when a social movement that seemed on the brink of defeat ended up winning big (for now, at least). And throughout this process, supporters and activists were documenting the struggles and perseverance of daily life at Standing Rock on blogs like NativeinDC and #NoDAPL Solidarity.

With or without the hiatus in the pipeline’s construction, it’s never a bad time to learn more about Native American history and the context in which these protests took place — which makes resources like #StandingRockSyllabus so invaluable.

On Gender and Acceptance

After several important victories in 2015, the LGBTQ community faced challenges both old and new in 2016. The so-called “bathroom laws” around the US are still making everyday lives more difficult for thousands, while exposing widespread bias and hypocrisy. As blogger Gretchen Kelly powerfully said, “Those predators you’re so worried will sneak into the Target bathroom? They’re all around you. They are your Priest, your kid’s coach, your neighbor, your uncle, your youth group leader, your United States Speaker of the House.”

Jacob Tobia, featured at Neutrosis Nonsense.
Jacob Tobia, featured at Neutrosis Nonsense.

But the push for equality and for the acceptance of people regardless of gender identity or sexuality continues — thanks, in large part, to people like Jacob Tobia, who wrote earlier this year at Neutrosis Nonsense about the challenges facing genderqueer professionals:

While people may try to discriminate against me and tell me that I’m dressing “inappropriately” for work, I will hold on to my gender identity and sense of self. In the workplace, I will stick up for those who, like me, find that their gender does not match a prefabricated box. I will wear my heels, pearls, and skirts to work until, hopefully, the world can learn to respect people like me.

On the Frontlines of Popular Culture

Back in April, Keith Chow dissected Hollywood’s Asian problem at Nerds of Color — both the stereotypes mainstream movies circulate and the erasure they perform when it comes to Asian or Asian American characters. Meanwhile, scholar Carolyn Cocca analyzes the importance of female superheroes (and their still-very-low numbers) in a conversation with Rhys Tranter.

Artsy enclaves in theater and literary fiction — which outsiders often associate with openness and progressive values — are also targets of much-needed criticism. Writing in the context of Banned Books Week, S. Hunter Nisbet lamented the thousands of books by women and people of color that aren’t banned, simply because they never made it past the gatekeepers at traditional publishing houses to begin with. Likewise, theater artistic director Melissa Hillman insisted in a hard-hitting piece, “‘Diversity’ Is a Problem,” that token gestures without real equity and decision-making power are not enough.

As Harmony France (who also works in theater) put it in her post about casting-related body-shaming and pigeonholing:

We need to be braver. Those of us who affect casting decisions need to be as brave as the actors bearing their souls in front of us. […] We have so many more types of stories to tell with so many more different types of people. Let’s do better.

Designing Inclusively in a Diverse World

The effects of bias — including the many instances of unintentional bias — reach us everywhere, including the products we use to communicate with others. Here at Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and Jetpack (among others), we decided to push this conversation forward, and launched Design.blog this year. It’s a space where leaders from technology, business, education, and the arts discuss ways to build bridges between people and communities and make room for voices that are often underrepresented in such discussions.

Learn more about Automattic’s commitment to Diversity and Inclusion.

Design.blog publishes a new issue every Thursday, but you can always browse our archives. You’ll find stories like “Coding a New Path to the Championship,” by Justin Dunn, on becoming his own role model as a black entreprenuer, or “Embracing My Mixed Race, Hybrid Identity,” where designer Alisha Ramos reflects on her heritage and how it has shaped her personal (and professional) trajectory.

If you read other noteworthy posts on issues related to diversity in 2016, do share them in the comments! Or explore other Editors’ Picks on this topic in our archives.