Francesca Martinez: Can diversity save the world?

Like the guy who worked for Google, humans have a somewhat contradictory relationship with inclusiveness, writes Francesca Martinez

I wouldn’t be typing these words with my wobbly fingers if it wasn’t for diversity. And you wouldn’t be reading them. We owe our existence to the biological, genetic, and chemical diversity that magically came together and – thankfully for us all – produced the extraordinary processes that we call life. Despite this wondrous fact, however, human beings still have a somewhat thorny and contradictory relationship to diversity – like that
guy who used to work for Google.

Our consumer culture likes to extol the diversity of choice. Want a pedicure and foot massage at 2am in the comfort of your own home? You got it. Want to tuck into a beef/veggie/vegan burger that will transport your taste buds to the moon and back? Done. Want to go on a yoga holiday, with evening salsa classes and raw-food dinners thrown in? No problem.

Yet this same culture pressures women into having “beach-ready” bodies, balding men into craving fuller hairlines, and all of us into lusting after the latest must-have product. Even our TVs have to be slim! This pervasive superficial set of values is about as diverse as Donald Trump’s cabinet. Yes, you can buy anything you want (if you have the dosh) but… you have to look the “right” way and attain the “right” status symbols. Otherwise you’re just weird.

Much of the media amplifies a very narrow range of consumer values (while advertising a huge diversity of products). This usually means it reflects a tiny slice of humanity: the tiny slice that sells the fabricated reality of the consumer dream. Of course, there are regular diversity drives aimed at correcting this unhealthy distortion. Over the last 20 years, I have sat in rooms of various shapes, sizes and decors, with a variety of media folk, puzzling over the challenging question of how to bring more diversity to our screens. Given the people hosting these events were TV execs, I quickly realised the answer was a rather simple one – put more diversity on our screens. Period. It ain’t rocket science.

While diversity drives may take time to yield results, they are an important factor in creating a more inclusive society. But it’s not always as simple as just calling for more diversity. Take the arms industry. Will I be happier knowing the latest WMD has been designed by a gay, black man? Should I be glad the UK troops blowing up civilians include more women? Is it progress for a deaf woman to be appointed CEO of an oil company, if she continues to ignore calls to produce clean energy?

Some jobs raise serious ethical concerns; it would be wrong to focus solely on promoting equality and diversity while ignoring the moral implications of the actual work itself. The world will not be a better place if a diverse workforce is responsible for devastating weaponry, environmental destruction, and grinding poverty.

That’s why we must strive for a more peaceful, sustainable and equal global community as well as diversity. We can’t have one at the expense of the other. Otherwise the beautiful diversity that characterises humanity and the natural world will continue to face an epic struggle to survive l

Francesca Martinez is a stand-up comedian, actress and author. She has cerebral palsy but prefers to describe herself as “wobbly”.

Francesca is a regular columnist in LEAD magazine. Make sure you never miss an issue – subscribe today.


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