#DifferenceMakers: Janel Martinez’s “Ain’t I Latina” Reps for Afro-Latinas Left Out of the Conversation
There is not enough focus on the people who live at the intersections of cultures and ethnicities. The Afro-Latina identity is one such group that seems to go under the radar in the media, and for no good reason. In the media, the idea of the Latina is that of a light-skinned, European or mestizo looking woman. Even in popular magazines geared towards the Latinx community and Latinas in particular, the diverse range of Latinas aren’t routinely showcased, Afro-Latinas in particular. The stereotype of what a Latina should look like isn’t capturing the full scope of those who are, in fact, Latina. Enter the much-needed site, Ain’t I Latina? to work to correct that oversight.
Ain’t I Latina was created by Honduran-American multimedia journalist Janel Martinez, who sought to give Afro-Latinas the coverage they’ve been missing in the media. Her Twitter page gives a quick summary of what you can expect:
AIL was created to celebrate #diversity among #Latinas, esp. #AfroLatinas. The newly created site fts #news, #profiles + #lifestyle content.
— Ain't I Latina? (@aintilatina) December 18, 2013
Her bio page gives a more in-depth explanation of her site.
Ain’t I Latina? is an online destination created by an Afro-Latina for Afro-Latinas. Inspired by the lack of representation in mainstream media, as well as Spanish-language media, Janel Martinez, a 20-something journalist and New York native, wanted to create a space where millennial Latinas can celebrate their diversity. In addition to offering celebrity news, career advice, lifestyle coverage and exclusive interviews with today’s hottest Latinas, Ain’t I Latina? offers you, the reader, an opportunity to share your story.
There is a lot to take in on Ain’t I Latina, including the site’s latest interview with Evelyn Lozada and daughter Shaniece Hairston, Afro-Latina musicians and authors to look out for, theatrical portrayals of the Afro-Latina identity, etc. Most important of all, it fosters community and an outlet for women who haven’t seen themselves celebrated on the whole in media. I recommend you give Ain’t I Latina a shot.
Are you a fan of Ain’t I Latina? What do you love about the site? Give your opinions below!
Twitter has become the place to get a crash course education on all the stuff not covered on television or in the history books. Hashtags like #whitewashedOUT and #OscarsSoWhite have opened people’s minds up to the discrimination in Hollywood, and one of the latest hashtags on Twitter, #NoIWontJustMoveOn, is opening Twitter denizens up to atrocities leveled against Native Americans, both in the past and today.
Vincent Schilling, author, photojournalist and editor of Indian Country Today Media Network’s Arts and Entertainment section is one of the co-creators of #NoIWontJustMoveOn, and I was excited to converse with him via email interview. In the interview, we discuss the hashtag and its impact, as well as if America will ever come to terms with its horrible past.
Why did you create the hashtag #NoIWontJustMoveOn?
I created it along with my wife Delores who actually said it first, I said, “That would be a great and appropriate hashtag.” We both tweeted it and it just trended.
As I said in my Indian Country Today Media Network article which now has nearly 10,000 likes on Facebook, as a Native American/First Nations man, (Akwesasne Mohawk,) I have been asked on too many occasions why I am still talking about the atrocities that have befallen Native American and First Nations people and told, “Why don’t you just get over it” or “Why don’t you just move on?” Because my history, no matter how far away it seems, still affects me and my fellow indigenous brothers and sisters.
You have written about how the past still affects Native Americans today. For those who don’t know (and still ask the insensitive question of “Why don’t you just get over it?”) what would you say to them?
I would say to them, ‘If a loved one had died in your family and you are explaining how much of an impact they had on your life, in the midst of your tears and sadness, I won’t tell you to just get over it. Even if their death happened 20 years ago.” This is where the confusion, I believe comes in. People believe that Native people are supposed to follow a regimented timeclock in terms of cultural suffering.
The thing so many people do not realize is that we as Native people still genuinely feel the suffering of our ancestors in our DNA. Their pain, their tears of genocide, rape, torture and having children stolen from families is still felt in our blood. Our blood is mixed with the tears of our ancestors they were never cried from their eyes. This is what runs through us. We feel the sadness, the loss, the mourning and we are not just going to get over it because someone tells us to.
I’d like to add, many times people that tell us to get over it cannot stand to feel even a small percentage of our suffering; to fully realize the intrinsic value of our suffering is simply too much for some people to bear.
People tell us to get over it, but you can’t move on from something that is still happening today. Our Native kids are being told they can’t wear sacred cultural items to their high school graduations today. Our Native women are still sexually assaulted at higher rates than any other ethnicity (by non-native offenders) today. They are going missing (#MMIW) today. People still ask me if we exist today. We are fighting Native mascots today.
There are many ways America has tried to erase Native American history, and there are so many ways that erasure is still active today, from Halloween costumes to lack of coverage of missing Native American women and police brutality against Native Americans, to lack of presence in the media, lack of large-scale federal government support/advocacy (aside from Native representatives in Congress), etc. With so much going on, how do you feel all these issues could be best addressed by The Powers That Be (the government, the media, etc.)?
“The Powers That Be” are no longer the only ones in charge. No matter how hard they try to silence the voices with policy, government regulation of even private interest lawmaking, there is just too much to gain by creating platform to give the public a voice.
“The meek shall inherit the earth” is happening. No longer can a world leader, a corporate entity or even a country can any longer make a move without the massive collective voices on social media coming to the call. News organizations are now reporting on the response to public figures making bad moves on social media as opposed to just reporting on the act itself.
Yes, even institutions of learning are now being held up to the light and are having to answer questions posed by the public. They are finding out about how Christopher Columbus never landed in the upper 48 states – ever – and how he committed horrible atrocities against Taino people and supplied nine-year-old native girls to his men.
People are learning how Black Indians are one of the most successful societies in history that were targeted and hated by other less successful communities who out of jealousy, burned the Black Indian communities to the ground. People are now unlearning.
#NoIWontJustMoveOn has helped educate many who aren’t aware of these issues. In fact, someone tweeted, “There are things that are being revealed to me in #NoIWontJustMoveOn that I’m learning for the first time ever in my life…” How does it feel to have that kind of an impact?
It feels wonderful and sad. I am glad that people are learning about the tough things faced in Indian Country, but it is a reminder of how desperately the hashtag is needed.
What do you hope people who weren’t aware of these issues do with that knowledge now that they have it?
I hope they realize that everything, and I mean everything, has the right to be questioned. But I’d like to offer them to question things with kindness. I am not suggesting they lay on the floor if someone is kicking them; I just mean to question things in a way that solicit information. As a journalist, I have questioned people I was so horribly furious at it was hard to think straight. They assumed I was going to attack them – but I did not.
What happens in a situation like this is that people are caught off-guard and because they feel as though they are not in the line of fire will offer much more insight into their thought process. This is important to remember. It is not without struggle and I am not perfect as I am more than certain my frustrations have taken a precedent, but for the most part, there is a lot more empowerment when you are coming from a place of being kind as well as constructive.
The advent of the internet has helped many marginalized groups, including Native Americans and Canada’s First Nations, reach people on a global scale in a way they probably couldn’t before. How do you feel social media has helped Native voices get heard? Similarly, how do you think social media has helped the activism community within Native nations?
As I said previously, social media is a massive factor in allowing the Native community as well as all communities across the world, connect in a way that was never possible before. Yes and unequivocally, without any doubt these types of efforts could not have gained the momentum without social media. It has empowered all of us and gives us more and more to look forward to.
One example is when I attended the White House tribal youth Gathering last year when Lady [Michelle] Obama spoke to Native youth who had traveled to DC from all over Turtle Island (Native reference to the US and Canadian continent). All of the reporters – including myself – were positioned at the very back of the room, with limited access to the youth and Michelle Obama. Our coverage was sufficient, but lackluster because we could really only see the backs of kids heads and Lady Obama from a distance. The talk of the town was not anyone’s coverage, but the beautiful coverage and moments on Snapchat, people were watching the Native youth’s personal coverage of lady Obama – not us. Their perspective was the major issue, not a news organization.
Ultimately, what do you hope becomes of #NoIWontJustMoveOn in the long run? What kind of long-term impact do you hope it has?
I hope this hashtag stays going forever. I want people to always realize the devastation faced by Indian Country, but how we are also becoming more and more empowered every day.
What do you hope for America when it comes to addressing the years of abuse Native Americans have faced? Do you think America will ever come to terms with what it’s done to its first people, or do you think that realization (along with the realizations of other horrors leveled against other groups) is just too much for the collective consciousness of America to bear?
No matter how much I would like this sentiment to change, sadly it will always be too much for the collective consciousness of America to bear. That is just human nature. Overprotective moms will always cover the ears of
their children when sometime speaks about something the mom, not necessarily the child, is uncomfortable with. But within this collective, are a plethora of voices and minds that simply had no idea, or were never told. And when
they hear things for the first time are changed forever, those are the ones I am always trying to reach. I sincerely don’t want to waste my energy on those people who only want to argue, but are never willing to change.♦
The Bechdel Test is something that movies should always strive to abide by. As TRI director Jai Jamison told me (in an upcoming interview), the test actually provides such a low benchmark for films, but still, films routinely fail this most basic of qualifications.
For a movie to pass the test (made popular by cartoonist Allison Bechdel but attributed by Bechdel’s friend Liz Wallace, as stated by Pass the Bechdel Test), it must be able to check off these three items from the list (as quoted from the site):
1. Has to have at least two [named*] women in it
2. Who have a conversation with each other
3. About something other than a man
The test is one that has also acted as the basis for other types of inclusive tests, and Disability Thinking’s Andrew Pulrang has used it to create what he calls “The Tyrion Test,” named after one of the most visible and most complicated characters with disability, Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones.
The original version of his test, created in 2014, read as this:
1) At least one character with disabilities is involved in significant plot developments not centered on their disabilities,
2) Disabilities are depicted realistically, neither less nor more severe than they would be in real life, and
3) Disabled characters are givers as well as receivers…supportive of other characters, not just supported by them.
This year, Pulrang released a shorter version of the list:
1) Features two or more disabled characters, who
2) Talk to each other,
3) About something other than their disabilities.
Pulrang might have shortened his test, but he’s still vying for the nuances he prescribed in his original test. “I still think it also matters whether disabled characters have real agency, whether or not they are fully developed, and what kind of role they play in their stories,” he wrote. “I also think it’s good when writers avoid leaning on a few tired disability tropes and stereotypes.”
Hollywood would do well to take heed to this new test and actually apply it, because hiring non-disabled actors is not only lazy, but it’s also denying actors with disabilities the chance to achieve their Hollywood dreams. Equally as lazy is writing either writing disabled characters as “inspiration porn” or excluding them all together, when people with disabilities are just as much part of the population as anyone else. As I wrote in my Ghost in the Shell Nerds of Color piece, Hollywood is supposed to be about examining the human condition. Why does it make more sense to Hollywood to examine all of the human condition, which also includes the experiences of those with disabilities, with non-disabled actors?
(I know there are arguments about how it’s easier for Hollywood to hire able-bodied actors, but to that I say: Why does Hollywood have to be defined by ableism and ableist spaces? What’s the answer to that question?)
The fact that actors with disabilities aren’t considered and able-bodied actors are preferred goes part and parcel with the assumptions that 1) people with disabilities only exist for the emotional development of able-bodied people and 2) well-rounded people with disabilities don’t exist. (You can read more about the common misconceptions held about people with disabilities here). Instead of reducing characters with disabilities to a very abelist, patronizing perspective, writers should use The Tyrion Test and other tests as a way to see if their stories hold up to the standards of inclusiveness. To that end, Hollywood could easily fix this their ableist perception towards actors with disabilities if they wanted, and starting with a simple test like Pulrang’s adaptation could act as a great reminder to give actors with disabilities the chances they deserve.
Another article to check out:
The disability community’s Bechdel Test | Al Jazeera America
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out! I know everyone’s excited (especially the #Stormpilot fans: read here and here at The Nerds of Color to learn more about the popular pairing). There are tons of reasons to love the film, but now there’s one more: It’s going to give back to fans in need.
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and Star Wars star Mark Hamill have partnered together with CrowdRise to create a new campaign, Star Wars: Force for Change. The campaign, as the press release states, “inspires people to make a positive impact on the world.” The initiative will match donations of Star Wars fans to four charities up to $1,000,000. Star Wars: Force for Change has already raised over $10,000,000 thanks to the Star Wars fanbase, and the campaign will last a full month, leading up to May the 4th (aka Star Wars Day). The four charities that are benefiting from the campaign are the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in support of UNICEF Kid Power, American Red Cross, Make-A-Wish, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
“Star Wars fans are some of the most generous, thoughtful, and sympathetic people I have ever met,” said Kennedy. “I am so proud of the charitable work they have done over the years and hope this month-long donation-matching campaign will go some way to express our sincere thanks for their tireless efforts.”
During the first week, the first 20 fans to raise or donate at least $500 will win a Blu-ray copy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens signed by the cast. Other prizes up for grabs will be revealed throughout the month, including an all-expense paid trip to Ireland (a trip that includes Skellig Michael, where the final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was shot). The campaign ends 11:49 (PST) May 4. Check out the video to learn more:
Support the charities at CrowdRise.com/ForceForChange!
The fight for racial and cultural diversity is something that’s been heavily publicized, but other diversity fights, such as the struggle to showcase the stories and issues of people with disabilities, is constantly unfairly overshadowed. There are a lot of biases in America when it comes to disability and the perception of “usefulness.” NPR’s Laurie Block’s piece on stereotypes affecting the disabled sums up stereotypes into six categories:
1. People with disabilities are different from fully human people: they are partial or limited people. in an “other” and lesser category. As easily identifiable “others” they become metaphors for the experience of alienation.
2. The successful “handicapped” person is superhuman, triumphing over adversity in a way which serves as an example to others; the impairment gives disabled persons a chance to exhibit virtues they didn’t know they had, and teach the rest of us patience and courage.
3. The burden of disability is unending; life with a disabled person is a life of constant sorrow, and the able-bodied stand under a continual obligation to help them. People with disabilities and their families–the “noble sacrificers”–are the most perfect objects of charity; their function is to inspire benevolence in others, to awaken feelings of kindness and generosity.
4. A disability is a sickness, something to be fixed, an abnormality to be corrected or cured. Tragic disabilities are those with no possibility of cure, or where attempts at cure fail.
5. People with disabilities are a menace to others, to themselves, to society. This is especially true of people with mental disability. People with disabilities are consumed by an incessant, inevitable rage and anger at their loss and at those who are not disabled. Those with mental disabilities lack the moral sense that would restrain them from hurting others or themselves.
6. People with disabilities, especially cognitive impairments, are holy innocents endowed with special grace, with the function of inspiring others to value life. The person with a disability will be compensated for his/her lack by greater abilities and strengths in other areas–abilities that are sometimes beyond the ordinary.
The stereotypes many Americans hold about the disabled either being unable to contribute to society or being seen as inspiration porn need to go away. These stereotypes, like all stereotypes, limit how we view each other and deny us the ability to see each other’s humanity. The only way to extinguish these stereotypes is for people to become more exposed to the issues of the disabled and become aware of their needs, issues, and concerns. Enter the Disability Visibility Project.
The site, started by Alice Wong, MS, is an “online community dedicated to recording,amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture.” The site works towards this goal through their partnership with StoryCorps. To quote the site:
The DVP is also a community partnership with StoryCorps, a national oral history organization. Staffed by one individual (see below) and supported by the community, the DVP aims to collect the diverse voices of people in the disability community and preserve their history for all, especially underrepresented groups such as people of color, immigrants, veterans, and LGBTQIA people with disabilities.
Wong is a Staff Research Associate at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at University of California, San Francisco. Wong is also an author and completes research for the Community Living Policy Center, a center for rehabilitation research and training funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. Wong has also personally helped me in my quest to make JUST ADD COLOR represent more sides to fight for equal representation other than just the racial/cultural side. I appreciate her help immensely and hope I can live up to the advice she’s given.
I highly recommend y’all check out the Disability Visibility Project!
The #OscarsSoWhite controversy has shaken up Hollywood in one of the best ways possible. While there’s something that can be said for the lack of focus on other forms of representation in Hollywood (the media has been mostly focusing on the outward racial aspects and not other aspects of representation such as characters with physical or mental disabilities), Hollywood is trying to show that it can change, at least little by little. Four new initiatives tackling gender and racial inclusion have been created since #OscarsSoWhite; these initiatives have a bright future ahead as the pioneers of Hollywood’s new inclusion renaissance.
• We Do It Together: Variety reports that Juliette Binoche, Queen Latifah, and Jessica Chastain have joined together to create We Do It Together. The production company procudes film and television “that boost the empowerment of women.”
“The nonprofit is planning to develop a slate of ‘inspiring’ films by and about women to ensure future opportunities for known and emerging voices within the industry,” wrote Variety. “The first film will be announced in May at the Cannes Film Festival.”
• JJ Abrams’ new Bad Robot diversity quota: Bad Robot founder and film director JJ Abrams told the Hollywood Reporter that he decided, in the midst of #OscarsSoWhite, to create a serious outline of goals to meet when it comes to addressing inclusive casting and hiring practices.
“We’ve been working to improve our internal hiring practices for a while, but the Oscars controversy was a wake-up call to examine our role in expanding internally at Bad Robot and externally with our content and partners,” said Abrams, according to the Guardian. “We’re working to find a rich pool of representative, kick-ass talent and give them the opportunity they deserve and we can all benefit from. It’s good for audiences and it’s good for the bottom line.”
• Zoe Kravitz’ collective: Zoe Kravitz has told the Associated Press about how she has had to turn down stereotypical role after stereotypical role, and how she feels a lot of the onus is on the actors themselves when it comes to choosing roles and breaking casting stereotypes. Kravitz has also decided to create a “creative collective,” states Hollywood’s Black Renaissance. Her collective includes “Hollywood filmmakers, actors, writers, and cinematographers and their goal is to meet each week to write a script that reflects the diverse world in which we live.” Kravitz is also going to “write, produce, and direct her own projects.”
•Half: TV producer Ryan Murphy has launched Half, an initiative that will start “outreach efforts at colleges and universities,” states Forbes. Murphy “will pair candidates with mentors from his production company.” Murphy’s also creating “a database of names and contact information so other showrunners who want diverse directors can join the movement, as well.”
“I personally can do better,” said Murphy to The Hollywood Reporter. “[Publicist Nanci Ryder] said [at The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment breakfast], ‘People in power, you have a position and responsibility to change the industry,’ and I thought, ‘She’s right.'”
What do you think of these initiatives? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
#DifferenceMakers: Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn & Barrington Smith-Seetachitt (Screenwriters, “Lovers in their Right Mind”)
The world is swirling. With sites like Interracial Dating Central, Interracial People Meet, Interracial Match, Interracial Cupid, and tons more (some of which you can compare and contrast at this Ask Men article), and tons of online interracial appreciation groups (like this one), it’s clear the interest in interracial dating and relationships is high. But movies aren’t really delving into that as much as they should. Something New is one of the most prominent films about an interracial relationship, but it’s already quite old and it only touches on the bare bones of just one type of interracial relationship. Lovers in Their Right Mind is a new film that’s hoping to help close Hollywood’s gap of interracial dating films.
Lovers in Their Right Mind is a film by Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn, journalist and co-author of Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate, Mixing Race, Culture, and Creed, and Barrington Smith-Seetachitt, screenwriter of Children of Others. The film is one of the 10 films chosen from the DreamAgo’s 2016 Plume & Pellicule screenwriting atelier held in Sierre, Switzerland. The film is also the only U.S. and English-language submission accepted into the program, joining the ranks of projects chosen from France, Cuba, Spain, Columbia, and the host country Switzerland. The screenplay was also a second round contender in the 2014 Sundance Screenwriters Lab as well as the 2015 Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition.
The film focuses on the relationship between a black woman and an Iranian man, and all the learning experiences that come with it.
Set in contemporary Los Angeles, “Lovers in Their Right Mind” follows the story of an African American woman as she weighs the consequences of pursuing an interracial, cross-cultural, mixed-faith romance with an Iranian immigrant. Its narrative aligns with DreamAgo’s goal to “choose scripts that transform, provoke and entertain while dealing with issues vital to us all.”
With increased media attention on diverse storytelling and inclusion in Hollywood, “Lovers in Their Right Mind” answers the call for characters not often featured in cinema. The film’s multicultural narrative is deliciously peppered with the savory delights of black Southern and Persian cuisines, and underscored by a jazz-Middle Eastern fusion soundtrack that evokes both the tradition and modernity of the protagonists’ two worlds as they come together.
Littlejohn and Smith-Seetachitt are spearheading development on the project and serving as producers with actor Navid Negahban (“American Sniper,” “Homeland”) who is also attached.
2015: Our year of progress. Read about it at https://t.co/cUv1N5v5Wg. @JaniceRhoshalle @BarringtonSS @NavidNegahban pic.twitter.com/qRkT0Kgq3y
— LoversITRM (@LoversITRM) December 31, 2015
Are you itching to learn more about Lovers in Their Right Minds? Check out their Twitter and Facebook pages to see pictures, updates and more.
Some photos from a bridal photo shoot have made the rounds, and they’ve got everyone talking. The photos, taken by Sarah Houston, feature Madeline Stuart, a model with Down syndrome, showcasing several wedding dresses in and around Virginia’s Rixey Manor, a popular wedding spot.
Rixey Manor’s owner, Isadora Martin-Dye, commissioned the shoot and told Huffington Post UK, “A lot of newly engaged women cannot see themselves as a bride because all of the images magazines use are of these tall, thin models. I think that being a bride is a life experience that every woman should be able to see herself doing, and defintely not stressing about the fact that they won’t look ‘perfect’ on their wedding day.” Houston wrote on her blog that she also wanted to showcase a bride’s individual beauty. “I honestly just wanted to show that no bride is cookie cutter, each one is unique and beautiful and Madeline proved that,” she wrote.
@madelinesmodelling_ gave me the honor of photographing her for a bridal inspired shoot at @rixeymanor. @avalaurennebride provided two stunning gowns for her to wear and it was truly such a magical shoot that I am forever grateful to have been a part of. Madeline is so sweet and full of love, laughter & pure joy-it was truly such a highlight to meet her❤️ thank you Madeline!!
A photo posted by Sarah Houston (@sarahhoustonphotography) on
Only @madelinesmodelling_ could make this @ja_bridal dress look even more spectacular! @avalaurennebride provided this perfect gown for Madeline to wear and it was like a dream come true!! Madeline was an #avalaurennebride for a day!! Venue: @rixeymanor H&MUA: @vanityaffairweddings Flowers: @goodearthflowers Portrait by me! @sarahhoustonphotography #madelinestuart #inspiration #theknot
@madelinesmodelling_ looked absolutely amazing in this @essenseofaustralia dress, purely radiant? @avalaurennebride provided this stunning gown!! #avalaurennebride Venue: @rixeymanor H&MUA: @vanityaffairweddings Portrait by me!: @sarahhoustonphotography #wedding #weddinginspiration #gorgeous #madelinestuart
A photo posted by Sarah Houston (@sarahhoustonphotography) on
Madeline Stuart – Rixey Manor from Nugen Media on Vimeo.
Thankfully, the comments on Houston’s Instagram page and blog have been positive. But, I’ve read this story on several different websites, and in almost every comments section, the comments almost always devolve into a dichotomy; either people feel the pictures and Stuart are quite beautiful and inspiring, or how they think that people with Down syndrome shouldn’t get married. The thing I took away from it is similar to what the Martin-Dye wanted people to take away from the photos—we should get ourselves accustomed to the idea of different types of brides, including brides with mental disabilities. We shouldn’t believe that people with mental disabilities 1) don’t want to get married or 2) can’t get married.
I did some reading before writing this post, because—in full disclosure—I myself have only ever been in contact with one person with Down Syndrome in my entire life. Even though I went to an elementary school that embraced both children with and without learning and physical disabilities, and even though that environment gave me much more exposure to people with different abilities (more exposure than most schools were doing even in the ’90s), I still never had much exposure to Down Syndrome. So writing this article was a learning experience for me as well.
Let’s take a look at some myths and debunk them.
• MYTH: People with Down Syndrome or other disabilities don’t want to get married.
Why it’s false: Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean that they are instantly rendered helpless. But, in fact, there are many couples with disabilities out there. In a feature outlining Bill Ott (who has Downs’ Syndrome) and Shelley Belgard (who has hydrocephalus), a couple with disabilities, The Washington Post writes how while there are many couples like Ott and Shelley out there, the actual numbers haven’t been calculated. “Experts say it’s difficult to track the number of couples with intellectual impairments because they often enter into committed relationships without getting married,” Style writer Ellen McCarthy wrote for The Washington Post. “In many instances, a legal marriage could interfere with Social Security or health-care benefits.”
Legally in America, people with mental disabilities have the same legal right as anyone else to get married, as well as own homes, drive, and anything else. Slate asked University of Virginia’s Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy’s Dr. Richard Redding about this, and he said that mentally disabled people don’t need to pass any competency tests. But, state-by-state, things break down a bit different. Slate states more than 30 states either restrict or prohibit marriages between people with mental disabilities. “Such marriage laws are rarely enforced. But when they are, a competency hearing can be triggered by a guardian or family member who suspects manipulation or coercion behind the marriage.” Even though the laws aren’t enforced, the existence of those laws contributes to society’s ignorance about the rights and needs of mentally disabled people.
•Myth: People with Down Syndrome or other disabilities don’t want to get married.
Why it’s false: Many people believe the mentally disabled don’t want to get married because they see those individuals as being forever a child. But that’s not true, either. People with Down Syndrome have productive lives and want the same types of rich social interactions and relationships just like anyone without the disability.
Philip Davidson, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, told The Washington Post that the stereotype should be disbanded. “There is a bias in our society that is unfounded—that just because you have Asperger’s syndrome or Down syndrome that you automatically cannot sustain a relationship,” he said. “But that’s just not true. These people are really not all that different than you and me. Their investment in the lives of other people are as significant as yours and mine.”
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 691 babies in America is born with the condition, making it the most common. “Approximately 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome and about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year,” states the site. So with those kinds of stats, it’s actually surprising we haven’t seen any more advertisement featuring people with Down syndrome. What this wedding spread is hoping to do is further incorporate people of all types into the country’s social fabric, and what we should do as consumers (and as members of society) is welcome more media like this since it only helps everyone in the long run. As the president of Global Disability Inclusion, Meg O’Connell, told the Telegraph, “People want to see people like themselves in fashion and advertising and marketing campaigns. People with disabilities by clothes and cars and houses. They want to be represented, like everyone else; disability has been the forgotten diversity segment.”
What do you think of the photos? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
Great blogs to check out:
Wife who tied the knot with disabled husband to become Britain’s first married couple with Down’s Syndrome dies aged 45 (Daily Mail)
Mental health, human rights & legislation (WHO)
Mentally Disabled Couple’s Legal Battle Ends with New Home (ABC News)
Women have enough trouble as it is, but we also face intense scrutiny with beauty and size standards. Even though there’s many different sizes of women and many different standards of beauty, women and girls have to contend with what’s always presented to them as the norm—being tall and thin (but somehow still buxom and curvy). I’ve personally dealt with these issues in my own life, and they are something I’m only just now coming to terms with.
Showing different types of beauty on television and in film would help everyone feel more comfortable in their own skin, but several television stations went against that idea by banning a revolutionary Lane Bryant ad. The ad doesn’t show anything different than your typical Victoria’s Secret commercial—women in bras and panties—but this ad was, for some reason, seen as being too “indecent.” Take a look at the ad yourself:
The networks didn’t want you to see this. But we do. Share. Tag. Show everyone what #ThisBody’s made for. pic.twitter.com/1uZ4ZV1eNi
— Lane Bryant (@lanebryant) March 10, 2016
Did you see anything too indecent for television (especially seeing how we get full-on sex scenes in primetime TV nowadays)? I didn’t. So it left many to wonder what exactly was so controversial about showing full-figured bodies on television, especially when commercials like this get aired, which are presented in an aggressively sexy tone (the only difference being that skinnier models are shown).
Either way, the Lane Bryant commercial was a positive step towards remedying many women’s low self-esteem. By seeing self-assured, self-confident, beautiful women who are also women of size, many will start to feel the seeds of empowerment.
What did you think about the commercial? Give your opinions in the comments section below!