June 5, 2019
“Booksmart is successful in that it doesn’t feel like gender-swapped sex comedy; it’s actually specific to female experiences, and that’s thanks to the four women who wrote the film.”—Jill Gutowitz, on how the film Booksmart is “queering the teen comedy.”
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In anticipation of Pride Month, employment site Glassdoor conducted a survey of LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace. Despite existing research that shows that workers who are “out” are more productive and satisfied, Glassdoor’s survey showed that about half of LGBTQ respondents believe that “being out in the workplace could hurt their careers” and that over four out of 10 say “they aren't fully ‘out’ at work.” The results are far from surprising, since 26 states do not currently provide legal protections for LGBTQ+ workers.
In addition to a lack of legal protections, LGBTQ+ workers report experiencing daily discrimination in the workplace, including from people who don’t know they’re being offensive. We second Scott Dobroski, senior director of corporate communications at Glassdoor and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, when he writes that, “It's a mixture of intentional and unintentional comments that can occur...What it illustrates is [that] there is a continued need for education about what is appropriate in the workplace for any minority group.”
Dobroski recommends that employers go beyond marching in a Pride parade by ensuring parental leave and other employment policies apply to LGBTQ+ workers, that offices include gender-neutral bathrooms, and that office forms list gender options beyond “male” and “female.”
School districts are required to report each time a student with behavioral or intellectual disabilities is restrained or secluded to both the federal government and the student’s parents. But after a WAMU investigation found hundreds of internal reports in a school district that had told the government that it never conducted restraints or seclusion, parents across the country are saying they were also not notified. One parent only found out her nonverbal son was being restrained when he “came home with handprints on him.” Of the school system, she says, “You expect that they're there to educate him and keep him safe...That trust was broken for him.” Another parent says that being secluded or restrained at least 437 times over three years caused her nonverbal son to “hate school and [make] him more violent and distrusting of authority figures.” According to educators, “even well-performed restraints can have a traumatizing effect on students, especially if they're done repeatedly.” School social worker Joel Nixon says that it takes “a special kind of expertise” for educators to understand each student’s disability and prevent escalating issues—expertise that requires more staff, training, and money.
This nationwide issue of underreporting statistics and failing to follow protocol highlights how serious—and violent—the consequences of ableism can be. Until the needs of students with disabilities are taken into account and prioritized, students and their families are at risk of experiencing extreme trauma.
Above, Nixon makes a strong argument for allocating money towards hiring and training well-informed staff when working with people with disabilities. In your organization, is there additional training that could help you and your colleagues work more thoughtfully with vulnerable groups?
Dr. Chester Pierce, founding president of the Black Psychiatrists of America, was integral to the direction of the children’s show Sesame Street. Dr. Pierce believed that “television was a prime “carrier” of demeaning messages that undermined the mental health of vulnerable young Black children” and aimed for Sesame Street to counteract those effects by serving as a “radical therapeutic intervention.” When the show first aired in 1969, it featured the most racially diverse cast on public television, which led to a failed attempt by Mississippi legislators to block it from the air on the grounds that people were not ready for an interracial cast. The show was meant to embody Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beloved Community: one based on justice, equal opportunity and positive regard for one’s fellow human beings, regardless of race, color or creed.”
Dr. Chester Pierce was also the first to coin the term “microaggression,” a concept that emerged from his study of stigmatizing representations of Black people in commercials. By developing a show that aimed to “bolster the Black and minority child’s self-respect,” Pierce combatted the negative effects of microaggressions through the same medium that delivered them.
Can you identify channels that deliver microaggressive messages to marginalized members of your community? How can you modify those channels to empower, rather than disempower, your colleagues? For instance, if you find that themed parties, like Cinco de Mayo or MLK Day, often feature stereotypical representations of marginalized groups, work with relevant groups to revamp the practice and create an experience that celebrates diversity rather than stifles it.