Positive Discrimination: Good or Bad?

I’m delighted that Obama won a second term in office. His political agenda is more inclusive and less discriminative than Romney’s – consequently making him a more suitable leader of one of the world’s most powerful countries.

To have a president who plans on reversing Roe vs Wade (Romney) would propel America back half a century – to a time when men made decisions about women’s bodies. Obama knows that women are responsible enough to make their own decisions.

When Obama was first elected – and throughout his recent campaign – the colour of his skin sparked widespread discussion and debate. For Obama to be the first black president of the USA is monumental; it will hopefully open the doors to wider ethnic diversity in American politics, but it is of less importance than the fact that he is just the best person for the job.

Caitlin Moran’s recent Tweet concerning the lack of ‘WOCs’ in American sitcom Girls (WOC = women of colour) has made it clear that we need to open our minds – creatively and politically – to accepting that women and men, black and white, live together in America, and should each have the same opportunities and representation.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_L52eExAHU&w=560&h=315]

Moran said that she couldn’t give a shit about the lack of black women in the all-white cast of Girls. It could be said that it was Lena Dunham (the writer’s) creative vision – and prerogative – to cast women who matched the characters she dreamt up. But when it doesn’t realistically reflect the cultural diversity of Brooklyn: where it’s set, it causes issues.

Race is political. Better representation of the ethnically diverse western world – in politics and in the media – tells young people that the opportunities are there, independent of the colour of your skin.

Gender is also political. And Girls, at least, works to combat the sexualisation and objectification of women – by avoiding the stick thin, shiny-haired demographic that so many other American sitcoms suggest represent America – and, instead, casting young women who look real and whose sole purpose isn’t to obtain the latest pair of Manolos.

Moran may have been arguing that political correctness can stifle (in the case of Girls) creativity. But until there is no racial, sexual, ability discrimination – until it has become the norm for black people to be featured in sitcoms, for women; or disabled people, to be elected in Parliament/ Congress – without it rousing debate – maybe we do need to work harder to be inclusive.

Positive discrimination is, of course, still discrimination. But when our eyes are opened to what is possible: a black man as president, a woman working in Parliament etc – it becomes part of our sphere. And it then becomes natural for writers to envisage black women in sitcoms like Girls.

I don’t think Lena Dunham should go back and re-write Girls. But I do think the rest of us could open our minds to portraying society as it actually is – not as the media tells us it is – through our art.

As mentioned earlier – Obama won because of his political agenda/ attributes, not because he’s black, but this has helped to combat the ‘white, male, middle/upper class’ classification that had become synonymous with the US presidency.

Women shouldn’t get a job in Parliament/ Congress because they are women, nor should ethnicity determine whether or not someone can star in a sitcom, but if everyone just opened their minds to these possibilities – it would start to happen without the need for positive discrimination.

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