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  • Writer's picturePeta

Why is media representation important, part two

Peta has so much to say about this topic part 2 was necessary. Peta touches on the importance of social media, explores if the algorithm is ableist and what happens when a non-disabled actor plays a disabled person in a tv show.

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Episode Transcript:

Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast. The podcast, answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peta and I'm your host. I had cerebral palsy and I love to answer your questions. This week is part two a part two to why representation in the media for people with disabilities is so important? If you haven't listened to part one, don't worry, both episodes are stand alone. You don't have to listen to one to listen to the other. But of course, I encourage you to go back and listen to part one if you haven't already. If you would like to ask me a question, as always, there are three ways you can do that. One, by my Instagram, which is @petahooke spelt P E T A H O O K E by my email Or by my website OK, without any further ado, here is part two.

[00:01:32] So as it was last week, the question I was asked was.

[00:01:37] Peta, why is disability representation in the media so important?

[00:01:45] So going on from what I spoke about last week, I want to touch on a few areas, first of all, how empowering the invention of social media has been. While I understand that I don't own my platform on Instagram, I know that, I wouldn't have the platform I have today or the opportunities I've experience because of Instagram. You might not know, but it's actually really hard to promote a podcast. There are millions out there. It's really hard to stand out. And while yes, I've been very privileged to be featured in Apple's new and noteworthy now twice, I am under no illusion that that presence on social media, I would not be where I am today. The democratisation that social media has given to many people in different minorities, including people with disabilities, I think can't be underestimated. Prior to social media, I know, at least from my own experience in my childhood. If I had an issue related to my disability, it was such a challenging thing to try and resolve for both my parents because really social media has now given us more power to fight back. We can amplify our voice, whereas prior to social media, you are basically a no one trying to convince your perspective against government departments or discrimination in general. I really enjoy the connectivity that I have with you, my followers, I love getting to know you, and I also really value that you guys will be on my side nine times out of ten if something goes wrong.

[00:03:45] That sort of support would never have existed prior to social media because I would never have been able to find you. So I'm very, very thankful for social media. In saying that, though, of course, it does have its issues. I recently read an article in Vogue Business, which I will link in the description where a business owner contends that they were unable to market to their target customers because of the language and imagery that brand used. Facebook and Google rejected it, they deemed both images and that language to be harmful. Now, those images and that language was the words disabled, disability and elderly, along with images of people in wheelchairs and people who have prosthetic limbs. Now, I don't have to tell you how wrong it is for Facebook and Google to deny the ability to market their products and also to classify those images and those words as harmful.

[00:05:06] Sometimes I find it really difficult to find out about new websites or support systems or products that would assist me in my life. Most of the time, it's through word of mouth. I wish it wasn't that hard for me to find information that relates to me. Facebook's advertising policy bans personal attributes, including disabilities and medical conditions, from being featured in advertisements. So apparently, not only are we trying to free the nipple on Instagram, we're also trying to allow Facebook to use people like me in advertising. It's ludicrous to think that a picture of me sitting in my wheelchair is considered harmful in twenty, twenty one. But it is.

[00:06:04] I have been searching for some light relief. So I started watching the Super Store. I don't know whether, you know, it's it's a show on Netflix, it's based in America and it's sort of a send off to their Wal-Mart over there. It's a really good show, particularly the first couple of seasons is quite funny. I was so thrilled to see that there was a disabled character in the show. His name was Garrett. He was in a wheelchair. Now, this is rare. I barely get to see anybody in a wheelchair, in a comedy show that's not poking fun at the person with a disability. It was important for the show to reflect the reality of working in a store like Wal-Mart, and the reality of life is statistically somebody in that store would probably have a disability. So I respect the show's creators for including Garrett's character. Unfortunately, though, I found out the actor didn't himself have a disability. I appreciate you might have been the best person for the job because his comedic timing is really good. But. I sort of felt a little bit let down to think that somebody was being performative. And pretending to have a disability.

[00:07:42] I just think of all the people out there trying to make a career in acting. It's hard enough if you're a non disabled person, but as a disabled person. I would imagine it would be almost impossible. And like, don't get me wrong, the actor was very respectful and I listened to a few interviews where he said he was aware of the responsibility and they had discussions about whether Garrett should remain to have a disability. But then that would mean that people with disabilities wouldn't be represented in the show at all. So while, yes, I was disappointed that the actor themselves didn't have a disability without that actor having the bravery to portray somebody with a disability, it would just be a wash with able bodied people again. And that show did a really good job at illustrating that Garrett wasn't solely just a disabled man.

[00:08:57] I've been talking about this documentary a little bit on my Instagram lately, it's called What Does Australia Think About Disability? It was on SBS, all linked in the description. At the end of the documentary, eight members of the public were shown images of people. Just a person who is visually impaired, looking at the camera, a person who has Down syndrome, looking at the camera and image of a person with a skin condition, looking at the camera and an image of a person in a wheelchair, looking at the camera. Each member of the public were asked what they thought about the life of that person in the photo. They had very low expectations of those people as far as them being employed, being educated and being happy. All those assumptions turned out not to be true. And that's why I think it's really important for people with disabilities to be represented, these assumptions are only made because the members of the public weren't exposed to people like me with a disability. You might never have met somebody with a disability before. I might be the only person you know that has a disability. And that's OK. That's not your fault. You might not have gone to school with anybody with a disability. Maybe no one at your TAFE or university had a disability. No one in your family has a disability. And if you don't know someone with a disability, it's really hard to have nuanced opinions of what it's like to have a disability because you're not being presented any sort of reference point of what it's like to live with a disability. And that's why it's really important for the media to reflect disabilities, because it's one of the ways to ensure that more people get to know what it's like to live with the disability. And if they're not allowing people with disabilities to be reflected, they are actually being a disservice to you, the consumer. It's one of the easiest ways to be exposed to things that aren't in your orbit, that are in your life. This is a cyclical, self-perpetuating issue. If there was more representation in the media, then it would mean that society as a whole would have a better understanding of what it means to live with a disability and to be a disabled person. And that's what we all want, isn't it, to be understood?

Thank you for listening to this week's episode, I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, can I encourage you to write and review on whatever podcasting platform you're listening on? I love reading your reviews. They mean a lot to me. So thank you so much. OK, guys, until next week by.


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