Discriminating against the majority?

Sun, 06 Apr 2014

I haven’t had much chance to think about designing a marketplace for work and problem-solving, so I’m going to defer my follow-up post on that topic.

So, instead, I’m writing a post about an aspect of diversity and inclusion, a topic that I had previously blogged about in a workplace context, which some recent news has forced me to think about a bit more.

The media has recently examined the issue of gender expectations of children's books and toys. Certain toy companies and shops have been pressured into no longer explicitly defining toys as for boys or girls. And recently in the UK, the Independent has developed a policy to no longer review children's books targeted at a specific gender.

Each of these articles is inevitably criticised, as people point out that most girls like dolls and most boys like trucks, and that there is nothing wrong with that.

It might sound simplistic to say this, but we need to be able to include everyone, those in the majority in some respect (i.e. conforming with some stereotype) and those in the minority. Left to chance, our minds tend to focus on the most common cases and to think they are universal, hence I don't think there was anything intentionally excluding about labelling books and toys as just for boys or just for girls (and indeed it does make life a bit easier for the parent of the stereotypical kid).  But it doesn't take too much thought to recognise that marketing as if the stereotypes were universal does tend to exclude those that don't conform and reinforce the stereotypes.

For that reason, I believe that putting thought and effort into going beyond our stereotypes is necessary in order to be more inclusive, and the majority shouldn't see it as an effort to exclude, devalue or criticise them.  Obviously such actions shouldn't extend to actually excluding the majority (and I recognise that it is occasionally a grey area), but we'd benefit from a more inclusive society if we could stop claiming persecution against the majority when it isn't.