Challenging Stereotypes

As an author I am delighted to partner with the Restricted Growth Association Charity who launched their Spread the word campaign in 2017.

Have you noticed how dwarfism is presented in fiction, through books and Hollywood movies? I guess before my son was born with dwarfism I had never considered this, why should I?

Cartoon characters with restricted growth are often the villains, history and circus shows commonly presented people with dwarfism as ‘freaks’ to be viewed for entertainment purposes. Characters in Disney are often one dimensional, personified as ‘lazy’, ‘dopey’, ‘grumpy’ and figures of fun to be laughed at during pantomime performances. Have you ever picked up a Roald Dahl story and read his descriptive of ‘dwarf’ characters. Probably one of the most celebrated authors in history and yet his narrative dehumanizes and often looks on the fictionalized characters with disdain.

Seven Dwarves

For most people their perception of someone with dwarfism has been created by celebrated authors and blockbuster presentations- what we read and what we see has the power to influence our worldview. It is for this reason that I often feel compelled to challenge the negative and will always seek to educate people within my community space.

Many people may feel that I am overreacting and perhaps a little sensitive. However since my son was born, I have met adults with his condition who have described to me the lack of respect they have felt growing up- the comedians’ puns have been used verbally at them in the street and the unhelpful stereotype of pantomime is something that they cannot escape.

Advocacy is something I feel strongly about as an author and a mother. From when my son was months old and I challenged the comedy Life’s Too Short – Guardian article »

To a few years ago on a trip to the local museum when the language on an exhibit, caused me to challenge the prejudiced wording that I felt was humiliating and demeaning towards people with restricted growth. Thankfully the museum agreed to change the wording.

More recently I have contacted Tim Minchin about the lyrics in one of his songs that features in Matilda the musical, again surprisingly enough he apologised and said if he had his time again he would not have written the same lyrics.

Only the other week I went to watch ‘The Greatest Showman’ with my daughters, knowing that the topic it dealt with was likely to make me cringe. Despite the great praise from many of my respected friends on facebook, I left the movie theatre with a different interpretation. Great music and feel good songs and yet the truth behind the history was left distorted. Did the ‘freak show’ of history really liberate these people or in fact were they mocked and taken advantage of? The twist of emancipation which Hollywood delivered left me feeling yet again the public is not educated or made to empathise with a history that took advantage of disability and difference- people not treated as equals as the production led everyone to believe. Looking through someone elses’s lense helps us to understand a different perspective. Before my son was born my worldview may well have continued to be tinted and less challenged.

I write from my perspective as a mother and a children’s author, I post an array of interesting articles around this topic of challenging stereotypes on my campaign Facebook page »

Keep in touch, I would love to learn from your perspective. Perhaps you have challenged a stereotype, educated a child or changed policy for the betterment of others.