representation matters

To celebrate Disability Awareness Month, Indiana State University held an interactive workshop that discussed how disability is portrayed in the media. 

These portrayals reinforce ableism and stereotypes that push stigma around disabled people and their experience. The presentation was held by Amy Sekhar, PH.D., and discussed authentic concepts as well as what the media gets wrong related to disabilities in film, television, fashion, and toys. 

The discussion focused on the Representation Matters movement and the origins of the movement. 

“The interesting thing that Representation Matters on Twitter is basically the hashtag that people use to signify the importance of seeing yourself represented in pop culture or films,” said Sekhar. 

When Black Panther came out, black audience members were seeing themselves represented on film in a powerful, empowering way and #RepresentationMatters was used along with that. 

Symbolic annihilation in film was discussed and the implications it has on the audience members that it represents. 

“If you don’t see people like you in the media you consume, you must somehow be unimportant,” said Sekhar. “There’s real damaging, psychological, existential effects on not seeing yourself represented in culture.”

For underrepresented people, seeing a character who looks like them can have an effect if that character is behaving in certain ways that do not reflect the audience’s life experiences. 

“I personally can kind of identify with this. As a kid, I never saw anyone who looked like me on T.V. and now in terms of reality T.V. people of short stature or little people are everywhere, but it’s not really helping matters because to me that’s not an authentic representation of what life as a little person is like,” said Sekhar. 

Sycamore safe zone and disability awareness month coordinator Bre Pierce became one of the coordinators for this program her freshman year. Pierce has invisible disabilities and felt it is important for people to represent the committee in different perspectives.

“I was able to be a part of the committee as an undergraduate and I feel like it’s just a really great way to educate others,” said Pierce.

The next event for Disability Awareness Month is called changing perspectives and will be held on March 17 at 5:30 p.m. in University Hall Room 110G.