Recently there was an uproar in the Diabetes Online Community(DOC) regarding a comedy skit done by a well known comedian. I did not see the offending piece partially because it was blocked from viewing outside of the US and partially because I really didn’t want to go there. I was told it was exceptionally rude and offensive.
Over the years I have seen many campaigns by parents of children with diabetes to set the record straight. In some cases there was success (Disney held off on an episode of Miley Cyrus’s show because of outrage at how a character with diabetes was to be portrayed). In other cases, there was no real change.
I used to get completely outraged as well until I stepped back for a second. I began to realize that I knew nothing about diabetes before my son’s diagnosis. I now know far too much. If I considered myself to be an educated woman and my knowledge was so limited then how could I be so quick to condemn others in the general public who get it wrong? I decided that I couldn’t but I could educate. So I did.
Does this give the media a free pass? Was I saying that it was okay for reporters and writers of TV shows to get it wrong? No but again, I had to look at it from a different perspective–did they get other diseases right? Were they accurately reporting on conditions such as autism or MS? Probably not. They dumb things down. They simplify things and they get just enough information to make their stories interesting. Its all about ratings and readership but I still would take the time to point out to friends and those who would listen the errors I could see.
So does my passivity mean that it is okay to use diabetes as the butt of jokes? No but then again, I also do not believe in racist jokes, sexist jokes, or homophobic jokes. I see nothing funny about bullying or putting down another group or individual to make yourself look better. I just don’t find that funny.
Someone noted that comedians would never dare do a skit about breast cancer but because diabetes has been portrayed as something preventable it is fair game. How do we fix this? Do we just let it go? No.
I don’t have the answers. I try to pick my battles. I have always believed that if I do not like something–be it children’s programming or the jokes of a supposed comedian, I don’t watch. If you don’t watch or don’t read, then they do not make money and their point of view becomes unimportant once again. I won’t promote them or name them and have people adding to their traffic and supposed popularity.
I also believe in the power of standing up for yourself. I am open about our life with diabetes–the good, the bad, and the ugly. I speak about it whenever and where ever I can. I invite people who live with diabetes to also be vocal–to dispel myths and present facts. Its a powerful thing. It has been done before and we will do it again.
Diabetes Mine recently posted an article about the new power of the DOC. Perhaps with that power, we will begin to see change in how diabetes–Type 1 and Type 2 are displayed to the general public in all areas. Sadly the diabetes community has grown over the years. With that growth, I believe, will come a stronger and louder voice.