A niggle at the back of one’s mind is like a heckler at a show. Choosing to listen to or not is tough.
Tonight the audience seems unfazed. Perhaps they don’t hear it.
The actor is a professional — its a broadway show after all. She’s tough. She even wrote and produced the whole thing and retained all the rights.
The performance is a musical about Diversity. It’s titled Diversity. Pretty straight forward, right? Surely a plot about the struggles of a young girl as she grows into a professional highly successful tech startup CEO?
The poster gave it away. She’s in a black polo neck skivvy and has small glasses. She’s giving a Ted Talk.
So why the niggle? What could be said to tear apart this significant and essential world change? Who could argue against Diversity, be it gender race sexuality or anything that would balance out the still overwhelming dominance of white men at the top of most career ladders?
Scene one opens with a musical number. Alice, the hero, is twelve and dreams about running Apple one day. She dances her way through school learning that YES! A woman can do anything. Rosie the riveter is projected onto the stage as Alice climbs a metaphorical career ladder. She is mentored by women firefighters, women pilots, women scientists. A female doctor sings about brain surgery. A trendy female coder takes down a misogynistic game boss. Metaphors fly.
The message is clear as she’s painlessly passed a swaddled baby and a briefcase. Women CAN have it all, and more importantly, they should expect it.
It’s a familiar image.
All of the above is fiction, although it probably would make a great show. Note to the writer — rather than having to emulate Steve Jobs, Alice would do better to keep her own style.
So why the niggle?
Why would someone stand up and shout from the back?
Diversity is good. It’s essential to make the world not only become more balanced and tolerant but to reflect the world as it is. The global population IS a mix of innumerable variants. The combinations are endless, like writing genres.
The optimists among us see Diversity as a bridge between differences. Humankind started with communication. One of the oldest examples of this would be the Aboriginal Dreamings and Songlines of Australia. There are hundreds of tribes there, with many languages and differences. Songlines transverse the continent and intersect. Commonality at these “borders” come together to the benefit of each party — exchanges of knowledge.
The less optimistic seek not bridges but barriers. Fortification and protection are at the forefront. Protecting what one has already and at times pushing borders out to claim more. Increased land, more opportunities and a sense of safety, humankind also has a long history on this side. Hadrian built a wall. Buttressed fortresses dotted Europe long before the circle of stars on a blue flag was hoisted.
England has now returned behind its moat. A change of heart it seems.
So where would this entertaining musical about such profound and fundamental ideas stand? Out on the edge of its comfort zone with hands extended? Or back further behind some concrete barriers in case of a terrorist event.
Would it be a target? How would the producers know? No one saw Ariana Grande as a threat until she was.
There are a lot of discussions about Diversity. There are programmes, professional training, advocacy services and a boom in consultancy. It’s moved fast but not fast enough for some.
Still in the infant phase, Diversity is being nurtured. She is being taught how to talk, how to say “Stop it. I don’t like it!” at kindergarten. Online he is fighting for acceptance with classmates who shout louder. At home, they are struggling for support while parents dig their heels in.
However, we shouldn’t tint Diversities glasses. Starting school, she has only just put them on. There’s allot to read. His eyes need a rest, but the lens needs to stay clear, not rose.
Parenting Diversity only with silver linings is well-intentioned. She should see she can “be someone.” She is entitled to the top job. But a parent can easily cocoon its child, leaving it unprepared for the world.
Are we teaching our young people, our underrepresented young people, that although you should aim high, it’s not a given? Just because you “can” do it doesn’t mean you “will”?
We may be better to add into these seminars, these work retreats and student workshops by prominent female professionals an equal measure of hard truth.
It may help them leap up those ladders.
Tell them that yes, you need to work hard and not give up, but there’s no road yet. It’s more of a track in the bush. Hardly forged. Not only do you have to find an opening, but you also have to chop your way through.
The real world is not a musical.
How wonderful if it was! Dancing down the road while being highly paid, carrying a baby and a briefcase sounds very attractive. You could even look fabulous doing it in high heels.
The plot should be revealed to the hero. There will be an adversary. Or ten. These adversaries will threaten him. They will yell out of car windows at her. He won’t be taken seriously. Top bosses will brush her off when she vocalises her ambitions. Or worse. She should have a plan for that.
We need to think about how much we are sugar coating the road.
Yoda was pretty hard on Luke. Mr Miyagi was equally realistic. Yet the Karate Kid came through, and Luke defeated Vader one-armed.
Mary Poppins sang that a little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down.
Perhaps we should be taking the challenge with less sugar. It’s bad for your teeth anyhow.