While it's a few months old now, it is a worrying article, and I haven't seen many taking a different perspective. Now, I'm certainly not going to claim that our entire worldwide polyamorous community is perfect in how we handle these things (I won't claim that I am, either), but as a long time poly person, and as someone who first took on poly activism while living below the UK's poverty line, this article also erases ME, or at least me of a few years ago, and as a result I can't help feeling that at least a portion of polyamory's diversity problem is less one of community membership than of representation.
(I note that the article also falls foul of the traditional conflation between polyamory and swinging... since when did questioning the monogamous norms of our society, or building an intentional family require attending sex parties?!)
According to articles like the one above, a few years ago I couldn't possibly have been poly. (Which is strange, because I'm pretty sure I was)
How can we challenge these articles telling us that we don't exist?
This is a topic that came up at Polyday last week, in London, and especially in our 'poly and the media' workshop: How to get a more representative sample of our community actually out there and visible to the world?
I don't know about the poly community in the US, but the poly community in the UK has a HUGE problem with representation in the media, which doesn't cover anything like the diversity we actually have in the community. The people who get all the media coverage tend to be white, middle class, straight cis men and white, middle class, straight or bisexual cis women (or people who can be sufficiently whitewashed or 'straight-washed' or otherwise made to appear that way). This despite the fact that, as a community, we have folks from all sorts of racial and cultural backgrounds, from all classes, folks with various disabilities and mental illness diagnoses, folks who are rich and poor, employed and not, folks of all sexualities and genders, the full LGBTQIA* rainbow (I have heard folks in the US complain that the poly community is 'too straight'. Over here we have had complaints that heterosexual couples have felt intimidated because the UK poly community seems so overwhelmingly queer)... but the mainstream media is written mostly by white, well-off, middle class straight cis people, and they tend to write articles only about people who are like themselves and who are most like their perceived audiences, which misses out the vast majority of our community.
So it is tremendously frustrating to see the same sorts of articles over and over again, about the same sorts of people, in media written by white, well-off, middle class, straight cis people and aimed at an audience of other white, well-off, middle class, straight cis people, and then to see further articles analysing those other articles and believing that this is somehow representative of our actual community, whilst so many folks are being ignored, whitewashed or 'glossed over' by mainstream media.
My own suggestion, to challenge the dominant narrative out there, is that we need to start making our own media. Anyone who is here in this group clearly already has access to the internet, and a keyboard of some sort. That's all you need to write a blog. That and a microphone is all you need to start a podcast. Most smartphones these days are good enough to record YouTube videos. Why leave it to mainstream media to represent us, when we can represent ourselves?
Lets *write* the articles about the intersections between race and poly, between class and poly, between poverty and poly. Lets talk about how these things play out in our lives, about who we are and what we do. Let's talk about the ways poly can help us to support each other in hardship, but also the difficulties of being poly in combination with different cultural expectations. Lets get our voices out there and challenge the idea that these privileged folks so beloved of the mainstream media are the only people who are allowed to be poly.
Happily, there are people already starting to challenge these stories, and I think this is awesome. I absolutely love this cartoon which went out on Everyday Feminism last month, by Joamette Gil, a queer Afrocuban illustrator, cartoonist and writer, based in the US. I'd love to see more stuff like this!
Also, in response to my post on Facebook I was introduced to the Poly Role Models page on Tumblr, which I absolutely adore. More please!
If you have more links related to poly and diversity, and especially ones written by poly people for other poly people, I'd love to see them in the comments.