Windows and Mirrors

Those who become regular readers of this blog will soon find out that I find myself appropriating work from far afield to relate to the diabetes experience.  I figure that if we at times take the label as an “invisible disease,” then we can take lessons from anywhere, without boundaries (don’t get me started about the movie ‘Wreck It Ralph’, but maybe that is for another time).  The extended quote below comes from the fantastic NPR podcast “Pop Culture Happy Hour.”  It is an entertaining podcast, and the particular episode I focused on was about the movie “Late Night” starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson.  The quote was spoken by Margaret Willison of the Two Bossy Dames newsletter and Appointment Television podcast.  For those truly dialed in, it occurs at the 16:50 (mm:ss) in the podcast, but listen to the whole show because they are all cool people.

Because what they are doing with Katherine Newberry is they are taking a character who came to power at a time when to be a woman in power meant that your job was to unsex yourself and be exactly like all of the other people in that space, despite the fact that you are a woman.  

Now we are in a different cultural moment, where our expectation is that if you are different, you are going to use that difference to infuse and center your comedy, and you are going to use that difference to create windows for people who don’t have your experience to understand or experience better, or mirrors so that people who have similar experiences to you, but haven’t seen themselves in that space, have someone they can relate to and can finally see themselves represented.

The above quote is an analysis of the Emma Thompson character Katherine Newberry, a fictional late night comedian and talk show host.  Now I never want to take away from equality in the workplace, and the analysis is pretty powerful and should stand on its own.  I really love the quote as is.   In addition, I in no way want to equate women in the workplace with a chronic disease.  That is not what I am saying.  What I am saying is that as Margaret Willison identified a shift in how female late night comedians utilize comedy, I also see a similar shift in how people with diabetes engage in their communities.  With this in mind, my diabetes focused and yet addled brain heard the following:  

Because what they are doing with [insert person’s name here] is they are taking a character who came to power was diagnosed with diabetes at a time when to be a woman in power have diabetes meant that your job was to unsex yourself hide your disease as much as possible and be exactly like all of the other people in that space, despite the fact that you are a woman person with diabetes.  

Now we are in a different cultural moment, where our expectation is that if you are different, you are going to use that difference to infuse and center your comedy how you deal with diabetes, and you are going to use that difference to create windows for people who don’t have your experience to understand or experience better, or mirrors so that people who have similar experiences to you, but haven’t seen themselves in that space, have someone they can relate to and can finally see themselves represented.

And this extended thought has been wandering around in the back of my head for weeks.  Part of me keeps asking, “are we in a different cultural moment with respect to diabetes?”  Inherent in that question in my head is that there will become a time when this will happen.  I think that is right.  Is that time now?  Well, every Wednesday night (#dsma), at about 10:00pm (EDT), I come away thinking YES.  And every time I see a news article about reversing diabetes or a municipal public heath campaign directly associating eating a candy bar with diabetes, I think YES.  More recently, every time I see the #Ihearyou hashtag, (is that redundant?) I think YES.

My brothers and sisters, I don’t think this is quite a call to arms, but I do believe it is time for us to start “creating windows and mirrors.”  There is so much to a diabetes life that needs to be celebrated and shared.  There is so much that the general public believes, but yet needs to corrected.  Keeping to ourselves and showing that we can be like everyone else is dramatic and powerful achievement, but at this cultural point, it is insufficient.  

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