Inclusivity is simply defined as a fact or policy of not excluding members of society on grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability and so on. Recent times has seen a rise of inclusivity, along with political correctness. It has become unfashionable to take part in expressions that exclude, marginalize or insult groups of people, no matter their social disadvantage.
This trend is the result of increased information sharing enabled by our connectedness. We’re (generally) more enlightened, better educated and more understanding and empathetic towards others. We’ve become more impatient with acts of bullying or discrimination.
We all want to belong. And we all want to see ourselves represented fairly, in popular culture, advertising, media content and so on.
This is something that everyone in the business of communications needs to understand – in an age where the internet has made it impossible to be a katak bawak tempurung, it is incredibly easy to punish those that are perceived to be un-inclusive.
Take for example the recent controversy suffered by Hitz.fm which released an unfortunate video that was lambasted up and down online. It featured its morning crew hosts checking out a woman in public. When they find out the woman is in fact a transwoman they start retching and vomiting.
Now, 10 years ago maybe, such a video would not have elicited much attention. But today, the video has been pulled down and the radio station forced to issue an apology.
It’s clear that Malaysians feel strongly about making a trans-person the butt of a bad joke.
After all, the LGBTQ movement has gained significant traction around the world and even in conservative Asian societies. Gay marriage is legal in some countries. In the US, gender fluidity is a hotly discussed subject. To the point that the range of gender pronouns have extended from the traditional she/he to include neutral pronouns like zie and hir.
It may seem silly to give advertising and media content so much weight (given how often we block these things). But its more than about feelings being hurt.
There is a growing understanding that advertising and media content can and does affect how people view themselves to the point of being detrimental to their health and emotional wellbeing.
Some countries take the issue of representation very seriously. Like France, which has introduced an entire law against Photoshopping pictures to help combat eating disorders.
It has been argued time and again that advertising images filled with unrealistic and inaccessible beauty standards leads young people to feel unhappy about themselves, leading to poor self-esteem and impact on their health.
The law comprises of two parts. The first part of the plan requires all models working in the country to provide a doctor’s note certifying that their BMI is within healthy parameters.
Publications must also display the warning “photographie retouchée” (touched up photograph) alongside any photo that is used for commercial purposes. Those who do not comply face fines of up to €37,500, or 30 percent of the of the advertisement’s cost.
As we march into a more enlightened future, it is clear that people want to see stories of themselves as they are, not idealized stereotypes. Inspiration, not aspiration. Inclusivity not exclusivity.
Are you an inclusive brand?
Don’t want to miss out on the weekly shots of branding? Subscribe to our e-newsletter.