Sunday, May 19, 2013

Colouring Controversy: Rocking with Roxanne.


This is Roxanne and she has become the subject of some controversy in my life. On Mother's Day we went out for lunch with Ruby and Sadie and Mike ... to celebrate and thank Marissa for all she does. To keep the kids occupied at lunch I spent some time making a colouring book for each of the girls that had pictures of things I knew they liked and a cover page with their names in large colourable letters. They seemed to enjoy it.

A few days later I asked Marissa if the girls liked the books and she said that Ruby, in particular loved the book. I then set about making another. This time I found a picture of a little girl in a wheelchair and put some text with the picture:

Hi, Ruby, my name is Roxanne. Both our names start with the letter R. Can you give my wheelchair really cool colours?

This picture was slipped in along with a bunch of other pictures of things and places that I know Ruby loves. Along with that I found some mazes and puzzles and jokes. I really enjoyed making the booklet.

I showed this to someone who surprised me by accusing me of trying to brainwash Ruby with 'my ideas about disabilities'.

What?

Hold it ...

Am I?

I just thought that since we, people with disabilities, were in the world, there was no reason for us not to
be in a colouring book. I didn't think I was putting forward an idea at all.

But ...

I am.

I am putting forward the idea of simple, natural, inclusion. Oddly, I didn't think of it as an 'idea' but as a 'reality' ... but it isn't a reality is it? It's still an idea.

OK.

So maybe I am putting an idea into a colouring book. I won't argue that I'm not.

But ...

It's a helluva good idea.


28 comments:

Tara said...

Indeed, it is!

n. said...

Funny how if you do that, it's brainwashing ... but if everybody does it, that's just the way things are.

Glee said...

That's hilarious Dave. If it didn't have heavy overtones of ableism that is!

You keep on brain washing until the filth that is prejudice has washed clean away. :)

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

Brainwash? BRAINWASHING?!?!

Well, that's a little bit of someone's unconscious thinking peeking out, isn't it?

Holy geez...

GirlWithTheCane said...

The brainwashing accusation is ridiculous.

Enjoy your Sunday. :)

Kris S. said...

I'm sputtering here. "Brainwashing", how? By acknowledging people use wheelchairs?? And picturing a kid who uses a wheelchair and doesn't look miserable? I wonder what the person who accused you of brainwashing thinks the alternative would be? That's a real head-shaker, Dave.

BTW, making personalized coloring books= a great idea. Those girls are so to have you for a great-uncle.

Kimberly said...

The term 'brainwashing' really bothers me. It is a good idea though, one that all coloring book creators should make. People comment about adding 'token people' to casts, book characters, and what not, but hopefully, they are becoming an inclusive reality and not just tokens.

Andrea S. said...

Where you say "there was no reason for us to be in a colouring book" I assume you meant to say, "there was no reason for us NOT to be..."

I "like" how you were "accused" of brainwashing Ruby with, *gasp* "ideas". I "like" how people regularly make exactly this kind of accusation the minute someone starts teaching ideas they aren't used to seeing others try to teach to children. And meanwhile, the people who accuse others of bias never seem to stop to think that we are ALREADY teaching children thousands of ideas of all sorts every single day, every time we make a TV program or a movie or a story book or a coloring book or whatever.

There is no such thing as a "neutral" coloring book or TV program or whatever. The omission of something is ITSELF a very powerful message. And sometimes that message is harmful and destructive, especially when it teaches that certain entire segments of the population don't even exist.

So very often people who try to introduce a little balance and diversity in perspectives to ANY element of popular culture, but ESPECIALLY popular culture targeted at children, are the ones accused of bias and pushing an agenda. Pot, meet kettle. You just don't like the agenda because either you disagree with it or you're not used to seeing it, or perhaps a bit of both. Trust me, it's not because you're so perfectly neutral and free of agenda yourself.

william Peace said...

Brainwashed? Teaching a child about equality, inclusion and undermining the stigma associated with wheelchair use is brainwashing? Wow, my son has been thoroughly brainwashed.

Anonymous said...

When my children were little I made all of their colouring books for this very reason. It was fun to do and didn't fill their colouring/word puzzle time with such limited options.

Just Heidi said...

What a great "IDEA" it is... "Brainwashing" it is not. Instead, I think it is promoting inclusion. Perhaps there are other photos that could be included into "The People in Our Neighborhood/Community Coloring Book". Including but not limited to wheelchair users, individuals who are supported by service dogs, families with same sex parents, individuals who are, (like myself) larger than life or well rounded?!(haha)
I think it would be beneficial to have coloring books that include everyone, instead of the standard/common characters we see! I think you should ROLL with it Dave!! :) I willget my crayons ready in anticipation!

Best,

Heidi from PEI

Maggie said...

Sometimes it is just plain amazing how often the same cultural blinders are put on for new situations ... how often the same arguments are used for different oppressions ... how desperately so-called 'normals' cling to our illusions that our way is the 'right' way and everything else is 'exceptional' or 'wrong.'

(sigh).

What that person said to you about your 'ideas about disabilities' is exactly what was said to me in the 1970s about my 'ideas about women's lib' when I wanted a woman included in an ad showing engineers. And exactly what was said to various artists, TV producers, etc when the suggestion was made that People of Color can appear as any character in a drama or sitcom - they don't have to be offstage, or relegated to specific jobs or specific economic classes.

You would think that people bent on discrimination would at least be creative in their criticisms of people bent on inclusion, wouldn't you?

Me, I think it's great that Ruby, at least, can turn a page in a coloring book and see a girl just like herself who happens to be a wheelie instead of a walkie.

Just Heidi said...

Great "IDEA", you should definately go with it! :) Don't limit your "brainwashing" (haha) to wheelchair users; how about including families who have same sex parents, families of various cultures, or individuals who are supported by Service Dogs... maybe even a page dedicated to some of us "physically" well round people!!

I am getting my crayons ready in eager anticipation. ;)

Best,

Heidi from PEI

Lisa Gleeson said...

Oh, please... That's not brainwashing, that's life! Thank goodness it is too. That is a personalized coloring book, which I think is such a cool and thoughtful idea and you can put any darned thing in it that you all want to :). Some times people think too much.
Lisa

Flemisa said...

I think it is an excellent idea and one that more and more people should use.

Would love to see more about
"Rocking with Roxanne". Could really develop into something for the younger children. Although it sounds like some adults could use the reality check also.

Eunice Gordon said...

Yup, a very GOOD idea!! I love it! When are these coloring books going into print for wider distribution?
Eunice

Mike Soucie said...

I Love what they do with the colouring books dave.. when do I get mine ... make sure to include things and places I like. (Beer store) .
Thanks mike

Deb said...

You and your "radical" ideas, Dave. I dunno, what *will* the world do if our children grow up to accept each other as equals, simply because we are human, and forget the "...ism"?

Remember from South Pacific, "You have to be taught to be afraid, of people whose eyes are oddly made..."

As a 12-year-old growing up in the segregated American South that song began my questioning "why?" we have to buckle under prejudice and hate others. All it takes is a word, one line, just one seed.

Go ahead, be a farmer. :)


Louise said...

'Rocking with Roxanne' - the fully inclusive (ability, gender, sexual orientation, age, size, etc.......) colouring book I hope you're about to produce. I'd buy several!

Louise said...

And you're right, some brains just do need washing.

Tamara said...

I think your acquaintance needs to look up the definition of the term "brainwashing" before they use it again.

Anonymous said...

brainwash or demonstrate inclusion???? HMMMMMM . . .

Rachel in Idaho said...

Oh my.

All I can do is roll my eyes. There are too many levels of stupid in this for me to start breaking them down, really, I just have to laugh.

Purpletta said...

Wow, this one has me a bit stumped... What ever could it be about Roxanne in the coloring book that would cause this person to have such a reaction? Are you sharing ideas about people and about disability? Well certainly, but as far as I can see not in any way about any controversial topics or frankly any that really require much thought. I mean what about this figure in the coloring book could be an issue for anyone?! I think it is awesome that you put together such neat books for the girls! A friend of mine used to make books for her daughters when they were young - she'd put notes about them and write about how to be a good person and how much she cared about them. What shown through is the love she had for them & they held on to these when they were miles apart at school, raising a family, and now as she has passed. They have started similar books for their kids... truly special...
In the case with Roxanne in the coloring book - you mentioned you showed the book to someone which makes me think it is someone who you know, not a stranger. The person's dramatic reaction to such a simple "statement" (-the inclusion of a person-) makes me wonder if this person is really reacting to something else - Is she not included, has she somehow been hurt in either trying to include others or trying to be included? I don't begin to know, but think it is sad that someone would believe that a picture of a girl using a wheelchair in a coloring book is so offensive as to accuse you of wrongly including her. I am sorry this is what was said to you & hope the person can take a step back to get some perspective.
But to answer your question, yes I agree it is important to share "ideas" ...about equality & respect & other values that help shape our society and help our young people grow to be future leaders who base their thinking on those values....

Anonymous said...

Dave,

I think I would love to create such a book with inclusion for my niece.
She always has those crazy "my little pony" or "Topmodell" colouring books that make me gag because of their uniformity. These have nothing to do with the real world.

Out of pure dispair I started to draw pictures of simple things like fruit or trees or flowers or birds with her.

I think giving her her own colouring book is a great idea!

Julia

Dave Hingsburger said...

Julia, and others, because of the response to this post, I've looked and there are a lot of colouring pictures available through a google search. I found a wonderful little girl and guide dog picture, the 'large people' colouring pictures are mostly horrific ... but there were a few that would be usable. So, it's possible to create something inclusive just by doing a search and using clip and paste ... as I said, it was fun to do.

Sadie said...

This would be a very funny story if it weren't so sad. This is a great idea and I think it's a great way to gently teach about different types of people. Can't believe anyone would object. water damage restoration Vancouver

Anonymous said...

This is "brainwshing" to the same extent that any interaction with a child could be considered brainwashing.

As adults part of our role is to teach children. We present then with information that we hope they will learn and remember. In this case, the picture was placed their purposely with a view to demonstrate equality and the "normaility" of someone in a wheelchair. So there was a deliberate attempt to plant this idea in the girls mind. Leading by example.

Is it brainwashing to teach children a positive listen that will help them to be better people and to treat others with respect. Perhaps, but it is not a bad thing in the context.