I've been doing some thinking lately about stereotypes of diabetes. I expect the general media to propagate stereotypes, because most of the writers have only a general knowledge of diabetes, and most of the time, they're writing about people with T2 who fall under the hump of the bell curve.
But as I pay more attention to ads from the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and manufacturers of products for people with diabetes, I think they're doing just as much harm. I'm looking at it from a couple of angles, so let me approach T1 first.
First off, it seems to me that these organizations present T1 diabetes as a young person's disease. There is a great emphasis on children, probably because the ads, especially ads for insulin and other diabetes supplies, but also JDRF ads target parents of T1 children. And as such, the message seems to be "You're normal! You can do anything!" But what's left out is "If you are careful and diligent about managing your diabetes." These parents know, better than anyone else, how difficult it is to manage diabetes in a young, growing child, and they've seen hypoglycemia at its worst, and DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), and yet the advertising of the JDRF doesn't reflect how much work and worry goes into raising a child with diabetes. I understand that parents don't want their child to grow up feeling impaired, or feeling disabled, but the reality is still there, and although adults with T1 DO achieve many great things, no one who has experienced T1 can deny that there is a cost to their achievements that non-diabetics don't have to pay.
The second thing that I notice about publicity from the JDRF is that they almost always seem to depict children or young, slender, attractive adults engaged in athletics. But that is not a real picture for many people with T1. There are obese T1s and intellectual T1s and older T1s and disabled T1s, etc. We aren't all young people on bicycles. Some of us would much rather be reading a book, or shopping with our friends, or doing woodworking. So, in sum, I would like to see much more diversity in the ads put out by the JDRF.
Now let me go on to the depiction of people with T2. Many of the ads I've seen depict an attractive, slender, gray-haired person or and older couple with a small child. Or an attractive "young-old" couple on bicycles. A few have shown larger people, but not people whom anyone would perceive as obese. Again, I think it's demeaning not to show people in their true diversity -- attractive and well-dressed are good things, but what about a lovely, truly obese woman or a handsome obese man? How about showing a variety of ages and NOT including a cute 3-year-old?
I'm pretty sure I'm going to get some negative responses to this post, which is actually OK with me, because what I want is for people to think about how we're being manipulated by the power interests, and what life around us is really like. Just like I'd love to see a clothes model who looked like me, I'd love to see diabetes depicted as it really is, not like it might be in some imaginary fairyland where we're all rich, slim, famous, and don't struggle for a minute.