This year I entered a plethora of new spaces and communities, to meet new people and try new things. Yet, when you come from several minority groups, the chances of seeing decent representation gets smaller and smaller. Society has a small box filled with what they will accept and more often than not, my identities fall out of it.
The discriminatory foundations to which the fashion industry is built upon allows for the platforms above it to continue its oppression and perpetuate a strict standard that only opens its doors for white, cis-het, able-bodied models, shoots, groups, magazines and organisations. This effectively ignores minority groups appearances and experiences.
I am continuously left disappointed and irritated when my race and sexuality is seen as a caricature or a tokenistic opportunity for fake diversity and inclusion. A Black womXn’s presence is often always ignored unless it can economically or socially benefit the fashion industry. Our Ebonics, colloquialisms and self-made terms, hairstyles and histories are mashed up into trying to make a racist conversation with me. Suddenly people think to talk and act “sassy” to me will catch my attention…just say hi…
The number of times white girls that have approached me and said “hey girl” (elongating the girl), touched my hair without permission no matter how many times Black womXn tell them we aren’t dogs is just one of many microaggressions that many Black womXn experience daily. Yet, speaking up against it perpetuates the angry Black womXn narrative, so we become described as aggressive, mean, distant and worse. “I’m just being nice!” are the words, and soon, tears will follow. See, what this does to Black WomXn is invalidate our emotions and diminish the importance of our racial experiences because…you…feel…hurt..that I told you to respect me as a human being.
If I enter a space and do not see Black womXn, that speaks volumes of your community and space. It says you do not value us, and it means you do not care about us. Time and time again, there has definitely been the chance to improve, but the conscious efforts to ignore us is evident. Blackness, POC trauma, queerness, plus-sized experiences, and addressing ableism is only welcomed on one strict term.
- Stay silent
- Don’t talk about your oppression
After a long conversation with my mum who is all too familiar with racism after growing up in America and the UK during the ’60s and ’70s provided me with some good advice: silence is good for nothing. Fake wokeness for minority groups does nothing. Speak. Up.
“Deal with the pain, then get back in the game.” – my mum
I have interviewed three people to tell me about their experiences in the industry.
“As someone who deals with mental health issues, I have sadly viewed the fashion industry as a business that exploits people’s personal struggles. It is not uncommon to see graphic tees with phrases like “depressed but well-dressed” or “psycho” on then, and these phrases romanticise mental illness to the point of ableism. This attitude is also seen in the mistreatment of those working in the fashion industry, particularly models – who are fed dangerous rhetoric about how to look, act, dress and eat at all times.” – Interviewee 1
“I do think there’s a lack of representation in POC top models. One thing I think is a huge issue is practically non-existent is well-known POC plus-sized models. Like there’s Ashley Graham, Iskra Lawrence who are amazing representations of plus-sized women; however, there aren’t famous plus-sized models.” -Interviewee 2
This piece is for the womXn and non-binary people who were told they were too “big” to be seen, too Black to be heard, too dark to be valued, too queer to be represented, ignored as an ethnic minority, cast aside for their disability. Change is coming, and I hope this industry knows it could only silence us for so long.
I am grateful for the new fashion outlets and events today that embrace all sizes, races, abilities, etc., as fashion is supposed to be a form of self-expression that creates something beautiful. We shouldn’t have to keep seeing the same thing and be told to look a certain way. Opening the doors to these kinds of conversations is vital to ensure different voices can speak up and not be shut down.
I want this piece to go beyond the fashion industry and to spaces where change is necessary, diversity and inclusion recognised, and differing groups are all represented.
So to end this post, what must be done next?
- Ensure your spaces are always open to criticism
- Ensure there is always genuine diversity in your spaces
- Don’t gaslight the experiences of minorities. You haven’t lived through it.
- Make sure your environments are accessible mentally and physically
- Ensure to educate yourself always, ignorance isn’t cute
- Acknowledge the privilege(s) you have, pretending it does not exist spreads trauma. Instead, see how your privilege can be used to deconstruct discrimination while not taking the mic away from minorities. Remember, this issue isn’t about you so do not raise your voice above the people it effects.
I’ll leave you with a list of diverse communities and spaces to be a part of and check out
- Black Girl Fest
- The Body is not an apology
- Black Girl’s camping trip
- Black British Bloggers
- Black Ballad UK
- Baldie Revolution
- The Black Ticket Project
- For Dark Skin Girls
- Laid bare podcast
- Travel Noire
- She Aspires UK
- Travel Eat Slay
- BBC Body positive
- Girls in Power UK
- Hub and culture
- Black female photographers
- Industry me
- Curvy Kate
- Rewrite London
- Black Girls book club
- Dark Is Beautiful campaign
- Queers for Christ
- LDN LGBTQ Centre
- Recipes for self-love
- Pxssy palace
- Angry Asian Feminist
- UK Black Pride
- Merky books
- R29unbothered (a personal fave)
- Root Talk Magazine
Until next time beautiful people! 🙂
P.S. A massive thank you to everyone that let me interview them, talking about our experiences and views is vital to deconstruct the world around us and produce the kind of environments that are healthy for us emotionally and physically to live in. Your interview pieces are so important and I am extremely grateful to read your powerful words.