We need to talk about Diversity and Representation…Again
We need to talk about Diversity and Representation…Again, is a post that has been on my mind for a very long time. I mean, how is this still even a topic in 2018? Why is it that we have to remind people that there are huge groups of people that are still not being represented in the blogging world? Why is it that some have to achieve so much more in order to be noticed/represented?
I breathed a huge sigh of relief a couple of days ago, when I saw that FINALLY someone had brought up the issue of Instagram/Brands/PR Events and Diversity/Representation. It started a domino effect of people talking about how the instagram highlight reel left them feeling inadequate, out of place and all round rubbish.
I am so grateful to all those who took part in the discussion and got the conversation started. I finally feel like I can say something because they were brave enough to speak up first.
I must point out that the posts didn’t just talk about race. I will however be focussing on race in this post.
I am a Muslim, an Indian and I’m British too. I have often felt like people want to pigeon hole me into just one category. I am all those things and so much more and I am pretty proud of my background and who I am. I don’t want to present a diluted version of who I am. Nor do I want to work with anybody, who isn’t proud to work with me on the basis of my skin colour or religious preferences. We can kind of tell..
I often ask what my place is in the world of blogging. Where do i fit? Who is representing us? Feeling out of place in the real world is something I, like many others, learnt to adjust to a long time ago. I’ve heard it all. The taunts, the ‘jokes’, the denials of my experiences.
I went to a mainly White primary school and so I learnt very early on that I was different. My experience of school was of feeling out of place. So many experiences spring to mind but some stick out more then others. Like when the son of one of my teachers, told me that ‘pakis’ had to go to the back of the dinner queue because they were dirty. The fact that his mum was my teacher, made me feel worse about it at the time. Years later, he walked into the office I worked at and we became colleagues. In all the time I worked with him despite my attempts to converse with him, he said about two words to me all in all. Maybe he was just a quiet guy? Maybe I was being too sensitive?
In my last job before I became a blogger, I worked with a team of White people. Every time someone Asian came to reception for a job interview, the receptionist would ring my land line to ask me if we were cousins. No..really. Every.Single.Time. It did actually make me laugh at the time because I could tell that there was no malice behind it.
In said job, I worked alongside the most senior people in a very large and well known organisation. Once in a while and because we were so close, the company director would question if racism really was a thing. I was never offended. How was he to know? He had never witnessed it and he treated me no different to how he treated any one else. In fact, he really championed my progress within the company and was my biggest cheer leader.
He once told me that I looked so much ‘bonnier’ without my hijab and he didn’t understand why I would cover my beautiful hair. I had started wearing hijab mid way through my employment and whilst everyone else pretended it hadn’t happened, he spoke to me directly about my why.
Back to the conversations that have been happening on social media..This is part of of a post shared by kateo_sullivan, in a post she addressed to instagram:
‘When I look at your explore pages, I just don’t feel that they’re for me. Your hashtag top posts seem to have the same type of woman over and over and she’s great, don’t get me wrong. She’s not me. In fact, I don’t really know anyone like her. Some of us are pretty queer and less affluent you see. Some of us have beautiful skin tones that just don’t seem to be represented on your top pages..’
Beauty expert Deepica Mutyala recently announced the launch of Tinted, on social media. A page that strives to build an empowering community for ‘all the shades in between.’ In one post she wrote:
‘Everyday we are presented with mixed messages, regarding our individuality. We’re told to be unique but, only to an extent.’
Lastly..an excerpt from Hijabi Fashion Blogger Dina Tokyo’s new book, Modestly:
‘It’s great to see big brands using hijabis in their marketing, but I still question the integrity of their representation. Most of the time you can suss out when the collaboration is genuine or just token. A big sports brand reached out to me about their new hijab, They know that the Muslim bloggers they reached out to already wear the brand but they only seem to want to be inclusive when it’s to do with hijab, not when it’s about sportswear and trainers. So how inclusive are they being really? They’re not including us in mainstream clothing and footwear, we are only approached when it comes to the hijab, because hijab means tick-box business.
A Sports Hijab is nothing I haven’t seen before. I saw sportswear for Muslim women in Egyptian markets everywhere whilst growing up, but it’t not ‘cool’ until it has a mainstream label on it. It’s the same when a big brand does a ‘Ramadan Collection’. All they’ve really done is use existing products and a stuck a Ramadan label on it to cash in. This is just lazy.’
Don’t get me wrong I love Social Media. It can be such a positive and inspiring place and such a force for good. It can bring people together in such an uplifting way and often across borders but I am tired of seeing just one standard of beauty and acceptance of just one type of creative. The world around me is diverse and beautiful and I want the online world to reflect that.
That is why these conversations mean so much because they highlight a very real problem. One that needs to be talked about in order for change to take place. Funnily enough, not long after putting together an Instagram post on this very topic (my battery died before I could post it), I was contacted by the BBC who asked me to apply to be in a TV show. I’m mulling it over..for now.