T E L E V I S E D B E W I L L
T H E
R E V O L U T I O N
# G I R L G A N G
P E R S P E C T I V E S
D I S S E R T A T I O N
P E R S P E C T I V E S BA (Hons) Fashion Business & Promotoion December 2016
Simiah Maylor- Bailey i
This document is a study on young women of c o l o u r i n t h e f e m i n i s t a r t m o v e m e n t o f 2 016 . In a post-internet world characterised by social and political turmoil, Generation Z born into an age of social media, are using creative and digital tools for social activism. Yo u n g w o m e n o f w o m e n o f c o l o u r w h o a r e marginalised t o t he constraints of socie ty, are looking to alternative platforms to get their
Grounded in self-expression, authenticity and empowerment, the various ways in which these girls expedite activism include social media movements, ar t collectives, print and digital media and real world action. In a world were digital and offline realities work in sync, they use their online networks as a tool to champion causes in real life, organising events and connecting with other girls alike. Through a marriage of art and social media they are wanting to make a change to the world, challenging preconceived notions and b r e a k i n g d ow n t h e b a r r i e r s o f exc l u s i v i t y. They are not out in the streets rallying or partaking in radical protests like previous generations did. They are empowering a community from the ground up, and itâ€™s beginning to go mainstream. 6386 words. ii
A B S T R A C T
voices heard. They are misrepresented in the mainstream media and are often left out of feminist discussions about themselves, but are influencing a culture of change.
C O N T E N T S i
a dislocated world
generation: free to be me
15 black girl magic uncovering black-british girlhood
defining the feminist art movement of 2016
#irl: in real life
the rise in girl-run collectives
return of the zine
the revival of fanzine culture
roll the tape
the revolution will be televised
43 from media to music
investigating the influence of mainstream music
jumping to conclusion
C O N T R I B U T O R S
A special thanks to Alison Rapsey, Julia South and all the tutors of Fashion Buisness & Promotion that have helped along the way.
To Ashanty, Enam & Mia the amazing ladies of No In-Between Collective. Your work is truly inspiring
To Savannah, a small girl with big ideas on the world. Your optimism is inspiring and so beyond your years
To Nii and Pat of Talkinâ€™ Plenty podcast, thanks for your insight and allowing me to be a part of your show
Fig 1 Crown, Wordpress
Fig 30 Yellow brick, Pinterest
Fig 2 Zika virus, ABC News
Fig 31 Squad, Tumblr
Fig 3 Ankara explosion, The Telegraph
Fig 32 Daisies, Black Fashion Magic
Fig 4 Brussells bombings, The Independent
Fig 33 Black girl magic chain, Essence
Fig 5 EygptAir Flight 804, CBC News
Fig 34 Bare shoulders, Tumblr
Fig 6 Killing of Harambe, Youtube
Fig 35 Support your local girl gang, Google Images
Fig 7 Orlando gay club shooting, The Guardian
Fig 36 Freckles, Tumblr
Fig 8 BREXIT, The Independent
Fig 37 Dandelion Hair, Tumblr
Fig 9 Police brutality, News Week
Fig 38 Braid spray, Pinterest
Fig 10 Theresa May, The Independent
Fig 39 Hands up, Donâ€™t Shoot, Birmingham Mail
Fig 11 Nice attack, BBC News
Fig 40 Justice, Instagram
Fig 12 Colin Kaepernick, CNN
Fig 41 Girls with placards, Instagram
Fig 13 New York/ New Jersey bombing, ABC News
Fig 42 Queens only, Google Images
Fig 14 Hurricane Matthew, The Guardian
Fig 43 Support your local girl gang, Pinterest
Fig 15 Battle of Mosul, CNN
Fig 44 Art Hoe Collective, Instagram
Fig 16 Donald Trump, CNN
Fig 45 SXWKS, Instagram
Fig 17 Tumblr Feminism, Pinterest
Fig 46 Bbz london, Facebook
Fig 18 The Ardorous, Tumblr
Fig 47 Black girls picnic 1-3, Instagram
Fig 19 Pxssy Palace, Instagram
Fig 48 Gal-dem zine, Dazed
Fig 20 Gal-dem, Instagram
Fig 49 Road Femme zine, Road Femme
Fig 21 Flower girl, Pinterest
Fig 50 OOMK zine, OOMK
Fig 22 Afro, Tumblr
Fig 51 Generation Revolution, GenRev
Fig 23 Flowers and palms, Unknown
Fig 52 Ackee and Saltfish, Manrepeller
Fig 24 Flower headband,
Fig 53 Strolling series, Youtube
Fig 25 Black girls are magic, Wordpress
Fig 54 Solange, Stereogum
Fig 26 Afro II, We the Urban
Fig 55 Behind a wall, Daily Beast
Fig 27 Braids, Tumblr
Fig 56 Bubblegum coat I, Manrepeller
Fig 28 Bubblegum, Vsco
Fig 57 Bubblegum coat II, Youtube
Fig 29 Blue geranium, Tumblr
Fig 58 Lots of beads, The New Yorker
T H E
G A L L E R Y
F I G U R E S A N D T A B L E S
Table 1 shows a timeline of key events which have happened over 2016 that have contributed to the zeitgeist and ultimately influenced a generation of new social activists.
A R T I V I S M A combination of the words ‘art’ and ‘activism’. The practice of promoting a political agenda through art C L I C K T I V I S M A policy of using the internet to take direct action to achieve a political or social aim (Collins, 2016) D I G I T A L N A T I V E S A person born or bought up during the age of digital technology, a nickname for the post-Millennial generation formerly known as ‘Generation Z’ F A N Z I N E / Z I N E An amateur-produced magazine written for subcultural enthusiasts devoted to a particular interest (Farlex, 2013) F O U R T H - W A V E F E M I N I S M Often associated with online feminism; using social media to discuss, uplift, and activate gender equality and social justice (Disney et al., 2013) G E N - Z Short form of ‘Generation Z’, those born between 1996-2010 H A S H T A G A C T I V I S M The act of advocating a cause through social media, e.g. #PrayForParis, #IceBucketChallenge P H Y G I T A L A blend of the words ‘physical’ and ‘digital’, in reference to the blur of online and offline realities in various aspects of today’s society P L U R A L I S T A person who believes that the existence of different types of people, beliefs, and opinions within a society is a good thing (Cambridge, 2016) R I O T G R R R L M O V E M E N T An underground feminist punk movement of the 1990’s. Connecting mostly young women across America and parts of Europe with music, zine culture and direct political action S I S T E R H O O D Used among feminists to express the connection of women who are not biologically related but are bonded in solidarity (Napikoski and Lewis, 2016) S L A C K T I V I S M Using the internet and social media in support of a political or social cause, regarded as ‘lazy’, e.g. signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on social media, following a hashtag (Oxford) S U P P O R T Y O U R L O C A L G I R L G A N G A slogan popularised on social media in reference to the existence of feminist collectives online and in real life T R I B E Used as a slang term for a community of people who share common interests and values, and are usually loosely affiliated with each other through social media and other social platforms T U M B L R F E M I N I S M A community of young feminists using art and social media; fostering a modern-day movement to normalise the teen-girl experience (Consumer Insights 2016, WGSN, 2016) W O M A N I S M pertaining to a type of feminism that acknowledges the abilities and contributions of black women (Dictionary, 2016)
B B C The British Broadcasting Corporation B L M Black Lives Matter. A socio-political movement advocativing ‘freedom & justice for all black lives’ I R L In Real Life. A play on the acronym URL in terms of contrasting online and real life i.e. IRL vs. URL activism L S : N The Future Laboratory, a leading trends forecasting and analytics agency used in creative industries L G B T Q I A An abbreviation for ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual’; an umbrella term in reference to the community as a whole N I B No In-Between Collective P O C People of colour
W G S N Worth Global Style Network, a leading trends forecasting and analytics agency used in creative industries
G L O S S A R Y
W O C Women/ woman of colour
T H E
R E V O L U T I O N W I L L
T E L E V I S E D : Investigating a contemporary art movement for Generation Z women of colour.
O B J E C T I V E S • To define the feminist art movement
• To investigate who the Generation Z woman of colour is and how they are a key tribe in the movement
• To identify ways in which activism is being shaped in 2016
• To analyse examples across traditional and social media platforms
Trends agencies such as Worth Global Style Network (WGSN) and The Future Laboratory (LS:N Global) have published various consumer insight reports into Generation Z. Dubbing them as the new social activists and pluralists - a politically savvy generation, they are recognised as wanting to change the world. Concerned with identity politics, involving gender equality, transgender rights and racial diversity, companies look to instil the same values into their brand ethos in order to communicate with this generation. While the majority focus on gender fluidity and feminist trends, they often miss out the conversation when it comes to race. Acknowledged by Black History Month Magazine (2016), people find it difficult to talk about race, yet it is much easier
Since it has been identified as a main point of view to Generation Z (Walpita, 2016) why is it being missed out of social discourse? The purpose of this study is to have that conversation and to fill the void that so often society feels uncomfortable to discuss; to contribute the work that is missing from academia and industry focus, with hopes that it can influence others in those fields to do the same, and to break the margins of society which ignore and misrepresent minority groups.
This study will seek to analyse the market, highlighting the key traits of Generation Z and identifying a social trend that is driving the future. It will identify and investigate a key tribe amongst this generation and look to the ways they are expediting social activism. Finally, it will uncover how the mainstream has been influenced by the subcultural movement and how it is influencing the wider society in a trickle-up-trickle-down fashion. It will conclude research and provide future recommendations for brands and academia alike.
I N T R O D U C T I O N
to discuss the other two. However, to not talk about it, does not make it any
This dissertation explores themes of culture and identity. Qualitative research in the form of focus groups and interviews were key to uncovering personal views and opinions, crucial to the discussion of a socio-political topic. A diverse selection of participants offered a rich scope of perspectives, represented in regards to age and gender amongst the Generation Z demographic.
more scope to contrast, compare and uncover many of those similarities while encouraging further thought into how they differ. The immersive environment was beneficial to the initial stages of research in setting the scene historically, and also contextualising the zeitgeist of today’s generation. While limitations were presented due to the prohibition of photographs, extensive notes were taken and the exhibition book was purchased to assist writing post-visit.
Secondary research was gathered from a variety of resources including trends agencies WGSN and LS:N, websites, books, journals, and documentaries.
Unstructured Interview: Savannah 12 years old - Birmingham. 16 Oct 2016
Key sources include:
• Offers the viewpoint of a younger generation z, not necessarily of age to truly yet understand the world, but proved to instil the qualities said of her generation
• The Mediated Youth Reader by Sharon Mazzarella (2016) - informed much of the focus on black girlhood studies. • Digital, Political, Radical by Natalie Fenton (2016) - examines the role of social media in contemporary activism.
• unstructured approach allowed for flexibility to probe deeper
• The Hip Hop World News (BBC, 2016) - TV documentary supporting the key theme of hip hop culture & music as a social tool.
• unanticipated responses beneficial to support other research • ability to analyse non-verbal communication i.e. gestures, facial expressions & body language
Observation: ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records & Rebels 1966-70’ Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), London. • depth to explore the strength of 12 Oct 2016 feelings or to describe experiences and attitudes This exhibition explores the impact of the late 1960’s, an era defined by social • material richer & deeper than revolution. Examining several themes numerical data & statistics including music, fashion, film and political activism; the purpose of this approach was The weaker the structure, the greater the to apply historical context. danger of bias in interpretation of what was said (Greetham, 2014) - this was In some ways, the youth of the 60’s and avoided by asking following questions Gen Z of today can be likened in their for clarity purposes. Parental consent was activist spirit. This exhibition allowed for acquired to avoid ethical implications.
Focus groups are a useful way to learn how certain groups of individuals react to an issue or shared experience; they are therefore used extensively in market research & politics (Easterby-Smith et al., 2015). This supports this chosen research method as appropriate to explore this topic which delves into notions of identity politics.
M E T H O D O L O G Y Focus Groups: No In between Collective (NIB) & Talkin’ Plenty Podcast Birmingham/ London. Nov 2016 NIB - Birmingham. 19 Nov 2016
Value of the data gained was increased by their insights and opinions, as the views from both groups often supported the other. It also validated secondary research and consumer reports focusing on overall Generation Z attitudes.
• creative collective formed of three millennial, black-British females • true representation of the tribe discussed in this study • advocates of LGBTQIA rights, racial equality and female empowerment
A topic guide ensured a loose structure to the discussion, while limiting the chance of digression.
• use social media and real life activism to empower themselves and others
Talkin’ Plenty - London. 20 Nov 2016
Across both primary and secondary research, key themes of reoccurance were:
• podcast hosted by three black-British millennial males
Self-expression, authenticity, empowerment, social media, music and real world action - forming the basis of discussion and conclusions.
• appeals to a similar crowd as NIB • they discuss current affairs, trends, entertainment, music & politics
Refer to appendices for transcripts.
• male perspective to feminist discussion
M E T H O D O L O G Y
Limitations present themselves when “participants of a group do not share an experience” as it can be difficult to moderate the discussion (Tracy, 2013). This was avoided by interviewing members of collectives. Although they had individual responses, the nature of their unity is based off sharing similar views and values.
Fig 9. Wordpress
A snapshot view of the happenings of 2016, which have lead to a world dominated by distrust, disconnect and disenfranchisement: March 27 | Lahore, Pakistan Dozens of children were killed in a park aftera suicide attack took place. Reportedly, the Taliban claimed responsibility, and it’s said the target was specifially aimed at Christians
Fig 7. The Guardian 12 JUNE | Orlando, Florida A mass shooter - allegedly linked to ISIS, kills 49 and wounds 53 in an Orlando gay nightclub
Fig 2. ABC News JANUARY 28 | The Americas The World Health Organisation announces an outbreak of the Zika virus across North & South America. Affecting an estimated 1.5 million Brazilians, causing concern over the Rio Summer Olympics Fig 5. CBC News
Fig 3. The Telegraph 17 FEBRUARY | Ankara, Turkey
19 MAY | Eygpt
Fig 8. The Independent
EygptAir Flight 804 disappears with 66 passengers on board a flight from Paris to Cairo. Heightens terrorist alert following Paris attacks of 2015 and controversy sparks after Malaysian airlines ‘go missing’ in 2014.
23 JUNE | UK Britian votes to leave the EU, causing concern over the global economy and world trade, amongst other things
The explosion targeted military personnel, leaving at least 30 dead and 60 injured
Fig 6. Youtube 25 MAY | Cincinnati, Ohio Fig 4. The Independent 22 MARCH | Brussels, Belgium ISIS co-ordinate 3 bombingswhich kill 32 and injure 250.
Harambe the gorilla is shot and killed after a 3 year-old boy climbs into the zoo enclosure. Causes a debate from animal rights activists and those that disagreed with the choice to kill Harambe 7
Fig 9. News Week 5 & 6 JULY | USA 2 black males were shot just 1 day apart by U.S. police officers, both tragedies were caught on camera and shared online, reiginting BLM protests in USA and worldwide
7 JULY | Dallas, Texas
9 OCTOBER | Ethiopia
At the end of what was a peaceful protest in Dallas, organised by BLM in reflection of the two shootings, Micah Xavier Johnson opens fire in an ambush killing 5 police officers, wounding 7 others and 2 civilians, before being killed himself
The Prime Minister declares a state of emergency after a sustained period of antigovernment protests. Civilians believed this was issued to gain more government control
Fig 12. CNN 1 SEPTEMBER
Fig 15. CNN
11 JULY | UK
17 OCTOBER | Iraq
David Cameron resigns as Prime Minister following the results of Brexit. Theresa May is appointed new PM, the 2nd female in history, after her rival drops out the competition Fig 13. ABC News
The Iraqi government launches battle on Mosul, assisted by the U.S., to reclaim the Iraqi city from ISIS. This came over two years after jihadists seized control. This military offensive forces tens of thousands of civilians to leave their homes and find refuge
Though none were injured in these bombings, it fueled terrorism concerns in America
Fig 11. BBC News
17-19 SEPTEMBER | New York & New Jersey
14 JULY | Nice, France A driver assumed to be linked to ISIS, drove a truck through a large crowd, killing 86 people including children
Fig 16. CNN
AUGUST/ SEPTEMBER | USA
Fig 14. The Guardian
Korryn Gaines and Terence Crutcher are added to the list of names amongst police brutality acts in America. Their names become another hashtag as the Black Live Matter movement campaigns across social media & the streets
SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER Hurricane Matthew sweeps through the Western Atlantic, hitting Haiti and Southern states of America. Estimated damages amount to $6, while death tolls surpass 1,000 8
D I S L O C A T E D
Fig 10. The Independent
W O R L D
NFL player Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem in respect of the Black Lives Matter movement, sparking controversy on news channels and social media
8 NOVEMBER | USA Former business-man and TV personality, Donald Trump, becomes President-elect of America following possibly the most controversial election campaign in history. Crticised for being egotistical, mysogynist and a racist, the result sparks uproar amongst anti-Trump voters Table1
G E N E R A T I O N : F R E E T O B E M E In light of recent events of political uncertainty, terrorism and social injustice, a generation is standing up for the unheard, championing empowerment, and most significantly, change. A new generation of social activists that aspire to a free-to-be-me society (Walpita, 2016), where identity is unrestricted, unprejudiced and unapologetic.
Introducing Generation Z (Gen Z), also known as Digital Natives â€“ the first ever consumer group to grow up in a truly digital landscape.
• They are the most racially and culturally diverse of all generations. With a high tolerance to different groups, they identify as Pluralists. • Born activists, they have grown up during turbulent times; aware with all that is wrong with the world and wanting to change it.
• A short attention span means they prefer to communicate and respond through a visual language. • When it comes down to social change, this generation’s main concern is identity equality. Race, gender and sexuality are the key themes on the agenda for today’s youth. • They embody an attitude which goes beyond their years. In an interview with 12-year old Savannah, she expresses many surprising views unexpected from a child her age. (Appendix A)
In a world often dominated by youth-driven culture (You Say You Want a Revolution, 2016), mainstream trends are usually influenced by them too. One trend amongst many emerging from this new wave of social acceptance is a contemporary feminist art movement. Dubbed by Dazed (2016) as ‘Tumblr feminism’. 10
B E T O F R E E
• Creative and collaborative – they want to learn new skills that enable them to create original content and launch collaborative projects, reinforcing their peer-to-peer spirit.
G E N E R A T I O N
• They engage in extra-curricular and community-orientated activities, attending events where they can discover more about their passion points which range from racial diversity to LGBTQIA rights.
• They are more likely to trust peer-to-peer recommendation from their social networks on and offline, as well as celebrities they relate to.
• This global perspective combined with technical proficiency means that they are highly engaged with social causes and use social media to address issues and spread awareness.
• Living increasingly hyper-connected lives, they are avid consumers of news and information on a global scale.
T U M B L R F E M I N I S M
In the 1990s the Riot Grrrl movement epitomised feminism through punk rock and fanzine culture. Somewhat 20 years later and “Riot Grrrl is not dead. Rather it continues to evolve as a form of DIY activist feminism” (Mazzarella, 2016). The concept of ‘girlhood’ exists today in contemporary culture amongst Gen Z and Millennials, taking the form of social media girl gangs.
Evidence across platforms, in particular Instagram and Tumblr, show the rise of girlrun collectives such as key influencer Petra Collins’ ‘The Ardorous’, London-based ‘Pussy Palace’, award-winning ‘Gal-dem’ and No In-Between Collective (NIB), who
Fig 19. @pxssypalace
Fig 20. @galdemzine
In the spread of fourth-wave feminism, groups of girls are banding together to raise awareness around issues including diversity, gender equality and sexuality; whilst empowering themselves and others (WGSN, 2016). Although it can be said that
have a new way of presenting old notions.
Built on a visual philosophy, feminism in 2016 is generally about softness (Gamble, 2016). A wave of young female artists who have grown up with the internet have influenced the return of the ‘zine, are using other art forms such as illustration, painting, photography, filmmaking and performance to document and share their personal experiences.
Reflecting the DIY aesthetic of the Riot Grrrl movement, which is grounded in selfexpression and authenticity; through a marriage of art and social media, they are using their networks and digital tools to engage with issues of identity and activism. These young feminists are channelling ‘artivism’ in order to create social change. 12
these themes are generic of feminist movements past and present, this generation
T U M B L R
Fig 18. theardorous.tumblr.com
F E M I N I S M
we’re interviewed for the purpose of this study (Appendix B).
They may not be shouting in the streets or making grand political gestures in the way that previous movements did; they thrive off a sense of community. According to the Dazed article ‘In Defence of Tumblr Feminism’, these soft approaches should not be palmed off as unimportant in its own right (Gamble, 2016). During their interview, Nii of Talkin’ Plenty podcast (Appendix C), states that:
“We’re living in an age platforms that allow ...like social
F E M I N I S M T U M B L R 0 1
where thereâ€™s so many you to have a voice, media especiallyâ€?.
Arguably, both social media and art provide a platform for marginalised communities to represent themselves and others like them (Gamble, 2016 and Fenton, 2016), so the two combined can be viewed as a very powerful tool for self-expression to those who feel disenfranchised by mainstream media. A strong example of such is being displayed amongst Black-British girlhood, where young women of colour (WOC) are joining forces and forming an allegiance.
# B L A C K G I R L M A G I C
“Anything that makes a black girl feel proud about herself is magic in a world that shames all you are. If a girl gets her degree, that’s magic, but so is perfecting that winged eyeliner!” - Mia, No In-Between Collective
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In The Mediated Youth Reader
the difference between feminism and
(Mazzarella, 2016), contributor Ruth
womanism, supported by fellow member
Brown poses the question: “In what way
Enam, expressing her views on feminism
do girls marginalised by race, gender,
as “unfair in its entirety for black women”.
class, age & sexuality experience girlhood?” This question came in response to the theory that black girls often
The concept of ‘privilege’ is frequently
feel excluded from discussions about
called upon when discussing womanism.
themselves and their experiences in the
“As a whole, society does not value
wider topics of feminism and girlhood.
black women nor validate their genuine
Ashanty of No In-between Collective
experiences,” explains Ashanty,
(NIB), expresses her views that white
going on to speak about living in a
feminism does not acknowledge the
white supremacist and sexist society.
intersections of race, gender and sexuality.
In the article ‘Privilege 101’ for
In the same way that Alice Walker
EverydayFeminism.com (2014), Sian
(writer of The Colour Purple), coined
Ferguson writes that society grants
the term ‘womanism’ in reference to
privilege to people based on certain
“the realisation that feminism does not
aspects of their identity. To be a white,
encompass the perspectives of black
straight male grants the highest amount
women” (2007); that they seek ways to
and so to be anything but that, is a social
celebrate how they can overcome this
disadvantage. Nii uses a ranking system
oppression in their own lives (Gunde,
analogy to illustrate the same concept,
2007). Because of this, Mia of NIB sees
essentially stating that to be black and
the absolute need to acknowledge
female is a double negative.
In the words of Rianna Parker (founder of The Lonely Londoners – a cultural collective for young people of colour), “black women are going to be marginalised because of their gender and because of their race… at the same damn time.” When viewed from the perspective that oppression is the opposite of privilege, it justifies WOC looking to alternative platforms
Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) docuseries ‘Black is the New Black’ (2016), “the
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oppressed always find a way to celebrate”.
M A G I C
for self-expression. Taken from The British
“ Womanism is f eminist, as la vendar is t o pur ple.” - Alice Walker 18
The hashtag â€˜#BlackGirlMagicâ€™ began on Twitter in 2013 (The Guardian, 2016) and has since grown into a world-renowned social movement for the celebration of black girl/ womanhood. While it is used mostly online, it embodies what WOC have been doing for generations in real life.
B L A C K
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M A G I C
It has been used in the mainstream to highlight the achievements of U.S. Olympians Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles, and First Lady Michelle Obama. It is the celebration of black female excellence (Patrick, Talkinâ€™ Plenty), however the meaning is ambiguous and relative to black girls of all variations, backgrounds and interests navigating their way through society (Ashanty).
B L A C K
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The hashtag works as a virtual tool to connect WOC, creating communities of support grounded in their mutuality, to uplift and admire one another (The Guardian, n.d.)
Finding alternative mediums as opposed to the mainstream as a platform, young black women are uniting as modern-day sisterhood and Tumblr feminism intended, by â€œcreating digital tools and spaces that build community and empower people to change the systemâ€? (Billboard, 2016). Throughout research three key themes reoccur; social media, creative & performing arts and real life activism are the main ways in which WOC are banding together and making their voices heard. In the following chapters each theme is explored to uncover the connecting dots of self-expression, authenticity and empowerment; illustrating why they serve as valued platforms to this community and how they are shaping activsim in 2016. 23
B L A C K
G I R L
M A G I C
U R L A C T I V I S M
Being the first generation in history to grow up in a digital world, technology and social media have shaped the identities of Gen Z and have inspired a range of political, social and cultural attitudes (Korokba, 2016). According to Youth Trend Reports 2016, 60% of this generation are wanting to have an impact on the world, using social media to advocate social change and equality. While activism is not a new concept, todayâ€™s youth are actively changing the face of it, driving social media movements for social causes and cries for justice with a click and a hashtag (WGSN, 2016 and Fenton, 2016).
74% of Generation Y and Z agree that online activism is just as important as traditional activism, and that finding less invasive ways to get their voices heard is just as effective, if not more (Korokba, 2016). They are often criticised for what some may view as a ‘slack’ approach to activism, earning the nickname ‘Slacktivists’.
In a constant debate on whether social media serves purposefully or not as a tool for activism, a crucial disadvantage is to sometimes miseducate and misinform those Slacktivists who may not thoroughly knowledge themselves on a subject. For some, “where technological know-how is present, political proficiency may be absent” (Fenton, 2016). Political messages have the tendency to become diluted by those who lack knowledge, blindly posting a hashtag (referred to as hashtag activism), caring less about the cause and are simply following a trend (Harlow, S. and Guo, L. (2014). During a brief encounter with British creative director, Harris Elliott, he shares his perspective that social media is a great way of putting messages out there, but that people still need to do background research as not necessarily everything is factual.
Regardless of the negative slant on slacktivism, (also referred to as â€˜clicktivismâ€™), the impact of social media cannot be denied. The power of the hashtag has altered the course of protest; bringing people together and forming allegiances in turbulent times.
Black Lives Matter UK
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement started with a hashtag on Twitter back in 2013 (Day, 2015), fast-forward three years and it is a global phenomenon recognised by most worldwide. Not only is this due to the multiple acts of police brutality which have happened over the last year, but perhaps it is also aligned with the growth of Instagram and the introduction
Philando Castile was broadcast live as it happened - viewed by thousands within minutes and viral across multiple platforms
that social media platforms do not have
the same restrictions as traditional media
within the hour. This emphasises the fact
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Live. Footage such as the shooting of
A C T I V I S M
of much newer platforms such as Facebook
outlets, allowing people to exercise their freedom of speech and reach thousands instantaneously.
This expanded space and increased speed opens up the potential for a much wider geographical spread of social activism than has ever been possible. Allowing for quicker response times, not only to events as they unfold around the globe, but also to organise protests and rallies which historically would take weeks to organise. This adds to a heightened political atmosphere where it is much easier for individuals to come together on a trans-national scale, whilst physically remaining local. For example, Black Lives Matter UK was a reaction to the happenings of police brutality in the U.S., and within a week of the tragedies, youth groups such as No In-Between Collective had banded together, bringing people of all ages and races to the centres of major UK cities in silent demonstrations. While the long-lasting impact can be questioned, it exemplifies the essence of global solidarity that can be formed as a result of social media activism used in the right way.
Social media has also provided a platform for brands to inform the masses collectively and without a conscious effort on their behalf. On October 12th 2016, Snapchat streamed the â€˜Muslims Against Terrorismâ€™ rally live via their Stories from Around the World feature. The event took place on Oxford Street in London, 29
but with 150 million daily global users on the platform (as of June 2016) (Statista, 2016),and 63% of those aged between 13-34 (spanning Gen Z and Millennial demographics) (Morrison, 2016), it further illustrates the far-reaching powers of social media especially amongst the youth who no longer engage with traditional outlets to such as the news to receive this information.
Fenton (2016), that politically motivated youth disengage from mainstream politics and look to spaces perceived to be free from state control. This appeals particularly to black and other ethnic minorities who feel misrepresented by the media. So when looking specifically at the Black-British female tribe, it justifies social media as a valuable platform. It provides a space for them to be creative and more in control of their identity, allowing an increased diversity of views to find expression discovered in an online world. While the general consensus is that social media isn’t enough to make a lasting impact, it’s crucial recognise as said by Isabel Venero in her video for the School of Doodle (2016), that “revolution has changed, because the world has changed”. 30
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in the book ‘Digital, Political, Radical’ by Natalie
says Gen Z activist, Rowan Davis. As it is argued
marginalised groups and giving them power,”
A C T I V I S M
“The internet is really important for taking
#I R Social media has altered the world, and as digital and offline realities continue to blur
RL it begins to serve as a great tool for raising awareness and bringing people together
[IN. REAL. LIFE]
British journalist Lucy Mangan tells Stylist magazine (2016) she feels that “social activism is a powerful force, but eventually it needs to translate into real world action”. Recognised by the early majority and highlighted amongst the groups interviewed, they agree that social media isn’t enough to make impactful societal changes, however Ashanty explains that social media activism needs to be done alongside real life activism in order to be effective – reinforcing the phygital age of now.
Demonstrating early adoption through their initiatives and actions, being active in their role as social activists both on and offline; this chapter delves into the ways young WOC are communicating messages of pride and self-empowerment to make a change IRL.
“Support your local girl gang” is a phrase popularised on social media in reference to girls supporting girls in the contemporary girl power movement. Though this chapter is about real life activism, it is consistently cross-referenced with social media as society merges online and offline worlds together.
G I R L G A N G The rise in girl-run collectives sees networks and agencies using reallife platforms to adopt a 21st-century girl power movement (Tumblr Feminism, WGSN, 2016). Inspired by the need to “create a space where WOC are celebrated” (Ashanty), “with the desire to build stronger relationships and confidence amongst [their] communities” (Mia) – a number of groups, usually consisting of friends which reinforces their peer-to-peer spirit, are coming together in creative collaboration.
An investigation across social media platforms, particularly Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr uncovers a long list of these conscious collectives. Below is a selected few, social media ‘bio’s’ play the role of a company philosophy as these groups demonstrate notions of self-brands and in some cases, i.e. Gal-dem do become successful in gaining recognition as a company.
Fig 44. @arthoecollective
Fig 45. @sxwks
Fig 46. @bbz_london
Fig 47. @noinbetweencollective
with similar interests. It is a fast and cost-efficient tool to organise these real-life events and to increase a following, which essentially
G I R L
girl gangs, as it also a good way to mobilise and connect those
Social networking plays a huge role in the self-promotion of these
G A N G
I R L
‘Black girls picnic’
In the summer of 2016, NIB took part in the organisation of ‘Black Girl Picnics’ in Birmingham and London, providing a space for WOC to exist and learn from one another (Enam). A crucial element of these collective movements is that not only do they focus on the political issues they face racially (in reference to the BLM UK demonstrations), but they also put emphasis on empowering and uplifting each other based on other factors whether it be as women, about sexuality or physical appearance (Ashanty), which increases inclusivity to the wider discussion of girl empowerment in that it is not solely about being black and that is just an element of it.
R E T U R N O F T H E Z I N E
80% of Gen Z say finding themselves creatively is important (Future Consumer 2018, WGSN, 2016). Recognising art as another outlet of free self-expression, these collectives can be deemed â€˜artivistsâ€™, also reflective of the Tumblr Feminism trend and aesthetic.
Fig 48. Gal-dem
Fig 49. Road Femme
Fig 50. OOMK
Influencing a revival of zine culture, marginalised minorities are seeking ways to find representations of themselves in the media. Historically popular amongst punk and Riot Grrrl movements, independent magazine publishing is on the increase. But as society moves away from print and into a more digital landscape, it is interesting to note this generation not only produce online versions of their zines, but in some cases also publish physical copies.
Displaying notions of inclusivity, Gal-dem Magazine is “written by women of colour for all to explore” Their team comprises of over 70 women of various ethnic backgrounds, from all walks of life (Gal-dem, 2016). Available online and in print, their aim is to reflect and represent themselves in the way that mainstream media
a collective alongside the launch of their first print issue. Issue 1 explored themes of
• OOMK magazine, which stands for One of My Kind, is a platform for Islamic women to discuss faith, identity and activism.
into their zine. Made up of a trio of Black-British creatives – they describe
themselves as “unedited, unapologetic and real (@bornnbread, 2016).
• Born ‘n’ Bread: zine-maker, DJ’s, amongst other things, are three issues
P R I N T
A N D
D I G I T A L
“gal-hood” and what it is like to grow up as a girl of colour.
M E D I A
does not. In September of this year, they celebrated their one-year anniversary as
• Based in New York City and with a more mature feel and aesthetic to their brand, HANNAH magazine is perhaps targeted at an older consumer. However, it is another example of independent magazine publishing in the black community, also illustrating globalisation, in that issues and concerns are much more widespread in this generation than previous.
R O L L
T H E
T A P E . . .
In the realm of film and digital media production:
2016 saw the release of ‘Generation Revolution’ - a feature-length documentary film showing the story of London’s black activists, those taking direct action to tackle issues of gentrification and racism. The film has been screened at film festivals around the country, followed by question and answer sessions which encourage others to get involved in the conversation. This provides a platform to discuss social issues that affect young black communities in the UK.
Highly-credited Black-British filmmaker Cecile Emeke, is contributing to the conversation with her two web series: • Ackee and Saltfish was initially a short film, then turned web series. The show captures the daily interaction between two 20-something black female friends. The style is humorous all the while highlighting real life issues such as gentrification in the UK (Gore, 2015).
• ‘#Strolling’ is a documentary-style web series “centred on blackness” (Emeke, n.d.). Each episode focuses on one individual talking to the camera in an open dialogue, covering topics ranging from feminism to the experience of being mixed-race in Britain. The platform provides a space for young POC to talk about issues they find important.
Podcasts are another way in which this tribe are seeking alternative platforms. The ShoutOut London Network is home to a diversity of podcasters, such as ‘Melanin Millennials’ (MM) – a female duo, ‘Two Fools Talking’, ‘Mostly Lit’ and more. Satia of MM says it was her awareness of the lack of diversity across the spectrum of her interests which inspired the use of this platform. She realised she could be the change she wanted to see. Nii and Patrick of the Talkin’ Plenty
Ultimately, they all share the common goal of wanting to be representative of the
Fig 51. Generation Revolution
P R I N T
A N D
D I G I T A L
black community, alternative to the mainstream.
M E D I A
podcast expressed the same views in their interview.
Fig 52. Ackee and Saltfish
Fig 53. #StrollingSeries
T H E
R E V O L U T I O N
For many years, Black history has been whitewashed out of mainstream literature, arts and media (Parker, 2016) and the stories that have been told, are generally done so from a Eurocentric perspective. It is because of this that people of colour (POC) often feel misrepresented and marginalised by society. There is the need to tell the story from their perspective, to be involved in discourse about themselves and to be acknowledged for their contributions to the world always - and not just for the duration of Black History Month.
What has been noticed in recent times, is a push for increased diversity across television and film, where channels such as The BBC, Channel 4 and the British Film Institute (BFI) have made diversity pledges to be inclusive in their representation. Perhaps such companies have been influenced off the back of the â€˜#OscarsSoWhiteâ€™ controversy at the 2016 Academy Awards. Debate was sparked online before filtering into the news after a number of celebrities chose to boycott the event due to its lack of racial diversity.
lens. From Radio 4’s ‘Black Britain’s Past’, the BFI’s ‘Black Britain on Film’ collection and to the BBC’s ‘Black and British’ season; mainstream media is evolving and recognising the necessity of first-hand representation. A conversation populated mostly by African-American narratives, it is almost revolutionary to have it from the British perspective, the only measure would be of its lasting effect. It would be interesting to see how this movement is impacting a larger society, in terms of how many non-black people will or already are engaged. With regards to race, it is generally a difficult subject to discuss as it makes people feel uncomfortable and some may feel these shows specifically do not relate to them. On the contrary, it is important to recognise that just by having the conversation
and would therefore become a less divisive marker of identity.
flowing through the mainstream, discussions of race can only get easier,
from subculture to mainstream – showing the story through a different
W I L L
A rise in black representation seems to be finally making a slow transition
T E L E V I S E D
T E L E V I S E D
R E V O L U T I O N
T H E
W I L L
Today’s youth disengage from traditional media outlets, consuming roughly 13 hours of TV a week, which is significantly less than previous generations (Kleinschmit, 2015). On the other hand, music for a long time has been a vital form of communication and identification for young people (You Say You Want a Revolution, 2016). What’s more is that it is often recognised as a universal language and has the power to reach a vast range of demographics no matter their age, colour or creed, or even their spoken language. There are particular genres of music credited to providing a platform for freedom of expression, particularly amongst subcultural movements, those include punk rock, reggae and hip hop.
In the BBC documentary ‘The Hip Hop World News’ (2016), Black-British rapper Rodney P, discusses the huge influence of hip hop music and shows how it has become a world-dominating culture. Bringing together current societal hot topics such as police brutality and feminism, he uncovers the ways in which hip hop provides a voice to the powerless and is a platform for ideas, opinions and controversy. He describes the culture as an extension of the Civil Rights Movement as its core aim was to “bring people together under the banner of collective action for social justice” – likened to the motives of the girl-run collectives detailed in the previous chapter.
Scholars, writers and journalists identify hip hop as a tool of empowerment (Isoke, 2012), as its core root is a social commentary of self-expression. Supported by Rodney P’s view that anywhere in the world young people can be found using hip hop to empower themselves and others like them – showing how truly widespread the influence of this culture can be. He suggests that “in these uncertain times, we all need to hear the message of hip hop now more than ever”.
Musicians also carry weight as social influencers, especially to a youth who are inspired by those they relate to (Savannah). As the No In-Between Collective use their Instagram page to pay tribute to a handful of their top influential women in honour of Women’s History Month, they applaud singer, songwriter, DJ, actress and activist, Solange Knowles, for being one of the most unapologetic black women of their generation. 43
F R O M
M E D I A
M U S I C
A few months later, WGSN Insider release a blog post aligned with the long anticipated release of her new visual album ‘A Seat at the Table’, which carries a strong political and social message celebrating Black Girl Magic. It explores modern black power and the multi-faceted identities of WOC, while making moves in the mainstream and contributing to the conversation on black feminism, reaching a much wider audience.
The album has been a chart success and favoured highly by critics, fans and celebrities alike, featured in articles all over the news channels from iD and Fader to The Guardian and The Independent, not to mention the reception on social media. For an album rooted in politics it has made a huge impact in contributing to the movement. Celebrities and musicians are no longer being left out of contemporary, political conversations (WGSN Insider), instead “they are often those propelling it forward and bringing once underground movements, like Black Lives Matter to the forefront.”
This chapter explored how history and current affairs in black culture are finally being acknowledged by the mainstream. In a blog post for the Gal-dem website about the rise in Black-British history, Louise Parker states that “if you take away a people’s history, you strip them of their identity” (2016). Media representation allows young women, and people of colour in general M U S I C
to reclaim their identity and therefore feel empowered. Their stories are making it to the mainstream...the revolution has finally been
F R O M
M E D I A
J U M P I N G
C O N C L U S I O N . . . Generation Z are characterised as being the digital natives, they have grown up in a post-internet world which has shaped the way communities connect and influence one another globally. This digital globalisation means that the youth is more prone to wider perspectives on the world than ever before (Walker et. al, 2015). They identify as Pluralists; the belief in the importance of diversity without restrictions. Championing causes such as transgender rights, race and gender equality – they are the new age of social activists, they want to make a change to the world characterised by turbulent times, and they are keen to find creative and collaborative ways to do so.
While feminism has been at the forefront of many discussions over the past several years, society now enters the fourth-wave - which is digitally driven, and URL activism is the engine. A feminist art movement reflecting a DIY aesthetic mirrors the landscape of today’s world, in that it is a constant merge of online and offline realities. Heavily influenced by the aesthetic of the Riot Grrrl’s, and driven by technology, this movement sees young creatives banding together in all-girl collectives, also known as ‘social media girl gangs’ - this is Tumblr feminism. Originated by key influencers such as Petra Collins and the ArtHoe Collective, early adopters of this trend have now seen it spread across multiple platforms. They are using other social networks such as Twitter and Instagram to lead a contemporary girl-power movement through visual language and communication.
Within this trend, a dominant force is erupting. For decades, young women of colour (WOC) have felt pushed to the margins of society, and in 2016 this is no different.
Recognising that the experiences of black girlhood are different to the overarching notions of feminism, WOC are taking on an artivist spirit and applying it into their context. They desire for the stories to be heard from their perspective but feel as though they are at a social disadvantage. Due to the constructs of the world - the idea that privilege is grounded in a whitesupremacist and sexist society - it leaves black women in a state of oppression...
Using social media not only to expedite political causes, WOC are also utilising it as tool of self-expression, empowerment and authenticity. #BlackGirlMagic celebrates black excellence and although is used mostly online, it is the
Revolution has changed because the world has changed. They may not be out
in the streets rallying in grand political gestures the way previous generations
embodiment of what women of colour aim to achieve in real life.
C O N C L U S I O N S
but the oppressed always find a way to celebrate.
did, this take on activism is much more about people empowerment. As there is loss of trust in society, highlighted by an anti-establishment atmosphere, the activist mind-set is now grounded in authenticity. The desire is not necessarily to change the external society, but to evoke change internally amongst themselves. Educating and empowering others is key, and they are acheiving this through a marriage of social media and art.
Gen Z are the early adopters of society, and now consistent themes are filterng into the mainstream media. The youth of today not only represent the future, they are shaping it, and if they continue to influence a culture, a change is sure to come.
R E C O M M E N D A T I O N S
• As the youth disengage from traditional media outlets, mainstream brands should look at ways to target this group via alternative platforms. Vlogs, podcasts and web series could be a more ef fective way to communicate with the millennial generation. • As this generation prefer peer-to-peer recommendation and influential celebrity figures, a careful selection should be used to increase interaction and impact amongst this demographic. In the age of Instagram, the term ‘celebrity’ does n o t l i m i t t o t h e g e n e r i c A - l i s t e r, key f i g u r e s s u c h as Petra Collins, Amandla S tenberg, to name but a f ew, i n f l u e n t i a l d r i ve r s o f t h e f e m i n i s t a r t m ove m e n t s and have t he power to resonate wit h Generation Z. • Generation Y and Z are collaborative and creative. Connecting with the youth on a more interpersonal level where they can be involved in the careful curation of multiple oppor tunities. Social events, ar tist collectives, film and media are ways in whic h mainstream brands should look to engage. • Fur ther research should be conducted to due t o l i m i t a t i o n s o f t h i s s t u d y, i . e . t h e n u m b e r a n d location of participants and the time frame for researc h. There was also a huge catalogue of brands, collectives and movements t hat couldn’t be included due to limitations.
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Appendix A: The perspectives of a younger Gen Z:
SAVA N N A H
16/10 BIRMINGHAM, UK
What do u think is most important issue happening in the world right now? The violence, terrorist attacks, the police [brutality] and the racism. Do you think that protests make a difference? It should but it doesn’t really because it’s like they don’t listen to it and then it just makes more problems because they’re thinking that, for example, the Black Lives Matter [movement], the police are like “oh they’re being violent and stuff” when they protest because of what they’re doing, so it goes back and forward. You don’t have social media, but are you familiar with hashtags such as ‘#blacklivesmatter, #prayforparis’, etc? Yeah. I’ve seen them from my friends at school and stuff. Do you think they actually are useful as a tool for protest…does it make a change to what happens in the world or not? A bit of both…a lot of things people use emojis and hashtags and it spreads it, but it doesn’t just spread it, it makes younger people engage in it and make them think about it more as well because a lot of younger people have got social media…and then like, things like twitter people retweet things like that and especially if celebrities say it, it makes the kids and all the other people that support that celebrity and look up to that celebrity think “oh yeah this is something that is important that I should be doing” and then they follow that. Do celebrities have a big influence on what people choose to support? Yeah. Yesterday I was watching a video and it was like spoken word poetry, a man was doing it about civil rights and things like how black, especially girls, they do things to make themselves more white and then the white people do things to make them more black, and they should just be happy being beautiful as they are, as black people…People are how they are for a reason. So why do you think it’s important that people are happy to be who they are? Because being who you are is what makes you unique and what makes you special; what makes you, you. And celebrities sometimes show that through music - Be happy as you are. Do you think music could help in spreading a message as well? Yeah, because some artists when they like make a song they make it from their point of view. But do you think that it’s just you at your age and young people in general…or is it it a range of people that are influenced by music? Lots of people because movies will be aimed at certain age groups, but with music it spreads everywhere and is for anybody. xiii
I was watching another spoken word poem called ‘I am Not Black, and You are Not White’ and it’s basically saying we’re all equal. Like…does it matter what colour your skin is? Because it’s just a label, being black doesn’t define who you are, it’s just a label…the colour of your skin or your religion or your race doesn’t define who you are or what you are. Aren’t all those things that make up a person’s identity are important? Well it depends on what way people think about it because if somebody’s thinking of it. A lot of people say ‘all Muslims are terrorists’, but that’s not true. including race and religion, what do you personally think about other things that make up identity…like gender or sexual preference…do you think those things are important? No because it’s their lifestyle why is it any of your business if someone wants to live this way. if I want to live as me, don’t judge me because I haven’t judged you for who you are. Where did you find that video you were watching? Is that something of your own interest that you went out and found? I went and searched on YouTube, and I typed in spoken word poetry, that was the first one I did and there was a really interesting one about race and religion.
It was because it’s black history month and for a long time it was like ‘black people don’t deserve this’…and it was just really interesting and inspiring to see people spending their time to inform others about it. Do you think that use of spoken word is a good way to get the message across? I didn’t know what spoken word was, I’d never heard of it before but I found it on Youtube Youtube is good because people make songs, raps, poems and they put it on there to show their experiences and to show don’t be scared to come out as who you are and be who you are. Is YouTube is something that you use often to watch these types of videos? Yeah. Is that popular amongst people of your age group? Do your friends use it? Yeah, I have a group chat and whenever I’ve watched a video that’s inspiring or that I think is important […] I will post it to the group and share with my friends. You mention a lot about race, and you’re a young black girl, but a lot of your friends come from various backgrounds…do you feel like you and your friends share the same values and find the same things important. Or is it just you as a ‘black’ girl that feels passionate about racial inequality in society? We always ask questions about another person’s religion and their beliefs […] because you might say something to your friend and not know its offensive. It’s good to understand it so you can see how you’re similar in other ways. Earlier you said something about music being universal to everyone and that’s why it’s a good tool to get the message across. I’d like to know who influences you; singers, artists, poets, anyone…actors. Who really influences you and why? James Arthur…I saw a video and he’s saying he got let go of his record deal because of his anxiety. Artists use their experiences and things that have happened to them and they put it into their music or their poetry or their books to make it more emotional and more important and it helps to get the message across. They’ve actually been through it, makes the message more emotional.
A P P E N D I X
What is it about that you are interested in watching it, what were your motivations behind searching for spoken word and secondly, the choice of topic?
How does it influence you and your behaviour? I think it helps give other people more respect because you know about what other people go through. Why is respect important to you and in terms of the world? Respect is important because if you’re respectful to somebody then they’d be respectful back to you and respect is something that reflects. Why do you think there is all this stuff happening in the world? Because some people don’t have respect for other people’s race or religion or gender. Do you think young people participating in protests has an impact? Yeah because if people see more young people… kids to pre-teens to teenagers, all the way up to elderly people…the more that get involved the better. Especially if they see younger people, it’s showing that if they see it’s something important then it might make people think about it more like, ‘younger people know this is important, so I should know that this is important as well’ So you think young people have a big influence on the wider population? Yeah. Is it important to you to see global change? Yes. And if you could choose anything, what would you want to change the most in the world? Equal rights between everything from gender to race to religion to sexuality to everything because if everyone joins together, everybody is equal. It’s important for people to come together because for example, if there’s one group of people and then another and they’re trying to change the environment it would be hard. Imagine trying to build a bridge with two groups; one might start over here and another group might start over there. The bridge wouldn’t meet because it would end up going past each other…if you working together it would make life so much easier. What do you do to contribute? Support people, not judge them for what their preferences are, but for who they are. Do you think it’s important to share these values amongst your peers? Yeah…somebody shouldn’t have to be judged because of the colour of their skin or because of their religion. Out of the top social media channels, for example Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube… which do you think is the most useful as a tool to spread messages on awareness and equality? I think Instagram and YouTube…because you can post pictures, you can post a quote, a video about an issue and back it up. Not necessarily in regards to what people post…which do you think gives the most information, spreads the news, or highlights key topics? I think Instagram.
Appendix B: An interview with No In-Between Collective:
19/11 BIRMINGHAM, UK
What is No In-between Collective? Mia: We are a group of socially conscious women of colour aiming to create a platform to celebrate and amplify the work of others like ourselves What inspired you to create this platform? Enam: The ideas came from discussions we had about being a small representation of individuals who relate to feeling marginalised by social constructs and even then there are borders and boundaries to trying to fit in…or being a part of those stereotypes and labels
Ashanty: We felt that it was necessary to create a space where women of colour are celebrated given the societal injustices we face Enam: There was a little part of us which wanted to be inclusive of most women of culture. But we all 100% felt that it was important to be at the care and attention of black women Ashanty: Also we wanted to bring women of colour together from all different backgrounds and groups to build stronger connections As a black woman I understand what is meant, but for the sake of those who don’t do you believe they see us as playing “victims” Enam: I think some feel entitled and desperate to fit into every type of “cultural group” to “co-exist”, that they feel that when we try to explain why it’s not that easy, then it seems that we are being sensitive Ashanty: As a whole, society does not value black women nor validate our genuine experiences. Given we live in a white supremacist, sexist society it is not surprising that the moment we speak out against such injustices towards us we will be seen as self-victimizing Enam: Another point is that aren’t we allowed to express feeling like victims? Ashanty: Us speaking out about our experiences challenges their preconceived notions which often times comes across as a threat and therefore black women will be undermined by calling us such things Do you think it’s important to acknowledge a difference between womanism and feminism? Ashanty: See I have different perspectives on this… Enam: 100%...The movement of feminist isn’t and wasn’t from the beginning fair in its entirety for black women as some writers have pointed out...even more so in the way black women are treated and seen in terms of jobs, sexuality and other social functions
A P P E N D I X
ASHANTY, ENAM & MIA
Mia: Also we have a desire to build stronger relationships and confidence amongst our communities and with other women like us
Mia: Absolutely there is need to acknowledge the difference! Often people see this as an act of division but to me, respecting and acknowledging our differences as women can only make the solidarity stronger…But I can also see a point in acknowledging these differences of experience without having to make an entirely separate movement. I personally see the two as an extension of one another but I know there are others who refuse to cross-engage Ashanty: I don’t necessarily think that feminism, as an ideology, means equality of the sexes. I mean there’s various different interpretations and I think we can acknowledge black women under the banner of “feminism”. I’m not talking necessarily about the way feminism has been implemented per say, but more so about the word itself and the way it can be interpreted Enam: I feel like there doesn’t have to be one specific movement when it comes to culture and especially the involvement or representation of cultural issues when it comes to ethnicity Ashanty: I think you can acknowledge the difference however I would say that feminism has different interpretations than just equality of the sexes if I’m making sense Enam: Yeah you are and I do agree with the wording In a recent interview, British-American novelist Bonnie Greer spoke about the Civil Rights Movement of her generation being a failure based on what is happening in this generation with police brutality. In light of Black Lives Matter she said she thinks “millennials are gonna save us”, do you agree with this statement? Ashanty: By what standards does she mean it was a failure? I wouldn’t go as far as to coin the whole Civil Rights Movement as a failure. I think the fact it stood up against injustice towards black people as a whole was impressive. I’d say it failed by focusing on integration into white society and not on black empowerment and self-sustainability i.e. food, shelter, healthcare, also economic empowerment I understood it in terms of the fact history is almost repeating itself. It came across in a more optimistic light, in the sense that the millennial generation can be the change... Ashanty: I was very optimistic about Black Lives Matter (BLM) when it initially came out. I admired its accessibility, decentralised style of organising and the fact it made waves across the world. However, I feel like it has been ineffective as a movement in regards to empowering black communities as it focuses mainly on protests only when we get killed. I think if we are to move forward, BLM needs to be rooted in the community, meaning focuses on other things such as providing food, shelter simultaneously whilst challenging police brutality towards blacks. Just like the Panthers did Enam: From what I’ve read about it and talked about, how Ashanty worded it is close to my beliefs…I think millennials also get confused with the purpose of each movement...The idea of doing the research and not just running off what social media says Ashanty: If BLM only focus on protests and just that then we aren’t going to get anywhere How do you view social media as tool for social activism? Enam: Because social media is the main form of communication and has been for a while now, it makes sense that it houses conversations about current affairs Ashanty: Although it is debatable, the extent to which social media played a role in the Arab spring for example, it undoubtedly made a huge impact on bringing more attention to the uprisings. Likewise, social media has played a such a huge role in connecting black people, particularly black Women creatives and in many ways empowering us. I think social media is a good way to mobilize people, connect with people with similar interests and to chat ideas. It’s also a fast, cost efficient space too especially when organising events and trying to get as much people as possible. However, I feel like activism on social media needs to be done alongside activism in real life to be effective. Social media only reaches a certain group of people. And even with reaching out to black women online, we end up missing out certain types of black women who are not in some social media spaces. Also I find social activism online to be a bit voyeuristic like we are waiting for another vid of a black body being killed or someone saying something problematic. So I don’t know…
It’s definitely worth noting the rise in black female creatives, especially using social media as a platform Enam: It’s overwhelmingly shocking surprising and beautiful to see how many people have similar stories and lifestyles to me and I can tell them how I feel Ashanty: Yeah I agree it’s nice to see that there’s so many different types of black Women too, and it makes you feel like you’re not alone with curtain struggles you face Could expand on real life activism a bit...other than just protest, what are ways in which WOC are connecting in real life? Ashanty: I’d say by social meetups, hosting events, etc Enam: This summer we took part in the organisation of black girls picnics. It was different for UK WOC but it was what truly works for providing a safe enough space for WOC to just exist and learn from one another Ashanty: One thing I like about our movement and many others is that we focus not only on the issues we face but on empowering, uplifting each other which is so important for our mental health. For example, we helped organize black girls picnic whose focus was to celebrate black womanhood Enam: I’ve made a lot of new friends from it and it’s only been one summer… so imagine the promotion of this worldwide like we had and having it more often
Enam: I know it sounds so cheesy but my Mother… like even recently she inspired me. The place I am in my life I can’t help but to be inspired by my mother because I see how I’m growing and adopting her mannerisms more and more in term of mentality mostly which I’ve always prayed to acquire Ashanty: See I really love Bell Hooks because her books have transformed a lot of my preconceived notions. I know a lot of people don’t like her now, but she’s everything to me! Actually, she’s 5 on my list. I get inspired by everyday people, the people you don’t necessary hear about on social media or are popular, because they remind me of myself. I’m talking about people who didn’t have the best start in life but continue trying anyways Mia: I would look to the young women contributing to building Birmingham’s creative and social justice scene…People like Aaliyah Haisnah who are working to make something of the city, rather than take the easy way out by coming to London like I did! I think it’s people like this who have an impact on the ground and in our communities who will in the long run create something sustainable. Lastly, what to you is the definition of Black Girl Magic? Mia: The definition of Black Girl Magic to me is very fluid, anything that makes a black girl feel proud about herself is magic in a world that shames all you are. If a girl gets her degree, that’s magic, but so is perfecting that winged eyeliner! Ashanty: Black girl magic equals black girls, of all variations, backgrounds and interests navigating their way through society, despite the many challenges we face…What Mia said too! Enam: Yasssss that’s what I would define too! Love the definitions Any last words? Ashanty: I think it’s so important that we have black women like you writing about other black Women’s experiences and work! It’s necessary and big up yourself! (I know that can’t go in your disso but still) I’m so putting that in! Enam: Let’s always try and support, love and care Mia: I’m not good with last words so I’ll just say thank you for doing the work that is missing from academia xvii
A P P E N D I X
If you could all pick ONE person, famous or not famous...Who inspires you the most?
Appendix C: The male perspective to a feminist discussion:
TA LK I N ’
P L E N T Y DATE LOCATION
20/11 LONDON, UK
Why did you start Talkin’ Plenty…what is your aim? Pat: It started because myself, Kwame and Nii have a WhatsApp group chat and it’s pretty fiery. We’ve all got different points of opinion, we’re all from different parts of the country, we kinda clash a lot so I just thought why not make this a real thing and just put it on record
ck w i t h N i i & p at r i
So all Talkin’ Plenty is our WhatsApp conversations recorded…but in terms of why we started it…I listen to quite a lot of podcasts, so I thought why could we not have something like that here in the UK, from our perspective. We’ve all got strong opinions, especially Kwame, so why not share that to the masses
Who would you say your target audience is? Nii: I’d say we haven’t tried to target an audience, it’s more just the people who, when I posted my initial Snapchat that we were doing this, we got a following from that and I feel like it ended up being a lot of black and mixed-race, British people. But then we’ve also got a lot of followers from the USA - I’d say a quarter of our followers aren’t from the UK and some of them are black, some white, some Hispanic. But in the UK a lot are black and mixed-race and I feel like that is just a factor of the content we like to talk about…We are black-British boys so that’s just natural…it’s not like we’re targeting the podcast at black people, it’s just that we feel like they relate more maybe to what we’re talking about. But we’ve got a lot of listeners who are white as well, and they seem to be enjoying it Pat: And also anyone from the millennial generation to be honest. A lot of stuff we talk about, a lot of people our age, people from sort of 18 to even 30 can relate to a lot of the stuff we talk about; whether it’s culture, fashion, music. So that’s really the kind of audience we’re looking for and anyone who listens to podcasts as well, because with podcasts a lot of them are an hour, an hour and a half, two hours long…not everybody’s gonna take the time out to listen to that…so anyone who’s in that kind of community, who listens to podcasts and is part of something they do on their day-to-day basis, that’s part of audience as well In a recent interview, British-American novelist Bonnie Greer spoke about the Civil Rights Movement of her generation being a failure based on what is happening in this generation with police brutality. In light of Black Lives Matter she said she thinks “millennials are gonna save us”, do you agree with this statement? Nii: In the light of the past two weeks and Trump becoming president, I feel like that is quite a controversial statement because millennials certainly did not save America! Pat: In a way I agree with Bonnie…Bernie sanders was saying that the millennial generation are the most progressive. After each generation, people become more progressive, so like what might’ve seemed… for example my dad’s generation, he’s not gonna understand something like transgender, but that’s not something that was “a thing”, but nowadays its becoming normalised so I feel that the more generations keep going, we become more progressive xviii
It’s interesting you say that because my research initially stemmed from the fact that millennials are striving to live in a free-to-be-me society and we’re are accepting of all different types of people Nii: So let me just clarify…I think millennials definitely have the potential to save us. We’re living in an age where there’s so many platforms that allow you to have a voice like social media platforms especially, and obviously as a generation we can use these new outlets to voice all the important things that are problems with the world and try and address them. But the problem is that I feel like there are also issues with our generation - we have really short attention spans, we’re probably not as politically active as we should be. It’s kind of hard to not blame millennials for being disheartened and not really trusting institutions and we’ve seen the generation before us kind of fucked up so it’s like everyone’s just sort of like “ugh, why should I bother?” And thats what we’ve seen in America. I’ve spoken to a few people who just refuse to vote and the general consensus is “Why bother? Nothing is gonna change, it’s still gonna be an establishment society where there’s gonna be brick walls in front of you, that are gonna be really hard to knock down. So why should I try?” Personally, I think that attitude is wrong, because everyone together as a collective then that’s when the real power for change is. I don’t see many of those movements. Black Lives Matter is obviously a good one, but how many real collective movements have we seen from the millennial generation? Pat: Black Lives Matter is something that stands out at the minute Nii: In the age of Instagram where everyone wants to be self-famous and there is so much focus on individualism and egotism, it’s kinda hard for me to envisage a real collective millennial movement really changing anything.
Pat: Straight, white, male Nii: Essentially straight, white male is the top of society. Black lesbian female is the bottom of society and then there’s stuff in-between. But essentially black is a negative, woman is a negative, white is a positive and straight is positive. I’m a big believer in equality of opportunity and that everyone should have the exact same opportunities or have the potential to have the exact same opportunities. There should be no barriers in front of anyone whether it be race, sex or religion…so I do think we should do our absolute upmost to elevate anyone who’s being discriminated against; and like we said, black women are discriminated against, more so than white women so maybe that house needs extra hosing” Back to social media, do you think it’s important that we’re seeing the black girl collective on the rise? Pat: I fully support it, it’s definitely necessary. I feel that if you’re neglected in society, you’re definitely gonna need a collective where you can all come together and you can share your experiences, and try and promote the positive things that come from your culture as well. So people who are neglecting you, can actually see they’ve actually got a lot to offer in society; there’s more to them than what black women are stereotyped as. I’m interested in the male perspective of Black Girl Magic… Nii: Black Girl Magic to me is everything that is good about black girls, and there is plenty of good things about black girls that is not related to them being sexualized. Some of the people in my circle who are doing the absolute best thing are black girls and I figure that without hashtags and collectives these people would be falling under the radar more so than perhaps if they were white men doing the exact same thing. So I’m a big fan of Black Girl Magic. Pat: To me it’s a movement showing that we are capable of “doing bits”. I’d say Michelle Obama is the embodiment of Black Girl Magic to me personally What do you think the qualities of Black Girl Magic are? Pat: I wouldn’t say there’s a checklist, I wouldn’t say you have to conform to this and this…all black girl magic is celebrating black excellence from the black female perspective. The American gymnast, Gabby Douglas – that’s Black Girl Magic. Michelle Obama, she’s a lawyer and the First Lady. It’s different but still comes under the same category xix
A P P E N D I X
Nii: I’ll give Kwame a shout out for this ‘cos he came up with a sort of ranking system and he basically said that in society theres three things that put you above anyone else, number 1 is being straight, number 2 is being…
digital version available online at: issuu.com/SimiahBailey