Liv Little on feminism, racial stereotypes and founding gal-dem: an online magazine by and for women of colour

DTL: What made you want to set gal-dem up?

Liv: I just finished university, like last week. I was at the University of Bristol studying Politics and Sociology and it was during my second year there, that I became exasperated with the lack of diversity. I also started to get frustrated with the singular perspective so present in academia. I have always been interested in social issues and intersectional feminism, and although I didn’t have any experience in the field, journalism. The media has a tendency to bypass or homogenise the narratives of women of colour; I wanted to set up a space that allowed us to reclaim our voice, whilst reminding readers that our views, opinions, experiences and interests are extremely wide ranging.

DTL: How do you think women of colour are currently represented in the media? What needs to change?

Liv: I think there are so few of us actually represented via mainstream channels, be it in music/tv/film/fashion –  and such a lack of depth to the characters that are visible – like, black girls in ‘urban’ dramas who are portrayed as ‘ghetto’ and hyper-sexualised – gal-dem strives to counter these stereotypes. There needs to be more women of colour working in the creative industries, to promote and represent the diverse body of voices out there.

“I think there are so few of us actually represented via mainstream channels, be it in music/tv/film/fashion –  and such a lack of depth to the characters that are visible”

 

DTL: What have been the reactions to gal-dem so far?

Liv: Reactions to gal-dem have been overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people have been reaching out to us and saying how amazing it is that a platform like this exists. Having young, women of colour reach out to us and express how much our work resonates with them is an incredible feeling, but it’s not just women of colour that are showing appreciation for the magazine. I think people really appreciate the quality of the content, and the fact we are trying to cover nuanced perspectives. Although we naturally often cover issues regarding feminism and race, our writers are in no way limited to this remit.

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Of course, there have been a few times where people disagree with what has been written in an article, but I don’t think that is a negative thing, that is just the nature of discussion. It’s good to open dialogue around these subjects. We haven’t experienced much in the way of trolling – there have been a few racist comments – but really, it pales in comparison to the positive feedback we have received. I think, in the main, people are leaving behind preconceived ideas of what a woman of colour should ‘be’ like. Obviously, there is still much that needs to change, but society has come a long way in tackling the forms of aggression or racism that our mothers and grandmothers would have experienced. Our generation have to deal more with micro-aggressions, which are smaller, much harder to pinpoint, and can be harder to articulate.

DTL: Do you have any advice for readers, especially for young people from minority groups, who feel as though their voice is not being heard?

Liv: I advise looking for online spaces and networks that you can relate to, or take it is an opportunity to set up your own online platform. The chances are, if you feel like something is missing, or there is a gap in the market, there probably is. If you want help or advice just reach out – what’s the worst that can happen? More often than not people will be willing to help if they can. Share your ideas and artwork – pitch them to gal-dem!

 

www.gal-dem.com

Categories
Gender Quiz

How Sexist Are You? [QUIZ]

How Sexist Are You?

Gender equality is – and quite rightly so – a topic of fierce debate at the moment. At Ditch the Label, we believe that everybody should be a feminist. You might consider yourself completely free from all underlying sexist attitudes, but are you harbouring sexist opinions or beliefs without even realising it? Take our short quiz to find out…

Meet the GRL PWR Gang, a collective of girls set for world domination.

We interviewed Artist/Designer Elizabeth Ilsley, Photographer/Director Millicent Hailes and Marketing Consultant Jessica Riches; just three members of GRL PWR Gang, a collective of influential women who have joined forces to promote female empowerment and support other women working in creative industries. 

Founded by Kirsti Hadley and Kylie Griffiths, the GRL PWR Gang works together to provide opportunities for like-minded women to come together for girl-chat, media networking, creative support, team projects and sharing of ideas.

Their objective is to encourage and inspire other young women to access the creative industries as a potential career path, and plan to pass on their collective knowledge to the next generation of young girls via digital engagement and live events. They will soon host talks and mentor young girls on body image, beauty, feminism, social media and how to access that dream job!

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DTL: Our research revealed that 35% of teenage girls believe that their gender will have a negative effect on their career. What are your thoughts on this, based on your experiences?

  • Jessica: It’s true. But if you’re prepared for that, you can be aware of it. Call it out when you see it, know your rights, educate yourself and join any organisations or unions available to you for extra support.
  • Millicent: It’s really sad. There have been shoots in the past where I have been mistaken for the assistant, and my male assistant is assumed to be the photographer, just because he’s an older guy. This has happened before we’ve even set up or spoken to anyone, so it really is based purely on gender, and who is perceived to be the most ‘capable’ or ‘powerful’. It frustrates me, but ignorance isn’t going to keep me from furthering my career.

DTL: Did you ever experience bullying? If so can you tell us what happened and how you dealt with it?

  • Elizabeth: Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I experienced bullying throughout primary and secondary school. I had ginger hair and have a prominent mole next to my mouth, so kids used to tease me constantly about my appearance. I was in such turmoil during that time; I tried to cut my mole off with a razor when I was in Year 8, after a group of boys wouldn’t stop calling me ‘moley’! But my god, I am so glad I never had it removed – having a noticeable mole on my face makes me unique, and it has become one of my favourite features now!
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Elizabeth Ilsley
  • Millicent: One of the many times I was suspended at school, was for not intervening in a situation when I was aware that a girl was being bullied. Maybe the teachers thought that, because I was outspoken and confident, I should have stepped in and helped the girl. My mum always tells that story to my little brother and sister who are just starting secondary school – the tale of when their older sister was a coward. I still feel really awful about it now.
  • Jessica: All you have to do is go online to see the disgusting abuse directed at people – particularly women, LGBT+ people and ethnic minorities. I work with a number of bloggers, journalists and celebrities on their personal profiles online, and it makes them want to give up their platform. All you can do is tell them to focus on the people who are positively impacted by their words; they far outweigh the cowardly, unhappy few.

DTL: What advice would you give to someone who may be experiencing bullying right now?

  • Millicent: Tell somebody right away – a problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t isolate yourself, situations seem worse when you feel alone, there are people out there who are going through the same thing as you. More than you think.
  • Jessica: You are not alone. If you can’t get a support network in real life it will definitely exist online – Ditch the Label is a great example of this. You can visit their website and access support at the click of a button if you need to.

DTL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?

  • Elizabeth: You are not ugly. You are as funny and important as everyone else at school. There is no one else like you and life will get really, really fun as soon as you turn 18. Also, stop worrying about the colour of your hair and the socks that you wear.
  • Millicent: Embrace who you are. Wear weird clothes, watch weird movies. You’re great and don’t give a s*&% if someone says otherwise.
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Millicent Hailes

DTL: What are your most prominent challenges, and how do you overcome them?

  • Jessica: Being taken seriously as a young woman in business is hard. So many people have said to me ‘you’ve done so much for a girl so young’. They’d never say anything like that if I was a man.

DTL: What is it like to be a woman in 2016 and what needs to change?

  • Jessica: I have a very specific experience of being a woman in 2016, as a straight, white, cis-gendered woman with a degree and a middle-class background. I deal with sexist comments disguised as compliments, and have probably lost out on some income as a result of this – but I’m one of the lucky ones. There are lots of mainstream movements to make life better for women in 2016, but the majority of movements still need to broaden, listen to, and represent the needs of all women, not just those like me.
  • Millicent: Even in 2016 it’s important to remember how far we’ve come together, and how far we still have to go for gender equality and women’s rights.
  • Elizabeth: I want to keep this positive so, to be a woman in 2016 is…fun! Not in every aspect, of course, but in the main, it is incredibly fun! We are free to express ourselves, and there are opportunities out there for us – you just gotta find them.
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Jessica Riches

DTL: Is there anything you would like to add?

  • Millicent: I’m always available to speak to anybody that needs my help or advice. I might not be as good as Ditch The Label, but I’m still here!
  • Elizabeth: Enjoy being a woman – it’s a blessing, but don’t hate on men. Men are a blessing too!

Learn more about GRL PWR Gang here: Girls Girls Girls

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Read our full Gender Report here: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/gender-report-2016/

Whether you are being bullied, or you are aware of someone who is, Ditch the Label is here to help: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/get-help/