A week or so ago, I caught sight of a post under the Sewcialists banner on diversity, which really got me thinking, the post written by @sewnbrooklyn tackled the subject of the lack of diversity in sewing publications. I was still mulling it over when @thelittlepomegranate upped the ante when she shared her post and hashtag #sewincolour. A day later this was joined by #POCWhoSews from @candiceayala.
Why is it important to me? Well, I see myself as a normal (ish) human going about the business of life with dreams, ambitions and aspirations just like everyone else. The only thing is that is seems that much of the world does not seem to see me in that big picture.
I’ve got so used to being ‘The first…’, The only….’in both my work and social scene, that, I’m ashamed to say it had become background – normal even. These posts and blogs have made me think deeply about this.
So far my interactions with the sewing community have been limited to wonderful online encounters and we are a remarkably civilised bunch! The online community seems to have much more up to date awareness than the online and print media. However, the issue raised does seem to be a microcosm projecting the situation across the hobbysphere.
What impact does it have? In other spheres there have been a few times when people have reacted somewhere on a spectrum of surprise-discomfort-hostility to see someone like me having the audacity to try to share ‘their’ hobbies. I’m not going to reel off a litany of racist microagressions, but a couple that stick in my head include the bloke at a beer festival nodding towards me and muttering (loudly) to his companion “What’s she doing here?” (other shades of women were also available) and my sister told me of her experience in a travel agents’ with two women, one of whom asked her friend “What’s she looking at those holidays for?” They honestly seemed to think that we shouldn’t have leisure! I believe these are attitudes are fuelled by the lack of representation in a wide range of media.
Representation matters because if you are not represented and you don’t see anyone like you doing X, Y or Z it’s easy to feel like you are not meant to be doing X, Y or Z and you are less likely to aspire to X, Y or Z. Nobody else expects you to do X, Y or Z and therefore nobody encourages you or helps you to do X, Y or Z.
Why is representation important if you aren’t Black or from another minority group? Well if you are one of the represented, that’s all you ever see. You are unaware of the diverse groups of people doing X, Y or Z. You don’t expect to see those people doing X, Y or Z and rather than seeing that there are barriers to entry for some groups, you might even end up assuming “those (insert minority group)” people don’t do X, Y or Z. As you don’t see it, you don’t see the need to change it and the status quo persists.
I’m really happy that the Sewcialists blog has highlighted the big multi-faceted issues of diversity in our sewing community and hope this spotlight on ethnicity is the beginning of something, not just soundbites for a few glorious moments while a viral hashtag does its rounds.
Things are changing, creakingly slowly, but they are; mainstream advertising here (UK) seems to be taking steps to reflect more of our whole population, I’m aware of many more people of colour in TV and poster ads. Lets hope this will trickle through to the sewing world at a quicker pace than it is currently.
Representation is important because Black people have routinely been omitted from mainstream history and imagery and we are all too often portrayed through negative images and scenarios and too many people find it really hard to imagine that we are more than mug shots, or malnourished figures in far way ‘shitholes’. This means we are always something ‘other’. It’s hard for them to imagine that there are millions of us going about or lives being normal (ish), working hard, being mildly (or even wildly) successful and having ambitions, dreams, aspirations, oh, and hobbies like anybody else.
This weekend’s events have left me emotional but hopeful.x