Straddling the Line Between Party and Protest

Straddling the Line Between Party and Protest

Diversity & Inclusion

Straddling the Line Between Party and Protest
pride wrist band
14th July 2020

 

On Friday 26th June, STAND had the privilege of taking part a webinar joined by Evgeny Shtorn, Russian LGBTQ+ and direct provision activist, scholar and poet, and Rayann, community organiser, advocate for black queer folk in Ireland and poet. Both agreed that while Pride had accomplished so much, with so many reasons to celebrate, Pride was and still is, first and foremost, a protest.

Although Pride started as a protest, led by mostly black trans women and lesbians; the most visible activism of Pride in the past rested with “privileged, New York, gay cis white men” according to Shtorn, an issue which did not go unnoticed by Angela Davis – she claimed that feminism became white feminism, while the LGBTQ+ movement became fronted by white men.

Even today, Pride is very much still white-washed and run by corporations, resulting in a lack of reflection of many of the community. “Having one or two token gay people at every panel isn’t enough”. Rayann noted that there is a huge amount to combat regarding privilege, race, class and able-bodiedness: “[Pride] has become a corporate party proving that they are inclusive, while the [large intersections of the community] feel disheartened and quite invisible from the movement, but in a social lens, very ostracised and alienated”.

Rayann centred on the black LGBTQ+ intersection, quoting Marsha P. Stewart’s famous line “No Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us”. They noted that intersections of oppression come extremely close when it comes to black trans folk; as a result of misogyny, race and so on. They are constantly questioning their placement on this world, and are put in a lot of danger – which, according to Rayann, is reflected in the current Black Lives Matter movement, as the lives of black trans folk are often pushed to the side.

Shtorn focused on the LGBTQ+ movement and Direct Provision. At his first real Pride in Dublin in 2017, he joined a small DP column in the parade which resulted in them being the  last group to walk. Surely this is a reflection of how DP residents are treated in Ireland. When people arrive in this country and find themselves placed in DP, they know nobody in the country they often cannot speak the language; and have no one to ask for help. Some of these people are lacking very basic needs. Then, as Shtorn explained, if these people were revealed to be LGBTQ+, they could be left completely isolated and without support – ignored, excluded and even abused. Subtle bullying among other residents of DP can be a problem – although not tangible, as Shtorn clarified, it could have very bad consequences on mental health.

A growing problem is gender-based violence, especially for female subjects who are hosted in a mixed environment and are often in close contact with males expressing sexual interest in them – there is almost no way to control it. A solution to all this for LGBTQ+ folk in DP to be able to go to events, to community centres, to meet people. Due to a lack of transport options, people in the asylum process in rural areas do not have the luxury of simply going to Dublin as many Irish citizens can.

“Not only are LGBTQ+ people often more vulnerable in the Direct Provision system, but Evgeny also highlighted their heightened vulnerability throughout every facet of society”

In terms of allyship to the LGBTQ+ community, both speakers focussed on how when campaigning for wider political or human rights issues, we must always be aware of how different issues and identities intersect. Not only are LGBTQ+ people often more vulnerable in the Direct Provision system, but Evgeny also highlighted their heightened vulnerability throughout every facet of society. He highlighted the fact that in terms of issues such as domestic violence, bullying or isolation; we must be aware of the intersections of vulnerability for those who are victims of homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny. He also reminded us of the fact that the law is not always equatable with people’s lived experiences; in his native Russia, although on the surface they appear to have robust hate crime legislation, in reality it is completely ineffective, and often works against the victims of the crime. It is important to remember that while we have enjoyed access to equal marriage in Ireland since 2015, that does not mean that homophobia no longer exists in Irish society or that we can become complacent.

Rayann also addressed the compounding of issues such as housing and homelessness, which affect so many in our society, but disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ people and particularly Black queer youth. They highlighted the fact that lack of access to affordable housing can lead to many LGBTQ+ people either forced into insecure housing, or forced to live with an unsupportive family, often remaining closeted for fear of being kicked out of their home. Rayann focussed on the issues of who is uplifted in society and who is trodden upon; often it is white, cis people at the forefront of Pride parades and campaigns, but it is Black trans people who shoulder the burdens of financially insecurity, violence and exclusion.

In this current moment, when Black Lives Matter protests are taking place across the globe, Rayann encouraged us to reflect on whose voices are amplified during Pride. Trans people of colour are disproportionately affected by discrimination and violence, but their voices are often the quietest in the movement. Who gets to party whilst others are still protesting??

 

 

Featured photo by Eduardo Pastor

 

Cultural appropriation and misappropriation, why is it important and what does it mean?

Cultural appropriation and misappropriation, why is it important and what does it mean?

Diversity & Inclusion

Cultural appropriation and misappropriation, why is it important and what does it mean?

 

Picture of a kimono

11th July 2020

 

Ariana Grande, as well as many other celebrities, are finding themselves under fire due to cultural appropriation. But what does this mean? Cultural appropriation is adopting a certain element of another culture. The reason it is so controversial is due to people being disrespectful in the way they go about this process. 

To get a wider perspective on the issue, I had decided to speak with my African-Irish friend Bongani who had recently encountered a possible case of cultural misappropriation in Galway. “I was walking down Shop Street one night, and I saw these women who were obviously having a hen party. They were wearing these Kimono’s which looked legit, they probably got them online, but still, they looked good. It seemed out of place. The Kimono is a traditional dress which Japanese people wear for special occasions such as festivals related to religion or celebrations of some sort. But like, we know what goes on hen parties and it just didn’t seem right to wear such a traditional piece on a night out especially since that is not the purpose of the piece”. 

“Most people who carry out cultural misappropriation don’t understand what cultural appropriation is”, which could be related to certain celebrities who get themselves in trouble. For example, Ariana Grande is being accused of this trend due to often making herself look darker than her natural skin tone, as well as her manner of speech and dress. This does not mean that she is doing this on purpose to offend people, but she is not honest with her audience.

 

 

“Most people who carry out cultural misappropriation don’t understand what cultural appropriation is”

Many clothing brands sell traditional colourful shirts as festival clothes, which also sparks this trend. “Online and in shops they sell anything that is ethnic and different automatically as festival clothes. Anything alternative means “that’s my fit for the night”. It can be quite disrespectful to some people just recognising your tradition as a festival thing without knowing what it is and what it stands for. That can be quite frustrating.”

Many people seem to glamorise themselves by coming out at 15% related to an ethnic group only when it has become trendy to be a part of that ethnic group. Most cultural misappropriation happens in the entertainment industry which is unacceptable. Entertainment businesses should be aware that they are also forms of education and information and if they use their power to influence others in a negative light without acknowledging that, their actions could cause a domino effect.

“When you are a celebrity you have to be self-aware, especially when it comes to your identity. You can get a lot of backlash for things like that. Especially when white rappers start using the N-word… Society functions differently so you always have to be careful with what you say,” says Bongani relating to mainstream celebrities.

I hope after reading this article you feel like you understand what cultural appropriation is and how to avoid cultural misappropriation. We have to be respectful of each other’s backgrounds and be supportive! Being self-aware and informed goes a long way.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by mochigome

 

 

 

A Disability Inclusive Response to Covid-19

A Disability Inclusive Response to Covid-19

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

A Disability-Inclusive Response to Covid-19

Elizabeth Quinn

26th June 2020

 

Persons with disabilities have been one of the most affected groups in the Covid-19 crisis. The question now is how to rebuild in order to recover from the crisis in an inclusive way.

 

Covid-19 has thrown into the spotlight the inequalities which persist in today’s world. It has, in particular, highlighted the inequalities faced by persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are both directly and indirectly impacted by lockdown measures, which have been implemented across the globe. Beyond these challenges, there is a fear that measures may become long term for persons with disabilities and prevent them from accessing and participating in society on equal footing as others. How we rebuild and allow for an inclusive society is a question which must be answered. The future is uncertain; plans for the future must have human rights at their core.

 

The UN has highlighted that a global response which is inclusive of persons with disabilities is needed. The most authoritative text on disability rights is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This convention takes a human rights approach and aligns with the social model of disability. Under this model, the person’s disability is not what disables them but rather the barriers, structures and attitudes present in society. For example, in the Covid-19 response, some countries did not provide access to information in a manner which would be accessible to persons with disabilities. This is society, rather than the impairment itself providing barriers. Ireland ratified the CRPD in 2018; therefore our responses and plans should align with the human rights approach.

 

In order to create an inclusive response for persons with disabilities, a twin-track approach is needed. This means that persons with disabilities should be included in mainstream policies and specific policies where required. Ireland has one of the lowest rate of employment for people with disabilities in the EU. Latest figures showed that 71% of adults of working age with a disability are not in work in Ireland. Although it is acknowledged that some people cannot work due to the nature of their disability there are social barriers in place also such as lack of government support.

 

“Persons with disabilities have been one of the most affected groups in the Covid-19 crisis. The question now is how to rebuild in order to recover from the crisis in an inclusive way.” 

Covid-19 has also thrown into light the dangers that institutionalisation causes. We are all aware of the disproportionate deaths in elderly care facilities and residential homes for persons with disabilities worldwide. Although the focus in Ireland has been on elderly care facilities this ignores the fact that worldwide an estimated 46% of older people aged 60 years and over are persons with disabilities. Thus the intersection of age and disability should be accounted for and borne in mind in recovery efforts. The regrettable stark death rate in facilities should encourage a conversation discussing the way forward of deinstitutionalisation and moving together in redefining how long term care is provided. A.19 of the CRPD states that persons with disabilities should be able to live in the community on an equal basis with others and supports need to be in place to enable them to live independently. In Ireland, these supports are not currently in place now and need to be improved upon. 

 

Accountability mechanisms are needed in order to hold governments to account and to improve future responses. These future responses should align more clearly and robustly with the CRPD.  This includes gathering data and consulting persons with disabilities on the approaches the government has taken. With the lack of data at present, it is very difficult to gauge the precise effects of Covid-19 on persons with disabilities. In the absence of government monitoring, a coalition of seven leading organisations promoting human rights of persons of disabilities has set up an independent monitoring mechanism concerning persons with disabilities in the context of the pandemic. The Covid-19 DRM Dashboard allows people to fill in a survey on how their country has dealt with the pandemic and whether it has been in an inclusive manner. It also allows persons with disabilities to have a voice on the way in which their country is dealing with the pandemic. This resource will allow countries to look at where they failed and how to improve and create an inclusive policy for the future.

 

The response to Covid-19 will shape our future and must include persons with disabilities voices. In Ireland, the programme for government must take into an account an inclusive recovery and support persons with disabilities. These commitments must not just be words on paper and need also to have financial commitments. Economics cannot and should not outweigh human rights. A financial crisis must not be used as a tool by the government to roll back on rights for persons with disabilities which have been fought hard for. A disability-inclusive recovery is needed for everyone to make our systems more agile and better functioning for all.

 

 

Featured photo by Ben Allan

 
 

 

 

As Corporations Shout ‘Black Lives Matter’, Their Track Records Raise Scepticism

As Corporations Shout ‘Black Lives Matter’, Their Track Records Raise Scepticism

DIVERSITY

As Corporations Shout ‘Black Lives Matter’, Their Track Records Raise Scepticism

Aoife Burke

17th June 2020

 

In response to a series of racial killings, including the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement has erupted into large-scale protests against systemic racism – being led by black people in all fifty American states, as well as in many other countries around the world.  As is becoming increasingly clear, the challenge at hand demands that people from all groups stand together in the fight against racism. Many white people are at last speaking out about this issue and using their privilege to amplify the voices of people of colour. While the importance of this solidarity cannot be overstated, instances of self-serving, performative allyship must also be recognised and addressed. From posting empty black squares that drown out the vital information posted by activists, to sharing pictures with black friends as evidence of anti-racism, it is clear that many people have yet to understand that allyship is not about making yourself look good. However, perhaps the biggest culprits of performative allyship have been corporations seeking to boost their public image. 

 

The controversial image that sparked push-back. Photo by @LorealParis

 

L’Oréal Paris is one of many companies whose messages of solidarity to the black community have been interpreted as insincere due to a track record of racism. In 2017, model and transgender activist Monroe Bergdorf was dropped by L’Oréal for speaking out about systemic racism in light of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. L’Oréal fired Bergdorf, who was the first transgender model they had worked with, on the grounds that she did no reflect the company’s values just days after hiring her to the ‘True Match’ diversity campaign. Three years later, in a climate where voicing anti-racist sentiments has become palatable, L’Oréal shared a message of solidarity and support with the black community under a post, reading “speaking out is worth it”. This move faced major backlash from many members of the black community, as well as beauty influencers and celebrities such as Jameela Jamil. Bergdorf herself has called-out the company for exploiting the BLM movement for its own gain. The model spoke out on social media about the professional and emotional harm caused by L’Oréal’s actions in 2017 and described the company’s claim that they support the black community as gaslighting. 

 

Many other companies in the fashion industry have faced a similar backlash to L’Oréal. Nike, Celine, Zimmermann and Reformation have all been criticised for asserting their solidarity with the BLM movement despite having a lack of racial diversity in their staff or allegations of racist discrimination in the workplace. While the contradiction between companies’ words and their practices is concerning in itself, performative allyship is far more damaging than simple hypocrisy. Aja Barber, a sustainability expert and fashion writer, has spoken out on social media about why being exposed to performative allyship can be triggering for black people. Many brands posting about BLM have not only been silent for the past seven years on the movement but have actively contributed to the oppression of black people through company practices. Barber argues that by superficially aligning themselves with the anti-racist movement when it is good for PR, corporations are commodifying black death and communal grief. She describes it as traumatising for Black people to watch brands profit from the collective suffering of their community. 

 

L’oreal Paris skin whitening creams continue to be sold in Africa and Asia. Photo by Loreal Paris

 

Despite the scale of the problem, online activists have seen some success in combating performative allyship and promoting sincere solidarity. After a week of backlash and online campaigning, L’Oréal reached out to Bergdorf about the treatment she received in 2017. L’Oréal apologised for how the situation was handled and pledged to donate €25,000 to both Mermaids, a charity supporting transgender youths and UK Black Pride. Bergdorf was also offered a position on L’Oréal’s UK Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, which she accepted, saying she believes in “progress, not cancellation”. This was a considerable triumph for all those fighting for accountability, as well as a personal success for Bergdorf. However, it is important to note that €50,000 does not represent a major financial commitment for a company that took in €30 billion in sales in 2019 alone. Furthermore, one appointment is only a small step towards dismantling racism within L’Oréal’s practices. Many issues, such as the company’s sale of skin whitening creams in Africa and Asia, have still yet to be addressed or even acknowledged as problematic. Whether or not this week’s events mark the beginning of long-term tangible change within L’Oréal ultimately remain to be seen.

 

L’Oréal’s response to recent backlash may not reveal much about the company’s overall commitment to anti-racism, but it does demonstrate the importance of activism and public pressure. While there is a long way to come, collective efforts to hold companies accountable can set reform in motion. Allyship can play an important role in this process, but only insofar as allies prioritise social justice over their own personal gain.

 

 

 

Featured photo by ABC

 

 

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

ARTS + CULTURE

‘Stop Filming Us!’ – Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

Isolde MacDonagh

3rd June 2020

 

Posing questions, not answering them – Joris Postema’s Stop Filming Us wants to show us the city of Goma you don’t see in UNICEF’s pity-inducing photos of miserable children. But can he portray the Congolese reality without becoming part of the problem?

 

For me, this question is answered early on. Postema, in this documentary, works closely with several African filmmakers and photographers to capture the ‘real’ Goma, a city in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  In a meeting, he asks his Congolese co-workers about his Western team: “Did we do anything neo-colonial in the past few weeks?”. “Of course,” Ganza Buroko replies. He lists Postema’s mistakes. “Ah – so we start again,” says Postema. They laugh. “No, we continue.”

 

This film doesn’t try to be perfect. Postema is as much of a student as his viewer, and the documentary comes across as a work in progress. In Stop Filming Us, Postema follows the lives of three Congolese filmmakers and photographers. The first of these is Mugabo Baritegera, an artist and photographer who roams the streets looking to capture the Goma he himself experiences. Baritegera explains that when he looks at the sad Congolese faces in photos released by the media, he does not recognise himself. Happiness is a significant part, not only of the Congolese life but of the Congolese identity (already so attacked by colonialism). When Westerners portray Goma as an unhappy place, they continue to destroy the Congolese identity. “We don’t even know what we have forgotten”: this is a phrase that stands out, as Postema watches the Congolese discuss their history. Baritegera is filmed building a new art gallery, where he can display his work. When the gallery is completed, at the end of the film, we see for the first time the people of Goma taking photos of one another that are not loaded with political messages – they are simply enjoying themselves.

 

“When Westerners portray Goma as an unhappy place, they continue to destroy the Congolese identity”

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong feeling about photography in Goma, many seeing it as the exploitation of their faces for money. Ley Uwera, a photographer working for NGOs, takes the photos she is paid to take, knowing that they do not represent her country. We watch her photographing a refugee settlement, where she moves children aside, stages photos, and asks people to stand in awkward positions in order to capture exaggerated unhappiness. Her photos ignore the life and the happiness that is also present in the environments she photographs. 

 

Stop filming us” is a familiar cry in Postema’s 90-minute film, and every time we hear it, we are aware of Postema’s contradictory position. “Go Home”, Postema is told. But he does not. Instead, Postema films the filmmakers. He films those who have exploited the Congolese with their cameras. He films the prison-like appearances of the high-security gates to the countless NGO headquarters, in what are arguably the most powerful shots in the film. Postema’s documentary watches the people who are creating videos that shape the world’s understanding of Goma. There are two primary examples of this. Postema’s observation of Uwera’s work for the NGOs, but also an episode where Postema films Baritegera making a (beautiful) film showing the positive side of Goma but omitting a street fight and the arguments that happened during his shoot. Although this film was the aesthetic highlight of the documentary, it omitted perhaps what a Westerner would describe as the truth.

 

Photo by: Joris Postema, Stop Filming Us

 

But can a Westerner criticise the Congolese for not being truthful enough in their representations of their own cities? Westerners, naturally, have no right to define truth, but Postema’s documentary wants to understand why these more negative aspects of Baritegera’s film do not come into Baritegera’s depiction of the ‘real Goma’. Postema asks his Congolese film crew why Baritegera might have omitted what, for a Westerner, would be important details. They give varied answers – the violence is boring, normal, not something to talk about. 

 

Stop Filming Us is a discussion. Postema’s opinion is visible in the editing and what he has chosen to film, but he includes different perspectives wherever he can. This makes for the film’s strange structure: it is a film that ends several times. Twice Postema shows his latest version of Stop Filming Us to the Congolese and asks them what they think of it, and twice the ensuing discussion is included in the film. This, of course, symbolises that this discussion has in no way ended with this film. We think again of Buroko’s words, at the beginning of the documentary: “we continue”.

 

There are questions that remain by the end of this film. Should Postema have just gone home? Should the NGOs, arrogant and unwanted, go home? Or do Westerners have a responsibility to fix what they broke? A scene of Baritegera chanting “if you watch, you are complicit” targets the film’s audience: we, also, are part of this discussion. But to what extent?

 

 

Featured photo by Joris Postema

 

 

STAND News talks to IWA about their work during COVID-19

STAND News talks to IWA about their work during COVID-19

STAND News talked to Joan from the Irish Wheelchair Association about how they’re aiding the disabled community during COVID-19.

See how you can help out here. 

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