Making mistakes, owning them and now writing about them.

Due our bias, we made a mistake recently around the topic of cultural appropriation. We’re here to say we fucked up the process with an artist and to steer the conversation from what can appear to be oversensitivity and censorship towards an opportunity to create awareness and dialogue about what cultural appropriation is, where the line is drawn between appreciation and appropriation and how to talk about it. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re open, listening and learning. We […]

Due our bias, we made a mistake recently around the topic of cultural appropriation. We’re here to say we fucked up the process with an artist and to steer the conversation from what can appear to be oversensitivity and censorship towards an opportunity to create awareness and dialogue about what cultural appropriation is, where the line is drawn between appreciation and appropriation and how to talk about it. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re open, listening and learning. We do know that saying ‘I can’t see it so it doesn’t exist’ is an invalid argument. We didn’t see it either, until we did – and that’s part of the problem. 

What happened
Tuesday morning at 10:30 CET we had the honour of premiering an upcoming artist’s new music video. 

Around 11 am, some of our followers made us aware that the artist’s aesthetics carried insensitive symbolic values and encouraged us to understand the complexities of it. 
We immediately contacted the artist: In this conversation, we discussed her reasoning behind her aesthetic expression. We understood that it is her personal expression and a manifestation the journey she has been on, not an outward cultural journey, but her inner spiritual journey in becoming who she is today.

Subsequently, we made the following statement on our Instagram profile: “Thank you for raising the super relevant point and concern. We need to have these conversations! We can now see why X’s aesthetics carry insensitive symbolic values and understand which complexities this carries. This should not have been a blind spot for us! However, because we know X we were indeed guilty of bias, as we only saw the woman and artist she is and her personal expression, not the cultural appropriation her images also express. In this light, we considered taking down the post. We have however decided to keep it up, and in doing so, admitting our bias and keeping it on our channel for difficult conversations. Thank you again, we’re working on being the best we can be and want to be in conversation with you all.”

We told the artist we would keep the post up and agreed to stay in radio contact with her.

As you can see from the screenshots, our followers understood our choice and no one was horrible, rude or judgemental towards the artist. They were encouraging Girls Are Awesome as a brand and platform to do better and educate ourselves. 

Yet something felt off, and as always, we continued to research and educate ourselves as well as reaching out to our BIPOC network to get their perspective. Through the knowledge we had gained by Wednesday morning; it was clear to us that the headdress worn and created by the artist is cultural appropriation. 

Had this post not been a premiere with someone we had agreed to support we would have taken it down immediately; we do not wish to drive traffic, gain followers or recognition on any content containing cultural appropriation.

Our responsibility to female role models 
We are acutely aware of the responsibility we have to any female artist who reaches out to us intending to be showcased, elevated through our platforms and/or collaborate with our brand and we treat these relationships with respect and humility. Their art, sport or expression is their ‘baby’ so if we say yes to caretake even a small part of it, we do so with the deepest respect and because we want them and ‘their baby’ to grow and amplify in the world. 

Our social responsibility, obligation and commitment
As a brand and media platform, we create, showcase and collaborate on a wide range of projects, content and more, all in an effort to increase female representation. We do so because we are committed to an equal and just world for all – regardless of gender identity, race, skin colour, sexuality, culture, spiritual or religious beliefs. 
Based on these responsibilities, our team spent a full day using all our resources, energy and hearts last week discussing and exploring every angle on this. Could we keep our commitment to elevating the artist and her new video release AND stay true to our fundamental social responsibility and obligations therein? 

Our decision 
Around 4 pm on Wednesday, we concluded we couldn’t do both. The team agreed to honour our social responsibility, obligation and commitment and take stand against cultural appropriation in particular and discrimination as a whole. Which (in this case) meant we couldn’t honour our responsibility we have to our role models and therefore use our platform to showcase the artist and her video. 

To start, we archived the Instagram and Facebook posts, leaving the article on our site until we had informed the artist of our decision and reasons, and to give her time to replace links on her socials, should she wish to continue to promote her video as it was. We did so via email and informed that the article and video would be taken down from our website at 8pm that evening. We also texted her with an offer to talk.

She responded to our email Thursday morning understandably saying that she was both hurt and thoroughly disappointed that we had taken it down. But also that she understood why we did it. Yet she wished we hadn’t said yes in the first place. To that we couldn’t agree more. It’s our job to protect our partners and audience and we should have seen it! Instead, we saw her through our white privileged bias, and thus all we saw was a woman that we know and admire – her expression and her music. We didn’t see the clear cultural appropriation expressed through her aesthetics.

Had we seen it, we could have saved her from the pain of us saying yes, writing an article about her and showcasing her video on our platforms, only to take it down the next day (which is a really lame move on our behalf). Our mistake and blindness caused her personal pain and professional disappointment, for which we are truly sorry and have offered an apology. We also made it clear that this is not an act against her! But an act born out of our commitment to right OUR wrong; To stand up for minorities, and to keep educating ourselves to become better allies. 

Why speak up now?
In this message, our intention is to raise awareness about cultural appropriation and our experience of being bias towards it and the subsequent consequences. We did, however, want to keep the artist as a person and an artist out of this piece, as we’re not here to shame her. We’re here to say we fucked up the process and steer the conversation of what can appear to be an issue of oversensitivity and censorship is, from our perspective, an opportunity to create some awareness and hopefully dialogue about what cultural appropriation is, where we draw the line and how to talk about it. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re open, listening and learning. 

Following her email to us, the artist made a public Facebook announcement, which has now escalated in the way we wished to protect her from. As we stated on the Facebook post, we are sorry for the personal pain and professional disappointment our choice has caused her. Yet, we are in no doubt that we did the right thing by taking down the content. Therefore we are also willing to take the hits this has given us, simply because we believe it to be the right thing. Between us and the artist, we are in mutual understanding of each others perspective and in full agreement that this should not have happened the way it did. 

The artist knows that our lines and office are open should she wish to talk with us on the matter of cultural appropriation. We are grateful for the awesome, non-judgemental BIPOC women we have in our network who are willing to call us out we when make poor judgements and to work with us to navigate these complicated and emotional topics better. These same women would gladly take their time to speak with her, which we have also offered. 

If you are reading this and wish to have a dialogue with us or otherwise contribute to the conversation about cultural appropriation and/or racism and what we can all, both privately and professionally, do against it, please email us at hello@girlsareawesome.com

0

Your Cart