International Women's Day: Why representation matters

Liv Little is the founder of gal-dem, a magazine and creative collective of more than 70 women and non-binary people of colour. She’s part of Virgin’s International Women’s Day panel, where she’ll be discussing the need for a radical shift in representation. Here, she explores why representation matters…

I often think about where gal-dem would have slot into the media landscape 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Would it have existed and would people have understood the reasoning behind it? Probably not. There are women of colour who have laid the foundations on which we have been able to build, women working in film, politics and the arts, women campaigning at the picket lines for our voices to be heard. My mother was a part of a group of black women rewriting the discourse surrounding black women in film, but the reach and scope of their organising was limited by the fact that the internet and digital platforms were not being utilised in the same ways in which they are today.

For me, setting up gal-dem came as a response to many of the issues that our predecessors were battling with. On the personal level it was isolation and a frustration with my curriculum whilst studying in an incredibly white university and in a broader sense it was the lackluster attempt of media organisations to truly see women of colour represented in an authentic manner. Often, the most poignant, powerful movements are born out of resistance and negative circumstances and for us, isolation was transformed into community.

gal-dem launched in September 2015, it started as a platform which was primarily dedicated to supporting the creative work of women of colour through journalism. It was digital, reactive and filled a clear void in the media landscape. For us, gal-dem provided a platform through which women of colour were free to discuss topics which interested them without being limited to discussions of race and gender. It was and still is about us, reflecting ourselves in a way which felt altogether refreshing and authentic.

Since gal-dem’s inception in 2015, we have grown to incorporate the voices of women and non-binary people of colour through events, online content and an annual print magazine. Our work has been recognised through major awards and on major platforms. Our ambitions and pool of contributors are ever growing. Through gal-dem, we work with a host of organisations tired of begging for inclusion in a white-washed political and media landscape and are thriving as such.

There is an ever-growing concern that due to the pressure placed upon organisations in recent years, the spotlight on diversity is no more than a passing fad. But we hope that through consistently producing rigorous content and critique, gal-dem’s successes will grow further.

As the founding editor-in-chief of gal-dem, it is my responsibility to ensure that we continue on in our ambitions to build a sustainable business. gal-dem’s editors, writers and illustrators have all demonstrated an unwavering commitment to reshape the discourse and we hope to see our successes continue in 2018 and beyond. We want to see a world where women of colour aren’t expected to be the spokespeople on race and gender, but rather free to create content on whatever topic we choose. We want to be free to write about whatever interests us, and for as long as mainstream media organisations do not allow this, gal-dem will continue on its mission to deconstruct the limited construct of what it means to be a woman of colour, particularly in Britain today.

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