Freedom Without Fear Platform: International Women’s Day Statement
The Freedom Without Fear Platform, set up in solidarity with the anti-rape movement in India, condemns the Indian Government’s proposed new law on sexual violence as deeply cynical and anti-women. It urges the Indian government not to enact this law and instead to make the changes demanded by the movement against rape and sexual violence in India.
You can view the Freedom Without Fear Platform International Women’s Day Statement, in full, here.
Wishing you all a happy International Women’s Day from the Imkaan team!
Challenging racist and sexist music videos
Young women lead new multimedia project to challenge racism and sexism in music videos
Imkaan, EVAW and Object are working together to enable young women to design and run a multimedia project where they can highlight and criticise racism and sexism in music videos. Black and minority ethnic young women have told us they want a space to talk about the racism and sexism they see.
Read an article by Imkaan’s Executive Director, Marai Larasi MBE, on why we are doing this work here.
Through online resources for UK schools and organisations, plus a national lobbying campaign, the project aims to educate and empower young women to speak out and change attitudes. A ‘music sexism and racism’ website will be built including a space for uploading and sharing videos which portray either positive or negative messages. The website will also include a space for a blog where young women can write about their experiences and debate relevant issues and share via Facebook and other social media.
The project will also encourage young women to lobby artists, regulators and music industry directly about videos or songs that they feel are negative, sexist and/or racist. Using apps and other tools affected women will be able to complain directly to regulators such as the ASA and Ofcom.
Minister for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson, said:
“For too long women have been objectified and stereotyped in the media. Through the government’s Body Confidence Campaign, we have been working to reduce the pressures that popular culture can place on individuals’ self-image and self-esteem. The images on display in magazines and on television often objectify women. These images are very powerful and influential and young girls may interpret these as a way to be seen as attractive.
“That is why projects like this are important in encouraging public debate and challenging the industry – it is vital that young women feel able to speak out and talk about the issues that are affecting them. We need to encourage young girls to feel valued not because of what they look like, but for what they can contribute and achieve.”
Dorett Jones, Development and Training Manager at Imkaan said:
“Imkaan is excited to work on this project in collaboration with EVAW and Object. Our combined specialism and expertise ensures a dynamic process for the young women, as well as a unique environment for all involved to learn, organise and challenge. This opportunity comes at a very important time when we witness the continuous rise of racist and sexist attitudes towards women and girls on a global scale. This project will provide a much needed platform for young women across the UK to affect change in a meaningful and sustainable way.”
Holly Dustin, Director of EVAW said:
“This project will empower young women to speak out about sexism and racism in the music industry which we know provides the context in which violence against women and girls flourishes. We will ensure that young women’s voices are heard and that their actions lead to real change. We are very excited to be working with Object and Imkaan to create positive change in the music industry. This is part of our ongoing work to tackle the media’s portrayal of women and girls and links into our Everydaymediasexism project.”
Silvia Murray Wakefield from Object said:
“OBJECT is thrilled to have the opportunity to work in partnership with EVAW and Imkaan to shine a spotlight on the ways the objectification of women plays out in both sexist and racist forms in popular culture, and to give the young women who want to challenge these messages a voice and a platform to speak out, where they will be heard by those in power.”
Maggie Baxter, the Chair of Rosa, which is generously funding the project welcomed the project announcement:
“Rosa is very pleased to be able to support this important project taking on the shocking way young women and girls are objectified in music videos. This work will challenge negative stereotypes which can limit girls’ aspiration and will empower young women to speak up about the sexism they encounter on a daily basis. It will use social media and online campaigning tools, as well as more traditional methods, to campaign for changes in government policy and practices within the industry. Supporting the EVAW, Object and Imkaan initiative furthers Rosa’s objectives of funding innovative projects to bring about social change for women and girls.”
Watch this space for more details as the project takes off…
What Do Young Women Think About the ‘Sexualised’ Pop Culture Around them? Has anyone asked them?
Article written by Imkaan’s Executive Director, Marai Larasi MBE, in today’s Huffington Post.
On Thursday, celebrities will dance in Parliament Square to draw attention to the scale of violence against women and girls all over the world, while inside Parliament a cross-party group of women MPs will lead a debate on making sex and relationships education compulsory - as a key way to ensure that all young people in the UK learn about sexual consent and respectful relationships, gender stereotyping and sexualisation.
Over the last few years there has been increasing attention to what is now often referred to as ‘sexualisation’. This focus has resulted in new government policies which are designed to address the fact that young people might be less equipped than adults to interpret and critique the powerful, sexualised messages present in advertising, TV, film, music, and social media. Recommendations to Number 10 have included new age restrictions on music videos and video games, restrictions on billboard advertising, and a new website portal which makes complaining to media and advertising regulators easier.
The political debate around sexualisation has been largely framed however around parental concerns and obviously explicit content. Inevitably this has resulted in a focus on the need for greater restrictions and improved complaint mechanisms. It has not focused on children’s and women’s rights to be free from harm. Critically, it has so far failed to make the links between a wider context of sexualisation and women’s unequal status in all our societies. There has been no ‘connecting the dots’ in terms of policies on sexualisation and its harms, preventing violence against girls and media regulation reform (an argument we made at the Leveson Inquiry).
Has anyone asked girls and young women (and boys and young men) what they think about the sexualised world around them, and what, if anything, they think should be changed?
Women’s groups do innovative work in some UK schools to help deliver sex and relationships education. What those doing this work hear from young people, time and time again, is confusion about the gendered roles they feel that they are expected to fulfil. Many young people feel that they are given mixed messages about what sexual consent is, where the lines are, and when you can say ‘no’. Many young men hold worryingly common attitudes that say sexual pressure and even force, as well as physical violence, is acceptable. As a result the Home Office, recognising the high incidence of violence against girls, is today re-launching a campaign to challenge such views.
These attitudes exist in a context where violence against women and girls is facilitated and promoted through the media, for example in music videos which normalise sexual harassment and other forms of abuse. Artists like Katy Perry, Kanye West and Skepta have all released videos, often significantly aimed at a teen market, which ‘play’ with ideas and images about pimping, sexual violence, submission and domination, male sexual entitlement, pornography and more. Some newspapers routinely carry ‘up-skirt’ photographs which imply that the subject has not consented to the image being taken. Facebook has hosted pages which joke about and trivialise rape; and while social media has many benefits, it has also (especially on smartphones) enabled cases of sexual bullying as highlighted in this NSPCC report and which for example lead to the death of Chevonea Kendall-Bryan.
When Imkaan worked with young black and minority ethnic women, they consistently voiced their disillusionment and sense of helplessness about the way they are represented in music and other media. They said that they want opportunities to discuss this and have their concerns addressed. As those young women noted, there are powerful racist as well as sexist messages throughout media, with black and other minority women ‘exoticised’ in very specific ways (I won’t even link to the porn ads featuring a menu of different women listed by ‘racial’ origin, but it’s a couple of clicks away and young people are more than aware of the racist-sexist stereotypes being promoted, not to mention profited from). Boys and girls from all backgrounds and ethnicities receive and respond to these messages in different ways. Many of them want to talk about it and they want to change it. They are telling us that they are being misrepresented and that they want to tell their diverse stories using their own ‘voices’ and ‘images’. This is why Imkaan, the EVAW Coalition and Object are launching a new multimedia project funded by Rosa which young women will use to build a platform to highlight and critique sexist and racist music videos.
Young women should be at the heart of policy making to address sexualisation and sexual abuse. Our project will contribute to this, but schools and the government should get proactive on involving young women in challenging attitudes which condone and tolerate abuse. Only this will ensure we get a rights-based, rather than parents-focused, solution.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.