Representation: why does it matter after all?
Amal El Gharbi
We live in an era of images, we’re constantly exposed to them, and when we used to be only users of online platforms, we’ve become creators of varied contents, whether it is through amazing photos, videos, stories, written posts, and now even podcasts.
Also, when only a few years ago, we used to be amazed to see the one and only Black model on the catwalks, or the only people of color and minorities on our screens, playing positive and not stereotypical roles in the mainstream media, we today cannot even imagine a non diverse and non inclusive world. Right?
And we’re all still working on it, because, despite the progress, there’s still a lot to be done. Not because there’s a lack of competent people of color. At all. There’re many talented, driven, passionate, extraordinary people out there. But because of our system – the system we as minorities also maintain- , and ironically our mentalities and the burden we, within our own communities, put on the brave and passionate ones who dare to put themselves out there: who work hard, create, collaborate, write, record, share…
Let’s be real for a minute.
I’ve been reading many discussions lately around identity and choices, and I witnessed so much rejection, condescension and hate on social media.
Which led me to think and question the concepts of identity, community and representation.
Representation and the sense of community
I would like to address the question of “representation and the sense of community” and most specifically the violence it can generate online, from the community itself. I can only talk about the Muslim community online, the one I am following most.
As a minority, we want to be/feel represented but, from what I can see, we want it only the way we are taught we have to or only the way we think the people who “represent” us have to or only the way we judge the best. And that is not right, nor fair, nor doesn’t make any sense.
Let me explain.
That person is representing their own person with their own personal story, creating and sharing their passion and interests, and it happens that you can find yourself in certain parts of it, certain elements resonate with your own story or parts of your identity.
T h a t i s a l l.
We have no right to think one person “owes” us something. I am reacting and writing this because I am so sad, baffled and frustrated by all the hate comments I can read today on social media, from an important part of the Muslim communities towards Muslim bloggers, which does so much harm to the community itself.
And if you’re not happy, then go and work hard, and create and make the change you want to see for a better representation of YOURSELF, if it matters to you that much. Period.
Virtual does not mean unreal.
Respect of personal choices
It looks like it is so easy to write hate comments, spread hatred online. But let’s not forget that virtual does not mean unreal. The mean words you write are real, and the effects are real and sometimes even devastating. Because you’re talking to a real person, a human being, who cannot stay indifferent to your gratuitously nasty comments.
I see womxn being bullied and harassed, because of their choices to dress in a certain way, to dress in a way they feel more comfortable and safe in. We have no right to tell them “this way of dressing is not the proper one” because of one specific and most spread religious interpretation. We also need to stop telling people “one perspective is the best” because it’s prevalent and the “most agreed on”, which looks more like religious condescension, superiority and lack of humility, which I’m pretty sure, doesn’t reflect the Islamic teachings, right? And again, people are policing womxn’s bodies. And this is not okay. What concerns me most is the amount of « likes » under hate, judgmental and ignorant comments. It is not okay to hate (or even dislike) someone just because they think and act differently. We need to say it, and repeat it. It is not okay.
The lack of tolerance when it comes to divergence of opinions is so striking and does so much harm to that community. Your perspective or what you’ve been taught is not the one and only Truth. The way you think and experience life is your truth, not someone else’s.
There’s so much beauty in nuances,
why would the world turn into a monochromatic picture?
It is not okay to humiliate, blame and disrespect someone because they think differently and simply live their life… as humans.
We need to say it, and repeat it, again and again.
What matters most? Isn’t that to live in a community built on respect, love, caring and empathy?
With all that hatred, what everyone can see is an uncaring, judgmental and hateful community. Is it that representation you want to create? Is it the world you choose and want to live in?
I personally don’t…
We need to cultivate and spread more love and acceptance for one another. We need to change the sad reality that is cyber bullying and hate. And we can: speak up, talk, share, write, record. It’s up to you.