Guest post: 'Why Mumsnet Bloggers needs a BME category'
After attending several blogging events, MN blogger Swazi Rodgers began to notice that she was often one of the only non-white people present. She explains why it's crucial to bring more diversity into blogging - and why Mumsnet's new BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) blogging category is a significant step forward.
Chocolate is not the only fruit
Posted on: Fri 02-May-14 11:30:26
(13 comments )
"After attending last year’s Mumsnet BlogFest, I wrote a post about how bloggers who go to conferences appear to be uniformly white. This post received a lot of responses including a positive promise from two blogging networks to meet up and discuss how to improve diversity and inclusion at their events. Mumsnet - the bigger of the two networks - made good on that promise, and a few weeks ago me and my lovely friend and fellow blogger Soraya went to Mumsnet Towers and had a great chat with some of the behind the scenes folks who make the Mumsnet BlogFest and the Bloggers' Network happen. The main thing we discussed was how to make non-white bloggers feel included and welcome.
Before I go into the detail, let me explain why this issue matters. If you're thinking – "I've never wondered what the ethnicity of the writer of a blog is. If I like it, I read it" - then thank you and I do hope you come back again. But, it's not about that. It’s about writers who are non-white seeing themselves up there - being 'in the room' is so important.
You see, I always wanted to be Marilyn Monroe, Debbie Harry or Madonna. I thought Paula Yates was amazing and loved her style, her chutzpah and how effortlessly cool she was. All of them had their own battles behind the glamour - but the point is, growing up, it meant everything to be white and blonde. Not dark haired and brown skinned. Blue eyes were better than brown.
My role models just weren't Asian or black women. From my own culture, Bollywood movies showed either unrealistic, pneumatic women or the archetypal Mother as martyr, and rapes were just part of the story rather than something to be condemned. When I was growing up, there was no Aishwarya Rai with her twin successful careers in Indian and American movies, showing that Asian beauty is acceptable to everyone. If I was to be successful, I had to be as white as possible.
As an adult, if I go to a conference where there are few - if any - people like me, I feel transported back to that dual life. I'm living outside of what I'm 'supposed' to be doing. People like me don't blog. We don't talk about our lives. Only we do.
Until I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Colour Purple, I had no idea that writing could be about tough, real lives. I discovered that Maya Angelou was outspoken, beautiful, imperfect and honest, and I still love listening to her mellifluous tones reading poetry and singing.
I grew up in a family that had old fashioned values from 'back home', and yet most kids from my sort of background lived a dual life. Some girls would arrive at school in modest clothes then change into mini skirts and make up. I wasn't one of those, but I did have another life outside my family. At University I went out drinking (far too much, really) and discovered a love of music and the arts. I didn't have boyfriends, but I knew a lot of Asian girls who did. But at home, I was a sister, a daughter, mostly obedient and didn't talk about my ambitions or interests. They weren't relevant.
As an adult, if I go to a conference where there are few - if any - people like me, I feel transported back to that dual life. I'm living outside of what I'm 'supposed' to be doing. People like me don't blog. We don't talk about our lives. Only we do. When I wrote about the 'whiteness' of blogging events a lot of bloggers responded saying "yes I noticed that too". Some also pointed out that they felt younger than the others, or that they were in a different social class. I guess we all have our Achilles heel, our point of difference.
"It's open to everyone, so if people don't want to come we can't make them," people might say. It’s a fair point, but if I go to an event and I'm one of few non-white bloggers attending, it makes me wonder why the others aren't there. In our culture, shame over being different comes from being left out - underrepresented and invisible. Under-representation at these events may be due to cost, or location or any other number of reasons that are not specific to ethnicity. However, the end result is the same: if I'm a blogger who only meets white bloggers, does that make me unique, or just weird?
So, we said most of this in our meeting at Mumsnet, and they are keen to engage with all bloggers. To this end, the Bloggers Network is introducing a new category where you can specify that you are a BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) blogger. Of course you don't have to, and if you prefer to blog anonymously you can just keep doing what you're doing. But it will be a quick and easy way to find other bloggers who have chosen to be in the category. It is a small step, but it means that we can find each other and maybe share and support one another in whatever ways are necessary. It is just nice to know you’re not the only one."
If you're a Mumsnet blogger, it's super-easy to add yourself to categories on the Network - click here for instructions. If you're not already a member and would like to join us, click here.
By Swazi Rodgers
Lovely post - I come from a diverse cultural background and so have the problem of being neither here nor there!
I know all about the dual life and the amount of times I've been to meetings and events and been the only black person has sometimes been very disappointing. It's great to know the category exists and even though one cannot be forced to participate, the fact that the option is open means another potential barrier has been removed.
So, so pleased about this. It's such an important move. I've often felt like I exist in a cultural no mans land in wider society and it often feels just the same online. Genuinely excited by the potential this has for positive change x
Thank you.. thank you .. thank you! I can't tell you the amount of times I'v felt so conscious because I am the only BME at an event or seen a blogging awards with no BME being recognised.I hope this new category opens more doors for us BMEs and I thank Mumsnet for taking the step.
Brilliant for raising awareness and really well written post, although I'm not sure a category of it's own is needed, or why BME would need it's own award? I may be on the wrong track entirely but just seems like segregation more than anything - when it's something to be celebrated.
Well done, this is not about separateness, it is about visibility, and for that I utterly applaud it. I am looking forward to seeing the huge variety of blogs that come up in this new category
I think that's a great idea As a single parent I sought out single parent forums at first because I felt that I would feel more included.
Perhaps once more BME bloggers are attracted and running blogs a separate category won't be needed Tequila but often there is a need to 'get the ball rolling' and make a space for groups with a point of difference to feel comfortable and included.
I joined MN once I saw how inclusive it is for single parents but I doubt I would have felt comfortable unless I had already tested the water on single parent forums where, although we all were individuals, we did have a single point of reference.
Great. For those who question need, it's the same as when you pitch up to an event and you are the only woman. It shouldn't be a problem, but it makes you feel a bit out of place and insecure, particularly if you are already that way prone. Often when I go places (for work) I am the only non-white AND woman, and I'm sure many BME women have also experienced this! My own daughter surrounded by blonde friends has the same problem at school...I wrote a post about it:
Sorry that link doesn't work, see below
I have often felt like the 'odd' one out when attending blog event and with that I felt the added pressure to 'represent'. I felt that i made to put my best foot forward. I think the new category is a wonderful idea. Well done. To be honest I didn't even think there were blogs in the network that would touch on racial and cultural issues smiliar to my own. Good to know :0)
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Hi discovered your post via HerMelnessSpeaks and it feels like you have been reading my mind!! I recently lost the desire to post on my blog because I was afraid to venture with 'ethnic' or 'multicultural' issues - mainly because I didn't see other brown bloggers in the UK. Then I came across the BME forum on Mumsnet and I am finally reading people who have had similar experiences to me. Desire rebooted. Loving the new blogs I have discovered.
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