Urm, How do I start this one?
Well, the title came pretty easily but the intro for this post didn't. In fact, writing this post in a succinct/safe/sensitive/sensible way isn't coming easily. But here we go...
Before I begin - a question:
Q: When you read "nude shoes" in the title, what first came to mind?
If you've no immediate answer or you're worried it's a trick question - do an internet search on "nude shoes" and hold that thought for a paragraph.
You see this post is about a couple of thoughts on blackness. Two things, highlighting the cost of it - Financially. Visibly. Emotionally.
It is likely to come across as a bit small in the grand scheme of things. But, being honest, I've been reflecting on some small points in between a lot of reading, researching, listening and conversing on the big points.
What I've come to is that whilst some of my thoughts have been on smaller things, they are an illustration of the frustration. The small things are part of the big thing.
You see, your answer to the question about nude shoes immediately indicates (most likely) whether your ethnicity is black or white. (I am not going to say race here, just go with it).
If you are white, you maybe thought of Duchess Catherine, maybe it wasn't much of a thought at all. And if you searched I'll bet you saw a lot of pink coloured shoes. Not too bad for you, right.
If however you are black, you are more likely to have recognised that the search would be a little harder. And a little more costly.
It's a simple point but it says a lot - nude shoes if you are black are often found in the 'tan' category. They are less likely to come up top of a search. They are more expensive. And it's the same with tights, hairstyles, (albeit decreasingly) make-up and underwear. Just a simple search for relative basics highlights issues of accessibility, cost, language, representation and more. Remember the debates on ballet shoes and even plasters!
Even allowing for demographics, some of this just doesn't stack up (especially geographically).
*The result: the situation feels disadvantageous and unfair*
So it was also with the images for the Body Confidence Cards.
I set out purposefully to have cards that were diverse. I knew I wanted to have different ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, weight representation, sexual orientations and even hair colours covered so set out to find an array of images that brought balance and fit to the overall message of the deck.
I think I did ok. But, on reflection the cards are safer than they could have been, and not every one is visibly represented. The reasons I think, partially with hindsight, are these:
1. I wanted the focus on the message, not the blackness of the message bearer (me)
2. I wanted to make a statement about diversity but not scream and stage it. And this is the point that challenges me and has me asking if I could have done more.
3. At the time I knew and considered this: That in part, crudely put, there was a cost element to making the pack more diverse. I couldn't as easily access or afford images of plus-size and black people or those with a visible disability or disfigurement for example. Such images are harder to get on free sites. They are limited. Like brown 'nude' shoes, those images exist but the choices are less and to get them costs more.
*The result: Some people are seen less, and feel less seen*
The pictures, therefore, may be a little safe but many allow for interpretation and I am pleased that the words allow for a discussion to go where you want/need it to go. And, all is not lost I will be adding some more diversity related content to the 'Teachers Guide' too, so these reflections have been important. That will be my next contribution to the conversation. And I am going to be bolder in future image choices as much as possible.
💭 What will your next step be?
Back to the point!
So, the point of this blog is to, in a small way, highlight that some of small things tell us a lot about the bigger issue. If you've never had to look hard for nude shoes or images that positively and broadly represent you, I hope this has been a simple but useful illustration. And if you get what I mean because this has been a challenge for you, I just want you to know that I see you and feel you and will do better for us. Because you matter, we matter, I matter.
Fairness and representation matters. Removing barriers and easing access matters. Black lives, and black bodies matter. (And read up on why this doesn't dismiss all, but it's not all for now)
Taking just the example of nude shoes and images, I ask... Financially - don't penalise. Visibly - see, show diversity. Emotionally - feel (for) me, support me.
I see you!