by Riccardo Trono
Using the BAME label to cover people of different ethnicities “simply doesn’t work”, performance artist and actress Kafayat Adegoke told an audience at Leeds Trinity University today.
The Bradford-based actress, who starred in the BBC drama Years and Years, tackled femininity and racial discrimination at a live event as part of Journalism and Media Week on Wednesday.
“Femininity and race are conversations, not a lecture”, she said.
At the core of Kafayat’s talk was the media’s objectification of racial and gender diversity.
“As a black woman, whenever I’m asked to talk about something, I’m expected to relate my thoughts to my race. There’s an undeniable pressure forcing me to recognise I’m a black woman.
“Instead, I want to be able to normalise, to say I don’t know enough to actually form an opinion about an entire race.”
In terms of current representations of racial diversity across the world, she said that the media’s objectification of different cultures lessens the scope of people’s personal experiences.
“The acronym BAME simply doesn’t work.
“To me, it does affirm the alleged superiority of white supremacists because it labels you as different from them.
Plus, it doesn’t take into account the cultural diversity of the people it represents.
“In India, women marry men by paying a dowry but there’s no such thing where I come from. How can people’s experiences within the BAME community be the same?” she asked.
Kafayat also highlighted the issue of diversity in the arts industry. “When I say ‘I could have played that role’, I’m told it’s unrealistic because you don’t normally see a black woman in a group of four friends. I don’t blame the producer; it’s the media because what they project goes into people’s subconscious.”
Kafayat also criticised what she saw as the issue of political correctness invading the domain of women’s intimacy.
“When they advertise intimate feminine products, do you feel exposed or like it’s too much in your face? Personally, I think if a conversation is uncomfortable, it’s probably the best conversation to have.
“It is perfectly fine to see movies involving lots of blood on the screen, but when it comes to having sanitary towels on TV they change the colour into blue.”
“It’s like women are aliens and they can’t picture us while we bleed. It’s all about being politically correct when in fact it’s the cycle of life and the only reason why you exist. All the talk about change and then they still decide for us who we are.”
Kafayat pointed to what is happening in Poland because of the abortion ban. “Femininity is about personal preferences in all aspects of life. It’s a human experience,” she said.
“Now that the government has banned abortion, Polish women are on strike, not going to work and not even doing their domestic duties. What are the media doing? It seems like yet again they’re taking sides and narrative matters. Abortion is not a media’s thing to pick and not a man’s either.”