Solidarity Opinions

Grenfell: Lest We Forget

By Henry Needham

The fire at Grenfell tower in June 2017 is one of the most publicised examples of incompetence at the highest level in modern British history. The 72 people who tragically lost their lives in the fire serve as a reminder that there is a long way to go in bridging the socio-economic, and racial, divide in our society. The main lesson to be learned from this is not that the building companies and contractors who put the cladding in place are in the wrong, rather, the issue at the core is that the regulations regarding fire safety in blocks of flats such as Grenfell made it legal for them to do so. The wave of outrage that rightly ensued across Britain in the aftermath has gradually begun to lose its force. But the failures run deep, and will need far more attention than a brief inquisition could ever attest for.

‘You think we just forgot about Grenfell?’ were the words delivered by Stormzy during his performance at the 2018 BRIT Awards. These words ring true now more than ever as the efforts to fight for justice for the lives lost in this disaster have somewhat lost momentum. This is not to say efforts have gone completely dry – as the ‘Justice4Grenfell’ movement headed up by Judy Bolton and Yvette Williams MBE still fights hard to bring this issue back into the ever-shifting spotlight of mass media. However, as is too often the case in modern times, the mainstream British media attention given to this injustice has continuously waned in the last 4 years. What needs to be focused on in the aftermath was the governmental inquiry that took place. A vital piece of information that has seemingly been lost in its coverage, in this inquiry it was revealed that emails, documents, design drawings and calculations relating to the tower had been accidentally lost or purposefully destroyed after being wiped from a laptop.[1] The company stated that the files were not backed up on any other device or email account[2], which bodes suspiciously for a massive contractor, and in this era of technology. Even if we are to assume an accident, it screams of organisational incompetence, as the inquiry did not attempt to acquire the files straight after the incident, for the laptop was reported wiped in 2020, three years after the fire.

Further incompetence is evident in the lack of attention given to resident’s reports, who knew the building was not safe if there was to be a fire. A resident of Grenfell Tower warned its landlords in 2010 that an “inferno” could engulf the building and “trap the residents … with no escape”.[3] Given the consequent reality, this report is harrowing. More had to be done to ensure the safety of the residents, and to make sure authorities did everything in their power to abide by safe and legal building guide. The racial dimension of this atrocity are not to go amiss in the tragic loss of 72 lives. Of the 72 people who died, more than half had immigrated to Britain after 1990 and only 8 victims were White British.[4] The irony of the timing of this article is that on the 31st March 2021, the British government published a report stating that Britain’s system is no longer ‘deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities’.[5] Given what happened at Grenfell, the government’s report doesn’t hold up against the intentional neglect of the health, safety and lives of those disproportionately non-white and immigrant families who were assigned this council estate. 300 towers in the UK today still have the cladding that was the catalyst for the disaster at Grenfell, with roughly 24,000 people living in these buildings whose lives are still at stake.

As the inquiry is not fully complete, there will certainly be more to discuss, challenge and understand about what happened at Grenfell. However, as citizens of this country who could have family or friends living in the buildings that are still at risk, it is our collective duty to fight for the justice of the Grenfell 72. The socio-economic issues here are at the fore, for the Government’s reports supposed findings about the UK not being a system ‘rigged’ against ethnic minorities seems questionable when 1 in 6 ethnic minority families live in houses with a category 1 hazard in the housing, health and safety rating system.[6] Reports from the last 20 years suggest Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic families are more likely to be offered poorer quality homes, flats rather than houses, and housing officers were also seen to be more likely to steer them away from white neighbourhoods based on preconceived judgments about class.[7] The blatant gap in housing equality is a topic that requires and deserves increased attention, but with lives and livelihoods on the line, Grenfell must be remembered and serve as a catalyst for long-lasting, structural change.

This article is dedicated to all those who lost their lives and loved ones in this disaster, if you want to make a change see:


Fathia Ali Ahmed Alsanousi

Esra Ibrahim

Fethia Hassan

Hania Hassan

Mohamed Amied Neda

Raymond Bernard

Rania Ibrahim

Hesham Rahman

Gloria Trevisan

Marco Gottardi

Anthony Disson

Mariem Elgwahry

Yaqub Hashim

Hashim Kedir

Nura Jamal

Eslah Elgwahry

Sirria Choucair

Yahya Hashim

Nadia Choucair

Bassem Choukair

Fatima Choucair

Mierna Choucair

Zainab Choucair

Firdaws Hashim

Mehdi El Wahabi 25

Yasin El Wahabi

Logan Gomes

Faouzia El Wahabi

Abdulaziz El Wahabi

Ligaya Moore

Nur Huda El Wahabi

Leena Belkadi

Jessica Urbano Ramirez

Farah Hamdan

Omar Belkadi

Alexandra Atala

Mary Mendy

Malak Belkadi

Victoria King

Khadija Saye

Amal Ahmedin

Maria del Pilar Burton

Amaya Tuccu-Ahmedin

Sakineh Afrasiabi

Vincent Chiejina

Isaac Paulos

Hamid Kani

Berkti Haftom

Biruk Haftom

Komru Miah

Mohammed Hamid

Rabia Begum

Husna Begum

Mohammed Hanif

Khadija Khalloufi

Deborah Lamprell

Marjorie Vital

Ernie Vital


Joseph Daniels

Steven Power

Denis Murphy

Zainab Deen

Mohammed al-Haj Ali

Jeremiah Dee

Abdeslam Sebbar

Ali Yawar Jafari

Gary Maunders

Abufras Ibrahim

Mohamednur “Mo” Tuccu

Fatemeh Afrasiabi

Amna Mahmud Idris








Author: Harry Needham

Harry is completing an MA in Contemporary History at the University of Birmingham and holds a Bachelors in Ancient History with History at Swansea University. Predominantly, his research looks at understanding the relationship between Race, Racism and Power whilst also focusing on the impact of popular culture. His undergraduate thesis analysed the relationship between folk music and youth activism in the 1960s and this relationship in the wider context is a vein of study he is continuing to follow.

Accessible Academia

The importance of Coloniality for Feminist Theory

Today’s most important concept for gender studies and feminist theory is undoubtedly intersectionality. Intersectionality is a concept that has been largely disputed, however it is also the only concept that helps with our understanding, and hence deconstructing, of the intersecting forms of oppression that humans suffer from. Unfortunately, intersectionality is often misunderstood, misused, de-radicalized, de-politicized as well as white-washed[1]. While it was Kimberlé Crenshaw who officially and academically coined the concept in 1989, many women before Crenshaw spoke about the experience of being a woman and being Black. One of them was Sojourner Truth who held her speech ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ (1851) in Akron, Ohio. Truth opened up about the intersection of being a woman and being Black at a time when Black women were not viewed as women, but rather as objects. Truth’s eagerness and courage paved the way for many other Black women such as bell hooks, Angela Davis and Audre Lorde to speak up against white supremacy, sexist patriarchy, capitalism, homophobia, ageism and classism. Whilst intersectionality is the most significant theory that allows for the capturing of racial, gendered and classed injustices, contemporary postcolonial scholars such as Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Vrushali Patil contend that intersectional theorists often disregard global power dynamics like neoliberalism, imperialism, global capitalist accumulation and the exploitation of the ‘Global South’. Since gender is mediated through coloniality, racism and location, intersectional analyses must also include coloniality[2].

Coloniality – a lens to understand power and dominance 

Coloniality is a concept coined by Latin American scholars describing the ongoing global domination of once colonised regions and goes back to the conquest of the Americas in 1492. Coloniality is a remnant from colonialism, but it is not the same: “Colonialism denotes a political and economic relation in which the sovereignty of a nation or a people rests on the power of another nation […]. Coloniality, instead, refers to long-standing patterns of power that emerged as a result of colonialism, but that define culture, labour, intersubjective relations, and knowledge production well beyond the strict limits of colonial administrations”[3].

The ‘coloniality of power’ refers to the Eurocentric cultural, economic, academic, political and epistemological rationality that controls structures of knowledge, history making, private and social life, and whose norms and standards are imposed ‘elsewhere’[4]. By theorising coloniality, the ‘dark side’ of modernity is accentuated: while Europe, North America and former colonies such as Japan got wealthier through ‘modernisation’, neoliberalism and capitalism, those who once suffered from colonialism, today face the underbelly of the West’s prosperity, and are still marginalised, dehumanised and racialised[5]. Coloniality, through its modernising/civilising discourse, maintains the division of the world into binaries such as superior/inferior, rational/irrational, primitive/civilised, traditional/modern, rationality/spirituality, developed/underdeveloped and self/other[6].

A specific attempt to “constitute the social world into homogenous categories”[7] is the dominant Western conceptualisation of gender as a binary of men/women. The ‘colonial/modern gender system’[8] describes the violent and destructive imposition of heterosexualism, patriarchy and biological/sexual dimorphism[9] in colonised societies and, hence, inherits a “genocidal logic of ‘classification’”[10]. Additionally, people were grouped based on their race: the colonisers introduced a racial division that organised people hierarchically on the principle of white supremacy, a system that “distorts, disfigures and destroys”[11] BIPOC’s past, present and future.

Viewing the world through the perspective of coloniality, in summary, uncovers how knowledge – especially the knowledge about history – in the West is produced in a linear way. The understanding of history as linear does not represent a universal reality, on the contrary, the Bolivian feminist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui writes that the indigenous of Bolivia conceptualise history as spiral, meaning that in their histories the “past-future is contained in the present”[12]. She emphasizes that in dominant discourses, actors exclusively talk about the origins of the indigenous, which takes away their presence and implies they would have only lived in the past and haven’t developed since.

Decolonial thought

However, “where there is power, there is resistance”[13]: no form of power is undisputable nor undisputed, and hence, the coloniality of power has always been contested.

This leads us to the counter-concept of coloniality, called decoloniality, a concept also developed by the same scholars. Decoloniality is not only a concept, but also a discourse and a practice that entails “the dismantling of relations of power and conceptions of knowledge that foment the reproduction of racial, gender, and geo-political hierarchies”[14]. It describes a counter discourse and the creation of another rationality, involving the “freedom to choose between various cultural orientations, and, above all, the freedom to produce, criticize, change, and exchange culture and society”[15]. Decoloniality requires ‘epistemic disobedience’[16], that is, the delinking from the hegemonic forms of knowledge and rationalities and the centring of alternative epistemologies and histories. Decolonial practices must be radical, holistic, transnational and continuous since there is an existing danger that decolonisation is misused as a metaphor, especially by settler colonisers who try to reconcile their settler guilt through the discursive usage of decolonisation[17]. To decolonise, in contrast to their practice, means to build meaningful alliances against coloniality of any form. Examples are inter-communalism between different global communities, South-South links and decolonial practices in school and universities that require the unlearning of the already acquired knowledge and the re-learning of knowledge that disrupts our previous knowledge. It involves discomfort and the questioning of which knowledge is privileged, and which is ignored.

Concluding remarks

I am not sure, personally, if the project of decolonisation is even possible within the existing global system of power and domination. It is a system that has been in existence for 500 years and it will take us decades, if not centuries, to deconstruct this very system. The first step, however, has to be made, that is to acknowledge the colonial past and present within our own countries. We can no longer uphold colonial unknowing, meaning that we just ignore the coloniality which we live in, since “we breath coloniality all the time and every day[18].

Through the lens of coloniality, it is possible to “interrogate the power structures at the global and national level that are still informed by racist/colonial ideologies/discourses” and to challenge “the epistemic racism, imperialistic, colonialist, Christian-centric, hetero-normative, patriarchal exercising of power”[19]. I hope that united intersectional, decolonial and feminist movements can help to “transform relationships so that the alienation, competition, and dehumanization that characterizes human interaction can be replaced with feelings of intimacy, mutuality, and camaraderie”[20], to use the words of the one and only, bell hooks.

Meret Yannice Wälti

Regular Contributor of Solidarity Collective

Meret holds a BA in Social Anthropology, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and Sociology (University of Bern, Switzerland) and a MSc in Women, Peace and Security from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She has conducted research on the victimization of sexworkers in Switzerland and on the colonial imaginaries of Switzerland’s gender equality policies. Passionate about writing, she is working as a freelance grant writer for visual artists and researchers, where she combines ethnographic methodologies and anthropological theories with art. Her long-term goal is to become a writer and a professional within the international feminist peace movement.

[1] Carbado, D. W. (2013). Colorblind intersectionality. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 38(4), 811-845. &

Alexander-Floyd, N. G. (2012). Disappearing acts: Reclaiming intersectionality in the social sciences in a post—black feminist era. Feminist Formations, 24(1), 1-25.

[2] Amos, V. & Parmar P. (1984). Challenging Imperial Feminism. Feminist Review, 17, 3-19.

[3] Maldonado-Torres, N. (2007). On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a Concept. Cultural studies, 21(2-3), 240-270. (p.243).

[4] Quijano, A. (2000). Coloniality of power and Eurocentrism in Latin America. Nepantla: Views from South, (1)3, 533-580. & Quijano, A. (2007). Coloniality and modernity/rationality. Cultural studies, 21(2-3), 168-178.

[5] Mignolo, W. (2018). What does it mean to decolonize. In Mignolo, W. & Walsh C. E. On decoloniality: concepts, analytics, praxis (pp.105-134). Durham: Duke University Press.

[6] Mothoagae, I. D. (2014). An exercise of power as epistemic racism and privilege: The subversion of Tswana identity. Souls, 16(1-2), 11-27. & Escobar, A. (1995). Encountering Development and the Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

[7] García-Del Moral, P. (2018). The Murders of Indigenous Women in Canada as Feminicides: Toward a Decolonial Intersectional Reconceptualization of Femicide. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 43(4), 929-954. (p.932).

[8] Lugones, M. (2007). Heterosexualism and the colonial/modern gender system. Hypatia, 22(1), 186-219.

[9] ‘Biological/sexual dimorphism’ refers to the understanding that there are only two identifiable sex/gender categories, men and women, which are supposedly opposed to each other as well as hierarchically related.

[10] Icaza, R. (2018). Social struggles and the coloniality of gender. In Shilliam, R. & Rutazibwa, O. (Eds.). Routledge handbook of postcolonial politics (pp.1-16). London: Routledge. (p. 12).

[11] Fanon, F. (1968). The Wretched of the earth. New York: Grove.

[12] Cusicanqui, S.R., (2012). Ch’ixinakax utxiwa: A Reflection on the Practices and Discourses of Decolonization. South Atlantic Quarterly, 111(1), 95-109. (p.96).

[13] Foucault, M. (1978). The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1: An Introduction. New York: Random House. (pp.95-96).

[14] Maldonado-Torres, N. (2006). Cesaire’s gift and the decolonial turn. Radical Philosophy Review, 9(2), 111-138 (p.117). 

[15] Quijano, A. (2007). Coloniality and modernity/rationality. Cultural studies, 21(2-3), 168-178. (p.178).

[16] Mignolo, W. D. (2009). Epistemic disobedience, independent thought and decolonial freedom. Theory, culture & society, 26(7-8), 159-181.

[17] Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, education & society, 1(1).

[18] Maldonado-Torres, N. (2007). On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a Concept. Cultural studies, 21(2-3), 240-270 (p.243).

[19] Mothoagae, I. D. (2014). An exercise of power as epistemic racism and privilege: The subversion of Tswana identity. Souls, 16(1-2), 11-27. (p.13 & 24).

[20] hooks, b. (2000). Feminist theory: From margin to center. Pluto Press. (p.35).

Solidarity Opinions

Who constitutes ‘women’? The whitewashing of Gender Equality

‘I was the only woman in the room, now that’s changed’ – reads the title of a recent BBC article, a direct quote from Kelly Becker, President at Schneider Electric (UK & Ireland). Whilst the improvement over the past 5 – 10 years in gender representation in board rooms has certainly been a welcome and timely change, I refrain from using the term ‘women’. Why? Because this is not an improvement that has been seen or enjoyed by all women. As the rather tone deaf (or perhaps blind, in this case) graphic used by the BBC, and provided by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, quite ironically shows – there has been an increase in the representation and promotion of *white* women in the workforce, with women of colour being left at the wayside of ‘D&I’ efforts. For most women of colour in corporate spaces and Senior leadership positions, the BBC headline would have read ‘I am the only women of colour in the room’, full stop.

No alt text provided for this image

Source 1 – When this is the graphic that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy provide to show how the representation of women has ‘visibly improved’ we must take the graphic literally, and question how it managed to pass so many different eyes within the government and not be flagged for its racial homogenization.

There are many problems here, but one of the first is the BBC article’s generous use of the word ‘women’ without even considering what kind of women they are speaking about, and who they erase in the process. When a person of colour appears in the media, their ethnicity or the colour of their skin is always foregrounded. In D&I rhetoric, the number of ‘BAME’ people in an organization is always foregrounded, rather than the disproportionate number of white employees. Yet when we speak about white people, or women in this case, their ethnicity is an unmarked, unspoken norm. The BBC writes “this reflects a broader shift, with women now making up more than a third of top jobs at the UK’s 350 largest firms”, but their failure to cite that it is only white women making up that 30% speaks to the larger erasure of race/ethnicity from equality efforts.

This is not a new phenomenon. During the suffrage movement in the US, Sojourner Truth was one of many Black women abolitionists fighting for the rights of enslaved Black women. Whilst white women fought for equal rights, what they really meant was rights that make white women equal to white men. Truth famously stated,

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?”

– 1851 speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio

Fast forward more than 80 years, as second-wave feminists demanded equal opportunity and equal pay between the 1960s and 1980s, Black women still did not have access to equal and fair civil rights. African Americans were still facing segregation, violence, and were still unable to fully exercise their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1870. Groups like The Combahee River Collective, for example, and pockets of the Civil Rights movement, were established by Black women to fight for their rights and civil liberties as they were excluded from the wider ‘women’s’ movement for equality. What we are seeing now is the same form of exclusion re-packaged – but in 2021, in our hyper-digitalised world that gives us access to this kind of information on-demand, shouldn’t we be doing better?

No matter how many people claim we live in a post-racist society, racism and segregation still exist – as is seen through the exclusive culture of the vanilla boy’s club. But these problems also permeate HR departments and corporate leadership. We have heard a lot of dialogue about affinity bias, which often falls into unconscious bias in the plethora of available ‘training’ programs currently circulating like wildfire. Yet what happens when the white men displaying affinity bias are told they need to be more inclusive? Often, they hire white women. And what happens when those white men in recruiting and leadership positions are replaced with white women? Often, those white women will also exercise affinity bias and hire alike – and the cycle continues.

Soon, the Vanilla boys club will become a Vanilla people’s club, and ‘D&I’ efforts will, rightly, be scrutinised for their lack of comprehensive understanding of inequalities. Unless an intersectional approach to gender, race/ethnicity, ability, sexuality, and socio-economic status is adopted, the BBC and other corporations will continue celebrating ‘diversity’ and ‘gender parity’ without truly understanding what it means. That is, until we have another audit in 5 years, or when another act of violence is recorded, and people decide to care again.  

By Tzeitel Degiovanni

Tzeitel is a co-founder of The Solidarity Collective and an LSE Gender Alumni. Originally from Malta, she specialises in the way cultural stereotypes manifest themselves within organisations, the media and politics. Tzeitel currently works in diversity and inclusion advocacy for the UK workforce.

Solidarity Opinions

SWIPING LEFT ON SEXISM: Misogyny in Online Dating

After three and half years of being in a relationship, online dating was something I was anxious to venture into, and something I had avoided for 7 weeks post-break-up. Apart from watching my friends swiping left and right, and the few months I had tinder as a 19-year-old, it was an element of being a single Gen Z woman that I knew little about. However, when the national lockdown struck in early January and boredom crept in, I decided to take the plunge and make a Tinder account. After all, having had all the standard post-break-up experiences taken away from me, it might be a bit of fun. My expectations were very low, so surely I couldn’t be disappointed, and if all else failed I could just delete the app and pretend it never happened.

Firstly, it’s important to mention that throughout this period of online dating, I have spoken to a lot of men, an unknown and large number of complete strangers. The majority have been pleasant, funny, entertaining or at least harmless – if not slightly boring. Meaningless conversations filled with crappy small talk and awful chat up lines aim to rid boredom and kill time. So, when I started talking to two men in more depth I was grateful to speak about something of substance. However, when the subject turned to discussing women, I was shocked by their opinions.

The first conversation arose when discussing ‘types’, a tricky subject which can cause awkwardness at the best of times, let alone online.  When asked what my ‘type’ is I went down the route of personality traits –‘funny, open-minded, ambitious’. I then asked him in return and he said ‘feminine’, ‘ladylike’ and that a woman he would want to date should be ‘clean and tidy’. This language made me feel uncomfortable and screamed undertones of a bygone era, or at least one that I thought was bygone. Despite this I gave him the benefit of the doubt as I wanted to know what he meant by this gendered language. He explained ‘I don’t like women who swear or wear trainers or dress like a man’ and when I questioned whether being ‘clean and tidy’ was a matter of liking general hygiene, he said ‘no it’s not girly to be untidy’. This, and his own donning of white beat-up trainers in his profile picture confirmed to me that this was not a matter of not liking a shoe or a swear word, but rather not expecting those behaviours from women. It reminded me of traditional gender tropes that ‘women should be seen and not heard’ and ‘women should know their place’, reinforcing an outdated and ridiculous expectation that women should be submissive rather than expressive, in appearance and language. To me, expletives are some of the most expressive words in the English language?

Perhaps this is unsurprising though, as it was only a few months ago that Cardi B’s song ‘WAP’ sparked uproar and controversy on social media due to its sexually explicit language. The song, which celebrates female sexual pleasure, was branded as, ‘vulgar’, ‘disgusting and vile’, a product of what happens ‘when children are raised without God’ and something that was ‘unfortunate and disappointing on a personal and moral level’.[1] Shockingly, people even questioned Cardi B’s abilities as a mother. When I compare this to the lack of debate that has ensued as a result of male rappers using similar language for decades, it makes little sense…I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about a male rappers parenting capabilities as a result of their lyrics? Nor have I heard of anyone labelling a man as ‘vulgar’ or ‘disappointing on a personal and moral level’ for rapping about sex? It seems so normalised? Possibly, this is because there are strong expectations within society, of what a mother should be and how she should behave. She has a responsibility to maintain actions and behaviours that are grounded in femininity and modesty, whereas fatherhood does not seem to dictate a person’s entire identity in the same way.

Needless to say, I felt particularly unsettled when I found myself staring at the messages I had received from this boy on tinder, who I hardly knew. He wrote about his ideal woman with such audacity and glaring double standards, it was actually laughable. This was a 25 year old, not a 75 year old, comfortably sharing his outdated sexist expectations of how women should act and dress with a woman who he has not only never met, but is also trying to impress. Least to say I was not impressed.

In another conversation with a man I had been speaking to for a couple of weeks, we had turned to the infamous topic of exes and why previous relationships had ended. He explained that he and his ex had broken up due to arguments caused by her being a ‘hardcore feminist’. Once again alarm bells rang, but I wanted to know more. I enquired into what exactly he meant by this term, but he continued on a rant about how she wasn’t good at agreeing to disagree, and that she needed to make more effort to accept opinions that differed from hers. Still not answering the question, I asked him directly, “are you a feminist?”. He said “no not at all haha after almost 3 years with her it put me off the entire thing”. The laughter and relaxed tone of his message would make you believe I had asked if he liked pizza or football, not equality.

Feminism has provided me with every opportunity I have in my life, be it: education, work, a political voice, etc. For someone to dismiss it and reduce the movement to a ‘thing’, not only trivialises it but also massively reeks of male privilege. Interestingly, in a 2014 study, it was found that 25% of men would label themselves a ‘feminist’ despite 74% of men claiming to support equality – the very definition of feminism.[2] It may be the stigma and misconceptions around the meaning of the word feminism, or the perception of feminists as miserable killjoys, who always want to talk about ‘boring’ things that ‘only affect women’, that prevents men from using it to identify their beliefs. Regardless we should not place all the onus on women to educate and fight for their own equality, with men feeling like it is something they have to be enticed into. What’s more, our culture has made men feel confident enough to express outdated and misogynistic views so openly with us, without fear of backlash. When they’re saying this to my face (or at least, to my screen), it makes me wonder what they’re saying or thinking when we’re not there to defend ourselves, and each other.

The irony of using the most modern method of dating to spout opinions straight out of the 1960s almost made me laugh. With little energy to argue like I had done previously, which had resulted in me being told that I was ‘manly’ and ‘clearly not much fun’, I gave up trying. One thing is for certain though – I would love to meet his ex, as I’m sure we’d have a lot to say on the subject.

Maybe this is reflective of the opinions young men today have of women, or maybe it is just reflective of a small subgroup clinging onto a fictional and misogynistic idea of gender. Regardless, next time I’m bored, I’m going to read a book.


[1] The Guardian, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP should be celebrated, not scolded (2021) <> [accessed 13/02/2021].

[2] Onepoll, Why are people reluctant to identify as a feminist? (2021) [accessed 27/01/21]

Author: Lucy Baines

Lucy holds a BA in Education, Culture and Childhood studies from the University of Sheffield and is going to study an MSc in Speech and Language therapy later this year. She currently works at a tennis club and has been on furlough for the majority of the last year and her experiences of online dating during the pandemic have inspired her to write. Her other hobbies include art and making clothes.

Solidarity Opinions

Ban Drill? Why the problem is deeper than rap

By Harry Needham

Debate has raged amongst those in positions of power in Britain about whether or not we should limit the release of drill music as it incites and ‘glamourises’ gang violence. [1] The London Metropolitan Police Service argued that there has been a surge in violence that can be attributed to this music and that this music is the root of the issue. In reality, this is far from the truth. As examples of crime statistics in London, specifically knife crime, show us -there is little to no correlation in the rise of drill music and gang violence in London. When you break down the specific instances that have had connections drawn between violence and music, as you always should, the cause of the problems become obvious. The truth is that the roots of the violence go far beyond drill music, and it’s time we start unpacking that.

             In terms of recent statistics on crime, across the UK, there were 44,771 offences involving knives or sharp instruments between September 2018 and September 2019 a rise of 7% from the year previous.[2] In 2019 there was also 90 fatal stabbings in London, 23 of which were teenagers between the ages of 13-19.[3] Although this denotes that knife crime is on the rise in the UK as a whole the issues run deeper than the dismissive ‘violence-inciting’ drill music argument could ever account for. As shown by Appendix 1, Inner London has the highest percentage of individuals in low-income households in all of Great Britain.[4] We can assume that poverty and poor standards of living is a more likely cause of why so many young people in the capital are turning to illegal activity to get money that they otherwise do not have access to. Crime and gang politics that emanate as a result of economic inequality and marginalisation is what leads to violence and, consequently, the rise in knife crime. However, certain talented young people from London and other areas are finding a way to legitimately monetise this lifestyle, these politics and the lives they live.

Drill music is a fairly new development, but the concept and the debate are far from modern. In the mid 2000s there was a similar dispute emerging about the violence in Grime music and how it also was at fault for the issues in London. Drill has evolved in a similar way, from similar parts of the UK. Sonically, however, Drill is very different to Grime music and this is where the key distinguishing features lie between these two genres. Drill and Grime are just terms used to describe the instrumentals these artists rap on, yet the media and politicians have built and attached connotations of violence to these words. In reality, an artist could choose to say whatever they like over a drill beat and it would still be a drill song. However, given the locational roots of the sound and the genre, the content was always going to be heavily built around and inspired by lived experiences, just like Grime music. Just because these politicians don’t like the experiences that the artists recount it does not mean these experiences don’t occur or did not occur before drill music. There is also an argument to be explored that by scapegoating urban inner-city music it allows politicians to distract from failures of their government.  

What people in positions of influence are disregarding about drill music is the positive impact that it has had. For a majority of the people that are growing up in these urbanised areas, where austerity politics and a racialised socio-economic system has left them socially and economically marginalised, this music offers a release. But more than that, it actually serves as a way out. As the clout of the genre develops and stabilises, the artists are offered a way to make money legitimately. Given that the tracks in which these artists rap about violence and gang culture are the most popular, how can anyone fault them for merely exploiting and monetising it for other people’s sonic enjoyment? [5] This music is a vessel for these artists to claim back the power and forge a way out of a system that is not designed to suit them. The war waged on drill also seems to be naïve to the wider audience of drill music. Blame for inner city problems, predominantly violence, is placed on drill but what about the white urban areas where this music is also incredibly popular? An assumption that drill is the cause of inner-city violence conveniently ignores that there is no correlation between the popularity of drill music in middle class areas and subsequent violence. Thus, those in positions of power need to start looking into and understanding the benefits that urban music can have for the urban population and how this music is doing far more for these people than years of prejudice and austerity.




[3] & Appendix 2

[4] See Appendix 1



Appendix 1:

Appendix 2:

About Harry Needham
Harry is completing an MA in Contemporary History at the University of Birmingham and holds a Bachelors in Ancient History with History at Swansea University. Predominantly, his research looks at understanding the relationship between Race, Racism and Power whilst also focusing on the impact of popular culture. His undergraduate thesis analysed the relationship between folk music and youth activism in the 1960s and this relationship in the wider context is a vein of study he is continuing to follow.
Solidarity Opinions


By Alexandra Williams.

The UK criminal justice system overrepresents Black people more than the US criminal justice system, that has in recent years become known globally for its racist police brutality. If you compare UK prisons to US prisons, you will find Black people are more overrepresented in the UK. That might be hard to believe, but it’s true.

Racial inequalities in the criminal justice system are evident at every level. When we discuss the criminal justice system, this doesn’t simply refer to the police, but includes stop and searches and arrests by the police, prosecutions, convictions, custodial demands, custodial sentences and prison population.

Of all ethnic groups, Black people are the most overrepresented group in the entire system. In the last census, Black people made up 3% of the population, yet represent anywhere between 10% and 22% of those who are currently within or moving through the criminal justice system. White people, however, are under-represented at every, single stage. Doesn’t seem right, does it?

According to the Ministry of Justice, Black people make up 4 times more of the prison population than that of the general population. Despite our reputation as having a ‘less racist’ justice system, this means the overrepresentation of Black people is higher in the UK than in the USA.

There are many reasons why this is likely to be new information to you. The USA has the largest prison population in the world, still uses capital punishment, and their police officers have more guns than ours do. This leads to more media attention, more public violence, and more vocal criticism. But behind closed doors and rhetoric of democracy and justice, our ‘more racist’ friends across the pond are not actually the ones with the highest overrepresentation of Black people in their prisons. We are.

At this point, you may expect a rebuttal from the more right-wing inclined, about how maybe Black people just commit more crimes? About ‘Black’ gangs in London and the cultural accuracy of Top Boy? Of course, criminal activity has long been linked to inequality, with the Black population and communities in the UK facing lower levels of education, poorer housing and lower incomes. However, this explanation can’t explain why Black people have longer sentences and harsher punishments compared to White people.

These issues are structural. It’s important to remember that there is a long history of Black people being viewed as inferior and innately criminal in the UK and beyond. Stereotypes of ethnic minorities, perpetuated by the media and contemporary right-wing political rhetoric, paint Black men as criminally inclined, drug-abusing and violent, and Asian men as disorderly, radical, culturally separatist and inclined towards Islamic terrorism. These stereotypes help cement the public linkage between violence and non-white people. These views, in turn, impact the people who work in the criminal justice system, and how they treat POC people as a result. Not just limited to police officers, PPCs, judges, lawyers and civil servants are all complicit. When a person’s criminal sentence is left in the hands of a jury, when ordinary people decide whether someone is guilty or not, these stereotypes take on a real and violent reality that makes or destroys lives, and almost always discriminates, whether consciously or not.

Calling out institutional racism is not the same as accusing all police officers of being racist. But we can’t get away from the fact we have a problem in the police force itself too.

Many pieces of research have found evidence of a racist culture in the police towards ethnic minorities, which should not be a surprise to anyone who has listened to POC experiences with the police. You just need to look at the stop and search data, where Black people are overrepresented by a factor of 7. Police officers choose who to stop and search, and have been granted allowances to make it easier to do so at their often discriminatory discretion. Ask any young, black man who has grown up in London whether they’ve been stopped and searched, and it will sharply contrast the response of White men living in the same city, in the same boroughs.

The government and leadership of police forces need to take a central role in tackling institutional racism if it is ever going to change. Institutional racism is defined as a collective failure towards people based on their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen in discriminatory processes, attitudes and behaviour, that has manifested in the culture we see today. Embedded in the structure of our criminal justice system, everyone at all rungs of the institution must take responsibility for our own biases, working to identify them, change them, and calling out racism.

How we fix this is for another article and is not a question one person can answer alone. But I’m sure you’ll agree it must be answered and is a tragic problem that can no longer be ignored.

Alexandra holds a BA in Applied Social Sciences from the University of York and recently completed an MSc in Gender, Equalities and Policy from the London School of Economics. She previously worked in political campaigns and since finishing her Master’s works on campaigns and policy in the housing sector. Alexandra’s academic interests have often focused on ethnic and racial inequalities; with her recent dissertation focusing on how Nigerian women’s reproductive choices are subject to the UK Department for International Developments’ population control agenda and their cooptation of feminism.

Sources used: 

Tonry, M. (1997) Ethnicity, Crime, and Immigration: Comparative and Cross-national Perspectives. Chicago: The University of Chicago. Phillips, C. (2010).

Institutional Racism and Ethnic Inequalities: An Expanded Multilevel Framework. Journal of Social Policy, 40(1), pp.173-192. 

Young, J. (2007). The Vertigo of Late Modernity, London: Sage. Macpherson of Cluny, Sir. (1999).

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. Cm. 4262–1. London: Home Office. [Online] Available at: Phillips, C. and Bowling, B. (2007)

Ethnicities, racism, crime and criminal justice, in M. Maguire, R. Morgan and R. Reiner (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, fourth edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sveinsson, K. (2008).

A Tale of Two Englands: ‘Race’ and Violent Crime in the Media. London: The Runnymede Trust. Barrett, G., Fletcher, S. and Patel, T. (2014).

Black minority ethnic communities and levels of satisfaction with policing: Findings from a study in the north of England. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 20 4, 14(2), pp. 196-215. 

Long, L. and Joseph-Salisbury, R. (2018). Black mixed-race men’s perceptions and experiences of the police. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25 1, 42(2), pp. 198-215. 

Ministry of Justice (2019) and the Lammy Review (2017)

Rollock, N. (2009). The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 10 Years On: An Analysis of the Literature, London: Runnymede Trust.

Solidarity Opinions

‘A Woman Wearing a Mask’

‘There’s something about a woman wearing a mask,’ says the sixty-something-year-old man after I scanned his shopping through the self-scan machine for him.

Prior to this we had had a laugh about how the machines don’t work; ‘This machine doesn’t like me,’; ‘These machines don’t like anyone.’ He was a normal, friendly, chatty customer and it was a refreshing break from the moaning pensioners and impatient technophobes.

So I had to ask him to repeat what he said. ‘Excuse me?’; ‘Oh,’ he says, ‘just, there’s something about a woman in a mask.’ I look quizzical, and then realise I don’t have the energy to quiz this man anyway. Queue fake guffaw-half-smile that doesn’t reach my eyes (my PPE most likely prevented any expression of emotion at all). I walk away.

Who knew my personal protective equipment could be so sexually alluring? Who knew my efforts to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 could, in fact, turn a sixty-something-year-old man on?

In fairness, I don’t know if this guy was necessarily being a creep. But, then again, I can’t think of a single reason to say this to me. If it was a reference to something else, I didn’t get it. If it was an attempt at a joke, I didn’t find it funny.

So it gets added to the list of times where I simply do my job, am a polite and kind individual who aims to make customers feel attended to and at ease, and I end up being made to feel icky by a weird comment.

This instance took me back to the time a frail old man in his seventies (at least) hobbled up to me, leaning on his trolley as he went to exit the store. He says something to me but his mask is preventing me from hearing it. I say, ‘Excuse me?’, and he removes his mask and leans in close to my face. Let’s not worry about the global pandemic happening around us, for this old man has objectifying to do! He says, ‘I said, you’ve got a cracking figure!’. I look at him, and I look to my left to his wife, oblivious, continuing to walk away. I say, ‘Okay.’ And he hobbles off, smiling, pleased with himself, as if he’s done a good deed.

Thanks old man. Now I’m conscious of my tucked in shirt – am I drawing attention to my bum? Or is the shirt too tight across my boobs? I can’t really change that as work only gave me one shirt anyway, and if anything it’s quite baggy. I analyse my own behaviours. I had been stood watching the self-scan area, with my back against the wall. I hadn’t been bent over or flouncing around. It felt as though I had been concealing myself against the wall, which is something that many of us women become accustomed to doing. We shrink, we cower, we look away. And then, when we least expect it (because we’ve done everything humanly possible to prevent it), someone makes a weird, dirty, uncalled for comment. Why must we work so hard to prevent something that some creep is going to come along and do anyway?

There are many things I could call for men to do. Stop assaulting us, stop raping us, stop murdering us, stop hurting us. But this minefield feels too dangerous for me to try and cross. So, for now, this is what I ask of you, men. Men who make comments, men who don’t. Men who are polite and men who are crude. Men who set out to make women feel uncomfortable or icky or exposed, and men who just say stupid things without realising the misogyny they have internalised.

I want you to stop calling me love, darling, sweetheart, chick, babe. Instead, and I don’t think this is too much to ask, can you just call me mate? Mate is universal. It is un-sexualised and it is non-threatening.

There is something in me that even feels comforted by a middle-aged man calling me mate. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of something my Dad would say. There is something platonic about it. It’s friendly and shows care in its own peculiar way. But most importantly, the term ‘mate’ for me is a safe zone. It shows that the utterer views me as their equal. Or at least, they are not seeing me as a pair of legs, or boobs, or as a blonde or a sex object or even, really, as a woman.

‘There’s something about seeing a mate in a mask…’ See, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Author: Becca Moody

Becca is a philosophy graduate, comedy journalist and artist. During the Covid-19 pandemic she has been spending most of her time working in a supermarket. Her experiences as a reluctant retail worker have involved run-ins with impatience, frustration and ignorance, mixed in with a fair few misogynistic comments. This has unsurprisingly been inspiring her writing no end.

Accessible Academia

Audre Lorde’s concept of ‘the erotic as power’ evaluated in relation to contemporary queer-feminist pornography.

January 8, 2021

This essay addresses the questions of how people engaging in, or with queer-feminist pornography respond to Audre Lorde’s argument that pornography signifies female oppression and that women engaging in it are being used merely as objects. It also presents how queer-feminist porn theorists and/or practitioners conceptualise the erotic and how they deal with the question of female empowerment in and through pornography. This piece does not contribute to the discussion about whether pornography is inherently good or bad or whether it empowers or oppresses women. The focus of many porn studies in the tradition of pro vs. anti-porn is very limiting and leaves out the possibilities for examining pornography in a holistic way. 

Meret Yannice Wälti

Regular Contributor of Solidarity Collective

Meret holds a BA in Social Anthropology, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and Sociology (University of Bern, Switzerland) and a MSc in Women, Peace and Security from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She has conducted research on the victimization of sexworkers in Switzerland and on the colonial imaginaries of Switzerland’s gender equality policies. Passionate about writing, she is working as a freelance grant writer for visual artists and researchers, where she combines ethnographic methodologies and anthropological theories with art. Her long-term goal is to become a writer and a professional within the international feminist peace movement.

The Sex Wars and Audre Lorde 

“The Sex Wars is generally understood as a conflict between feminists who were against pornography and certain sexual practices, e.g. s/m, and ‘sex radical’ feminists. Anti-pornography feminists argued that pornography was inherently sexist and promoted violence against women”1 states Sara Ellen Strongman. She refers to the era of the 1980’s, a time when women’s sexuality was strongly contested in activism and scholarship. Pornography, ‘prostitution’ and practices like BDSM were topics that feminists quarrelled about. Some saw those practices as objectifying women, whereas others argued that they proved a source of female empowerment. The porn industry at that time was booming, between 1950 and 1970 hundreds of pornographic films were produced, and since the publication of Deep Throat in 1972, thousands, if not millions of pornographic materials have started to circulate globally. This has resulted in the fact that pornography is omnipresent and still highly contested, re-negotiated and re-invented. Beatriz Preciado, therefore, calls the new world regime ‘the pharmaco-pornographic regime of sexuality’2, given that we are constantly exposing ourselves to the public. 

From time to time in history, there are different stages where sexuality gets discussed and politicized more intensely than in other times. Gayle S. Rubin argues that “in such periods, the domain of erotic life is, in effect, renegotiated”3. A very influential author who was actively involved in the re-negotiation of the erotic in the time during the Sex Wars, is Audre Lorde (1934-1992). Lorde, an Afro-American, lesbian feminist, poet and English professor from NYC, was an advocate of the anti-porn movement as she saw ‘the pornographic’ as the opposite of ‘the erotic’, whereby she sees the latter as the source of empowerment in every woman. Her famous theory of the ‘power of the erotic’ is deeply embedded in the context of the debates about sexuality, sex, race, pleasure and power at the time.  

The Erotic vs. the Pornographic

Audre Lorde amazed other feminists with her fearlessness to speak about topics which weren’t part of the dominant feminist discourse. When Lorde, in her essay called The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power (published in 1978), speaks of the erotic, she often uses the term ‘we’ to address other women. The erotic is inside of each woman, and at the same time it is feared by men, who are therefore not interested in examining it. Lorde’s definition of the erotic is the following one: “When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives”4. The erotic, once a woman recognizes and embraces it, refers to women’s “deepest and non-rational knowledge”5 and to women’s satisfaction. It is therefore a spiritual, sensual, physical, emotional force, which women feel in everything they do: when they dance, when they work – in every activity of their lives they should feel joy. The erotic pushes women to see their own excellence, which has been neglected for so long. The erotic is seen, especially in Western culture, as something superficially erotic, something only related to sex, something women should embrace only in men’s service. The erotic beyond its superficiality is feared because it is truly transformative, however only when shared: When two women’s self-connection is shared, differences between them can possibly be transcended. Only when both women are in touch with their erotic, a relation is truly equal; if they are not, they use each other and “use without the consent of the used is abuse”6. What Lorde is arguing is that when we engage with others without recognizing the erotic within us, we reduce ourselves to the pornographic, which she sees as the opposite of the erotic. Pornography for Lorde is “a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling”7. If the erotic and the pornographic are contrary, pornography signifies powerlessness, vulnerability, ‘despair, depression and self-denial’8, and not being in touch with your truest self. Lorde further explains that pornography emerged because the human need to share deep feeling has been misnamed in Western societies. There are only certain erotic encounters promoted, which she sees as an ‘abuse of feeling’9. Lorde therefore pledges for the recognition of the erotic, that in turn entails the elimination of the pornographic. 

It is important to keep in mind that Lorde wrote her essay in a particular historical moment of feminism, and that concepts are defined depending on the geographical, socio-political and personal context. Gill and Orgad argue that the contestation of sexuality (sex work, FGM and pornography) has always divided feminism: “Too often they [the contestations] have taken place along deep lines of stratification between feminists of North and South, secular or religious, heterosexual or queer”10. When writing about pornography or any other ‘feminist issues’, we have to irrefutably take the intersections of race, class, age, sexuality and ability/disability into account; in order to deconstruct the hegemony of white, middleclass, Western-centric feminist understandings. Especially when we talk about pornography, we have to also talk about race, because “representations of porn are never neutral to discourses of race and colonialism”11. Consequently, Lorde’s background undoubtedly influenced how she thought about pornography – especially about Black female pornography and Black women in BDSM. For Lorde it is not erotic to play with power. The erotic is not exclusively related to the bedroom and therefore dominance and subordination are also neither only bedroom-topics. Those practices are embedded in the wider social power structures, which is the reason why Lorde sees pornography as ethically problematic.  

Queer-feminist pornography 

Candida Royalle is often identified as the first representative of feminist pornography. She has been active in the industry since 1975 and her main idea was to take the emphasis away from genitalia. Royalle writes that “we wanted to portray a sense of connectedness, tenderness, communication, passion, excitement, and longing. We wanted to portray women with real bodies, of all ages and types, whom our female viewers could relate to and identify with, and men who seemed to care about their partners, who wanted to please and satisfy them”12. Ms. Naughty adds that her films are about the depiction of the female pleasure and the female orgasm, and therefore one of the important things for her is to abolish the ‘cum shot’ or ‘money shot’13. In ‘the Feminist Porn Book’ the authors aim to challenge the normative representations of gender, body shape, class, race, ability/disability and age which exist in mainstream pornography. Feminist pornography instead focuses on agency and pleasure and sees those concepts in their ambiguity and contradiction14.  

Queer-feminist pornography thus often distinguishes itself from mainstream pornography in stating that they don’t produce for mass-consumption, but rather with an artistical and political aim in mind, where sustainability is more important than profit. Alessandra Mondin calls feminist porn ‘fair trade, organic porn’ as it centers on the humanity and value of the performers, is produced in a cinematographically high quality and is therefore considered to be more ethical than mainstream porn. Queer-feminist porn producers try to ‘change the game of the market’, but the ways in which they do this drastically depends on the producer15. The film culture of queer, feminist and lesbian pornography is, thus, very heterogenous due to the fact that the three categories hold different activist backgrounds. Feminist and queer pornography are movements actively engaging with other social movements (sex worker’s rights, LGBTQ rights, sex-positive movement etc.).  

The Erotic in the field of queer-feminist pornography  

Actors who are actively involved in queer-feminist pornography belief that pornography is not violent, no more violent than mainstream media. The strict pro-censorship position that Lorde embodied is mostly criticised by queer-feminist pornographers/theorists: they agree upon the fact that through pornography, the erotic can be negotiated and embraced, while emphasising that erotic pleasure always exists “within and across inequality, in the face of injustice”16. As queer-feminist pornography shows different gender identities and various sexualities, traditional, normative conceptualizations of sexuality can be challenged, which is something Lorde didn’t consider in her concept of the erotic. She exclusively addressed women when she talked about the erotic as power, excluding important discussions about different gender identities. Since particularly queer sex or queer intimacies are banned from public spaces, it is even more important to publicly show them17. Making those identities visible in public spaces is something which pornography makes possible. Censuring (certain) sex, which in her most famous work Lorde advocated for, is a mechanism used by states to ostracize it to the private sphere and is undoubtedly problematic.  

The four Black feminists Ariane Cruz, Amber Musser, Jennifer Nash and LaMonda Stallings engage with queer-feminist pornography and theorize Blackness, sexuality and pornography. They address the contradictory relation of Black feminism and pornography, although they take up a different position than Lorde, as they recognise pornography as a site of empowerment. They also show to what extent Lorde’s conceptualization of the erotic as female empowerment and the pornographic as female oppression and the resulting anti-pornographic attitude prevents us from understanding the nuanced relationship of Black sexuality, race and pornography.

Cruz’s main goal is to reconcile Black feminism and pornography. She acknowledges the existing tensions between the two, but nevertheless tries – in opposition to Lorde – to focus on the (unspeakable) pleasure within pornography. Cruz developed ‘the politics of perversion’, a concept which she uses as a tool to show that pornography is not wholly oppressive, but that sexuality can be a ‘technique of power’. Cruz investigates Black women’s engagement in BDSM or race plays, where racism is employed as an “erotic tool of power exchange”18. Another Black scholar, Mireille Miller-Young, shows that Black women engage in erotic economies in order to be professionally autonomous and economically independent. She calls this process of negotiating their own agency and erotic pleasure while living in an exploitable body ‘the erotic sovereignty’ and explains how this process takes place in an environment of policing and structural inequality19. Jennifer Nash, in responding to the question about the usefulness of the erotic in relation to race, speaks about ‘race’s eroticism’, which describes the phenomenon that “racial excess and hypersexuality can be limiting and also deeply enabling in permitting sexual imaginations to flourish”20

For Amber Musser the erotic does something similar as it does for Lorde, in that it gives people the opportunity to get together. But it should here be noted that she uses the term ‘people’, whereby she includes people who identify with other identities, not only ‘women’. Musser says that “sexuality, pornography and the erotic are sites that bring into relief the construction of race and the simultaneous pleasures and violence in/and of race”21.    

What differentiates her account of the erotic from that of Lorde, is that she sheds a light on the fact that through the erotic people can deploy a restricted form of agency, not this ‘absolute’ empowerment Lorde mentioned. By embracing the erotic, Musser thinks that people can engage with themselves and their desires. Jennifer Nash hereby agrees with Musser, adding that especially the naming of those desires which are seen as infelicitous, is an important act that many of those who work in the field of pornography embrace. Pornography for her does this naming (making public) work and is “one of the few places where we see our bodies – and other people’s bodies – and thus it becomes kind of instruction manual on how bodies in pleasure can look”22. Pornographies are a way to imagine and desire even more, and they are educational. Cruz states in relation to the erotic, that she wants to learn about how BDSM in pornography can produce “erotic pleasure in Blackness, on Blackness and with Blackness”23.  

What the above scholars all have in common is their emphasis on a middle ground between Lorde’s binary of the erotic as empowerment and the pornographic as oppression. Shoniqua Roach adds that there are “multitudinous possibilities for Black eroticism”24 depending on the site and on the social and political context the woman is located, as pornography does affect people in different ways.  

Lorde additionally argued that differences between feminists are important and can be softened through the recognition of the erotic, whereupon Sharon Patricia Holland counters that the erotic is ambivalent and can either dissolve those differences or strengthen them. Community and the sharing with others were deeply important for Lorde and can be understood to still be significant for feminists engaging with pornography today. Ingrid Ryberg therefore developed the concept of the ‘ethics of shared embodiment’: “Thought of as an activism oriented towards means rather than ends, queer, feminist and lesbian pornography invites an embodied understanding of positions and experiences that differ from one’s own and calls forth an ethics of shared embodiment, susceptible to otherness and respecting of difference. […] it demands awareness that there might always be another point of view”25. Within this film culture, the ethics have to be negotiated due to the existing heterogeneity and the disagreement, but especially these discussions and conflicts make this kind of pornography so valuable.  

Lorde’s and other feminist’s strict anti-pornography position therefore gets a lot of criticism, as it doesn’t allow for a holistic understanding of pornography. MacKinnon e.g. is one of the loudest voices in the anti-porn movement and doesn’t publicly debate pornography with porn advocators. The problem of the abolitionist attitude towards all pornography is that it goes hand in hand with the phenomenon of sex-negativity, which in turn entails that women who consume and enjoy pornography feel guilty about their sexual and erotic pleasure.  


Concluding remarks   

Lorde’s anti-pornographic position – as much as I personally adore her poems and her contributions – can be criticized from an academic point of view and from the perspective of individuals who engage in or with queer-feminist pornography. Pornography is ambiguous, highly contested and embedded in wider political movements and an analysis of pornography can tell us a lot about our reality. Pornographic representations are racialized, sexualized and gendered, and as the feminists considered in my analysis reaffirmed, they can be a source of empowerment for women, as well as for people who identify as queer. 

Lorde’s concept of the erotic as power is not rejected by queer-feminist porn theorists and producers, rather they re-interpret it: to recognize and embrace the erotic does not require an abolition of pornog-raphy. On the contrary, it is through pornography that the erotic can be negotiated and embraced, within structural inequalities. Especially contemporary Black feminists still refer to Lorde’s concept and thus try to reconcile the difficult relation of Black feminism and pornography. They all agree upon the fact that pornography is a space where non-normative desires and sexuality can be expressed, which can be extremely powerful especially for (queer and Black) intimacies, which have been politicized and policed for so long. Concepts like ‘the erotic sovereignty’, ‘race’s eroticism’ or the ‘politics of perversion’ are attempts to make meaning of the negotiation of agency, erotic pleasure and race within pornography.


1 Strongman, S. E. (2018). ‘Creating justice between us’: Audre Lorde’s theory of the erotic as coalitional politics in the Women’s Movement. Feminist Theory, 19(1), 41-59. (p.45).

2 Preciado, B. (2008). Pharmacopornographic Politics: Towards a New Gender Ecology. Parallax, 14(1), 105-117.

3 Rubin, G. (1984) 1993. Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality, In Abelove & Halperin (Eds.), The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (pp. 3-44). London: Routledge. (p.143).

4 Lorde, A. (1978) 2017. The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power. In Lorde, A. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House (pp. 6-15). UK: Penguin Random House. (p. 9).

5 Lorde, A. (1978) 2017. The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power. In Lorde, A. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House (pp. 6-15). UK: Penguin Random House. (p. 6)

6 Lorde, A. (1978) 2017. The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power. In Lorde, A. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House (pp. 6-15). UK: Penguin Random House. (p. 13).

7 Lorde, A. (1978) 2017. The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power. In Lorde, A. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House (pp. 6-15). UK: Penguin Random House. (p. 7).

8 Lorde, A. (1978) 2017. The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power. In Lorde, A. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House (pp. 6-15). UK: Penguin Random House. (p. 13).

9 Lorde, A. (1978) 2017. The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power. In Lorde, A. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House (pp. 6-15). UK: Penguin Random House. (p. 14).

10 Gill, R. & Orgad S. (2018). The Shifting Terrain of Power and Sex: From the ‘Sexualisation of Culture’ to #MeToo. Sexualities, 21(8), 1313-1324. (p.1316).

11 Mulholland, M. (2016). ‘The Pathological Native’ Versus ‘The Good White Girl’: An Analysis of Race and Colonialism in Two Australian Porn Panics. Porn Studies, 3(1), 34-49. (p.45).

12 Royalle, C. (2013). What’s a nice girl like you… In Taormino T., Shimuzu C., Penley C., & Miller-Young M. (Eds.), The feminist porn book: The politics of producing pleasure (pp. 58–70). New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY. (p.65).

13 Naughty, Ms. (2013). My decadent decade: Ten years of making and debating porn for women. In Taormino T., Shimuzu C., Penley C., & Miller-Young M. (Eds.), The feminist porn book: The politics of producing pleasure (pp. 71–78). New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY.

14 Taormino, T., Penley, C., Shimizu, C., & Miller-Young, M. (2013). The feminist porn book: The politics of producing pleasure. New York: Feminist Press at CUNY.

15 Mondin, A. (2014). Fair-trade porn + niche markets + feminist audience. Porn Studies, (1)1-2, 189-192. (p.189-190).

16 Taormino, T., Penley, C., Shimizu, C., & Miller-Young, M. (2013). The feminist porn book: The politics of producing pleasure. New York: Feminist Press at CUNY. (p.10). 17 Berlant, L., & Warner, M. (1998). Sex in public. Critical inquiry, 24(2), 547-566.

18 Chude-Sokei L., Cruz A., Musser A. J., Nash J. C., Stallings L.H. and Wachter-Grene K. (2016). Race, Pornography, and Desire: A TBS Roundtable. The Black Scholar, 46(4), 49-64. (p.381).

19 Miller-Young, M. (2014). A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

20 Chude-Sokei L., Cruz A., Musser A. J., Nash J. C., Stallings L.H. and Wachter-Grene K. (2016). Race, Pornography, and Desire: A TBS Roundtable. The Black Scholar, 46(4), 49-64. (p.55).

21 Chude-Sokei L., Cruz A., Musser A. J., Nash J. C., Stallings L.H. and Wachter-Grene K. (2016). Race, Pornography, and Desire: A TBS Roundtable. The Black Scholar, 46(4), 49-64. (p.56).

22 Chude-Sokei L., Cruz A., Musser A. J., Nash J. C., Stallings L.H. and Wachter-Grene K. (2016). Race, Pornography, and Desire: A TBS Roundtable. The Black Scholar, 46(4), 49-64. (p.61).

23 Chude-Sokei L., Cruz A., Musser A. J., Nash J. C., Stallings L.H. and Wachter-Grene K. (2016). Race, Pornography, and Desire: A TBS Roundtable. The Black Scholar, 46(4), 49-64. (p.62).

24 Roach, S. (2019). Black Sex in the Quiet. Differences, 30(1), 126-147. (p. 139).

25 Ryberg, I. (2015). The ethics of shared embodiment in queer, feminist and lesbian pornography. Studies in European Cinema, 12(3), 261-274. (p. 271)

Solidarity Opinions

What happens if we flip the stats? A thought experiment By Molly Hugh

‘4.7% of the UK’s most powerful jobs held by BAME individuals’

‘95.3% of the UK’s most powerful jobs held by white individuals’

The above statements are the same statistic. Semantically, they are very different. What happens when we flip the figure? Do feelings of warmth, hostility, neutrality or interest attach themselves more to one than the other?

In their clinical directness, statistics often serve as catalysts for change. Research by Green Park released during the summer in the wake of global Black Lives Matter protests sparked a wave of renewed outrage towards systemic racism from leading news outlets in the UK. ‘Just 52 out of 1099 of the most powerful jobs in the country held by ethnic minority individuals’, declared the diversity consultancy. ‘Non-white’ or ‘BAME’ individuals fill 4.7% of top jobs, media giants echoed.

What do terms like ‘BAME’ and ‘non-white’ really mean? How can human beings be surgically divided into pre-defined categories?

Setting out to create some diversity and inclusion infographics, my impulse was to supersize such statistics for eye-catching effect. But a representation rabbit hole burrowed its way ahead of me: What do terms like ‘BAME’ and ‘non-white’ really mean? Are these groupings helpful? How can human beings with such a diversity of ethnicities, cultures, connections, lifestyles and opinions possibly be divided so surgically into opposing, pre-defined categories?

I don’t dispute the occasional efficacy of categories and groupings. In the case of Green Park’s research, they reveal nationwide discrimination in one swift blow. There is no denying the injustice they pinpoint. However, they also enact a damaging erasure and homogenisation of millions of people.

A recent survey released by Inc Arts UK under the name of #BAMEOver set out to try to answer the multifaceted question, ‘What do we want to be called?’. The statement reads, ‘We do not want to be grouped into a meaningless, collective term, or reduced to acronyms’. Instead, the 1,000 people asked settled on a simple request for specificity: ‘Call us by our name. Be specific. Understand the terms you use’.

Naming those who have for centuries gone unnamed is a basic act of solidarity.

With specificity in mind, I played around with the likes of ‘4.7% of top jobs [in the UK] held by African, South, East, and South East Asian diaspora people’. While wordier, this was certainly better than the negative connotations of ‘non-white’ or the othering tone of acronyms and terms such as ‘ethnic minority’ (and, as #BAMEOver point out, ‘minority’ is hardly accurate).

An idea occurred to me: what would it mean to transfer the statistic’s emphasis? How about: ‘95.3% of leading UK jobs are held by white people’? Wouldn’t the Green Park statistic, thus reversed, be equally as impactful?

Like many daydreams, this thought experiment is riddled with ambivalence. The homogenisation of a large group of people under the meaningful, and simultaneously meaningless, signifier ‘white’ is also not without its issues.

Equally, the re-centring of whiteness, and subsequent omission of blackness, is hardly a step in the right direction. Naming those who have for centuries gone unnamed is a basic act of solidarity.

Perhaps the difference is that whiteness is the default subjectivity in the UK, yet is rarely understood as such. Whiteness imbues most institutions and spaces, becoming unremarkable in its portrayed normalcy. It ceases to be seen as a racial marker, invisible to those who inhabit it, yet inherently exclusive to those who do not. To Sara Ahmed, whiteness is an ‘absent presence… against which all other colours are measured as forms of deviance’. 

So, by flipping the statistics, do we highlight the colour of whiteness and its place in the spectrum of ethnicity? In a world schooled to emphasise the skin colour of some in order to normalise that of others, the very utterance of whiteness reveals it as a shade that can also be described.

This thought experiment catches its breath on this valuable moment of ambivalence. In a terrain so nuanced and eclectic, a one-size-fits-all rule is illogical and, quite frankly, lazy. While grouping together those who do not feel kinship will always be hazardous, a thoughtful contextualisation of every statistic and an awareness of the people it seeks to represent will allow for slightly fairer outcomes. Let’s calm our numerical frenzy and remember the world of individuals crammed into these handfuls of digits.

Molly is a diversity and inclusion specialist and business partner at DiverseJobsMatter. She holds an MSc in Gender Studies from LSE and a BA in Language & Culture from UCL, where she was awarded a place on the Dean’s List for her dissertation on violence against women in Latin America. Originally from Leeds, Molly grew up in southern Spain and has since lived in Argentina, Chile and Barcelona.

Solidarity Opinions

Black British rappers don’t have the luxury to not be political

By Tzeitel Degiovanni

Dave the rapper’s stunningly poignant performance of his single Black at the 2020 BRIT Awards last week exposed something deeply concerning about pockets of the British population. The 300+ Ofcom complaints received following Stormzy and Dave’s performances reveals a sad truth – you can sing for us, you can dance for us, you can win awards for us…but don’t you dare criticise us.

What the comments indicate, and what hundreds of angry tweets exploding on twitter that day highlight, is that many white Britons refuse to accept the voices, experiences and struggles of non-white bodies. And what they absolutely refuse to accept or acknowledge is how their privilege allows them to do that. White people want their music, their performance, their style… but they don’t want their voices, their experiences or their politics.

Take the example of this young white British man on Twitter. About the performance, he wrote

“I don’t like Stormzy because he started talking about politics. I now don’t like Dave because he did the same. What happened to Uk rap/grime? Keep politics out of music”

Indeed, what did happen to UK rap/grime scene? Clearly one thing is that its roots in jungle, dancehall and hip-hop, all of which developed out of Black British, Caribbean and African-American communities respectively, have been erased by many listeners. I thought about how privileged this young man was, to request these successful Black rappers ‘keep politics out of music’. Rappers who were born and raised in London boroughs like Croydon and Brixton to Ghanaian and Nigerian parents, their lives shaped and influenced by their experiences as young Black men in communities directly affected by problematic race relations for decades.

White listeners often express feeling ‘hard’ when listening to grime. It is often angry, emotionally loaded and stirring. To let you in on a secret, this isn’t because Black people are naturally angry. Paul Gilroy, British historian and founding Director of the Centre for the Study of Race and Racism at University College London, articulates how Black music possesses an inner philosophical doctrine and morality that confronts power with truth, helping to ‘develop black struggles by communicating information, organising consciousness’ and creating new forms of political agency. Grime has its own similar inner philosophy and ethics encoded within its aggressive sound.

Emerging in the council estates of East London boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney in the early 2000s, where 42% of the Capital’s social housing was located, the birth of this genre coincided with the New Labour’s plans to regenerate the city. Done by developing new residential apartments, intensifying the city’s CCTV surveillance and criminalising non-criminal behaviours (i.e. ‘hanging around’) through punitive measures like ASBOs and police dispersal powers, black working-class neighbourhoods were exponentially targeted. The effects of these were crippling, felt for decades to come.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, you were over 9 times more likely to be subjected to stop and search as a Black individual than if you were white; with the 3 Black ethnic groups having the highest rates of stop and search out of all 16 individual ethnic groups.[1] Figures released by the Home Office showed that 12% of incidents involving the use of force by police were against Black people, who make up only 3.3% of the population[2]. A disproportionately high stop and search rate, followed by a disproportionately high violence rate, and it doesn’t take too long to piece together the dangerous and racist reality. To add insult to injury, austerity measures over the past 15 years have left these same communities in destitution and despair, with Theresa May’s cuts on public services in housing, education and healthcare impacting the lives of grime’s artists and listeners the most. Over these two decades, from 2002 to 2018, no more than 6.6% of Black Britons have made it into further education (2017/18), compared with a white British rate that has never dropped below 76.8%.

This reality is important for understanding grime musically, politically, and as a youth culture. Having been described as a ‘sound of disillusionment, resentment and despair’ (Collins), its lyrics are inscribed with the reality of young Black working-class life in Britain, shaped by intersecting forms of social exclusion in education, housing, employment opportunities and racist policing. This is fundamentally what the young man on Twitter missed when he complained that his easy listening experience was interrupted by politics, and something that non-Black people need to be aware of when listening to rap and grime for pleasure. When blasting it through a gym set or listening to the Top Boy soundtrack on the commute to work, we simply cannot complain when the Black artists we are listening to, in a genre they created, start talking about their Black experiences. We enjoy these sounds whilst being totally unaffected by their political reality, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have one. Histories of origin are histories of power, and in colonialist tradition, we see people continue to take what they want from other cultures and complain about and erase what they don’t. As Dave aptly raps in Black, “You don’t know the truth about your race cos they[re] erasing it…”.

For its main practitioners (marginalised young Black men) grime is a liminal space where they can express their frustration and growing pains of impoverished adolescence with limited resources and create music that represents their lives – played out in youth clubs, on street corners and around council estates. This is why artists like Dave passionately describe life under a Tory regime in their music; narrating harrowing stories of his mother, an NHS worker “struggling to get by”, with May’s policies having “brought the heart of the nation to its knees”. Workers are “underpaid, understaffed, overworked and overseen by people who can’t ever understand how it feels to live life like you and me”. Black British rappers, and especially Black British rap and grime artists, simply do not have the luxury to not be political. And for them to use their elevated platforms in the UK music industry to shed light on issues that have shaped their own lives, as well as the lives of their communities and those who still face socio-economic barriers, is something that should be applauded.

Anyone who cannot see this, or who doesn’t want to, is wrapped up in a privilege so white it is blinding. A privilege rooted in a position unaffected by and unfeeling towards racial inequality or social injustice, both personally and communally. To demand these artists not draw from their own experiences, not to make music about their communities and not to use their platform to unsilence the silenced experiences of racism in Britain is one of the grossest privilege and disillusionment. And to claim that they themselves are being racist, like the 300+ Ofcom complainers did on the night of the BRIT awards, demonstrates the urgency of the vast re-education needed in Britain if it is ever going to claim openness and inclusivity, or that it is ‘the least racist country’ in the world. As Dave said, the least racist is still racist, and that’s still a problem.


[2] ibid

#BRITAwards #Stormzy #Dave #UKgrime #Ukrap #austerity #politics