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.

Solidarity Opinions

Reclaiming a movement: Tarana Burke’s ‘Me Too’

‘Me Too’. The movement aimed at exposing sexual violence. A movement that has been described as a ‘watershed’ moment for sexual assault survivors and their perpetrators, covered by Time in their ‘Time’s Up’ issue that has had a lasting global impact. A movement that went viral in 2017 when Alyssa Milano tweeted her followers to use the hashtag if they had ever been a victim of sexual assault. A movement that was actually founded by African-American activist Tarana Burke a whole decade before, in 2006.

The fact that, up until I attended a talk called ‘From Slavery to Me Too: Women’s Voices’ in 2018 and despite completing my BA dissertation on Black women in James Bond, I didn’t know that a Black woman founded the ‘Me Too’ movement a decade ago stumped me. I felt ashamed, and was also deeply concerned by the fact that nowhere in Milano’s tweet was there any accreditation to Burke. Taking to the internet and reading article after article, watching TED talks and going down Black feminist rabbit holes, what I found had greater racial implications than a mere lack of ‘credit’ could suggest.

Tarana Burke initially started the movement in 2006 after her own experience of sexual violence, incensed by the commonality of everyday sexual violence against women in the African-American community. In her words, Burke “launched the ‘Me Too’ movement because I wanted to find ways to bring healing into the lives of black women and girls” (TED talk, 2019), 60% of whom will be experiencing sexual violence before they turn 18. Burke reiterates that this movement was about those communities under the highest risk, who amongst Black women include

– The indigenous women who are 3 and a half times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other group

– people with disabilities who are 7 times more likely to be sexually abused

– the 84% of transwomen who will be sexually assaulted this year.

Sexual violence faced by Black women reveals a disappointing and damaging truth about the society we live in. There are staggering amounts of racial stereotypes and destructive representations of Black women that create an environment where violence against them is naturalised and overlooked, something that civil rights activist and Black feminist critic Kimberle Crenshaw Williams has extensively talked about in her work with the legal system. Having been on the legal team for Anita Hill’s 1991 case against Clarence Thomas, Crenshaw has pointedly written on Burke’s work and inadvertently on ‘Me Too’ when writing of the “unique vulnerability” of Black women that continues to be ignored, and the struggle many Black women face in being

trapped between an antiracist movement that foregrounded black men, and a feminism that could not fully address how race shaped society’s perception of black victims”.

The #MeToo movement that exploded on Twitter however, featuring as part of everyday conversation on sexual assault within the media, doesn’t seem to encompass any of this. The ‘Me Too’ movement was founded by a Black woman boldly stating ‘I’ve experienced sexual violence too’; a response to decades of Black sexual assault survivors being structurally ignored and silenced, despite Black women being targeted at disproportionately higher rates. Yet the names most popularly associated with Me Too in recent media have been those of Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Taylor Swift, Megyn Kelly, and of course Alyssa Milano. White women have come to dictate the discourse surrounding the movement, with the very founder Tarana Burke being relocated to the inner pages of the ‘Silence Breakers’ issue – for apparently the front page was taken up by too much star power to leave room for the founding (Black) mother. The article that accompanied this cover, ironically highlighted the entirety of the problem that it inceptively perpetuated, stating that

“When a movie star says #MeToo, it becomes easier to believe the cook who’s been quietly enduring for years.”

Is this claim stating that highlighting white actresses’ stories and their stories alone is going to change the reality for the sexually abused cook? Or the maid? Or the single mother? All of these women who, by implicating their social rank, are therefore most likely politically, economically and socially disadvantaged women of colour? Unless the white movie stars are platforming women of colour voices, experiences and injustices, I struggle to see how they are making it easier for women from lower socio-economic backgrounds to receive protection or justice.

The movement itself arguably failed to consider even Black movie stars, for Lupita Nyong’o’s self-written testimony published in the New York Times (yet failed to be vehemently picked up by other news outlets?) was almost all but ignored, with Salma Hayek stating that Weinstein publicly rebutted their allegations because “[Women of Colour] are the easiest to get discredited”. Even more damagingly, when Aurora Perrineau’s rape allegations against Girls writer Murray Miller surfaced (in the form of her leaked police report), self-proclaimed feminist Lena Dunham publicly lied in a counter- statement aimed to discount Perrineau’s testimony. Dunham later came clean in a public apology. Using her industry name and privilege, the Me Too movement saw a white female actress lie to discredit the rape testimony of a lesser-known actress of colour; a situation so far removed from Tarana Burke’s original intentions for ‘Me Too’ that the ‘movement’ is almost unrecognisable, calling into question whether the two can or should remain synonymous at all.

Whereas Burke and other Black feminist activists’ intentions are to dismantle the structures of white privilege that benefit from the subjugation of women of colour, the co-opted ‘Me Too’ movement and the press surrounding it has done nothing but re-package those structures under the catch-all title of ‘exposing’ sexual misconduct. But against who?

Since the start of the transatlantic slave trade, Black women have been systematically abused and assaulted by men of all races – with these perpetrators going largely and historically unpunished. The law has long been racially prejudiced against Black women, and this can be seen as soon as one starts looking into their rape cases (a sad truth that one must go looking, for consumerist news media have decided they are not headline-worthy). One case recently unearthed by Black historians, activists and writers is that of Recy Taylor. In 1944 Alabama, 24 year-old Recy Taylor was walking home from Church when she was abducted and gang-raped at gunpoint by six white men. Following the horrific incident, she took her case to court, where it was tried by an all-white, all-male jury, who dismissed the charges after all but five minutes of deliberation. The physical evidence and multiple witnesses were not enough to permeate through the multiply sexist, racist walls of the jury box; a sad truth that continues to shape the climate of silencing around Black women’s experiences today.

Russel Simmons, with 18 accusations of rape, sexual assault and sexual misconduct from mostly Black women, has not been held accountable by either the legal system or the media. And only now, after 25 years of sexual abuse and paedophilia charges against him, after the release of documentary series Surviving R. Kelly was there an, albeit too brief, moment of media outcry against the R. Kelly, that at present seems to have died down just as quickly as it started. As of March 2021, Kelly is in jail still awaiting trial.

With these cases in mind, as well as the thousands of non-celebrity crimes of sexual abuse against Black women, it is clear that the #MeToo movement has been propagated by white feminism, and by the neoliberal emphasis on individual voices rather than collective communities, and so continues to fail Black women. Journalist, poet and activist Asha Bandele summed up anxieties that have been building by Black civil rights activists, saying

Afropunk: “I have my concerns about the ownership of that movement publicly being in the hands of white women. I don’t know that white women have ever led a movement that secured people outside of their own.”

Bandele is referencing some of the feminist movements of the early 70s and 80s in the US, which saw a predominantly white brand of feminism supposedly calling for the liberation of all ‘women’, but not advocating for the rights of Black women at a pivotal time in US history when Black women were at the intersection of two movements (the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist movement) but saw the intersecting gender and racial oppressions unique to them largely ignored by both. Unless more pressure is placed on media outlets and white activists to do justice to the most marginalised groups, the groups whose voices have been historically stifled, then a ‘movement’ such as Me Too, rather than highlighting real structural problems and pushing for change, will stagnate into a ‘moment’, passing and not progressing, and inevitably leading to the repetition of the same cycle of violent silencing for generations to come.

Solidarity Opinions

Why you are probably biphobic.

I have known that I am bisexual since I was 13. The first time I admitted it I was on MSN (yes, I am that old) when a friend from summer camp messaged me. He asked what my sexual orientation was, and when I said ‘Bi’ he replied: “me too!!”. Ever since then I have negotiated the visibility of my sexuality in different moments and spaces. As too queer for heterosexuals, and too straight for queers, I have come to occupy a space of frequent silence and invisibility.

Biphobia is expressed in society in multiple ways. Structurally, the idea of bisexuality interrupts binary gender dichotomies by finding attraction to two or more genders. Here, bisexuals become a societal liability as society cannot rely on us accepting compulsory heterosexuality or institutions such as the nuclear family. But it can also not dismiss us completely as we might exist in a male-female monogamous partnership at some point. The liability of bisexual temporal navigation of straight and queer spaces is threatening to the foundations of society because we are ‘unreliable’. This unreliability is why the need for us to ‘pick a gender’ is instrumental to methods of biphobia.

When existing in straight spaces, bisexuality is hypersexualised and delegitimised. The hypersexualisation of bisexuals is evident from assumptions of promiscuity and non-monogamy being essential to the bisexual identity. For example, I am frequently asked to have threesomes by straight couples on dating apps, exes have said it’s ‘hot’ that I am bisexual, and when I joined an LGBTQ group at my university, a friend said “Is your boyfriend okay with that? I would be uncomfortable if my girlfriend joined that kind of group – She would have so many options”. All three of these examples point to assumptions of my binary-free sexuality being an indicator of a high libido and a lack of boundaries. The sexualisation of bisexuality is also closely connected to its delegitimisation. Take for instance straight girls kissing for fun on nights out. Here, not only are bisexual actions erased under a label of ‘fun’, but, intentionally or not, girls kissing on a night out often becomes a spectacle of deviance to get off from. Straight people get to appropriate my Bi identity by labelling it ‘fun’ or ‘experimenting’, without recognising it as queer.

Interestingly, despite being a queer identity, bisexuals aren’t free from biphobia in queer spaces either. When a bisexual person has a relationship which is ‘straight-passing’, we are said to receive certain privileges that other sexualities do not, which assumes that the gender of partnerships is an indicator of sexuality. Subsequently, whilst we can experience less scrutiny from heterosexism because we appear straight, we are still denied our real identities as Bi and thus aren’t free from the oppression of heterosexism. Additionally, because of the sexualisation and appropriation of bisexuality in straight spaces, many queers choose not to date bisexuals because they think we might be ‘experimenting’, that we are more likely to cheat because we “have more options”, or that long-term, we will prefer ‘straight-passing’ relationships and thus, aren’t really that queer. Finally, as if the aforementioned wasn’t enough, bisexuals are repeatedly represented as either saying we are bisexual as a stepping stone to admit that we are lesbian/gay, or as straight people wanting to be ‘special’.

This lack of belonging in both straight and queer spaces leaves bisexuals alienated and in occupation of a queered queer position. For me, one moment comes to mind when I think about how I am situated in this position. I was sat at a pub with my closest friends and we were discussing my dating life – I had just started ‘talking’ to a guy. When I mentioned this, a friend said “I just really want you to be with a girl!”. In this moment, not only did I feel like ‘talking’ to a guy had made me less queer, but my lack of experience with women was used to point out that I have not engaged with queerness enough. I was reminded that I am queer, not straight, and simultaneously told to be more queer just because I was ‘talking’ to a man.

Whilst there is a growing number of Bi-allies, there is often little to no support for bisexuals. Did you know that compared to heterosexual women, bisexual women are 5 times more likely to experience abuse by a partner? That 61% of bisexual women and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical assault or stalking? Or that 48% of bisexual women who have been raped were raped between the ages of 11-17?. I could go on. Despite the violence against Bi folk, we have few places to turn to find help.

I cannot give you a perfect solution to how to stop the violence against Bi folk, but if you want to help you can stop taking our space and stop denying us space. Consider what I have said and really contemplate how you have been and are currently contributing to the violence against bisexuals. In order to change the society in which we live, we have to reflect on how we are contributing to harm, and we must recognise that we do not live outside a sphere of violence. In particular, the queer community must reconsider their treatment of their bisexual members and remember that none of us are safe until we ALL are, and straight folk need to contemplate the occurance and existence of real queerness in straight spaces.

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

Feminism & Hating Men.

“Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex”

Valerie Solanas in SCUM Manifesto (1967:37)

I believe nearly all feminists, no matter what kind, have been called man-haters at some point. The depiction of feminism and feminists as anti-man is familiar, old, and of course completely inaccurate. I can remember how, as a girl, I was terrified of the label ‘feminism’ because of this depiction of feminists. No matter how much I believed that I was just as good as the boys (if not better), I could never say that I was a feminist. Because if I said I was a feminist I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I would be seen as irrational and emotional, which is laughable as women are assumed to be just that regardless of their political labels.

You can find this idea of feminism as ‘anti-man’ throughout history, but recently feminist popular culture has ‘reclaimed’ the stereotype in a satirical way. Mugs with ‘Male Tears’ slogans, T-shirts with ‘Boy Bye’, or #KillAllMen hashtags. The list goes on. I spent months researching this feminist claim to hating men this summer, and I have to admit that I do not blame anyone for expressing themselves this way. Not only is it a funny outlet sometimes, but it also points out how ridiculous it is to paint feminism as man-hating when it advocates for equality, not revenge. In fact, I think it often perfectly highlights the injustice that is misogyny.

The idea that hating men would in any way be similar to hating women is ridiculous, and those who use the feminist man-hating joke as a serious statement have either missed the point we are making entirely or are consciously using it against us. For example, the fancy word for man-hating: ‘misandry’, was first found online in the ‘manosphere’, i.e. the Men’s Rights Movement and similar groups’ online spaces. It was used to create a counterpart to misogyny and legitimise the concerns of the Men’s Rights Movement and subsequently, plant ideas of structural misandry often aiming to undermine the claims of feminist movements.

I believe that it is well known that misogyny is far greater and far more deadly than man-hating. For instance, this is particularly obvious with examples such as the countering of #KillAllMen with #RapeAllWomen. The counter-hashtag clearly shows that the anti-feminists know that something like rape is so widespread and so harmful that the threat of rape can silence feminists. It indicates that one element of misogyny is believed to be able to stop feminists. It indicates that they are aware that misogyny kills whilst man-hating does not. 

However, this is the point where I come to explain the problems with us using man-hating by considering the idea of intersectionality i.e. how different forms of oppression can intersect and create a particular experience of oppression. For example, Black lesbians have a different experience of misogyny than that of white women because of the intersectional experience of oppression through stratifications such as sexism, heterosexism, and racism. Even though feminism has a history of working against generalisations and appreciating the diversity of experience, when we say that we hate men, even as a joke, who are we including in ‘men’? Are we including men who experience racism, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, or classism? If we are, we ought to ask ourselves if ignoring structures of oppression that aren’t gender will help achieve equality at all. If we aren’t, perhaps we recognise that just like how we experience complex oppression, men do too. So the question is whether if we showing recognition of complex oppression affecting men? If we are, I think we ought to consider if we want to add to the violence they experience daily by buying into man-hating.

One tangible example of how satirical man-hating can be problematised through intersectional analysis is this TikTok clip. In the clip, a woman is showing how she has decorated her living room. Before entering the room the viewer can see a crunched over white man in a cage. Following this visual, the clip changes to a white English speaking man saying: “Finally the time is upon us. Men in cages. I thought it wouldn’t be in my lifetime. 2021! I tell ya”, whilst wiping away tears of joy. Now, I am sure the intention behind this clip is provocative humour, but the development of the joke, as well as the narrative by the man, highlights the privilege required to make man-hating jokes. Imagine for a moment that the man in the cage was Black. If this were the case, surely we would react with instant distaste due to the history of enslavement of Black bodies. If this were the case, placing a Black man in a cage would reproduce violence and contribute to narratives of Black bodies as less than human. If this were the case, we wouldn’t be wiping away tears of joy.

Overall, the question of privilege and man-hating is a complex one as identity and experience work together in infinite and intricate ways. Sometimes man-hating is satirical and a means of resisting a gendered society who favours men and masculinity. In no way do I intend to police how people navigate resistance within the capitalist, sexist, heterosexist, racist, ableist, xenophobic, nationalist, ageist, and imperialist society we find ourselves in. However, as with the case with the man in the cage, by considering intersectional implications of our resistance we can limit our contributions to the violence we are often blind to. By considering the man in the cage, I want to emphasise that intersectionality ought to be at the forefront of feminism, and we must include men in feminist analysis.

Here, I am not saying that those of us who say that we hate men intend to contribute to hatred, and I am not saying that you aren’t entitled to be angry with men (I know I am frequently). However, I want us to pay attention to the harm we may be causing. Because no matter how many times I explain myself, saying “I hate men” risks contributing to the same hatred which depicts Black men as animals or working-class men as uncivilised. Understanding how oppression works intersectionally, I don’t want to do work which harms those who understand the pains of oppression. Simultaneously, recognising my privileges as a white European middle-class woman, I do not want to tell feminists how to be good feminists.

Reflecting on the history of the representation of feminism as man-hating, I think that history is best understood as part of the present as it has shaped our reality and made it what it is now. We must understand and recognise that we are not separate from the past, but are rather in conversation with it. Therefore, considering the future, I want to believe that as feminists, we take steps towards equality with intersectionality our ethics at the forefront of our minds. Ignoring the harms of misogyny has created, and ignoring how our man-hating satire is used against us and allies will only hinder us from growing. By learning from our history, our present, and our values, we can create a future where we stand above the methods of harm. A future where we refuse to operate within the same parameters as misogynists. A future which is considerate and thoughtful and not in need of anti-man satire. 

Let’s move beyond satirical man-hating and towards unapologetic but thoughtful feminism as we can only win the fight for equality by doing better than those we are fighting.

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

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