Ladies Say What You’re Gonna Say, We Got Your Back

Diversity is good for business but discrimination can be pretty bad for business and that became all too apparent when protests took place last night outside a London nightclub after The Voice reported that it was turning away young black women for being “too fat” and “too dark”.

It’s the everyday experiences that make up our ‘common’ experience of discrimination and push out a narrative that also continues to marginalise people from minorities – whether the issue is big or small, the issue is institutionalised and a spotlight needs to be shone on it everyday. The women who took part in the protest last night, brought up an issue that’s been regularly practised in U.K clubs, and is solely based on the discrimination of which ‘types’ of people are ‘acceptable’ for entry. Racist and sexist door policies in British nightclubs have been bad practise for years and they’ve got away with it on the premise that it’s simply ‘better for business’ but that’s not true as fact.

Nightclubs and a nightlife is not exempt from good practice – just like any discrimination that minorities incur everyday and during the day. Women in particular and their presence in nightclubs is predicated on how ‘profitable’ they are for these businesses – infact we know clubs are marketed through the objectification of women. The soundtrack to DSTRKT’s promotional video makes it blatantly clear that its all about the ladies and ‘white ladies’ in particular. So, what have the ladies got to say, just let the music play, or actually let them the ladies who are being excluded be heard – because we think it’s about time we let them say what they’re gonna say!

Women are used in a daily transactional bargain by both big business and small businesses and there is a ‘common’ practice that these West End nightclubs participate in by using a perceived positions of ‘power’ to exclude and whitewash the culture. Women are expected to offer themselves up as cattle for inspection and be measured up to see if they are acceptable to futher the interests of a business.

Simultaneously the fact that these same clubs are capitalising on the culture of the very people they exclude is ironic and it’s been going on for a long time. DSTRKT attempted to shame the very women who have spoken out now and a slew of texts showing the way that the management team have been screening women and then ‘denying’ them entry – is shameful and evidence of a long running behaviour.

The U.K needs to address the lack of diversity across class, gender and colour – because diversity needs to be something that is not just filled by quotas but by making good business decisions. The fact is people from ethnic minority backgrounds will make up nearly a third of the UK’s population by 2050 and businesses investing in a diverse team of talent will benefit most – and not by capitalising from minorities but including them on the executive boards of businesses.

A new report on diversity in the UK’s creative industries has already shown that there needs to be a more balanced approach to recruitment that is representative of our population and reflects our diversity in wealth, sex, and ethnicity. There is an extraordinary potential which is currently being overlooked;

  • The most racially and ethnically diverse companies are more likely to have better than average financial returns
  • Companies with more women are more likely to have above average financial returns
  • Greater gender diversity on senior executive teams boosts business profits

There’s hardly much in the findings of this new report that tells us anything we don’t already know as common sense, the issue is when will attitudes change in Britain and how.

Stateside while it’s miles ahead of the U.K, it’s still an ongoing issue. It took a woman of colour to call out Matt Damon for his ‘whitesplaining‘ on the recent HBO show, Project Greenlight. Effie Brown, a Hollywood producer, suggested that in the selection process of the directorial team behind a project that they keep diversity in mind. Damon cut off Effie in a moment now coined as ‘Damonsplaining’ to educate her that “when we’re talking about diversity you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show.” Social media erupted and the message was clear you do diversity across the board and behind the scenes.

The fact is we should shape the narrative, and essentially the way our stories are told – whether that’s film, music or fashion, it’s only relevant when those stories are true to our actual experience, but they won’t be as long as they’re being told by a bunch of ‘white men from privileged backgrounds – or not being told at all. David Oyelowo quite pointedly highlighted in his speech at the launch of the new report about diversity.

Who is curating the culture? Predominantly it is white, middle-class men

For music, performing and visual arts in the U.K, ironically this is the industry that is also the least representative or ethnically diverse – “With only 6% of the sector from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds”. For a culture that is often treated as underground, till it hits the ‘mainstream’ and makes for good business, it is also an industry that is excluding the very people who are the creators in this culture. There’s no doubt that its putting off more young people from pursuing careers in film, music and TV when they see mountain high barriers to climb over before they can be accepted.

This has unearthed an important debate about what is going on behind the scenes of the creative industries from Music, Film, Television, Fashion as well as the nightclubs that all the icons of the same cultural industry celebrate in.

David Oyelowo is realistic about where change needs to arise “Until we have, here in Britain, a situation where there are curators of culture who are reflective of what Britain actually is, especially in our cities, nothing is going to change. At the end of the day we all have prejudices, we all have allegiances that are both conscious and subconscious. We are kidding ourselves to rely on people who are already in positions of power to suddenly change. We have to change the faces, the gender, of the people who are in positions of power to greenlight projects.”

Stop with the ‘Mansplaining’ 

It’s been a case of ‘put up and shut up’ or shaming the wrong individuals when they do speak up, any kind of discrimination or abuse even if it’s inflicted from one of our own within our culture or community does not mean that it should be tolerated.

Speaking over women and attempting to drown out the very voices that need to be heard, will not prevent the message that needs to be out there from getting out there. Social media is using activism to get that point across ‘loud and clear’ and it’s ‘saying it loud and proud’ no matter how ‘common’ the issue. The peaceful protest was organised by up-and-coming actress Zalika Miller, who was one of four black girls turned away from the venue on Saturday night, claiming race played a major factor.

Ladies don’t forget it’s you who’s promoted to make those champagne corks pop at these clubs, it’s you who are used to push the message that this is the ‘hottest’ club in town, it’s your faces, your bodies and you that’s marketed to sell sell sell! While DSTRKT management are still claiming they have nothing to apologise for, you’ve got the power to make it hurt where it needs to the most – in their pockets!

Music and the culture around it, will continue to be shaped by the very people who create it, not by the people trying to capitalise from it and discriminate off the back of it. Whether some individuals choose to acknowledge it or not women are part of shaping and contributing to the culture and we can speak about it when we need to without the need for any kind of ‘mansplaining’.