Last month we started discussions about identity and sewing, asking the question, “Does who you are shape your sewing or your experience in the online sewing community?”
I wanted to talk a little about my experience with inclusion and representation in the museum field and how it encouraged me to question who I was following and why.
First, a little about me: Hi, I’m Meris! (she/her)
I am a cosplayer. I am pear-shaped and the Sewaholic Cambie dress really helped me see how sewing could free me from the standard RTW clothing sizes. I am cisgender and heterosexual. I am multiethnic — Chinese, Irish, German-American. I actively identify as a Person-of-Color (POC) and Woman-of-Color (WOC), but I am also aware that my lighter skin and ethnic mix have afforded me varying degrees of white privilege throughout my life.
My professional background includes archaeology and history. In archaeology, I was curious how people expressed their various social identities. When I worked at a local history museum, I started engaging directly with issues of representation and inclusion at the museum. I was in charge of planning lectures, among other educational programs. When looking for a speaker, I might ask our resident historian for suggestions. Over time this resulted in the same pool of experts being tapped. To diversify our lecture topics we took two approaches:
- Feature more lecture and panel topics related to marginalized communities
- Seek out and invite more people of color or individuals from marginalized identities (who are also content experts) to be on panels about more broad topics like city planning, marijuana legislation (it’s legal in WA), homelessness, etc.
Both approaches support inclusion and representation in the museum’s content, but the second one highlights the other identities and areas of expertise individuals have.
It was around this time that I first started noticing a lack of ethnic diversity in the sewing bloggers I followed. This observation was aided by my joining Instagram and participating in #MeMadeMay and the #SewPhotoHop community challenges, during which I saw so many POC sewists that I had never known about. I was embarrassed.
I’ve been sewing and blogging since 2010. When I started, I sought out other sewists who shared my style and my body type. I needed to learn the tips and tricks that would help me sew for myself. When these sewists referenced other bloggers I might check them out and if I enjoyed their style, tips or writing I would add them to my blog roll. So ultimately I followed the bloggers who were followed by other bloggers I followed, most of whom were White and Asian.
I started asking myself:
- Who do I follow?
- Why do I follow them?
- Who else inspires me?
So, is it bad that for so long I only followed bloggers who were similar to me? Not necessarily. At the time they fit my needs. But it has been seven years and my needs are different. I’m looking more for style inspiration. Thankfully Instragram has a “suggestion” feature that lists similar or related accounts to people you just followed. Through that feature I have found so many other sewists.
For the Sewcialist Community, I think it is incredibly important that we highlight a range of body types, skin colors, genders, and clothing styles. Greater representation increases the chances that a new sewcialist will feel included when they see people they identify with. Greater diversity also gives us more ways to be inspired by each other.