A little time has passed since the killing of George Floyd spurred a wave of protest marches and activities in support of the Black Lives Matter movement around the world.
Like many, we posted in solidarity, wherever possible highlighting BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of colour) makers, stories and voices. We also promised not to slip back into “regular programming” but to ensure we continued to actively pursue this topic once the news cycle changed.
One of the things we have been reflecting on internally is how to deal with comments on the posts we have made on this subject (here on the blog, and on Instagram), some of which demonstrate white fragility and sometimes just plain racism. It’s a little trickier for us because we often have guest authors, so we need to consider their individual feelings and thoughts on the subject rather than having a blanket “policy” approach.
We think the first and most important aspect is to ensure that the Sewcialists remains a place where BIPOC authors and readers feel welcome and safe. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, given our stated mission:
Our goal is to build community and make everyone feel welcome. Our blog is here for everyone to share their sewing stories and to celebrate our unique identities and experiences. We support crafting as an inclusive and welcoming space for people of all ages, abilities, ethnicities, genders, orientations and sizes. If you sew, we want to hear your voice.Sewcialists Mission
However, what should we do if comments or questions on posts obstruct or seek to downplay or denigrate this mission? We have had comments recently about not “spoiling” sewing by making it political, and comments questioning why we need to focus on amplifying black voices over others.
For us there is no question about our mission and how combating racism fits into it. Comments about how “all lives matter” ignore the basic truth that our society does not behave as though all lives matter equally. In many countries, if you are black, you are more likely to be arrested by the police, suffer policy brutality or die in custody, to be found guilty and to receive a longer sentence. You are less likely to get a job interview with an identical CV if you have an “ethnic” sounding name and you will be paid less if you get that job, particularly if you are a woman. That’s without exploring poorer health outcomes, lower life expectancy and people feeling like they can just be mean to you without recompense or conscience. So that’s the broader context.
What of the notion that we are “spoiling” sewing by making it political? Well, it’s only not already political if you are white. Movements like Sew in Colour started by Rumana from The Little Pomegranate have previously highlighted how little the broader sewing-sphere shows us and promotes people of colour as a matter of course. Back in 2017 when Rumana launched #SewInColour, she collected 52 recent sewing magazines from some of the big companies and not one showed a BAME person on the cover. NOT ONE. So we have to do this actively and deliberately because expecting it to just happen hasn’t worked.
So then how to respond to those comments that ignore the above and seek to challenge the idea that we need to change something?
Our radical positivity approach makes us want to engage with these comments, in good faith; to start a conversation in the hope of broadening the understanding of the commenter and help them to see that their perspective ignores the daily lived experience of others and that that they contribute to a systemic and pervasive structure of in-built inequity which means that we can’t all “just enjoy sewing away from politics” because for some of us, there is no escape.
On the other hand, we also want to tell them that their attitude is unacceptable and unwelcome here. We want to rage and flame and block. We want to show there is zero tolerance for any of this any more and we don’t pander to it. Added to this, we know how many people have ever had their mind changed on the internet (precisely zero). It’s not exactly the place for rational, vulnerable debate.
So here is where we have landed so far, noting that we will engage with our guest authors on how they would like to handle (or not) comments on their post:
- If you have a question, if you really don’t understand, if you want to learn, you are welcome. We will try and help answer your question. Just think about how you word it so that your intent is clear.
- There is a fine line between a question and a passive aggressive not-really-a-question. You know where that line is.
- Where comments are flat out racist, they will be removed without apology.
- Where things are borderline, we will warn once, then we will remove / block.
This approach will apply across all forms of discrimination, in line with our mission.
We might have some of this wrong, but this feels like the right approach for Sewcialists. We don’t have all the answers and are feeling our way. We welcome your feedback and thoughts on all of the above. 🙂
No questions from me, just another thanks for your wording, your mission, and the commitment to help our sewing community be a place of inclusivity. And thank you for introducing me to The Little Pomegranate, another sewing blogger I am looking forward to following!
I love this! This sounds like a thoughtful policy that prioritizes kindness; once again The Sewcialists are leading by example.
Thank you. The fact that we can post without revealing our whole self, as we would if we were face to face, seems to lessen the inhibitions of some, and nastiness can result. I try to post as if I were going to meet this person one day. Of course, I think I’m a basically nice person and try to be positive.
I think you comment shows you are a nice person!
Thank you for calling this out. I’m uneducated in these matters and trying very hard to learn. I’ve stopped buying Burda magazine at the moment since all their models are white. You are great and I’ve learned so much here.
That’s awesome, Ruthie — I applaud you for being open to learning! I also stopped buying BurdaStyle magazine unless and until they start including models that aren’t white. Their actions speak volumes about their stance on diversity and inclusion. Shameful.
I wrote to Burdastyle about this – US Burdastyle.com weren’t interested, German Burdastyle indicated they were German & therefore dependant on the diversity available from German modelling companies, though they hoped diversity in those companies would increase in future. Which seems a bit of a cop-out IMO.
Oh man, Siobhan, thanks for writing and thanks for reporting back. That is a crappy response. I am going to write to both entities as well. If there’s a #burdasowhite or similar hashtag out there or other awareness raising and educating hashtags or memes, I will be looking for them and adding my voice. Among other things, there are several Black bloggers I follow who are great BurdaStyle mag pattern sewers, and there are excellent Black designers whose work they could highlight in their periodic designer features. Which is not to absolve them of the responsibility to ALSO be more representative in their models, but there are so many ways we can all be representative and do better right now without excuses. I have been a BurdaStyle subscriber for years and want to support the pattern mag business model, but this blows.
A total cop out, clearly. I was in Germany last October and lo and behold, there are people of colour living there! No models available? Puh-leeeze.
I am happy to report that, going by the online preview videos, the November 2020 issue of Burda Style includes a Black model — as far as I can tell, this is a first. Let’s continue to give Burda feedback on how we would like to see more People of Color represented more frequently in their media — designers, talented community members, models, editorial executives, all of it. Let’s help Burda live up to their international standing in the DIY arts community.
Thank you. I agree with your approach. It is reasoned and is leading by example.
“What of the notion that we are “spoiling” sewing by making it political? Well, it’s only not already political if you are white.” –> Please say this part louder for the folks in the back! I always think of this reaction as really meaning “as a white person, the online sewing community has been a very comfortable place where I generally don’t have to consider my white privilege, so please don’t make me think about the kinds of systemic racism that BIPOC have to deal with all the time in this very same community”. I hope that with all the work the Sewcialists and other committed anti-racist members of the sewing community are doing, eventually the idea that it would even be possible to “keep politics out of sewing” will go away. I am grateful to all of the sewists out there who are doing this work, including all of you at the Sewcialists. Thank you.
This! Perfectly said.
I’m so frustrated and angered by the seemingly wilful refusal of many white people to engage and educate themselves. It’s very obvious that we need to do so.
‘Politics’ touches all of us our daily lives, whether it’s something mundane such as refuse collection, or something that will hopefully cause a global shift, like Black Lives Matters.
If one single person is made to feel they don’t belong in this community simply because of the colour of their skin, gender, ability, race, or anything else, (except, of course, rampant racism or bigotry) then I think we really need to keep politics in sewing.
“What of the notion that we are “spoiling” sewing by making it political? Well, it’s only not already political if you are white.” –> Please say this part louder for the folks in the back! I always think of this reaction as really meaning “as a white person, the online sewing community has been a very comfortable place where I generally don’t have to consider my white privilege, so please don’t make me think about the kinds of systemic racism that BIPOC have to deal with all the time in this very same community”.
I hope that with all the work the Sewcialists and other committed anti-racist members of the sewing community are doing, eventually the idea that it would even be possible to “keep politics out of sewing” will go away. I am grateful to all of the sewists out there who are doing this work, including all of you at the Sewcialists. Thank you.
Yes! Yes! Yes! I have always loved The Sewcialists and now even more so! Thank you for being inclusive, supportive and enriching our lives.
Behind you 100% on this. Perfectly fair & reasoned policy as far as I’m concerned.
Just thank you!
Clearly articulated – love how you look to your mission to inform your policy direction. And be inclusive of your guest author’s wishes, which hopefully align with your mission. Agree 100% with your response to the common defense ‘i don’t want my sewing space to be political’.
It was very eye-opening to me to read/moderate the comments on the post that I wrote at the CSC communicating our support for Black Lives Matter and BIPOC sewists. I actually had to block a woman on Facebook who was sending me private messages after I deleted a few of her racist comments on our blog. What kind of person objects to being told to stop posting racist crap???
Thank you for taking a progressive stand on this and boldly announcing it. When we know better we do better.
I know a young woman who is working on a PhD in history . Her focus is on the use of needlework as a type of political speech by women over human history. Oh yes. Sewing is political. Sewcialists’ policy and perspective here is both welcoming and principled. I am completely in support of what you have outlined here. Change and progress can’t happen without consistency. Thank you for this.
Any way you could connect us with her? She sounds like someone we would love to learn from! Our email is email@example.com 🤞💕
I think this is a great policy!
On the topic of changing minds on the internet: recently someone just thanked me for my long reply on a question about racism instead of arguing back. I was so confused at first 😄. Could it have worked, just this once?
I love to hear that. It’s so worth it to politely engage in case just one person starts to ‘get it’.
Yes to all of this. Thank you for your continuing thoughtful, inclusive and listening oriented stance. Re noone having their mind changed on the internet, I recommend reading Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper, about growing up in and leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, and how engaging on Twitter helped her. Very interesting!
Yes, yes, yes! Please continue to keep at least one little corner of the textile net political, in a good way. And especially anti-racist, because we’ve had quite enough of the other side what with the KKK flaunting their White House position and.. eeeuw! Enough!!
Thank you so much for this!
It would be interesting to have this explained a bit further: “It’s a little trickier for us because we often have guest authors, so we need to consider their individual feelings and thoughts on the subject rather than having a blanket “policy” approach”
Hopefully your guest authors would be consistent with your policy too, but it does imply that if they weren’t then other rules might apply (which doesn’t sit right).
The idea that sewing is not political is just incorrect – so many examples of how it has been throughout history and its great to see the positive aspects of this continue. Crochet bombing (as a recent example) anyone?!
Hi! For example, sometimes guest authors are the ones replying to comments on their own posts. Maybe they want to reply to racist comments, and perhaps they prefer we handle those offensive comments. That’s something we have to work out with each author as it comes up. For example, when a commentator tells a Black author that race doesn’t exist and they should stop complaining (yeah that happened) then we have to have to take the authors wishes into account. Hope that clarifies! 👍
Every time I read a sewing post I’m hoping to learn. Patterns, fabrics, techniques, perspectives, cultures… So please, continue to educate me!
(And please stay home. Wear a mask. Flatten the curve.)