This is a guest post by Farah Kristin. Farah is a a twenty-something graduate with an incurable case of idealism and a pen. She can be found blogging here.
I have no personal or professional beef with Caitlin Moran. Until this point, I had remained largely unaware of her, though I had heard both complimentary and uncomplimentary things about her in passing. After reading her recent comment on twitter regarding Girls, I sort of wish they had stayed that way. Reading about her as a person, she seems like a ballsy, scrappy character who I would support as a writer and as a woman. In many ways, I like her, or at least, what I know of her. I do, however, feel that the twitter comment which launched a thousand protests was at its worst hurtful and at its best ignorant.
I am an upper middle class twenty-something girl struggling to make my way in a big city. I gchat obsessively, date the wrong boys, try and be sophisticated, have daily existential crises and spend time wondering which shoes go with which dress. I’m also half-black, half-Indian. And yes, I have friends who are equally middle class and equally mixed race. While I understand that it is easy to accuse those who point out the problem with the racial uniformity of these shows of oversensitivity, I politely but firmly disagree. The girls on the show are entertaining representatives of different sides of all of our silly twenty-something selves, emotionally. The physical aspect should be a mere detail.
The problem is, it isn’t.
The fact that Girls is entirely white wouldn’t be an issue if skin colour were mere decoration. If we existed in a world where race was not a factor, where it had not been a long and painful struggle for many generations to arrive at the point where it was feasible for us to enjoy the wonderful angst of being an over-privileged twenty-something, then yes, I would agree, Caitlin Moran. Who gives a shit. It did, however, take time, effort, humiliation, bloodshed and an extraordinary amount of sacrifice to get us here. And despite the years of fighting and proving ourselves, Britain and the United States remain largely, albeit somewhat more secretly, prejudiced.
I spent my college years at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, home of the Enlightenment. And what I found was surprisingly unenlightened in terms of racial progressivism. From the BNP to a number isolated incidents, I left assured that there is still a healthy dose of unapologetic racism. Far more insidious, however, than the small but permanent pockets of society who long for the days of Jim Crow, is the unspoken but automatic assumptions one makes about a person with heightened pigmentation.
Why is it, for example, that whenever I dated a Caucasian boy, it was surprising? Why is it that when I would walk into a corner store to buy M&Ms before a lecture, people would assume I was working there? Why did my first-year friends assume I knew which the best curry was to buy? (As background information, I’m from Jamaica. I know nothing of curry.) Why did my skin suddenly become a means of identifying me? I certainly gave no other indications.
The main problem with these shows is that they propagate the idea that a middle class, Girls lifestyle is an exclusively Caucasian experience, one that it is unusual for women of colour to experience. I need not point out that this is bullshit. A writer of another column pointed out that watching two white characters have sex on television is risqué, but fairly commonplace. Watching two black people have sex, or a white person and a black person, still has a touch of the shocking or animalistic. Because in the media, and in the mass subconscious, minorities do not belong in the same places as Hannah, Marnie and Jessa or Charlotte, Carrie, Samantha and Miranda. They do not intersect, they do not interact. And if that statement is untrue, why is it at all acceptable to have media that so blatantly omits them?
As much as I’d like it to be, race is not a detail, and not a decoration. To ignore this fact is a dangerous and insulting omission. The fact that it has to be brought up that there is an alarming lack of diversity in Girls or Friends or Sex and the City shows that subconsciously, we as minority women have yet to break into the consciousness of society as valuable, contributing members, equal in importance.
I, for one, refuse to be relegated to the role of guest star in someone else’s life because I am a woman, so too do I refuse to be looked over because I was born with darker skin. And I refuse, Caitlin Moran, to hear that nobody gives a shit about that.
Public domain image of blue Girls logo on a black background sourced from Wikipedia.