Tuesday, 19 September 2017 09:24

Good Reads: From L’Oréal’s Failed Attempts at Diversity to Reconstructing Lebanon

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Our editor Nicoletta Enria points you in the direction of a few articles and films guaranteed to make you ponder. Read about the failed L'Oréal diversity campaign, the proudly brandished shield of freedom of speech, and a film which insight into the Syrian refugees in Lebanon who are working on construction sites.


Nicoletta, Editor of Baby and Legs



Earlier this month, the expelling of black, trans activist and model Munroe Bergdorf from the L’Oréal “diversity” campaign was dominating the headlines. This brilliant article by Paula Apkan on the truly excellent publication gal-dem, a news outlet dedicated to amplifying the voices of women of colour – sheds considerable light on why this incident is SO extremely problematic, and yet so unsurprising. Here’s what happened: Bergdorf was misquoted in a Daily Mail article, who selectively isolated different sections of a post she had published on Facebook reacting to the white supremacist terrorist attack of Charlottesville. The post focussed on the deep roots of institutionalised racism in modern day society, and more closely at how white people who benefit from such a structure must be actively involved in dismantling it as silently benefiting from it at the expense of the lives of people of colour is racist. Apkan elucidates the multifaceted and intersecting factors that led to this post being reduced to a mere accusation of all white people being racist, and underlines how campaigns such as L’Oréal’s True Match campaign claim to champion diversity, but instead merely use it as a “cute” buzzword to push their product to a “woke millennial crowd”. Gal-dem also published Bergdorf’s powerful statement reacting to this incident, calling to #BoycottLoreal. This was a call for everyone to use their platform and raise their voice against the violence of institutionalised racism that permeates every level of society, and a reminder for white people to always get uncomfortable and check your privilege. Don’t cower away and silently reap the benefits that we were born into – rather we need to use our privilege and platform to raise the voices of those who are crushed by this system and actively work towards dismantling it once and for all.


The Proudly Brandished Shield of Freedom of Speech

Jennifer Moo flickr

  Photo: Jennifer Moo; Licence: CC BY-ND 2.0

Since the appointment of the great Elaine Welteroth, Teen Vogue has been consistently publishing powerful and insightful articles – filling the large void of diversity in most other media outlets. Recently, I particularly enjoyed Lauren Duca’s article on “Free Speech Week” at UC Berkley which will host a truly despicable trio: Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopolis and Ann Coulter. The three are notorious figures for their extremely hateful views and their unfortunately large platforms, which they so unabashedly use to propagate their violent agendas. Duca rightfully points out how significant the title of this event is, as freedom of speech is often used as a shield with which extremists justify their right to spread hate. If you’re still in doubt, freedom of speech means a government doesn’t have the right to arrest you for whatever horrible thing you have to say (within limits, naturally) – not that you are exempt from any consequence or criticism such as being boycotted, banned or denied major platforms. Duca brilliantly explores how to counter this dilemma and what to do when such an event is hosted at your university. Despite this being an example from the United States, I feel this brilliantly sheds light on a trend which is very prominent in Europe. For example, not too long ago, war criminal and absconder Pervez Musharraf was supposedly scheduled to speak at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), an event eventually brought down by this campaign. This serves as a stark reminder for young Europeans that whilst the growing number of xenophobic and hateful movements have the right to speak their minds, we have the right to boycott, criticise and call to strip them of their platform. But as Duca poignantly points out, you need to remember that whilst one must “keep telling bigots STFU” it is more important to “stay focused on the most effective ways to achieve progress”. And this rings very true in today’s Europe also.


The Syrian Refugees Reconstructing Lebanon

I recently watched the touching and beautiful film “Taste of Cement” by Ziad Kalthoum, which opened this year’s Open City Documentary Festival, and I could not recommend it more. The film gave an insight into the Syrian refugees in Lebanon who are working on construction sites whose living and working conditions are way below average. The film drew a really interesting parallel between the tragic irony of these men reconstructing Lebanon after the atrocities of its own civil war, almost waiting for the Syrian civil war to end and then go on to reconstruct their home. Without a word from the builders themselves, the film really effectively portrays the distressing and emotionally taxing ordeal of today’s Syrian refugees, watching their homes disintegrate. Their precarious future, with no promise of a short-term return home and facing hate and marginalisation across Europe and beyond, even when receiving asylum. This was conveyed through beautiful shots of the builders in their underground home, and incredible shots of the buildings interspersed with shots from the Syrian civil war. These shots, reinforced the very interesting and unique motif of cement, so present in these builders’ lives; both in the air of the destruction in Syria and in their current occupation. A fascinating portrayal of the legacy of war, destruction and tragedy in Lebanon and Syria, the film is not only aesthetically beautiful but also an important one to watch for Europeans in the current debate surrounding immigration. We must never forget the ever-pressing need for Europeans to stand up for the fundamental right to asylum for those escaping, and seeking a safe and dignified life. Watch the trailer here, and find or demand a screening near you!

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 September 2017 22:31
Nicoletta Enria

Nicoletta Enria is Italian, originally from La Spezia, grew up in Rome, London and Frankfurt. She graduated from University College London, studying Language and Cullture and now works as Project Assistant and Social Media Assistant at the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). Follow her on twitter: @NicolettaEnria or her blog.

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