Women of Colour in Fictional Culture

by Lantana Publishing on March 19, 2020

For Women's History Month, Moni Serneabat Ungar (founder of the University of Glasgow's first-ever BAME Society) shares some amazing characters that made her & her friends proud to be women of colour. 

Hi, my name is Moni and I am a Woman of Colour.

I have sometimes found in my life that identifying as a woman, whilst also being a person of colour can sometimes feel more like a curse than a blessing. When I was younger, I would often convince myself that I was white and would force myself to wear any colour that wasn’t pink in order to displace myself from any potential stereotypes that I could face, but today I embrace being a woman of colour. I tried to reach back to figure out when my viewpoint flipped, and I started to see my melanin as one of the many positive attributes that make me who I am.

BAME Society, University of Glasgow

I came to the realisation that the reason I felt the way that I did was because I was too young to build a network or really understand the world. I decided to speak to some of the other women of colour I knew. My friends and I decided that in our naivety, we found that it was through books, television shows and films that we were able to escape and appreciate ourselves for who we are.

Brittney Shanice

Who is the character, or what show, book or film do you want to talk about?

> J from The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl

When you think back to watching this show, how did it make you feel? As a Woman of Colour?

> I started watching the show when I was around 20/21. I came across this web series starring Issa Rae and it was the first time I had ever come across a character that really resonated with me. I grew up in New York and there was visual representation of Black women in television and books, but they were never lead roles. If they were, I found that they were expected to overcome extreme circumstances such as in  The Color Purple by Alice Walker.  These more common representations of Black Womanhood showed an extreme and generally made me feel like my everyday struggles were downplayed. However, when I started watching Awkward Black Girl, there was finally someone on the screen who was much more relatable and accessible to living everyday life.

Retrospectively, how do you feel this show made you into the woman you are today?

> The show was definitely ahead of its curve. At the time of watching the show, I felt that awkwardness experienced by J didn’t adhere to the stereotypes often portrayed about Black Women. The show also proved that main characters didn’t need to have major life obstacles to overcome. Also, I loved the fact that J was rocking a low fade before anyone was shaving their head, which was a plus. Ultimately, the show inspired me in many ways, helping me to become more confident in being a quirky, eccentric person and not feeling like I had to hide in a shadow. During my elementary and middle school years, I felt like no one fully accepted or even embraced having social anxiety, but J did, and this helped me to take ownership of this characteristic.

 

Estella Adeyeri

Who is the character, or what show, book or film do you want to talk about?

> I’ve found it really difficult to think of someone, but I think the show that springs to mind was called Cleopatra and it centred around three black sisters, living their lives and getting into generic TV mischief.

When you think back to watching the show, how did it make you feel? As a Woman of Colour?

>  The key narrative of the show also coincided with these sisters being in a poppy RnB girl group. When I was around 11/12, I became quite into dancing and performance arts. Cleopatra was one of the first shows I had watched that showed young black girls singing and dancing. I remember getting together with my friends attempting to replicate dances on the show at home. I also felt that there had been shows about black women but often they were presented going through hardship, Cleopatra was much more about having fun. Also, I had grown up with shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Sister Sister and although these shows featured strong, black women, not only were they not in the foreground but they were also American. Cleopatra was a British show which made it that little bit more relatable.

Retrospectively, how do you feel this show made you into the woman you are today?

>  I don’t think it impacted me anyway directly, but I suppose if I look back, the show gave me the motivation to continue dance classes, right up into my late teens and that this allowed me to build confidence on stage. All these pieces stemmed from my love for this show which has now given me the confidence and drive to be performing at venues such as Brixton Academy.

-

It took a while for me to work out who my inspiration was but after some digging and looking at old books that I owned, I found an old Marvel comic that I had, featuring Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel. I’m a huge fan of the Marvel universe today but I remember a time when I didn’t have much care for it, but Kamala flipped that. It was so rare for me to see South Asian women represented in books that I read when I was younger. Kamala Khan was a young Pakistani girl and being Bengali, it was nice to see the representation of a South Asian woman who wasn’t Indian.

It is without a doubt easy to say that a lot of children’s and teen literature lacked diversity, especially when we started to move from books with pictures to slightly heavier novels. Film and television also lacked representation in a lot of ways, either exuding stereotypes or the Women of Colour that we did see on our screen being in very minor roles. I read an article in The Guardian about the Reflecting Realities report run by the Centre ofor Literacy and Primary Education that said “only 4% of children’s books in 2018 feature BAME characters”, but I hope that anyone reading this can see the impact that representation can have on people. Bring Women of Colour into the limelight and make them the future!

 

Looking for stories about brave girls of colour dreaming big and going on big adventures? Check out our Mighty Girls Book Bundle! Because girls can do anything. Click HERE.

  

 

 

Moni is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Glasgow, studying Film and Television studies. In her first year at the university, she founded the institution's first-ever Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicities (BAME) Society. She was also elected for student council as Race Equality Officer and in her role has made a lot of progress with campaigns such as 'Decolonising the curriculum'.

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published


Back to Top
x

x