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Challenging the social construction of gender with Youtuber Khadija Mbowe

By Harriet Piercy

Mar 8, 2021


Gambian-Canadian-American multidisciplinary artist and content creator Khadija Mbowe has a whole lot to say, and it’s time to listen up! To Mbowe, challenging gender norms and inequality in 2021 means “holding myself accountable,” which to us, couldn’t ring truer. For International Women’s Day 2021, Screen Shot has partnered with three inspiring changemakers who, through their community, platform, and online presence, have challenged gender inequality each in their own way.

Mbowe is a dynamic singer, entertainer, writer and all-round creative with a voice that speaks more truth than most. Their content, which they regularly share on most social media platforms, is used to not only entertain but to educate. By starring in their own projects on a weekly basis Mbowe’s growing YouTube channel now has over 2.5 million views, and they are only getting started with videos that tackle topics like emotional intelligence, racism, feminism, queer-baiting, colourism, diversity and so, so much more.

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Une publication partagée par Screen Shot media (@screenshothq)

Speaking to Screen Shot, Mbowe shared, “I like to give my audience as much grace as possible because we all come to realisations of systemic oppression at different times. Something I really want people to take away from my videos though, is that it’s never too late to learn, grow, and change. I believe that it is so important to get uncomfortable with yourself and evaluate the ways you benefit from gender inequality, what racial biases you might have, all of it. Recognition is the first step towards learning and growing.”

When Screen Shot asked them about the message they wanted to share with the world on IWD, they said: “You’re doing a great job, girl, that’s what I wanna say, you’re doing a great job,” and their pure love and purpose is as contagious as it gets. Mbowe, who in their own words is “a very curious person,” says that they “like to investigate a lot, so I try to learn as much as I can about how a construct like gender has created so much division in the world and so much inequality.” Which is remarkably an ongoing and tragic repercussion of history within our society still to this day, and ultimately something that every single one of us needs to help change.

In a piece Mbowe wrote for Opera Canada that spoke of the power of using social media to fight opera inequality specifically, which is a side of their creative passion, they wrote “As a black singer, I cannot turn off my skin. I cannot mute my gender identity. I am unable to delete my queerness, and I should not have to in order to feel like I have a chance at succeeding in this industry. Like every social revolution before this, young people are leading the charge.”

Particular messages that they would like to share with women on not only IWD, but always, is that “It’s okay to question what these constructs even mean, it’s okay to change your mind and try and understand who you are fundamentally” and that “If you want to make a better world, you need only look to the past to find the answers.”

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Une publication partagée par Khadija (Haddy-Jatou) Mbowe (@khadija.mbowe)

Social media has the power to wield enormous change, and thanks to a growing number of activists finding their community, change is starting to be noticed. Change as an idea in itself however, according to Mbowe, can be deconstructed further: “I think we should always pay attention to this idea of ‘change’ when it comes to these power structures and really focus on the core values of these systems of oppression as well as their names.”

In particular, imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, “because at its core, those systems have values based on individualism, control, power, a one up, one down paradigm and those are the things we should be paying attention to, to enact real change. What does our world look like with collaboration, engagement, and equity as the core values of new systems?” Evidently, there is still a lot (more than most are willing to see) to be done, but now is the time to get involved.