Challenging the social construction of gender with Youtuber Khadija Mbowe – Screen Shot
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Challenging the social construction of gender with Youtuber Khadija Mbowe

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.

Celebrity stylist and designer Jennifer McKing speaks up about online bullying

Celebrity stylist and designer Jennifer McKing knows one thing or two about online bullying. After all, as London’s newest it-girl, she is one of the many people receiving hateful online comments regularly (too often, if you ask us), be that about the colour of her skin or the way she looks. For Anti-Bullying Week 2020, as part of the Not Just A Comment campaign in partnership with Ditch The Label, McKing sat down with Screen Shot and shared what raising awareness of the impact online abuse can have of someone’s mental well-being means to her.

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As someone present and openly sharing on social media, you’re often the victim of online hate. If you could speak to people who write those messages, what would be the first thing you would tell them?

Get a life.

Since gaining many followers and the visibility that comes with them on social media, do you now react differently to those comments?

Yes I do—the ‘block’ button is my favourite thing.

What kind of advice would you give anyone who suffers from online abuse?

Do not take anything personal. Do not let keyboard warriors make you lose sleep at night. As I said before, block and delete, and stay focused on what you have going on in your real life.

How present is racism online and do you think enough is being done in order to shut it down?

Racism has never left on and offline, it has always been and still is present. I think more people who are not of colour should step up and stand up whenever they see it happening because black and brown people always shut it down but unfortunately people are still ignorant.

Getting bullied on social media and off social media about the colour of your skin is a feeling that’s unexplainable. As I stated in the video, I cannot change my skin so getting bullied over something I was born with (which I love) is really sick and low.

How mindful of online bullying would you say you are when posting new content online?

I’ve grown thicker skin over time so I really don’t care for online trolls anymore. In life, you can’t give that much power to people that you don’t know.

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A post shared by Jennifer Mcking 🇨🇩 ♏️🦂 (@jennifermcking_)

How is your style and attitude helping you protect yourself and boost your confidence?

By ignoring the hate I’m able to focus on myself more. The power of knowing who you are and loving yourself is extremely important. When you love yourself, you are able to be the best version of yourself, which allows me to create the best content for my followers.

What are other things you do to help you feel more empowered and how could they help others feel the same?

I love talking to my friends. I have an amazing support system and some awesome friends who always uplift me. I think people get lost in the world of social media and forget about their real lives. In real life I’m surrounded by nothing but love and it truly empowers and uplifts me.

What boundaries have you set on your social media platforms in order to keep some aspects of your life ‘safe’ from online bullies?

I don’t post my relationships on social media unless it’s super super serious. I try to keep it fashion-related or work-related. I’m a bit private about my personal life but I’m not afraid to share some parts of my life.

If you could change one aspect about the internet, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change a thing. It is what it is.

Finally, what is the best thing you would recommend people to do for Anti-Bullying Week 2020?

Spread love, be kind and comment something nice on someone’s page!

You heard McKing, if you’re a hater, get a life. If you’re currently suffering from online abuse, block, delete, and focus on loving yourself. Share with anyone else who you think might be suffering from bullying and donate if you can to help support the incredible work Ditch The Label is doing. Share the hurtful comments you’ve received online using #NotJustAComment and raise awareness about the impact of online bullying.