During a FLY meeting last year, Aoife Zahra Hayes suggested we run an “Ain’t I a Woman” campaign whereby women of colour at the university could describe for their peers the way in which their race and gender has coloured their experiences at Cambridge. The resulting campaign consists of a series of interviews with WoC on subjects ranging from access to fetishisation.
Today, three videos have been released on access, beauty, and feminism. Further interviews will be released every other day for roughly the next two weeks in the run up to the final and main video coming out on 24/10/15.
Most of the problems we identify here are born of ignorance, which can hopefully be countered through this campaign. Other issues are cultural and institutional. We hope these videos will help there, too.
1) These videos are almost a year old (my disorganisation is to blame). The views of the women in the video will likely have developed since (mine certainly have). They’re important nonetheless, but you should bear this fact in mind.
2) There are interviews where two people occupy the same frame. One person’s presence in the shot while another is speaking does not constitute their implicit agreement with what is being said.
“Lots of your… potential supervisors that’ll be interviewing you have this set idea of the kind of person they want to get into their college… [I]f you’re not used to voicing your ideas in a particularly “Cambridge” way… it’s gonna feel really alien to you and you might not be able to… perform in the way they want you to perform.”
Women of colour at Cambridge University discuss the state of BME representation at the university, the need for certain cultural changes, and quotas.
“If you can’t address the fact that within [sic] women there are systematic inequalities which correspond to class or race, then your feminism is just basic.”
Women of colour at Cambridge University discuss intersectionality, mainstream feminism, and their plans to end gendered oppression.
“This is a quote taken from the ‘I, Too, Am Cambridge’ campaign two years ago: ‘If you are a brown girl, you may as well be a man to me.’ Are you shocked by that statement?”
Women of colour at Cambridge University discuss Eurocentric beauty standards, facial hair, and shadism.
“By saying ‘I don’t see race, I just see the human race’ you are are literally erasing people’s histories, people’s experiences. The fact is that the world is divided by colour and that’s what we’re fighting against…”
“There is a kind of desirability that comes with the concept of the black woman, but that’s always a hyper-sexualised desirability.”
Anger & Activism
“Personally speaking, I’ve found that anger is the difference between those who talk about injustice in the world and those who do something about it.”
“It’s very complex because you have to deal with you being oppressed but also [consider] that you might have some privilege in terms of other people”.
“I think at some point I recognised that if I wanted to… do well in this place… I could actually utilise what is a very distinct (in this environment) perspective and put it into my work… I was able to see the beauty in that diversity in a way that I’d never really seen it before.”
“Deeper interaction with people has… led me to see that they actually have no information at all… So I… took it in my stride to enlighten them and make them see what Africa is…”
Faith, Feminism, and Identity
“The idea that a Muslim woman cannot be a feminist has always been quite nonsensical to me, in the sense that I derive a lot of my own beliefs about social justice from my faith.”
Mixed Race Identity
“I’ve sort of been in this central limbo where I can’t really identify with either half because I don’t really know how much of an experience I can say I have.”
“People have stereotypes about Chinese people and they think that I should probably just welcome them… [because] if anything they work in my favour… [But] any stereotype is harmful!”
AIAW: Creating Spaces for Ourselves
“People ask me: ‘why do you need an African-Caribbean Society?’, ‘why do you all hang out together?’, ‘why are you separating yourselves – isn’t this making racism worse?’… I think people forget that humans always divide themselves. When I look around my college people are divided up based on their class, they divide themselves based on the sports that they play. And not in a malicious way, but you group with people who you have something in common with… When I want to have shared experiences with someone who understands this aspect of my life, then yeah I’m gonna be hanging out with people who are from African and Caribbean backgrounds… [The majority of students here] don’t have to search out for people who are like them… because they’re everywhere.”