Image: Jack Remmington
When Tina Fey first began working at SNL, she was one of the only female writers in the group and – unused to female company – a number of writers considered it normal to piss in jars and leave them around the office. The same men couldn’t understand why she wanted to write a sketch about tampons, arguing that it wasn’t funny. When the sketch aired and proved successful, the writers realised they had forgotten to account for half of their viewership.
These men didn’t mean to be sexist, and – in all likelihood – weren’t aware that they were forgetting about a huge number of people, but bias doesn’t have to be a conscious, intended exclusion, and intent often has very little to do with effect. We don’t mean to exclude people, but taking other mindsets into account is an active, conscious process that not everyone is willing to take the time to do.
In the case of the male writers, it was founded through a lack of knowledge that has – in the two decades since Tina Fey began working with SNL – mostly been corrected (at least in the case of gender, though still a long way to go for writers of colour and queer writers), but this bias remains in a number of industries, communities and workplaces. It dictates not only our comedy, but our awards panels, and also our politics (in 2016, just 23% of US government offices were held by women).
Male-female issues are an easy way to illustrate how the presence of inherent social biases can affect society as a whole - but the reality is, this happens for millions of people, along a hundred different demographics, and we aren’t paying attention.
Even effective feminist movements that seek to rebalance gender bias can prove alienating. The Pussy Hats that became 2017’s symbol of feminism failed to account for non-cis women who don’t always have vaginas (this includes trans women who are already excluded from so many areas of society), and women of colour who sometimes feel that the surface level activism of mainstream feminism often alienates their issues as not just women, but people of colour too. As a result, something that was created to unify women was found to – without meaning – exclude a large number of the very people it was designed to empower.
We decided to look into ways that you (and your brand) can be more inclusive, and sat down with Jack Remmington to learn how to become more socially open, and aware of people you might be offending – in general, ways not to be a dick.
Having studied social hierarchies and demographics as part of his human geography degree, and part of the singing duo Jack & Joel, headlining London’s Pride event in Trafalgar Square on the 7th July (as well as being all-round genius, and a great excuse to spend an evening working*), we figured Jack was one of the best people to answer our questions about inclusivity...
We began by looking at brands that get it wrong, vs. those that get it so incredibly right. We’re obviously talking about Rihanna here:
From the ground-breaking colour offerings of Fenty Beauty, to the latest SavagexFenty lingerie collaboration, Rihanna is offering the world so much diversity, which is entirely different from the majority of standard fashion and beauty branding, with the brands’ excellent representation of larger women, women of colour, queer people, and also men in makeup.
The difference is ownership: the majority of these brands are owned and run by straight white men, while Rihanna is, well, Rihanna. This means that she’s not filling some board-mandated requirement, or trying to fix an issue of which she has no real knowledge - she’s solving problems she has first-hand experience of, allowing the branding to come across as authentic and sincere representation, without exclusion, tokenism or bandwaggoning.
Just as including female writers into the SNL cast diversified and improved their output, adding women, people of colour and LGBTQ people to company boards and focus groups has only good effects (see any business Rihanna touches) and could help to avoid massive marketing errors, like the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi advert.
Since we can’t all be Rihanna (no matter how many Fenty products we buy), we have a duty to educate ourselves - and those we come across who need it. Education, along with authenticity and constant questioning, is at the heart of the core values of Araminta Marketing, and is the best way to start thinking about other peoples’ views and experiences, and reduces the risk of alienation or failed representation attempts.
An important message from Jack is that you will probably, at some point, mess up and that’s OK. Becoming socially aware and open-minded is a mindset you have to actively develop, and it doesn’t happen overnight. The difference between someone who makes a mistake, and someone who is genuinely offensive, is their willingness (or lack thereof) to learn and do better. For instance, if you make a mistake - let’s say you misgender someone (that is, to call them by a different pronoun to those that they use i.e. saying ‘he’ when the person uses ‘she’ - a common problem for trans people), it’s all about your response. The majority of the time if you’re called out on it and swiftly apologise and then use the right pronouns, there’s no issue. It’s the unwillingness to learn or respect people’s autonomy that causes the problem.
According to Jack, Twitter is the best platform for social justice, and the easiest way to access the views of those who don’t look and sound like you. It’s also much easier to go viral on Twitter than any other social media platform, so you can access the views of a much wider range of people: “Used correctly, Twitter can be a godsend.”
The important part here is how you use it. Without the active effort to seek out views different from your own, it risks the echo-chamber effect endemic in all social media platforms. However, by just following a few of the right people, you can become part of wider conversations, outside of your sphere of knowledge, and all you have to do is listen.
He’s even done the hardest steps for you, and made a list of the best people to follow on social media (we told you he was great):
The wonderful body-positive #saggyboobsmatter hashtag, created by Chidera Eggerue @theslumflower challenges preset notions of what women should look like – which is vitally important, when girls as young as nine report shame over their bodies.
@MayaJama, also spreads good into the world as a social figure, and has learnt a lot from her past comments online about colourism amongst black women etc.
@chrissyteigen is also a huge figure on Twitter who sheds light on the right issues in a humorous way.
@MajorPhilebrity is a v funny gay black man on Twitter who writes for Teen Vogue and many other publications and is informative about both queer and black issues and the crossover between the two.
@jvn is Jonathan Van Ness - the star of the new ‘Queer Eye’ reboot who is EVERYTHING. He’s so so fab and his politics regarding identity and queerness are top notch.
@jackremmington - where would I be without a self plug ;)
@shishi.rose is perhaps good for you all to keep up with on Instagram as she highlights a lot of the racial bias in modern America, not a particularly happy angle though (as often is the lived reality and experience for black people under a system that benefits white people) but it’s good for learning on an individual level.
Jameela Jamil launched @i_weigh on insta to hit back at trolls commenting on her weight and has people of all celebrity status (as well as ‘normal’ people) posting what their worth is in ways unrelated to weight - being a mother, overcoming issues, being kind and generous and hardworking etc. You’ll all LOVE that account. She’s fab on Twitter too!