Being a Good Influence(r)

Be a good influence(r)As you’ve probably heard by now, last week Hello! Magazine launched their annual ‘Star Mum’ campaign, sponsored by Next. Aside from the incredibly icky ‘judging motherhood’ factor, the campaign was heavily criticised for the lack of diversity in its panel.

The backlash itself came under fire, with some feeling that the celeb mums were being treated too harshly, and the blame lay solely with the brand and magazine. And of course, the reality is that if the board rooms in which these campaigns were signed off were more diverse, this shit wouldn’t keep happening.

But I do include the panel in my criticism of that campaign, because despite not holding all the power in the situation, they were undeniably complicit. The reason these women were chosen for the panel is because of their status as ‘influencers’, so it seems fair to me that we expect them to use this influence to make things better.

They fucked up, but that’s inevitable. Even though it can be difficult to hear, criticism isn’t a personal attack. No one is above criticism, not your favourite celebrity, not your loved ones, not the person staring back at you in the mirror. Maybe sometimes the criticism will feel aggressive, but when your words or actions have negatively impacted someone else with less power than you, it’s not the time to feel victimised. Even when it hurts, taking on board criticism is what makes us try harder and do better. And we should always, always try to do better.

It’s disappointing to see women who call themselves feminist tearing down marginalised voices. If you’re a straight, cis, able-bodied, middle-class white woman – or even if you’re 50% of those things – you should never use your platform to discredit, disregard or humiliate a woman from a marginalised group who is just trying to explain why something is harmful or just plain bullshit.

There’s two reasons not to do this, the first is that society already tells black women and fat women and trans women that their opinions are invalid, you really don’t need to add your voice to that.

The second reason is that no one cares what you think. It took me a shamefully long time to realise that if you’re white, it doesn’t fucking matter whether you think something is racist. If you’re thin, you don’t get to decide whether fatphobia is justifiable. If you have ever told your kids that ‘if they don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all’ then it’s about time you practice what you preach.

Sometimes you won’t understand why something is racist or transphobic or ableist and that’s OK. Well, it’s not OK, but it’s understandable, that’s what privilege is. And on those occasions where you just don’t get it, it’s time to shut your cake hole and listen. Seek out the blogs and videos and social media posts of women who are very kindly doing that unpaid emotional labour and activism, and find out what you don’t know. No matter how big or small your voice is, you can choose to use it to for kindness, or not.

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