Moving beyond representation
Bilqees Mohamed (social work) and Sahar Khan (journalism '18) are creating a new space for women of colour to have their voices heard.
Bad Gal Media, external link is an intersectional, feminist online magazine and quarterly print publication that aims to showcase the journalism and artistic work of self-identifying women of colour, as well as their voices and perspectives on culture, fashion, beauty and visual art.
What inspired Mohamed and Khan to launch the magazine? “We noticed that there’s a lack of spaces for women of colour in media,” Mohamed explains. “Everyone talks about representation and how great that is, but many [media outlets] are not willing to give actual spaces to women of colour to do this work.”
“We wanted to create a space where women of colour can showcase their own skills, and not just be talked about by other people. That means they get to do their own graphic design, they get to tell their own stories and they get to do their own art — without being this token for representation,” says Khan.
Mohamed and Khan met five years ago while studying journalism together at Ryerson. Mohamed has since switched into the social work program, and Khan graduated recently in the spring. They’ve found that their two disciplines both intersect and inform the development of the project.
“In social work, we know that the media is a structure of power,” Mohamed says. “We understand that the media does cause additional trauma on certain communities. We thought that the only way to address this would be to create this space — within this very powerful structure — for women of colour to actually take control, and not have people define who they are, who their communities are and how they exist.”
“It’s important for people to tell their own stories,” Khan states. “You can train someone on how to report on diverse groups of people, but how powerful can it really be, if it’s not coming from someone of that ethnicity or background?”
Mohamed and Khan would like to see their venture eventually expand to include a leadership training program for high school students. “We actually want to take our team...and help younger students with support in terms of getting into university, with working on pieces for their portfolio...and also evolve their leadership skills,” Mohamed says.
BadGal Media is a great example of social innovation as social justice, explains Melanie Panitch, John C. Eaton Chair, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and mentor to the project. “Two dynamic women from different disciplines have come together over a complex, wicked problem: the obstruction of social and economic rights of women of colour.”
“In its grassroots approach, process of mentorship and outreach to non-traditional partners, BadGal Media allies with values of social inclusion and diversity so integral to socially innovative initiatives."
What can readers expect from the first print issue? “I think that they can expect a lot of different kinds of artistry,” Khan says. “Each person has their own identity, so, we’re focusing on that and exploring the different identities among women of colour.”
“We want it to be really touching on the complexity of intersectionality and show how women of colour are not one-dimensional,” adds Mohamed.
Mohamed and Khan are the 2017 recipients of the FCS Usha George Students-in-Action Award, which provided funds to kickstart the magazine project. FCS students can apply for the award by October 15, 2018.