As part of our focus on female founders this week linking in with International Women’s Day we are pleased to share this piece from one of the founders in our community. Ariane Barnes is the founder of The Different Women Project: empowering women that don’t fit the standard mould through the diaspora arts and integrated leadership coaching. Since graduating from a Hatch programme Ariane has been back to share her expertise through our community events, and we are grateful to her for sharing her insights on the empowerment of multi-racial women through this guest post.
“Action and intention are not the same”
In the wake of the black lives matter movement, this was the catch phrase my colleagues used the most frequently, it simply means that the intent can be pure but the action itself can still cause harm.
Ignoring the fact that multi-racial, queer women, have a very different experience of life and that within that lies a capacity to create a greater understanding of multiculturalism and how to empower those women- causes harm.
This pain can be deep and transformative, it can provide the basis for a thesis, the development of a working method and perhaps, even a successful career. In the wellness industry we call this working from the ‘“wounded warrior archetype.” It’s a choice to transform our greatest strife into power and healing.
But multi-racial women will not tell you that. They’ll be preoccupied with putting a foot wrong or upsetting ‘one side of the fence’ and they’ll also be dealing with overt criticism from society whilst simultaneously clinging to an inexplicable urge to refuse to conform to either one culture, attitude or social group, preferring instead to cross pollinate them.
Coming from a rich and diverse background, they will spend much of their lives trying to reclaim and relearn their heritage, something for the most part, they won’t have been prepared for adequately. They will endure this silently- because if they have done any kind of work on themselves, they will be aware of their own privilege. These women will also be aware of how society misunderstands what it means to be forever ‘walking a line’ between cultures because they have not experienced the reality for themselves.
The Different Women Project
This is the multi-racial woman’s journey, it’s also the queer woman’s journey. I am that woman.
I’ve learnt that these voices from society are often loud, judgmental and passive aggressive. I’ve watched as they cause our communities to turn inwards and against themselves in a pointless blame game. They consistently tell us to choose, to conform, to code our messaging so that a certain group of people will respond to us or convince us that we ought to do so for our own protection…and for the most part- they don’t know what they’re talking about. Quelle surprise.
So where are women like us supposed to find strength, empowerment and community?
People have trouble understanding what I do. The concept is very simple, I empower women and those who work with women through performance, yoga and psychology to feel, heard, seen and valued in a group of like-minded people in an expertly held space. I use teams of experienced LGBTQ/Women of colour to do so. But I am still consistently asked why these spaces are necessary and what they might achieve that others will not?
If we work on the basis that as a society we understand ‘embodiment’ as a state of being that directly translates intention into action- we can appreciate that the understanding of a need must start at the top of the organisation or the head of the community so adequate implementation occurs.
In turn, perhaps we can agree that plastering a poster of a beautiful multi-racial child born to two lesbians somewhere on LinkedIn just doesn’t cut it anymore; it’s time we got off our bottoms and started to look at this intersectionality with the same level of passion and commitment that we look at things in isolation.
You want me to tell you how, I know. But I’d rather tell you the truth.
No one has figured it out. And that’s because the need to create these spaces where women can thrive and celebrate uniqueness and multi-faceted identities has neither been acknowledged nor been created with enough intentionality, it just sort of magically happens when certain marginalised groups gather- we scramble frantically to ‘belong’ and hope to God we do.
We create magic in the process that never gets acknowledged for what it is; a gathering of great women and leadership from different walks of life.
What I can tell you, is that freedom of expression, mental health, support systems and the arts are deeply and powerfully interlinked. I can tell you that being witnessed and cared for by others in a circumstance where you’ve come to assume the support is not available can be life-changing.
When my women feel seen and heard as their true selves, through carefully designed spaces and experiences, they feel safe and they blossom and things start to move. Change starts to happen.
Why on earth would you not want that?
Ariane Barnes is an artist and a teacher of advanced performance and yoga psychology.
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