Share

The Revolution Begins at Home

Rethinking activism, what it looks like, and who gets to do it

A podcast that explores activism through the work and experiences of activists. We talk to activists and advocates about their work, their influences and how structures of power seek to undermine or devalue certain types
10/12/2021

The Craftivist Collective

Season 1, Ep. 3
In this episode, Chantelle spoke to Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective about growing up an activist and the power of gentle protest. Their conversation explores activism burnout and how the Crativist Collective came to be as well as the origins of craftivism and the incredible campaigns that Sarah has run with it. To learn more you might want to check out our reading list...Sarah recommends:The Gift of Anger by Arun Gandhi and translated by Suzan Cenani AlioğluA Gift of Love by Martin Luther King Jr.and has also written several books on craftivism:A Little Book of Crativism by Sarah CorbettHow to Be a Craftivist by Sarah CorbettCraftivist Collective Handbook by Sarah CorbettYou might also want to check out:craftivism: the art of craft and activism by Betsy GreerKnitting for good! by Betsy GreerThe Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House by Audre LordeThe following sound effects were used in this podcast:knitting and dropping metal knitting needle by HanulSkyGirlSeamstress’ Large Scissors by JakobthiesenSeamstress’ sewing machine setup and run by JakobthiesenPaper Crumple Craft Sound by EminYILDIRIMIf you enjoyed this podcast, you should listen to the Surviving Society Podcast which is also hosted by Chantelle and check out other shows supported by Content is Queen. You can follow Cerys on Twitter or sign up to their mailing list to find out what else they're up to.You can find the transcript here.
10/5/2021

The Halo Collective (Bonus Reflections Podcast)

Season 1, Ep. 2
We had some thoughts (and feelings) about last week's episode and didn't have anywhere to put them so now they're here (in your ears). What did you think about the episode? What did you think about the Halo Collective and hair discrimination and hair as a site of activism? Let us know on Instagram @therevolutionbeginsathome. If you're not on the gram, drop us a review or tweet @hashtagcerys with the hashtag #TheRevolutionBeginsAtHomeTranscriptIntroductionHello, and welcome to The Revolution Begins at Home (bonus reflections podcast). My name is Cerys, I’m the producer here at The Revolution Begins at Home and, after each episode, I’m going to be sharing a couple of things the episode made me think about whilst I was helping to make it.I realise that, as the producer, it’s generally not my job to say things but, the truth is, I have a lot of thoughts! And there’s not a whole lot of space in a half hour podcast so I thought I could have my own bit where I share them and I asked the producer if that would be ok and they said yes because they are me.This episodeIn the episode that this bonus episode is about, Chantelle, our wonderful host, talked to Kaisha-Wade Speed, a 17 year old activist working to end hair discrimination through the Halo Collective. They talked about hair discrimination, its impact, and the power of intergenerational communication and compassion and I learned a lot from getting to sit in on that conversation. Personally, I have never experienced hair discrimination, because, if you haven’t already guessed from that statement, I am white. I would actually say that my experience with my hair is the literal opposite of the kinds that Kaisha and Chantelle shared in their interview. I dye my hair a lot of different colours. I spent several years cutting it myself (as well as this year just gone, of course, because of lockdown) I’ve had some rough home-made haircuts in my time and none of this has ever really been an issue. I’ve certainly never been told that my hair is inappropriate at my school or workplace, even when my school had an explicit policy against dyed hair because, as we heard in the episode, these policies aren’t really about hair.My hair is still something I think about a lot though. Being queer and, I think, especially being non-binary, I try to use my hair to signify certain things about me. I keep it short, for example, I try very hard to get haircuts that are coded as masculine. This isn’t exactly effective – I feel like whatever haircut I ask for, or attempt myself, I almost always end up looking like a forty-year old divorcee who’s getting over her husband through a fun haircut and, to be honest, I’ve made my peace with that. If my soul’s inspiration board is a middle aged woman with an asymmetric fringe and an armful of stories about why her ex is a bastard then I am here for it.Anyway, my point is, I have a lot of thoughts about hair and hairstyles and so I was really grateful that Kaisha spoke to us about the Halo Collective and the work that they do because it gave me an opportunity to learn about hair and the value of hair from a different perspective to my own.Hair as a site of protestSo, what is the value of hair and what is its role in activism? Well, one of the things that this episode really made me think about was our bodies, and our hair especially, as sites of protest. For a lot of people, in one form or another, the body is a site of oppression. We, by which I mean society, project onto our bodies, by which I mean our bodies, yours and mine, an idealised image of what we (again society) expect everyone to look like and then we (all of us, you, me and society) enforce this through things like beauty standards or social conventions or uniform policies and, you know, actual laws. In the episode Kaisha and Chantelle explored how hair perpetuates and enforces racism, texturism and colourism.Kaisha: I mean, when we look at things like the media, there are often really positive connotations, looking at like lighter skinned people… And on the opposite side of that is like all of the negative things that come with being dark skinned and come with having like 4C or more kinkier hair, or having like bigger lips and a bigger nose, it's just not as appealing as like, like your lighter... you're just not as appealing as your lighter skin counterparts.Kaisha explained how we have a hierarchy of hairstyles which was developed under colonialism and still today perpetuates the false ideology that white people are superior, in the way that we look and behave and participate in society. Sort of over time we went from this idea that certain hairstyles were dirty and messy and bad because they were Black people’s hairstyles to Black people who have these hairstyles are dirty and messy and bad. Through this process, hair becomes an expression of prejudice. And we, again as a society, use hair to enforce a lot of different values, the ones that Kaisha talked about as well as things like patriotism or modesty or maternalism. Because afros look unprofessional and boys shouldn’t have long hair or painted nails whereas women should have hair that their husbands like, right? It needs to be feminine and demonstrate the effort she is making to look pretty for the world and take up so much of her time that she can’t do anything else like gain financial independence, for example. Also, we do get to make fun of her for being so obsessed with something as trivial as her hairstyle because that’s a silly, girly thing to do. In some places covering your hair and your face is against the law and in others the opposite is true because some people think it makes you untrustworthy and others immodest and, crucially, everyone else’s comfort is more important in that space than your own.We all have to follow a certain set of rules that dictate what our hair has to look like and those rules are different for different people because, again, it’s not really about the hair and some people have to follow more rules than others and are punished more severely when they break those rules because people do break the rules and when everyone is telling you that your hair needs to look like a certain way, you can use your hair to tell them you are not participating in their systems of oppression. For example… In 1922, in Egypt, the feminist leader and suffragette, Huda Sha’arawi removed her veil in public and trampled it beneath her feet [1]. She revealed her hair to the world around the same time that, in the US, women were making the scandalous decision to cut their hair short and, in doing so, reject the cultural code that long hair equals femininity. Fast forward forty years and long hair became associated with hippies and the anti-war movement and was used to push-back against military haircuts and, this time, representations of masculinity [2]. This was all happening at a time when Kathleen Cleaver famously explained how she wore her hair in an afro because it was natural and because it was beautiful [3]. And, today, the hair and the head remain a powerful site of protest. In 2019, Monireh Arabshahi, Yasaman Aryani and Mojgan Keshavarz were arrested for removing their veils and handing out flowers on a train in a fight for the freedom to choose what to wear [4]. Just earlier this year and a few miles from me in London, students at Pimlico Academy gathered to protest new uniform policies that punished students with afro-hairstyles [5] and limited the self-expression of students who wear hijabs. The school claimed that afros might block the view of pupils seated behind them, placing a hypothetical discomfort above the right of Black students to grow their hair naturally. The idea that some people’s hair is a kind of collective property, partially owned by a society that gets to weigh in on how it should be styled and what it should look like persists to this day.Perhaps this is why hair is a site of protest. But maybe it’s also because we all have hair? Or heads at least. As far as sites of protest go, our scalp is pretty close. It’s something that people even with limited power can exercise control over. That’s something that Britney Spears potentially most famously demonstrated way back in 2007? Cutting your hair or growing it from your armpits or whatever you want to do with it can be a bold and simple and empowering act because embedding a protest into your hairstyle is a reclamation of bodily autonomy that goes way beyond what you end up looking like.The work is hardListening to the history of the Halo Collective, the way that it’s evolved and developed as an organisation, the approach it has chosen and the response it has received has made me think a lot about how using your body to protest is hard work. If you think about it, it’s a place that you can’t really leave. If you go to a march or a demonstration and it wears you down, you can take a break, go lie in a dark room somewhere, sleep in your own bed and get up in the morning and decide whether or not you want to go back but if your protest is your hair it can be harder to leave that protest. You’re literally carrying it around with you on your head all the time. And, if your school tells you that the way your hair grows naturally is wrong then there’s not really much you can do about that. Sure, you can choose to change your hairstyle, by cutting it or paying someone to chemically relax it but you can’t change the way that it grows and so you can’t really escape from the fact that your school is telling you that the way you grow, naturally, is wrong. So I think having this protest in the space of your own body also brings about a different kind of toll. It must take a lot to come back up against that criticism again and again.This is why it was disheartening to hear Chantelle and Kaisha talk about the way that the work of the Halo Collective has been dismissed by some, as if focusing a movement on hair is trivial. Kaisha: people will say, like, Oh, so what you're discriminated on because of your hair. So what, like, no one's dying, like you're completely fine.I mean, it was disheartening in general to hear Kaisha’s experience of being a young organiser and being kind of dismissed outright purely because of her age but, on top of that, hearing that people don’t really buy this as a cause because it’s just hair was doubly saddening.Don’t get me wrong, I’m not surprised – I’m not surprised that people have looked at a group of young girls working to end hair discrimination and maybe thought “of course all that teenage girls care about is their hair” but I think that the Halo Collective has done a lot of work to show why this is not just about hair. Kaisha: the research has shown that those Black children, especially in schools, who are discriminated upon, because of their hair type have less chances of succeeding even in their like final exams, because they're being taken out of their classes. They're, they're being condemned for literally no reason. It obviously affects your self-esteem.And also to show that, actually, this is about hair and that’s ok because hair is important. Because, as we heard in the episode, hair is not just hair it is a tool of self-expression, it is a tool of oppression. It’s really important that people feel comfortable and empowered in their bodies and that’s why this kind of work is so vital. It’s not that it’s not just about hair but that it is about hair and hair is an important battleground where things like racism and texturism and colourism can be unpicked and disempowered and so it is important not to trivialise this work or devalue it because maybe the reason we are devaluing it and trivialising it is because we devalue and trivialise girls and the amount of work and thought and care that goes into hairstyling. Call to armsI think the Halo Collective have demonstrated that this is a fight worth having, and a difficult fight to have. It is something that we all have to participate in – by adopting the Halo Code, by talking to people, through education and compassion. What I have learned from helping to make this episode, and what I hope that you have learned also, is that dressing in the way that best expresses you, wearing your hair in the way you most feel comfortable, showing who you are through your body, this can be a form of activism. It’s one that you can do from home, in public, by yourself, as part of a collective, every day or just on the particular occasions when it is safe. If you want to get involved and help end hair discrimination there are lots of great resources at halocollective.co.uk[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huda_Sha%27arawi#Feminism[2] https://www.vogue.com.au/hair-insider/how-protest-hair-became-a-form-of-political-expression/image-gallery/7749adee0c448549461b22289b0f0353[3] https://search.alexanderstreet.com/preview/work/bibliographic_entity%7Cvideo_work%7C2787219[4] https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/iran-30-years-prison-protesting-against-forced-veiling-laws-LG?utm_source=google&utm_medium=paid&utm_campaign=MAIN717T_2104-1w-tru-Lead_gen_PPC_Iran-3&utm_content=monireh%20arabshahi[5] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/31/pimlico-academy-pupils-stage-protest-over-discriminatory-policies