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  • Writer's pictureBen Pechey

Gatekeeping - Don’t get Fenced In

Oh hello darling and welcome back to January on, continuing the theme of ‘2021, let’s do better’ today I want to tackle something I introduced to you last year, and that is the harmful effects of Gatekeeping.

Gatekeeping is when a chosen few visually represent a whole community, and they feature in campaigns, the news, press. These are the faces that represent often diverse and intersectional communities.

It’s easy to spot because you end up seeing the same faces over and over again. In the activism sphere, we tend to see this power being bestowed on the most marketable individuals, typically white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, and thin. Their role is to offer the most palatable version of the community they represent.

I’m sure some of you can’t see the flaw here, because all press is good press, and surely we have to start somewhere. Well, this is problematic for many reasons. Firstly I would never stand in the way of anyone accessing paid work, and I adore seeing my peers succeed. However, if your voice is readily represented in the media, then you are stopping the chance of an underrepresented voice being heard. This means that many intersections of the community are not being represented.

Gatekeeping also creates false standards that negatively impact the rest of the community. For example, if a thin white femme presenting non-binary person is used tirelessly by the press and the media, the general public thinks that is the only way to be non-binary. Thus more fluid representations of gender, body sizes, dress sense, makeup preferences and so many more forms of personal expression are seen as abnormal.

Thus Gatekeeping makes it harder for intersections of communities to be seen as valid, and in a world where nuanced visibility is still shockingly low, this can damage so many people’s sense of self and mental health.

So how do we stop this from happening, and fencing us in? Well, the obvious answer is to always have diverse representation in casting, and campaigns. However, when most PR teams are cis-gender white people, diversity is not easy for them. So brands and agencies need to seek diversity across all hiring, to ensure representation throughout their work ethos’.

The influential few also have a responsibility to lift others up with them, to ensure that campaigns are diverse. They also have the ability and privilege to turn work down, to leave space for those less represented. It is not always possible, but for some very feasible.

I know that I have privilege, and thus I always seek out other experiences and representation when working on projects, and I could do more. Yet bigger community members are not doing this work, and until they do, Gatekeeping will be present.

Thank you for joining me today, I will be back next week to explore the cult of ‘screen-time’. I look forward to seeing you then.

Shot by Rachel Pechey


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