From top: IMAGE Woman of the Year 2018 logo; Tweets between Áine Carroll and Image magazine’s Digital editor Dominique McMullan; Áine
IMAGE.ie published their Women of the Year list at the weekend. All of the women featured were deserving of the accolade, but one thing stood out and made the list seem, well, odd. They were all white:
Dominique McMullan, IMAGE’s digital editor, responded on Monday to a tweet I had sent over the weekend (see above), but later deleted her reply.
Dominique subsequently reached out and provided a statement, which you can read at the bottom of this article.
There should not be two lists, and yet here we are. In 2018. With a white-only list and an alternative list that, frankly, I should not have had to compile.
Here are some exceptional women that IMAGE could have included, but didn’t:
Ellie is from Malawi and is set to become the first woman living in Direct Provision to stand in the local elections when they take place next year. Running for the Social Democrats in the North Inner City ward of Dublin City Council, Ellie is an activist speaking out about Direct Provision and founded Our Table to highlight the ban on asylum seekers cooking their own food in Direct Provision centres. Ellie is seeking asylum in Ireland and has lived here for more than nine years. She was recently celebrated in an exhibition of specially commissioned works of art, Local Heroes, run by Dublin City Council Culture Company.
Ola is absolutely smashing it as a fluent speaker of Irish and has a weekly radio show on Raidió Na Life every Saturday from 4pm-5pm. She is also a contributor to the Motherfoclóir podcast. With Nigerian heritage, she has a degree in English, Media and Cultural Studies from the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology. Ola is also a video producer and recently produced and directed a video, What does ‘Irishness’ Look Like, challenging stereotypical assumptions of what it means to be Irish in 2018.
Shubhangi is a young person of colour who is queer and disabled and who has recently moved on from housing insecurity to starting a not-for-profit brand. She raised over €10,000 for Repeal and other social causes in Ireland, on top of being a medical student and researcher who is lecturing publicly about the need for diversity in science communication. Shubhangi also recently created a website, repealist.ie, to platform diversity in Ireland.
FeliSpeaks (aka Felicia Olusanya) is a young Nigerian-Irish spoken word performance artist, writer and poet who is in demand. She delivers show-stopping performances and co-wrote a sold-out spoken word play called ‘BOYCHILD’. Felispeaks is also an award winning artist, honoured by the African Professional Network of Ireland for her unique contribution to the Dublin City art scene in 2017. Blurring the lines between music and poetry, she has performed alongside Saul Williams, Super Silly, JyellowL, NC Grey and more. With poems that explore different ideas of feminism, coming of age experiences and universal personal experiences, her art is centred on connecting with her audience through honesty, openness and thought provoking observations.
Ilaina is scientist and public engagement coordinator with Sense about Science, a charity campaigning to challenge the misrepresentation of science and evidence in public life. Ilaina has a research masters in immunology from Trinity College Dublin and is trained as a bioinformatician. Ilaina is also a campaigner and activist highlighting issues faced by migrant women and ethnic minorities.
Celaviedmai, also known as Maimouna Salif, is an Irish-born rapper who has opened for Lil Wayne, Mac Miller, Hoodie Allen, Tinchy Stryder, Sneakbo, Section Boyz and recently Jimothy Lacoste. She also wrote the catchy theme tune to the popular It Galz Podcast. The 25 year old from Galway is a talented songwriter and regularly performs at festivals and events, including Electric Picnic, the Fringe Festival and recently Working Class Heroes. Celaviedmai has been featured in the New York Times and Vice’s Noisey and is the face of hip hop in Ireland on Google. She has her own catalogue of music on Spotify.
Filomena is a blogger, YouTuber and Tedx speaker with a special interest in modern dating and relationships. She regularly features as a commentator and writer in Irish media and recently wrote about the nuances in implied consent for thejournal.ie. Her viral open letter titled ‘Dear Irishmen, Please Stop Sexualising Us,’ garnered immense media attention last summer where she shut down a phenomenon that has been recognised as the fetishisation of black women in dating circles. This catapulted her across the internet and featured her in over 15 publications worldwide, including Huffington Post, Refinery 29 and The Metro, to name just a few. Filomena made her television debut in May 2018 where she was part of the cast for a ground-breaking Channel 4 series called Genderquake. Watch her Tedx talk here.
Dr. Ebun Joseph
Dr. Joseph is an author, social justice activist, motivational speaker, intercultural consultant and researcher in the field of race relations, racial stratification and the labour market. She oversees a module in UCD, the first of its kind in Ireland, called Black Studies and Critical Race Perspectives in Education. The course examines “the histories, social movements and contributions of people of African descent, as well as look[ing] at contemporary forms of Blackness in society and around the world.”
Vanessa is a talented photographer and actress originally from Belfast. She was living in Japan when she took up photography to help her combat anxiety. Vanessa moved to Dublin in 2017 to attend acting school and from there contributed to the What does ‘Irishness’ look like video. Her mental health and recovery project, Zone In, was exhibited in A4 Sounds to raise money for the rape crisis centre and Vanessa’s newest project is called Off-White Sheets.
Clara Rose Thornton
Clara Rose Thornton is a spoken word artist, culture journalist, event organiser and radio and television broadcaster. Her work focuses on the arts and their intersection with social justice, identity politics, history and place. She is a three-time Dublin/Leinster Poetry Slam Champion. Clara Rose frequently contributes to RTÉ radio shows including “The Ryan Tubridy Show”, “The History Show”, and “Arena”. She was instrumental in founding the inaugural Black History Month Ireland in 2014, and toured the country as the observance’s headlining performer. She performs her provocative spoken word at festivals and venues across Europe and North America and her print cultural criticism is published internationally, including in the Irish Independent and the Irish Times.
Áine is a co-founder of GirlCrew.com, a start-up venture aimed at helping women make new friends and to date they have raised €810,000 in seed funding with investors who include LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Wrigley CMO Orla Mitchell and PCH chief executive Liam Casey. She recently featured in the Forbes EU Top 100 Female Founders to follow and is a TEDx speaker, a diversity advocate, and an activist in areas such as Direct Provision and homelessness.
Dr. Georsan Caruth
Native of Trinidad and Tobago, Georsan came to Ireland nearly two decades ago. Now a Neonatologist in training (fancy for doctor of babies) and award nominated clinical lecturer in Paediatrics at UCD, she’s an ardent defender of human rights causes. An annoyingly eternal optimist, Georsan is always willing to try anything twice. When not eating her way around the world, she lifts heavy things for fun.
Lorraine Maher – #IamIrish
Lorraine Maher is a proud Tipperary woman with an African twist. Frustrated with “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” as the only explanation given for her existence and inspired by the lack of representation of the Black Irish experience, Lorraine launched #IamIrish to celebrate mixed race culture and to question the what an authentic ‘Irish’ identity means for communities today. She is an experienced cultural advisor, educator, trainer, international speaker, creative practitioner, director, producer and curator and brings some of the hardest to reach communities and organisations together through inspirational collaborations and experiences. She has developed pioneering creative programmes that place hidden stories and voices at the heart of their vision. Lorraine also has a special interest in work around identify and belonging, mental health and well being, domestic violence, young people, gender equality and homelessness.
Zainab Boladale is a reporter and presenter for RTÉ’s daily children’s news programme, news2day. The 22-year-old was born in Nigeria and raised in Ireland. She loves talking to people and learning about their stories, which is one of the reasons she chose to study Journalism at Dublin City University. In 2017 she was named Journalist of the Year at the DCU Hybrid Awards and was nominated in the same category in the Union of Students in Ireland Achievement Awards. Earlier this year, she was nominated for U Magazine’s 30 under 30 awards in the Entertainment category. She spoke at the Other Voices Ireland’s Edge Conference in 2017 about Ireland being a ‘Migrant Nation’ and is on the line up to speak at 2019’s Inspirefest.
Emily Waszak is a long time anti-racist activist and organiser. She is a Japanese-American woman originally from North Carolina who first arrived in Ireland more than 10 years ago. Emily was heavily involved in the campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment, and tirelessly fought for migrant and ethnic minority inclusion in the campaign. She was a member of the Abortion Rights Campaign for many years as well as co-organiser of Strike 4 Repeal and co-founder of MERJ (Migrants and Ethnic-Minorities for Reproductive Justice). Emily has also been a member of the Anti-Racism Network and the Irish Housing Network in Ireland.
Tolu Makay, aka Tolulope Makanjuola, is a singer-songwriter based in Dublin who expresses and makes sense of life around her through music. She began by writing poetry and later transitioned to songwriting. Inspired by the likes of Jessie J, Sabrina Claudio, Erykah Badu, Nina Simone, Kirk Franklin, this Soul alt-Rnb singer aspires to be a household name one day. While staying true to the theme of experience, empowerment and self love her two singles Goodbye and Reflection have become anthems for many young women finding their feet and she has her own catalogue on Spotify. Her message is one of love and hope and she is part of an NGO in Nigeria founded by her mother (Monimak Global foundation) which was set up to help the less privileged. She has projects on the way to improve ones mindfulness with the use of the degree she acquired in Psychology and Philosophy in NUIG.
Móna Lxsa established her name working with high profile brands like Heineken, Thinkhouse, Google, Facebook, Hennessy, Benefit Cosmetics, Pretty Little Thing, Nasty gal and IMRO, among others, and has been quickly recognised as a true tastemaker and voice of authority within the creative and music industry. From co-founding record label Souletiquette in 2013 to playing the biggest festivals stages as Soule’s official DJ, she is an all-rounder with a proven track record. In May 2018 she launched Gxrl Code, a creative collective and platform for women across the industry to celebrate, showcase and support women in all areas. She has mastered the art of juggling the fast-paced realms of being a community leader, an artist manager, social influencer, a fierce creative entrepreneur and now earning her spot as MRA Executive at Thinkhouse.
Some of the listees named above provided their perspective on IMAGE’s list:
Shubhangi Karmakar said:
“I think the issue with IMAGE’s list of Women of the Year that is all-white plays into the exact same kind of myopic platforming that we have seen with other publications like Irish Tatler when they published their Remembering Repeal article. I’ve also been calling out organisations like Tatler and TEDx every single day for the last six weeks for erasing the achievements of people of colour.
It is incredibly endemic and it is systematic. Whenever the issues are called out the only outcome we get is organisations saying, “Oh, exclusion wasn’t our aim.” Exclusion that comes around as a result of targeted, deliberate erasure is something that is easier to draw attention to and easier to drive change within. Exclusion that happens innately or almost thoughtlessly is much harder to change because that speaks to the entrenched nature of white privilege in Irish platforming at large.
It is very unfortunate to see because there are so many people of colour putting in their labour and talent in such diverse ways after having faced inordinate adversity. We have faced physical abuse in person and verbal abuse online on almost a daily basis in Ireland for doing the work we do, but have made such a contribution with our talents that it is about time that contribution is fairly recognised.”
Vanessa Ifediora said:
“This shit freaks my nut not only because women of colour shouldn’t be an afterthought in the first place, but a magazine editor asking the public for suggestions as if we’re not out here smashing it…like if you work in media and can’t think up a single worthy woman of colour for yourself like…yikes.”
Áine Mulloy said:
“In recent months we’ve seen some very obvious and high profile instances of erasure and sidelining. This is a problem as it allows there to be a continuation of the perception that only a certain section of society are active and worth championing. That the creators of this list didn’t see a problem with it when they published it – is the issue. When people in positions of power, such as the media, put forward such lists they are accepted.
That the list is not inclusive tells readers that only one section of society is worth rewarding. That one section of society is doing anything of merit, worth reading about, worth considering. That, ultimately, there is only one section in society. Yet we know this is isn’t true. Ireland is an increasingly diverse nation – and there has been diversity here for quite some time.
It’s long overdue that media organisations become more reflective of the society they represent and create content for. It’s not about diminishing the work of the women listed, it’s about acknowledging that there is an incredible pool of people to choose from and that we should be looking to uplift new voices.”
Lorraine Maher said:
“This crap from IMAGE does not surprise me in the least, the continuous whitewashing gets boring.”
Filomena Kaguako said:
“To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t even aware of this and I probably wouldn’t have noticed had it not been pointed out to me. I think the women included in the list are all very credible females and I couldn’t thank you enough for holding my work and achievements to the same esteem as theirs.”
Georsan Caruth said:
“The Ireland I live in isn’t often reflected in the media. Take public transport or look at our school children for proof that it’s a country of more than one shade. When best of lists only include a homogenous slice of our island, it’s not lazy but willful ignorance. Don’t practice tokenism either. There are more than enough women of colour doing their best everyday. It’s not our job to be seen, it’s a reporter’s job to see.”
Ellie Kisyombe said:
“The IMAGE list is some list! I am happy to see the women I look up to and being close with named in that report, such as Dr. Ciara Kelly and Una Mullally. We can only celebrate them, how do they choose?! Do they do research? I am sure they just choose to play a blind eye because if I remember there was an article that Una wrote and she recommended my name. I can’t speak for others but in my opinion my name has come through to them or maybe we don’t meet their criteria.“
Emily Waszak said:
“To be clear, magazines like IMAGE do not exist to empower women, they exist to reinforce patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism by creating an “IMAGE™” ideal woman that is rich, cishet and white that we are meant to aspire to be, all while working harder under austerity for less money to buy more shit that we don’t need off of the backs of other exploited labourers.
It’s not a surprise then that they don’t rate us or our work. And so what if we got a woman of colour in that list? Of course it would be good for young women of colour to see themselves reflected in the world, but would that change the material reality of the lives of black and brown women in Ireland? Our work can’t just be about getting our individual faces on the cover of a magazine without challenging the structures of oppression that these publications are built upon.”
Statement from IMAGE:
“On December 14th IMAGE.ie published a Women of the Year 2018 list. This list was compiled to honour, recognise and celebrate Irish women who made an impact in their field this year. IMAGE staff were invited to put forward their nominations and all were all taken into account. In the reader nominated category we asked IMAGE readers to let us know who their woman of the year was.
The winner was the person who received the most votes. On receiving feedback in the last few days, we can see clearly that there was an omission of women of colour from the list. All we can do is speak from a place of sincerity and absolute honesty in stating that this was not by design.
At IMAGE it is incredibly important both to management and everyone at team IMAGE that we use our platforms with the utmost integrity and as a space to embolden, inspire and shine a light on all women. We champion women of different backgrounds across our publications, platforms, covers, awards and podcasts. Going forward, we will strive to be especially aware in ensuring intersectionality across our publications and that we always represent a modern Ireland.
We are extremely grateful to all who have given us their time on this topic, it is because of your voices that we will continue to improve and grow every day. On receiving feedback we have commissioned pieces for early next year to further celebrate exemplary Irish talent of all ethnicities and backgrounds. Until then we continue to welcome and encourage all feedback and comment, so that in 2019 we can bring you the very best in engaging, relevant, inspiring content.”
Áine Carroll is a journalist and freelance writer who lives in Dublin. You can follow Áine on Twitter here