roma community

G*psy Prêt-à-porter: A collection of misuse and misinformation

With 2017 London Fashion Week well underway, shows are going political—and being the human rights, economic empowerment devotees we are, could not be more proud. Only thing is, when will the universe of couture finally understand our battle?

Generally intended to express colourful, carefree, bohemian style, the word gypsy is thrown around loosely in the fashion world. From brand names and labels, to standard industry jargon, the word has through time entrenched itself deep within the bowels of the trade. It is no dernier cri. In 2010, Kate Moss posed for a questionable 2010 V Magazine editorial by stylist Karen Langley and photographer Ian Kell entitled “Kate & the Gypsies” while John Galliano, Anna Sui, and countless others included interpretations of the “gypsy” in their ready-to-wear repertoires. In May 2015, Urban Outfitters came under another wave of harsh and well-deserved criticism, notably in the Twittersphere, for coming out with a graphic tee that wrote: Gypster—a hybrid between “gypsy” and “hipster.” Being a “gypster” was defined on the t-shirt as someone who is wild, free-spirited, and, of course, “always on the move.”

Yet, it appears the conversation that started in 2015 died a quick and painless death, as the term steadily resurfaced with little to no backlash at all. For instance, the gender-neutral brand Gypsy Sport led by designer Rio Uribe has been a complete hit on the catwalk this year. Allure Magazine described it as a “Champion for diversity.” Last fall, Kenzo showcased what was described by media as their “gypsy” silhouette dresses on the H&M runway, while the Duchess of Cambridge sported an Alexander McQueen dress inspired by the “intricately beautiful floral patterns seen painted on gypsy caravans and canal barges in the British countryside.”

What appear as celebrations of the “gypsy” are in fact misconstrued representations of Rromani people that insidiously work to continue patterns of discrimination and marginalization today. “Gypsy” is much more than just a word. There are meanings, implications, identities and consequences involved in using the term—meanings the fashion world has carelessly neglected. Don’t get us wrong, centuries-worth of misinformation and typecasting do not help by any means.

First and foremost, the word g*psy is derogatory. It was originally used to characterize a person of Rromani origin based on the mistaken belief that Rromani people came from Egypt. The term increasingly became synonymous with someone who cheats, steals, or for lack of a better term, “gyp.” To be clear, it is a racial slur. The fact that some Rromani identify themselves with the term and do not take offence to it does not make its use any less derogatory, as there is a large percentage of the population that doesn’t feel the same.

It would be foolish to deny that its meaning has evolved in certain social realms. In the fashion industry, many designers and consumers do not use it or interpret it negatively per se. The problem is that there are still many places in the world where it is still used to discriminate and dehumanize people of Rromani origin.

When Vivienne Westwood used Rromani models in her spring/summer 2009 tolerance-themed menswear show to illustrate the minority as the “rough, stylish and hardened outcasts of society,” she received criticism from many. At the time, Milan’s assessor for industry and fashion and ex-Forza Italia MP, Tiziana Maiolo, publicly stated that “there is no chance for integration while the men play cards instead of working and the women and children steal and beg.” She also proposed to guide Vivienne on a tour of the nomad camps to prove just how outdated her “romanticized” perception of Rromani is.

That kind of reaction is no surprise. The rise of right-wing populism in Europe has since intensified and the Rromani population, among other minorities, are paying for it. There is a lot wrong with this whole picture that ought to be corrected. For one thing, over 90% of Roma are sedentary. The stereotypes of nomadism perpetuated by dominant political classes have served as a direct tool of marginalization and segregation. The camps or campi nomadi mentioned by Signora Maiolo, were established by the Italian government to appease the so-called cultural nomadism of the Rromani population. Let me repeat, over 90% of Roma are sedentary. The living conditions of these camps are squalid and fall beneath human right standards, yet governments around the world have blamed Rromani, as if they want to live this way.

When the fashion industry perpetuates the stereotype of nomadism in Rromani culture, they feed into and legitimize a legacy of discrimination. It’s worth pointing out that 10% of Rromani are nomadic, but it certainly does not stem from a romantic free-spirited idea, but was adopted as a means of survival. Still today, in schools across Western and Eastern Europe, Rromani children are segregated. Access to education remains a serious concern, as do access to healthcare and employment. Acts of violence and hate crimes against Rromani are also on the rise, while even the Canadian government refuses to publicly recognize the Roma Genocide where half a million Rromani were murdered under the Nazi regime during WWII. Years of political rhetoric and misinformation have dehumanized the Rromani population.

Giving into such stereotypes sends a strong message to the Rromani community. When designers, companies and journalists use the term g*psy to describe a brand or particular collection as nomadic, wild and free-spirited for their own commercial benefit, they neglect the real and continuing plight of Rromani and unintentionally reinforce their stigmatization. Let’s remember that there is not a single sphere where being Rromani is embraced or praised. Even brands that claim to be inclusive have no real interest in battling stereotypes and changing the status quo.

Fashion is often an expression of a designer’s creativity and identity. Therefore, fashion that misconstrues an identity by celebrating this ill-informed interpretation of g*psy culture is highly problematic and in this case, ignorant. For centuries, Rromani communities have suffered persecution, hatred, and violence. By romanticizing the plight of Rromani communities, the fashion industry demonstrates its ignorance and ultimately neglects the fact that Roma are people. It is time for the powerful and highly influential fashion industry to be cognizant of the world around it, and stop reducing a people to a trend.

Cristina Ruscio & Dafina Savic

anonymous asked:

Have you ever heard of Papusza the Romani poet who survived world war two? Even though she was shunned from the Roma community for reading and writing she was very talented and clearly strong.

I hadn’t until you sent me this message. I can’t find much of her work online, but what I found is lovely and moving, so thank you for this. She seems to have inhabited a strange world, abandoned by her community, isolated for over thirty years- her poetry is tinged with a feverish tone; I hope to find more of her work.

This is what I saw emblazoned on Amazon when I signed in. 

I’m am disgusted and revolted. And the worst part is that as much as I would like to never give them any business again I can’t because they have textbooks for super cheap.

I hate you @amazon I despise you.

How dare you do this. Are the Roma and Jewish communities not scared enough that you feel you can do this. 

Fuck you. May you rot in the deepest darkest coldest pits of guilt that the human soul can go, if you even have a soul.

UKRAINE, Pidvynogradiv : Members of the Roma community walk in the village of Pidvynogradiv near the Ukrainian city of Vynogradiv in Transcarpathia on September 8, 2013. Members of this conservative group of Roma, locally known as the “Hungarian Tent Gypsies”, are known for their bright-coloured clothes and their set of golden teeth, considered to be a sign of wealth and status in the camp. AFP PHOTO/YURIY DYACHYSHYN

Some people in Croatia are seriously shocked with how an average Croatian citizen reacts to Syrian refugees.
And I’m like?
Why is it so strange?
I mean, if you don’t know how minorities are treated in your country, you should totally ask a Roma person at your office about it!
Wait, what?
You don’t have a Roma person at your office?
Oh, silly me, for a moment I forgot that we haven’t done jack shit to integrate them in society even though they’ve been around since 14th century!

Detalle de la fachada principal, Centro Cultural de la Comunidad Israelita (hoy Comunidad Ashkenazi de México), calle Acapulco, 70, Roma Norte, Cuauhtémoc, México DF 1966

Arq. Pascual Broid

Detail of the main facade, Cultural Center of the Jewish Community (now Community Asheknazi of Mexico), calle Acapulco 70, Roma Norte, Cuauhetmoc, Mexico City 1966

In light of the two beaten Romani men (one of who is considered to be Emil Krasimirov) in Bulgaria on the 10th June, we still can see the Bulgarian social structure, oppression toward minorities and nationalism. There were posts circulating in far-right Bulgarian Facebook accounts which stimulated with money the physical attacks against the two Romani people who posted a picture showing their middle fingers in front of the statue if Bulgarian national hero Vasil Lesvski. While not supporting their act, it is terribly horrible that not only do Roma community is systematically marginalized, but also followed and beaten for posting a picture which is not violent or insulting. It breaks my heart to know that in the “"democratic”“ Europe we live in, people still fail to address the anti-Romanism and and discrimination Roma community daily face. This accident is not an exception and this doesnt only happen in Bulgaria. A little is it talked about the Roma integration these days and that talk seem rather in the distant future when we have a rise of acts of violence against a minority and the main public supports that.

Rroma You Should Know: Ronald Lee

Canadian Kalderash author, linguist, and activist. Lee is the author of the autobiographical novel Goddamn Gypsy (also titled E Zhivindi Yag, or the Living Fire, in Rromanes), and has done considerable work towards preserving the Rromani language through his Kalderash-English dictionaries and his book Das-duma Rromanes. He is one of the founders of the Toronto-based Roma Community and Advocacy Center, as well as Vancouver’s Western Canadian Romani Alliance.

Still ongoing major problem in Bulgaria is the settlement and state of Syrian refugees who seek education, work and shelter. However, Bulgaria being the poorest country in EU, it was unprepared to provide these basic human rights. The peak of the problem occurred when the head of the State Agency for Refugees made extremely racist and xenophobic comments. Not only did he used Kurdish refugees from Syria as scapegoats comparing them to Roma community (another historically oppressed and persecuted minority in Europe), but also he claimed that they are “absolute illiterates” and he even went as far as singing out the Arab speaking refugees that “the national culture and tradition of Arabs is lying”. Refugees are presented in the media as those who can Bulgarians blame for their economic and political problems. Furthermore, refugees live in reception centres that barely meet any survival standards. The condition of the centres where refugees are settled are troubling with poor sanitation, diseases and overcrowding. Syrian refugees live under inhumane conditions while being seen as uneducated, unclean people who spread diseases and steal money rather than people who want to save their lives and provide a better life opportunity for their children. They face daily discrimination and even there were cases when they were followed and beat. Even though, in the end of 2014 Germany opened its borders to Syrian refugees, still the number of Syrian refugees in Bulgaria counts around 3,000.