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

Despite the effort to differentiate the Muslim minorities from one another, by the mid-1950s, a growing number of Tatars, Pomaks and Muslim Roma started to self-identify as Turks. This could be explained with the Tatars’ and Roma Muslims’ attendance in Turkish minority schools. For the Pomaks, it can be ascribed to their shared cultural affinities, religious beliefs, and rites with the Turks, which were reinforced in response to the suppression of traditional Islamic practices and attires. Fears of Turkish separatism brought about an abrupt shift in the treatment of Muslim minorities. In line with the nationalist policies that emerged from 1956 onwards the cultural and religious rights of the Muslims were additionally curtailed in the 1960s and 1970s. Furthermore, in the early 1970s the authorities launched a drastic strategy of eradicating ethnic differences under the guise of constructing a homogenized socialist nation.
Conspicuously, the 1971 Constitution no longer mentioned national or ethnic minorities (or minorities of any kind) and used the concept of “Bulgarian citizens of non-Bulgarian origin” instead. Those citizens had the right to study (but not to be educated in) their mother tongue. In line with the new political course, by the mid-1970s, all Turkish schools were summarily closed down and the Turkish-language publications were restricted. The notorious name-changing campaigns marked the apex of Communist Party’s turn to an explicit nationalist agenda. The traditional Turco-Arab names of the Pomaks, Muslim Roma, and Turks were forcefully changed to Bulgarian ones in the 1970s and 1980s. Particularly brutal was the assimilation of the Turkish-speaking population in 1984-85. The assault on the names of the Turks was supplemented by a ban on Turkish-language publications and the public use of the Turkish language as well as by severe measures against religious practices and distinctive clothing such as the feredje and the shalvari of Turkish women. The assimilation was cynically called a “rebirth process” in the official political and media discourse. It was portrayed as a return of the Turks to their “Bulgarian roots”, lost through their Islamization under Ottoman rule. Over 350,000 Turks left the country for Turkey (and almost half of them returned after the fall of communism).
—  Ina Merdjanova. Rediscovering the Umma. The Communist Regime and the Turks.

Roma Interiors. Photography project by Carlo Gianferro.

“The images of Roma Interiors allow us to enter into the intimacy of the Roma houses in Moldova and Romania, where interiors are represented with its inhabitants in order to solder the connection between the life and the lived. The people, the inhabitants and the owners were photographed quickly, without prior preparation, aesthetic tricks or any special choice of clothes: what you see is what there is, what there was at the time of the shooting, what there is every day.

Women with sumptuous traditional costumes and hairstyles that have remained unchanged over time; men who owing to their dealings outside of their community wear Western clothing; youths wearing the universal fashions of today’s youth everywhere, yet all of these sharing a common background characterized by creativity, color, splendour, and cultural tradition.

Roma Interiors is above all a real and accurate portrait of current Romani society, which is still, as it has always been, based on the family, and the house is the backdrop against which the family is represented. Money and the home are the two main parameters which show the other members of the community the importance and power of the family. In this the Roma don’t deviate from universal motivations, but they articulate it in their homes with an innate and personal expression, with the concepts of luxury, prosperity, and especially power represented by decorative overabundance.

Colours are essential to the Roma people and, as with the women’s costumes, colour covers everything, both the inside and the outside of the houses, making fantastic, unreal buildings - as fantastic and unreal as the dream, the desire of having a house, a stable place for a people that for hundreds of years has roamed far from its place of origin.

Freedom, and the intelligent use of it, has allowed the Roma community to redeem itself in the most obvious and confrontational way possible, using rocks, concrete, iron, wood, plaster, and metal to build these monuments to their desires, and into which they then move to live in a joyous, colourful, world of their own.”

Photography and interview by Samra Habib

Who: Biser, Brussels

When I was 20, there was a 17-year-old guy in my village who was also gay. We never spoke about our sexuality because in my small community in Bulgaria, being gay is taboo. But we always knew about each other. Men in the village knew that if they wanted to have sex and couldn’t find a woman who would sleep with them, they could just go to him. They took advantage of him. When he turned 17, his mother decided to marry him off to a girl. I knew that he never wanted to be with a girl. But he could not say a word. A week after the wedding, he committed suicide. Everyone knew that it was because he was gay and didn’t want to live a straight life, but no one said anything, neither did I. Years after I realized that I made a big mistake. I did not support him. I’m talking about this today because I feel strong enough to stand for something that happens in my country. I hope gay men will feel empowered to stand up for themselves in my community.

I grew up in a small village in North-Eastern Bulgaria in a Roma Muslim community where my grandfather was the imam and had an  important social position. I am the only son in a family of six children, I have five sisters. Until I turned 34, I never talked about my sexuality with anyone from my community or family but then I decided to unload the burden and share with my parents. They asked me to keep it secret from our community.

I now live in Brussels where I’ve met many gay Roma boys from Bulgaria. Some of them enjoy the freedom here while others have been pushed into prostitution because of poverty and for not having any support from their families. Brussels is a place where I can be Roma, Muslim and gay. Together with a few friends, we have established a small NGO to help provide support to queer people who move here from Balkan countries.

I’m a toxic member of the Roma community because I don’t have time for the fragile feelings of terrifyingly white-passing Roma and ¼th Roma, lol, the people I’m invalidating aren’t part of the real Roma community anyway…can’t be toxic to a community trying to wedge themselves into my own.


Photos from Roma communities in Bulgaria by Paul Jeffrey

1. Feride Ramadan Mehmed (left) and her husband Mehmed hold their children Birdzhan, 1, and Erdzhan, 3, in their house in the Maxsuda neighbourhood of Varna, Bulgaria. They are Turkish-speaking Roma, and were violently driven out of one neighbourhood by racist gangs. They took refuge in a United Methodist Church for a year before finding this small house to rent.

2. A woman pushes a cart of material to be recycled in a largely Roma, Turkish-speaking neighbourhood of Dobrich, in the northeast of Bulgaria.

3. Demir Sandev is a Turkish-speaking Roma man who recycles scrap for a living. He lives in the Maxsuda neighbourhood of Varna, Bulgaria.

4. A girl in the largely Roma neighbourhood of Gorno Ezerovo, part of the Bulgarian city of Burgas.

5. Anka Kostov, 70, lives in Gorno Ezerovo.

6. A young woman in her one-room house in a largely Roma, Turkish-speaking neighbourhood of Dobrich, in the northeast of Bulgaria.

7. Necmie Ahmed, 67, in front of her home in Dobrich.

8. Ganime Makmovida, 68, poses with members of her family in the largely Roma neighbourhood of Gorno Ezerovo, part of the Bulgarian city of Burgas.

9. A man heads a ball while playing football in the street in Gorno Ezerovo.

10. Gulten Murat harvests tomatoes in her garden for use in a feeding program sponsored by the United Methodist congregation in Dobrich.


“The European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (Eriac) will be led by Roma artists, activists and scholars. Supported by the German government, the Council of Europe and the philanthropist George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, it will promote Roma culture as well as contribute towards overcoming the deep-rooted hostility and discrimination directed against Roma communities across the continent.”


For those of you that stay up-to-date with Scottish and Glaswegian politics, you’ll probably have noticed that The Times ran a piece today regarding lurid claims about the Roma communities in Govanhill.

1) Racialising issues surrounding child protection is extremely unhelpful.

2) Any evidence of this, if it exists, should be given to the police, rather than reporters. And especially not reporters from the Murdoch press.

3) The sources for this article are from one anonymous social worker and a handful of local residents? That’s it? “We asked a bunch of racists in the pub what they thought about Roma children. Their responses will SHOCK you.” Hardly in-depth investigative journalism. Shouldn’t the police have been spoken to?

4) These allegations are not new, they’ve been reported as far back as twelve years ago, and yet when evidence is asked for, it is never produced. The reason for this article is designed to provoke.

5) “Govanhill is in Nicola Sturgeon’s constituency! This is what Scotland would look like if it became independent!” Hmm, now, I’m no expert but I’d have said that this is more a council issue with regards to social services and housing. And who ran Glasgow City Council up until six months ago? Ah, yeah, that would be Labour. They ran Glasgow for eighty years. EIGHTY YEARS! So don’t expect decades of Labour neglect in Glasgow to be fixed overnight.

6) One of the issues is to do with rogue landlords allowing their properties to become unfit for habitation. Some of the state of the tenements that are being rented out are disgusting. But again, this is a council issue. Send in the authorities, fine the landlords responsible, and ban them from being able to rent out properties again, and issue a compulsory purchase order and make it a council house.

7) Police Scotland have said they have “no current intelligence to substantiate concerns reported in The Times…but will conduct a full investigation and interview every named person in the story.”

8) As a southsider who has lived on the edge of Queens Park for years, and walked on Victoria Road at night, I’ve never had any problems being in Govanhill. Other than that time when I dropped my ice cream on the street just after I came out of the Queens Cafe. Whyyyyy.

from a comrade

This International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I find it especially pertinent to return to our oft-espoused refrain “Never Again.”

“Never Again” means never, for anyone, ever, again. Never shall we tolerate another genocide, another ethnic cleansing, or another act of violence on any scale against an oppressed people.

The Holocaust robbed not just Jewish communities, but Roma, queer, trans, disabled, leftist, Black, and sex worker communities of multiple generations of activists and freedom fighters. Violence done partially or largely in the name of Holocaust victims and survivors has done unimaginable violence to Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim communities worldwide, as well.

Faced with a public resurgence of Nazism, fascism, and violent hate, we must interpret “Never Again” as the call of our ancestors to stand up, fight back, fight hard, and win our victories together. We will never be safe or free until every single oppressed person can claim freedom or safety along with us.

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.

When Discussing Racism in Ireland Please Remember

  1. “Ireland” and “Irish” refers to the country and citizens of the Republic or Ireland. Northern Ireland is a separate country (not the north part of Ireland) and is a part of the United Kingdom.
  2. Irish Americans aren’t Irish. There’s been countless academic papers done about how they bought their way into privileged society in the US through white supremacy and racism. They’re 100% American.
  3. The Travelling Community in Ireland are not Roma. Though recognised as ethnically unique from the settled community in Ireland, they’re white, and have been Irish for thousands of years. They face discrimination, as do the Roma community in Ireland, but assuming the two groups are the same is a gross insult to both cultures and ignores the unique problems they face.

By all means discuss the problems we have in Ireland with racism, coz we do. But making fundamental errors does a disservice to the victims of racism in Ireland and other countries, and serves no purpose other than to discredit those very discussions and shut down any attempt at progress.

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.

esmeraldt-deactivated20161206  asked:

Okay, so I have one character who's biracial(black/Roma) who is essentially made to hide a lot-- her sexuality, being intersex -- and is left immortal due to a condition that functions like an STI. What I'm wondering is if her ties to the mafia feeds into any archaic stereotypes. She was head honcho and thanks to years worth of connections she managed to make a legit business for herself after the '70s. She tries her best not to lie and is more than willing to help people. And she's Jewish.

Black Roma Jew and Mafia Ties

So I don’t think there are any stereotypes of Romani people being in the mob, but there ARE stereotypes of us being violent criminals who swindle and dupe people, so maybe avoid that? Also, and this might be just me, but it seems like you’re trying to make this character “super diverse”… 

Afro-Romani people are not uncommon, but Afro-Romano Jews are few and far between. I am slightly uncomfortable with this because it seems really far fetched for the sake of exoticism or forced diversity.

I’m not saying biracial Afro-Romani Jewish people don’t exist, it’s just… very rare? Although I guess in America it would probably have more of a chance of happening than elsewhere.

–Mod Tasbeeh

Check out “PoC in Crime Families & Black/Native Boss.”

Anyhow, I agree with Tasbeeh. I’m not sure of the reasons for picking those three and it can potentially come across as random selection. There is a history of Black Roma communities (Do your research, but here’s an Afro-Romani Facebook group that might be a start) but for their being Black + Roma +Jewish, it’d be nice to see some personal history to how this came about so it doesn’t read so much as “mixed bag diversity" where you’re just picking and choosing ethnicity/identities at random.

The addition of being Jewish really makes me think of the said random selection deal and with it you run the risk of exoticification as Tas said. 

On that note, i’d remind you to do a logic trace, if there was one at all here.

–Mod Colette

> i’d remind you to do a logic trace, if there was one at all here.

I like the way you phrased this, Colette, so yeah: if this character’s gonna be Jewish, set that up somehow. Is she Jewish by descent? Did she convert? Do you know anything about the motivations behind her conversion? (BTW, this isn’t something people should ask strangers – and Jews of color often get unwelcome/intrusive questions like this IRL – but this is your character so it would be good to know even if it doesn’t wind up getting described in the story.) Don’t feel bad if you wind up having to take her Jewishness out if it no longer makes sense in light of what Tasbeeh said, btw.


You might benefit from reading Yelena Khanga, she is an Afro-Russian Jew who moved to the United States. She wrote a book called Soul To Soul, which covers basically 200 years of her family (her mother is a Polish Jew, her father was Abdullah Kassim) and it’s the closest I can think of, for one thing, but it talks about eastern European multiculturalism from an autobiographical point of view and while it isn’t Roma + Jew + Black, it’s Jew + Black + Eastern European, and may give you an insight or two.


The term Roma generally refers to persons who “[describe] themselves as Roma, Gypsies, Travellers, Manouches, and Sinti, as well as other terms. The term Gypsy originated from the mistaken assumption that Gypsies came from Egypt; the term Roma is similarly misdirecting to the extent it suggests Romanian origins. Roma encompass people belonging to both nomadic and non-nomadic communities—diverse in respect to language, religion, nationality, history, and culture—but understood to share a common ethnicity. 

The Roma emerged from India around 400 B.C. as a tribe of nomadic musicians and entertainers, and they found their way into Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, mainly as slaves.35 It is uncertain whether they were brought and traded as slaves, or brought to Europe and enslaved later in the course of warfare. Still, historians claim that well over half the Roma population in Europe during the fourteenth century consisted of slaves.

Roma are currently the largest minority in Europe, with some estimates ranging from 10 to 12 million37 and others ranging from 6.8 to 8.7 million.Precise demographic data is unavailable, and official and unofficial estimates for each country vary substantially.39 Relevant data is scarce, partly due to an unwillingness of the population to self-identify as Roma for official purposes.

Currently, the Roma throughout Europe experience extreme social
exclusion, poverty, and intentional–often systematic–marginalization and discrimination in housing, healthcare, education, social benefits, and job opportunities. Roma have a lower life expectancy (10 to 15 years lower than the European average), have a higher infant mortality rate, live in substandard conditions (described as “de facto ghettoes” even in Western European states), face unemployment of up to 80 percent, 44 and, in many instances, do not have access to healthcare or education.45 To illustrate the problem of unemployment, consider that, in 2006, 90 percent of all Roma in Bulgaria lived on state benefits. Additionally, due to the combination of lower-than-average life expectancy and higher-than-average fertility rates, it is estimated that half the Roma population in Central and Eastern Europe is under the age of 20. Widespread lack of identification documents, often statelessness, and lack of title to land occupied by Roma communities further complicate the problems they face. Finally, the unfortunate situation of the Roma is illustrated by the percentage of Europeans who consider being a Roma a disadvantage: percent of Europeans consider being Roma a disadvantage, while 79 percent consider being disabled a disadvantage.

The statistics above demonstrate the seriousness of the social, economic, and political disadvantages of Roma communities. These statistics only hint, however, at the prevalence and nature of negative stereotypes toward Roma, generally referred to as anti-Gypsyism. These attitudes are responsible for the lack of political will toward Roma integration but are themselves partly a reaction to Gypsy law and culture.


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