Equality & Inclusivity
Maisie Palmer: Mxogyny
By Maisie Palmer, founder of Mxogyny.
My name is Maisie Palmer, I’m 21-years-old and I come from Manchester in the UK. I’m an undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh completing my final year of studies in Politics. If I make it through the next semester, I’ll be the first member of my immediate family to graduate from university. To provide opportunities for others is one of my main motivations; I’m aware of how important it was to have people believe in my ability when university wasn’t necessarily the most natural path for me. For this reason, I advocate for issues and individuals that are often silenced due to inequalities on social, cultural and economic levels.
Elitism has traditionally defined the worlds of poetry, writing and art. Wherever we look, we see specific social groups controlling access to artistic spaces, and as such, fail to see work that reflects the real world that many of us recognise. It’s often forgotten that not everyone has access to the resources that can allow them to harness their craft or nurture their talent. I knew that the more visibility I could give to these struggles, the more awareness I could raise about other existing inequalities in our society today.
So, in 2018, I founded an online publication called Mxogyny, which provides a platform for marginalised individuals to share their creative work and have their voices heard. I was inspired by the conversations that I had found myself having with people who were significantly disadvantaged due to their gender, sexuality, race/national identity or socio-economic background and this motivated me to create a safe space online to discuss issues, through a variety of artistic means, that I felt were significantly under-represented in today’s media.
When initially founding Mxogyny, I reached out to the people around me who I knew had stories to tell and explained to them why I was keen to present their ideas online. After purchasing the rights, designing and launching the website, I then actively sought to create a supportive community of contributors through connecting with people via social media and speaking to similarly aligned groups at university. The only requirement I had was that contributors were willing to approach their work with an intersectional lens, in the hope that they would transform their experiences into tangible, creative pieces that others could engage and resonate with. It took a while to gather a consistent flow of work, but it soon became apparent that our content was gaining attention and that the project would be a worthwhile investment.
Initially, Mxogyny started out as a conversation between myself and a group of women who I’d been good friends with since we started our studies in Edinburgh in 2016. The amount of content that we started to receive required us to grow a dynamic team of creative directors, editors and events managers. There’s now nine of us on the team in total, all of whom either approached me personally to ask about taking up a role or that we found via online applications. It was a conscious decision of mine to keep the team women-only on this project and it has proved incredibly rewarding. I felt it was necessary to ensure that the team was led by young women because I wanted to provide an opportunity for them to develop their professional skills in a mutually supportive environment. It was a conscious decision made in the hope that they could become more confident in their own talents and ability.
One hurdle I had to overcome fairly early on was building and overseeing Mxogyny from another country! I had initially established Mxogyny whilst based in the UK, but I was due to leave to study abroad in the upcoming September. I had to manage the publication from France for 12 months, which was difficult at times. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with Mxogyny’s publishing schedule, on top of settling into a new university and adapting to a new lifestyle. However, whenever I was in doubt that I could keep things moving, I made sure to reach out to my team back home and ask for help.
There was definitely a time when it felt like too much work and, especially because the site is run by a team of volunteers, it was at moments difficult to stay motivated. I think to overcome such challenges, you have to stay focused on your aims and be willing to learn from others. Also, you shouldn’t characterise mistakes as flaws but as opportunities to improve and get better at your job.
It’s important to remember that there are usually a lot of teething problems when you first set up a project; it often takes a lot of time to become efficient in your work but also to look at it critically and accept that you sometimes make the wrong call. Throughout this experience, I’ve definitely learnt how important it is to be honest and open about my stresses and designate tasks to others who were willing. I think it’s key to communicate your concerns in order to find solutions and you often find that others are hugely supportive.
Proud moments and future ambitions
One of my proudest moments so far is becoming a recipient of the Ellie Maxwell Award in May this year. Ellie was a young changemaker, social activist and founder of Scottish charity Firefly International, who tragically died in 2009 of complications from cancer. Firefly helps children overcome crisis in countries that have suffered from conflict through creating socio-cultural initiatives that bring people together, and the Ellie Maxwell Award is given to an aspiring Edinburgh-based student (or group of students) who have helped promote social change and inclusivity with their project. It meant a lot to me and the team to be recognised by an external organisation such as Firefly for the work we’re doing.
As a youth led organisation, I’m a strong believer that youth should be seen as positive leaders in their own right. There are often generational gaps in terms of the issues that are important to younger and older societal groups, but that doesn’t mean that anything we’re fighting for is less important than what those before us fought for. It’s therefore important to expose young leaders and give them a platform to bridge those different focuses and help find a common goal for everyone to advocate for. Also, I think elevating young leaders is a great opportunity for people of the same age to imagine themselves in a similar position.
Looking to the future, I hope to grow Mxogyny’s readership and our pool of contributors. I want the platform to be received as a welcoming and opening space. I also hope we can collaborate with other charities, organisations and enterprises to generate awareness on a larger scale.
Here are my top 3 tips for starting out:
1. Discuss your ideas out loud to other people. Once you’ve put your thoughts out there it’s often much easier to visualise them as a concrete goal or plan.
2. Networking is really important. You have to put yourself in situations that might feel unnatural, but you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by a group of people with common interests that want to support your idea.
3. Ask for help. People are often more willing than you think. Whatever your idea is, look for similar projects online and contact them.
Excitingly, Mxogyny is also planning to go to print in 2020, and have launched their own sustainably and ethically made tote bags to help manage the costs in their development process. You can buy them here.
Article published: 20th December 2019
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