Footpatrol International Women’s Day | Changing the Record with Zarina Muhammad, The White Pube

30.03.23 General



It’s time to change the record. At Footpatrol we’re all about building a space to highlight creatives, and want to empower the women we have within our community. For International Women’s Day, we’ve teamed up with a female owned social media agency, spring, for a month-long campaign to change the record around stigmas and stereotypes that women face in their respective industries. 

Introducing Zarina Muhammad, one half of The White Pube, ‘unprofessional part-time critics.’ We spoke to Zarina about making the arts more accessible to all, from conversational language they use in their text to the monthly grants they offer young creatives.

Footpatrol: Hey Zarina! Tell us about yourself and what you do?

ZM: I’m Zarina Muhammad. I’m one half of The White Pube and I’m an art critic. I write about art and exhibitions and the way it all makes me feel.

FP: What does ‘change the record’ mean to you?

ZM: So I think I’ve interpreted this question quite philosophically. I think change the record, it implies that there’s a way that things are done right? And it’s like this record that loops, it’s stuck and I think changing the record just means maybe a little reset, something different. It’s just nice to have something else. Like having something up next that there’s not yet had  chance to be played.

FP: Let’s talk about The White Pube – what drove you and Gabrielle to start it?

ZM: I like art. I really like it. It’s great. More people should interact with art. 

In reality, we did actually start The White Pube as a joke. We thought it was so funny. We thought of the idea of two girls that look and sound like us, there’s no way that we’d be art critics. So wouldn’t it be funny if we gave it a go. And I think I’m really glad we did because when people write about art, it’s like you’re historicizing it. I think it’s important that someone other than like a white middle class, middle aged man with a salary, a pension and like a two up two down in Hampstead. Someone other than that gets a chance to preserve their opinions about art. 

FP: What stereotypes / stigmas do you face as a woman in the art world?

ZM: This is more like a question about whose genius we believe in, right, who do we naturally think of as clever? Who are we comfortable thinking of as a clever person who’s doing something different or something that we can respect?

I think when we first started the White Pube, we had a lot of people – it wasn’t just men – that were telling us like, ‘Oh, I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re doing it wrong.’ Just because we were doing it slightly differently to the way it had always or traditionally been done before.

We didn’t invent embodied criticism. We didn’t invent writing the way you speak. I just think that people were less willing to take us seriously because we were women and that’s a really subtle, slight stigma. But it’s one that you chafe against, it’s a friction that kind of exists alongside you

FP: That’s a great way to put it. What’s your proudest achievement to date?

ZM: Every time I reach a milestone I completely forget it. It’s hard to find moments of pride when you, like, you are just like never stopping, like it’s just constant capitalism, right? It’s hard to take a moment to take stock. So I think actually what I’m most proud of is the longevity of it all. Like, we’re coming up on 7.5 years, we’ve published a text every single weekend for 7.5 years. That’s crazy.  I’ve not been in relationships that long. This is the longest term relationship I’ve ever been in and like happy to be in it because I think I’m proud of the body of work that we have left behind us after those seven a half years and I want another 7.5 and another 7.5 after that. So I think, yeah, I’m proudest of Hard work.

FP: The White Pube have been able to actualise a lot of change for artists, tell us about that.

ZM: One thing we have done that is like a tangible difference that we’ve made, like direct action has been the Working class Creatives Grant. We put £500 a month in the pocket of working class Creative, We don’t ask for evaluation. There’s no formal application process. People just email us funding at thewhitepube.com and tell us what you make and just a little bit about yourself. I mean, it’s just it’s luck of the draw and it’s a rolling Grant. So there are a whole bunch of people in the email inbox who are still in the running and I think it is really important because the arts are so, so middle class and it’s hard. I’m a middle class person in the arts, like it’s terrible. There are so many of us and it’s so hard to make a living when you’re not middle class and when you’re just at the whims of like other people’s mercy, right? So £500 a month can make a huge difference and hopefully it will keep someone in the art world or the creative industries for a bit longer.

FP: Why is IWD still important and needed?

ZM: I think International Women’s Day is still important and still needed because it’s been illegal to pay me less than a man since before I was born. Yet somehow it still happens, right? Maybe sexism can be reasoned away is like quite an abstract, strange conceptual thing. Like it’s quite interpersonal. Maybe like you said something funny because I’m a I’m a girl. It’s also like a really tangible thing. It’s an economic thing. It affects like people’s socio political circumstances, their literal into their their personal sense of safety. It’s measurable. I think until that changes until it’s not just about gender like equality, it’s about gender equity. Like the amount of women that are impoverished on the basis of their gender, right? Like the way that gender often acts as an axis through which economic oppression can take place. Until that ceases to be a thing. I think International Women’s Day will remain important because it’s about taking stock of where we’re at with that weird balance.

FP: What does the future look like for women in the art world? What do you want to see?

ZM: So, I don’t know what the future for women in the arts actually holds because I think it can be such a strange industry that takes so many twists and turns. So I am notoriously bad at predicting the future. Please don’t take my word on this. I don’t know about women in the art world in the future because I think the art world is such a it’s an interesting industry, right? Everything changes so quickly and also nothing changes ever. Artists will always find a way to make interesting things happen regardless. And I think I’d like to see that.

FP: Got a piece of advice for your younger self?

ZM: Oh my God, I have so much advice for like, Baby Zarina because I think she needed to hear so much of it. She also would not like to be told fine, but I’d tell her to be brave and trust herself and she should do more. She should worry less about pissing people off because they’re gonna get pissed off anyway probably. And she’s just say how she feels and not worry about it because I think that’s when I really felt like a person, like an actual person and I started to care less about saying the right thing and that generally what’s right for the world and started saying the right thing that was right for me or true to me and I think that maybe it’s like the best part of being the white pube because we get to write criticism that feels true or maybe not true, but sincere and honest. I think those are three different things and I think trying to find that is like a lifetime’s work and I wish I’d started earlier.

Make sure to follow Zarina Muhammad & The White Pube

Shout-out to the full female team that worked on this campaign:

Production: @springtheagency

Creative: @ttfinlay

Images: @alicetakingphotos

Video: @azcaptures

MUA: @tillyferrari

This campaign is powered by Nike!

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