I’ve been into alternative fashion and culture from around the age of 11.
My way in was through listening to heavy metal. My style is very goth/punk. I’ve worked in the Affleck’s building in Manchester’s Northern Quarter for nine years. In the past I’ve had very straight jobs where you have to wear a uniform.
How would I describe my appearance? I’m 5 ft 1” and I have a very prominent tattoo on my head. I’m considered heavily tattooed for a woman. I don’t dress provocatively, in the sense that I’m not showing lots of my body but it’s not very mainstream at all. I’ve had very mixed reactions to the way that I look.
People have spat at me on the street. I’ve been physically and verbally attacked by both men and women. On these occasions I’ve been intimidated, pushed to the floor, hit in the face, kicked, sworn at. My clothing and jewellery has even been pulled off.
My appearance affects most aspects of my life. I’ve been reprimanded by my children’s primary school for the way that I look. They’ve asked me to cover my tattoo up in case I was scaring the children. There were also comments from some of the other parents.
I’ve faced challenges within my work life as well. I’ve been spoken to in a derogatory manner and told that I wasn’t promoted because of my appearance. Luckily I now work in an environment where subcultures are celebrated.
I have been in situations where people have been massively aggressive towards me and the police have been around and I have felt at times that they haven’t been very interested. The idea that I’m being attacked because of the way that I look has been dismissed. I even spoke to one police officer who said I brought it on myself because of the way I dress.
The case of what happened to Sophie Lancaster was absolutely horrendous. There has been an increase in media scrutiny of attacks in the North West.
I think this move will encourage people who have been attacked because of the way they look to report these crimes to the police. It will make it easier for the police to catch the perpetrators and bring them to prosecution. But I am slightly dubious about the labelling that’s involved. I believe the rule brought in by Greater Manchester Police shouldn’t differentiate between subcultures and genres. It should be a rule for everybody.
Regardless of the way that you look, sexual orientation or your cultural and religious beliefs we should all be treated the same. To penalise someone for any one of those things is abhorrent and you should be prosecuted. To highlight goths, emos and punks is actually deepening the subculture. I think a lot of people from alternative cultures don’t categorise themselves. That’s a more prevalent ideal among younger people.
Having said this GMP are due a massive amount of credit for being so forward-thinking and open minded enough to be one of the only forces to take this on. We also need to congratulate Sophie Lancaster’s mum Sylvia who’s worked relentlessly towards this.
In my shop we often get young girls especially who have been attacked, who are looking to somebody older who they can identify with and can perhaps give them guidance when they’ve been treated in this manner.
It’s hugely important for these young people to know that the law is on their side and that someone is looking out for them. These people are trying to explore their own identity and get their independence. To know that they’re protected and can express themselves in a safe way is brilliant. After all, the only thing they’re doing is dying their hair and changing their clothes.
Miki Christi spoke to Nick Renaud-Komiya. Miki is a 35 year-old mother of two and Retail Manager in Manchester