We celebrated International Women’s Day 2018 by hosting a discussion with three vivacious women.
Our guests were:
- Sarah Akwisombe - the straight-talking blogger and interior stylist
- Pippa Bhatt - the commercial production expert behind Coterie & MADAM films
- Remi Ray - the fashion entrepreneur and creator of the podcast, The Advise We Didn’t Take.’
Thanks so much to everyone who joined us or watched live. We especially loved the lively chat that followed! There was loads of great insight, generously shared, and these are just a couple of the snippets:
- Pippa gave us some great practical tips on how to be mindful of the gender stereotyped language we use with young kids, gained through her own experience as a mother of two girls, as well as through seeing gender roles played out loudly across the advertising industry.
- Remi shared that two of her business idols are Sara Blakely and Jessica Alba, for the way they have managed to build epic businesses whilst still sticking true to who they are and also whilst supporting other women.
- Sarah discussed how she still comes up against sexism whilst managing her business, and particularly finds it frustrating when she is patronised by corporate contacts, which can feel like pressure to adjust her own personal style - although she definitely has no plans to do so!
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was Press for Progress. The sentiment is basically about keeping the current momentum going around gender equality. And challenging us to translate that into action. With that in mind, this blog isn’t just a report back, but also thoughts about next steps...
We definitely don’t have all the answers, but we’re going to keep thinking and have drawn a few conclusions to keep us pressing for progress from here:
1. It’s important to help those most in need or whom may be marginalised from the conversation, as a priority. One way we’re doing that is supporting Bloody Good Period - a great initiative to provide menstrual supplies to women who can’t afford them. If you’d like to help, please donate via their website.
2. Whilst we find the word intersectionality really hard to say (without trailing off mid-way through in an awkward mumble), that’s a mini-challenge we’re willing to snap out of, because it’s a sentiment we absolutely support. It’s fair to observe that some of the feminist movements gone-by have largely been championed through the lens of society’s relatively privileged women, so we’ll be thinking about how the next stage can better support all women. Diversifying your sphere of influence is a good way to start. With so much of the UK’s media written by white men, we’ve found gal-dem a refreshing additional news source, written by women and non-binary people of colour – as a mechanism to help readdress the balance of voices defining our news agendas.
3. Gender stereotyping starts young. Apparently it even happens before we are born, with nurses reporting that when parents know the sex of their child they’ll usually describe their baby’s movements as flutters or wriggles if it’s a girl, or kicks and thuds if it’s a boy. We’re definitely going to step up our own kid banter game. No more go-to comments on pretty dresses with little girls or strong big-ups with little boys. We’ll be mixing up the small talk props by focusing on comments about being smart, kind and curious - for all genders.
4. Men need to be championing change. In a similar way that (we assume) you’d assume your heterosexual friend would be against homophobia and prepared to take a stand against it, we need to assume men are pro gender equality, if we believe them to be decent human beings! Talk to the men in your life. Help them get it if they don’t already. Here are a couple of content pieces we’d recommend they check out if they want a place to start to help inform their thinking:
Five women is a great podcast episode from the team at This American Life. It shares perspectives from five women who worked with a guy called out in #metoo. He wasn’t particularly famous and their stories aren’t particularly out there, but it features a whole host of observations about the way society is set up to condition both women and men around what totally weird behaviours are acceptable.
Blogger, Father of daughters, has written an article for Stylist about why he'd like to see men get more involved. He talks about how his experiences as a Father have given him better perspective, but how gender equality is an opportunity all men should embrace.
For a longer read, check out Bell Hook's book, All About Love: New Visions. It's a thought provoker and looks at how men and women are socialized to view love in different ways, including exploring some of the consequences for gender equality.
On the 13th of Feb we held a Galentine’s party with Mean Mail. A few weeks previous we didn’t even know what Galentine’s was, even now we're only 90% confident... but basically it's about celebrating love for your pals instead of just focusing on romantic love, which sounded good to us.
That said, there wasn't too much strategy behind us marking the day... But we never need much convincing to host a knees up, plus we thought it would be a good opportunity to counteract some of the lame chat around this time of year - from dreams of romantic grand gestures (caught on camera of course), to the myth of prince charming providing happily ever after, to our supposed universal desire to be given 'exquisite' Pandora charms. Vicky founded Mean Mail as a direct response to being exasperated by the lack of authentic, witty cards to suit her own relationships - so we felt like we had just about enough reasons to make it happen.
But most importantly, we wanted to do something useful with the event. So we reached out to Bloody Good Period after hearing about them from the lovely Amika George who runs the Free Periods campaign. They provide menstrual supplies to asylum seekers, refugees and people who can't afford them. It's a simple solution to a problem that is all too easy to ignore when finding two quid a month for some tampons isn't something you need to plan for. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of the brands who donated to our fundraiser raffle. Please check them all out. They all made the effort to help - and we appreciate it >>> @ripostemagazine @studio_b_fashion @paper_smiths @myfreda @daisyemerson @deloresdaywear @4thestatebooks @roserankin_ldn @sarahbaily @labasketry @skullandheart @saintaymeschocolates @tonightjosephine
Back in party prep world, we concluded the appropriate refreshments were donuts & margaritas, naturally. The margaritas didn’t quite work out, but we had some tasty drinks donated from the guys at Kombucha and Ugly and filled the alcohol gap with love tokens for the bar and copious bottles of prosecco, so it was alright on the night. We were also delighted that Second Home wanted to work with us to host the event. We've been interested in their thinking on the future of work for some time, and also love their epic approach to design. It's a great space.
The second strand to our 'let's do something useful' ambition, was to call out some of the female-skewed Valentine's clichés and have a proper chat about why the heck we're subjected to all this rubbish. We had lofty ambitions to get a line-up of maverick, insightful and interesting women to take part in a panel discussion. And by some crazy stokes of luck, that's exactly what we did, hosting four brilliant guests that we are massive fans of, to discuss feminine stereotypes, feminism, best mates, personal heroes and more.
Our guests were:
- Cool as hell popstar @FEMMEHQ
- Entrepreneur, Exec Producer of WoW Festival 2017 & Chair of the Black British Business Awards @MelanieEusebe
- Founder of the Hackney institution, Rita's Bar & Restaurant @MissyFlynn of @ritasdining
- Body positive champ & model babe Sam Rowswell aka @FattyBoomTatty
It's hard to summarise what was covered since they shared so much interesting stuff - with candour, wit and conviction. For us, these were just some of the highlights:
- Hearing from Sam on how she's had the same five best mates since she was a kid. They have stuck together even when their lives have veered in very different directions - from Sam's more recent move from Essex to Bristol, to being a 17 year old Mum when her pals were still out raving. There were a good few belly laughs when Sam gave a couple of specific examples of how different her daily life as a new mum was to that of her teen pal's at that moment in time!
- Laughing (whilst empathetically all eye-rolling) as Melanie spoke about her frustration and the tedium of finding herself trying to tread a line when arguing against rubbish 'angry black women' clichés - all whilst feeling she couldn't allow herself to get angry (as a black women) making the case!
- Getting some strikingly honest insight from Missy on how she felt her very identity was challenged when she had to admit that Rita's wasn’t making cash, despite looking like the ultimate success on social media. She shared some of the personal journey she went on to find peace with that and look ahead to her next venture, whilst also having a deeper understand on the meaning of success for her.
- Learning more about the realities of being a young woman inside the music industry from Laura (aka FEMME). Including hearing some of the downright weird requests made of her whilst courting big labels, and the freedom and empowerment she now feels being independent, enabling her to do what she loves and be led by creativity.
- Melanie revealed how her perspective on life has changed quite a lot over the past few years. She talked us through the transition from a senior corporate role to working for herself and being led by her passions, which has led to opportunities that she couldn’t have even predicted. She reminded us that change can be scary, but it also opens up lots of new adventures.
- Sam surprised some of us by revealing that she definitely doesn’t see herself as a rebel. She told us that embracing her own bold style and sharing her body beautiful isn’t about trying to counteract more vanilla imagery. Far from it. It's simply about her being herself - and at times even taking one for the team to push herself to be that - because it's the right thing to do. She uttered some lovely words about every person have the right to take up space and to be what they are. It was right on, and powerful.
- Missy introduced us to the Feminist Business School, Sister. She said the Founder Jennifer Armbrust was a real inspiration and it has introduced her to some brilliant thinkers with diverse experiences that she otherwise may not have discovered.
- Laura shared that the pal she’ll be celebrating this Galentine’s was a friend who she values for celebrating the small successes, snapping her out of over-thinking moments when she's tempted to feel like she's not good enough - and always being straight up. Sounds like a friend we all need in our lives.
- Melanie dropped a powerful quote from the amazing Audre Lorde that got us all thinking. We’ll leave you with that, ‘If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.'
Thank you so much to all the contributors, event partners, raffle donors and everyone who joined the party, bought a raffle ticket and supported online. You can check out more photos on social media. You can also still support the cause by donating to Bloody Good Period here.