Happy International Women’s Day! The campaign theme for this year is #BalanceforBetter – “A balanced world is a better world. How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world? Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.” – International Women’s Day 2019
There are so many areas of life where action needs to be taken for equality. During my time at university I was lucky enough to be in a department that offered so many modules relating to feminism, female writers, transnational feminism literature and feminist theory. Studying some of these modules at the beginning of my degree inspired me to write my final year dissertation on feminism. I ended up choosing to explore feminist theory and in relation to Sylvia Plath’s (female, American poet, novelist, and short-story writer) poetry.
I learnt about the beginning of feminism that rose from the battle between conservative and radical political thought in the 19th century, to feminisms in the present day. I read vast amounts of criticism from theorists, in relation to female writers, female rights & history. The most notable collection I read was Sylvia Plath’s Letters written from 1940 as part of my dissertation (as well as her other diary entries where she spoke about feminist issues) because I could witness how relevant the issues she documented are to the present day.
I’ve also more recently written a review on Mary Beard’s Women & Power which I read last year. It is an extremely powerful book which further documents how history has treated powerful women. The examples she uses range from the classical world to the modern day, from Athena to Hillary Clinton. She explores the cultural underpinnings of misogyny, considering the public voice of women and our cultural assumptions about women’s relationship with power.
In celebration of International Women’s Day I thought I should share a few things I’ve read and listened to recently that have made me feel empowered, inspired and eager to act.
Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) – Scarlett Curtis
Scarlett Curtis has curated a wonderful, inspiring and powerful collection of essays written by women from all groups about what feminism means to them. All royalties go to Girl Up, an initiative hosted by the United Nations Foundation.
It’s divided roughly into 6 sections; Epiphany, Anger, Joy, Poetry Break, Action and Education and includes stories from a number of celebrities, activists and all-round great women. It’s made clear from the beginning that this book is a collection of personal stories that these women want to share because in this time and age, the most important thing we need is for people to talk publicly about feminism – rather than shy away from it.
Keira Knightley’s story is one of my personal favourites. Titled, “The Weaker Sex”, she explains in graphic detail her childbirth experience. She rails against the pressure on women to look perfect in the aftermath, discusses the sexist double standard applied to male and female actors who are parents and ultimately tells the brutal truth of women’s birth experience, that usually gets hidden.
Each woman shares her personal experience and relationship with feminism which is comforting to the reader. We all want to feel like our stories matter and shouldn’t be silenced just because it’s “easier” not to discuss things that make the patriarchy feel uncomfortable. These stories are emotional, funny, hard-hitting and real.
(There’s also a Feminists Don’t Wear Pink podcast which I also highly recommend).
The Guilty Feminist – Deborah Frances-White
I’ve only just started listening to this podcast (after catching up with all the episodes in Jessie Ware’s Table Manners podcast with her mum – 10/10 recommend) so haven’t got a full feel for the series yet. However, many of my friends have listened to it for a while and constantly recommend it.
The podcast is hosted by Deborah Frances-White in front of a live audience where there’s discussion of the big topics all 21st century feminists agree on, whilst “confessing the insecurities, hypocrisies and fears that undermine our lofty principles.” I’m excited to listen to more of these on my commute to and from work as the episodes are about such different topics that include: “barriers and boundaries”, “crying”, “being bossy”, “female friendships”, “work-life balance”, “mental health” and so much more. What I like most is the ability to be able to choose from a range of topics that can empower you each day in a different way.
The Princess Saves Herself in This One – Amanda Lovelace
This collection of poems explores love, loss, heartbreak, grief, healing and empowerment. It is broken down into four parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you. The first three sections tell the life of the author while the final section serves as a note to the reader and blends together fairy tales with real-life contemplation. It’s emotional, brutal, hard-hitting and the last section really helps inspire you and leaves you feeling empowered.
Some of my favourite poems from the collection:
“grow a beautiful garden from your aching and teach yourself how to thrive from it. write your story. – the sign you’ve been waiting for.”
“I am so glad
we were born
during the same
– I may not believe in fate, but I believe in you.”
“the princess locked herself away in the highest tower, hoping a knight in shining armour would come to her rescue. – i didn’t realise i could be my own knight.”
Note – trigger warning as it deals with a range of emotional issues.
Berberian Sound Studio – Donmar Warehouse
I recently got my hands on Young + Free tickets (hack: sign up to the mailing list if you’re between 18-25 and you can win tickets to a number of plays) from the Donmar Warehouse to see the Berberian Sound Studio. Although I’m not seeing it till late March, I’ve read the synopsis of the film and the reviews also give me an inkling of the themes of the play. Here are some of the reviews that sum up what the play explores and tackles:
‘The man controls the woman’s voice’: why Berberian Sound Studio is horribly apt” – The Guardian.
“It’s about failures of communication in power hierarchies and across gender and language.” – Tom Scutt, stage designer.
“The real kicker with Joel Horwood’s adaptation is that it has something to say, too. The plot is essentially identical to the film’s. But where on screen Gilderoy’s discomfort at the brutal treatment of women involved in the movie merely feels like further disorientation for the hero, here it feels more pointed – a withering critique of men who mistreat women and justify it in the name of art.” – Time Out.
“The villain of the piece is Santini (Luke Pasqualino), the film director who manipulates and terrorises those beneath him, especially women. “It feels like the right thing to be discussing at this political moment, how and why we make work, why we tell certain stories, what they represent and who gets to be in charge of them.” – Joel Horwood (playwright) in The Guardian.
“I mean, look at this: these isolated booths where a man can control the faders on a woman’s voice. It’s exactly where we are in the world at the moment. This is a landscape where women’s voices are harvested and used by men but their actual opinions and feelings are of no interest.” – Tom Scutt, director (speaking about the set).
I’m excited to see the play! Also – Luke Pasqualino is in it and I love him so that’s an added bonus. The play is running until 30th March 2019 so if it intrigues you there’s still tickets on sale.
Refinery 29’s Money Diaries
I’ve been working in the FinTech industry since graduation and have learnt a whole load about money that I didn’t know before. It’s truly remarkable how most people are never taught in school about finances, money, pensions, savings etc and furthermore how little is discussed about women and money.
I stumbled across Refinery 29’s Money Diaries series which tackles the taboo facing modern working women: money. They ask a cross-section of women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period – and tracking every last penny. This is a really interesting series as you can read about different women’s day-to-day relationship with money and finance. The posts range from women who are married, single, living with parents, students, have a high salary, are paid minimum wage, live in rural areas, live in big cities and so on. I never thought about my finances so much until I started reading these entries as they make you think about your day-to-day spending habits and how tracking your money can start to help you create a longer-term plan to manage your finances.
I started reading the UK version as it seemed more relatable but have recently also checked out the US Money Diaries which is actually equally engaging. It’s interesting to see how UK spending differs from US spending and people’s day-to-day relationship with money.
Let me know if you’ve read/listened to/watched any of the things mentioned above or if you have any other recommendations!
To finally wrap up this post I’ll leave you with this great article by Stylist that outlines ways you can support feminist activism from donating to educating yourself, to having open conversations to assessing how you manage your finances. #BalanceforBetter