An unretouched image of Damn Rebel Bitch Sarah Moore to accompany her LGBTQ article and poem for REEK Perfume's blog platform 'Bitches Unite.'

THROWING BRICKS THROUGH GLASS

SARAH ELIZABETH MOORE: THROWING BRICKS THROUGH GLASS

An unretouched image of Damn Rebel Bitch Sarah Moore to accompany her LGBTQ article and poem for REEK Perfume's blog platform 'Bitches Unite.'

To celebrate LGBTQ month we invited activist Sarah Elizabeth Moore to write a feminist poem.

Have you heard of Sutton House in the heart of Hackney? You may have seen it featured in the Daily Mail, which outlined how its current year-long programme has bastardised the sanctity of the house. Or that’s what they said. I think Sutton House has done something amazing. It took the audacious decision to use its status as a National Trust property to programme Queered: a 365-day strong programme of exhibitions and events in celebration of the LGBT community, its diversity and history. For this, I was asked to photograph portraits of Munroe Bergdorf, a beautiful and inspirational woman. To accompany these images -now on display in the house until Easter – I wrote a poem. I called my exhibition Throwing Bricks Through Glass. I hope it inspires you to keep on fighting. Solidarity, forever.

Throwing bricks through glass

There’s something to be said for intrusion.
For trespassing in spaces that ‘don’t belong to us’.
For visibility and glowing pride, making and taking history as ours.
We fight for what we want – for what we deserve.

In our world, we worship and celebrate the marginalized.
We create our own idols.
We believe in the power of love and fire, of progress and politics and greater good.
Of equality for all, not only what’s palatable to the heteronormative.

Adapted, adopted, we belong in this space.
We belong here and now.
A step through the mirror.

Marsha’s fist and Christopher Street.

We aren’t there yet, but on our way.

Take what’s yours.
Take up space.
Scream.
Be visible, proud, vulgar, bold and brilliant.
Be clever and calm and better.
Fracture the ceiling that patriarchy has built to contain us.

Tear it down.

And we’ll keep throwing bricks through glass.
Shattering it.

We are the energy.
It’s us now.


An unretouched image of REEK Perfume’s ‘Bitches Unite’ Tote Bag on Damn Rebel Bitch Nina.

MOUTHY BITCHES

MOUTHY BITCHES: THE BITCHES UNITE STORY

An unretouched image of REEK Perfume’s ‘Bitches Unite’ T-shirt on Damn Rebel Bitch Stephanie.
An unretouched image of REEK Perfume’s ‘Bitches Unite’ Tote Bag on Damn Rebel Bitch Tamara Turnbull.
An unretouched image of REEK Perfume’s ‘Bitches Unite’ T-shirt on Damn Rebel Bitch Leyah Shanks.
An unretouched image of REEK Perfume’s ‘Bitches Unite’ T-shirt on Damn Rebel Bitch Nina.

Our new totes and ts and how they’re the bitchiest BEST (and also perfume, of course)

We’re mouthy bitches at REEK. so when we started our blog four months ago, we wanted to shout about what we were up to as well as provide space for campaigners and our models. At REEK. we’d hate to objectify anybody so we always interview our models so they can talk about how they feel about their bodies. Our shoots are led as much by the women in front of the camera, as those behind it. It’s the feminist way. As far as we’re concerned, collaborations rock.
However, we’re not only campaigners, we’re also perfectionists. Our perfume had to smell amazing, which is why we commissioned award-winning indie perfumer, Sarah McCartney, to make it. We’re just as exacting about our tshirts and totes. All Bitches Unite products are ethically sourced, 100% organic cotton, high quality and printed in Edinburgh, only just round the corner from our office (so we keep our miles to a minimum). Mouthy bitches can be good bitches too, see?


An Image of Damn Rebel Bitch Chiara Hunter to accompany her interview for REEK Perfume's platform 'Bitches Unite.'

CHIARA HUNTER

REEK INTERVIEW: CHIARA HUNTER

An Image of Damn Rebel Bitch Chiara Hunter to accompany her interview for REEK Perfume's platform 'Bitches Unite.'

Musical artist, Chiara Hunter, on heroines, perfume, the music industry and female beauty.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day that have also inspired you to push further in your music career? 

The most important one is Joni Mitchell. Listening to her music is the earliest memory I have of connecting to the lyrics and thinking of songs as works of art. She’s obviously an incredible writer but also the way she quite clearly doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks and just gets on with her art. Some of her records are so out there and wild, and she’s held her own with some of the best players in the world. She is a true renaissance woman who’s carved her own path. I love her.

What female or gender equality causes mean the most to you and why? 

Equal pay. The idea that we are still fighting for this in 2017 is mind boggling to me. Women are still facing a stark gap in their earnings compared to men’s and in the UK we have one of the highest pay gaps in the EU. I feel lucky to have been dating a Dane for 4 years, and spending time in Denmark has inspired me to stand up even taller for equality. It’s deeply woven into their society – everything from their healthcare, workplace laws, maternity rights and general attitudes exemplifies a strong and passionate belief in gender equality. It’s not even spoken about there, it is just considered obvious and a given that males and females should be treated equal and deserve equal rights.

Do you think female success differs from male success in the music industry, and if so how? Have you experienced this in your own career? 

I tend to spend the majority of my time with men. Most of the producers and engineers are men, although lately I’ve noticed a bit of a shift towards more female producers coming up. I mean, I love dudes, but I get really excited when I get to work with a female producer. I can’t wait until it just feels like the norm. And it’s sad – there are still hardly any female CEO’s of major labels and still very few at the higher levels in business. But it feels like it’s getting better, slowly. I think the biggest area I feel it is in expressing my opinions, especially to men. I’m a pretty assertive person, and I don’t hold back nor feel like I should have to just because I’m a woman and I might scare someone or challenge them. You are just aware that sometimes that can be perceived as ‘bossy’ or a ‘bit much’ when you are just trying to express yourself and fight for your ideas.

What are the big differences for you between working as a female musician in comparison to your career is song writing? 

As a songwriter, sometimes I feel able to express myself more freely because there isn’t as much of a perceived notion about who I am or who I have to be. I have to be a lot of different things for a lot of different people, so it allows me to explore different sides of my creativity that I wouldn’t otherwise. As an artist, it kinda feels like the opposite – it’s essential that you are able to tap into an identity that can be defined, both through your music and your image. That can feel pretty limiting sometimes, especially when you don’t feel like you always fit into just one perfectly condensed version of yourself, but if you do it right it’s thrilling when you connect with people through that music and vision.

What smells remind you of femininity? 

I’m obsessed with spice and wood. Amber, patchouli (done well), sandalwood. Anything that smells like incense. My mum grew up in India and we always had incense and spice smells in the house, so it reminds me of her.

Are there any big cultural differences you notice between Australia and the UK as a working women or in day to day life?

Not really, I think they are pretty similar. In both countries I feel like the genders can be very defined and seperate – the men fit into one role and the women another. But what’s great about both countries is that if we don’t feel like we fit into those stereotypes, we are pretty free to express our individuality and find a way to carve our own spot in society. Obviously, some communities are harder than others to do that, but at least here in London you are free to pretty much be anyone you want to be and no one really gives a fuck.

Do you feel pressure to act/look a certain way to fit in with the ideals of female beauty? How do you combat or comply with these pressures?

Yeah of course. If you let it, it can overwhelm you and make you feel shit about yourself. But you gotta keep it in check and just be proud of who you are and what you’re bringing to the table. It feels like especially in the last year there’s been a wave of ladies with real, strong bodies who are rejecting the stereotype and just being fabulous and not giving a fuck. I’m obsessed with the choreographer Paris Goebbels, who did the video for Sorry amongst other amazing things. I watch videos of her dancing and I’m just like yeahhh – you got thighs and ass and you are hot as fuck! Me too! I can do that! It’s very empowering and that’s why we ladies need these role-models and why we ourselves need to be role-models of self love. Also – ladies, DO YOGA. That has been the number one thing for me this past year. You can’t hate a body that is strong and that can do amazing things for you. Yoga is all about that self love and appreciation.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch are you.

I reckon I’m a damn rebel bitch because I speak my mind and express myself with honesty and strength, yet I am also an emotional and sensitive being. I am comfortable and at peace with that duality.

Chiara Hunter’s STRANGE RELATIONSHIPS EP is OUT NOW on Spotify & iTunes.


WHO'S AFRAID OF VAGINAS

WHO’S AFRAID OF VAGINAS

by Ruth McGlynn

Feminist Ruth McGlynn muses on the power of perception of the vagina. 

Pussy, fanny, foof, flower, whatever you call it, it’s a part of us that is often kept under wraps. Seeing a pair of boobs on screen (even if those pesky nipples remain censored) is now a common occurrence, but representations of actual real-life vaginas are few and far between. As a result, there has arisen a skewed and unrealistic expectation for both women and men of what to expect from lady parts, and as a sexual organ, their only consistent representation is in porn.

Now we’ve all watched it in some capacity, and I’m stating the obvious when I say that porn vaginas are super-weird and un-vagina-ey (no offence porn ladies). But as a young girl, I stupidly thought, this must be what everyone looks like apart from me. I freaked out. I sat on the toilet with a pair of scissors and thought about cutting my labia off. I imagined what a perfect and lovely sight my new vagina would be to behold, and I honestly I thought it was a really good idea for 3 whole minutes. I then realised it was actually really stupid because I would literally bleed to death clutching these tiny severed flaps of skin in my cold, dead hands. Being the logical young woman that I was (still am) I set to work, seriously looking into labiaplasties. This was the more sensible, medically sanctioned option, in which my vagina would begin to resemble more closely the only other ones I’d seen before, both on the internet and in sex ed. I settled in my head that once I got a proper job, the labiaplasty would be how I would resolve all of my issues: I would finally get a boyfriend and get married and rose petals and rainbows would follow me wherever I went. For years I had the thought looming in the back of my head, and was very self-conscious about it.

Reflecting on it now, I thought those thoughts were just the consequence of me being an insecure teenage girl and nothing more. However, then this this video cropped up on reddit (https://vimeo.com/9924049). Although it’s from 6 years ago, it spookily validates my experience in a weird way- and I’m sure loads of other women’s too. The video explains that in Australian soft porn, any vagina that is considered to be ‘non-discreet’, i.e. if the labia hang down, must be censored and airbrushed because of legislation enforced by the advertising standards agency. The idea of a ‘non-discreet’ vagina covers labia that either protrude excessively, or are overly pigmented. These qualities are deemed ‘offensive’. As a result of legislation like this, more women are pushed into thinking that their vaginas are abnormal. And aside from the graphic footage of a woman’s labia being shaved with a scalpel, (or the term ‘discreet vagina’) what I find more disturbing, is the image of some creep airbrushing and photoshopping female genitals (possibly the most gross word ever, but weirdly appropriate here) until nothing but a so called “single crease” remains.

I don’t know if anyone’s vagina actually looks like this (there isn’t anything wrong with it!), but to me this is one of the more perverse and insidious ways which women are taught to devalue and even fear their bodies. I’m not saying this is a problem experienced solely by women – simply that this overt censoring of the female body, to the point which many women feel their own vaginas to be abnormal, and that their only viable “solution” is surgery, is a disturbing consequence of our societal pursuit of “perfection”.  If we’ve managed to at least begin to make in-roads into rejecting an unrealistic one-size-fits-all, Barbie-doll aesthetic when it comes to our bodies, then why are we still expected to aspire toward this when it comes to our pussies?

The media sometimes shows a variety of body shapes and types – and it has become clear that diversity is the order of the day when it comes to what many women, want to see. Do all bodies look the same? No. So it’s obvious that an uncommon, unrealistic and frankly unattainable ideal has attracted a degree of backlash. Yet this backlash hasn’t extended to below our waists. Why should it? It’s not like women sit around discussing their foofs the same way they might with other, more visible body parts.

For centuries the norm has been to ignore it – we all know we have one, so why can’t we leave it in peace? But when people start to regulate and censor, portraying a new normal which doesn’t exist (THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A “NORMAL” VAGINA!) then a dialogue needs to begin. But if mainstream images are manipulated, when do women ever get to see normal diversity?

From a more official stance rather than my wild and disturbing anecdote, according to the NHS website, a labiaplasty costs between £1,000-3,000 and cites that:

‘It’s natural and normal for a woman to have noticeable skin folds around her vaginal opening and, in most cases, this shouldn’t cause any problems. 

A labiaplasty can be expensive and the operation carries a number of risks. There’s also no guarantee you’ll get the result you expected, and it won’t necessarily make you feel better about your body.’

Despite this advice- which seems discouraging whilst perhaps acknowledging the fact that many women who desire these surgeries aren’t entirely sure of their own anatomy- the number of labiaplasties performed on the NHS was cited to have risen 5 fold over the past ten years. (https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/rcog-release-reasons-behind-an-increase-in-female-genital-cosmetic-surgery-in-australia-and-the-united-kingdom-explored-at-the-rcog-world-congress/) And the number of these surgeries performed even significantly surpassed the butt lift in America in 2015 (http://www.surgery.org/sites/default/files/ASAPS-Stats2015.pdf). Many surgeons have cited the reasons for these surgeries being performed either as insecurity stemming from pornography, or lack of education as to what is or is not normal.

This marks another instance of inadequate education, or people being afraid to discuss natural bodily functions leading to girls feeling insecure about their bodies. And so the problem is being perpetuated by a number of institutions, and the lack of clarity surrounding these issues intensifies. Without women’s contributions, and proper education, these patterns will repeat themselves, and more women and girls will continue to turn to more drastic measures in an attempt to adhere to this societally constructed notion of beauty. Which is so stupid, because honestly vaginas are really lovely, the way they are. So please if you are reading this, don’t cut off your labia! (esp not with unsterilized scissors whilst sitting on the bog!)


JOSEPHINE SILLARS

REEK INTERVIEW: JOSEPHINE SILLARS

Musician and singer, Josephine Sillars on perfume, female strength, how she looks and her new release, Problems with Power.

What smells remind you of femininity? What are your favourite smells and why?

Obvious answer, but flowers definitely! Obviously they are a traditional symbol of femininity, but I love them. Flowers are definitely among my favourite smells.

Do you feel pressure to act/look a certain way to fit in with the ideals of female beauty? How do you combat or comply with these pressures?

Yes, I definitely do and I would honestly be surprised to find someone who doesn’t feel that pressure. Especially in an industry like the music industry. So much of music isn’t even about the music, it’s about how you present yourself both on stage and off stage. I spend a ridiculous amount of time looking at pictures and videos of myself, because the ones that I present to press and the public will be judged, and it can be so, so difficult because the majority of pictures I have of me playing (especially playing live) are awful. I used to get worked up about it when I was younger, and would try almost too hard to present myself as what I deemed to be a ‘prettier’ version of myself, but ultimately that would always result in me trying to make myself smaller. Which isn’t a great attitude to have. Women should never make themselves smaller. This is one of the main topics I’m trying to combat in my new song, ‘Problems With Power’. The song is written partly from my own experiences with power and partly from friends, but the sections of the song from my perspective do directly deal with the ideals and pressures of female beauty in the industry I work in.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day that have also inspired you to push further in your career or your personal life?

Probably my grandmother, Margo MacDonald. She’s an inspiring lady.

Do you think female success differs from male success in your industry, and if so how? Have you experienced this in your own career?

The majority of people I know in the music industry are male – and that’s just a fact. The majority of people who have booked me for gigs, or for festivals or featured my music somewhere have been male. I literally only know a handful of women who work in the industry. This definitely doesn’t mean there aren’t more, I perhaps just haven’t met them yet, but at the moment, the majority of people in my circle are male. Even the female musicians I know, seem to work primarily with men. Looking at this in terms of success – I don’t think there’s necessarily a way to gender the idea of success, and in music, I imagine the goals that I have would be similar to the goals that a male musician would have, and that we would view our successes in similar ways. However, it’s definitely harder for female musicians to succeed – and this isn’t because people in the music scene are inherently sexist, but when you have an industry built with a patriarchal structure, subconscious sexism does happen. Saying the music industry is sexist isn’t exactly groundbreaking, and obviously the Scottish scene has seen great things from female musicians in the past few years (Honeyblood, Kathryn Joseph etc), but in order for female and male successes to even out, the industry needs to admit to its sexism. People need to stop taking it personally, because yeah, most individuals aren’t sexist – but the industry is. In my experience I’ve been the only woman on a bill with several men countless times, and I have also predominantly worked with men. Even when I’m not booked on the bill for something, 9/10 there will only be one or two women among a sea of male musicians. It’s definitely not because women aren’t up to it – it’s just harder for us to succeed. And this isn’t me complaining that I’d be doing X, Y and Z if I were male and I’m definitely not saying that any of my failures are down to my gender, but ultimately, women have a tougher time in this industry. And I mean, I’m a white woman. I can’t imagine the difficulties that women of colour have.

What female or gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

It’s definitely a woman’s right to an abortion. I think this one is important to me because I am lucky enough to live here in Scotland, where you can get an abortion safely if you feel you need one. While it’s not a right that I’ve ever exercised personally, the fact that this isn’t the case in places as close to home such as Northern Ireland is something I find extremely difficult to digest. I’m very much a my-body-my-choice type of person.

What signifies female strength to you?

Crying. I don’t like to gender the idea of strength, but if I had to, I would say crying because showing emotions in that respect is something men are taught not to do. I definitely don’t agree with that – men should be taught to express their emotions as freely as women. I hate the idea that crying is a weak thing. I cry about everything! I think expressing emotions is incredibly strong, and I think crying in particular signifies female strength because I like the idea of inverting a presumed weakness as a strength. So many things that women do are labelled weak, and I’m totally in favour of reclaiming those things as strengths.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

Hmmm…. I am a thoughtful bitch. I tend to think over everything I say before I say it (which is why it takes me so long to write new songs), but then I am always very strong in my opinions when I form them. And I think that makes me powerful – I think I’m a damn rebel bitch because I use my thoughts as wisely as I can.

You can find Josephine’s song “Problems with Power” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9J77FRpBc4


MINERVA

REEK ACTIVIST INTERVIEW: MINERVA

Model, Minerva on her female inspiration, gender equality, her disability and her sexuality.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day that have also inspired you to push further in your career or your personal life?

Madonna is my queen when it comes to inspiring and empowering me to be strong. She has battled with the horrendous patriarchy of the music industry and didn’t change herself. I can identify with this hugely with many sufferings at the hands of the abusive man. She had to experience hardship to get where she is and yet she still fights alongside us, with her incredible speeches at very important recent award ceremonies and protests. She is always someone to aspire to.

What female or gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

At this moment it’s not about female or gender equality for me. My mind has been focused on the broader spectrum of minority equality. As a disabled, queer female I am a large part of our society’s punching bag. That’s not to say I don’t care about each minority separately, it’s just very difficult not to think about everyone who is suffering from inequality.

Do you feel pressure to act/look a certain way to fit in with the ideals of female beauty? How do you combat or comply with these pressures?

Not really, as a young teen I was considered incredibly unattractive and was called Manerva… lol. After years of hating the way I looked and trying so hard to keep reminding myself that I didn’t care what people think and I actually got to the point where I didn’t. I dress and act the way I feel and I’ve got so used to being objectified I don’t even realise it most of the time, which of course doesn’t make it okay. I am beautiful and I am a good person. For me the ideal of female beauty is completely within. The media has polluted our minds with the reminder that we are not “perfect”, but I am perfect and so are all of you – that’s my real ideal of female beauty. Not to say I’m not shallow ha but I just remind myself daily that I am an individual that is like no other and we are all human, all the same in such different ways and in my world, there is no perfect, just real beauty.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

I am a damn rebel bitch because I do what I like when I like how I like with who I like where I like. I live completely outside of social norms and stand up for what I feel and believe. Life hasn’t been incredibly kind to me but I will not be letting anything stop me from fulfilling my true potential, one day. You don’t owe the world anything, and all I’m trying to do is remind everyone that they are special and wanted.

What are your favourite images from your REEK photo shoot and why?

I like the two smiling images because I am happy and gorgeous and I love my make up and it just truly shows how happy I was in that moment, being a part of something important and feeling female empowerment and solidarity with two Scottish babes, especially as we shared beautiful moments at the Women’s march.