LASERS AND FEMINISM, IT'S BONNIE BLING

LASERS AND FEMINISM, IT'S BONNIE BLING

We speak to Mhairi creator and owner of  Bonnie Bling about lasers, feminism and #metoo… 

Tell us about Bonnie Bling.

Bonnie Bling is my alter ego where I gather my thoughts on what’s been around me lately and then design and create my own laser cut jewellery inspired by my absolute adoration of all things Scotland.

What would you like to see change to help women in business succeed?

I feel that there is very much an ‘old guard’ of men in suits who don’t take women in business seriously. I remember when I set up my first (Graphic Design) business, going to start-up events and the ‘networking’ hoo-ha’s you were advised to go to, and feeling really uninspired by them. I always sensed that male-dominated hierarchy in the room. They treated me like my business was a ‘hobby’, but it made me more determined to do something different. Fifteen years on and I’m sure that world still exists but now there are alternatives. Social media groups make it easy to connect with like-minded women to support each other and that makes a big difference when you’re new to the field or even an old un like me! We are more outspoken, creative and kinder in our approach to each other’s businesses now and that is a huge step forwards.

What gender equality cause means the most to you personally and why?

Since I had my kid it’s been a real eye opener, the pressures on working parents was something I had never even considered before. Maternal and paternal leave restrictions in this country leave a lot to be desired, and inflexible working for both parents cause huge issues for many. We work far too many hours in this country, getting a balance right for a family life can be a real struggle. I am fortunate in that I have my own business and this has afforded us the luxury of being able to juggle things more than most people, but that comes at a financial cost as you can’t be all things, all the time. I was super close to losing my whole business and giving up on it all. Before my kid hit 3 years old, which is when parents get their first allocation of free childcare, it was very difficult to juggle the work/home responsibilities. I don’t know how we’d have coped if it weren’t for my amazing parents who helped out, but others aren’t as fortunate in that regard and it’s something that has to be taken on by employers and the government. There has been more awareness of parent’s rights to apply for flexible working, but companies can still refuse to grant requests. We have a long way to go to getting this right. Check out Mother Pukka for info on their awesome Flex Appeal movement.

Why is the #metoo cause so close to your heart?

When the #metoo tag started appearing across social media, I was dumbstruck. We all felt it, that clanging in your stomach, the sadness in your heart, when you realised that all those moments where you had yourself been sexually harassed were real, that it wasn’t just you, that others had had much, much worse experiences. It was the saddest of days but also a turning point in becoming a positive movement. Personally it brought back a lot of encounters that I had blocked from my memory and had never discussed with others, it made me acknowledge them and that in itself was empowering. I had never realised, or indeed considered, that so many others had experiences similar to my own, and that made me goddam angry! How had these assholes got away with their behaviour for so long?! Not anymore.  

I made my own pin of support as I wanted others who saw me wearing it to know that even if they didn’t want to speak out, that I understood, like a silent signal. I truly hope that the #metoo movement has become a milestone in our society’s attitudes to sexual abuse and harassment, and that future generations won’t have to tolerate what so many before had to endure.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day?

I feel like a shiny happy pop Princess on the surface, who retreats to her bunker to shave her hair off, have a meltdown at the state of society, and work on her schemes to stick it to the man. I’ve always been like a wide eyed puppy dog growing up with the likes of Madonna, Debbie Harry, Kate Bush, Grace Jones, these strong, fantastic artists who broke the rules but also managed to tread a line that made them MONEY! They put up and fought through a whole load of shit I’m sure, but they played the game by their own rules and made it work.

Tell us about some women that inspire you?

The creative community in Scotland is strong. Everyone knows of each other if not directly, then through social media. We are a small country but we are well connected. The number of insanely talented women we have in our creative business community is mind-blowing. Over the past 6 years Bonnie Bling has brought me together with some of the most inspiring souls I’ve ever encountered and growing alongside them has been a super rewarding experience. From Gillian Eason working her ass off at Creative Dundee, Sam at Isolated Heroes building her fashion brand, Lynn McCrossan crafting Scottish cashmere on another level, the team at WE Mean Business creating a safe, supportive online space for women in business, to my neighbours in the Hidden Lane who are creating their own small businesses from our little backstreet in Finnieston (Libby Walker, Vanilla Ink, Hidden Lane Tearoom, Shona Fidgett)  I consider myself very lucky to have met and be surrounded so many kick-ass creatives.

What are your three favourite smells and why?

Honeysuckle, we had it outside our Highland holiday home and reminds me of long seaside school holidays in the most beautiful, remote, tranquil surroundings.

Sea spray- it blows in your face on wild, choppy days and cleans out your mind. It reminds me of all the ferry journeys I made as a teen of divorced parents, making the boat trip from one parent to another.

Sun tan lotion- the moment sun hits my skin I can smell the freckles popping out.

Are you a bitch, a witch or a bit of both?

I’m a bitch, but a good one.

What do you think makes a DAMN REBEL BITCH?

Support, sensitivity, positivity and a fun-tactic sense of humour.

What advice would you give yourself a year ago?

Don’t try to do it all, just do what you can.

Bonnie Bling are hosting a celebration on Saturday 10th March at their Hidden Lane HQ.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1888715561140753/

We’ll also be raffling off our one off, totally unique #metoo necklace to raise funds for Glasgow Women’s Aid.


THE BRILLIANT BITCHES THAT STARTED IT...

THE BRILLIANT BITCHES THAT STARTED IT...

REEKperfume founder, writer and activist, Sara Sheridan writes about the bitches who started it all… the suffragettes. 

My grandmother, Eva, drummed into us when we were kids that we had to vote ‘especially the girls.’ She was born in 1909 and remembered the first time her mother cast her ballot in the general election of 1918. In the UK, it was our very own damn rebel bitches who ignited the call for the female vote – the Jacobite women. After the 1745 uprising huge amounts of Jacobites were arrested – including many female rebels. The UK’s prisons were straining at the seams and the women (mostly Scottish) landed themselves in court. Many were fined for their part in the rebellion and, to the shock of their English counterparts, paid with their own money. In Scottish law these women were able to own property. In England at that time women were property and any fines would have to have been paid by their closest male relative. The bitches did not hang around when they spotted the difference and 1746 saw the first call for female members of parliament – made by a group of upper-class English women who wanted the same property rights as the Scottish women they’d seen in court. They were laughed out of Westminster. It took 172 years before the first female MP was voted in – Constance Markievicz, an Irish republican who, as a Sinn Fein representative refused to take her seat.

That women gaining the vote (or suffrage) was clearly linked to female members of parliament is not surprising. The lengths to which they had to go to achieve that basic right is. In Scotland (home of most of the Jacobites) the greater legal status of women helped to fire progress on women’s rights – particularly in education and the professions. The University of Edinburgh’s early admission of female medical students (who were sent home on ‘male’ anatomy days, which were considered too shocking for women – honestly!) was revolutionary and the ‘Edinburgh Seven’ the first group of matriculated female students at any British University, began their studies in 1869. They were prevented from graduating – in fact their participation in anatomy exams sparked a riot in 1870. However, many became pioneers not only in their own field, but also in the fledgling suffragette movement. They were also instrumental in starting female medical schools across the country.

Overall, Britain was behind in terms of women’s rights – especially considering the position of world power it occupied at the time. Different countries proposed different solutions – giving the vote to women who owned property or women past a certain age but gradually universal female suffrage was becoming common. Swedish women had been voting since the 1700s. New Zealand passed legislation in 1893, Australia in 1903, Finland in 1906 and Norway and Denmark in 1913. During World War I several central and eastern European countries started to extend voting rights to women and one of the first acts of the new parliament after the Russian revolution in 1917 was to extend the suffrage to female citizens, but Britain still hadn’t done so.

It’s difficult to underestimate how radical women demanding the vote was viewed in the UK or the anger around it. Those involved in the movement were subject to abuse and were treated in the same way radical terrorists might be today. They often operated under police surveillance and many were arrested. When they went on hunger strike in prison they were force fed, being held down and having tubes inserted directly into their stomachs. This was a horrific practice which many of the women underwent twice a day, hundreds of times. Sylvia Pankhurst described it ‘I struggled as hard as I could, but they were 6 & each one of them much bigger and stronger than I. They soon had me on the bed & firmly held down by the shoulders, the arms, the knees, the ankles. Then the doctors came stealing in behind. Some one seized me by the head and thrust a sheet under my chin. I felt a man’s hands trying to force my mouth open. My breath was coming so quickly that I felt as if I should suffocate. I felt his fingers trying to press my lips apart and I felt them insert a steel gag running around my gums and feeling for gaps in my teeth. I felt I should go mad; I felt like a poor wild thing caught in a steel trap. I heard them talking: ”Here is a gap.” ”No; here is a better one—this long gap here.” Then I felt a steel instrument pressing against my gums, cutting into the flesh, forcing its way in. Then it prised my jaws apart as they turned a screw. It felt like having my teeth drawn; but I resisted- I resisted. I held my poor bleeding gums down on the steel with all my strength. Soon they were trying to force the india-rubber tube down my throat. I was struggling wildly. They got the tube down, I suppose, though I was unconscious of anything but struggling for at last I heard them say, ”That’s all” I vomited as the tube came up. They left me on the bed exhausted, gasping for breath & sobbing convulsively. The same thing happened in the evening; but I was too tired to fight so long’

The government passed a ‘Cat and Mouse Act’ which meant women who were too weak to continue in jail could be released and then re-arrested when they had regained their strength – meaning that even short sentences could drag on over months with force feedings – a form of torture.

This didn’t deter the suffragettes from a programme of civil disobedience that seems breathtaking today including women who gave their lives to highlight the cause – the most famous being Emily Davison who died after being run over by the King’s horse during the Derby in 1913 when she stepped onto the
track to raise the green, purple and white suffragette flag. At public meetings it was common for women to be assaulted by men in the audience and there are multiple reports of suffragettes being punched and kicked,  sometimes losing teeth in the affray. The movement was split with some women favouring non-violent protest and others keener to fight back and, crucially, prepared to damage property, setting post boxes alight, burning down empty houses and attacking exhibits in galleries – including on one occasion forcing the Tate Gallery to close. Clubs seen as particularly male (or which excluded women members) were also attacked – golf courses had suffragette slogans cut into their greens and cricket pavilions were torched. Suffragettes who chained themselves to railings outside public buildings in protest were routinely sexually assaulted by police.

During WWI the argument to withhold the vote became insupportable while British women (trained by the medical pioneers from the Edinburgh Seven onwards) joined male combatants at the front. Famously Dr Elsie Inglis set up field hospitals but she wasn’t the only woman by a long chalk. That these brave female doctors and nurses remain uncommemorated on war memorials in the UK to this day, is a national disgrace which activist, Leslie Hills has already written about on this blog.  However, the women who initially got the vote were, in the main, not the women who had gone to war. At first it was the middle class over 30s only – or at least those who owned property (or their husbands did). From there our rights extended.

My favourite of the medical, suffragette pioneers remains Grace Cadell who attended one of the medical schools for women set up by Sophia Jex-Blake, the instigator of the Edinburgh Seven. President of her local branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, Grace refused to pay taxes in a protest against her vote being withheld and as a result, she had her furniture taken by bailiffs and sold in the street. Grace showed up and turned the sale into a suffragette meeting. When she was fined for another act of disobedience, she paid her fine in coppers as an act of defiance. She also acted as a doctor to the many women who were in and out of prison and who were released into her care when they were too weak to continue in jail. In 1914 at the trial of Maude Edwards, charged with slashing a portrait of George V, Grace was so outraged she ended up being carted out of court by police officers for causing an affray. She was a single woman in a time when that was socially disadvantageous but Grace died leaving a huge amount of money in her will to her four adopted children – all ‘saved’ from a local orphanage and brought to live in her house. As with so many amazing women, there’s no monument to stand testament to her huge spirit, her generosity and her determination but now, 100 years on, it is important that the memory Grace, and indeed of these women has not been forgotten. Far from it. When we march today, we march in their footsteps and when we militate for change, our voices echo theirs, part of something far larger because ladies we are not there yet. Not by far.


WARRIOR POEMS

WARRIOR POEMS

Poet and Best Bitch Raheema Khan shares her work with us

AN ODE TO THE BROWN WOMAN

they don’t deserve you
crawling in your anger – you scare them, but you empower us.
it takes courage to express what many have never done
giving the brown woman a voice
we belong and we’re here to stay.
being skillful, intelligent,
that’s what got us here.
your diversity report says different,
but we know the score.
we’re not ashamed to be brown
we’re enlightening you all . . .

FATHER

I wrote to you every day for six years
Posted the letters on my tiptoes at the letterbox
Waiting for a reply that never came.
You can’t make up for that now
So please don’t try to validate yourself with a title that will never be yours.
Father.

SADDIQA EFFENDI

you taught me to survive
i am a warrior because of you.

BECOMING

23 years on and only now I feel comfortable in my own skin
years of hating the flatness of my bare back
the lack of curve in my backbone
having no ass

the narrowness of my nose
parts of myself that stem away from ideal beauty
not being able to see where I fit in
perceived as being unfeminine because
a woman standing over 5’9” is in a place of dominance
somewhere I shouldn’t be
threatening your masculinity with my lack of delicate femininity
but years of hatred have offered all directions of thought
allowing me to see my difference as something within my control
comforting and beautiful
so my beauty isn’t going to be shaped by you
but instead has given birth to a voice that will never be silenced

LIVING VIOLENCE

your trauma isn’t meant to be forgotten
when you sugar-coat and kill it
you reject your experience
saying no to the burning that finally led you to an unlabelled life
your individuality untainted by the limitations of reality
remembering pain doesn’t always have to be violent.
but forgetting it ever made you feel keeps it alive

KNOWING MY WORTH

my love for myself will not stop at the hands of someone who hasn’t felt love.
you remain a specimen that is left to examine
for those that take joy in trying to re-piece people who deny how to feel.

MEDICINE

Tell me I’m pretty
I crave your words.
Not your touch because that’s pursuable,
Making you utter what you’re incapable of satisfies me
because you feel the discomfort of being forced to suffer.