An Evening With Rose McGowan

AN EVENING WITH ROSE MCGOWAN

I’m sitting in an auditorium at South Bank with a beautifully eclectic crowd, in particular of ages. There is nothing that would tie these people together if you saw them all out on the street, other than their shared excitement. We are all here to listen to Rose McGowan speak about ‘Brave’ a memoir of her childhood with the Children of God and life in Hollywood.

The evening begins, chaired by Sam Baker, with a reading from Brave. Rose reads from a chapter referencing an actor who at the height of her fame tried to speak up about the blatant sexism and abuse happening in Hollywood, she was later sectioned and given shock treatment. A well-known tactic to silence ‘manic’ women at the time. Rose is stoic and punk throughout, her anecdotes and comparisons about her experience growing up in a controlled and cult like environment, how similar it was with her experience of fame. Her answers are a warning to us all, not to cut out Hollywood movies, to turn off our TVs and delete our Instagram accounts, but to be aware of the messages, the secret signals that these shows, films, celebrities are constantly sending us. To remember that our time to turn off and relax while enjoying our favourite series or scrolling through pages is a billion dollar industry built on turning that time into some sort of financial gain. From the obvious things like product placements to the less obvious psychology of what seeing these manicured lives and bodies leaves us wanted for our own lives and bodies. The conversation between Rose and Sam is serious but still uplifting and at times, hilarious. Rose jokes about her life living in a cult and the positive things that has brought her, as well as the challenges.

I didn’t see myself in a mirror for my first 10 years and I think that was a really positive thing, it let me decide who I was.”

The first time I had heard of Rose McGowan was in 2001 when she joined the Charmed TV show, which I watched obsessively. I can vividly remember being jealous of her and Alyssa Milano, in particular their perfectly plucked eyebrows, which I later copied. Even in my 11-year-old mind she was a sex symbol, I knew that she was attractive in that way that I so desperately wanted to be. This is something Rose brings up almost straight away. Her time in Hollywood constantly being presented to the world as a seemingly perfect woman, she jokes about the hours it takes going through hair, make up, styling, getting the exact lighting to become this person, who isn’t really her. That perfect woman doesn’t exist without all the people it takes create the appearance, the illusion of perfect. Rose tells us about the response to shaving off her hair, that for the first time she felt that the public was actually listening to her.

If you fuck with what people expect you to look like as a woman and throw them off, they might not like what you’re saying but they’re more likely to listen.”

Jumping forward to 2015 and Rose appears again on my screen, this time I’m looking at her as a human. Not an unattainable character or a mannequin like figure on a magazine cover. This time she is sharing her story, a message and in many ways, a warning. We all know the story that follows, or maybe we don’t really, but we know the vague outline, the birth of #metoo. The spotlight of Hollywood that has for so long been endlessly pointed at its stars suddenly seemed like a whole new light. “The world wasn’t getting very far with baby steps.” In some ways it seems hard to remember a world before the ‘me too’ movement, and I think in many ways that’s because we all know deep down that these industries have sexist and racist foundations.

Rose brings up the reaction to her saying she is a humanist rather than a feminist, that feminism and all equality is included. “When I think about feminism I think we need to realign who are we trying to be equal to. Is it a 1950s white male? Because that’s not who I want to be equal with” As Rose says this I am immediately thrown back to one of her earlier answers, where she references that 96% of ‘Hollywood’ the producers and directors who really have a say, are white cis men. This isn’t to say that white cis men are inherently bad, but rather that nothing, especially an industry that is exported world wide and has such a wide reach in most societies, should be controlled and curated by just one small portion of society. We’ve seen how the world has reacted to hearing the voices of women standing up and calling out the abusers in their industry. Something you think would be internationally applauded. But sadly it’s not the case. Rose tells us about the abuse she has faced on a global scale, endless emotional abuse and threats. A bounty placed on her book, pages stolen by her abuser, legal battles and surveillance. It feels ensuring to know that even someone like Rose, her career and activism known worldwide, has the same response as many of us to feeling overwhelmed, sleep. “I think we can all grow ourselves by 10%, like we all know who that good person is that we want to be, so if we all just tried to be that person more often then we would achieve so much more.” What a beautiful message, especially to survivors and those who have been hurt by the world.

“Being a survivor is only one thing that I am, one part of me and like many survivors it isn’t the biggest part.“

When I arrived at South Bank I can admit my idea of Rose McGowan was an sexual abuse activist, a witch who’s looks I envied through my TV screen and the ex partner of Marilyn Manson, another thing that my younger self envied. I left empowered, having seen an author, a musician, an activist and a relatable human being speaking so bluntly and passionately about her achievements and challenges. We got to see a preview of Rose’s new music release, a magically ethereal song and video, that captures the beauty and sadness of her story as a formidable kind soul.

So what has an evening with Rose McGowan given me? Inspiration, I left feeling inspired to really look at the good and bad in my life and where my 10% can be. I’m just at the start of ‘Brave’ but it feels like more than a memoir, it feels like a guide book to becoming more aware of the bigger picture.

“You start at 10% but that doesn’t mean you have to stop there.”


Moving Beyond Binary Consent and the Notion of ‘Bad Sex’

Unrigging the Game: An Ode to Moving Beyond Binary Consent and the Notion of ‘Bad Sex’

Phd  law student, Chiara, explores the post #metoo world and its implications for the outdated notion of  binary consent. Do you want to have sex? You sure?

As the viral campaign surrounding #MeToo reaches its anniversary, it’s worth remembering that the origin of the phrase goes back to 2006 when activist Tarana Burke founded the Me Too Movement as a way to help women of colour who were survivors of sexual violence. But what has actually changed?  In the tag’s anniversary week, the ranks of men who have re-entered and/or remained in the powerful and privileged echelons of society, despite women having come forward with stories of abuse at their hands, include: Louis C.K who is performing stand-up again after a quick hiatus since he admitted to sexual misconduct after accusations from five women; prominent news anchor and the man who had a secret button under his desk that allowed him to lock his office door from the inside, Matt Lauer, apparently determinedly told fans he will be “back on television” after being accused of sexual harassment and subsequently fired from NBC in 2017; celebrity chef Mario Batali, who finds himself “eyeing a second act” and “examining whether there is a way for [him] to step back into his career after taking a leave of absence and apologising for accusations which surfaced describing his inappropriate and abusive behaviour towards women; and finally, the decades old stories told and trauma relived by black women detailing sexual misconduct by singer R-Kelly which  have for the most part been ignored, allowing him immunity from any backlash and permitting him to continue his career performing at concerts around the world.

These men sit amongst and are propped up by the President of the United states who remains the President despite at least 22 women coming forward accusing him of sexual misconduct between 1970 and 2013 (this only one of a plethora of things which should disqualifying him for office). Unsurprisingly, Trump has also endorsed the-GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore.

But the anniversary week of #MeToo culminated in one of the most salient moments yet — the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. On completion of an emotionally gruelling testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dr Christine Blasey Ford explained how at a high school party she believed Brett Kavanaugh was going to rape her after he and a friend forced her into a bedroom alone. Kavanaugh proceeded to grope her and tried to take off her clothes. A week later, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the highest possible judicial post, after frothing at the mouth in front of the committee in an effort to defend himself against the allegations. The message is clear: ladies, you will suffer re-victimisation through the re-telling of abuse while your assaulter rises the ranks unscathed. I anticipate hearing more about the ease with which women can accuse a man of sexual misconduct, how allegations can bring men down in one fell swoop, destroying their careers and in Trump’s words,  “ruin(ing) men’s lives”.

Sadly, it is almost expected that society and will continue to make excuses for boys and men despite all of this. Brett Kavanaugh was “just” a teenage boy and we all know that “boys will be boys”. Donald Trump succumbed to that infamous and shudder-inducing “locker-room talk” on the Access Hollywood tape. Let’s not forget Stanford swimmer, Brock Turner, who engaged in “twenty minutes of action” when, during a college party, he sexually assaulted a woman behind a dumpster. The himpathy is rife, it knows no bounds and is prevalent beyond these examples. It seeps so deep that these men and their behaviours are the standard.  In so many male spaces, sex is about conquest, their own self-interest and entitlement. Men can assert their masculinity and perform for other men through sex with women. They’ve banged ,smashed, torn up and destroyed so much, that as Peggy Orenstein, author of Don’t Call Me Prioncess, notes, it sounds more like they’ve returned from a construction site than had sex.

Another feminist author, Rebecca Traister observes, the game is rigged. In this hazy world, women are told that consent to sex is an individual, autonomous process, one in which we can easily say yes or no.  Consent is something that men get from women. Men set the terms, their needs are the priority and they are positively entitled to a climax, just look at the orgasm gap.

Women? Women are the gatekeepers of that yes or no to sex and the onus is squarely on women to communicate their decision clearly. Whether their consent or refusal to sex is respected is another matter. But, as a result of this binary framing of consent, we are left with a dichotomy between sexual assault or sex positivity; and there seems to be no in-between. What about all those foggy memories of sloppy sexual encounters which we did not want, but gave in to? The ones which were covertly coercive that we questioned the next day? Rationalising: assuring ourselves it wasn’t rape. But what was it? A phenomenon that has no name. Perhaps these experiences are similar to the ones that over half of American undergraduate students note – women more so than men – when they were found to have consented to unwanted sex at some point. The reality is that women in heterosexual relationships are, quite honestly, oftentimes having sex which encompasses a grey area between male boorishness and sexual assault. This sex is so normalised and so common that it has come to be accepted as just bad sex. It’s almost a rite of passage—wade through the bad sex to (hopefully)  get to the good stuff.

How do we unrig the game? Should consensual sex be the standard? Of course, consent is important, but there is another dimension that we need to consider. We need to make  a more nuanced analysis of the inequalities of hetero sex. If we are to think about consent, what it means and what it looks like, we need to understand and acknowledge that consent cannot always be negotiated meaningfully and equally. Consent doesn’t exist in a vacuum, uninfluenced by external factors like cultural and societal norms. What’s more, women cannot simply be thought of as agentic beings, grabbing their opportunity to give an enthusiastic, yelling-from-the-rooftops yes to sex without hesitation. Given that women are so often encouraged to respond enthusiastically in all kinds of contexts despite their feelings, it just isn’t that simple. Figuring out how to recognise the erotic potential of heterosexual interactions and advocating for a sexual integrity that focuses on the negotiation of an individual’s pleasures and desires is thus imperative. Young men need to be spoken to early on about this. About pleasure, gender dynamics and healthy relationships. A multi-dimensional, inclusive sexual politics of this kind will offer a shift from the binary understanding of consent and the heavy reliance on men’s wants and needs when it comes to sex. And in return, gendered power relations, cultural and societal structures and the ways in which they impact the ability of individuals to meaningfully negotiate consent and sex in positive environments will be acknowledged.  

Listening to women is essential, but if the #MeToo movement is going to make real, monumental change, and if we are to learn anything from its stories, we need to shake everything up and start again. Platitudes and  endless hashtags have quite truthfully come to a nausea-inducing point. We need to challenge our culture, its outpouring of sympathy with powerful men and its aptitude for encouraging women to perform their pain only to turn on its heels and say: but maybe she is confused about what happened. Men and boys need to be taught that women’s bodies are not sites to perform and enact their male entitlement. No more propping up men, excusing their behaviour and blaming it on the ‘boys will be boys’ trope. Rather than boasting about your conquests, measuring us, rating and scoring us, how about considering whether or not you actually made us feel good? That would be a sexual standard that I could get behind.

 

Chiara is a second year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh School of Law. Informed by the theoretical framework of heterosexual scripts and using symbolic interactionism as a method of inquiry, Chiara’s socio-legal research explores how fraternity brothers in the United States conceptualise and negotiate sexual consent in a time where sexual misconduct policies are ever shifting on college campuses. She is currently a J-1 Scholar at the University of Texas at Austin and received her MSc in Inequalities and Social Science from the London School of Economics.


Self Love London

SELF LOVE LONDON

Charlotte Black tells us about her blog Self Love London and her journey of wellbeing.. 

Tell us about yourself and Self Love London.

I’m a singer/songwriter and wellness enthusiast trying to change the world around me with kindness, positivity and self belief. Self Love London is a platform I am building to encourage people to heal their insecurities and self doubt with the art of self love. My aim is to events full of encouragement, involving speakers, psychologists, authors and anyone who shares a passion for self help with the aim of building stronger more resilient women who value themselves.

Was there a particular moment that inspired you to start up the blog?

Two years ago I had a summer where I struggled with debilitating anxiety completely out of nowhere and it highlighted a lot about myself that I wanted to work on. I climbed out of that dark place by learning to love and value myself, it took time and perseverance and it’s still an ongoing journey, but I wanted to create a platform where I could share my discovery and hopefully help others feel more positively about themselves.

What are the big problems you see women facing in your industry?

I think the main problems we face are about self confidence. Social media aka ‘Instagram’ has completely taken over our sense of worth. We have thousands of accounts at our fingertips showcasing highlight reels from lives that we all wish were our own, yet we are unable to see the hustle, the hard work and the downfalls of that life. We only see filtered photos edited a hundred times of women and men who have been labeled as ‘perfect’ by the media, when in reality none of it is real. It’s easy to compare ourselves to others especially when our photographs are ranked by the number of likes and how many followers we have. It’s an easy world to get sucked into. That’s why I’m so passionate about doing something about it.

What message would you put on our on our sticky bitches? 

“Worthy as I am”
 or “I was born enough”.

Tell us about a campaign/advert that made you angry.

Definitely the ‘Are You Beach Body Ready’ campaign by Protein World comes to mind. I thought it was extremely socially irresponsible to 1. Advertise ‘beach body ready’ as a slim, toned female when this figure is not obtainable or healthy for everyone. There are so many different types of beauty and health should always come first. 2. To advertise a slimming product to make women feel like if they use this product that they will achieve the results of the model on the front cover. It was a foolish campaign designed to highlight women’s insecurities to draw them to the product.

What are your three favourite smells?

Oooh probably my mum’s perfume, baked cookie dough and that calming smell when you walk into a spa.


Are you more of a witch or a bitch?


If you can define a bitch as someone who can bring out the sass and speak her mind when necessary, then I’ll be a bitch.

Read more from Charlotte on her blog Self Love London here


Anatomy of an Activist

ANATOMY OF AN ACTIVIST

Irish activist Lauren shares her thoughts on the last years repeal campaign, and the place for grassroots activism in the community.

What message would you like to give to other people trying to make a change through activism?

Activism comes in all forms but whatever you are doing make sure you really care about it! Passion is necessary because it drives you to go to meetings after work when you’re exhausted and devote your Saturdays to fundraisers when you could be at home watching Netflix. Get involved in projects in your community – the problems you see in the world can seem overwhelming and abstract but making connections with local groups that are already working on  the issues you care about is the best motivator and a great way to meet amazing people. If there are no groups that exist then start one! You can always link with similar organisations working the same field. So for example when SIARC (Scottish-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign) started we spoke to Abortion Rights Camp and London Irish Abortion Rights Campaign – there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Truly, chill out and don’t be so hard on yourself (also the advice I give to my current self cos some struggles are forever).

What changes would you like to see in your community?

Communities  need more power to enact change. There is a problem with local governance in Scotland, where I live – there is only one local representative for every 4,270 people which makes it the least democratic country in the EU in terms of  local democracy. There are so many amazing organisations working on issues like poverty, homelessness, asylum seeker and refugee rights, disability, mental health and many more important things but there is a distance from this. Communities and councils need to be brought closer together. We need power to be held in local government not centralised.
(More information here)

What does the word community mean to you?

A network of people who support each other.

What does the repeal campaign mean to you?

It was the best thing I had ever done – the journey that we went on with SIARC over the last couple of years when we were standing on the other side of the referendum felt momentous and beautiful. I’ve made amazing friendships that sit on a  foundation of fighting for equality. The referendum signified a new Ireland, a more caring and supportive nation. I always loved my country and after the referendum I felt like my country loved me too. 

Following the 2018 campaign, how do you think we can continue to tackle abortion rights across other countries?

Unity on abortion rights from cross-party and organisation support will be key in campaigning on abortion rights.

How do you deal with negative reactions/disagreements with friends/family regarding your work in the repeal campaign?

I find this a particularly hard thing to navigate. Although I love my family,  we had very different opinions on the issue and it really broke my heart. It is still something I struggle with and post- referendum it is just not discussed. I’m aware this is not the best thing to do but I’m also extremely exhausted!!

What did travelling home to vote for repeal mean to you?

It was the single best thing I have done in my life! To exercise my democratic right on an issue I felt so passionate about and one that we all worked so hard on was so powerful.

What do you think is the next step for abortion reform in Northern Ireland?

For me I am listening intently to what those on the ground are advocating for and taking direction for them. They know the complexities of the situation better than anyone and we want to support the movement and not co-opt it.

How can others get involved?

Find local community groups working on this issue and support them whichever way you can. You can do that by giving them  your time or making a donation big or small – both are amazing. Even just online support through sharing events and posts can make a difference. These fights are won through collective effort and we all need to do the work.

Here are some groups you can follow campaigning for abortion rights in Northern Ireland:

http://www.alliance4choice.com/news
https://www.facebook.com/room4rebellion/
https://www.amnesty.org.uk/abortion-rights-northern-ireland-timeline

Words by Lauren Walker


Invisible Cities

INVISIBLE CITIES

We caught up with Invisible Cities’ founder, Zakia and one of her tour guides, Biffy to hear about their pioneering project…

Tell us about your project and where it came from?

ZAKIA: Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that trains people who have been affected by homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city. After training for several weeks, guides offer tours based on themes they have personally chosen and are passionate about. Invisible Cities started in 2016, with Invisible (Edinburgh) and has now expanded to Glasgow and Manchester.

Biffy has been involved from the start, as she went through the first ever training programme organised. Her tour is one of the most popular: “Powerful Women of Edinburgh” where she talks about iconic women of the city. She is about to launch a brand new tour: “Witches and Bitches”.

How can people get involved?

ZAKIA: Tours are offered to tourists and locals alike and people can book any of our tours, by going onto our website invisible-cities.org  We invite everyone to come on one of our tours, to discover what we do first hand.  As a social enterprise 100% of our profit is used to either develop our guides or within the wider homeless community. We organise various events throughout the year, where we provide services that make people feel good about themselves: the street barber (Edinburgh) or pampering days for homeless women. Those are perfect opportunities to get involved!

What has most surprised you in your time at Invisible Cities?

BIFFY: On my tour, I share parts of my personal story. There is always a part of me that is scared I will be judged because of some of the mistakes I made in the past. However, I have never felt judged by one of our guests! It shows that people are understanding and compassionate.

What equality causes mean the most to you and why?

BIFFY: My motto is “Treat people the way you would like to be treated” so to me the most important thing is to treat people equally on all levels. Unfortunately it is not always the case. We make differences between people, based on where they come from, where they live or whether they are a man or woman. This doesn’t make sense to me.

 

If you could choose one thing to improve the situation what would it be?

BIFFY: I feel that things are getting better but I think one way to improve things is to share stories and build understanding. Ultimately we do not like people because we are scared. And we are scared because we do not know them. If we shared more, we would realise that everyone has the same feelings, goes through the same situations, etc.

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

BIFFY: My favourite woman is one of Scotland’s earliest female doctors and founder of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, Elsie Inglis – she is part of my tour! She was so strong and really paved the way for other women. She worked hard, and made a great impact in the world.

What are your three favourite smells and why?  

BIFFY:  I like every smell that smells like “Cleanliness” lol From bleach, laundry or dove soaps….I really like a fresh/washed smell…

What do you think makes a DAMN REBEL BITCH?

BIFFY: A damn rebel bitch is a woman that can hold her own ground and stand up for herself.

You can read more about Invisible Cities here or follow them on twitter


Venus Libido

VENUS LIBIDO

Illustrator, activist and all round boss bitch Venus Libido tells us all… 

Tell us how you got into illustration?

I started illustrating at the beginning of 2017 after deciding to move out of London to focus on my mental health. It was a great way to articulate my emotions and better understand why I was feeling the way I was. Very quickly it became my form of therapy. When I started drawing I would draw personal scenarios in which I had found myself in the previous year. Scenarios including my alcohol addiction, overdosing and just generally not being happy with my physical and mental state. I wasn’t sure if I should share them online until my partner convinced me that what I was drawing was important and others might find it helpful.

Where do you turn to for inspiration?

My Inspiration comes from my everyday experiences as a woman, dealing with my mental health and my journey to self love. I try to be open and honest about the things I draw and I keep a long list of ideas in my phone. Every time I have an odd thought or experience an uncomfortable feeling or situation I document it so that I can come back to it.

Who or what has pushed you to keep going?

My followers. I know my work has helped a lot of people feel not alone with their personal problems. I get a lot of messages from girls explaining how I’ve helped them go through difficult situations because what I draw is honest and relatable.

What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

I have a few…

  1. Be more selfish
  2. Being alone is ok
  3. You do not exist to please others
  4. Your body is beautiful, continue to love it
  5. Masturbation is not just for men
  6. Talking is the key to recovery
  7. Everything WILL BE OK!

Who has inspired you the most in your day to day life?

I would definitely say my mum. I have watched her bring up 3 children with no help while also caring for my dad who has a disability. The strength she has to keep going everyday despite the amount of obstacles that have got in her way is truly inspiring. She’s a bad ass woman!

What was it like doing a photo shop free photo shoot?

Absolutely amazing! Firstly I was made to feel so comfortable and the team just made the whole thing so fun and beautiful! For me it is important to embrace who you are and photoshopping is a big NO NO.

Tell us your plans for 2019 so far…

I have a few things lined up including hosting a huge event with my fave girls at Women of Power and Sister Magazine. ELEVATE will be a amazing and empowering day. Full of workshops, talks and brilliant like minded brands. Come join in at the Curtain hotel in Shoreditch for a day of exploring how to find balance as a creative in work & business. 

I am also collaborating with a few of my favourite brands this year which I am super excited for. However my main goals are to do more traveling, more charity work, continue to work on my journey to self love and I also have some ideas that I want to film.

Oh and I would love to do another big animation!

Did you make any new year’s resolutions this year?

I made a list of goals and things I hope to achieve this year rather than things I want to change which include;

  • Move back out of my parents house
  • Go to LA
  • Make more animations
  • Watch more live comedy
  • Learn how to make the perfect Porn Star Martini
  • Mastrubate more 🙂

Are you more of a witch or a bitch?

I am definitely a REEK BITCH! I took me a while to find my confidence but now I feel in control and no one one is getting in my way.

Describe your favourite REEK perfume in 2 words…

Sweet yet Spicy.

What are your favourite smells and why?

Lavender oil because it relaxes me and coconut and papaya because it reminds me of being on holiday. I also love the smell of burning wood and pizza ovens.

Want to see more of Venus’s work? Yeah we thought so!
Follow her HERE

Get your tickets for Venus’s ELEVATE event. A day of networking, panel discussions and brilliant brands (we’ll be there with free stickers and perfume too!)


Sonia Cooper

A SELF LOVE STORY

Sonia Cooper tells her story of self love…

Your message of body positivity is inspirational, tell us your story…

So what happened to me is that I was cooking pasta at a friend’s house, I fell asleep and when I woke up I suddenly remembered the pasta so a ran to the kitchen but I slipped and when I tried to get up I leaned on the handle of the pot (’cause I was still half asleep). All the boiling water and the pasta fell on me burning all my chest/breasts and arms. So 15% of my body had 2nd and 3rd degree burns.

What does the ‘body positivity’ mean to you?

To me “body positivity” is to learn to love and embrace your body no matter how it is and no matter what other people can say. Just love yourself.

What is are you working on at the moment?  

I want to finish my bachelor’s year to finally start my stewardess studies, to work on something I really love and be totally independent. I would love to have my Cabin Crew Attestation this year, but because of the accident I missed a few month of classes, so now I have to repeat the year. Still, that leaves me a year to finish my recovery and to undergo the two surgeries I still have to do.

Who has inspired you most along the way?

When I was in the hospital, my mum sent me a video of a young woman (who is also a burn survivor, of 40% of her body) talking about her experience some years ago and I cried a lot because she described exactly how I felt. She gave me the hope and the strength I needed to face the situation. Thanks to her, my confidence was boosted and I promised myself to never be ashamed of my scars. She is @douzefevrier on Instagram.

Tell us about a campaign/advert that made you angry.

In general I dislike hair removal adverts which show women shaving hairless legs as if body hair doesn’t exist. I think it’s ridiculous because all people have hair on their bodies. And most people act like it’s gross or not normal and that doesn’t help to normalize it. It’s okay to shave if we want and it’s also okay to not touch it. Every woman should be free to choose for herself.  Those adverts are trying to make us ashamed of something normal. And ashamed of our bodies.

Are there any issues you see people face in your day to day life that the world can find easy to ignore?

Yes, because every person has their own problems. But it’s not because someone has more or less issues that they have to be ignored. Many people have problems that they don’t want to talk about, maybe because they’re ashamed or because they think they’re not important enough. I think everyone should be able to talk about their problems without thinking they are going to be judged. We’re no one to judge other people issues.

Pick a slogan to put on one of our equality stickers?

Equality is something that should already be in our society, if we have to fight for it, it’s because the world has a big problem.

What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

To be patient and very strong to face everything.

What are your three favourite smells?

The smell when I walk next to a bakery, pizza and my love’s clothes (I love to smell his t-shirts when I wear them).

Witch or bitch?

Bitchy witch hahaha. But always witch.


In The Nuddy

IN THE NUDDY

We get the dirt about soapy plastic free success nuddy from founder Kassi Emadi. She wants you to lather up and get in the nuddy… 

Tell us all about in the nuddy and how you got into such a soapy venture…

We launched the nuddy range in the UK in July. Our products are vegan-friendly soap bars. We found that the majority of soaps and body washes on the market are not only full of rubbish, but also packaged using plastic materials. nuddy is proud to be 100% plastic free and created using only the best ingredients, right here in the UK. We use a vegan-friendly Shea butter base, so our soap is inclusive to just about every Tom, Francesca + Harriet. Since launching, the response has been amazing – we’ve been shortlisted in the ‘Best new British beauty brand’ category in the Pure Beauty Awards, featured in Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire and Refinery29, as well as making an impact on social media.

I was working in London as Head of PR at a creative marketing start-up when I first started working on nuddy. As a self-confessed soap bar addict – whenever I used to go out to buy a bar of soap from any large retailer, I’d find a selection of maybe 5 outdated brands on the bottom shelf. This literally broke my heart. None of the brands were even trying to form a connection with me as a consumer. I was totally uninspired. I couldn’t get my head around how or why we’d let this amazing product die a death. So, I decided to quit my job and move back home to North Yorkshire where  I started nuddy and developed my own brand of soap which I hoped, would transform the market, re-connect with consumers (particularly the millennial generation) and make soap bars cool again.

Was there a particular moment that inspired you to start it up?

It sounds so cliche and almost unbelievable, but I genuinely had a ‘light bulb moment’ whilst I was in the shower. I was holding a bar of soap and I sort of just looked at it and thought ‘why don’t people love soap?’ From there my mind started unfolding all of these ideas. I jumped out of the shower, ran to my diary and started writing things down. I then rang my mum and started shouting ‘SOAAAAAP’ down the phone. I wish someone had caught all this on camera, cos I would have indeed been #inthenuddy

Your ethos and products are eco friendly, is that an important factor in all things nuddy?

SO important. We identify as a mission brand – we want to help change consumer behaviour when it comes to purchasing goods. The reason I created this brand was not only to bring life back to the market but to also start a movement. We want to encourage people to switch to soap when they wash, to reduce the amount plastic used when getting in the nuddy. It’s widely talked about that there’s an excess of water bottles and plastic bags – these are  common everyday single-use items. But what about the other plastic containers people are taking for granted – shampoo, conditioner, body wash?

What are the big problems you see women facing in business?

Fear and lack of self confidence, I feel, is one of the greatest. Most people are, unfortunately, exactly who they’re told to be – this is inbuilt from infancy and  people rarely break the mould. You’re told to act in a certain way and do certain things, in order to achieve x,y+z. For a long time, women were told that they couldn’t lead and influence – it wasn’t expected of us. Well some bloody great women broke that mould, and gave more women the confidence to do so. It’s important for the women who have found the confidence to encourage others to do the same.

Are there any issues you see people face in your day to day life that the world can find easy to ignore?

Mental health issues. I know there have been some amazing campaigns in the last year or so to increase awareness of mental health and the effort to ‘normalise’ and remove the stigma. This might suggest that the world is not ignoring it. But I still feel that day-to-day people do ignore it, and a lot of people just don’t get mental health and the effect it can have on a person. The mind is an amazing, powerful and beautiful thing. I don’t think we know enough about what our minds are capable of, good and bad. When I worked at my first job in London, I was told that I was being kept from progressing because I wasn’t as ‘happy and excited’ as I used to be. At the time I was suffering from anxiety due to certain life events, yet, at work I was performing better than ever. I felt so let down by the ignorance of my manager that I ended up deciding to leave, which was really sad. As individuals we should try to be better at understanding each other.

Tell us about a campaign/advert that made you angry.

I used to HATE the old Yorkie adverts. ‘It’s not for girls’ – it still makes me angry because I used to love Yorkie bars and I can’t think of a more ridiculous and offensive advertising campaign to upset an 11 year old Yorkie loving GIRL. I still used to eat them though, just to prove a point. If I had social media back in the day, I would have been tweeting them pictures of me eating my Yorkie bar.

Are there any soapy facts we don’t know about? Tell us the dirt!

I love soap facts, there are so many. Ok, my favourite is that ‘soap operas’ are named that because the earliest dramas from the 50s & 60s were sponsored by soap making companies. Everyone uses the phrase, but honestly, I bet hardly any millenials know why.

What are your three favourite smells?

Real Christmas trees, nuddy mango soap and petrol… (I’m just being honest)!

EDITOR: a lot of people say petrol, including REEK co-founder Molly, you crazy bitches. Maybe we need a blog post about that… 

What nuddy soap would be the biggest bitch?

Less bitter than your ex – FACT. That’s our Pink Grapefruit soap. I love the phrase. Sometimes you just gotta be a sassy bitch, right? I know my ex is bitter, and I’m pretty sure that everyone else can relate to that too.

Are you more of a witch or a bitch?

My dad has always called me and my mum witches, so I’m going to have to say witch. Although if needs be…

Follow nuddy on instagram or get your soapy fix HERE 


Alice Dyba Wise Words

PAINTING WISE WORDS

Artist Alice Dyba gives us her bitchy/witchy take on the female form and the importance of daydreaming with smells and spells.

Tell us about some women who inspired you.

I am inspired by wild, creative, free women. Ground breakers, artists and misfits. Punk rock goddesses, Silver Factory Superstars, Women who refused expectations in different times in this world…

June Miller, Frida Kahlo, Edie Sedgwick , Anita Pallenberg,Marianne Faithfull, Patti Smith, Alison Mosshart, Tracy Emin, Jemima Kirke… the list goes on!

How integral is body image to your art?

Body IS my art. Female form is present in pretty much all of my pieces. The nudes I am creating are the strongest. They have no clothes on but after one look you will know that they are queens of fucking everything. I LOVE painting women and got absolutely no desire to do anything else. Bodies in my art are distorted, skinny, crude … all those things, but that makes them perfect. I tend to play with female form, I capture the body in quite classical,academic way but then distort it with my natural need for strong lines, vibrant colours and a never-ending game with rules of anatomy. Some bones seem broken and limbs bend in unnatural ways which in the end feel right. There’s also a lot of movement involved so even though the subject matter may seem HEAVY and STRONG it gives it certain lightness… Think Courtney Love wearing pink fairy wings… That is the clash of heavy and light I’m talking about.

Which image you’ve created is your favourite?

Every new image is my favourite. Then I am done and I let it go freely to make other people feel. Whether it’s love or desire or horror or mixture of them all. I don’t cherish my work, I want to spread it around and if you decide to glue it to the wall like a concert poster I will be happy. I don’t make art to put away, I want it to live in different spaces, with different people. I adore the fact that most of my buyers are women. It gives me a feeling of complete accomplishment. There I am, celebrating the female form, with all these nudes but it’s not empty sexiness , created for some guy’s bedroom wall. It is for women who think it’s weird, beautiful, strong… That is what I am about.

As a female artist what are your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge is the fact of just being female. There is very few women in history of art books. People I know from art schools are pretty much all dudes. So boring! The challenge for me, like many female artists, is to support each other against male domination in art world. Times are changing and I know that history of art books will be far more interesting in few years time. It’s so inspiring to see talented female artists online. It’s a complete explosion of uncompromising talent. From fine art to tattoo art.

What advice would you give yourself a year ago?

I would repeat like a mantra – Bitch, do not compare yourself with anyone. Ever. Be confident in what you are doing. You are talented and you got it. The future starts slow. You will get there.

More advice – you don’t need to be high or drunk to express yourself in art. Be healthy and strong, don’t try to be a Rolling Stone when you can be Alice Dyba.

Tell us about a beauty campaign that made you feel angry or ugly.

I don’t want to have anything to do with ‘beauty campaigns’. They are worthless. Fake promises, perfectly shaved legs advertising waxing products, porcelain skins and I’m here with my breakouts. NO. Thanks. Women should be saved from that bullshit, especially young ones who might believe it and strive for unrealistic goals. I want to see campaigns with women with body hair and tattoos, like myself. Otherwise go away. I think women should be shown an alternative approach to health and beauty. Natural ways/ingredients. There is so much out there but we are bombarded with fake stuff. I want to go back to oils and herbs. I always try to share my knowledge with other women. If something worked for me it might work for you and it’s not made with half of Mendeleev’s periodic table. We all need some hemp oil in our lives right?

What smell sums you up best?

POWERFUL, STRONG, ORIGINAL, MYSTERIOUS, RAW, REEK. Smell is so important to me. I am low maintenance as hell but I am not leaving my house without a bottle of perfume. Smells help me in my daydreaming and going back in time. It’s magic. It’s incredible how one perfume can smell different on each person. Fascinating chemistry! I always put perfume on before I leave the house in the morning, it’s a ritual, a sort of a spell that can keep all the bad stuff away. It makes me feel strong, confident and complete.

Are you a bitch or a witch?

Although I’ve been called a BITCH many times I am definitely more of a WITCH. I’ve hidden some good spells in my paintings. See for yourself.

See Alice’s work here


Page, stage and poetry

PAGE, STAGE & POETRY

Iona Lee casts her poetic magic over us. From page, stage and poetry Iona tells us about the importance to hold the door open for the ones coming behind …  poems are spells.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Iona Lee and I am a poet, performer and illustrator raised on the beaches of East Lothian. I live in Glasgow with my pet rat Egon. I fell into the spoken word scene as a 17 year old, and it has gradually taken over my life ever since. I enjoy old pubs, new notebooks, Indian ink, Angela Carter and wild swimming. I have a pamphlet out with Polygon and I front a band called Acolyte.  

Was there a particular moment that inspired you to get into poetry?

Not quite a moment, more a culmination of many. I have been writing short stories and poems since I was wee. I cherished being read to and spent my formative years around performers, actors and theatre-makers so I have always adored stories and the many ways they can be told. I remember a storyteller with a clarsach coming to my school; she bewitched us.

The work of a performance poet oscillates. You have to be good at spending long periods of time alone, and then you also have to be outgoing and sociable, good at taking control in loud bars and venues. I think that my personality suits those two extremes and so while I accidentally fell into spoken word as an art form, I am realising with time that it is the perfect art form for me.

What issues do women face in your industry?

There are – roughly – two camps in the poetry world and you can live in both or focus more on one or the other. We call them ‘page’ and ‘stage’. The two are inextricably linked, but while they are related there are definite differences. Stage poetry has fewer gatekeepers, it has a more DIY feel (you could technically set up a spoken word night wherever you wanted) and so there are more marginalised voices. The ‘published poet’ looks more like the typical archetype of the older white man, though there are loads of small presses out there doing amazing work on poetic equality. As with all things, gender in poetry is an intersectional issue.

As a female performer your sexual attractiveness and your age, your class and your accent, your race and your confidence all feed in to whether people want to listen to your stories or not. It is important to hold the door open for the ones coming behind, and to remember the generations of women before who held the door open for you.

Tell us about a campaign/advert that made you angry.

I feel cynical about most campaigns. Someone in a smoking area in a pub once told me ‘there aren’t countries anymore, there are companies’, and while that is a simplistic statement it has stuck with me. The grey area where feminism and capitalism meet is filled with insidious facts. Did you know, for example, that Dove (love yourself girls, you are all beautiful, look, this woman has a back roll!) and Lynx (women with airbrushed bodies and bouncing tits running at entirely mediocre men) are owned by the same company, Unilever?

What message would you put on our on our sticky bitches? (gender equality stickers, free on our site worldwide)

I am in touch with my inner labia.
*Brilliant, REEK agrees this should be on a sticker. 

What’s your favourite word at the moment?

Ancient

What are your three favourite smells?

Blown out candles, damp forests and swimming pools.

Are you more of a witch or a bitch? 

A witch; poems are spells, and anyway I care far too much about what people think of me to be a bitch.