THE WOMEN WENT TO WAR TOO

THE WOMEN WENT TO WAR TOO

Documentary film-maker, veteran activist  and full-time DAMN REBEL BITCH, Leslie Hills, is determined to memorialise female history and one heroine in particular.

Here is the story of a woman I have been bringing from the shadows for the last couple of years.

On the wall of St Paul’s Church, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, is a plaque on which is written, To the glory of God and in grateful remembrance of the men of St Paul’s who fell in the Great War. One of the men listed is Margaret Davidson.

The friendly person on duty in the church when  I first saw the plaque, had been a member for many years but was not aware of Margaret’s name among the fallen. St Paul’s website notes that the plaque lists names ‘including one Margaret Davidson’ but comments no further. An appeal for information, through the website of the Scottish Episcopal Church Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, to the present rector, Andrew Swift, received no reply. I contacted the local Council who were extremely helpful and told me that people of St Paul’s were buried mostly in the graveyard on the High Street but could offer nothing more.

I searched for Margaret Davidson’s death on all the usual sites – casualty lists, Red Cross Nurses, Voluntary Aid Detachment or VADs (who were female medical staff), the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – to no avail. The search was complicated by the fact that there are three other Margaret Davidsons, two of them well known, active in the field in Serbia and France. But all of these women survived the war.

At the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle, I found the record of Margaret Davidson, a casualty of WW1. Most of the details are missing – except that she was in the Women’s Services, her unit name given as Scottish Branch of the British Red Cross Society, Scottish VAD Casualties. And the final identifier: on the line which is headed Other Detail, is the word “Bute”.

She is also memorialised in York Minster on a beautiful memorial to the women of the Empire who fell in the Great War.

Margaret Wood Davidson was born in Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire, in 1896 to John Joseph Davidson, a gardener and his wife, Barbara Janet, Wood who married on 3rd January 1895 at Stitchell.

In 1901 Margaret, aged five, was living with them at Shakenhurst Hall, a grade II listed building with 13 bedrooms and an estate with 12 houses and cottages. John Davidson was a gardener and lived in the lodge. Margaret had a brother, John James, who was three.

By 1911 the family was living in Ardencraig Cottage, Bute. Ardencraig House and its lovely gardens stand, still, high on a hill overlooking Rothesay Bay. Margaret was fifteen, John James was eleven, a further son, George, was nine and a daughter, Agnes Barbara, born 29th October 1909, was one.

John and Barbara Davidson lost both a son and a daughter to the Great War 1914 – 1918.

On the plaque in St Paul’s church, Margaret is commemorated alongside her brother, John James Davidson. His war record, sadly, was easier to find.

John James, John and Barbara’s elder son, four years younger than Margaret, was a private in the 96th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry and died, in training, of spinal meningitis at Camp Hughes Training Camp, near Carberry, Manitoba.  He was 18. He is buried in Camp Hughes Cemetery. On the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial there is a page in his memory – admitted to hospital on 28th June 1916 and died of non-combat causes on 13th July 1916. The narrative comments that John James was farming when he enlisted at Saskatoon four months before his death.

He is not listed as a casualty on the Scottish War Memorial pages but he, who died in training in Canada and did not see action, is commemorated on the Rothesay War Memorial on the Esplanade. Margaret, who worked in the field, is not on the memorial. He is also commemorated and his photograph included in the book held at the Bute Museum “The Burgh of Rothesay and Island of Bute War Memorial 1914-1919” She is not.

The National Records of Scotland show Margaret Davidson died in Ardencraig Cottage, on 19th August 1917. She died of a Cerebral Embolism, Valvular Heart disease and Rheumatism. She was 21 years old. One must assume, as she is listed as a casualty on the Scottish War Memorial and in St Paul’s, that the conditions which led to her death were brought about by her service in the war.

Her father, John, notified her death. He was still at Ardencraig Cottage working as a gardener in 1925. He died on June 7th 1947, thirty years after his two elder children, at 8 Bellevue Road, Rothesay. The death was notified by Barbara Hansford, his younger daughter.

Barbara Davidson Hansford was married, by Kenneth Mackenzie Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, to George Stanley Hansford of Maidstone in Kent on 21st April 1937 in St Pauls, Rothesay.  She died at Redbridge in Essex in 2004, aged 94.  Her mother, Barbara Janet, died in Essex in 1960 aged 90. It is very likely that the last Davidson to live on Bute left in 1947 before the war memorial was erected.

Of George, the youngest child, there is little trace. Certainly none of the George Davidsons listed as casualties at Edinburgh Castle was born in the right place and there is no sign of his death in any UK record.

To my piece on the Buteman website there was a reply from a distant relative of the Davidsons. His family’s legend was that John James died bravely in battle – but that Margaret, known as Madge, also died on active service in the field. He was able to tell me that George whom he knew and liked, had gone abroad.

We met up in The Graveyard of the High Church and he showed me the Davidson’s gravestone on which the parents inscribed the names of three of their children.

Sacred to the memory of Margaret Wood Davidson 16655 Red+ VAD Died 19th August 1917 aged 21 years

also

Pt John James Davidson 204381 96th Canadians died 13th July 1916 aged 18½ years buried at Camp Hughes Manitoba

THEY DID WHAT THEY COULD

George Davidson NDD NDAR died 28th January 1941.

George is not on the lists of service dead in the National Archives and in the light of research, I believe that George was in a Spanish-speaking Navy, most likely the Brazilian Navy which was involved against German submarines in the North Atlantic.

George Davidson, seaman, is listed on the Rothesay war memorial under WW2 deaths. So, again, he is on the war memorial – and Margaret is not.

The Buteman put my notes on Margaret on the website but not in the paper, noting that the words were the author’s own – it is a small island. The Museum ladies in bemused fashion noted my interest in the memorial book. I visited the British Legion. David Boe of the British Legion Museum, on Deanhood Place, Rothesay, knows of Margaret but it appears only because he read a piece I wrote in the Buteman asking for information. He was singularly uninterested.

And why should I care? Because this is how history is written and unless we unearth the stories such as those on the Mapping Memorials site and the Sheroes blog and publicise the excellent academic work being done by feminist academics who are pulling the work and achievements of women into the light, our daughters and our sons will not know how influential and important the work of women has been –  almost always in the building and the bettering of our world rather than the dismantling and destruction of it.  

And also because I am outraged by the neglect of a woman who died because she wanted to do the right thing and was so casually disregarded and forgotten just because she happened to be born female. It is not good enough.


FARZANA

FARZANA

Writer & activist Farzana talks to REEK Perfume about smells, beauty and gender equality after interning with head bitch of REEK Perfume, Sara Sheridan.

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?

As cliché as it may sound, the woman who inspires me the most is my mum. She is someone who has always worked hard to progress, to satisfy her career goals, support herself and her children. She is very to the point, some would say stubborn, but she knows what she wants and that has definitely had an influence on me.  In high school I had a big friendship group of both males and females. The girls were all very strong willed, independent, driven and very bossy. The boys were just as strong and we always supported one another equally (and still do to this day). Equality was definitely encouraged and embraced through this group of very important people who have shaped my life.

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


I don’t associate any smells with femininity, I associate certain smells with certain females – if that makes sense. Everyone has their own smell that reflects their personality, from Marc Jacobs to Chanel. I love the wide range of females smells there are instead of all being of flowers or vanilla – classic female associations, right. There are varieties of female smells just like there are varieties of females, I love that.

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

When my course ends in August, I hope to enter the publishing world. The top jobs within the industry are dominated by white males – a stark reality that is in the process of changing by building inclusivity.  Women are very much employed within the industry but it is men who pull the strings. I have not experienced any discrimination in the industry, I have only done interning, but I hope that I never will.  

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?

When I was younger I felt pressure to look a certain way to fit the ideals of beauty, but as I have grown up this pressure has gone. I look to my younger sister who is going through the ‘plucking your eyebrows to death then filling them in’ stage, after just having come out of the ‘put as much black eyeliner around your eyes as physically possible’ stage, and I see my younger self. We’ve all been there… But now most days I don’t wear make-up if I can’t be bothered. I don’t feel the pressure anymore, I like seeing my face without all the paint on it and it’s a breath of fresh air.

What pushed you to get involved with this movement in such an active way?   

I intern for Sara in her writing life, so I’m around the REEK office. Sometimes I listen in on meetings between Sara and Bethany. I had never heard of REEK beforehand but inspiration behind the company is interesting and admirable and so I have spread the word to my friends and family. I love the promotion of strong, unapologetic women – qualities that we should all embody. 

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

I’m a ‘go for it’ bitch. Sometimes this is a bad thing, I listen to my friends and family in their opinions but at the end of the day, I do what I feel is right and what I want to do. I’m a damn rebel bitch because everything I’ve done is my own choice, my own mistakes and my own triumphs. The ability to control your own life and find your own way signifies strength to me (male and female strength), and that’s the kind of person that I am trying to be.


AMBER HUNTER

AMBER HUNTER

Head designer of menswear brand ‘Underated’ Amber Hunter speaks to REEK Perfume about gender equality, female empowerment and being your own boss.

Tell us what you do?

A wise bitch once said ‘there are 24 usable hours in everyday” (Liv Tyler, Empire Records) and you better believe this girlboss is living by this motto. I’m currently the head designer of men’s streetwear brand Underated, spending all my time researching, designing and producing garments that allow men to express their individuality while embodying London street style.

How do you find working in menswear as a female designer? Do you face any challenges your male peers don’t?

I absolutely fucking love it. You know, I actually feel like it gives me an edge and an extra level of respect – some of the most successful menswear designers are women. I’ve had the occasional shade thrown my way, but I figure if you’re gonna do it, be the best you can and don’t give anyone a reason to doubt you. I worked damn hard to get to where I am and I’ve sacrificed a lot in all aspects of my life to be here. I get sick of people underestimating me because they think I’m some shy wee girl from Scotland and all I do is draw clothes all day but it only motivates me to work harder and prove people wrong.

Do you feel that women are celebrated in your industry? Tell us about some of the women who have inspired your own career?

100% – women in this industry are fierce. I actually feel like men and women are pretty equal in fashion, it’s more about being head strong and working your ass off. If you don’t have the right mind set you’re not going to make it and believe me I’ve been there. Kelly Cutrone is my number one boss ass bitch and without her I definitely wouldn’t think the way I do now. You can have the talent and the drive to be successful, but if you don’t start to think like a strong woman, you’re never going to be one.

Where do you find inspiration for your own style?

If it’s black, it’s on my back. To be honest I work so much most of the time I look like a 17 year old boy but I’m actually okay with that. I don’t know if working in menswear automatically leads you to be more androgynous with your look, I tend to gravitate towards relaxed boyfriend fits and a staple skinny jean. I’m going to the hairdressers next week for the first time since I was 5 for gods sake – I’m definitely not your conventional girly girl. If I manage to find some time to go out though you know a bitch is going to make an effort. Still black though. Always.

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

I believe in equality in all things, whether thats gender, sexuality etc. The pay gap is a big issue for me right now, the fact that a woman can do the exact same job as a man and get paid less JUST because she is a woman is ridiculous. Isn’t it ludicrous that men are literally given life by women and theres STILL a gap in equality in this day and age? What the hell kind of bullshit is that?

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

In my final year of university I was one of 5 students worldwide to be sponsored by Hermès. Although I never had the chance to meet her, Véronique Nichanian will always be a designer I identify with. She has an enviable ability to mix high end luxe with casual sportswear layering, and has been the head designer of the menswear line since it started it 1988. If that’s not the dream I don’t know what is.

In music – Stevie Nicks. 68 years old and she’s still serving up such effortless beauty and realness on stage. Her talent is undeniable and she defines what a women should be – head strong, unapologetic, inspirational and free spirited.

In my own life, my younger sister Jasmyn. She is everything I wish I could be in one fierce, polished package. She’s the person in my life that tells me when I’ve fucked up and puts me in my place in the most savage way. She makes me believe in myself and that I can always do better. I love her.

What changes do you think should be implemented to try and encourage more women to go into business and start their own brand?

Sometimes I feel like women confuse being confident with arrogance, there is nothing wrong with being confident and believing in yourself. This should be encouraged as early as possible. Secondly, there needs to be more education and support on the business side. I never had one class in business at university, NOT ONE. I was told that, “if you or your family doesn’t have a lot of money, you should give up now” what kind of nonsense is that? We need to make sure there is support and help each other build creatively – who knows what we might be missing out on if the right people don’t get the encouragement they need.

What signifies female strength to you?

Making mistakes, overcoming the unexpected and straight up owning who you are as an individual. Being who you are and knowing what you’re not – there’s nobody more powerful than a woman with knowledge.

What smells remind you of femininity?

Jo Malone – Lime, Basil and Mandarin. It’s the scent I remember my mother wearing the most growing up and it’s the perfect combination of strong and sweet which I feel embodies what it is to be a woman.

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

I’m confident that I have the power to make a difference. Im a pisces, very sensitive and emotional and I will always put others before myself. At the same time, I’ve got to a place in my life and career where I don’t give a fuck about what other people think – especially if it’s negative. At the end of the day as long as I am doing the best I can, passing on knowledge and skills to others and fighting for what I truly believe in – I’ll be a damn rebel bitch until the day I die.


RECLAIMING OUR STREETS

MAJA JANOWSKA: RECLAIMING OUR STREETS

Maja Janowska, photographer, journalist and model, talks about the nightly terror of simply getting the bus to work.

Walking to the bus stop at 10pm on a Saturday night. Earphones in, but music isn’t playing, just in case I won’t be able to hear someone creeping up behind me. Turning my head every five minutes and speeding up as soon as I sense a silhouette coming up behind, just in case. The constant fear continues as I arrive at the bus stop, exactly two minutes before my bus is due. I don’t want to wait there longer than necessary. It’s not lit very well and all the shops are already closed. I sit down and hold a phone in my hand, with my recent call page up so I can call someone quickly, just in case.

This is my journey to the bus stop, every weekend to work. Exactly the same, it’s a routine I have developed to keep myself safe on the streets at night.

I thought this routine was perfect, but a man put it to test a couple of weeks ago. It was my first day back at work after two months off due to ill mental health, so as an extra pick me up I wore my “Bitches Unite” t-shirt. I was feeling extra powerful.

As I stood at the bus stop a man from across the street started shouting at me. I thought he was harmless because he looked pretty drunk, so I just ignored it and pretended I couldn’t hear him, you know, my earphones trick!

“Don’t pretend you can’t hear me! I know you want some of that” I wish I hadn’t turned my head at that point. I still regret it. There he was, with his trousers down, still shouting at me. Yes, it’s exactly what you’re thinking; the man across the street, previously deemed harmless was a flasher.

I was terrified and now sure of his intentions. I tried calling my boyfriend a hundred times but the signal was terrible and I didn’t get through.

My routine was failing.

I started to panic, thinking of another plan of action. Should I run away like I had done the last time a man followed me, or look for a police officer as I had before – I’ve been followed around more than once. Or, it occurred to me, maybe I should just ignore him and pretend I couldn’t see him. I’m used to ignoring men who shout at me but this was a little more scary than usual. I even considered shouting at the guy – I did that once before when a passing man spanked my butt as he passed me with a group of friends. They found it very amusing that their friend had touched me – I didn’t.

In this whole situation I almost didn’t notice the bus arriving. Shaken up, I thanked the bus driver for arriving on time. He just looked at me funny, obviously he didn’t have a clue that he had saved me from whatever this man was about to do next.

This is not an isolated event. This is happening now, to women around the world. Going back from work, to work, from a party, shopping trip, late lecture. All the time. It’s not the first and not the last time it’s going to happen to me, but we can unite and work against it together.

I continue to walk to the bus stop every weekend, following the same routine. I walk to a taxi rank five minutes away from work when I come home much later and spend £8 on a taxi home to avoid potentially getting raped. I live in a constant fear of someone taking advantage of me just because I am female.

I am writing about it because I’m sick of having to look behind me with every step I take at night, I’m sick of being casually, sexually assaulted in the streets. I am fed up of having to pay for taxis because it is not safe for me to walk home from work. We need to be Damn Rebel Bitches, and we need to unite against it and speak up! There is no place in the modern world for this oppression and if we speak about it now, optimistically, maybe things will change and our daughters will be safe to walk the streets of our cities at night.


JADE MORDENTE

JADE MORDENTE

Writer & activist Jade Mordente talks to REEK Perfume about smells, mental health, the beauty industry and gender equality.

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

My favourite smell is fresh air at 6am. I wake up before work on Monday – Friday and head to the gym first thing, it keeps my mental health in check. In these last couple of months it’s been freezing cold and sometimes raining, and everything just smells so soft and fresh. I like the concept of soft smells, just a gentle hint at something beautiful.

Do you feel that as a female writer you encounter more barriers in all aspects of your career?


I definitely have felt vulnerable when writing, especially when expressing an emotion I deemed would make me look ‘weak’. I guess I have taught myself to put up my own barriers – what I can and can’t speak about. I’ve got to a point now where I am letting go of shame and breaking down those barriers. I recently wrote an extremely personal piece for Refinery29 on female mental health and just minutes after it was published I had all these guys trolling me on twitter calling me a ‘slut’, a ‘crazy bitch’ and a ‘reason to hate women.’ It was insane. At no point did I ever bad-mouth men in the piece, yet so many of the guys responding seemed to feel personally victimised by my words. I laughed it off and assumed they were projecting their own insecurities onto me. Although, I do hope they remain single for the rest of their lives.

To be honest, I’m extremely lucky in my current job as I sit at a table full of supportive, strong and inspiring creative females. In fact, the whole office at Show Media is run by empowering and influential women! I think there are 4 men to 25 women in the office. I know I’m lucky to be in this position. It makes me hopeful.

How well do you feel the UK beauty industry represents women through products and advertising? Women of colour? Women from minority groups?

Well it’s still rare to see anyone who isn’t society’s definition of ‘beautiful’ featured in a make up campaign. Usually it’s white girls with close-to-perfect faces, and on the occasions black girls are included in campaigns they will always choose light-skinned black girls. I went to a very interesting talk recently by the model Leomie Anderson. As a dark-skinned black girl she spoke about how many hiccups and awkward moments she’s faced on set throughout her career in the industry because a makeup artist had no idea what do with her skin, or didn’t carry suitable products. In my opinion if we are still somewhat surprised by a makeup campaign because it represents a race, religion or overall look which we’re not used to seeing, then we are not seeing it anywhere near enough. There definitely needs to be more diversity.

We also need to see some truth in these campaigns – show me a girl with a break out, then I can relate.

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?


My grandmother. She was a strong and inspiring feminist, and has always been the person I identify with most. In Scotland she worked in the jute mills as a weaver and lead one of the first women’s rights marches across Dundee. She fought to get women better working conditions and a livable wage. She fought her whole life for women to be viewed in the same light as men. At just 19 years old she had her first child out of wedlock after she left her cheating husband. She told me the story hundreds of times. In those days you were expected to turn a blind eye to a disrespectful man, it was seen as shameful to be a single mother – but she didn’t care. She knew she was worth more than him and she was prepared to lose her reputation if it meant keeping her self-respect. She was the kind of woman who would empty her purse for a homeless person, but she also wouldn’t be scared to put you in your place if you overstepped the mark. She had a heart of gold and a fiery temper.

She did her best to teach me, to influence me and empower me. I’d like to think it worked, and that I can teach the same thing to other women.

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

Without a doubt the causes closest to my heart are abortion and domestic violence. I’ll never be able to understand laws against a woman getting an abortion. I often think of those females who stand against the termination of a pregnancy and try to understand their way of thinking – but every time I come to the conclusion they don’t live in the real world. They certainly turn a blind eye to it that’s for sure. What about the woman who’s been raped? What about the woman who is told her fetus is going to be born severely disabled and will have a life filled with pain and physical constraints? What about the woman who can’t afford to feed herself never mind a child? And, of course the one nobody wants to mention, what about the woman who just doesn’t want kids? You know something, if these anti-abortion activists had to spend as little as an hour in the lives of some women then I’m sure their opinions would change. No sane women goes out of her way to terminate a pregnancy, it’s a painful decision. Yet we force ourselves to speak in whispers if we have had one. We force ourselves to feel shame. The money which is spent on anti-abortion campaigns should pay for the therapy sessions of those who have suffered an abortion – that would actually make a positive impact on the world.

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

First of all, thank you. I feel truly excited and grateful to be part of this movement!
I have always romanticised the notion of rebellion within women but as I’ve got older my perspective on it has changed. Self-love, self-care and self-belief are a positive form of rebellion against a society that urges you to always want to be someone or something else! Female intuition is an extremely powerful thing when you learn to accept it. I’d call myself a witchy bitch as I truly believe in the power of magick – good things come when you make peace with yourself.


NERD ABOUT TOWN

NERD ABOUT TOWN

REEK Perfume speaks to Stephanie Yeboah (aka NERD ABOUT TOWN), a plus size style blogger from London with a penchant for graphic novels, fragrance and women’s causes.

What women have inspired you most in your life?

I definitely get my inner strength from my Mother. She has been such a strong, fierce role model in my life and is the definition of a true survivor. She inspires me to keep going, despite the odds and is a testament to hard work and determination.

Other women, such as Missy Elliot and comedian/actress Monique, have also been incredibly influential to me. Seeing these gorgeous, strong black plus size women conquering Hollywood while being confident and unapologetic as fuck definitely inspired me to get on their level and spurred me on to find my own inner confidence and sass.

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

Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa; otherwise known as the ‘Warrior Queen’, from my hometown of Ghana. She led the rebellion in Ghana against British colonialism in 1900. She was the first woman in Ashanti history to ever be given a role of warrior – a role traditionally reserved for the men of the villages. She was a force to be reckoned with and while she was captured and deported, her bravery stemmed a kingdom-wide movement for Independence. A true Queen.

What, in your opinion, are the most important female causes?

I’m very passionate about tackling the issues regarding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM takes place in 29 countries in Africa and affects over 125 million girls worldwide, with 137,000 girls living with the consequences of FGM in the UK. This brutal and absolutely useless practice of stripping women of their femininity and sexuality is something that needs to be talked about more often and eradicated.

Why were these images your chosen favourites of yourself?

I love these images as they are raw, honest and gritty. It’s me with hardly any makeup on, looking confident as fuck. As much as I love dolling up for my blog, I believe true beauty lies within and is shown in the simplest of actions, such as smiling. I love it!

What smells remind you of femininity?

I’ve always associated the fragrance of dusting/baby powder with femininity. I would always find vials of it around my Mother and Aunt’s dressing tables as a child and it is just a delicate, soft smell.

How does beauty industry advertising make you feel about yourself?

We live in a society that caters to, and glorifies a Westernized beauty standard, or ideal. As a plus sized black woman, it makes me feel unimportant, as if my beauty counts for nothing because of the colour of my skin.

Luckily for me, I’ve developed a sense of identity and pride in my ethnicity and skin tone and I love my colour and my size. I just wish that this was something that could be extended to the masses, especially the media and that people of all genders, races, abilities and sizes could be made to feel beautiful too.

Do you feel pressure to look/act a certain way to fit in with the ideals of female beauty?

I used to, but not anymore because what is ‘ideal’ really? What the media want us to believe? Beauty is whatever you make it; that’s the wonderful thing about beauty. It can be whatever you want it to be, because celebrating diversity and what makes us unique, is wonderful.

Keep up to date with Stephanie by following her on her blog www.nerdabouttown.com or her instagram, @nerdabouttown


FEMALE EMPOWEREMENT, BONDING & CELEBRATION

FEMALE EMPOWEREMENT, BONDING & CELEBRATION

Photographer Linda McIntosh shoots a raw story for REEK Perfume, in an effort to celebrate bonding and female empowerment.

Tell us a bit about this particular photography project.

When planning this shoot, it was important to me to focus on Reek’s core values, and values I hold myself, of female empowerment, bonding and celebration. Inspired by the BITCHES UNITE tee featured, I wanted to show a closeness and bond between my subjects and saw shooting real life friends as the best way to achieve this. hence leading me to shoot Amy and Maddie. I decided to use a fun play on perfume as the driving theme behind the shoot, using it as a tool to heighten ideas of uniting and connection through shared and almost intimate interactions with the water. Doesn’t get much closer than sharing fluids amarite?!!! This way I also hoped to take a step back from the conventional beauty shoot standards, and instead show a real rawness by celebrating the beauty in what could be labelled the “gross” and “disgusting” which is the stuff I live for. I swear, my phone memory is 80% occupied by snaps of my tongue bar and my boyfriend’s bruises.

How does photographing women make you feel about your own femininity?

Photographing women is something that is organic and comes very naturally to me yet I find it to be a very powerful experience. Surrounding yourself with deathly beautiful women with razor sharp jawlines, who look soooo much better in the shoot clothes than you did when you tried them on at midnight the night before just to “check them”, and who you place on little Instagram pedestals as being the coolest people ever, could be daunting and intimidating at times and is a feeling I assumed could be consuming, but I have found the opposite to be true. Meeting all these different women through the job is nothing but empowering. Yes, everyone is just as beautiful and cool as they seemed online, but they are also funny, kind, creative, clumsy, nervous, excited, tired, hungover, polite, insecure, plus whatever else makes a person a person. This might seem devilishly obvious and something I should have worked out before I was 24, that people are people, but from a previously insecure mindset, that still gets insecure at times obvs because I’m a person and people are people if you haven’t been paying attention, the fact that I’m gaining confidence in myself from each shoot has been fab. I think it also goes without saying that shooting women gives you such an appreciation of the female form. No offence boys, but god we’re beautiful.   

What smells remind you of femininity?

With my favourite smells being WD-40, petrol and pubs, this is perhaps a tricky question for me but if we’re being real, I’d say that “femininity” has no set definition and shouldn’t anyway. At the risk of sounding 90 years old I would have to go with the smell of books. There’s something about reading that I find completely refreshes my head, brings me back to reality and helps me “reset” my frame of mind. Actually using my brain instead of tuning it out with Netflix or social media,  makes me feel 100 times more human and comfortable inside my head.

What signifies female strength to you?

Female strength to me can take many many forms and a lot of the time can be circumstantial. What can seem brave in one country or family or relationship or time may not be perceived that way in another and vice versa. I think a big factor of strength comes from confidence in choices by which I mean being unafraid to make choices for you and not forgetting yourself in a plight to please others. Being aware of the importance of your own needs and happiness is something which should be a priority but can slip in situations where you feel intimidated or less important or unworthy of it. Knowing your worth and not letting yourself be treated below that by others or even by yourself is what we should strive for. Strength is something that you don’t always form alone and so female strength to me is also a coming together of all female identifying people where we support and celebrate one another without judgement and prejudice. Insert Mean Girls clip about making the cake made of rainbows and smiles.

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

This may be an unconventional answer to such a question, but I believe my positivity makes me a damn rebel bitch. Horrible as it is, I often find that looking at the positives and being optimistic and hopeful puts you in the minority and I often find myself having to rebel against negative views and ways of thinking.  Maybe it comes from being a photographer, but I think I am always searching for the beauty in every situation and actively trying to keep my head a negative thinking free zone. As soon as you find everything beautiful or intriguing and see situations as opportunities to learn or help, life is so much more fun. You might get less done or be late for everything because you had to stop and take a pic of an insanely good oil spill on the road that was too good to miss or because you can’t walk 10 steps without looking up at the way the sun is hitting off a window, but paying more positive attention to everything around you like magic seems to bring more positivity to you. I seriously need to chill on the tongue bar pics though.


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

WOMEN IN THE ARMED FORCES

WOMEN IN THE ARMED FORCES

REEK INTERVIEW: ELLIE

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

Model, Feminist and former military officer, Ellie, on perfume, bravery, beauty and gender equality.

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

Communities of any kind where there are human beings, in all their glorious rainbow of differences, who have no voice, no vote, and no ability to decide their own future. Equality, in the right to vote, in employment; in terms of opportunity, job safety, security, and remuneration is of the greatest importance. My strong feeling is that people can and should only be seen as human beings and that race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and colour are all false qualifiers and no sane measure of humankind. I am passionate that every person must have the right to choose the person they are, not for it to be chosen for them.

Girls in areas like Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa missing a week of school a month because they have no access to basic sanitation/underwear/sanitary towels, and so can’t go to school during menstruation. Without education the cycle of poverty cannot end.

Curiously also the right for mothers to be just mothers, where they wish to. I chose, very early on, not to have children, but I see raising children as the most important job, it has such a huge effect on what shape the next generation takes. In this sense mothers make the world. It seems to have become the norm for mothers to be expected to be back at their desks 6 months after childbirth or they somehow haven’t been tough enough. So many of my friends feel they must be mothers, have careers and run the home, and I am yet to meet one who is finding that experience satisfying or fulfilling. I know a lot of burnt out career mothers who are struggling to prove they are happy or ‘tough enough’, and putting a brave face on it, but in reality aren’t doing more than just about coping.

I feel we must get better at integrating motherhood and childcare with high-ranking professional positions. Many of my friends have left promising careers in the military because it proved impossible to balance the demands of raising children with professional careers.

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

It is my experience that male success comes with congratulations and female success comes with criticism. A man getting a promotion is a ‘Good chap’, his female counterpart clearly slept her way there, bent equal opportunities and diversity policy to her benefit or had an easier time of it because she fluttered her eyelashes. Rarely does it seem that we commend women for their success, because they have just been good at their job. When a woman succeeds, there always seems to be a question mark held over that success, with an implication that it was somehow easier for her. My experience of working in a very male dominated world as a military engineer, is that the knives come out for a successful female’s reputation in a way that I haven’t seen with men, even when particular men are well-known for using unacceptable means such as bullying or cheating to achieve their success. I have been a called a ball-busting bitch, too soft on my troops, frigid and a whore all in the same sentence, upon outperforming a male counterpart.

I can recall several times in the military where I excelled in a major project or particularly difficult task, I rarely recall being commended for intelligence, hard work and planning, but I can remember many inferences that I somehow got an easy ride because I was a woman, or used feminine wiles to achieve a goal. On the occasions at which I excelled, being good at my job, was almost never considered the reason for my success.

I want to clarify that there are some amazing leaders of all genders in the military and I had the pleasure of working for an incredible feminist in my first job, and I know he would be proud to hear me refer to him that way, but it was my broad experience that sexism was prevalent.

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?

Undoubtedly Her Majesty the Queen, whose unfaltering service to her country has given me greater inspiration than any other, to continue where I would otherwise have given up. She has never faltered under the enormity of her task, has maintained a strong moral compass, has not been swayed by fashions in clothes or politics and still maintains great charisma, intelligence, elegance and a sense of self. She is incredibly wise and I feel one of history’s greatest leaders.

Women like Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher, strong women who ignored criticism and forged ahead. I didn’t always agree with their policies or methods, but I wholly admire their strength. My old office cleaner, now into her 80’s, was in the Met police for 30 years, I can’t imagine what she must have been through, just to be allowed to do her job. She’s my hero. Another friend who was the lead hostage negotiator at Scotland Yard. Amazing tough, bright and brilliant women, who maintain their sense of self, moral compass and personal style.

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

My grandmother’s perfume. If I happen upon the smell of it today I find myself instinctively sitting more elegantly! She was a beautifully put-together woman and had a fantastic eye for style.

My favourite smells are amber and tobacco, warm notes. I also love fresh smells like lime, neroli and orange. I have different scents depending on what the day calls for. Damn Rebel Bitches is my ‘going to war’ scent and I feel more confident when I walk into the boardroom wearing it, it reminds me that I don’t need to lose my femininity, to do battle.

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?  

I used to! I really don’t know when I decided to throw off the mantle of that expectation, but somewhere along the line I decided I preferred elegance to fashion. I love diversity, I love to show character through a scarf or a hat. I love to dress well paying attention to individual details, and I despise looking like a High Street window.

I don’t seek compliments, I dress to feel fabulous for myself, but I note that I receive most compliments, including those from strangers, when I dress for myself, rather than for convention or fashion. Coco Chanel is quoted as saying ‘Don’t be like the rest of them darling,’ and I think she had that right.

I love hats and scarves and gloves. With these items you can make any outfit special.

You should also know that I spend a lot of time in sports kit with my hair scraped back in a scrunchie, because adventures and experiences mean more to me than how I look. I am at my happiest in my overalls, fixing things or out on the river in my kayak.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch?

I applied.

At Public Speaking engagements I meet so many women who tell me that they wanted to do things I have done. I ask them why they didn’t. Mostly they say because of convention and that other people’s expectations prevented them from trying. Try. My mantra when applying for sponsorship to be an Engineering Officer was to push forward and keep pushing forward until something or someone actually stopped me, not theoretically made it difficult or put a hurdle in my way, there were plenty of those, but I mean actually stopped me. No one ever did.

I was awarded a Commander-in-Chief’s Commendation for Bravery in the London Bombings (a story for another time), a number of my peers were caustic and jealous of the award. I happened to be in London during the bombings because volunteers had been requested to act as Media Handlers at a major commemoration event. A lot of my peers talked about applying, but I was the only one who did. Apply. Don’t wait for permission.

I notice often that women wait to be given permission in all sorts of areas that men don’t. It’s a learned behaviour. Learn to decide, to assess for yourself whether you need permission, and not to assume you must wait for it or have it, or that it will be denied. No one decides your future but you.

Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

I am the Damn Rebel Bitch who just came back from working with Syrian Refugees in Northern Greece where I was volunteering for a charity as an engineer, carrying out works in the Camps, AND will be drinking cocktails in a 1950s dress at the Rivoli Bar at The Ritz tomorrow. I don’t wish to sound arrogant, but I want to introduce the concept of a part of feminism that I feel is lacking. AND not OR.

I spent so much of my time in the Forces believing I somehow had to apologise for my womanhood in my chosen profession. I wore my uniform too big to hide my female form and tried to be one of the boys. I got so good at it that my own troops didn’t recognize me, when dressed as a civilian at my leaving party, assuming I must be someone’s wife when I walked in. I look back on that with great regret. It’s important to be relevant, putting on lipstick while digging a trench isn’t sensible, but I played the concept of being one of the boys too hard. In my day, being a feminist was twisted to mean you were a problem-maker, whistleblower, not someone anyone would want on the team. I let countless, incredibly damaging, sexist remarks slip in the name of ‘acceptance’.

It took me a long time to reclaim the word feminist. I have zero of the current proliferation of prejudices and find the moral courage to stand up to intolerance, whenever and wherever I meet them. I thought that would cost me friends, I thought I’d become the dinner party bore no-one wanted to sit next to, but felt it was the path I must follow. I was wrong. It made me more friends than I could ever have imagined. When one person speaks out, it can be a great source of strength to others.

So I am the kind of Damn Rebel Bitch who tore down the walls of her pigeon hole. I don’t pretend it was simple and it took more than one attempt but I love having bright red nails and having qualified as an Explosives Engineer. By that I mean I have been and done many of the things that women from my background aren’t supposed to, and learned along the way that capable does not have to be at the sacrifice of feminine (and I am by no means suggesting that a woman must be feminine – a woman must be whatever she chooses is right for her, but that was the battle I had to fight.)

My all time favourite picture is the one here of my wrist, wearing jewellry I inherited from my immigrant grandparents, with a decent manicure and my work watch, which I still use, and bought when serving in the military. Of any photograph that has ever been taken, it best captures the essence of Me.

What signifies female strength to you?

Doing it anyway. Even when people tell you you will fail/ shouldn’t try/don’t have a right. Do it anyway. Forge ahead, be the woman your soul tells you to be.


An image of Damn Rebel Bitch Julian Kynaston, founder of Illamasqua, to accompany an interview for REEK Perfume's platform 'Bitches Unite.'

JULIAN KYNASTON

REEK INTERVIEW: JULIAN KYNASTON

Julian Kynaston is a legend in the beauty business. As Marketing Director he led hair beauty brand, ghd, to become the UK’s fastest growing private company in 2005. Following its management buy-out in 2006, Julian left ghd to establish Illamasqua, a global cosmetics brand, which is already breaking industry sales records. He sat down with us to talk perfume, beauty and gender politics.

An image of Damn Rebel Bitch Julian Kynaston, founder of Illamasqua, to accompany an interview for REEK Perfume's platform 'Bitches Unite.'
An image from the Illamasqua campaign to accompany an interview for REEK Perfume's platform 'Bitches Unite.'
An image from the Illamasqua campaign to accompany an interview for REEK Perfume's platform 'Bitches Unite.'

Which women have inspired you most in your life?

It’s got to be Kate Bush. I love her voice, her attitude, her spirit, and her sheer stage presence. She’s one of the most influential singers of all time, and to cap it off she was so incredibly young when she started out.

Do you think female success differs from male success and, if so, how?

I do, yes. The word equality gets thrown around so much these days, but realistically, for a woman to be considered anywhere close to being equal with a man, she’s going to have had to work ten times harder than him to get close – and she probably still won’t get recognised for it.

What smells do you consider feminine?

I particularly like Habanita de Molinard, the fragrance created by Richard Burton for Liz Taylor, and the original Fendi perfume from 1985.

How do you feel about beauty industry advertising? What would you like to see change?

Quite honestly, I think it’s stereotypical, condescending and damaging to society. It feels like we’re seeing an accountant’s tunnel-vision of what he thinks advertising should be – it’s unachievable and unfulfilling. But I’m trying to change this with Illamasqua. We were one of the first brands to use men in makeup adverts and celebrate models with skin imperfections, all to try and break down these barriers and social norms we’ve become accustomed to.

What are the challenges of being a male feminist?

The biggest challenge I’ve had to deal with is society’s preconceptions. I’m really proud to be a feminist and to break the traditional stereotype. I’ve got tonnes of really ‘laddie’ mates who I go to the football with and as a group, they’ll say loads of stupid things – but when we’re alone, or I’m with one or two of them, they take pride in telling me how much they love what I do.

You were involved from the beginning with Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Tell us about your work there.

I can remember the exact moment – I was drafting my mission statement for Illamasqua. I’d written the words “I want women to wear their makeup bolder and prouder, and I want to help men rediscover makeup,” and Sophie’s story broke on the news. As you know, Sophie was killed by a group of feral youths simply for looking different (part of this difference being the edgy way that she wore her makeup). And this was the very thing I was fighting for – self-expression and acceptance. In that split second, I knew I was prepared to do everything I could to stop this from happening again.

Is there too much pressure in the beauty industry to conform to a single ideal of female beauty?

There are so many different kinds of beauty. I think it’s disgusting that the industry has tried to shoehorn one particular kind of beauty into the mass market. But, that said, I think it’s finally starting to change quite rapidly. We have this saying at Illamasqua, “no amount of makeup can make a person beautiful on the inside.”

What does beauty look like?

Like I’ve already said, beauty looks like many different things to many different people. At Illamasqua, we use an analogy of a snail; some people will look at one and think, “Urgh, that’s disgusting.” Other people, like myself, will see the beauty of it, and think, ‘Wow. That’s totally and utterly incredible,’ and we’ll admire everything about it, from its shell to the way its trail glistens.


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.