The realisation that sexism was a thing came to me pretty late in life. I’m one of three sisters, so there was no brother in my family enjoy more privileges or freedom. My Dad was a nurse, so there were no real gender roles, either. I even went to an all girls’ high school until I was 16. I know that this makes me lucky. I grew up thinking I could do whatever I wanted if I worked for it, and I want the same for every little girl.
Sometimes I despair because it feels like the world is going backwards, but there is reason to hope. I love the twitter account @read_women that shares books written by female writers, often on a topical theme. Whatever is happening in the world, women have written about it and this account exists just to share that work and raise awareness. There’s no profit in it, just a community of people who love reading and raise up female writers who may have been consigned to history or the dreaded “female fiction” label.
Another example is the Guilty Feminist podcast, which makes me laugh a lot. It is characterised by a warm inclusiveness that allows women to be imperfect and I think that’s important. I think comedy can also be very valuable as a means of understanding the world. The podcast does an excellent job of tackling serious feminist issues alongside more light-hearted matters, which means no one takes themselves too seriously.
A third example is Salomé magazine. The editors accepted one of my poems for publication recently and I’m very proud to be a small part of their magazine. I’m also astounded by how lovely the team are, and how principled. They believe in paying writers, so they do. They believe everyone should receive feedback to help them with future submissions, so they do that too. It does make me wonder how so many more established magazines can’t achieve something that these determined women have done in a very short space of time. They are also organising a Summer Party and despite the fact that I’m slightly nervous, I’ll be reading my poem at the event. I’ve had such a warm welcome on twitter that I feel reassured that it will be a fun and supportive environment, one that has been created specifically to help emerging female writers.
What all of these examples have in common is that they’re co-operative, generous in spirit and supportive of others. This seems to me like a new model, distinct from the idea of clawing up a ladder alone to get to the top, and it also seems distinctly female. Feminism has a long road to travel; I know I have a lot to learn personally. We need more intersectional feminism that welcomes even more diverse voices in the conversation, for example, and art has a vital role to play in sharing those voices. You could imagine Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin singing at this point but I actually think the way things are going, it’s not just that sisters are doing it for themselves; they’re doing it for each other and that’s what is so powerful.