How To Vote Towards Gender Equality on June 8th

Author: Holly Campbell

The state of politics in the world today can seem, at best, murky. It can be difficult to know who to trust or which party really upholds women’s interests. With the government calling on us to vote again on 8th June, we need to make some sense of the chaos and quick.

So, where do we start? Last month, Theresa May announced a shock snap election (despite promising to not hold one until 2020), in which she was debatably driven by her parties’ lead over Labour. An election win would enable the Tories to more easily pass their favoured Brexit related legislation. The announcement provoked calls for ‘progressive voting’, with the Green party tactically pulling out of crucial election seats to help Labour topple the Tories. This is in the context of the UK’s unrepresentative first-past-the-post electoral system, where the number of votes cast for a party does not determine the number of seats they will win in parliament. No wonder many of us are suffering from ‘world-whelm’! It’s enough to disaffect us from politics altogether, which is what we saw with the sense of ‘Bregret’ from voters who cast a protest ‘leave’ vote in the EU referendum but regretted it once the economic reality had set in.  If there is one thing we have learnt from the UK’s political turmoil, it’s how powerful your vote actually is. As 2018 marks 100 years since women were granted the right to vote and with women’s rights at the forefront of activism today, we must recognise that every vote makes a difference. It is important now more than ever to make the right decision towards gender equality on June 8th.

Amongst this political pandemonium, here are 3 ways that you can vote towards gender equality in the upcoming election:

  1. Vote for a party who show that they are actively challenging issues that affect women. This is how the main parties have voted on women-related policies:
Conservatives LibDems Labour Green
Abortion
Independent support for women seeking abortion – counselling services, guidance etc. (07/09/2011) Against Against Against Against
Decriminalising Abortion for up to 24 weeks gestation (13/03/2017) Against For For For
Sex selective abortion made illegal (23/02/2017)  For For For For
Domestic Violence
Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification) Bill (24/02/2017) For For For Not present (Copeland by-election results on same day)
Finance/Tampon Tax
Increasing min. wage to £8 (15/10/2014)  

(Women are more likely to work part-time than men and therefore be paid less than the min. wage than jobs held by men)

Against Against For Did not vote
Cost of Living (26/10/2014) incl. more free childcare for working parents, higher min. wage Against Against For For
Finance Bill (included abolishing the Tampon Tax) (26/10/2015) Against Against For For
Equal pay transparency (14/12/2016)  For For For For
Tax and Benefits – Gender Equality Strategy to Improve Position of Women (14/12/2016) Against For For For
Poverty
Reducing Dependency on Food Banks (17/12/2014) (1 in 5 parents struggling to feed children) Against Against For For
Ending Rough Sleeping (14/12/2016)  Against For For Did not vote
Pension
Equal pension age for men and women – delaying some women reaching state pension age from 60 to 65 (18/10/2011)  Against Against For For
Transitional arrangements for women adversely affected by state pension age increase (24/02/2016)  Against For For For
Slow increase in state pension age for women (30/11/2016) Against For For For
Political Action
Authorising Demonstrations in designated areas (07/02/2005) Inc. demonstrations for women’s issues i.e. Women’s March 2017 Against Against For No seat
Reduction of Voting Age (20/07/2016)  Against For For For
Gender/Sexuality
Equality Act – defining discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation (19/03/2007) Against For For Not present
Same Sex Couples to Marry (21/05/2013) Against For For For
Education
Abolishing tuition fees (14/09/2004)  Against Against For No seat
Scrap higher education student grants for loans (19/01/2016)  For Against Against Against
Environment
Control of Ozone-depleting Substances (11/03/2009)  Against For For No seat
Environmental protection following EU removal (12/07/2016)  Against For For For

2. Vote for a female MP, regardless of party, in support of gaining more female representatives in parliament. This could work towards equalising the disproportionate amount of men currently upholding seats. Here is how the gender imbalance in parliament looks at present:

Source: http://www.womensequality.org.uk/why-we

However, whilst a representative proportion of women in parliament may constitute equality this does not necessarily mean that those women will vote in favour (or at all) of women-specific legislation. For example, Theresa May did not vote for equal pay transparency, whereas Jeremy Corbyn voted in favour of this policy.

3. Vote for your local Women’s Equality (WE) party MP. Founded in 2015, WE do not yet have a seat in parliament, but have achieved fledgling success by gaining over 350,000 votes across 4 areas in their 2016 election campaign. There are 7 WE MPs standing in the 2017 election, a party founded on the principles of equality with objectives on ending violence against women and equalizing opportunities, representation and education. Find out more about WE here.

Ultimately, how you vote is your choice and there are multiple ways that you can use the upcoming election to vote towards gender equality. Whichever route you think most effective, between tactically toppling the Tories or backing your local female or WE MP, don’t let the bewildering landscape of British politics deter you from having your say, use your vote on June 8th.

Why We Need to End Period Shaming

 

Author: Holly Campbell

Women and trans-men are exposed to a culture of period shaming. You have likely experienced somebody’s overt disgust at the sight of menstrual blood or had your views devalued because you are ‘on your period’, an insult used to disregard a person of any gender as irrational. This culture of shame is sexist and used as a tool to subordinate women. We need to talk periods to empower women, support positive experiences for trans-men and encourage safe and environmentally sustainable sanitary products.

There is a social anxiety around women’s menstrual cycles which is exhaustingly intrusive. Period shaming means that whilst we are dealing with pain, cramps and expensive sanitary products, we also have to manage our periods with utmost secrecy too. This consensus of shame and embarrassment means public conversations around menstruation are avoided and challenging concepts to include trans-men is not even a consideration. Our menstrual cycle is an inherently natural and biological function, but we live in a culture that associates periods with weakness and irrationality, traits historically associated with women for the convenience of patriarchy. This oppression devalues women and marginalises trans-men.

Period shaming limits open conversations around menstruation and positive action to combat related social, health and environmental impacts. Period, vagina and tampon are not shameful, dirty words. However a patriarchal society has created a culture that squirms at them. We need to challenge this for honest discussions around the environmental and health impacts of sanitary products. We use on average 11,000 tampons in our lifetime, all dumped in landfill taking centuries to degrade. Furthermore, manufacturers are not legally obliged to disclose ingredients, meaning many consumers are unaware that their sanitary products contain harmful toxins. In third world countries periods are utterly unmentionable and women resort to using unhygienic rags. Homeless women are crippling in period pain on freezing cold streets and cannot afford the luxury of sanitary towels – despite the British government providing free condoms to all citizens, whilst homeless women do not have access to free sanitary products. Finally, shaming must end to encourage inclusivity for trans-men. Through removing gender from menstruation and discussing it as a biological function, we contribute to inclusivity for trans-men. However, whilst this conversation is being had, it should not be limited to feminist publications.

We can take action to unload this stigma by talking openly with our peers about our experiences – asking a friend for a tampon should be as easy as asking for a tissue! We should not have to bear the burden of cramps, expensive sanitary products and cultural shame in addition to confronting those who exhibit that shame. However, in the name of those deeply affected by the stigma, we can make it our responsibility to enact defiance, from asking your friend for a tampon in public, to replying to problematic social media comments, to starting a campaign.  Rupi Kaur uses art, the free bleed movement is uses protest and recently, Madison Beer used her celebrity platform to challenge period-shamers (below).

When we talk openly and confidently about our menstrual cycles, we reclaim power and ownership of our bodies. We own vaginas, use tampons and we have periods. Let’s call it what it is and normalise what society cannot seem to accept.

 

How Feminist is you Feminist Wardrobe?

Author: Holly Campbell

It is no secret that Feminism, as a concept and a buzzword, has shot to the forefront of popular culture in the last couple of years. But as ‘Feminism’ seems to be growing in popularity, just how Feminist is it? And how Feminist is Feminist fashion?

Female empowerment has gained prevalence as a subject and rhetoric of advertising since Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign’ in 2004. Since then, ‘Feminism’ seems to be the ‘it-word’ of recent years. In 2014, we saw Beyonce’s ‘FEMINIST’ back drop at the VMA’s, followed by Emma Watson’s HeforShe campaign, Chanel’s Feminist protest catwalk and Amanda Sternberg raising light on the double standards faced by black women.

More recently, we have seen a serge in ‘FEMINIST’ emblazoned across sweaters and t-shirts by designers and brands. In September alone, H&M restocked their sell-out Feminist tee with a similar sweater and dress. This was accompanied by an advert featuring ‘real women’; challenging conventions of femininity with plus size women, female leaders,  women with armpit hair, shaved heads and muscles and women of colour. Last fashion week, Dior sent a skinny, young, white model down the SS17 runway wearing a tee with Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s quote ‘We should all be feminists’ printed across it.

As an instantaneous response, this is amazing! The feminist cause is finally receiving the attention it needs to achieve its goals. It is helpful for Feminism to receive attention within popular culture and fashion. Conversations about equality are opened amongst people who may have never otherwise encountered the movement. This attention may recruit new Feminists to take action for equality, it may encourage young women to read a feminist article or book, it may be creating a more accepting culture for Feminism to be discussed. Of course, this can contribute towards Feminism’s goals.

On the other hand however, how Feminist is this ‘Feminist’ fashion? Since 2004, Dove have been using a rhetoric of female empowerment to market their products, with a heavily criticised campaign. Now, Chanel, Dior and H&M are explicitly capitalising on Feminism to sell their clothing. They are earning a profit from their ‘Feminist’ emblazoned clothing as Feminism has become a trend. In one season, out the next. Trend-spotters must foresee upcoming movements and incorporate them on to the runway or high-street ready for us to eagerly consume. As consumers and fashionista’s, we no longer relate to the young, skinny, ideal and H&M are aware of this, marketing an advert based on exactly that. Feminism is a trendy buzzword word and brands have reflected that trend.

It is not good enough to praise these brands for finally reflecting what we want and need i.e. genuine representations of women and a recognition of the issues we face in isolation. Brands are foreseeing a shift in what women want and they are acting on that to maintain a profit. Feminism is not a cause for businesses to capitalise on. Truly feminist fashion contributes to the cause, uses ethically sourced materials, with no sweatshops that exploit women. Truly feminist fashion is built on charity or social enterprise models, sustaining financial or physical contributions to feminist causes that give women opportunities and genuinely support women from all backgrounds. Do not settle for capitalist brands that are exploiting Feminism for profit. Consume fashion consciously and explore some authentically Feminist brands below.

www.feministapparel.com

www.phannatiq.com

www.etsy.com/uk/shop/RadicalButtons1

www.grlclb.com

 

 

 

 

Ethical Fashion at LFW 

London Ethnic is a marketing company who offer a platform to aspiring designers, offering them support in the entire design and marketing process. The concept was founded by Saumen Kar who has a degree in business but was struck by issues of ethics and sustainability within fashion when reading a friends essay. ProjectFEM attended their LFW show for upcoming designers in Chelsea last week. 

Throughout the evening catwalks took place showcasing designers’ collections. Kicking off the evening, Urban Roots’ cultural and religious inspired SS17 pieces were flaunted down the runway. Designer Ruth Woldesalasie uses left-over textiles and upcycles vintage to create bespoke and unique pieces. The collection was traditionally feminine with soft, sheer, floaty materials and lace and pearl adornments. With the brands vision based in mixing cultural, eco and urban styles it was affirming to see a genuinely ethnically diverse cast of models. However each piece was draped over the delicate skeletal frames of these women, with their bones showing through their skin which was uncomfortable to watch. One older model had been cast compared to the other young women; her long silver hair was fitting with the mysterious and airy feel of the collection. The sheer materials showed the younger models’ naked bodies underneath, however it was difficult to decide whether this was an empowering ‘free-the-nipple’ moment of embracing the socially censored female body, or a rehashed convention of the stereotypical feminine ideal. If you are young, able-bodied and thin then it is acceptable for your body (as an idealistic commodity) to be shown.

Urban Roots SS17 Model on London Ethnic’s LFW Catwak

When asked about how women influence her brand, Ruth stated “I am a totally free person… and I am not dependent on anyone because I am a woman who runs my own business”. Ruth recognised that many women are forced to be dependent on men and she hopes that “[she] will be a good example to women”. The fashion industry has been acknowledged within feminism for being the first industry where women could advance to higher level jobs alongside men; Ruth is acknowledging that in an economic sense, she is empowered through the independence of owning her own business which is inspiring to other women, however her brand is still perpetuating the skinny ideal within the fashion industry.


Urban Roots’ SS17 Models Backstage at London Ethnic’s Ethical LFW Show

Second walk of the night, was Saba’s SS17 Gothic Romantic collection. Again, the collection was rooted in ethical and sustainable manufacturing and consisted of staple day and cocktail dresses with lace detailing and fitted empire lines. Saba aims for stylish and comfortable fashion for women aged 20-40. During this walk, models looked healthier than the previously ultra-skinny models and it was actually more comfortable to watch and explore the clothes, without wincing at the sight of bones poking through skin. Initially we were hopeful to see some body-size diversity on the runway. However, speaking to founder Saumen after the show, he explained that this was a commercial brand so the sample size could be up to a size 10. This is fundamental in the issue with the fashion industry reproducing the skinny ideal; high-fashion sample sizes are set at size 6, whereas commercial sample sizes are 8-10. This is because commercial collections sell to the general public who are more likely to buy something that they can see themselves wearing, and with the average UK woman being a size 12 she is most likely to buy clothing that is represented on models closer to her size.

Saba’s SS17 Models Backstage at London Ethnic’s Ethical LFW Show

London Ethnic’s ethical LFW show delivered in terms of promoting ethical and sustainable fashion and casting ethnically diverse models, however the long overdue need for size and ability diversity still remains. It seems that female representation and challenging detrimental norms is an afterthought for designers, only when they are questioned about it do they need to muster an answer. The body-size of models cast is dictated by which marketing ideal must be projected by a high-end or commercial brand and the patriarchal capitalist fashion system is still standing strong. Designers have the power to assert the sizes of their models, show organisers have the power to cast models over a certain size and we have the power to demand change. It is great to finally see ethical fashion well cemented within the missions of brands and designers, but when will body diversity be top of the agenda… or on the agenda at all?

 

Author: Holly C x

ProjectFEM’s Feminist Fashion Catwalk and Exhibition: A Reflection

We must start this article with a monumental thank you to everybody involved in the show on Friday. Our volunteers and models made the experience an incredible success with their hard work and passion for the cause. It would not have been possible without the unity and high energy of you all on the day.

The event truly felt like an overwhelming success; after months of planning and exasperating hard work Annie, Georgie and I managed to pull together our first event working late into the night and weekends around our full time jobs. We emailed until our fingers were numb, persistently fought for funding and flyered until we ran out of places to go; it all paid off on the day and we seamlessly improvised through unexpected challenges.

image1.JPG
The Team: Annie (Media), Holly (Director), Georgie (Stylist), Danielle (Event Manager at Cargo)

We welcomed guests including the Women’s Equality Party’s Sophie Walker and Catherine Meyer, plus size model Jada Sezer, activist model Rain Dove and America’s Next Top Model’s first homosexual contestant Cory Wade. All of whom were incredibly passionate about the cause and recognised the necessity of opening a conversation about the detrimental impacts of fashion around gender, beauty, diversity and representation. Sophie Walker gave a captivating speech about WEP’s #NoSizeFitsAll body image campaign, in which a fundamental component is to pressure London mayer Sadiq Khan into withdrawing funding from London Fashion Week for shows that do not cast at least one model of size 12 or above. Our audience were reassuringly engaged and opened up further important conversations around body image and fashion. Take action here.

sophie-walker

Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, speaking on 09.09.16

Then the show began! Our models were beaming with confidence and excitement and it showed; for some it was their first time on the runway and for others it was second nature. Our Wonder Woman stylist Georgie styled and dressed the models on the day with help from our dedicated volunteers, all in perfect timing with each walk as we watched in awe. Designers included Gudrun & Gudrun, a sustainable knitwear brand and Neon Moon a feminist lingerie brand. Each look made a statement through visual culture in terms of gender and beauty.

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VIPs at the ProjectFEM event, 09.09.16

We must talk diversity and representation – our fundamental aim and integral to our values and mission. We were successful in achieving racial diversity amongst our cast of models and we had a range of genders and ages. However, we must recognise that we did not capture a cast as representative as we had hoped. We had recruited plus-sized models and models with physical disabilities; however they pulled out last minute which was out of our control. This meant that we did not manage to represent physical disability in the show, whilst invisible disabilities were present amongst our cast.

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Catwalk Finale, 09.09.16

Upon reflection, as much as we advertised through social media, flyered and put out casting calls with diverse modelling agencies, we struggled to capture the amount of transgender, age diverse models and models with disabilities as we wanted. This is because in comparison to the wider modelling population, there are seldom models with these qualities; this seems obvious reflecting back, but we felt that we would easily find these models with diverse agencies. We already knew diversity and representation of these demographics were under or unrepresented, and if there is no consistent mainstream space for these people then how can there exist an aspiring population of models ready to jump at our advert? We advertised with a diverse modelling agency but that brought us only young, slim and ethnically diverse models. Diversity is more than that.

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Models from the ProjectFEM Catwalk, 09.09.16

This challenge exemplifies the necessity for us to continue our work in advocating true human representation within fashion; to achieve that we need to provide opportunities, hope and change for human beings who are completely unrepresented by the fashion industry. We need to give them the space to become models in the first place, to pressure fashion week organisers, designers and advertising agencies to allow equal space for these models. We cannot simply widen the goal posts of idealised beauty by having racial and size diversity, we need to reinvent those ideals from a deeper primary level with the radical value that we are all beautiful, all races, abilities, genders, sizes and ages included.

We cannot widen the goal posts of what or who is considered beautiful, we need to revolutionise what we are told beauty is. If people outside the stereotypical ideal of beauty are not represented then they are unlikely to aspire to become models. We must provide that empowerment and a platform for them to do so. We have learnt a tremendous amount just from hosting our first event and our values, drive and integrity has never been stronger!

susannah-posttiffanie-email

 

 

 

 

 Feedback from models following the event

Author: Holly C x  

Feminist Fashion Catwalk & Exhibition, Friday 9th Sept, Shoreditch London

We are hosting our first event under ProjectFEM.

Experience a truly empowering and inclusive fashion culture with diverse and representative models and ethically and socially responsible designers.

We are working with the Women’s Equality Party’s #NoSizeFitsAll body image campaign to combat the ideals perpetuated by the current fashion industry.

Let’s join forces and create the change we NEED to see in the world! 

Tickets: http://bit.ly/2bJPjvB

Your Clothing Affects the World: Why We Need a Cultural Shift Towards Ethical Fashion

Reduce, reuse, recycle: the mantra of the preachy “environmentalists” in their earthy get-up and ever-so-slightly self-righteous gaze. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate their efforts and their commitment to Mother Earth, however misguided their attempt to save her. I am a strong believer in forming my opinions based on well-researched evidence, and a minimal amount of research into the true causes of our world’s issues led me to a well, so deep and hidden, that everyone is falling right into it. In truth, the number two pollutant of the flowing rivers and evergreen forests (right behind oil) is the fashion industry.

The thing about the current fashion industry (depending on your customer base; we’ll assume the average person residing in a developed country) is that the trends are constantly changing and the popular stores have to meet those trends to stay popular. Translation: produce tons of clothing for an incredibly cheap price so that if the trend suddenly disappears, you don’t face a huge deficit. That sounds like a great idea for profit, so the only problem is finding a way to make clothing so that it’s actually cheap.

sweat-shop-bangladesh-007

Photo: The Guardian

While most people don’t condone the idea of a sweatshop, many don’t understand that almost all of the clothing an average American buys was made by a person, usually a woman, in an uncomfortably hot room filled with other people. This person has no workers’ benefits and no say in how much they’re paid, which is very little (let’s not even get into the pollution and filth it pours into the environment: do your own research). If they protest against anything, from wages to working conditions, they are fired with the promise that there is someone who wants their job more (a chilling thought reminiscent of early 1900s America). We can blame the industry and the big businesses like Forever 21 and American Apparel (some of the worst) for cutting corners and being generally shady as fuck, but ultimately they are just trying to achieve what every business is trying to achieve: profit. It comes down to our responsibility as a consumer to purchase things that are responsible and ethical, and that requires an entire culture shift.

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Photo: Made in America Movement

There are an incredible amount of businesses that make ethical clothing, but the only problem is that their prices are significantly more costly than what we’re used to. This is because all of their clothing is handmade and ethical, from the fabric to the dye to the price of labor. Our culture is one of consumption, and celebrities are often mocked for wearing the same thing twice. I suggest something entirely opposite. Even if you continue to shop at Forever 21 and Walmart for now, truly consider your purchases. Would you wear that shirt 30 or 40 times? And how much would you be willing to pay for a shirt that you wear 30 or 40 times? I’m okay with buying a quality, $40 dollar shirt if it was ethically made and sustainable because I’m going to wear that shirt for at least the next two years. I can guarantee (from personal experience) that this is a life-changing concept. I love all of my clothing. I wear it all. Everything I choose to adorn myself in is a representation of me and I feel like I am truly who I am in all of it.

Turning to ethical fashion does not limit your options, even though it will feel like it at first. Do your research (there are several documentaries on Netflix) and think about exactly what you want to put on your body because every choice you make has an impact on the world.

 

Author: Bella Sloane – BellaSloane@live.com