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.

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Why We Need to End Period Shaming

 

Author: Holly Campbell

You’ve 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 maintain the subordination of women. We need to talk openly about periods to empower women, support positive experiences for trans-men and encourage safe and environmentally sustainable sanitary products.

The social anxiety around women’s menstrual cycles is exhaustingly intrusive. Period shaming means that whilst women 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 nowhere near considered. The menstrual cycle is an inherently natural and biological function, yet 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 the potential for 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 the sound of 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. This cultural ignorance further marginalises trans-men. Through removing gender from menstruation and discussing it as a biological function, we contribute to their inclusivity. However, whilst this conversation is being had, it is not broached in mainstream conversations.

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 perpetuate that shame. However, in the name of those deeply affected by the stigma, we can make it our responsibility to enact defiance, from proudly asking your friend for a sanitary towel in public 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.

 

Review: Ethical Fashion Showcase at London Fashion Week 

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 reviews London Ethnic’s LFW show for upcoming designers…

A stream of catwalks flaunt throughout the Chelsea-based venue, kicked off by Urban Roots’ cultural and religious inspired SS17 collection. 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. The brand vision mixes cultural, eco and urban styles and casts an ethnically diverse range 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 one of the the first industries where women can advance to higher level jobs than 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, yet 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, it’s only a consideration once they are questioned about it . 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 promising to see ethical fashion well cemented within the mission of brands and designers, but when will body diversity be top of the agenda… or on the agenda at all?

 

Author: Holly C x

Reflection: ProjectFEM’s Feminist Fashion Catwalk and Exhibition

High on the buzz of the debut ProjectFEM fashion event, Founder Holly Campbell reflects on the day, thanks all involved and offers food for thought for the next epic event…

The event was truly a success. After months of planning and exasperating hard work Danielle, Annie, Georgie and I managed to pull together our first event working late nights and weekends around our full time jobs. We emailed until our fingers were numb, persistently pitched 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.

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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 gay 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. 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

Diversity and representation are our fundamental aims 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 recognise that we did not capture a cast as representative as we had hoped. We had two recruited plus-sized models and a model with physical disabilities, but at the last  minute they pulled out 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 a diverse modelling agencies, we struggled to capture the amount of transgender, age and ability diverse models as we wanted. We were inundated with applications from models from ranging ethnic background but found it a real task to reach those with broader ranging underrepresented qualities. Starting the project we thought individuals from these groups would eager get involved. Upon reflection, this challenge shows that 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 adverts? 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 exemplifies the need 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 grassroots level with the radical value that we are all beautiful, all races, abilities, genders, sizes and ages included.

We cannot merely broaden the goal posts of what or who is considered idealised beauty, we need to revolutionise what we are told beauty is. If people outside the stereotypical ideal 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 from hosting our first event and our values, drive and integrity has never been stronger!

Feedback from models following the event:

susannah-posttiffanie-email

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

D&G Capitalise on Same-Sex Families After ‘Opposing Gay Adoption’

 

At first glance, these handbags emblazoned with images of same-sex, multi-racial families struck me as a brilliant fashion statement of inclusion and equality.

D&G Bags

It then dawned on me that the image was posted on Instagram this week by Stefano Gabbana, one half of D&G. The brand who, in an interview with Panorama magazine in March 2015, stated “We oppose gay adoptions” and “The only family is the traditional one”. After a backlash and calls to boycott the brand by celebrities such as Elton John and Courtney Love, Stefano later defended his comments in an interview with CNN as his “freedom to speak” and that “this is just [his] point of private view”… Not very private when you’re airing your harmful views in an interview read by hundreds of thousands of people and causing a backlash from lesbian and gay celebrities for the world to view.

The handbags were launched as part of D&G’s Family Project which is based on Stafano’s ideals of the ‘traditional family’ and Sicilian culture. The project’s catwalks and magazine spreads have projected images of young, thin, attractive female models posing as biological mothers to their offspring. The fundamental ideal promoted by the project’s campaigns is that of heterosexuality, whiteness and the biological generations of one Sicilian family.

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D&G’s ideals are quite obvious with a quick scan over the DGFamily Project’s adverts; the traditional family is paramount, with no space for homosexuality, gay adoption or any other deviation from tradition. The handbags, insultingly embellished with images of same-sex couples and adopted children, seem starkly out of place for a campaign unwaveringly founded on the traditional family. More so with the fact that prior to the backlash, D&G had not included any image representing homosexuality.

After the backlash of their views against gay adoption, it seems that they appropriated  the diversity trend. The bags are unfitting to the ideals consistently promoted by the brand. The debate was raised by myself (HollyCC__x) on the Instagram post, see Stefano’s (@StefanoGabbana) response below:

DG Comments

DG Comments2

Stefano did not offer any helpful comments or justifications (to his brand, or to critical onlookers) for releasing the out-of-place handbags as part of his Family campaign. Further, his obvious ignorance of the context and placement of the handbags emphasise just how poorly thought out the move is. The brand have failed to maintain any responsibility for their offensive comments and it appears that they will continue to do so.

The handbags, initially appearing as a revolutionary statement within a currently restrictive fashion culture, put into context are actually a perfect example of trend-spotting dependent on social attitudes. The masses have retaliated and the hegemonic fashion leaders have made a botched move for acceptance.

ProjectFEM‘s aim is to create a revolutionary, inclusive and empowering fashion brand that promotes pieces that make unapologetic social statements. Out of the shameful context of D&G, we would champion these handbags. However, we must not waver from our principles and responsibility to be conscious and critical within the mainstream fashion system.

 

We would love to hear your thoughts, leave us a comment!

Written by Holly C