An Open Letter To The Feminists Who Changed My Life – By Sophie Williams

01 January 2018. 

The day I made myself a pledge. The day I decided that this year was going to be the year I worked on me. Without knowing I was lost, I began to find myself. I listened to podcasts, I read books and I spoke a lot. 

One book I read, and have read again many times over the past few months was Feminists Don’t Wear Pink curated by Scarlett Curtis. There are five people who were part of this book who have changed my life, the way I think, and the way I experience the world around me. It has enabled me to feel  hyper-aware of my surroundings. Like a switch has been flicked in my brain.

Oppression, Inequality, Disadvantage. Intersectional Feminism. My Kind Of Feminism.

Photo by Roya Ann Miller on Unsplash

I wasn’t sure what was my favourite part Feminists Don’t Wear Pink until today. Something happened. A few weeks ago, when I was driving home, I was listening to The Guilty Feminist Podcast – the Feminists Don’t Wear Pink episode [which I loved btw]. Scarlett was reading one of her contributions to the book called ‘Feminist Comebacks’. Having already read the whole book I must say, it wasn’t a contribution that originally stood out to me. 

But then something happened. I was faced with a challenging situation on Twitter. With Scarlett’s comebacks fresh in my brain, I was equipped to formulate a coherent, dignified response. 

 Now, here is my contribution to Scarlett’s book – let’s use our voices to talk about our kind of feminism.

An Open Letter To The Feminists Who Changed My Life

If I had to describe my feminism, it would be beginner feminism. I am a new founded feminist, and I currently feel like I am wading through a dark forest with no directions. I don’t yet know much about feminism, but what I absolutely do know, is that I, Sophie Williams, have a voice. 

I have a big voice and a life full of experiences that have made me want to use my voice more than ever. I want to be defined by what I have done and not what I didn’t do. I want to find a way to make an impact on the world without stepping outside my front door. Being introverted, I have struggled to know the best way to do it. 

But one thing I do know, I am a feminist. 

18 July 2018. The day my feminist journey began. Here is my letter to the five incredible women who, unknowingly, but collectively, helped me along the very first steps on the path to finding feminism.

1. Deborah Frances-White

Deborah France-White, you played an inaugural role in igniting my interest and appreciation of feminism. The Guilty-Feminist – Episode 77 – Period Poverty with guest speakers Amika George and Grace Campbell. It was the very first time I had ever thought definitively about feminism. A group of horses had escaped onto the road I was driving and sat in standstill traffic, I popped on a podcast to pass the time. 

I will be honest Deborah, I did not expect to love the podcast quite as much as I did that day. Growing up, my interpretation of feminism was somewhat tarred by the media and societal expectations. But it turns out that my expectations of angry women who hated everyone could not be further from the reality of it. 

Deborah, thank you for starting this podcast and introducing me to many more feminists than I have space to include in this blog post. I could listen to you and all of your guests ALL DAY LONG. [Also, has anyone ever told you that yourself and Jo Elvin sound exactly the same].

But just like that everything clicked into the place, like the last piece of the puzzle. A piece of puzzle that had been missing my whole life. In the podcast there were three guest speakers, two of which were Amika George and Grace Campbell. 

Source: The Guilty Feminist Podcast, Spotify.

2. Amika George

Amika, when I first heard you on Deborah’s podcast I was intrigued. You were, and are SO young, yet you have achieved SO much. Just like you said in this podcast, and many others I have listened to you in since, when you were at school you never really thought about period poverty. Ignorantly, I had never thought about it either, I mean why should I have done? I am an inherently privileged, straight white female. I have always had everything I need and more.

The sheer concept of thinking about others as an arrogant 16-year-old didn’t even cross my mind, let alone those who were unable to go to school as a result of their periods. But you did. At sixteen years old, you thought about others and since have made a huge difference. Thank you for making me think about things more than the issues directly in front of my face. Thank you for carving the path for other young people to follow in your footsteps. 

Thank you for talking about periods. 

3. Grace Campbell

Oh Grace. Oh Grace. Oh Grace. Do you want to know my very first thought, when I heard you for the first time? FUCKING FIERCE. Not the bad kind of fierce – OH NO. The kind of fierce that makes me want to be precisely like you. I whole heartedly appreciate everything that you stand for, and whilst totally admiring every step you take, it equally, makes me want to stand taller for the things that I believe in too. Even, if the things that I want to stand up for are slightly controversial. Thank you for, unknowingly, encouraging me to be a controversial conversation maker. 

If that, wasn’t it, I then read your contribution to the FDWP book. It was at that very point, I knew you were exactly the kind of person that I aspired to be. The Female Wank – my kind of feminsm. While, my journey to be as brave and good-fierce as you is slightly more elongated than it probably should be, I can absolutely make a start. To start, I am going to find myself a dog that will sit on my bum just like Skye. 

Before I finish, I feel it would be a crime to not briefly mention my favourite thing about you. You challenged your own Dad about his feminism. For anyone who might not know, Grace’s Dad is Alistair Campbell. Irrespective of the slight hilarity of the situation, it’s actually a very important one, not just for myself, but for everyone else. Teaching the world that it is ok to challenge viewpoints. 

4. Jameela Jamil

The Good Place allured me to a ‘good place’. The place where you, Jameela Jamil, existed. If you haven’t seen The Good Place or, [I don’t know how] if you don’t know who Jameela is, then YOU ARE MISSING OUT. Jameela you are a goddess. AN ACTUAL GODDESS. I forking love you. [I mean I have said your name three times in one paragraph – eek, soz]. 

Then I heard you were a feminist, and I fell in love some more. The FDWP podcast between yourself and Scarlett has enabled me to used phrases such a ‘stop being a double agent for patriarchy’. I think, [now this is a big statement, but] that very podcast is my favourite podcast, and one I have listened to, and will continue to listen to many times. 

Just as I was about to post this blog, I saw your instagram post from yesterday. I would like #intersectionalfeminismistheonlytruefeminism to be the new statement on my life. 

5. Scarlett Curtis

The last person in my open letter to the feminists who have changed my life. Scarlett, I couldn’t NOT include you in this letter. I admire you with every element of my being, to me, you ARE feminism. You encompass everything that feminism means to me and a little bit more. 

Firstly, I feel that I can identify with you the most out of almost anyone I have connected with on the internet, you faced a set back as a teenager and whilst our stories could not be any different, we faced them none the less. The way you have tackled yours and created the most INCREDIBLE things, only empowers me to do the same. Empowers me, encourages me, and motivates me to realise that ANYTHING is possible. 

Thank you for creating Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, it was the first book about feminism that I read, and the first book that I have read over and over again. YOU really are the most incredible person. 

Earlier on this year, I watched your Good Morning Britain interview regarding fairytales. As someone who has studied English Literature, I have read and studied the origins of lots of the fairytales but never did I think of them from a feminist perspective, nor the numerous retellings – something which I firmly believe should be considered. 

My Question

As I end this post, I want to leave a question. What are your thoughts on fairytales from a feminist perspective? What kind of message do they teach to those who are on the receiving ends to them?

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2 Comments

  1. December 11, 2018 / 9:54 pm

    This was a great post. My thoughts on fairytales: they are a double-edged sword. Yes, they do teach children some questionable things. Problematic thinsg. And these children grow up to be adults hinged on these questionable, problematic things.

    For instance, fairytales are infamous for imparting on little girls that they should aspire to be princesses – princess syndrome, waiting upon their Prince Charming – Prince Charming syndrome. Let’s unpack that for a minute.

    Monarchies are not the norm, so many of us, an overwhelming majority of us, are not at all royal. And yet we’re fed this fantasy that being royal is what we should aspire to. This is why ‘real life fairytales’ like Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, attract a huge following and create such a craze. And over to Prince Charming syndrome, it is an unrealistic expectation of love, and quite often the wrong idea of love.

    We’ve had fairtales with themes of kidnapping (Beauty and the Beast) and rape (Sleeping Beauty), and both of these were normalized in the fairytales, especially in their screen adaptations, and made to seem totally okay, not any deal at all. What does this teach the children? Boys learn that kidnapping and rape is totally okay and girls learn that they should expect that from boys. How is any of that okay?

    On the other hand, fairytales can be a source of good teaching moments. Cinderella was hardworking. Elle loved reading and did so even in a time period when girls/women were actively discouraged from doing so by societal standards. Elsa learnt to accept herself and, lest we forget, delivered the line, “You can’t marry a man you just met.” #DisneyLampshading Tiana opens up her own restaurant, even though she had to jump through many hoops to do it. Mulan goes to war as a man because she wasn’t allowed to do so as a girl/woman.

    However, many of these positive messages are often lost in the midst of the many negative ones which tend to overshadow the entire fairytale. Fairytales are stories. Stories can be good, stories can be bad
    Stories can have positive messages, stories can have negative messages.

    Yes, there is a trend of fairytales being highly problematic – I’ve barely even scratched the surface with that – but if writing rooms and sets are filled with mysogynists, then the stories that will come out of there will be mysogynistic. Does that mean we should stop telling stories or does it mean that we should get rid of mysogyny? Fairytales are also very white, but does that mean that we should stop telling stories or that we should welcome diversity into the fold?

    Yvonne Wabai | https://yvonnewairimuwabai.weebly.com

  2. December 20, 2018 / 9:24 am

    I really admire your series on feminism. I still haven’t worked out how I feel about it yet. Of course I support equal rights for women, but I’ve never thought as myself as a feminist if that makes sense. It’s so interesting to see your and others views on the subject. Truly inspiring x

    Megan | https://meganelizabethlifestyle.com/

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