Hear ye, hear ye! To celebrate International Women’s day, the Belles will meet to learn and discuss matters close to our hearts and learn all about new things to bring into our campaigning fold, too!
First things first, our crusades in menstruation!
Your period comes when you are not expecting it; you need to clean yourself up and get sorted out. Even if you are out and about you can buy supplies, new pants too if necessary. But what if you don’t have the resources to do that? What if you can’t afford a single tampon? What do you do next? The realities of dealing with a basic bodily function when you are homeless or on a low income hit home for a group of us when one Blue Belle drew our attention to this powerful article.
It struck a chord with many in Cambridge and around the country at the same time. The wonderful Cambridge Hub started their Essentials Dignity fundraising campaign to raise funds for the purchase of essential feminine hygiene and personal care products to be split between Jimmy’s Cambridge and Wintercomfort. These fantastic organisations operate on tight budgets: often they can only give out one or two tampons at a time. Homeless women make up 16% of the people who have been using Wintercomfort’s services in the past 6 months. A day centre in Cambridge, they provide frontline support for homeless people in the city: food, showers, clean clothes as well as education and support to move on with their lives. The provision of bathroom facilities and sanitary products is essential to ensure the health and dignity of homeless women. Without this basic support we can’t expect people to take on the challenge of escaping the spiral of homelessness.
Keeping on the theme of periods and respectfully helping yourself when its that time of the month, we’ll also be discussing the use of fantastic alternatives to disposable sanitary products including the use of the phenomenal Mooncup
|The Mooncup – easy to use, less waste and healthier for you, too!
Following that raft of fabulous information, the celebrations continue with a captivating talk from the gorgeous model, Rebeeca Pearson, in all things feminism in fashion. Rebecca has been the face of H&M and Marks and Spencers in her time – check out a brief Q&A below to get a flavour of what we can expect!
|Rebecca will talk all about feminism on and off the catwalk!
Modelling! Tell us about how you got into it?
I got scouted outside Topshop in Oxford Circus – not a very interesting one I’m afraid, as most London-based models were found either there or The Clothes Show! After seeing myself as a very gawky teenager with braces, acne and a fondness for wearing my brother’s clothes whilst walking like Richard Ashcroft, it was quite a surprise!
What is the state of feminism is modeling? Is there a lot of work to be done?
Interestingly I’ve seen conversation around feminism grow hugely in the last 2 years. In fact, last year I was invited to a discussion chaired by Lorraine Candy of Elle magazine to discuss feminism. Cosmo, Stylist, Elle – they often relate topics to feminism and ask their interviewees if they identify as feminist.
Female models far outnumber male models and are generally paid more, and my experience of the industry is that I work with far more women and gay men than straight men, and those I work with hail from many different countries and backgrounds. There’s a real attitude of ‘if you want it, go for it, so we see a lot of new labels and magazines springing up all the time, so I would say that there’s quite an empowering feminist undercurrent to my industry.
However, there’s always work to be done. Jourdann Dunn is fighting for black models to have more visibility on the catwalk and in magazines, so feminists should help in the fight for a more global representation of models to reflect globalisation and multiculturalism.
Modelling can still be incredibly disempowering on all levels. Young girls can be taken advantage of for their vulnerability, garnering huge debts with agencies that they have no chance of paying off. They can be given little guidance or support, and encouraged do pose or wear clothes that they are not comfortable with because they are not confident enough to stand up for themselves. And, of course, there is the ever-present pressure on models to be thinner than is healthy, which is concentrated more in high fashion, catwalk and couture. `Some models are just very thin, and we should celebrate that women come in a range of sizes (I always felt very bullied for being naturally skinny when I was younger), but we do need to see more variety on the catwalks, helping promote a healthy body image both within my industry and to the women consuming the images.
How has feminism in modeling changed since you began!?
Yes, as I said before it is actually discussed whereas when I started, I wasn’t aware of it being part of the lexicon used at all. Models are taking control for themselves, as we see with The Model Alliance based in New York who campaign or the rights of models.
Do you ever struggle with choosing which projects to work on because of your feminist mantra?
Yes! But I also think that saying no to projects based on whether it seems to chime with my feminism can be tricky to. An example: I was booked for a lingerie shoot recently: my first ever! I worried ‘did this comply with my feminism? Was I dropping my principles to the side to get a job?’
I chose to do it, because I hate to say no to new experiences. I turned up saying ‘I don’t do see-through, I don’t do small knickers, I won’t do anything too sexy pose-wise.’
The label was owned by a woman, who balanced the business, the design and the PR and the web & advertising for her company, as well as being a mother to two young children and designed lingerie for women that she wanted to empower women. She totally respected that I didn’t want to wear what I wasn’t comfortable with. However, the second I put on the first outfit, I felt incredible, so empowered, and found myself feeling free of many of my own body insecurities. The pictures show me as a confident, powerful woman and i’m happy to have done the job and that other women will see those images.
It just proves that feminism is about your own personal journey: question everything you do, but don’t limit yourself because Andrea Dworkin might tell you of about it. This wave of feminism is far more inclusive and not as judgemental as it has been in the past, but no less powerful for it. Actually, this inclusiveness has led to a greater sense of unity and purpose.
Who are some of your icons that inspire you in all things feminism in modeling?
Kate Bush. She’s so free, so delicate yet powerful (I’m using that word a lot!) and so creative, fearless. Coco Rocha
is a supermodel who basically reinvented posing, and is never afraid to express herself, moving freely and dramatically, even making herself grotesque in images. As well as expressing her freedom through her posing, she campaigns for the rights of models and calls out clients, for example Elle Brazil who airbrushed her to look topless despite it being written into her contract that they wouldn’t do this. That’s brave – behaviour like that can tarnish a model’s reputation and damage their career.
Name dropping aside, who has been the most fabulous and feminist photographer/project you’ve worked on?
I went to Bangladesh with People Tree
, a Fair Trade clothing label who campaign for worker’s rights across the supply chain. I am an ambassador for the brand, founded by Safia Minney MBE who is the most incredible feminist icon: CEO of a groundbreaking company and charity, as well as a wife and a mother. She is truly tireless, passionate and driven.
She took me to the Fair Trade factory, The Swallows, in Thanapara. This was founded when all the men in the village were shot in the war, and the women were left hopeless and destitute, possessing no vocational skills. This handicrafts factory was started to give them these skills and livelihood.
It is now independent and produces clothes for companies worldwide. There is healthcare, free childcare and even an organic garden: the women there are paid a fair wage and given support, and their children educated on site. As well as showing the important broader issues such as education and employment, it was heartening to see that my modelling & promoting of these clothes they made before my eyes had a tenable positive consequence enjoyed by them. When my job is often seen as vapid, pointless and even negative, that was very validating for me.
Words of wisdom to any feminists considering taking modellng up?!
Yes! Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and say what you’re not comfortable with: you will be respected. My blog, modeltypeface.com
, offers tonnes of very real and heartfelt sisterly advice for anyone needing support.