To celebrate the launch of our ‘Empowerment’ box, I’ll be interviewing an array of inspiring women this month. Keep an eye on the blog for more to come! Today though, allow me to introduce you to Scarlett Curtis. A feminist activist, the 23-year-old is the founder of The Pink Protest and curator of the book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink And Other Lies. We’ll be giving you the chance to win a copy of this book during our Facebook Live on the 18th of March at 7pm, so keeping reading for all the insider information…
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The most incredible kick off to the #feministsdontwearpink camper van tour at Cheltenham Literary Festival this weekend!!! The generosity of PEOPLE never ceases to amaze me – we collected THREE BIN BAGS of menstrual products for @redbox_cheltenham & hundreds of books for Cheltenham Reading Teachers 💕💕 thank you to every single person who came and donated and grabbed a pin and thank you to the incredible #pinkfeminist team who kept the van running @honeykinny @laraspencer @hollyharrisofficial @emmafreud @gill.hornby @millyharrisofficial 💕💕 more to come!!
Hi Scarlett, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me. Before we discuss the book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink I’d like to ask you a few background questions about your career as an activist and how you got into it.
I realised I was a feminist when I was about 15. I wasn’t very well and went through a really tough time being in and out of hospital. I was often dismissed by doctors, misdiagnosed and eventually had a traumatic back operation.
I always say that feminism is self-help.
To get me through, I started reading a lot of feminist books, including Gloria Steinem, Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks and Caitlin Moran. Reading these women’s stories and understanding more about feminism allowed me to make sense of my life in a way I’d never really felt before.
So when did you decide to actively get involved in the feminist movement?
From the age of 19, I worked for various activism organisations, though these weren’t specifically feminist groups. Around the time of the 2016 American election though, I started campaigning for Hilary Clinton and getting involved with more grass-root activism. That’s where a lot of what I do now came from.
You founded The Pink Protest in 2017 with Alice Skinner and Grace Campbell. Before this, you were already contributing to NGOs and the UN. Why did you decide to expand your work and found your own organisation?
There were so many different causes that I cared about and so many different people that I wanted to help. With The Pink Protest, we support other campaigns around other activists. It’s really just a way of mobilising young people and getting them excited about activism.
I cared about so many causes and wanted to support so many different people.
The Pink Protest became my way of making activism easy and accessible. Everyone wants to get involved, you just need to give them a space in which they can do that.
Is there a project that you’re particularly proud of?
It’s really tough to pick just one! Right now though, we’re doing a really exciting campaign alongside Nimco Ali, an anti-FGM activist. We’ve been supporting her and are trying to get FGM included in the Children’s Act. (If you’d like to find out more, click here. Quick warning though, the content might be upsetting to some readers).
What about your book? What motivated you to curate Feminist Don’t Wear Pink And Other Lies?
I knew that I didn’t want to write a book about feminism that was just a reflection of me, because my experience isn’t emblematic of all women. I also knew I wanted to do something for charity (all proceeds from the book go to Girl Up, a UN organisation that strives for gender equality). So I brought together all these amazing women that are an important part of feminist activism but aren’t necessarily reflected in the literature of the movement.
I wanted the stories of these amazing women to reflect the scope of the feminist movement.
We kept the brief really lose. We weren’t sure what everyone was going to come up with, but in the end that’s what made the book what it is. They were different and creative stories that reflected the scope of the feminist movement.
Several contributors of the book Feminist Don’t Wear Pink (including Jameela Jamil) talk about the importance of getting men involved, and I know that you’ve spoken about reading feminist books to your brothers. Do you think that women have a role to educate men?
Definitely yes! Getting men involved is a really important part of the movement. I think men actually want to learn more about and better understand feminism.
I’d encouraged you to talk to everyone about feminism.
Besides, feminism helps men just as much as it helps women. Growing up, I felt this outwards societal pressure to look good, to not be too loud and not too quiet, which my brothers didn’t necessarily experience. However, there are a lot of pressures on boys as well. Pressures to be strong and confident. It’s all caused by the same patriarchal system.
Considering that this year’s International Women’s Day campaign is all about men and women working together to bring about change in a balanced world, why did you decide not to have any male contributors?
I think that it’s definitely important for men to get involved with feminism. So far though, the feminist movement has been predominantly made up by women. I wanted to curate a book that fully reflected my experiences of feminism, and that made young girls realise that they could be feminists too. If someone else wants to curate a book with men it would surely be great, but that’s just not what we decided to do with this one.
Are there any women growing up who influenced you or presented themselves as feminists and encouraged you to be one too?
I don’t think anyone ever openly spoke about it when I was young. It was only when I moved to New York aged 19 that I was introduced to a lot of feminist groups.
Feminism isn’t a scary word or an unapproachable movement.
That was another motivation behind creating this book. We made it primarily for teenage girls. We wanted them to realise feminism isn’t a scary word or an unapproachable movement. It’s something they can get involved with.
There’s an expectation that smart women shouldn’t be interested in makeup. Why do you think that cosmetics and looking after your appearance empowers women?
I think that if you’re only wearing makeup because the patriarchy is telling you to wear it, then you probably shouldn’t be wearing it. But actually, I’ve never met a woman who only wears makeup to impress men or because she feels she has to.
Makeup and fashion can be empowering tools for a lot of woman, they definitely were for me!
Everyone I know uses makeup as a form of self-expression and self-empowerment. The same goes for looking after your skin and caring about clothes. It has nothing to do with being a feminist. You can be a feminist no matter what you look like.
The book Feminist Don’t Wear Pink presents what feminism and female empowerment means to the 52 contributors, so tell me, what does empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment is about not being too hard on yourself. I think empowerment is really important, but it’s also brought on this new standard that women have to achieve. We’re expected to be strong and confident, and to love every part of our bodies. Actually though, I feel empowered when I give myself a bit of a break.
I feel empowered when I just give myself a break.
I think to myself: ‘You’re fine as you are, everything you’re doing is going well, you’re trying your hardest’. If that means that some days I just want to sit in bed and watch Netflix, or I leave a party after 5 minutes because I’m not comfortable, then that’s okay. The empowering thing about that is just accepting that that’s who I am and not tearing myself down for it.
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