14 Jan 2015

Meeting Heroes :: Interviewing Laura Bates

A few months back, I attended a talk in Sheffield called Celebrating Modern Feminism. It was certainly an experience I will never forget, because I ended up interviewing Laura Bates.

I bought Laura's book, Everyday Sexism, a year ago and she's been a firm hero of mine ever since.

The speakers included Laura and Lucy Anne Holmes of No More Page 3

Basically, how it happened was I'd requested press passes for myself and couple other folk involved in Social Sheffield and also requested an interview.

As the day drew closer I began to accept that there wasn't time for us to conduct an interview, but we prepared a couple of questions just in case.

On the day I was so excited to simply hear Laura Bates and Lucy Anne Holmes speak, I didn't really mind at all that I wasn't going to be interviewing them. But, just in case, I made contact with the PR lady on duty for the day. We shook hands and she said if there was space I could get an interview - my heart skipped a beat, I'm not kidding. She told me to wait at the door to the dressing rooms during the first break, so that's what I did.

A journalist from the Sheffield Star, a journalist from Manchester and me, were dragged into a tiny dressing room with Laura Bates, Lucy Anne Holmes and a couple other speakers.

The term 'out of body experience' feels appropriate here. I spent the whole time grinning like an idiot, unable to believe my luck.

My turn to interview came around and I had a serious fangirl attack, asking for a photo with them first:
A photo posted by Fran Bibby (@frances_m_b) on
Look how happy I am!

Here's what was said during the interview:

Do you think that the women's movement needs the participation of more men to be successful?

Lisa - I’m all for it, I think it needs to include everybody. If we want equality across society then we have to include the whole of society. If you want to bring women up to the same standing as men then that’s gonna need men to be involved as well and change their behaviour and challenge one another. Otherwise we’re just talking at each other.

Lucy - This movement definitely does feel like it’s got a lot of men in it, really actively. Sometimes I look at our Facebook page and there are pictures of men in tees or men have written blogs, and it’s really great. I think the voice that they add to the campaign is strong, and brave! I think it’s really brave! Interestingly I think we’ve got more high-profile men who’ve spoken out than women.

Lisa - We’ve just had a male supporter who’s a dad write hundreds of pages of manifesto for equality. The 44 points matching the 44 years that Page 3 has been in existence, I mean this man has got such great passion, he’s a crazy letter lobbyist, he’s sending email after email, he’s just, y’know, the passion that he’s putting into feminist campaigning is extraordinary!

Lucy - Yeah, he’s got young daughters and he was sat there on his commute to work thinking about the future for his daughters and he started writing this manifesto, you know, trying to create a world that would be better and more equal for his daughters.

I guess you could argue it's more of an equality movement, than a women's movement.

Laura - Well, people say that, but you hear people say things like ‘well, if it is really about equality why not call it equalism or humanism?’. That’s an argument that comes up, and apart from the fact that humanism is already something and something separate. I think it is important nonetheless to acknowledge the fact that although yes what we’re aiming for is absolutely equality, it is women who have been systematically oppressed and discriminated against for centuries and it is therefore women actually who need to be acknowledged and issues disproportionately affecting women that need to be tackled to reach equality, so I think actually women, or the ‘femme’ part of feminism, is still important.

Do you agree that more collaborative, integrated and social communities support gender equality?

Laura - Oooh that’s a good question. I think they probably help all kinds of campaigns against injustice because I think a lot of these forms of prejudice are really motivated by fear and ‘othering’, the idea that something’s different and therefore needs to be hit out against, or somehow kind of demonized. So I think social interaction on every level is a brilliant way to open people’s eyes to the realities of other people’s lives. To make people aware of issues that, because they’re not affected by them directly, they might not even know are happening, and to inspire them to be part of the change.

It was a complete and utter honour to meet these women in real life. I've never typed up an interview transcript so quickly!

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Have you every met any of your heroes?

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