My inspirational women are back and to kick us off is Erika. We met at age eleven in secondary school and quickly became inseparable for the next four or so years. The bond we made then will forever tie us together as friends, even if we haven’t lived in the same town for eight years. Erika will always be my friend that I remember hazy summer days spent laughing and singing with; her family became mine and we faced the world together her and I. A woman who constantly moves forward and takes risks even when intrepid to begin with. Her work ethic has always been inspiring as well as her drive to see new places. To watch my teenage partner in crime flourish and become the woman she is today makes me grateful to have such a friend in my life.
Location: Originally from Brighton, living in Nottingham
How have the women in your life shaped you and your ideals as a woman?
I’m lucky to have a mixture of both ‘traditional’ and unconventional women to look up to from my home-baking, retired school teacher Granny to my ale-loving, biker Mum! Between them they’ve shown me it’s perfectly fine to be either extreme or anywhere in the middle.
How do you deal with body image pressures and accepting yourself?
I try not to compare myself too much to other people because everyone is different and variety is what makes us all interesting. I think people are getting better at remembering that the images we are bombarded with from magazines and social media etc are made to look more perfect than any real human ever could! It would be great to see more varied models without the need to make it a ‘feature’. Can’t we just include plus size or petite models without pointing them out as such??
I’ve been on a weight loss journey myself for the past 18 months and the closer I get to feeling like the old me, the more comfortable I feel in my own skin. I am also extremely lucky to have a wonderful, kind boyfriend who really does seem to love me through thick and thin – literally!
What beauty product is a must for you?
Anyone who knows me knows I am rubbish at being a girl and never got into make up or beauty products. I am, however, OBSESSED with eyebrows and cannot cope without my Tweezerman tweezers. I feel like a werewolf without them! I love admiring other women’s eyebrows!
Do you have a piece of advice for teenage you that you think would help growing into a woman easier?
Probably just to stop trying so hard! True friends will like you and one day someone will love you just exactly as you are.
I think we need to be more open about women’s bodily functions such as periods. It is a natural process that we are made to feel is taboo. How did you deal with yours at first and do you have any tips?
Oh god I cried! I was 11 and I remember trying to tell my Mum, but she got annoyed because I couldn’t get my words out, so I told my older sister who told my Mum for me and then they were both great. It must be so hard for single Dads to go through this with their daughters and I’m so grateful to have had that support. I do agree that there’s still a taboo about such a normal thing. I was shopping with my boyfriend the other day and he made a comment about all sanitary products being “gross”. I feel like I have to hide away from him for a week every month! These days I find periods an inconvenience more than anything and try to use my pills to time them in a way that won’t affect my social life too much!
What songs do you listen to that strike a spark in you and make you feel like you can take on the world?
Since I was about 11 I’ve loved Alanis Morisette. Her song ‘You Learn‘ is a great, singalong life lesson! Dolly Parton’s Jolene is not a typical love song begging her man to come back, but instead appealing to the ‘other’ woman’s better nature not to steal her man. Such a classic and I love covering this one myself. A fantastic Scottish folk singer called Karine Polwart wrote a beautiful song based on the tragic story of how she lost her husband. It’s called ‘The Sun’s Coming Over the Hill‘ and is a reminder that however bad things seem, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things will get better. Highly recommended. When I’m running, you can’t beat a bit of of Katy Perry’s Roar or Pink’s So What to get you through the wall!
Who in your life inspires you?
Most people in my life inspire me, otherwise they probably wouldn’t be in my life anymore. My friends have a huge range of qualities that I admire and would love to master myself, from unshakeable confidence (Sam) to selflessness (Med) and incredible strength (Lydia). My sister in law recently had a baby and didn’t want to go back to her old job. Instead she has set up 3 beauty businesses from home and her drive and positivity amazes me every day. Check out Forever Living Aloeholic and Bethberry Nail Wraps.
How has age affected your perception of womanhood?
As I’ve got older I feel less competition and more solidarity with other women. I’ve taken a leaf out of my sister’s book in that if I think another woman looks nice, I’ll tell her! Some people are so taken aback if a stranger compliments their dress or their hair, but I think we need more of this championing of one another.
What does Girl Power (/feminism) mean to you?
I’m definitely all for equal rights but I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a feminist. Humans work best together and I do believe sometimes men and women might have different qualities or ways or looking at something which can compliment each other. Feminism is a bit of a buzz word at the moment and it’s brilliant that people are reconsidering those old fashioned views of feminists as man-haters who don’t shave their armpits! That’s definitely not what it’s about!
How would you set about making Gender Equality more equal? Perhaps more gender neutral bathrooms or scrapping ‘tampon tax’?
I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that men and women doing the exact same job can be paid different amounts, as though one is more or less valuable than the other. Likewise I think important things like paternity leave still need addressing and improving.
Independent business women spotlight!
I’m afraid I don’t know much about the business world but if you don’t mind I would like to highlight the work of a female scientist as I think they are often overlooked. Charlotte Uhlenbrook is a pioneering zoologist, particularly known for her work in animal communication. In the past she has stated she doesn’t feel her peers take her seriously because she can’t possibly be beautiful AND intelligent! (She is!). If you are interested, take some time to read her books, she’s fascinating 🙂
What is something you do to take time for yourself?
I’m very much a social person and really don’t enjoy being on my own. I go to a Pilates class which is so relaxing and makes me feel like I’m having ‘me’ time without actually being by myself! I also love half an hour with my piano or guitar.
What has been your biggest struggle as a woman?
I do battle with the kind of woman I want to be. Sometimes I wish I was glamorous and feminine but at the same time I think life is too short! This pretty much sums up my daily struggle:
How has your sexuality shaped you as a woman?
I’m very happy now in a long-term relationship, but I do think everyone (male and female) should experience a period of casual dating (and casual sex if they want to!) to find out what they are looking for in the other person. For me that period was during uni and my first year living in South Africa and I did enjoy feeling in control. Unfortunately there are still double standards, where the men in this situation are hailed as heroes and the women are considered sluts. As long as it’s safe and legal, nobody should be ashamed of their sexual preferences.
(I do not own these images).