The 7 New Suffragettes You Need to Know About
They’re carrying the baton in the race for women’s equality.
A hundred years ago, British woman over the age of 30 finally got the vote — thanks to years of strenuous and dedicated campaigning from the Suffragettes.
They were a group of powerful, determined women who spearheaded a movement that would echo through history.
But it was by no means plain sailing.
In fact, the term “suffragette” was first used in derision, by a Daily Mail journalist who wanted to belittle the activists of the women’s suffrage movement. But those women weren’t having any of it, and claimed the name for themselves.
They changed the pronunciation to “suffraGETtes,” — with a hard “G” — to drive home that they were here to stay, and they would “get” what they wanted.
Now, while the last 100 years have been festooned with firsts for women, the fight for women’s equality is far from over. And, in its February edition, Vogue has decided to celebrate those modern-day Suffragettes who are taking that baton and running with it.
Here are the 7 “influential females” named and praised by the magazine, for their fight “to empower women in the battle for equality that rages on.”
1. Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker
She’s a former journalist turned leader of the Women's Equality Party, formed, in Walker’s own words, “from frustration at the glacial pace of change for women and girls in the UK.”
The party was founded by Catherine Mayer and Sandi Toksvig — who you may remember as one of the new presenters of Great British Bake Off — in 2015.
Walker, one of the first founding members, was unanimously chosen to be the party’s leader the same year.
It’s the “new collaborative force in British politics” with a “determination to see women enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men so that all can flourish.”
Walker came sixth in the race to be London’s mayor in May 2016, on a manifesto seeking to close the city’s 23% pay gap; create affordable childcare and housing for women, as well as accessible, safe transport; and end rising rates of sexual harassment and violence against women and girls in the capital.
In her (very little) spare time, she’s also an ambassador for the National Autistic Society, campaigning for better support and understanding of autism — particularly in women and girls — after her elder daughter was born with autism.
2. Labour MP Stella Creasy
Creasy made it onto the list for her extensive work on sexual harassment and women’s rights. She has become one of the leading voices for women’s rights in the workplace as well, following the Westminster sex assault scandal of 2017.
And Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, is a firm believer that men will also need to be part of the conversation in order to create real, lasting change.
“We’re saying it’s up to [women] to adapt to the world as it is, rather than for men and women to come together and say, how can we have equality?” said Creasy, on BBC Newsnight in the wake of the Westminster scandal.
“Let’s stop finding ways of focussing on women’s behaviour and start saying what is the kind of behaviour everybody will respect… We’ve got to stop the focus being on the person who made the accusation, and start saying how do we have a culture that says we have these laws for a reason, because actually nobody should have to put up with this, male or female.”
During her interview with Vogue, Creasy described a “Mean Girls’-style Burn Book” in British politics, and pointed out that “patriarchy isn’t gendered.”
3. Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing
Wearing is the creator of the statue of original Suffragette Millicent Fawcett, soon to be unveiled in London’s Parliament Square, which is ground-breaking not only for the fact that it’s the first female statue there — but also because it’s the first statue there to be made by a woman.
Gillian Wearing, the first female artist to create a statue for Parliament Square, with the approved statue of Suffragist Millicent Fawcett. pic.twitter.com/JQig7dLSpK— Conor James Silk (@ConorJSilk) September 20, 2017
“Fawcett was all about dialogue,” wearing told Vogue. “And it worked — she spent six decades getting women the vote. But it took a lot of work!"
And she said that, from here, things will carry on changing.
“The hard thing today is overcoming the psychology — this prejudice goes deep,” she added. “We need to change people’s inner stereotypes of women. And that’s harder than fighting for the vote.”
4. Founder and editor-in-chief of the Gal-Dem website, Liv Little
Liv Little launched the online and print magazine "Gal-Dem" when she was studying politics and sociology at Bristol University in 2015, out of frustration with the lack of diversity.
Now, the magazine has a staff of more than 70 women and non-binary people of colour — and it covers everything from politics to culture to romance and everything in between, for everyone.
The daughter of a Jamaican father and Guyanese mother, Little was raised in south-east London.
“You know you’re reached equality when seeing people of colour in all aspects of society becomes the norm,” Little told Vogue.
“One thing that would improve the lives of women would be society understanding that there is no one way to be a woman,” she added.
5. Trans awareness campaigner and journalist, Paris Lees
Model, writer, and campaigner Paris Lees became the first openly transgender woman to be featured in British Vogue, when she was celebrated as one of the seven new Suffragettes.
“Look how far we’ve come,” she told the magazine. “It’s insane that I could be in Vogue. A trans kid from a council estate. People at school told me I’d never be a girl, would never be pretty enough, would never be accepted — well here I am being celebrated as a woman.”
“Thank God Times are changing,” she added on Twitter.
April Ashley modelled for Vogue in the 50s. She was too scared to tell people she was trans. When she was outed by tabloids in the 60s her career was ruined. Same happened to Caroline Cossey in the 80s. All my life people have told me I'm not a woman. Thank God times are changing— Paris Lees (@parislees) January 4, 2018
After starting out as a journalist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) press, Lees has also now written for a number of leading publications.
She has since founded META, an online magazine for trans people, and was also the first transgender woman to appear on the cover of DIVA, for lesbian and bisexual women.
“We’ve still got a long way to go before we reach equality and it’s important we fight for all women,” she added.
But she said the fight for women’s rights across the board is essential, because “if you’re not pushing for dignity and equality for all women, then it’s not equality you want, it’s supremacy.”
6. Blogger Dina Torkia
Dina Torkia, who blogs under the name “Dina Tokio,” is one of the most successful of the wave of “hijabi bloggers” proving that loving fashion and wearing a hijab aren’t mutually exclusive.
Torkia, who’s half England and half Egyptian and grew up between London and Cardiff, first started her blog in 2011 while working in a call centre.
Dina Torkia // Dina Tokio pic.twitter.com/3lXyBGIVht— dana (@dananotdaynah) September 15, 2017
By 2013, she was able to work on it full-time, and it’s been going from strength to strength ever since.
According to Torkia, speaking to Vogue, “you know you’ve reached equality when people are no longer judged by the way they look.”
And her hope for the progress the next 100 years will bring is that “women won’t need to sit here talking about all of the issues that we face because all of those issues will be resolved.”
7. Writer Reni Eddo-Lodge
Journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge is the author of “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race,” focusing on racism, and exposing structural racism within our society.
Born in London to Nigerian parents, Eddo-Lodge said the book came from a place of being “emotionally exhausted” by trying to make white people understand the realities of racism.
It all came about with a blog post, on the same name, which was written “at a point of extreme frustration and despair, frankly, after a few years of attempting to talk to white people about race and just really getting nowhere,” she said in an interview with Foyles.
“I just said, I can’t have a conversation with people about the nuances of a problem, if they don’t even recognise that the problem exists.”
After Eddo-Lodge hit publish, the blog post “took on a life of its own” and “was really strongly resonating with people in a way that I couldn’t even begin to predict.”
The book that was born of the post was described by 2015 Booker Prize-winner Marlon James, author of “A Brief History of Seven Killings”, as “essential” and “begging to be written.”
In her interviews with Vogue, Eddo-Lodge described feminism as “a movement to examine and deconstruct power structures that benefit some at the expense of others,” and said one thing that would make a difference to the lives of women would be “autonomy over the choices that they make in their lives.”
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