Chidera Eggerue on How ‘Self-Love’ Can Be a Ferocious Force for Good in the Fight for Gender Equality
Chidera Eggerue — who calls herself “The Slumflower” — is in the business of building movements.
If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people who follow her on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll recognise her trademark: feminist empowerment without strings or ceilings; absolute intersectionality in her gender politics; and radical self-love, no matter what.
The 25-year-old from Peckham, in London, is a bestselling author, dating guru, documentarian, and feminist activist, to name just a few of her pursuits. In her own words, "you can add strong black woman to that list."
She’s most widely known as the mastermind behind body positivity movement #SaggyBoobsMatter — a hashtag that aimed to empower women who believed their breasts didn’t match the media stereotype. It’s a campaign that’s led her to a viral TedX talk, magazine covers, and the chance to guest-edit BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Eggerue tells Global Citizen that her feminism advocates for women to be accountable for the power they cede to men — and therefore, it must be their responsibility to reclaim it. She believes that gender equality is first about rebelling against what the world teaches girls, knowing your own value, and then fighting back.
That makes the concept of “self-love” a form of protest — and a path to the empowerment of others.
Two months after releasing her new book How To Get Over A Boy, Eggerue spoke to Global Citizen about who inspires her, what drives her feminism, and how women can join the movement.
Hi Chidera! Can you tell me about a feminist activist who inspires you?
My feminist icon is Munroe Bergdorf, who is inspirational and unafraid.
She’s incredibly important: to me, to the trans community, to all of us. She embodies diversity, she prioritises trans rights, and she encourages us to change the conversation about it.
She is proud of who she is. She doesn’t exist by anybody else’s standards. She breaks boundaries and stands up for what matters. Just seeing her fearlessly and tenaciously speak her truth has really encouraged me to use my own voice as a tool for liberation, solidarity, and shifting perceptions.
Two years ago you gave a Guardian interview where you talked about using accessible language to convince your mum to join the feminist movement. Have you succeeded?
I think so in some capacity, but I can only truly speak for myself and my own values. My mother always taught me: never believe anybody is better than you. You are who you need to be, and nobody can replace you.
When she was younger, it was another time, but she was a pageant queen and has always been an influence to all her mates in terms of her style, makeup, and demeanour. It was from her that I learned how to be confident and how to navigate this male-dominated world.
How do you think “self-love” for women connects to the broader mission of female empowerment and gender equality?
Self-love is how the mission came to be.
Before a woman can own what she wants and deserves from society, she has to know herself, her purpose, and her value, regardless of how many people, situations, and circumstances have tried to convince her otherwise. Gender equality isn’t only a battle for women to fight; it’s a battle that should be prioritised by all of us.
Where do you see #SaggyBoobsMatter fitting into the wider struggle for gender equality around the world?
Women don’t need men to validate them. You need to be your own hero.
My hashtag campaign was about self-love and I got some really positive feedback from women of all ages and backgrounds.
Ultimately, the root of my message is that nobody is allowed to make you feel bad about yourself, and we ought to hold ourselves more accountable for the power we freely give people to dictate our self-esteem — especially when it comes to men and how we view ourselves through their lens.
I made history tonight.— THE SLUMFLOWER (@theslumflower) February 9, 2020
Sold out my FIRST ever LIVE SHOW in a 650 seater venue.
I held down a one-woman show by myself and I have never been more proud of me than I am now.
I’m grateful for every single person who chooses to support me.#SlumflowerLIVEpic.twitter.com/JHY9EANe2c
Visibility for underrepresented groups is so important in keeping feminism intersectional. But sometimes that isn’t enough — sometimes, you have to be noisy to bring out the visibility of others. What motivates you to stay noisy?
It’s the hardest thing in the world to be a strong black woman. You are as visible as you want to be.
I wrote my latest book for the daughter I will one day have — that is something that motivates me.
Feminism was born out of discomfort and rebellion. It wasn’t a movement that developed through being amicable with our oppressors. So for me, I have no investment in playing nice in a world that is repetitively violent, misogynistic, and hateful towards women.
You've just hosted a Channel 4 show called Bring Back the Bush. What are the biggest challenges facing the reproductive rights of women — and how do you think they can be overcome?
Men’s attitudes are the biggest challenge to overcome, because men decide on the laws that grant and limit us access to rights including our reproductive rights.
A world where men have the final say on what women do with their bodies is a dysfunctional one. The challenges facing the reproductive rights of women will only disappear when men stop talking over women.
If you could use your platform to change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would like to see a world where women fiercely put their happiness first — no matter what that looks like to everyone else. We deserve our happy ending.
Gender inequality can seem like such a vast, insurmountable problem. What advice would you give to young women who want to join the feminist movement but don’t really know how?
I would tell them to do whatever they’re moved to do.
There are so many layers and worlds where your message can penetrate so it’s not all about big stages and rallies, it’s just as much about conversations with your nearest and dearest.
Keep the cause close to your heart and it’ll likely come across in all you do.
“How To Get Over A Boy” by Chidera Eggerue is out now! (Quadrille, £12.99)