Speaking truthfully is key for me. I had a bit of an epiphany a couple of years ago and realised that I’d been making quite a few compromises; I’d moved quite far away from myself. Just little things like not speaking up when you disagree with something whether that's in your professional or personal life, and I think for women that is especially key because quite often we are brought up to be passive and given passive stereotypes to follow. So I’ve really made an effort to start speaking the truth and that’s been an amazing journey for me.
I’m really passionate about issues surrounding female sexuality and how this is presented in society. I know for me personally it was very confusing to grow up in a world where all of the images of female sexuality that I was fed were designed by men, Page 3 being a prime example from the 1970s. So growing up, absorbing that image of a sexual woman is quite complicated. I believe that this is a space where women are often not equal. I think we need to talk about sex more and that women should be in on that dialogue.
My mother taught me to value kindness. Today, I think it is underrated. When we think about these tabloid newspapers and the unkind, bullying language used by them every day, it’s no surprise we are so critical and judgmental of each other and ourselves.
I uncovered feminism because I was curious about my relationships with men. I came to the end of another relationship coming into to my mid-thirties and started to question why I felt I had lost my power and had become so passive. I realised I was being passive because I had been fed those stereotypes growing up. So I started on my journey, trying to step out of that passivity and become more empowered both in life, and my sex life.
I think we are always learning from people, even if their values are not those that we align ourselves with. I’ve probably learnt most from my mistakes. For example, the relationships I’ve been in; my partners weren’t right for me but I’ve learnt about myself from that experience. Mistakes often hold great lessons.
I had so much enthusiasm starting up the the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign that I wrote a three-page letter to The Sun detailing the many reasons why it should end. But I knew it would do nothing. Some of the men in my life were worried that I would be destroyed by taking on The Sun, but I wasn’t scared. I’d been on a bit of a journey beforehand and once I’d debunked and seen through the way I had been feeling about myself as a woman, I felt passionately about the realisation that it was these pictures in the paper that had made me feel disempowered as a woman. I had bought a copy of The Sun during the Olympics and I found that in the UK’s biggest selling newspaper, the largest image of a woman was a Page 3 model in her knickers showing her breasts for men, even though Jessica Ennis had just won gold. I couldn’t stop thinking about what this was teaching little girls about their values, and what it was teaching little boys about how to respect women. Showing women as naked and passive in a family newspaper limits women. It said to me that this is a man’s world.
I find it devastating that so many women are plagued by negative body image. I have spoken to so many young women who hate their bodies and want cosmetic surgery before they have even reached adulthood. We aren’t born thinking ‘I have a big bum’ or ‘my boobs aren’t big enough’, but we live in a culture that’s setting women up to believe in a very extreme beauty ideal. We need to challenge society on this and have conversations to raise awareness.
I think that if we saw more women in positions of power across the world we would live in a more harmonious place. There is a real inconsistency in power and we live in a huge living organism of a planet in which men and women need to live together in balance. So if I could change one thing in the world, it would be to have a greater equilibrium and place more women in power.
Photograph: Pål Hansen