Culture Fix Special: An interview with Scarlett Curtis

Anna Bonet

From Red Online

Scarlett Curtis’s Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) is one of those books that ought to be read (and then re-read) by everyone - male or female. Brimming with insight, this Sunday Times bestseller is refreshing and honest and galvanising in equal measure.

Subtitled ‘Amazing women on what the F word means to them’, Curtis has curated a body of work from 52 different female writers, actors and activists all reflecting on feminism. But this is not just a collection of essays, but also a compilation of women’s stories, and I love the book for its diversity of voices and narratives. Bit by bit, it breaks down the tropes, preconceptions and stereotypes that surround feminism, and makes it ever-clearer that this is not a one-note thing.

Meanwhile, pegged to Feminists Don’t Wear Pink is Curtis’s podcast of the same name, for which she has interviewed the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Jameela Jamil and Helen Fielding. Similar to the book, the conversations are both deeply thought-provoking and wonderfully entertaining.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, I spoke to Scarlett about feminism, activism and everything she’s learnt so far.

What was it like curating Feminists Don’t Wear Pink?

The process was honestly just a complete joy. I wrote quite a few pieces in the book and loved being able to put all my ideas about feminism down in one place. Curating the list of women I wanted to contribute to the book was an amazing, imaginative process and getting to read all their pieces as soon as they came in felt like being subscribed to the coolest newsletter of all time. Now it’s out there I’ve been amazed at how much all the different pieces have meant to people. Every single reader has a different favourite piece and it really proved to me that feminism is not one entity but a different, changing movement for everyone involved.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

I used to work in the Non-Profit sector and I think that made me really realise how important these ‘days’ are. They seem a little frivolous but ‘days’ are a chance where politicians and people in power can make commitments to supporting marginalised people and restructuring the power. We will have a long way to go until gender equality is actually achieved so for now International Women’s Day is really important to remind the world of the work that needs to be done.

I read that you think feminism can almost be a form of self-help. Can you explain what you mean?

I had severe depression and anxiety as a teenager and never found that any form of self-help really ‘helped’ me. When I started to read about feminism I realised that I was part of this global network of women and for the first time I understood that the things that had happened to me weren’t my fault. When I became involved in feminist activism it was the first time I felt like I had friends and a community so really everything I do is purely selfish!

What’s the most difficult thing you’ve had to come to terms with since becoming involved with activism?

I think the biggest thing I’ve come to terms with is that real change takes a long time! Getting politicians to commit to anything is an arduous and long process and you have to find a way to keep the momentum of a movement going while you actually get the work done.

What would you want to say to your teenage self?

Be kind to yourself! Everything will work out one day and whatever you’re going through now is temporary.

What’s your involvement in the Seven Dials International Women’s Day campaign?

It’s honestly been incredible to see such a huge, retail destination get behind International Women’s Day. Their campaign is running from Monday 4th to Sunday 10th March 2019 to address gender equality, finding work life balance, and the day to day challenges that women face. I’m hosting a live episode of the Feminists Don’t Wear Pink podcast with Chidera Eggerue [a.k.a The Slumflower] on Sunday 10th March at the Donmar Warehouse and I’m ridiculously excited to sit down and talk to her - she’s one of my heroes and this event is honestly a dream come true.

What’s the best thing you’ve learnt or taken away from interviewing guests on your podcast?

So many of the women who come on our podcast text me the day before saying their scared they don’t have anything to say about feminism or their scared they don’t ‘know enough’. It’s been incredible to see that when they actually sit down to talk about it they are spilling over with thoughts and personal stories. Everyone has a connection to this movement and it’s a complete myth that you need a degree in feminism in order to be able to talk about it.

Which women inspire you most?

My mum [Emma Freud] inspires me more than anyone! She’s dedicated her life to raising money for charity and campaigning against inequality and I basically just want to be her when I grow up.

What book are you reading at the moment? Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie.

Which TV did you last binge? Russian Doll.

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be? This Boy by The Beatles.

Best film you’ve seen recently? Mary Queen of Scots

Favourite artist? Alice Skinner!

What podcast have you discovered lately? Who? Weekly

Favourite poem? ‘Mrs Darwin’ by Carol Ann Duffy

Favourite old film? Roman Holiday

Best book of all time? Mrs Dalloway [by Virginia Woolf]

Scarlett Curtis will be interviewing special guest Chidera Eggerue aka ‘The Slumflower’ live for her podcast at The Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street on Sunday 10 March as part of Seven Dials’ week-long celebration of International Women’s Day.

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