Feminism, #FreePeriods and Reclaiming Pink with Scarlett Curtis

Thu, 22 November 2018

Scarlett Curtis is busy redefining what activism means to young people. Author and curator of the anthology Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies), Curtis is helping to bridge the gap between feminist hashtags and scholarly texts through a slew of essays penned by everyone from teenage girls to Hollywood actresses.

Her weekly column for The Sunday Times Style, The Gen Z Hit List, featured personal reflections on youth culture, tech and society and became something of a cult read in its year-long lifespan. Recently taking on the new title of Sunday Times Style contributing editor, Curtis founded The Pink Protest (TPP) – a community of activists committed to engaging in action and supporting each other – and is now turning her attention stateside.

A consistent demonstrator against Donald Trump and his policies, this grassroots activist supports causes close to her heart but with a global view and an equalising aim. Championing for worldwide access to feminine hygiene products via her #FreePeriods social-media campaign, it’s also worth noting that all royalties from her debut book are being donated to the United Nations Foundation’s initiative, Girl Up.

Although she is the daughter of TV broadcaster Emma Freud (the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud) and screenwriter Richard Curtis, her heralded family lineage hasn’t meant resting on her laurels (clearly). Whether rallying for equal rights or cheering on her best friends – Beanie Feldstein and Saoirse Ronan – Scarlett is that great modern mix of a millennial woman who appears un-fussed about a work/life balance (or notoriety) and much more invested in the pursuit of a life led by passion.

How do you define feminism?

To me, feminism is a 200-year-old social movement of people who believe that all people are entitled to the same rights and fight to end all discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, ethnicity, religion, culture, or lifestyle. I think bell hooks [the American author and social activist] said it best: “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.”

What is the aim of and motivation for The Pink Protest?

Fundamentally, we’re an activist community who support each other. Together we launched the #FreePeriods movement and we exist in various mediums from video content to live events and protests. I run TPP with Alice Skinner and Grace Campbell and our goal is to redefine what activism means to young people. We want to create a way for activism to be not just accessible, but also fun.

There is opposition to colour being linked to gender but, like fashion, it can be pretty powerful. What’s your take?

If you look at the history of activism, aesthetics and colour have always played a major role in creating unity in a movement. During the civil rights movement, the SNCC wore dungarees to show their solidarity with the workers who couldn’t join the students on rallies, while the Black Panthers used style as an integral part of their messaging. The wave of pink pussy hats during the 2017 Women’s March is a more recent example of this. I like colouring my activism pink because I think it’s a way to reclaim a colour that his been used as a sign of femininity and as a result “weakness” for far too long.

What assumptions has Feminists Don’t Wear Pink negated for you?

That everyone is confident – so many people who I admire so much were nervous about writing for the book and that was really eye-opening.

How important is it that we continue to redefine supposed “certainties” about identifying as a woman?

Hugely important. I think women have lived accepting a certain amount of pain for a long time and it’s time we flip that switch.

How did you chose who contributed to Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies)?

It was a long and really fun process. We either wanted people who hadn’t written about the topic before or amazing activists who the general public might not have heard of. We also include 10 teenage girls in the book; this was really important to me as the book is for them, so should be written by them too.

Tell us about the UN initiative, Girl Up…

Girl Up is an incredible charity that works around the world to help girls living in crisis and train young girls as political advocates. So far they have supported over 35,000 through education, alongside efforts to prevent child marriage and FGM. They also have groups across the UK and the US which help young girls get involved in changing the world.

Where is the best place you’ve had your byline?

I should say The Guardian but I’m actually more proud of my first ever blog “Teen Granny” – that counts as a byline right?

What are some books we should bring with us on our holidays?

I’ve recently been reading the entire Muriel Spark backlog and I can’t believe I’ve never read her before. She was also a spy, which is amazing. For really great fiction I recommend anything by Sophie Hannah or Meg Wolitzer. There’s also a fantastic novel called The Proof of the Honey by Salwa Al Neimi which is basically an Arabic 50 Shades of Grey.

Which are your most frequented travel destinations?

Literally just NYC > London > NYC > London > Suffolk > London > Suffolk > NYC.

Going between New York and London, how do you feel young writers differ in their analysis and commentary?

I think young writers in NYC are much more vocal; they are less ashamed to speak up and get their writing out there. You have to be insanely pushy to succeed in writing and Americans are better at that.

Does travel inform your writing?

Yes, but mostly through the people I meet. I’ve met so many brilliant activists in NYC and they’ve definitely changed the way I think.

How can we involved with the #FreePeriods campaign?

Support Red Box Project or Bloody Good Period.

And finally, what’s in your SUITCASE?

Crystals, cuddly toys and way too much Rescue Remedy.

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