Category Archives: I am a Feminist!

The F-word: a plethora of personal feminisms

IMG_0001

I fear I have been thinking as an extremist. Not just thinking, but acting in an ‘if you don’t identify as a feminist then you’re a bellend’ way (as asexblogofonesown put it). Alas, I tend to behave as though everyone believes what I believe and that my beliefs are pretty close to being ‘right’. Doesn’t everyone?

That enjoying baking doesn’t compromise my stance as a feminist any more than my wearing whatever the hell I want or deciding not to shave my legs. But there’s me assuming that my brand of feminism is THE brand of feminism. Frankly, it isn’t.

If I learned anything in 2014, it’s that fourth-wave feminism comes in as many shapes, sizes and colours as women themselves.

How do I know? By reading.

I started with Caitlin Moran (who got me shouting ‘I am a Feminist!‘ at the top of my voice) and spiralled from there. I read Greer; I read Butler. I read Everyday Sexism, The Vagenda, and was given Vagina: A New Biography for my birthday (thanks Mum). I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech We Should All Be Feminists on my kindle, wondering where Beyonce had got that quote and how she had suddenly become a feminist icon overnight. I argued endlessly about whether ‘Queen Bey’ could or should be seen as such a thing, taking a different stance depending on who I was arguing with.

IMG_0944

As I argued, I felt my own views shift and change. As I widened by horizons I opened my mind to different perspectives, to different variations on the same theme. I never strayed from feminism, but I saw value in and let myself be influenced by the abundance of opinions around me.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what THE definition of feminism was. Realistically, I found, no amount of reading, researching, writing or even living could tell me that, because feminism has become something large, fluid and out of reach.

I simply held fast to the values that have been with me for as long as I can remember, essentially: pro-women and pro-equality, underscored with a feeling that there’s still a lot of work to be done.

I read fifty extremely varied accounts of what feminism means to fifty individual women, all of whom are successful in their field but have had to call upon feminist backgrounds to negotiate their way through the world. Reading Fifty Shades of Feminism was a crystalline moment for me. It did the opposite of define. The anthology embraced difference. It showed me fifty widely varying personal feminisms.

This plethora of feminisms is wonderful – women from all kinds of backgrounds, all over the world, giving their two cents, making a contribution and getting heard (at last)! Inspired, I said plenty of things in my own way – about hair, periods, contraception, education, marriage… Suddenly I had a real channel for my writing – why had it taken me so long to get going?!

IMG_0961Briefly though, I have feel double-crossed by fourth wave feminism. No – not feminism, but “feminists”. The label is important. The label is what’s been misused, not the values.

I was very worried when confronted by an old acquaintance for whom feminism is an cultural theory that, in his words, has ‘failed us’. He assured my entire Facebook world that the label “feminism” was used for more evil than good in 2014 – to shame, blame and scare people.

As a label, “feminism” has a long history of social stigma. Being a “feminist” has meant militancy, anger, and hatred of any human without a vulva. Being a “feminist” has meant bra burning and unusual amounts of body hair. Being a feminist has been a social faux pas for far too long. People have long felt uncomfortable about expressing their opinions, uncomfortable about labelling themselves as feminists.

I was relieved at the prospect that those ideas might finally be lifting, that humorous and intelligent contemporary writers like Caitlin Moran might actually be changing the way Feminism is viewed. With it came an onslaught of newfound and reborn feminists. ‘Fantastic!’ I thought, ‘Maybe something will really get done!

With them, though, came the extremists. Bra burners became slut shamers… and far worse. There have been accusations of rape with little or no evidence. There have been claims that feminism has the answers to all social problems. And, something I did not know until yesterday: there have been positive statements about the male suicide rate being higher than the female suicide rate. From feminists.

In its growth, feminism has become like any major social organisation, whether religious or political: the extremists get the attention or are most memorable and create a (new) stereotype. People are using the label as if to justify their evil actions, thus rebuilding a (much worse) stigma around the label. (‘Why now?’ my heart cries. ‘We’d only just reclaimed it for ourselves!’)

IMG_0966There’s a problem in the need to claim everyone. Like a political movement or a religious group, feminists want to enlighten those around them. The cost of an all-welcoming, all-encompassing, all-consuming social movement is that not all of its followers will agree on everything. Far too easily, the few can become the stereotype.

Many Christians have told me that they don’t believe someone can be a good person unless they believe in and serve God in their good deeds (perhaps not in quite those words). They couldn’t see that a young woman working herself into the ground for others’ benefit could be praise-worthy, because she was not religious (that woman was me).

Is determination that everyone who values gender equality should identify as a feminist is essentially the same thing?

Do really need to publicly ridicule people for not being feminists? Will we ever accept that not all people who value gender rights equality have to identify as feminists? Are we so desperate to get more fuel on the feminist fire that we don’t care how it burns?

No wonder people are uncomfortable about expressing their values as “feminism”. The label has been compromised. That doesn’t mean feminism has failed us. It’s not obsolete. The values are still relevant. It just means more work. Redefinition (for example, as intersectional feminists*) and reclamation.
We have already reclaimed feminism. A whole plethora of personal feminisms.
*Intersectionality concerns the way multiple oppressions intersect. Intersectional feminism is an attempt to elevate and make space for the voices and issues of those who are marginalised, and a framework for recognising how class, race, age, ability, sexuality, gender and other issues combine to affect women’s experience of discrimination.

More:

The fourth wave of feminism: meet the rebel women on The Guardian

An Open Letter to Kaley Cuoco, Who Has Been a Bit of a Bellend by asexblogofonesown

My thoughts on “F-Bomb Princesses”

What’s wrong with 6-year-old F-Bomb Princesses?

There’s been a LOT of controversy around the FCKH8 video since its release last week. Personally, I was amazed and delighted by 95% of my initial viewing of the video.

I loved the way stereotypes were being challenged, that young women were given the agency of freely using one of my favourite words repeatedly, and, most of all, that the issues discussed in the video were being recognised by the next generation of potential Feminists.

Rape and violence

Critics of the video are slating it because it’s designed to appeal to a certain breed of ‘young, hip feminists’, while going for the highest possible shock factor among the rest of the world.

So, only the ‘young and hip’ have liberal attitudes to swearing? Perhaps only the ‘young and hip’ are gullible enough to be suckered into actually buying one of the t-shirts being sold by FCKH8?

Frankly, I don’t imagine a single one of my ‘young and hip’ friends would stump up the money. I’m sure they’d rather donate £10 to a ‘worthy cause’ directly, and then make their own t-shirt. Young and/or hip doesn’t factor in the equation, it’s simply a matter of morals.

I first saw this video posted by a woman I adore and respect, alongside her comment:

‘This video is excellent up until the point it tries to sell you a T-shirt. Jesus Christ capitalism, stop trying to commodify feminism you fuckcake.’

I couldn’t agree more.

Using a social justice movement as a means to sell your product? Way to go, FCKH8, no-one’s thought of that before!

The video relies on shock factor to increase its shareability:

Shares = Publicity = Sales

It’s a shame, but it’s true: if there’s a way to make a profit, capitalism will find all kinds of ways to use our values against us.

That’s just how advertising works.

Unfortunately, empowerment cannot be bottled nor sold.

That’s just how freedom works.

My main concern is that the video exacerbates a lot of the negative stereotypes that people already have about feminism, which is potentially damaging for a movement that is just regaining momentum.

The video works on the assumption that the majority of viewers are more distressed to see girls as young as six on film using the F-word than they are about the pay gap, violence against women and sexual assault. FCKH8 assumed right, people generally don’t like to hear kids swearing.

I’m personally of the opinion that the concept of ‘adult words’ is a load of bullshit.Words are just words. Treating any word as if it were a ‘bomb’ renders it more potent and enables people to use it as a weapon.

Teaching a child that certain words are out of bounds is just a disaster waiting to happen – think of all that temptation! But that’s just me.  I view expletives as a more of a method of self-expression.

That said, critics have blown up about this video for its exploitation of little girls, citing the primary problem that it is scripted – these are not young women spouting a stream of expletives in genuine anger about the issues discussed.

I’m behind Rebecca Hains when she states: “I would feel differently if a video along these lines had been produced by girls as a way to find an audience for their authentic voices. If a group of young girls were passionate about combatting sexism in the U.S. and had decided to produce a video to raise awareness on the matter, and realized they could get their message out by swearing up a storm, more power to them—I’d applaud them for their creativity and media savvy.”

These are children saying what they’ve been told to by an organisation out to do one thing: make money.

FCKH8 has absolutely no sense of corporate responsibility. For all we know, these young girls haven’t a clue what they’re saying and have been chivvied into this ‘opportunity’ by pushy parents eager to guarantee their child’s first acting job.

In this and all sorts of other ways, FCKH8 is a pretty damn dodgy organisation. It seems they’ll do anything to create a provocative advertisement – even teach children about rape.

This video is certainly not a valid reason for children to learn about such subjects (do these girls even know what rape is? have they actually been taught?)… nevertheless, each of the five girls demands to know if she’ll be the statistically one-in-five of the group to be raped.

Ok, so we would like to protect our children from issues like these for as long as possible. But, in far too many cases, considering the vulnerability of so many children this notion of  ‘protecting’ them is not actually helpful. If a child is vulnerable to rape or abuse, isn’t it important that they are supported and taught to recognise what is and is not appropriate physical behaviour (particularly from adults)? A sheer lack of sexual education (from both parents and schools) means young victims do not understand their horrifying experiences.

Their confusion breeds silence and enables their further manipulation.

How is any victim able to break a cycle of behaviour they are unable to put into words?

Understanding the problems surrounding this video doesn’t stop politically engaged people enjoying and sharing it for the value it does have: continuing the discussion about the issues affecting women worldwide every single day of their lives.

If you haven’t seen the video, please do watch it and share your thoughts below. 

There is so much more to be said about this hugely problematic advertisement (both positive and negative). Frankly though, I can’t say it any better than The Belle Jar and Rebecca Hains already have. The way I see it, anything that promotes this much discussion is a positive addition to the world.

Originally published on Aliljoy.com on 28 October 2014.

Having it all?

Career and love: can we ever have it all?

So, I’ve got a bit of a situation here, and I’ve no idea how it’ll turn out.

I want my personal relationships to bring me happiness. I want to have a successful, fulfilling career. But it seems that wanting both simultaneously is just too much to ask.

You can’t have it all.

This whole situation would be so much easier – in fact, probably wouldn’t have occurred – if I weren’t so ambitious… Or, if my chosen ambition didn’t take me far away from the comforts of ‘home’. (Alas, it does.) My first boyfriend was extremely critical of my ambition, saying I was ‘too ambitious’ and implying that this would destroy all my relationships.

I’ve ALWAYS been of the opinion that no one and nothing can stop me on my chosen path (whatever that might be at the time). This was something I inherited from my mother, whose ‘Fuck you, I’m doing it anyway!’ attitude I’ve long admired.

My dad, too, has always helped me feel that the world is mine to conquer and that ANYTHING is possible if I put my mind to it. The highest compliment in our home is being ‘bright’ – one that is dished out plenty. So, working towards something, getting rewarded and taking my place in my own grand scheme of things has always seemed the natural progression. I’m doing what I want with my life, because I’ve made it possible for myself (partly without intending to).

The thing is, I want to be an academic, and my chosen field of study (though specifics still elude me) is very specialist and takes me far from my UK home (I’m leaving for China this week, and won’t be back until July).

So, how on earth do I follow my chosen path AND find love and maintain relationships?

Well, the problem (and delight) is that I’ve already found love. My issue is maintenance, which ain’t going too well – in fact, ain’t going AT ALL right now.

Let me explain.

My personal situation led me to question which lifestyle was the lesser of two evils:

a) ‘Career-bitch’, super successful in my field, jet-setting but perpetually alone;

OR

b) Happily settled (married, kids?) in a loving relationship but working a basic data-entry office job in the town I grew up in for the next 20 years.

Reductive and dramatic, perhaps – but you get the idea.

This is where my desperation arose as I was preparing to graduate just over a year ago. Unable to voice my worries or to change the unrealised stirrings of my dream-like ambitions, I broke up with the guy who’d supported, inspired and buoyed me for the past 4 years and whom I still (yes, still) love and don’t want to leave behind.

My fear of the one drove me far closer to the other. Ok – neither is at all bad if it’s what YOU want, what you (and you alone) have chosen as your path.

careers and love friends joy

(Image via)

But WHY does this have to be a choice? Can’t I have my career and love too?

Casting around, I’ve found similar stories that don’t exactly inspire me.

Women who get high up in their industry either:

a) put their career ahead of their personal life (and get judged and labelled for this decision);

OR

b) end up quitting or collapsing under the strain of juggling family and professional life simultaneously.

For example, Josie Rourke, the first female artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse, who also just happens to be single (right now) and childless at 34, was dubbed as a ‘sterile careerist’ on Twitter, within weeks of her appointment.

On the other hand, ‘high-flying MP Louise Mensch resigned her seat to be with her husband and kids in New York. Then, in July 2012, Princeton dean Anne-Marie Slaughter explained why she had given up a “foreign-policy dream job’”in Washington because her fourteen-year-old son back in New Jersey was having problems’ (from Elaine Showalter in Fifty Shades of Feminism).

It’s not just that there aren’t sufficient measures in place to help women in pressurised careers deal with difficult personal situations – women with families, young kids or relationship issues – it’s that society does not make allowances for people to juggle careers and personal lives because we’re still stuck in the dark ages in which gender roles determine our professional and social abilities.

True, this is not JUST a women’s issue – I’ve noticed male academics too seem to struggle maintaining personal relationships (though I don’t know the statistics), and I do wonder: is it to do with their deep involvement in their work, the necessity of travel, or what?!

However, I do think this affects women more than men and is something we need to look at more closely. It’s an issue that’s troubled me for some time, and I feel it worries women far more than men of the same age – how do I make these elements of my life work in tandem?

Can I ever be successful AND happy?

Short of my ex moving to China, or me giving up on a, as yet unchartered, fledgling career, I’m pretty stuck for options right now. (Long distance just does not work when you’re thousands of miles apart for months on end, believe me).

For me, all I’ve got to hold onto is hope for the future and the reassurance that, yes, I do know what love is.

Part-time face; part-time you?

A few days ago I came across something that further confused my already complicated relationship with make-up: this.

My first reaction was amazement. I have never used nor experienced make-up being used like this before (make-up isn’t exactly my forte). Of course I’m not completely oblivious. I know it can work wonders. I realise that the right make-up can create an entire character on stage and film, but that’s usually combined with hair, costume, prosthetics and lighting…

Makeup

(Image via)

I was barely aware of the ways make-up alone can transform a person’s face, right down to how their bone structure appears beneath the skin. But I always assume this is complex work done by the pros – the backstage magicians that do so much behind the scenes.

But in real life? Surely not.

Do real people (I’m mostly looking at women here) spend hours of their time in front of the mirror, working out the best ways to make their skin look like it glows or their face appear a different shape, in an attempt to transform their outward guise into that of a cross between Rihanna and a human Barbie princess?

The Power of Makeup

(Image via)

I am faced with the definite possibility that yes, real women do do this. But why?

Why are so many women so bent on such extreme self-alteration?

Maybe it’s fun.

It’s like airbrushing reality. Applying a new face every day allows you to reinvent yourself. As your ideal you. As someone you’re not.

Maybe it’s a kind of protection. Like a self-preservation method to disguise something you’d rather not show the world.

But doesn’t hiding give that old familiar self-esteem problem a freer reign over you? Running away from reality only makes things worse.

If taking off your make-up at the end of the day reveals a completely different face, you’re not really showing the real you to the world. It’s like lying to everyone around you. And lying to yourself too – the uncanny self that’s trapped underneath all the falsity, whom you can see only when you look your mirror self in the eye. And the thicker the make-up, the deeper the lie.

I’ve had photos taken that do not look like me. My skin looks nice. I even think I look pretty. But there’s something missing, something strangely unfamiliar about my own face. Even though I know it’s me, it’s not really me. And everyone who saw it agreed. I hated it. It was the make-up.

What really worries me is the knowledge that some women feel they cannot do anything without make-up on. Some don’t leave home, or even their bedroom, without making a change to ‘improve’ their face.

Women, young and old, can go through entire relationships (with partners, friends, family) in which the people around them never actually see their face for what it really is beneath.

For me, this seems like a horrifying prospect. Another constraint forced upon us by the ‘f***ing patriarchy’ to restrict our ideas and prevent the free expression of ourselves as individual people.

I know, though, that things could be worse. We could be suffering from a fashion phase of plastic surgery, in which women would all have one of three standard ‘beautiful’ faces that happened to be in Vogue at the time, like the South Korean models who looked identical at the ‘Miss Korea’ pageant.

This sounds like a horror story used to shock us, but it might strike more of a chord if you’d seen the plastic surgery advertisements lining the walls of the subway system in Seoul. It’s terrifying.

For now, I comfort myself with the knowledge that I, personally, am not afraid to go to work, the pub, the gym, on a date (yes, I did that recently!) without any make-up on. It feels like a minor act of rebellion every time.

(Originally published on Aliljoy.com on June 9 2014)

To shave or not to shave; why is that the question?

Getting down and dirty with VDT

Everything in Charlotte Vincent’s Motherland seems deliberately challenging, to the point it is almost stubbornly confrontational.

Motherland © Alastair Muir
Motherland © Alastair Muir

Women of the World: Vincent Dance Theatre’s Motherland

Aggressively sexual, full-frontally experimental and self-consciously provocative, Vincent Dance Theatre’s Motherland dirtied the stage at the Southbank Centre on 9th March 2014 as part of the WOW (Women of the World) Festival 2014. Utterly mad, sometimes poignant and beautiful, and often uncomfortable, Motherland celebrates women in a peculiar and incredibly thought-provoking way…

I was initially quite impressed by the striking, uncompromising Feminist nature of this piece, but, by the end, it left me feeling confused and unconvinced that in fact it was Feminist or even pro-women. Perhaps it was more about the strangeness of relationships and the difficulties of negotiating our paths through life, irrespective of sex or gender. If it weren’t part of the WOW festival at the Southbank, perhaps I wouldn’t have left feeling as though I’d been duped out of the distinct Feminist voice I felt I’d been promised. Nevertheless, I can’t deny that Charlotte Vincent got me thinking!

Click the link in the title above to read my full 3-star review on Bachtrack.

The hellish job interview I bailed on (but should’ve bailed earlier)

It’s taken a long time for me to write this down, but I hope I can do it justice: this was the worst job interview of my life. It’s laughable now, but at the time, I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. The experience shook my confidence and undermined my faith in humanity (just a little). I’ve shared a short version of this story on Aliljoy.com, that you can read here. If you want the detailed version though, keep reading!

Girls(Image via)

Newly graduated and having returned home from a hectic summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I finally made a (half-hearted) start to my jobsearch in early September 2013. I’d been home just a few weeks, and on the dole just a few days when I was invited to interview at a company I’d never heard of before. I had no way of knowing how they’d got my contact details, but I’d signed up to so many job-sites since signing-on that I’d lost track. I didn’t realise you could be invited to interview, out of the blue, without applying for anything… I was a tad worried it was a scam.

Quintet Group brand themselves as an “outsource marketing” company. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but I gave them a fairly thorough googling before I went along to my first interview. Their website wasn’t exactly enlightening, nor was it well-designed. But I went along nonetheless, wary but curious, and aware it could be good for interview “practice”.

It was pissing with rain and I was wearing Bella’s lovely velvet jacket (Bella was wearing one of my jackets while she and Felix went to explore Norwich Castle). I completed various forms and questionnaires as I waited to be seen – the receptionist said she loved the jacket, while I decided not to comment on the height of her heels. When I finally went into the office, it was was cold and the boss, Mr Morton, conducted the interview at high speed. He neglected to provide an explanation of the actual job, but instead talked his way round it, explaining that this was one of several branches of Quintet Group, each branch representing one of many clients… blah!

Later, eating Fish and Chips at the pub with Bella and Felix, I got an email inviting me back for a second round interview, at 11am the next day. It said I should dress in business attire, that I should cancel all other plans and be prepared for adverse weather conditions, because we would be out of the office. It was phrased to sound like there would be various rounds throughout the day, and only successful candidates would be asked to stay until 8pm. Hmmm…

My curiosity had not been quenched; I still wanted to know what the job involved, so I went back. Returning to the office the next morning, I was struck by how many people they claimed to employ, and how little space there was to accommodate them: there were only two offices side-by-side, and a drafty hallway… in fact, there was nowhere to go to the loo!! My request was met with surprise, and the receptionist had to “check” before giving me a definite no. This was seeming less professional and more like a scam every second…

Oh! the situations we get ourselves into:

I was one of only two interviewees on day two. At the time I thought that might be an indication of my calibre as a candidate. But I realised later that everyone else had probably seen through the thinly veiled desperation – badly concealed as professionalism of the whole scenario. Although I can’t remember the exact details, I want to say the other candidate was called Gary. In my mind’s eye, he looked like a Gary. Greasy, grimy, Gary. Gary and I were called into Mr Morton’s office to meet our interviewer. I think this guy’s name was Christian. He was a bit of a sleaze. More than a bit. We were going to be ‘out of the office’ under Christian’s watchful eye for most of the day, and would only come back for a third round interview with Mr Morton “if we were successful” during the day.

There were various moments at which I felt uncomfortable, but the worst came early on. The first thing we were required to do, was follow Christian and his lard-arsed colleague to this fatso’s car, and to get in. We stood in a wet car park with Christian who smoked and told us about all the company’s clients (LoveFilm and various unheard-of charities, among others) while greasy colleague (let’s go for desperate Dan) cleared the back seat of children’s car seats and food debris. We were then told to get into the car. For the sake of a job I didn’t know I wanted (or didn’t want, as it turned out), I got into a greasy stranger’s car with three unknown men and no idea where I was being driven or whether I would ever see my family again. I could have been raped, pillaged and killed. Luckily, I wasn’t. But that’s the kind of situation no-one wants to get into, and one I shouldn’t have let myself get into.

Mum said later that she thought it was very interesting that I noted my own discomfort at the time, and yet still went along with the instructions. I could have stated my outrage at the time, told them all to go fuck themselves and walked away from a shit job about six hours earlier than I did. But, alas, I got in the car.

We parked up on the side of the road. Greasy colleague Dan left us in the back of the car to be lectured by Christian. He then began the most analogical explanation of the job, using the example of a restaurant-owner employing someone to take over the business in his absence. It was highly convoluted, but his point was that you must train someone small task by small task, until they can do everything well enough to train someone else. It was sounding like there would be a lot of learning and also a lot of training other people in this job. There was also a mention of pride, pride that must be put aside to make significant progress in this job.

We walked to the target area for the day and Christian finally explained the first level of the ‘training scheme’ as he was now calling it. The first ‘stage’ of the ‘scheme’, which takes most people between ten days and two weeks, was door-to-door sales. He demonstrated, asking Gary and I to watch from a distance of two houses ahead and behind respectively, going through a spiel of crap about some charity and trying to persuade unsuspecting people to donate money. This was what their website had meant by ‘outsource marketing’ then. Right.

It got to a point at which I had been standing outdoors in the cold and drizzling rain, I hadn’t eaten for several hours, I was desperate to pee and I knew I didn’t want the job, but I stayed anyway. I could see now why they say curiosity killed the cat. Finally, as we had lunch sitting outside a booky’s, Christian explained how the ‘training scheme’ worked. It turned out to be a pyramid scheme, working on commission. And door-to-door sales was not only the first few weeks of the job but the first eight months! Imagine doing that day after day after day throughout winter. It would be shit even if it wasn’t cold. Not only is rejection incredibly demoralizing anyway, but you don’t get paid unless you can convince someone to give you their bank details and sign up for monthly payments towards something they neither want or need. I don’t believe there are enough people stupid enough to do that in the whole world ever to make a decent living out of it.

Christian chatted away, all the time stuffing his mouth full of homemade cheap-white-bread-and-spreadable-cheese sandwiches, telling us his plans to set up an office in Norwich, then five around Marseille, then five in another area of southern France. As if he will ever make enough money to do that, doing this job. How on earth was fatso Dan making enough to support children, run a car and pay rent? Christian told us about a very clever, business-minded young woman who had risen through the ranks and was now making upwards of “twenty grand” a month, or something mad like that. I didn’t believe him, and nor did I want to focus just on making money in my first job out of Uni.

After lunch we went into the Booky’s to go to the loo. I took my time, enjoying the shelter and also trying to work out what on earth to say and do next. Now I knew what I would be signing up for, I could finally make an informed decision. Unfortunately, my choice would have been no different had I followed my gut instinct as much as 24 hours before. I asked Christian for a quiet word, and told him I didn’t think it was right for me. I said it as politely as I could muster, saying I wanted to go straight into the arts. He tried to dissuade me, saying he had been planning to recommend me to Mr Morton as a good candidate, and reminding me of what I could do with the money that was just out there, waiting to be made.

Sorry, what? I have a first class degree, andyou think this is what I want to be doing? Yes, I could be good at this job. I could be brilliant at a million jobs. But I would get bored as hell after two days of door-to-door sales. Moreover, I’d rather shoot myself in the foot than commit to working alongside such ignorant, misogynistic dolts for the next year. I didn’t say that. I simply said I had made up my mind, thanked him for the opportunity, and walked away.

Minutes later I burst into tears on the phone to my Dad from the Lidl carpark, shaking with anger and adrenaline (and probably cold, too) asking him to pick me up. Bella, who was staying with me at the time, couldn’t believe I had stayed as long as I did – everyone was impressed with both my staying power (curiosity) and my leaving power.

I never wanted to see any of those men ever again. Alas, Bella and I saw them again on the Megabus from Norwich to London, four days later. They were sat right behind us but we didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves by moving seats, so we just kept pretty quiet. I had two job interviews lined up that week (and actually got both the jobs)… but seeing them was enough to get me seething nonetheless.

The moral of my story, I think, is trust your instincts, and follow your heart. I’m hardly the best role model – I get sucked into things all too easily – but don’t get talked into doing something you’re not interested in, or that conflicts with your morals and sense of self.