Creative, Opinion

“I’m a feminist because… I’m passionate about creating a positive and healthy environment for the future”

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Humanity Hallows Issue 5 Out Now
Pick up your copy on campus or read online

In the run up to Reclaim the Night Manchester UK 2017 on February 23, we’re asking students to share their experiences and tell us why they’re a feminist.

By Beverley Irving

I am an MA Illustration student and my work predominantly addresses gender equality. I’m a feminist for so many reasons: personal experiences, beliefs and the passion to help create a positive and healthy environment for the future.

A couple of early personal experiences made me realise that I am a feminist. I was a girl who was never really interested in dolls, I loved dinosaurs and sharks and football. I also loved to dance! I was considered a tomboy, but why? Because I liked to put my football kit on and kick people in the shins? Just because you are of a certain gender, you shouldn’t automatically be assigned to certain interests and likes.

Another incident that influenced me happened when I was 15. A middle aged man used to drive past me on my way home from school everyday. He would always beep his horn and wave and, at first, I would wave as I thought he must have been a friend of my dad. After a while, I described his car, registration and appearance to my dad and he told me he did not know this man. He then stopped at the side of the road and tried to talk to me. I would ignore him and walk away. One day my friend came back in to school to tell me he was waiting for me outside and had asked her where I was. I went to tell a teacher and had to be driven home. My dad went to the police to report him as one of my friend recognised his registration plate (it was in an unusual font. I can still remember the number today). It turns out he lived on her road and we knew he had a son a few years older than us. It meant we could tell the police who he was and where he lived. The police said they could not do anything about this as he had not done anything wrong. I believe he had done enough wrong to warrant a warning at least. He made me feel scared, self-conscious and vulnerable.

I addressed this experience in my BA Illustration exhibition which actually reiterated how the reaction to a girl’s or woman’s body becomes the woman’s problem. I made a life-sized cut out of myself as a child with the breasts visible through the clothes. I wanted to switch the discomfort I experienced at my body changing and the awareness I felt that other people could see this. I wanted the viewer to feel uncomfortable, and for the viewer to realise that how they deal with this is important, as a girl is not in control of her changing body. I was told my piece might have to come with a disclaimer or be hidden behind a curtain. I felt this proved my point. It is inappropriately down to the female to hide herself away and try to deflect attention, rather than the person reacting being told they are wrong. I wrote on the wall about my experience and invited people to anonymously write about theirs too.

You can find images, complete with descriptions, from my exhibition below:

‘B A Girl.’ Self portrait

“Here is my degree show girl. At first I was willing to have a disclaimer on my work, and then it came about that she may have to be hidden behind curtains. The more I have thought about it, the more defensive I became. She is in no way sexualised. At this age, she will be hyper aware of her body changing and also of you being aware of her body changing too. It is possibly the most uncomfortable time of a young girl’s life and I wanted to throw that uncomfortable feeling back at the viewer. It has been suggested that the breasts being visible on a child could be seen as offensive, and I have been questioned as to whether I am prepared for people’s reactions. If people are offended by the work, it is how they are seeing her. School girls have been sexualised for years to the point of it being fancy dress for older women. This, at my age, I cannot understand. This girl doesn’t have anything on her that sexualises her. She only has the body she is changing into and putting her behind a curtain is a way of body shaming. She shouldn’t have to police the body she has because of how the viewer is seeing at her. This is the point of my work and I fully defend her. Am I ready for people’s reactions? I think so, we shall see, but illustration isn’t just about pretty pictures and cartoons, I’m illustrating how I have experienced society.”

House Lad

“I hope one day the responsibility of family life falls equally between parents without discrimination, without bias expectation, and with the support that is needed from the workplace. I feel this would help eliminate multiple gender stereotypes, force the gender pay-gap to decrease, equal rights for parental leave, and family friendly working hours.”

The Sexist’s Alphabet – Unattractive

“Men should be able to express their emotions without feeling emasculated. If the stigma was removed from men being open and talking about how they are feeling, how would this impact on the statistics which show disproportionate numbers of young men committing suicide in comparison to women?”

The Sexist’s Alphabet – Tease
“The nipple issue! As a female you can be conscious of a visible nipple poking through your top. Such a small thing can warrant a celebrity photo being printed in the Daily Mail (not that it takes much for that). I find it baffling that this small thing is another way to police women’s bodies when men can be acceptably shirtless.”

The Sexist’s Alphabet – Rank

“Society puts so much pressure on people to look like and behave a certain way. Children are also exposed to this, even innocently. From pouting in photographs, music videos, adverts, magazines. There is this constant bombardment of unrealistic expectations which can lead to an unhealthy image of yourself and low self esteem.”

Get involved and tell us why you’re a feminist. To submit a contribution, email


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Humanity Hallows

1 Comment

  1. Deb Payne 12th October 2020 at 9:57 pm -  Reply

    I’m actually made to feel I’m mad just because I don’t agree that men & women should be viewed differently.

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