Spotlight artist: Isobel Richards

In case our readers don’t have/follow us on Instagram, could you please give a little introduction of who you are and what you’re up to at the minute?

Hi, I’m Issy and I’m a postgraduate student studying for a PGCE at Cambridge. I love being creative and try to draw as frequently as possible in my spare time. I’ve been embroidering sporadically for about a year- I started embroidering on shirts originally (an avocado was the first thing I embroidered) and well, it grew from there! Following the series of comments that embroidery is an ‘old lady’s hobby’, I’ve been trying to ‘get with the times’ and have recently started experimenting with digital mediums and sharing my work on social media.

How would you describe your art?

I would describe my art as quite abstract and simplistic- it’s just a series of lines really!

What drives you to create? What or who inspires you? 

Aside from other feminist artists and line drawings that I like, I’m also heavily inspired by female experience. Being surrounded by amazingly empowered, educated women; at uni and in life, I wanted to find a way to convey and solidify the beauty & power of female strength, form and experience through art. Creativity and art are also a way that I can switch off, so I’m driven by my own sanity as well!

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Do you have a few stellar Instagram accounts you would recommend?

YES- so many! In this day and age (I sound like an old lady again), Instagram is such a good platform for sharing art with the world! From an artistic perspective, there are a series of illustration accounts that I love: @arewenearlybareyet is a great one- the simple colours are beautiful, @gemmacorrell is fantastic for aspiring adults and the reality of day-to-day life. From an embroidery perspective: @ohmygollyembroidery is brilliant and very creative, and from a general life point of view, @danschawbel is stellar; very inspirational.

Do you feel your art has a trajectory and do you think it needs one?

No, I don’t really feel my art has a trajectory- I fear that having a rigid ‘trajectory’ could put a bit of a dampener on my creativity; the need to create something within a time frame would be quite stifling I think, so I just work as and when I have time or want to. At the moment I’m just trying to develop my own personal style and way of working.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given to do with your art?

The best piece of advice that I was given was by my friend Alex and it was that: “nothing else matters” when art is involved. Other people’s expectations and personal insecurities should go out the window and I should just focus on the moment and what I’m doing. A beautifully profound comment really.

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Make sure to follow Issy’s art account on Instagram @by_issy_

Grad Talk with Harriet Lamb

Blanca Schofield-Legorburo 

I was so fortunate to have Harriet Lamb onto my Camfm radio show. An international development stalwart and Cosmopolitan’s 2008 Eco-Queen, Harriet’s career spans decades of working in organisations such as the World Development Movement (WDM) and as CEO of Fairtrade UK and now International Alert. During the show we spoke about her varied experiences in this field, including protests and more organisational work, as well as observations and advice she would give to a woman hoping to go into international development today. Read on to see what this amazing woman had to say on these topics.


Tell us a bit about your degree in Cambridge.

When I first came to Cambridge (Trinity Hall) I read English because I wasn’t aware of all the different options there were. I was good at English and loved it – among other things, it helps you think about words and how you present them. However, I became more interested in politics and switched to HSPS – this was a gift of being in Cambridge as I was lucky to be able to switch. Then I was able to begin work on the love of my life: politics and social activism.

Were you always interested in world affairs?

As a child I spent 3 years in Maharashtra in central India because of my father’s job, thus I was exposed to and always knew about terrible poverty. Yet I also learnt from that age that though imperial history has kept them poor, countries like India are also more than capable of tackling poverty themselves. I then went back to India when I was 18 to teach English, and began thinking more about these issues. After Cambridge, I went back again for 2 years and lived in villages and worked with small NGOS. Then when I went on to work for Fairtrade I had seen what it is actually like to work for a Co-op and take on big forces. That experience always kept me grounded.

How did you envision and start your career?

I’ve never had a grand plan – I’ve taken opportunities when they’ve come and so far it’s worked out really luckily for me. I struggled in my final year of Cambridge, wondering if I wanted to go down the G&T or brown rice route. I chose brown rice! After India, I did an MPhil in development studies in Brighton at Sussex University. This gave an intellectual framing to what I’d learnt first hand. I then decided I didn’t want to work oversees, but back in Britain as we also had to sort out our own problems.

I worked first on low pay – campaigning in those days for a national minimum wage. This taught me that what some think is impossible and everyone thinks will be an economic catastrophe can and does work! Economists say all kinds of things are impossible, but you actually can introduce them.

I then worked with refugees in the North of England from Palestine, Ethiopia and then for the World Development Movement, which focuses on how England works with developing countries, particularly in cancel the debt and arms sales. For example, we wanted to highlight the financing of fighter jets of Britain to Indonesia, which was using them to bomb people in East Timor who were fighting for independence. I’ll tell you about a protest we did: we actually bought a share in Midland Bank so we could attend an AGM in the city (I still have my £1 share) then drove a hired tank through the city of London (having told the press) and went to the AGM, put up our hands and asked why they were financing the sales of these fighter jets. I did wonder if I was going to get arrested… But actually it was fine!

Did anything happen – did they change their policy?

Not immediately, but we were trying to put the spotlight on them. I’ve always believed in campaigning – sometimes you are lucky and have short-term wins, but more often that not you aim to shift the ground. Then these companies learn that there is a risk of protest and the risk factor is taken into account more and more so the next time they will think harder about it.

When campaigning you are up against enormous forces – look at Britain selling weapons to Saudis who are bombing Yemen and then we send aid to Yemen. What you come up against all the time is that people are mainly preoccupied with making profit, leading to ever-increasing inequality. You hope logic is what they will answer to, but it comes down to money and short-term profits. For example, Fairtrade is more expensive, but in the long run it helps the company position themselves as attractive and ethical. So you need to convince companies and corporations to put long term profits above short term. It is the same argument for divestment! If the university wants to situate itself in the future it has to think about divestment! It has to show that it is ready to take the high-ground and be a leader.

How did you pick the areas of international development you wanted to work in? You did so much!

While working for WDM I thought: what are the structural things that keep countries oppressed? Arms, aid and trade. Given the power of multinationals and the impact they have on trade, we then started pushing for a general code of conduct, which the world still doesn’t have. For an example we looked at bananas and campaigned against the use of agrochemicals and the suppression of trade unions in Latin America. We dumped a tonne of banana skins in front of Del Monte HQ in Kent to protest. I then got hooked on bananas! They are a symbol of so much that is wrong with how international trade works. How can we create a bubble where we show that you can do it differently? Bananas and Fairtrade.

You’ve done such a mixture of large-scale organising and protest and activism!

I did more protest at that time and then worked for Fairtrade for 15 years, which was about always creating a positive solution to show it could be different. The power of the positive alternative is so important.

Can you tell us about your experience of being a woman in international development – did you see equal opportunities?

It is a sector that seems to attract a lot of women. But then you look at leaders and they are very often men! This is because of sexism, but also women leave to have children. Though it is much better now than it was in my day, there is still not enough support for women or available and affordable childcare. Many employers don’t make juggling easy. I have been lucky with employers who let me work part-time after my second child. It’s great working part time at 3 or 4 days a week. I lived and worked in Germany and there part-time was much more normal: people work in the office and then are creative and help their family or community. You can still succeed with part-time! I also did a job share once and I think the organisation benefited hugely as it had 2 brains instead of 1.

Do you think women will only find equality when society becomes less fast-paced and focused on productivity?

I actually found that women and people who worked part time were more productive! They know they have to get things done. Why are we so obsessed with a 5-day working week? Why not 4 and get more people into work? We have such a fear of a societal re-structuring. And now, although we have more economic growth, people’s leisure time has decreased, and with phones and laptops you can be expected to work all the time…Yet there are more and more opportunities for women. It is incredible how much has changed, if you think that just before I came to Trinity Hall it was all men!

Do you think we are losing focus on Fairtrade and workers’ rights?

We should not have to pick between Fairtrade and organic and vegan. We underestimate how much companies listen to what customers want: we can ask them to produce their products ethically and must never feel shy to do so and reward those who do the right thing and congratulate them.

We should also push on the fashion industry. We did struggle with Fairtrade cotton as the fashion industry is so fast paced – it is very hard to get them to respond. But how can you be paying the workers well if you are only paying £10 for a pair of jeans?

Though it does take a long time to push for social change, we can see how so much change can be achieved! Look at veganism: 10 years ago you wouldn’t be able to get a vegan meal so easily!

Tell us about the organisation you are CEO of now, International Alert.

I’ve always felt that the three big issues are poverty, conflict and climate change. The three are interconnected – conflict keeps people poor and climate is the exacerbating factor. We work with communities to bring people together across different sides of conflict, for example refugees from the Syrian civil war: when you meet other people you immediately find that there is more that connects than divides you. When they first enter the room everyone blames everyone, but by the end they are working together for social activism, etc. However, it needs to be taken to a whole other scale – conflict is rising and yet there is no proper adequate response to it. Strangely there isn’t a peace movement the way there was in earlier times. What can we do to raise awareness and what can we all do to help build peace? With Fairtrade we landed on something that everyone could do, but we haven’t found that with peace-keeping. You can email your MP and Jeremy Hunt etc. But we all must help to build a society of love and compassion against the competitiveness and aggression. Respect others and slow down.

Do you have any advice for students hoping to go into international development?

It is annoying, but the best way is to start working as a volunteer for organisations. I spent many a happy hour stuffing envelopes!

I also always believe that you must keep a work-life balance – keep work in perspective and have fun at it! You should enjoy it. If you do you keep up your stamina.

Any final thoughts and reflections?

What is that vision we want of internationalism in the future? How can we build a future that tackles inequality? At the moment we are hearing and seeing the voices of anger, but we need to put forward another vision of a more fair and peaceful world.


I hope you enjoyed reading Harriet’s thoughts on life in international development. If you would like to hear the whole interview please email us and we can send it to you.

Also, for more information on the Fashion Industry and its effect on the environment, I really recommend you watch The True Cost: https://truecostmovie.com/ 

Thank you and let us know if you would like to write a Grad Talk of your own with a graduate you admire.

Grad Talk with Elizabeth Day

Bea Carpenter 

To me, Elizabeth Day was an obvious choice for someone to interview for Grad Talk. For those of you yet to discover her she is a best selling author and journalist currently writing a weekly column for the You magazine in the Mail on Sunday and is the host of the very popular “How to fail” podcast. She is releasing a book of the same name “part memoir, part manifesto”, all about learning from our mistakes, that comes out very shortly.

Before all of this success she graduated from Queens College Cambridge with a double first in History. At the end of Lent term, on International Women’s Day no less, I was lucky enough to chat to Elizabeth over the phone and ask her a few questions on life after Cambridge and how she felt her time here prepared her for the real world. Although we veered off track slightly during our conversation, I managed to ask a few of the questions I prepared so I hope you enjoy reading Elizabeth’s answers and hearing her advice.


B: When you were at University were you still able to enjoy writing and use it as a creative outlet or did you ever become bored of it?

E: I’ve never in my life been bored of writing, which is a really lovely thing given that’s how I make my living. It’s interesting, because I didn’t actually do that much creative writing but I did an enormous amount of journalism; I was a section editor on Varsity, I edited my college magazine (a satirical magazine) and I was the JCR communications officer that involved doing a quarterly newsletter. I did try to write a really terrible play, which quite rightly got absolutely nowhere.

Elizabeth remarked that she didn’t write novels because in her head it felt like a “craft and a skill that I had to learn” and she didn’t feel ready to do so. This led us to discuss how odd it is that writing is best learnt by doing, yet so often people are too scared to start. Elizabeth believes “ 95% of people have a novel in them, but very few people can sit down and write it”. One of her tips for novel writing is “the most important thing is getting words on a page” and that it can always be edited!

B: Did you feel the pressure of perfectionism when at University?

E: I massively felt it. I did come from an all Girls school and the cult of perfectionism was very strong there as well. I was an internal perfectionist: I felt I got rewarded when I got good grades and that became a sort of inner loop in my head. But I also think Cambridge is an incredibly stimulating environment in the right way because there are so many people thinking in different ways and you are actually encouraged to think differently so I found it a bit of release after school, being stuck so rigidly to a curriculum. Where I found it really difficult was revision, it was like an arms race for revision hours. It becomes its own hot house!

Elizabeth went on to say she felt 4 hours of revision a day was the optimum for her. This was hugely reassuring to hear after having seen people trapped in the library for so much of last year’s Easter term and dreading the prospect of it. It also just reminded me that we all learn in different ways so trying to compare ourselves is pointless.

B: Perhaps because everyone here has hyper-achieved, they need to find another level of competition?

E: Yes and I realised quite quickly that I couldn’t do everything whereas at school I did lots of different extra curriculars. So I focused on the thing I really loved which was writing. If people are brilliant at everything across the board there is a danger that they then get a bit lost in adult life because in adult life the reality is you can’t be good at everything all the time!

(We then bonded over the fact that we both play the trumpet and noted the lack of female trumpet players so I just wanted to flag it up as a plea for more women to learn brass!)

E: Something I would give as a piece of advice, is sometimes at Cambridge it felt as if I was not one of the best and brightest of my generation but actually life is reassuringly long and it might just be you are not in that patch of life where you are at your most fulfilled and that will come to you in your 20’s or 30’s or 40’s!

B: When you had just graduated from University did you experience that limbo as so many graduates do?

E: I was approaching that sense of limbo in my final term of second year. [After graduation] I thought to myself I would do a postgrad journalism training course or go onto work in the local paper but then a friend dragged me to a careers fair. The first man I saw was the deputy editor of the Londoner’s diary on the Evening Standard and it was completely random that he was there. He said to come in for some work experience so I went in for a week in summer, by the end of [it] I had a full time job there. I couldn’t believe it. I went straight into that job after graduating and I knew how lucky I was. The reason I can relate to the feeling of limbo is that Max Hastings, the editor who had given me the job, left a few months after I had arrived and it went through quite a chaotic time. I started to feel like I was stagnating slightly and I didn’t know how to get on to the next thing and I found that a really tricky period of my life. Similarly I felt like everyone else had it sorted, but they didn’t. It was just the impression I was torturing myself with. The great thing about being at that stage of life is you can take gambles, because you don’t have dependence. So I was able to leave that job on the idea of getting something else.

Another piece of advice from Elizabeth concerning journalism is that you can genuinely learn on the job, so to go for it.

B: I wanted to ask how has writing “How to fail” compared to writing novels and your work as a journalist?

E: I’ve always dreamt of being a novelist [but] I’ve loved writing How To Fail in a way that I didn’t anticipate. I think the reasons are twofold; one is that I’ve now been a journalist for 18 years and there is a confidence that comes from just having done something a lot and with this particular book I was surprised to find that I had so much I wanted to say and it came to me quite naturally. I loved the process. [In journalism] there is always a word count and an editor who wants a certain thing from me. With How to Fail I could write it exactly how I wanted it to be and I found it so liberating. With a novel you have to invent an entire world, but with How To Fail the groundwork was already there because it was my lived experience. The other thing, a practical thing, [with a tight deadline] I went to LA for a month, said no to all other journalism and wrote everyday in the sunshine and it was such a happy period of my life, getting this stuff of my chest and a tan at the same time…

B: As it’s International Women’s day and this is for Girl Talk, I wondered what your experiences have been of gender discrimination in Publishing and Journalism?

E: Publishing is incredibly female dominated and I love it and I work with amazing, strong and extremely kind and clever women. It has been a joy from beginning to end. I’ve had the same editor for every single book, she’s called Helen and she is amazing and the way she expresses herself is so respectful towards me and my writing which is not the case with journalism. The only place [sexism] has made itself felt is in the jacket choice for book covers and historically a lot of female authors have been marketed a certain way. A man would write about family and it would be called ‘a state of the nation novel’ and a woman would do it and it would be called a ‘domestic drama’.

In terms of Journalism, I would have said the same thing until the #metoo movement. I had gone into journalism at the stage where I still felt very grateful for being allowed into this predominantly male space, I didn’t feel I deserved to be there. I was constantly saying yes to things. I now realize I should have been questioning the entire system and not afraid to claim my own space. A lot of things I was asked to write about were “Women’s interests” as it was at the time when editors were desperate to get more women reading papers. It’s been wonderful to see how journalism has adapted and become so much less binary and I honestly think it’s because of a generation of younger women who are calling it out. I needed that to happen to understand my own history.

B: Finally, what are the three most valuable takeaways from your Uni experience (and life in general) and what advice would you give to people at Cambridge now?

E: The first advice I would give is know there is more than one way of looking at something. You might think that something has happened that is really bad and you’re failing at, but I promise you that there is another way of looking at it which makes those difficult moments into opportunities.

My second piece of advice is don’t feel you have to do everything at Cambridge. It is completely fine just to do your degree. You are enough doing that. You don’t have to be everything to everyone or do everything at once.

And my third piece of advice, I was about to say something that made me sound 85… but appreciate the extraordinary opportunity you have being at Cambridge and try and stop yourself at various moments and breathe it in.

B: Thank you so much! It’s been so lovely to talk to you.

E: Pleasure, thank you for thinking of me!


I immensely enjoyed chatting to Elizabeth and am so grateful to her for giving up her time to do so. A particularly lovely thing about our conversation was that she continually expressed how grateful she was for her time at Cambridge for the friends she made there and the opportunities it provided. So much so that she pays tribute to Cambridge in her novels with little “winks” to people and as a mark of appreciation to it.

So often we talk about our university lives with a negative rhetoric so hearing someone looking back with such fond memories was a well-needed reminder to truly embrace the wonders it has to offer.

She did not in anyway ask me to promote it but for your own enjoyment I hugely recommend that you pre-order her book How to Fail and have a listen to the podcast to help keep you keep grounded over Easter term!

Link to Pre-order: https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008327323/how-to-fail/

 

End of term reflection

Cambridge Girl Talk committee 

As a committee, we have become accustomed to taking some time to write some short contemplations at the end of each term, thinking about how we feel at the end of Cambridge and what we have noticed and learnt.


Bea

Already term feels like a million miles away from me as I sit at home surrounded by all things familiar. Going home is always an odd experience as whilst I feel completely comfortable and safe, it’s not as easy to slot into life as it once was. I’ve found it tricky being surrounded by people all of the time, learning to share my time with others and I can feel myself craving my independence again while simultaneously dreading the reality of next term full of revision and exams. Now I’ve been back for a little while, I’ve figured out a couple of ways to establish some of my own space and thought I’d share something that’s really making a difference for me.

As a challenge for lent I’ve taken up doing yoga everyday and yes I know it’s a bit cliché but it’s allowed me to have some time completely to myself each day, even if it’s only 15 minutes. I’ve not been that strict with it as I feel that defeats the purpose, but instead am actively making an effort to find time for it as much as possible. It’s keeping me grounded and is something I can continue to do in term to try and make that tricky transition more seamless. If you would like to join me I would hugely recommend Cat Meffan’s youtube videos. I’ve been following her #yoganuary series and its fab, alternatively just you can just flow to your own rhythm, Namaste!

Blanca

Looking back on the last few months, I am filled with so much warmth and gratitude. Among other things, I celebrated my 21st birthday, joined by friends visiting from Dublin and some amazing Cambridge people. Moments, days and weekends like these reinforce again and again just how important friends are and the love and loyalty they bring to life. After a difficult Michaelmas term, I made an effort to go out less and relax more, enjoying theatre and films, as well as all of the amazing art and beauty in Cambridge. Being an MML student, I will be leaving this city and my friends in September for a year – it will be sad as well as exciting, but taking time to appreciate Cambridge and all it has to offer this term has helped to prepare for the goodbyes.

Adjusting to home life has been somewhat more trying this time, and I think it is precisely because I had been surrounding myself with so much Cambridge before coming home. Allowing myself to just spend time doing nothing can be tricky when accompanied by the persistent Cambridge habit of a need to be occupied and productive. It can also be hard to re-adjust to chatting with people who don’t have similar opinions to me, accustomed as I am to therapeutic rants with close like-minded friends at all hours. However, I am adjusting and I have been able to do this with time, as well as taking in the beautiful Irish countryside I live in through morning jogs and walks – in such a pressurising and individualistic world, it is more important than ever to just love each other and ourselves.

Anna

I don’t really know how I feel about how this term went and the thought of writing a summary of it daunted me. As usual it has disappeared in a blur marked by a few highs and lows that stick in my mind. Stumbling across this random selection of drawings in the back of different notebooks I had forgotten I carried with me was strangely reassuring. They are proof of time spent simply stopping to think and reflect, not in order to be productive or meet someone else’s expectations. They remind me of moments where I was doing something with no ultimate goal or outcome in mind. Finding these scraps – which bring back memories I would have otherwise forgotten of me still being me despite external pressures – makes me hopeful that I can make time for more of these small acts next term.

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Alicia

This term was very full. Full of events (three from Girl Talk!), changes and excitement. Eight weeks whizzed by but also dragged on. As much as I tried to engage myself with the architecture of 14th century Cairo or Hegel’s theory on art, the biggest thing I learnt this term was definitely about resilience. In the past eight weeks I was dealing with chronic pain, the end of a relationship, a bit of disappointment and a lot of essay crises. Overall, I’m a very lucky and privileged person and none of these things were ever life-changing or terrible, and I’m grateful for that. However, I’m also grateful that the spot of a tough time I did go through has allowed me to understand resilience and see that I actually have quite a lot of it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but at my school resilience was this ‘buzzword’, empty of any real meaning. Throughout this term however I’ve begun to understand it a bit more, or at least what it means to me. What resilience means to me now is being able to recognise that as bad as things feel, eating super noodles with friends late at night will always make me feel better, and the worst-case scenario I had imagined is often not that bad. I learnt that I’m pretty good at taking care of myself and staying positive, and that I have great supportive friends who help me do that. This term has been very educational! Though perhaps not in the way my DoS had hoped…

Julia

Whenever I think back on term, I find it hard to map all the time that has gone past. I have written about this before, in previous Girl Talk reflections – sometimes mapping time can be done by keeping little tokens from places I have visited, sometimes it is through music, sometimes it is through drawing little doodles in my notebook.

This time, I’m looking back on term and I find the little pieces of text and verse I have written down. There is one from somewhere at the beginning, about the snow. The snow which drifted down in the darkness, whilst I sat in the library. It settled for a moment and when I stepped outside to take a look, it had already vanished in little rivers, down the pavement, soaking into the grass.

There is some verse about the pink and white which lay itself over the sky around the middle of term, when I was walking to the library in the morning. I took my watercolours out apparently, later that afternoon I suppose, and mixed those colours on to the page. Then there was all the rain and wind which arrived towards the end, and I wrote whilst sitting in a café by the window, hearing the force of the water against the glass next to my ear.

I find that all this writing feels quite removed from what was actually happening in my day to day life – I don’t really tend to describe who I was with, what I was doing but rather, what was going on around me. And I find that remembering these little scenes I was set in, whether it was a sudden flock of birds flying out from behind Queens as the sun was setting, or a punt I watched pass beneath me as I walked over a bridge in the rain, or even the little details of flowers I found in the greenhouses of the botanical gardens, allow me to remember, too, the thoughts I had then and the emotions I brought with me to that place.

Featured image by Berthe Morisot, source: antiquesandthearts

Highlights from our cake and create event

Blanca Schofield-Legorburo 

On the 4th of March at 5.30pm we gathered in the Locker Café for some cake-ing and creating. Accompanied by delicious brownies and vegan tiffin, our guests took some time out of their week 7 flurries with two hours of creative serenity. Read on to see some of the art produced in our four stations: collage, colouring, collaboration and haikus.


Collage 

As ever, this proved our most popular initiative: through the course of the evening we all ended up gathering in the collage corner, ripping up pages from magazines and newspapers and re-writing our own stories, moods and images.

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Colouring 

We provided pictures of women who inspire us along with some colouring pencils; our guests then coloured in these powerful images.


Collaboration

I set up this station, spending an hour coming up with some different ideas for artistic consequences and expression. I just wanted to see what people had to say when prompted with some fun and unexpected titles…

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Haikus 

Finally, our guests had an opportunity for some poetic expression; our sub-editor Julia provided some beautiful haikus and image poetry written by female poets and asked for some responses in poetic form.

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Thank you to everyone who came and got involved in this creative cake venture! We hope you enjoyed taking some peaceful time out, whether through creating or simply reading this contemplative summary. As always, let us know if you would like to get involved in our blog by emailing us – we would love to see your own art too!

Spotlight artist: Sara Pocher

Read on to hear from our second spotlight artist, Cambridge-based Sara Pocher:


1- In case our readers don’t have/follow us on Instagram, could you please give a little introduction of who you are and what you’re up to at the minute?

Hi, I’m Sara and I’m a second-year student of Chinese at Cambridge. I have been drawing since I was a kid but have only recently started to publish my work on social media and in magazines. I am currently mainly working with illustration and collage, often combining images and words to explore how each can complement the meaning of the other and have just started to experiment with digital drawing.

2- How would you describe your art?

I would describe a lot of my work as dreamlike and slightly surreal.

3- What drives you to create? What or who inspires you?

I take a lot of inspiration from my personal experiences and my feelings. Art and creative expression represent a therapeutic outlet through which I try to make sense of my surroundings: the physical act of creating a piece of work helps me control the sometimes-overwhelming tide of thoughts rushing through my brain, bringing a sort of order and structure. I am particularly drawn to questions of identity and like to explore how the interaction with the outside world can alter the perception I have of myself and others. I often incorporate elements from my daily life into my work, such as books or movies that I find particularly inspiring, discussions I have with friends, my thoughts and dreams.

4- Do you have a few stellar Instagram accounts you would recommend?

Sha’an D’Anthes (@furrylittlepeach on Instagram) is an Australian illustrator I find really inspiring, I love how playful and incredibly creative her work is! Other artists I really like are @phoebewahl, @daralnaimart and @cafeinacoli.

5- Do you feel your art has a trajectory and do you think it needs one?

As I practice more and more, I feel like I’m getting closer to develop my personal style and I’m starting to think about concrete ways in which I could implement my art into my future career (whatever that might be). Right now, my artistic practice is deeply connected with intimate and personal topics, but I’m constantly learning and growing, both as an artist and as an individual, so I’m curious to see how my art will evolve and mature with me. For the time being I’m trying to keep an open mind and experiment with different creative mediums and outlets as much as I can.

6- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given to do with your art?

Don’t comply to other people’s expectations and try to follow your own intuition as much as possible. What I find most inspiring in a piece of art is its ability to convey an individual’s personality and their own interpretation of the world, so rather than doing what everyone else thinks you should be doing, let your work reveal your own voice! Also, and this is something that I constantly try to keep in mind: creativity is a never-ending journey, so have fun with it!

 

Make sure to follow this incredible artist on Instagram at @_nutmeg98_ !

What does it mean to be a feminist? – written by someone who has changed her mind.

Harriet Pinto 

For a movement that concerns every single person on the planet, it is surprising that nobody seems to have really agreed on what it means to be a feminist. I have always noticed how often debates about feminist ideas devolve into disagreements about the movement’s very definition. Is it about equality, or fairness? Do they mean the same thing? Are men welcome in the discussion? What does ‘empowerment’ actually mean? Finally, and perhaps the most frequent: can you be a feminist and still do X, Y or Z? My response has always been to try to simplify the definition of ‘feminist’- if it is a simple, uncomplicated ideological belief, then everyone can uncontroversially call themselves feminists if they hold that belief, even if they aren’t going to become activists or outspoken critics of the patriarchy.

For this reason, I have always called myself a feminist, and have defined this as simply holding the ideological belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. I have thrown this catch-all definition at boys who have told me they are not feminists because they believe in ‘equality’ and so have no need of a concept which ‘only advances women’s rights’, and girls who have worried that particular actions weren’t feminist enough, or even contradicted their feminist beliefs. I wanted ‘feminist’ and ‘sexist’ to be mutually exclusive terms, because it made everything so much simpler.

But recently, I have changed my mind. I attended a debate at the Cambridge Union about whether or not Margaret Thatcher was a feminist, and on going in, I voted ‘yes’ in the pre-vote without any hesitation. Thatcher believed she should have as good a chance as any qualified man to be Prime Minister, therefore, surely, she was a feminist. Maybe her policies weren’t overtly or explicitly feminist, maybe she never used that word to describe herself, but she believed in equality, so she must have been a feminist. But by the time I left the chamber at the end of the debate, I had been swayed in my opinion.

Margaret Thatcher may well have believed in equality of the sexes, yes, but her policies, as I learned, affected women disproportionately and almost completely disregarded the disadvantages they already faced in society at the time. She was dismissive of the issue of expensive childcare which often prohibited women from working full time, advising them to find a relative who would be able to watch their children whilst they worked, and remained stubbornly oblivious to how impossible this was for many. She experienced first hand the male-dominated world of Westminster yet was silent about ways to make it more accessible, promoting only one woman into her cabinet during her time in office. She heavily implied a moral obligation on women to remain at home, unemployed, whilst their children grew up, and many of her economic policies have been shown to have affected women living in poverty far more than their male counterparts, because they failed to take into account the level of financial dependency these women frequently experienced.

A belief in equality is obviously a necessary part of being a feminist. This is why the argument in defence of Thatcher, claiming that she must have been a feminist because she inspired many women, will not work. She demonstrated that women may rise to the highest spheres of power in this country, and that was hugely significant and inspiring to women. But it would have been perfectly possible for a fiercely individualistic woman who did not believe in equality to do this, and so the simple fact that a woman emboldens others cannot be proof of her feminism.

Margaret Thatcher presumably did believe in equality of the sexes. But despite the necessity of such a belief to feminism, it becomes meaningless when the believer has the opportunity to act on it, and chooses not to. The level of opportunity people have to act on their belief depends on how much power they have, and as prime minister, Thatcher arguably had more opportunity than any other person to make significant changes to the lives of women while she was in office. Her failure to do so means that her policies did not reflect her beliefs, and is therefore incompatible with the idea that she was a feminist.

This is why men and women in power who identify as feminists cannot escape from their responsibility to advocate and advance women’s rights and issues. A person working for minimum wage who has not had the opportunity to read feminist literature, who has no time to attend marches and protests, and who does not know how to challenge gender norms effectively, is still a feminist even if all they have is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. But for someone who has had a high-quality education, who has the social and economic opportunity to effect change, or who has legitimate political power, this is not enough.

These people have an obligation to look beyond surface level equality and try to understand how entrenched patriarchal structures mean that women are affected by certain policies in different, perhaps not immediately obvious, ways and to different extents based on factors such as race, sexual orientation and class. They have an obligation to see that just because they have not experienced disadvantage related to a particular issue, this does not mean that it is not a legitimate feminist concern. Margaret Thatcher was one of these people, and she did not do any of these things.

Inspiring others is not proof of feminism, and a feminist woman does not even have to inspire any other women. I don’t think she has to look a certain way, and I don’t think she has to either challenge or uphold any exterior model of a ‘good’ feminist. But I do think that she has to make use of opportunities which she has to act on her feminist beliefs, even whilst acknowledging that not all feminists have such opportunities. If someone does not practice what they preach when given the chance, their sermon ultimately has no significance.

Featured image source: picswe.com