Rachel Jones – “There is so much pressure on women to have children. […] I don’t want to be told I have to do something just because it’s natural”

How do you self-define?

I’m a female, but I reject most of the stereotypes that come with that.  I don’t really believe in all of those.

What does feminism mean to you?

It means equality for both sexes, but it’s also about bringing women up to the same level than men are at, as well as assisting males on the way with issues that affect them.

What do the words “woman” and “man” mean to you?

There’s a difference between “woman” and “man” which is biological, but other than that nothing else naturally affects the way that we are different.

When did you become aware of your gender?

When I was about fourteen I realised how much gender can affect you in society. So you start to realise what gender you are because of how society has labelled you. So there are different things which make you a woman. These things are most non-biological stereotypes. An example of this would be things like having to sit correctly; having to wear some form of make-up when leaving the house; feeling like you have to look good because if you didn’t nobody would like you and you’d be an outcast. That kind of stuff.

Do you ever feel unsafe due to your gender?

Unfortunately I probably have felt unsafe due to my gender, just because of the stereotypes that surround being a woman. Like I feel scared due to the way people traditionally view my gender. So you know I might look easy or weak as a woman. That is what kind of terrifies me, that people might think that of me.

Do you feel treated differently by men and women?

Yes definitely, I think I get talked down to a lot. If I speak my mind it looks really bad on me because I am a woman, and I am not supposed to. I feel quite scared by men sometimes because we are taught our whole lives that men are better than we are. I also feel that many men just naturally talk over you in seminars and it’s quite difficult to talk over them because you’ll just be perceived negatively. I think it’s like an endless cycle.

What do you think are positive ways that the world views women?

Women are being perceived far better now than in the past. So for example we had a female running for president, which is something that is positive about women. Michelle Obama has also gotten so much more powerful and she has managed to change things for women.

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Photo Credit: Aysha Panter

Did you encounter any obstacles on your path to womanhood?

Yes a lot. I think there are a lot of thing that affect you as you become a woman. It is especially difficult as a teenage girl. It was so hard because I was bullied a lot and had friends who were so mean to each other. It’s so difficult to be a teenager anyway, but as a girl I think it is so much harder because you’re likely to be going through a lot of anxiety and self-hatred, and your periods definitely put a lot of obstacles in place too.

What do you think about casual sex?

I think it is fine. I think if you’re a woman who wants to have loads of casual sex that’s fine, and if you’re a man who wants to have a lot of casual sex that’s also fine. Feminism is about the individual’s choice, but just be safe about it.

Are you pro-life or pro-choice, and why?

I am pro-choice definitely. I feel that it’s a very age-old tradition that women can’t have control of their bodies. If you get pregnant you have to carry it obviously, because that’s a biological function; but if you don’t want to have a child or deal with those repercussions then that’s okay. That’s why I’m pro-choice.

What are your feelings about contraception?

I think there is a lot of stigma around women using contraception. I think when I first said I wanted to go on the pill, I felt like it would make me look really easy. I wasn’t even going on it for one reason; I was going on it for various reasons but there is that kind of stigma around contraception. Also people don’t seem to be educated on why you should use it, it just seems a cool thing not to use it.

What are your thoughts on marriage and monogamy?

I also think they are age-old traditions. I think you don’t have to be monogamous, I don’t think you have to get married either. I think you can do whatever you want to do. Things like polyamory are still seen as kind of weird and not really accepted, but I think slowly people are starting to be a bit more open about people choices.

What are your thoughts on parenthood?

I don’t think you have to be a mum. If you want to be a parent that’s fine, but there is so much pressure on women to have children. I have strong feelings about this and I don’t want to be told I have to do something because it’s natural. I don’t like it when children cry, so that puts me off, but you always hear that “oh, you’ll want them when you’re older”. I just disagree with that. If you want to be a mother that’s fine but it’s not something you have to do. It shouldn’t be expected that you go down that path and you should not be shamed for it.

Do you think your sex education was sufficient?

No, no, I never thought my sex education was sufficient ever. I think it needs a whole complete revamp to teach people properly about it. I didn’t understand anything, and I think my mum helped me with periods and things like that, but it was a massive myth to me and I am still trying to understand what goes on down there now.

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Photo Credit: Aysha Panter

Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?

Probably not, because there’s this stereotype that women shouldn’t have any needs. I don’t feel like there is any teaching about female pleasure and you aren’t taught that you can speak out about what you want from your sexual partner. It is kind of instilled in women that you only have sex for men’s pleasure, and that’s all your are there for.

Has your sexuality ever been used against you?

Yeah, I mean if you are a woman and you wear a short skirt or a dress that is considered inappropriate, and then people are going to call you a slut. It is not the way that women should be dressing apparently, because we should be lady-like and keep everything hidden away.

Is there anyone you would undermine your principles for?

Luckily I have a lot of people around me who are open minded and even if people don’t understand things like what being a feminist is, I try to help them with it. It’s just educating people about it because we just don’t get education on things like homosexuality and some people just don’t understand. I always try to talk to them about it, but some people just don’t want to listen. Sometimes I wouldn’t even bother getting into a discussion with someone because I know it’s just not worth the battle, that I will probably lose anyway.

In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind or stand up for yourself?

I think in situations where there are a lot of women around because that makes me feel more comfortable. We’re all in the same boat, and we understand each other. Like if I’m in class and there is a ratio of lots of boys to girls, it is always harder to speak out and be yourself, but obviously it depends on who you are with.

Do you feel satisfied with how women are depicted in film, TV, advertising etc.?

No, not at all. They say women have come so far but there is still a long way to go. I think the way women are depicted in films and advert has gotten better, and in some of them women are looking like great role models, but there is always going to be adverts where women aren’t portrayed positively. Like in that flake advert that used to be around, there was this woman eating the chocolate seductively. There was also a summer body advert last year which caused uproar. It’s things like that which just never seem to stop appearing, sadly.

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Photo Credit: Aysha Panter

How do you feel about products marketed to women?

I can’t really say anything because I use make-up, but I guess I use make-up because I want to use it use it and not because I feel like I have to. It is a way of expression, like a way of expressing who you are. I think the way they present products is like, “if you do this then it will make you feel better”, or “wear this perfume and you’ll have a really romantic relationship”. It is a bit silly how everything is presented. Like tampon adverts where they make it seem fun, as if your period doesn’t have to stop you from doing anything. A period is a normal biological thing and it shouldn’t have that stigma around it. It’s not gross and they don’t need to pretend it’s fun for us.

What are your biggest fears?

One of my biggest fears is that I’ll be this kind of person I don’t want to be, just because of how I feel I should act in front of people. There is a big fear that people won’t like me, and I’ll never be liked by people for who I am. They might react negatively to me as a woman because I might speak my mind and things like that. Another one is not doing anything that impacts positively upon the world. I want to do things that are important for feminism and for the world. I kind of want to change the lives of women around the world who need support from others.

What are your greatest accomplishments?

One of my greatest accomplishments has been accepting who I am. It is one of those things that help you live fully. Once you start to accept who you are, then you can start to get on with your life. That was a really big step forward for me.

What image do you think you project on a day to day basis?

I think I project a sassy, talk no rubbish kind of person, who most people would call a bitch, to be honest. I think that’s the way people see me which is unfortunate because I like to have control of the situations I’m in, and I don’t want that kind of label or stigma for something as simple and honest as speaking my mind.

What image would you like to project in an ideal world, absolving social expectations?

As someone who is strong and speaks their mind. I want to be somebody who accomplishes things in the world.

Which are your most positive relationships?

I think with my family, especially my mum. I think as you grow older you develop a better relationship with your mum, because you understand more about what being a woman is actually like. So I think that is one of my closest relationships. I also have some great friends who I have positive relationships with as well.

What do you deeply love about yourself?

I just think my desire to help people, and to do a lot of stuff while I am here.

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Photo Credit: Aysha Panter

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