This International Women’s Day (which happens to be the day after World Book Day) we’ve put together a list of some of the most inspirational women in literature. From classics like Pride and Prejudice to new YA fiction like The Hate U Give, this list will inspire you to stand up for those around you, trust your instincts and be your own hero.

1) Daenerys Targaryen – A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), George RR Martin

 

Daenerys Targaryen is one of the most badass characters ever written – the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons, her title literally says it all. Not only does she hold her ground in a world dominated by men, she stands up for the oppressed and uses her power to bring freedom, justice and change for the people that deserve it.

2) Matilda – Matilda, Roald Dahl

Even though she faces a lot of abuse from her family and her headteacher, Matilda doesn’t let that get in her way and she isn’t afraid to take a stand against inequality and unfairness. Strong, thoughtful and kind, Matilda knows the difference between right and wrong. Instead of sitting and waiting for a hero to come along, Matilda takes things into her own hands and uses her own initiative and intelligence to overcome any obstacle.

3) Starr Carter – The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

 

Starr Carter faces a devastating and life-changing event with bravery, determination and strength. Torn between two very different worlds, Starr has to overcome her reluctance, grief and fear, finding her voice and the strength to stand up for those who are fighting against injustice and persecution.

4) Elizabeth Bennett – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is an absolute classic, for good reason. The main character Elizabeth Bennett is independent, witty, and not scared to speak her mind. In an age when women were reliant on men for financial security and safety, Elizabeth doesn’t let that phase her, calling out toxic masculinity and privilege, and refusing to settle for anyone who doesn’t respect her or her opinions.

5) Ginny Weasley – Harry Potter, JK Rowling

 

So we’re not talking movie Ginny here, we’re talking book Ginny – as witty as Fred and George, as determined as Harry and as loyal as Ron, not only is she hilarious to hang around with but she’s not afraid to stand her ground and call people out when they’re acting like idiots. She’s an awesome quidditch player and she’s also great at magic (especially when it comes to hexing people who get on her bad side) plus she always stands up for the people who need it. If you’ve only ever watched the films, you are definitely missing out. Book Ginny is strong, sassy and arguably the best of all the Weasleys.

6) Maya Aziz – Love, Hate & Other Filters, Samira Ahmed

Maya is funny, relatable and deals with a lot more than your average 16 year old. As she navigates the challenges of growing up as a Muslim in a small American town, we see her strength, resolve and sense of humour when dealing with problems big and small, from convincing her traditional Indian parents to let her study film in New York, to facing up to discrimination, bigotry and racism in her hometown. Basically a total badass.

7) Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

One of the most iconic characters on film and page, Katniss Everdeen’s drive, skill and determination are hard to match. From the way she sacrifices herself for her sister, her determination in the games themselves, and the way she steps up to lead a revolution whilst battling against PTSD, she is always putting others before herself and fighting for what she knows is right. We want to take up archery because of her.

8) Liesel Meminger – The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

 

Liesel Meminger is smart, brave and not afraid to speak her mind. Even though she experiences loss and pain very early on in her life she doesn’t let that defeat her, and instead she learns how to channel her anger to stick up for herself and for the people around her. She cares deeply for her friends and family, and does what she can to stand up against an immoral and unjust society.

9) Denna – The Kingkiller Chronicles (The Name of the Wind), Patrick Rothfuss

If you haven’t read The Kingkiller Chronicles yet, you need to get on it ASAP. It’s a brilliant fantasy series, full of magic, mystery and killer characters. Denna is fiercely independent, witty and strong. She comes and goes whenever she wants, and won’t let any man tell her what to do. In a man’s world, she is able to fend for herself without relying on anybody to rescue her.

10) Violet Baudelaire – A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket

 

Whatever situation she and her siblings end up in, Violet Baudelaire can always be relied upon to think her way out if it. Violet is practical, intelligent and level-headed, and is definitely the person you want next to you if you’re faced with an unfortunate event of any kind. She’s also really caring, and always tries to see the good in people, despite what life throws at her.

11) Offred – The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Offred’s dark sense of humour and perceptive insight make her a fascinating character to read, and her flaws make her incredibly relatable. In a world where women are treated as little more than objects, June manages to maintain a sense of self-identity and purpose that gives her strength and power.

12) Hazel Grace Lancaster – The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

 

While Hazel might get physically weaker throughout the novel, she really grows mentally and emotionally. Dealing with things that no teenager should have to go through, she demonstrates true courage with humour and determination. She cares deeply about the people around her, and eventually opens up and allows people to get close to her – something that takes real strength.

13) Karou & Zuzana – Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

Karou and Zuzana’s sarcastic way of dealing with the peculiar, unsettling and distressing events that occur in this series of novels is brilliantly funny and highly relatable. They are both incredibly strong women, independent and brave. In the words of the narrator: “Deciding to take her on was akin to a fish deciding idly to gobble up that pretty light bobbing in the shadows and then – OH GOD THE TEETH THE HORROR! – meeting the anglerfish on the other side.”

14) Lara Jean Song Covey – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han

 

Despite the major embarrassment of having her innermost secrets revealed to the people she least wants to share them with, Lara Jean faces her fears and embarrassment head on. With humour, bravery and a totally endearing awkwardness, Lara Jean manages to turn a sticky situation to her advantage, and style it out in the end.

15) Scout Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Scout is the youngest of our inspiring women – being only 5 years old when the novel begins. She is bursting with curiosity, intelligence and compassion – which her brilliant father Atticus really encourages in her. She doesn’t conform to the stereotypes expected of girls her age, and instead climbs trees and enjoys adventures with her brother and their friend.

16) Malala Yousafzai – I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

 

One of only two real-life women in our list – Malala almost paid the ultimate price for standing up for her right to education and speaking out against the Taliban. Even after being shot at point-blank range, she refused to back down – instead using her new global spotlight to speak up for other girls facing discrimination and disempowerment. The youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala is dedicated, intelligent and highly motivated, yet still super relatable and funny.

17) Lucy Pevensie – The Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe), CS Lewis

 

Lucy doesn’t let her age stop her from standing up to her older siblings, and eventually ruling over a kingdom with them. She is brave, determined and always focused on truth, and her considerate, sensitive nature makes her a compassionate leader who is capable of forgiving even her irritating brother Edmund.

18) Kate/David – The Art of Being Normal, Lisa Williamson

David (who later chooses the name Kate) faces bullying, prejudice, fear and transphobia with real courage. It’s a story of friendship, self-discovery and acceptance, and the way in which they deal with the pressures, complexities and prejudices of being transgender is eye-opening, thought-provoking and pretty inspiring.

19) Hermione Granger – The Harry Potter series, JK Rowling

 

Another incredibly strong female character in the Harry Potter series – Hermione is arguably the true hero of the books. She faces down prejudice with determination, compassion and skill, and is always there for her friends. And although Emma Watson plays a good Hermione in the films, book Hermione is definitely a more interesting and nuanced character – plus, when she’s read as a woman of colour (to quote JK – “Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione 😘”), Hermione’s fight against prejudice is even more real.

20) Tris Prior – Divergent, Veronica Roth

Tris’ bravery and determination really define her as a character, especially when she’s faced with difficult decisions about where she belongs and who she wants to be. She won’t let anyone define who she is, and instead forges her own path. She is physically and mentally strong, always pushing herself and those around her to be the best they can be.

21) Irene Adler – Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

 

One of the few people who can hold her own against Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler is witty, cunning and highly intelligent. A master of disguise and manipulation, Adler is able to trick her way out of almost any situation – even outsmarting the great Holmes in “A Scandal in Bohemia”.

22) Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

The second of two non-fiction woman in our list, Anne Frank is truly inspirational. From the age of 12 she wrote her diary whilst in hiding from the Nazi regime in Amsterdam. Her writing gave her an outlet for her frustration, worries and concerns as well as for her sense of humour, and 50 years after it was written, her diary was described by Eleanor Roosevelt as “one of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read.”

23) Arya Stark – A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), George RR Martin

 

Another entry from Game of Thrones, Arya Stark refuses to conform to expectations, and instead sticks it to the man (with the pointy end) every chance she gets. She is one of the bravest characters in the series – especially considering that she’s only 9 when the books begin! Rebellious, ruthless and smart – Arya Stark is really not one to be messed with.

24) Hester Shaw – Mortal Engines, Philip Reeve

Hester Shaw is not your traditional female in an action plot. Unafraid to put herself in harm’s way, Hester is stubborn, brave and often responsible for protecting and caring her Tom – her friend and companion. She defies stereotypes and refuses to give up on her mission. And yes, she has a facial scar. And no, that doesn’t make her a villain, or a victim. It turns out you don’t have to look like the conventional stereotype to be a kickass hero.

25) Eowyn – Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

 

Tolkien is not known for being a particularly feminist writer, but the character of Eowyn is a breath of fresh air. She faces hardship and prejudice with strength and courage. She calls out sexism when she sees it, and she literally laughs in the face off one of the most terrifying creatures in Middle Earth, killing the Lord of the Nazgul in one of the most epic battle scenes in the series. If ever there was a woman who lived by her own rules, it was her.


Well that’s it from us, but we know there are so many more out there – let us know if we’ve missed anyone out. Who inspires you?

If you want plenty of great content every day, from motivational quotes to inspirational stories, head on over to our Instagram @ditchthelabel

Women protesting

It’s International Women’s Day and that can only mean one thing – a whole big bunch of content celebrating everything about being a woman! This year, we are celebrating with this awesome list of amazing Instagrammers and campaigners that you need to follow right now to fill your feed with some positive feminist vibes and all-round girl power representation. This will have you scrollin’ all through the weekend, so hit follow and watch as these independent women tear up the rule book and live life their way. 

1) Munroe Bergdorf



Model, activist and all-round girl boss, Munroe has advocated for trans rights since she began openly identifying as a woman when she was 24. Now, she is conquering social media with her activism, independent woman vibes and all-round gorgeous aesthetic.

Instagram


2) Sonny Turner 



Sonny is a plus sized model, who advocates for wider plus sized representation in high-end fashion. She recently took part in a campaign to diversify London Fashion Week, and does it all whilst also running her amazing body positivity insta. So, brighten up your news feed and get some Son-shine in your life! 

Instagram


3) Mia Kang 



Feeling the gymtimidation? Mia Kang will bring you all the exercise empowerment vibes you could ever need. Muay Thai fighter and all round badass biatch, Mia shows everyone the fighting ring is definitely not for boys only. 

Instagram


4) Katherine Ryan



She’s made herself a household name in the male dominated world of comedy, but Katherine Ryan is also a women’s rights and equality campaigner, good cause supporter, TV host, radio presenter, podcast extraordinaire and all round total girl boss.

Instagram


5) Marawa Ibrahim



Campaigner for awareness of anxiety and depression and massive mental health advocate, Marawa is a Majorette, giving all kinds of roller-skating, hula-hooping and circus skills vibes. She is also a world-record hula-hooper, and her high-heeled roller skates are seriously giving us life. 

Instagram


6) Abbie Bull 



Abbie is a front runner in the skin positivity movement. Posting a mix of real photos about accepting her acne and facial scarring along with make-up ideas and tutorials (including some fierce AF make up ideas for occasions), she is a force to be reckoned with.

Instagram


7) Sam Renke



Disability campaigner, actress, writer, influencer – there is nothing holding back Sam Renke. Follow her insta for some seriously beautiful vibes of holidays, fashion and campaigns and her twitter for everything related to her disability advocacy and activism. 

Instagram


8) Michelle Elman



Michelle, a.k.a @scarrednotscared, is a body confidence coach, author, motivational speaker, podcast host and still has time to be an absolutely astounding Instagram campaigner. She makes world domination look fierce AF.

Instagram


9) Charlie Craggs



Founder of Nail Transphobia, Charlie is fighting transphobic abuse one manicure at a time. She is also a boss ambassador for The London Trans Clinic, influencer and author, all whilst campaigning for trans rights. Basically, she’s #killingit.

Instagram


10) Viktoria Modesta



Viktoria is a bionic artist, model, speaker, singer-songwriter and DJ. She has turned living as an amputee into an art form with incredible visually stunning prosthetics that feature in her art. If there is anyone that will have you glued to IG for hours, it’s her.

Instagram


International Women’s Day is all about celebrating being a girl or woman. Our list here is only the tip of a very very large iceberg of amazing empowered women who are quite literally ruling the world with fierce AF campaigning. Feeling inspired yet? We sure are.

 

For more amazing content for International Women’s Day and beyond, make sure you give us a follow on Instagram @ditchthelabel

We had a chat with the CEO of women’s sportswear brand Sweaty Betty about the ‘Support Women: Support the World’ campaign, starting a business and empowering strong women around the world.

Tell us a little about why you started Sweaty Betty. 

‘I started Sweaty Betty after spotting a gap in the women’s activewear market. At the time I was working as a buyer for Knickerbox, an underwear brand and we started to do a little bit of sportswear. As a sports enthusiast this lead me to realise there was nothing on the high street offering good-quality, female sportswear. At the time, activewear for women just wasn’t a thing, it was all about big, male-oriented sportswear stores. So, then, I thought, ‘Right, this is a proper gap in the market’. After being made redundant, I took the opportunity to evolve the concept to create beautiful clothes for women who live active lifestyles – whether yoga, skiing, swimming or running, I wanted to provide products that could be part of every woman’s wardrobe.’



What inspired you to launch the ‘Support Women: Support The World’ Campaign?

‘At Sweaty Betty our mission has always been to empower women through fitness and beyond, so we have created this collection to celebrate strong and powerful women worldwide in time for International Women’s Day.  One of the main rules we live by is to find strength in sisterhood and be kind to each other, so we are wanted to work alongside charities that completely resonate with our brand mission to give back.’

What challenges do you think young women are facing today? And what advice would you give them? 

‘As a mum of three, one of the biggest challenges young women face today has to be social media and the pressures that come with this. I always say to my daughter that surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial. It’s so important to be kind to each other. I teach my kids not to judge others by their appearance. Instead of knocking each other down, I tell them it’s cool to be kind.’

What challenges did you face, either starting out or even today, as a female CEO? 

‘The beginning was stressful to say the least. I opened our first shop in November and my only staff member decided to quit, so I was left to run the entire store on my own over Christmas. In hindsight it was a great experience being on the shop floor, as I learned a lot about the customer, but there’s no denying it was a really difficult time. Though, I learnt that in order to achieve a work life balance and feel calm and fulfilled, not stressed, you have to feel in control of your time. No-one is ever going to give you more time and you are never going to suddenly have more time. So you have to make time for the things that matter the most to you.’

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/sweaty-betty-support-women-2x-compressor.jpg”]

If you could inspire one change through the campaign – what would it be?

‘To bring women together and encourage everyone to be strong and confident in who they are and support each other.’

Why did you want to support Ditch the Label through the campaign?

‘For our new year campaign this year we have worked with three incredible women, including Mia Kang, who selected Ditch The Label. Your message of equality and accepting each other is something we really stand behind as a brand, and after being bullied as a child, Mia was really passionate about choosing Ditch the Label as she loves how you encourage everyone to be strong within and unapologetically themselves.’

To snap up one of Sweaty Betty’s limited edition tees for Ditch the Label, click here.

For loads more great stuff, including inspirational quotes, cute pics and links to support, follow our instagram @ditchthelabel.

Ditch the Label got a bunch of lads together to tell us what they really thought about ‘lad culture’…

We’ve all been on the receiving end of some laddish banter and most likely we’ve probably dished out our fair share of it, too. Every guy who ever lived has probably been told to “man up” by his mates and every guy who doesn’t like football has probably been teased for it at some point. There are good and bad sides to everything and there are good things about Lads and lad culture – the mateship, the bonding, the bants, but what about the not-so-fun side?

Research by Promundo (and commissioned by Lynx) revealed that more than 6 in 10 guys have been told a real man behaves a certain way – and it’s attitudes like this which fuel lad culture and makes men think they need to ‘man up’.

To help us get to the bottom of the truth behind lad culture, we asked these bloggers exactly what they think we should know about the lad mentality:

Rich Biscuit

“I’d say that there’s nothing wrong with being a ‘lad’. But, there’s something very wrong if you’re not there for your friends. You might usually talk about football and beer, but…”


 Mr Carrington

“At school and college I was never good at Football, which was a massive deal when it came to being one of the ‘lads’. Even the suggestion of a ‘kick about’ in the park was a total nightmare because I didn’t feel I was good enough. I would avoid the compulsory Football lessons in PE for fear of being picked last for a team. Even though I was good at other sports, this really knocked my self confidence at the time. Now I focus on the sports that I’m good at and most importantly that I enjoy. I love running and going to the gym.”

 Alex Reads

“The thing about this ‘lad culture’, is that you end up hiding most of yourself to showcase a very stereotyped and artificial part of you. Your friendships shouldn’t be artificial, and neither should your interests.”


 John Bird

“Coming out as a young gay man was incredibly scary as I was very conscious of how I was perceived by my peers. My best friend was a very stereotypical “lad” (sporty, etc) and I was worried I would be shunned by my friendship group. I thought they may suddenly feel that I was no longer “the same” as them.”

Ape To Gentleman

“Lad culture is outdated and boring. Be creative and follow your passions- forge your own path, with conviction. And along the way…”

Chris’ blog


 Munch Club

“Lad Culture ties your confidence and self esteem to how “good” you are with girls. You’re an amazing person!

Nyasha’s blog


Life of Dan

“I have seen within “lad culture” a lot of derogatory comments directed towards women. Hopefully, we are now seeing this starting to change in 2018. You don’t have to be a part of this.”

Dan’s blog


Alexis

“Any culture that projects a false impression there’s only one valid way to “be” sets us all up to fail – suicide is the number 1 cause of young men in Britain, lad culture & the bravado makes it harder for guys to speak up when they need help.”

Alexis’s blog


Manny

“I was bullied in primary school because I wasn’t seen as the masculine type and it affected my mental health at such young age. It took until my mid-teens to realise that no ones opinion of me should define my masculinity. Words that used to hurt and offend me, doesn’t even affect me anymore because I know who I am and I have peace knowing that. I believe that masculinity has evolved over the past few years but there is still a lot of work to do. I want to encourage every male especially black men that it’s okay to cry, to have a unique personality or style, to be different – you having emotions or being unique doesn’t make you any less of a man. Also, I want to encourage men to speak out and stand up for themselves.”

Manny’s blog


James Woods

“Lad culture is important, it plays a huge part in our society. But, it has become increasingly problematic by enabling sexism and bullying.”

James’ blog


Davey Granger

“‘Man up’ and ‘Be a man’ are two of the most dangerous phrases that can be said to any man. They stem from a twisted, incorrect belief that to be masculine you have to be emotionless, you have to wear emotional armour, show no weakness and have nothing phase you mentally.

We’re taught by society to bottle up our emotions and fit this mould of a man that no person ever will. The stereotypical masculine man does not talk about his emotions, until that’s changed…”

David’s blog


The Everyday Man

“I think that sorting people into boxes is a pretty dated concept. When I think of ‘lad culture’, I think of the 90’s and we have moved on a lot since then. Of course, it still exists to a degree but it’s much easier to be yourself and ‘different’ nowadays and I don’t think people feel as much pressure to conform which is amazing.”

John’s blog 


What does being a ‘lad’ mean to you? Hit us up in Community:

Films shape us and inspire us 🎬

When we watch a film and we feel like we identify with or aspire to be like a character we usually take some of their personality, style or interests and implement them into our own life. Whilst films give us a sense of escapism, they also help us to realise and shape our identity. Characters are created to make us think, “Hey, I want be more like her” or “I definitely don’t want to be like her at all” either way we’ll realise what we do or don’t want to be like. Which is useful!

In more recent times there has finally been an increase in the creation of wonderful women characters. These women tell stories of courage, compassion, love, loss, strength, vulnerability and determination. They serve a meaningful purpose, they’re not simply created to entertain us, they’re created to educate and inspire us.

The following list looks at Ditch the Label’s favourite female film characters who remind us how diverse and fantastic all women are. This list celebrates the film industry which has created such strong, sensitive, passionate, beautiful and real women on and off the screen.

If you’ve seen either one, all or none of these films, it doesn’t matter (but you should make it your mission to watch them all). Once you’ve finished reading this list you’ll be proud to be a woman!

In no particular order here’s the best and most inspiring female film characters…

50 inspiring female film characters and why we chose them…

1. Mara Wilson as Matilda (1996)

Because she’s adopted into a really mean family who are different to her and who try and stop her from being herself. Instead of conforming to their way of life she does what she wants. Reading is what she loves and its her way of escaping reality. She’s an independent and kind little girl and she knows the difference between right and wrong. We should all try and be a bit more like Matilda.

2. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games trilogy 

Because she knows that protecting her family is the most important thing. She puts herself up for what is essentially death, instead of letting her little sister having to suffer. Katniss fights hard, she’s determined and passionate. She leads the revolution and demonstrates to us all that when something isn’t right, we should not just sit there and watch – we should get up and act.

3. Belle in Beauty and the Beast (1991) (and of course Emma Watson in the live-action version released in 2017) 

Because she knows that she’s worth way more than marrying a sexist and chauvinistic villain. She doesn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen cooking or cleaning, no thank you! She loves to educate herself and explore. She also rescues her father and takes his place as a prisoner in the Beast’s palace! The fact that Belle falls in love with her captor is besides the point – she’s still admirable!

4. Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (2001)

Because being a sorority queen who is feminine, blonde and pink obsessed doesn’t exclude you from anything. In this case Elle Woods follows her ex-boyfriend to Law school and says a big ‘stuff you’. Showing everyone there is more to her than her appearance. And to top it off she wins a really high profile legal battle, so yeah she’s kind of awesome.

5. All 3 leading ladies in Hidden Figures (2016)

Because they are a group of highly intelligent African-American female mathematicians who play a huge role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. They dream bigger than anyone who has dreamed before and achieve what no-one has yet achieved. Go girls!

6. Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series

Because she’s feisty and hardworking. And the symbolism of how she is bullied because she is a muggle represents how in our society if you’re different it can mean you are treated unfairly. Which is totally wrong. Hermione stands up for herself and ensures she is always the best version of herself. Never letting the bullies win.

7. Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones in the Bridget Jones series

Because she’s done all the embarrassing things we’ve all dreaded! She’s awkward, hilarious, cringeworthy and just fabulously human! She always tries her best but life just always gets in the way. But you know what’s great about her? She always picks herself up and gets on with things. She has fun and doesn’t take life or herself too seriously. We all need to be a bit more like Bridget!

8. Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark in Me Before You (2016)

Because she cares for someone who’s disabled and depressed. She tries to improve his life and shows us how being selfless is rewarding. She also shows that love can come in all shapes and sizes regardless of your circumstances. She also shows us that in life when you love someone you may need to support what they want, even if it means it will upset you.

9. Ruby Barnhill as Sophie in The BFG (2016)

Because she’s a strong-willed foster child who doesn’t follow the rules, if she wants to stay up late and read then she will! She also meets a very large strange man and once she’s over the initial horror she develops a friendship which is really cute and pulls at the heart strings. And together they save the children of London! So she’s kind of a hero.

10. Susan Sarandon as Louise in Thelma and Louise (1991)

Because she does something she feels she must do, albeit it’s extremely crazy. But it’s because she loves her best friend and can’t let evil things happen without consequences. Their friendship is admirable and they’re just two gorgeous gals with fantastic style too. The epic ending is also the stuff of best friend dreams (or perhaps nightmares) either way it’s a classic girl power film!

11. Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff in Juno (2007)

Because she falls pregnant and just deals with it. She’s not ready for motherhood but she’s ready to be strong for the little baby growing inside her. And seeing her be so strong in order to help others is inspiring. She could take various other routes, some easier, some harder, but she chooses the one she thinks is best for her. And if you live your life by that rule, you’ll be ok.

12. Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) 

Because she’s just a fabulous kooky character and we can all relate to her in so many different ways. Whether you love sleeping with your eye mask on, you’re a socialite or you’re a cat lover, you’ll find a common ground with Holly Golightly and just admire her independence, style and sophistication.

13. Kiera Knightley as Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean series 

Because she defies her fathers expectations and dons the pirate outfit pretty fantastically oh and she also helps fight off some pretty questionable characters. She doesn’t take c**p from anyone and she manages to put Captain Jack Sparrow in his place. Kudos to you Elizabeth!

14. Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Because she is sensitive and kind to her new friends and together they embark on an epic adventure, which will help her, but also help her new friends. This shows us how when we meet new people we don’t know what journey they might be on but we should all help each other get to the destination, not hold each other back.

15. Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins (1964)

Because she is fabulously independent and feisty and also warm and kind. The perfect mix. Plus, she models good behaviour to the children and teaches them life lessons and that’s something we all need to continue to do so we ensure we raise wonderful, kind, caring and happy children.

16. Embeth Davidtz as Miss Honey in Matilda (1996)

Because she’s the best teacher ever to exist in the whole entire world. She cares about all her school children and especially the vulnerable, like Matilda. She saves Matilda from the wretched Wormwood family and takes her under her loving wing and treats her as if she’s her own child. What a beaut! Let’s all be more like Miss Honey and look out for the vulnerable in society.

17. Emma Stone as Skeeter Phelan in The Help (2011)

Because she wants the voices of the African American maids’ to be heard loud and clear! She sees the hardships they suffer on a regular basis and she doesn’t believe this should go unnoticed. Standing up for and helping those in terrible situations is what we should all try and do more often.

18. Jennifer Hudson as Effie White in Dreamgirls (2006)

Because she goes through many hardships but doesn’t let it ruin her. She picks herself back up again and continues to follow her dreams. Let’s all remember that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger!

19. Ellen DeGeneres as Dory in Finding Dory (2016)

Because despite her memory loss, she doesn’t let that stop her from finding the one thing she wants – her family. She’s sweet yet sassy all at the same time and without meaning to be. She isn’t afraid of going to the far lengths in order to meet her dreams.

20. Anika Noni Rose as Tiana in The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Because Tiana is a Disney princess who actually resonates with a modern society. It’s not just about falling in love in this film, Tiana has a dream to set up and run her own restaurant. She gets on with it and makes her dream happen on her own terms. This is a great story about setting goals and achieving them due to your own efforts. Believe in yourself like Tiana!

21. Abigail Breslin as Olive Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Because she dreams of being a pageant girl and even though she might not be what is portrayed in the media as perfect she still goes for it! She’s confident, super cute and hilarious too. She shows us that doing what we want and not caring what people think is the way forward. We all need to take a leaf out of Olive’s book.

22. Parminder Nagra as Jess Bhamra in Bend it like Beckham (2002)

Because she doesn’t conform to her cultural pressures and she does what she wants. She plays football and doesn’t simply do what’s expected of her. She also breaks those gendered stereotypes we so often see! Guess what? Women play football too! Duh!

23. Emma Stone as Olive in Easy A (2010)

Because she stands up to the bullies who are slut shaming her and actually uses it to benefit her! She also uses her position to help others. She’s clever, self-assured and funny. But we do also need to remember to make sure we put our own happiness first and not let our own reputation suffer due to helping others. Sometimes it’s important to be a bit selfish.

24. Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper in Spy (2015)

Because she has no confidence and puts herself down. She worships her boss and lets him walk all over her. Then she realises she’s worth more than that. So she does what she’s always wanted to do. Even though it seems terrifying to begin with she gets through it. She experiences ups and downs,  but she’s brave and committed and never gives up. Let’s be like Susan Cooper!

25. Kristen Bell as Anna in Frozen (2013)

Because she loves her sister unconditionally and realises something isn’t quite right so she does something about it. Sure, she might be royalty but she doesn’t let that stop her from getting her shoes muddy (or should we say snowy). Go Anna! Remember, even if you’re a princess (which we all are) don’t let things get to your head, stay grounded.

26. Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side (2009)

Because she takes care of a disadvantaged youth who’s struggling in life. She provides him with the love and support he needs to succeed in what he’s good at. Teaching us to be more caring and utilise our advantaged positions; those more fortunate should always help those less fortunate in society.

27. Audrey Tautou as Amélie in Amélie (2001)

Because even though she doesn’t have much she devotes her time to helping others and doing acts of kindness in order to make other people happy. This is something that we all need to try and practice a bit more, no matter how big or small let’s act in a way which will make people happy. Although, remember to never neglect your own needs and desires in the process.

28. All the girls in the Pitch Perfect series

Because they’re all unique and fantastic in their own weird and wonderful way! They’re a real life representation of a young group of girls, which is refreshing to see in comparison to the ridiculous representations of girls we see in many other media outlets. They come together and boss a capella and in the process help each other through life’s challenges.

29. Auli’i Cravalho as Moana (2016)

Because firstly, it’s about time we see more diversity in animated film (well film in general needs more diversity – but I guess that’s a whole other topic). Young Moana bravely sets off on an ocean adventure to save her people and in doing so she realises that persistence and hope will let her accomplish what she needs to. Lesson learnt; be persistent and hopeful and you’ll meet your ambitions.

30. All the women in Suffragette (2015)

Because the story is such an important part of our history, it shows us why women have so many of the many rights and freedoms we have today, the vote being the most significant!

31. Audrey Tautou as Gabrielle Chanel in Coco before Chanel (2009)

Because she starts off in life as an orphan, showing that she works hard to better her future. She also doesn’t want what many other women of her time want. She want’s independence, she’s ambitious and she strives for her goals to be met. She’s a classic ‘started from the bottom now we here’ type of girl. You go (Glen) Coco!

32. Olivia Newton-John as Sandy in Grease (1978) 

Because she goes from being Sandra Dee and ends up as SandyShe realises that her sweet and innocent little girl persona might not be who she is anymore. So she tries to find herself, trying a new style and personality and realises who she really is! Also, she just looks insane in that catsuit and definitely has the moves to go with it!

33. Kelly Macdonald as Merida in Brave (2012)

Because she’s fiery (no, we don’t just mean her hair) and she knows what she wants, to be an individual and carve her own path in life. She gets herself into a bit of trouble though from being so strong-willed but instead of running away from her problems, she deals with it herself. What a boss.

34. Liesel Matthews as Sara in A Little Princess (1995)

Because she brings excitement and fun to the girls boarding school. She rebels against the mind-numbing activities the headmistress forces them to engage in and instead uses her imagination to create beautiful stories filling the young girls minds with hope and warmth. She knows that all girls are princesses no matter what. And even if life changes for the worse, Sara remains strong.

35. Amy Poehler as Joy in Inside Out (2015)

Because Joy tries to ensure that Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness don’t take over Riley’s brain during a challenging time! Joy knows that she’s what’s best for Riley but has to make sure there is a good balance of emotions, because that’s healthy. This shows us how we need to make sure the negative emotions don’t take over our minds, easier said than done, but worth trying!

36. Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music (1965)

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Because she’s the mother figure the Von Trapp family needs and she gives the children more than they ever thought they’d have. Lots of kindness, understanding and fun. She was initially judged but then when the family realise how great she is, they go back on their initial judgments. Teaching us that we need to give people more time to shine and not quickly judge them.

37. Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Because she is stubborn, headstrong, brave and loyal. She proves she’s a fighter and she gets on with it. We like you Rey!

38. Aileen Quinn as Annie (1982)

Because she’s an orphan who is charming and positively changes the direction her life is going in. She’s also just super cute and hilarious.

39. Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie (2014)

Because this up to date version celebrates diversity! Yay!

40. Daveigh Chase as Lilo in Lilo Stitch (2002)

Because Lilo takes in an abandoned Stitch and befriends him. She teaches him how to behave and develops him emotionally. She teaches us that if someone comes along who seems a bit strange and a bit crazy at first (maybe a younger sibling) we should try and model good behaviour, showing them how to behave, instead of being mean to them just because they don’t know any better.

41. Ming-Na Wen as Mulan (1998)

Because she does something very selfless in order to protect her father and pretends to be a man so she can join the army. She is stubborn, strong and talented and she becomes one of China’s greatest heroines.

42. Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich (2000)

Because she’s unemployed and a single mother but is determined to get a job. She then becomes a legal assistant and in the process essentially takes down a gas and electric company. One word. Hero.

43. Shashi Godbole as Sridevi in English Vinglish (2012)

Because she is fed up of feeling excluded so she acts on it. She learns English but also learns other things along the way. Teaching us that if we are unhappy with something or we want something to change, we should act on it.

44. Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max (2015)

Because she’s determined to survive and return to her homeland and will not let anything get in her way. Showing us that during terrible times we need to stay brave and focussed if we want something.

45. Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray (2007)

Because she knows that things aren’t right and she wants them to change. She teaches people about integration and shows us if you’re in a position of influence, then you need to use that power to promote positivity.

46. Kalki Koechlin as Laila in Margarita With A Straw (2014)

Because this young woman with cerebral palsy shows everyone that her disability will not define her or stop her from doing what she wants. She embarks on an adventure and finds love and most importantly, herself.

47. Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex and The City film series 

Because she is a really good friend to her best friends. She is also really sophisticated, stylish and fun. She wears her heart on her sleeve and she isn’t afraid of getting hurt. She lives life to the full and she’s independent. She enjoys her own company just as much as being with her friends. Teaching us to enjoy ourselves and have friends because we enjoy them not because we need them.

48. Hilary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Because she teaches us that being tough isn’t just for men! Duh! It’s for us all, if you want to box, then box. Don’t let your gender define what you can or can’t do. She wants something and she gets it. She works hard and never gives up on her dreams. She says a big stuff you to the gendered stereotypes we constantly see and makes it her mission to achieve her goal!

49. Lizzy Caplan as Janis Ian in Mean Girls (2004)

Because she doesn’t conform to gendered stereotypes, she acts and dresses how she wants. She doesn’t admire the “Mean Girls” like everyone else at her school does and she actually tries to sabotage their cliquey and damaging behaviour. In turn, after everything going a bit crazy, it all ends up ok in the end. Showing us, we need to stand up to bullies!

50. All the women in Bridesmaids (2011)

Because they’re all just fabulous women who represent us all and our fabulous unique qualities. They also show us that nobody is perfect and we’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses and weird and wonderful ways! But as long as you’re doing you the best you can, then that’s all that matters. And the message of the film is that as women we all need to unite and raise each other up, not hate on each other because of jealousy.

 

Got any more to add? Post them in Community!

 

 

Shouldn't say non-binary person

Non-binary people get a lot of stick on the internet and IRL for their perceived gender expression. The reasons behind these bullying behaviours can range from ignorance to aggression and often come down to fear. For some reason, the fact that gender is a spectrum rather than a binary (consisting of two parts) really pisses some people off, to the point that they take to the internet to rant and rage about it in aggressive and sometimes violent ways.

In addition to this hatred online, non-binary people are often met with would-be allies, who rather than aggressively deny their existence, simply just don’t quite understand yet – and that’s fair enough, gender is a complex thing. In an effort to understand, they sometimes end up saying things that others might find hurtful.

Here are some examples of things, which if you’re gender non-conforming, you’ll probably find all too familiar. On the other hand, if you’re guilty of a few of these, take notes:

1. “That’s so in right now…”

Facepalm. A persons’ identity isn’t a fashion statement. The reason you’re hearing a lot more about non-binary people these days is because people are beginning to talk more critically about gender instead of brushing it under the carpet, and that’s a good thing.

2. “It’s just a phase”

Nope. Nope and nope. A phase is when you’re a toddler and you become infatuated with toy tractors for a few weeks before moving on to pink elephants and finally graduating to Lego – identity is not a phase.

3.”But, you have a penis, so you’re a guy.”

Wrong. Some people who have penises aren’t guys, some people who have vaginas aren’t women. Gender and sex are different. So the junk in your trunk does not necessarily have anything to do with your gender expression.

4. “Non-binary = Gay”

Think again. Gender and sexuality are also different. Gender expression is personal and not related to who you fancy.

5. “There are only two genders – end of story”

Negative. Gender is a spectrum, despite how angry this statement unfortunately makes some people, it’s true. The idea that there are only two genders is reductive and polarising. It restricts people’s freedom of expression and is proven to be damaging to their mental health.

6. “Isn’t ‘they’ a bit confusing – like, are there two of you or something?”

Not really. If we can grasp the fundamentals of language before we hit 2, we’re pretty sure you can understand this. When you get a text from an unknown number and you’re mate says “did they say who they were?” You’re referring to one person, but you don’t know the gender – so you use ‘they’. Well, this is kinda the same thing. Instead of going by She or He, a non-binary person might opt for ‘they’, it ain’t rocket science – respect a person’s pronouns.

7. “You can’t use this bathroom.”

Try again. Does your bathroom at home have those little symbols on the door to dictate which toilet your family members can and can’t use? 🚹🚺 …unlikely!

8. “Are you going to have the surgery?”

👎🏽. Not all non-binary people hope to transition to male or female, some people are happy being non-binary. The point is that they don’t identify by either gender completely so by asking them this question, you kind of imply that they aren’t really ‘whole’ until they have the correct equipment and make the transition to one or the other, and we all know that’s silly, right?

9. “You look like a girl/guy”

C’mon this one’s obvious… You wouldn’t usually comment on someone’s appearance, its basic politeness 101. So, why would you comment on which gender they do or don’t resemble?

10. “So, what exactly are  you?”

Unless you’re faced with a half unicorn, half shark who’s striped like a zebra but has webbed feet and a lion’s mane who quacks like a duck and walks like an alligator, it’s totally, completely, universally, entirely, unreservedly, and categorically not ok to ask any person ‘what’ they are. End of story.

Got any more questions? The Ditch the Label community is a safe space to discuss issues surrounding gender identity – give it a try. 

Related: What it’s Like to be a Trans, Non-Binary Couple: We Interviewed Fox and Owl

stay human, billboard, cloudy skies

Time to put your knowledge to the test… 

For International Women’s Equality day, we’ve created The Ultimate Feminism quiz… how many questions can you get?

 

Related:

 

 

Meet Jazz…

YouTuber, Activist, TV personality and International transgender spokesperson aside, she’s a typical teenage girl who just happens to be transgender. DTL caught up with Jazz Jennings to talk about transitioning, dealing with transphobia in the past, and what’s in store for the future! ❤️

Hey Jazz thanks for chatting to us! First up, can you tell us a bit about yourself in your own words for those who don’t already know you?
I’m a typical teenage girl who just happens to be transgender. I love spending time with my family and friends, I play soccer, go to school and study a lot. I’m a nerd, and a perfectionist so I put a lot of pressure on myself.

For those who don’t know anything about me, I’ve always known I was girl, and expressed that to my parents when I was just a toddler. I was very determined and wanted to live my life as a girl. So finally, at the age of 5, I transitioned before kindergarten to become the person I am today.

Have you ever experienced bullying as a result of your transition?
Growing up transgender, has been a struggle at times. When I was younger, kids would make fun of me, and often scoot away from me at the lunch table because they thought I had cooties. I was often left out, I call this “exclusionary bullying”.

Could you tell us a bit about it and how you’ve dealt with it?
Kids have always said mean things about me behind my back, and I’ll overhear them. Now that I’m in high school, some kids greet each other with hugs and then, just give me a ‘hi.’ Sometimes I’ve even been called an ‘it’, so I tend to keep to myself. I remind myself that I have friends and family who love me unconditionally, I focus on them and ignore the bullies.

“I tend to ignore the negativity. I don’t care what other people think. I choose to focus on the positive.”

Lots of people ask Ditch the Label for advice about transitioning. What advice would you give to someone who’s hoping to transition?
Be true to yourself and forget what other people think because only you can define who you are. One of the most important things to realize is that the bullies aren’t right. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are because you determine what makes you unique. I know it’s not easy to transition, so surround yourself with those who love and support you, and most importantly – love yourself.

What would you say to someone who is hoping to transition but has a particularly transphobic family or friendship group?
Stay strong, keep moving forward and never give up. If you don’t have a support network, there are organizations and resources out there that can help. Know that you have a whole LBGTQ community that will support you and will we be there for you. Find someone who will accept you for your authentic self. Remain hopeful. So stay strong till then, love yourself. Know that you have a whole community that supports you and is there for you.

“I know it’s not easy to transition, so surround yourself with those who love and support you and most importantly – love yourself.”

As a YouTuber with over 300,000 subscribers on your channel, how do you deal with any negativity you get online?
I tend to ignore the negativity. I don’t care what other people think. I choose to focus on the positive, beautiful support that I receive from thousands of people worldwide. In fact, my supporters will often challenge and battle the haters for me.

How do you think society can be better allies to the trans community?
Look for events and parades in your own community. Attend these events and show that you really care. Befriend someone who is transgender and may be struggling. Sometimes the simplest thing, like giving someone hug can make all the difference in the life of a transperson. Also, educate yourself on what it means to be transgender and share your knowledge with others.

“Find someone who will accept you for your authentic self… know that you have a whole community that supports you and is there for you.”

What’s one thing you wish everybody knew about being transgender?
There are so many things that are misunderstood when it comes to being transgender. One of the most important things that people need to know is that being transgender isn’t a choice. We are who we are, because we were born this way. No one decides one day to wake up and decide to be the opposite gender.

What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is knowing that I’m changing lives. I receive letters from all over the world. People thank me for sharing my story because it’s helped them. In some cases people say they would have taken their own lives if I hadn’t given them the courage to stay strong.

What are your goals for the future?
I get asked this a lot. Personally, I’m not sure what the future holds for me. I think I may want to be a filmmaker, a director, or a story writer. I could create films and books with really good messages that will help people to better understand themselves. Then again, there are so many things I love to do. As far as my advocacy, I will never stop being a voice for the transgender community.

Anything you’d like to add?
I know that being transgender is a challenge, especially when society doesn’t accept or understand our community, however by sharing our voices we can create positive change and progress in our world and I know that one day being transgender will no longer be a struggle, rather something that is fully embraced.

“I’m proud of who I am. This is me, and I’m transgender, and that’s okay. It makes me a stronger person, a more confident person, and it just makes me myself.”

Follow @JazzJennings_  on Twitter and check out her YouTube Channel:

Image by Steve Pisano

everyday sexism

Despite the progress us humans have made in terms of gender equality in recent times, here are a bunch of seriously annoying, everyday things which us vagina owners will find all too familiar…

Dress codes
Believe it or not, there are STILL some workplaces which insist on women wearing heels to work – Do we really need to explain why this isn’t ok? Ok we’ll do it anyway: our footwear has absolutely NOTHING to do with our quality of work. It’s an archaic and outdated rule which objectifies women, so give it up!

Blonde jokes
Come on guys, you’re better than this surely? These are the kind of jokes your half drunk uncle will bust out at a family do. Newsflash: hair colour has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence so that joke is redundant and sexist to its core. So, jokes on you old man 😉 p.s: Vagina jokes aren’t funny either. Period. 😂 

Street harassment
The whistling builder, the starer, or the guy in the street who tells you to “smile love” are all perpetrators of street harassment and blatant sexism. No, it is not a compliment. No, we do not like it.

“Bitchez n’ hoes”
“We have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores – it just makes it ok for guys to call us sluts and whores.” When every other rap song is about bitchez, hoes and crackin skullz its no wonder, when we take a look at the way we women speak to each other….  (shameless Mean Girls reference No. 2, you’re welcome 😉)

Unequal government
The fact that only 32% of MPs in Parliament are women in the UK and only 21% are women in the US Senate and 19% in the House of Representatives, says that the way society is run is pretty “man-heavy…” What’s worse, is that only 7.1% of women in congress are of colour.

Language
Why are we so often referred to as farm animals?? Cows, Chicks, Birds, Dogs … Old McDonald gotta lotta livestock that’s all I’m sayin’…

And finally, the most infuriating of them all….

The ridiculously small pockets on women’s jeans! 😡😡😡
Why are we not allowed to have stuff in our pockets?!? Guys’ pockets can hold a phone and wallet, some keys, a pack of gum, not to mention about a tenner in loose change. Me? I can’t even fit half my phone in there. Where are we meant to put all our s*** amiright girls??!??!

Ladies… how many phones have you dropped down the toilet because of s****y jeans pockets? Tell us in community#TheStruggleIsReal @DitchtheLabel

The 11 Secrets of a Sex Worker

My name is Douglas and I have been a gay male sex worker for nearly 18 years and involved in sex worker activism for the IUSW and The Harlots Collective for about ten years, here in the United Kingdom. I have worked in Edinburgh, London and Newcastle as an independent and also through several escort agencies. I genuinely and unashamedly enjoy my work as a sex worker. I am lucky that I have always worked in professions that I enjoy. I could not imagine working in a job I did not like or that did not offer me satisfaction emotionally and creatively. That is not to say that in sex work everyone must, or indeed does, enjoy their work. Human experience is complicated and varied and those who sell sex are no different from any other worker in any other profession.

Over the years I have been asked many questions about sex work, activism and what decriminalisation means for sex workers. I have listed below the most common questions I have been asked and the usual response I give.

sexworkers 2

Top 11 Questions That A Sex Worker Is Most Frequently Asked

Surely no child dreams about becoming a prostitute?

 The most common accusation thrown at sex workers is that no child grows up dreaming of being a prostitute. This justifies, for the accuser, the moral perspective that selling sex is wrong and therefore righty condemned by society and punished by the law. The question, however, is a statement of the subjective stigma and prejudice that exists toward certain groups and behaviours within society which moulds attitudes toward those groups, conveniently ignoring the reality of real peoples lives and experiences.

The truth is that no parent can know for certain what choices their children will make when they are older. Sex work decriminalisation is about protecting the lives of sex workers, who are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and mothers. It is about prioritising safety above the subjective moral judgment inherent in the question.

Isn’t selling sex dangerous?

Selling sex is not in itself dangerous. Having sex is after all a natural function of the human body and a reflection of human attraction and sexual desire and fantasy. Provided an individual takes necessary precautions against sexually transmitted diseases, which, because of their work, sex workers are especially particular about, the risk is minimal. Most sex workers, like many freelance hairdressers, masseurs, plumbers and a host of other professions, work one to one with a singular client. A sex worker is, therefore, no more at risk than any of the other profession which works in a similar way, who also visit clients in their homes or hotels or invite them to their own places of work.

Clients seeking sexual pleasure are no different from clients looking for a relaxing massage, they are not looking to harm the person giving them pleasure. Criminals, however, know they can target sex workers with relative impunity because anti-sex-work legislation prevents sex workers from legally taking the necessary safety precautions that every other profession would think as obvious.

In the UK and other less tolerant legal jurisdictions, sex workers are not allowed to work together for safety. The law states that two or more sex workers working together are classified as running a brothel which carries severe legal penalties. Sex workers are not allowed to work through any third party who is at risk of prosecution for controlling for gain, money laundering and/or living off immoral earnings. Street sex workers face prosecution and are often forced, because of anti-kerb crawling legislation, to make quick decisions about which clients to accept. They are forced to work in isolated areas, work alone and in other words, they, like most sex workers, are made easy targets for criminals. It is, therefore, not sex work that is dangerous, nor our clients who are dangerous, but the law that prevents sex workers from taking common sense safety precautions.

All sex workers are drug addicts and lead chaotic and desperate lives:

Undoubtedly, some sex workers do take drugs. I have always argued that sex work reflects the society in which it operates, therefore, drug abuse exists but is no more prevalent within sex work than it is within society in general. When reference is made that sex workers’ lives are specifically desperate or chaotic, what is really being expressed is stigma and prejudice rather than the reality for the overwhelming majority of sex workers, who have made a considered and sober decision to sell sex. The underlying truth is that individuals in all professions and work environments may face problems and require help at certain times in their lives. Substance addiction and social need are not particular to sex work, yet they are used to restrict the sex worker debate within a context that perceives sex work as always being problematic, partially the reason for this is that our knowledge about the wide range of experiences within sex work is limited.

No one knows with any certainty how many people work in the sex industry within the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. The most visible contact and the easiest accessible information available to the media, politicians and the general public about sex work is gathered from outreach projects and home office statistics. Sex work projects work with specifically targeted groups of sex workers while the Home Office statistics record where sex workers have come into contact for various, but usually negative reasons, with the police. Both the Home Office and sex worker projects reflect, predominately, the experiences of outdoor street sex workers.

Statistically, street workers represent between 5 to 15% of UK sex work. Their experiences, whilst important, are not necessarily representative of the experience that the majority of indoor sex workers have. Independent academic research and I especially reference the recent studies undertaken by Jane Pitcher (Loughborough University), suggests that most indoor sex workers see themselves as a small business requiring a wide and diverse variety of skills to accomplish their job. Increasingly, academic research contradicts the idea that sex workers, indoor or street, are any different to other workers in that their experiences are varied and rarely fit a convenient stereotype.

Aren’t sex workers are all coerced by pimps and traffickers?

Many sex workers choose, for very good reason, to work through a third party even though the third party is breaking the law and can face severe penalties. The sex worker usually pays a third party a proportion of their income from sex work in return for anonymity, security and for the third party to deal with marketing. They organise appointments and where appropriate, provide safe places from which to work. The sex worker is contracting out a role that they don’t have the capacity to perform or do not wish to do themselves. In any other profession, these professionals would be classed as managers and, like in any job, there are good managers, there are bad managers and there are indifferent managers.

The popular media too often sensationalises reporting about sex work by referencing violent pimps, usually street pimps, often foreign, low-level criminals, enticing young women into sex work where they control their income through violence and drugs.

References to pimps in much of the media reflect stigma, cultural prejudices and often racism, rather than reflecting the reality of the often close working relationship that exists between the sex worker and the third party. The word “pimp” especially has racist connotations in the USA, where the term pimp has become intrinsically linked with varied aspects of black culture. Violent pimps undoubtedly do exist, but they are the exception rather than the reality.

Trafficking has become the big scare story, in recent years, used by anti-sex work organisations to justify their anti-sex work narrative and for governments to justify anti-sex work legislation. Trafficking, however, is a lot more complicated than the simplistic story that is being told to create a moral panic.

Legal and illegal migration for sex work to the UK, within the UK and within most countries, is classified as trafficking. Any third party facilitating in any manner the travel for any consenting sex worker, even a UK national, to an appointment to sell sex within the UK can, for example, be prosecuted for trafficking offences. The recorded evidence, however, is that the percentage of sex workers trafficked into the UK (or elsewhere) against their will and forced to sell sex is negligible. The numbers forced to work, sold into slavery in other industries, such as construction, farming, domestic service and even catering are far higher.

There is a growing immigration crisis facing all of Europe, both legally and illegally. It is essential that, within the context of sex work, consent is recognised and that the adult sex worker is not infantilised by legislation determined to make them victims to satisfy a moral and political agenda.

Won’t decriminalisation of sex work mean that children will be encouraged to think that selling sex is a proper and legitimate profession?

There is no evidence from New Zealand, where sex work has been decriminalised since 2003, that the numbers of sex workers have increased. The official numbers have remained very stable since decriminalisation and New Zealand is recognised as the best country in the world in which to work as a sex worker.

Decriminalisation of sex work does not mean that children or adults can be coerced into selling sex by individuals or by the state, it simply means that adults who do sell sex have the protection of the law and choices about how they choose to work safely. No one has ever suggested that decriminalisation would mean that sex work becomes an option for careers advisors or that job seekers should be forced into sex work or lose their benefits. These are scare stories. Decriminalisation simply allows adults who have chosen sex work to work within the law, with the support of the law and with the right to access the same state support structures as every other worker.

Aren’t most sex workers survivors of sexual abuse who started selling sex as children?

There is no evidence to support this story, although, it is a popular and much-repeated myth amongst anti-sex-work organisations who mis-quote research. Evidence tells us that most sex workers began working in their 20’s and not their teenage years (or even younger as some suggest). Are some sex workers survivors of sexual abuse? Undoubtedly yes, just as some nurses are or shop assistants are. Accountants, politicians and your next door neighbour could be too. Being a survivor of abuse of any sort does not pre-condition you to sex work or any other type of work.

Sex workers don’t pay tax:

Sex workers are obliged to pay tax the same as anyone else. If you avoid paying tax then you can face the same legal penalties as anyone else. The difference is that sex workers are not offered the same rights or protections or respect legally or within society for paying tax.

Are you a happy hooker and therefore not representative?

The media are obsessed with the idea that a sex worker is either a happy hooker or a victim of sex work, whereas the truth is that if you enjoy your work or not is irrelevant.

I enjoy my sex work but that does not mean that everyone else does. Sex work is work and sex workers, like all workers, have good days and bad days and indifferent days. Decriminalisation is about rights for all sex workers and not just those who love their work.

During my 17 years in the sex industry, I have met many sex workers and thanks to my partner running an escort agency for nearly 11 years, I was privileged to meet and work with sex workers from many different socio-economic, educational and cultural backgrounds. It was listening and talking to those sex workers and sharing their experiences that led me into activism. When talking about sex work I often reference my personal sex work experience and academic evidence, and I try to give a voice to the overwhelming majority of sex workers who work discreetly and anonymously throughout the UK.

Ultimately every sex workers’ experience is unique but we all experience stigma and prejudice and it is that shared feeling of exclusion that drives us to fight for rights, and for decriminalisation.

Sex work is not work:

Sex workers invest in their work. Condoms, lube, sex toys, lingerie, premises, photographs, internet sites and advertising, the list is long and endless. A sex worker prepares both physically and emotionally for a client, performs for the client, relaxes when the client leaves before preparing for the next. That all sounds like a job to me.

Isn’t selling sex immoral?

Morality is always subjective, it reflects the culture and social conditioning that exists at any particular time or place in history (or indeed the present.) As a sex worker, it is not my job to morally judge anyone.

Provided my clients are of legal age then my job is to provide a service that I consent to and one that the client consents to pay for. I, therefore, provide a consensual adult service.

What do you think about The Swedish Model where sex work is decriminalised but the client is criminalised?

The Swedish Model has failed because it has forced sex work out of sight, has increased social stigma and alienation and by doing so has made sex work more dangerous. It has not ended the demand for sex work which was the ideological position that justified the legislation.

The Swedish government claim that they have reduced sex work, yet acknowledge that they have no proof of how many sex workers there are working in Sweden either before or after their legislation and criminalising clients was introduced. Despite claims made by the Swedish Government that they have decreased demand for sex work we have evidence that the number of massage parlours, where sex is on offer, has increased. Sex worker advertisements are readily available on the internet and there appears to be an increase in the number of foreign nationals that are selling sex which questions the claim made by the Swedish Government that Sweden is no longer a destination for sex trafficking.

Despite the claim that the Swedish sex worker is decriminalised, Swedish sex workers are forced to work alone and they are not able to advertise openly or employ a third party. They cannot legally rent apartments for sex work because when discovered they are evicted, as the apartment owner is liable to prosecution should they be found guilty of renting an apartment to a sex worker. Swedish sex workers cannot access social support, even though being a sex worker is completely legal unless they exit sex work. Family members can be found guilty of living off the earnings of prostitution, again forcing sex workers to work secretly and in isolation. To enable the authorities to prosecute clients, sex workers are coerced into giving evidence against their clients. This again forces sex workers to work in secret in order to protect their clients, their families and themselves.

The Swedish model was not implemented to help sex workers but to coerce sex workers to exit sex work. The idea was to apply very simplistic economic attrition, by targeting the clients of sex workers the Swedish authorities had hoped to end demand and force sex workers out of business. The reality, however, is that sex work continues and indeed flourishes.

Many within Sweden are beginning to question government policy, because of the negative effect the Swedish anti-sex work legislation has on sex workers and on attitudes toward women who sell sex, in particular, foreign migrant sex workers. Despite the governments’ ideological position that women in sex work are always victims, regardless of their consent to sell sex, opinion polls suggest that attitudes toward sex workers are becoming increasingly negative, with a majority of Swedes wanting those involved in selling sex criminalised, and not just their clients. Sweden proves that prohibition does not work, other than to push that which is prohibited underground.

The Swedish government ignored the evidence and the voices of Swedish sex workers. It was an ideologically motivated piece of legislation, that is why it has failed. Sex workers want legislation based solidly upon evidence and to include the voices of sex workers, with the emphasis upon protection and rights, not on endorsing stigma and prejudice.

These are the most common questions I am asked and I suspect the same questions are asked of every sex worker. I have given my usual responses. Feel free to comment.