Welcome to this weeks Future Female, wonder Woman Anniki Sommerville, who is doing ground breaking Future Female work with The Hotbed collective.
Anniki is Super Editor at Selfish Mother, a freelance writer and co-founder of The Hotbed Collective- an online platform for women to talk about sex and relationships. She also works in branding as part of ‘Family Affair’ focusing on brands targeting parents and Mums. She has a daughter, Rae, who is 3 years old and is based in West London. Her favourite things are writing, running and eating (not always in that order).
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
A. I worked in market research and consultancy for seventeen years and was basically at the top of the tree at my company but after having my daughter found that the role wasn’t really compatible with having a child. I got really interested in feminism, work role models and writing. Writing was something that I’d always done (mainly fiction) but something happened after becoming a Mum and it SERIOUSLY focused my mind. I think it’s a common thing- when we leave our children in childcare we’re more conscious about our time and our goals.
I became freelance this year (doing writing, copy writing, brand consultancy, social media) and am still feeling my way…I am definitely happier (though freelancing isn’t easy as anyone who does it will tell you!)
Q. Why did you get involved with Selfish Mother and what is your role there?
A. Whilst I was on maternity leave I started writing like a madwoman (because I pretty much was a madwoman). I found Molly’s blog and I loved it. It felt different in tone. I feel like Molly was talking about this irreverent, tongue in cheek, relaxed parenting vibe right from the get go. I find her massively inspiring. She also offers me a lot of autonomy. I now edit the blog and am helping on other projects too- watch this space!
Q. What does Future Female mean to you?
A. I grew up with a feminist Mum who was a single parent, zipping around on a moped with a pierced nose – she was way before her time. She held down a job and kept everything going and eventually had 3 kids. Life was tough. There was no such thing as proper paid maternity leave. You were expected to do it all. I don’t know how she coped. I feel like my generation have inherited a lot of good things but there is still a LONG way to.
In terms of imagery and media commentary the language is still pretty sexist. Women are constantly being unpicked for the way that they bring up their kids, choose not to have kids, have kids older, choose certain careers over others, choose to age. The list is endless. The plain hatefulness of it all is depressing.
When I was in my twenties you were expected to shut up and get on with it. Men spoke over you in meetings. They bored you to death with their own personal narratives and I feel cross now that I never told them I was falling asleep. I quickly realized that liberal left wing men were sometimes the most sexist. They wanted to bore on about their ideas without ever listening to yours. God the time I wasted listening!
Post-forty and I’m more confident. It’s important that men and women understand each other. I hate the fact that men feel like we have equality in pretty much every sphere when we obviously haven’t. I want my daughter to feel that being a woman doesn’t hold her back and to feel confident in expressing herself.
Q. What is your creative process?
A. I have met many people who have told me they are going to write a book one day. In fact, someone came up to me yesterday and said it. I told them that if they wanted to do that they would have actually done it already. Now there’s an urgency in what I do. I am freaking old now! I work like a demon without standing up and then I lie on the floor and recover. I have read loads of books on creativity and there is no magic solution – you have to actually do it and avoid the gazillion distractions that surround you. You can buy nice stationary, sharpen your pencils, buy books on how to write but only you can actually take that decision to commit your ideas to paper and share them. I think the next generation understand that better than we do.
Q. What do you love about being your own boss
A. I am still dealing with this idea. I will let you know if I have a AHA moment!
Q. Can you tell us about a particular project that you are working on and that is inspiring you at the moment?
A. I am working with Cherry Healey and Lisa Williams on ‘The Hotbed Collective’. It’s a platform for women to share experiences of sex and to get the whole sex malarkey out into the open. It’s driven by the desire to make women feel better about sex and not something they have to feel shy or embarrassed about. It’s very exciting and something I feel genuinely passionate about.
I’m also writing a fiction book. I just need an agent and a publisher! It’s all about a forty-something woman struggling in the corporate world and wondering if there is more to life. It’s sort of autobiographical…
Q. There is a shift in how and where women work that is happening at the moment. Was it a natural progression for you to go it alone and why?
A. I’d love to say that I did it off my own back but I didn’t. I am happier now for sure though. I think the only danger is that you think everyone on social media is doing really well financially and they often aren’t! I talk to people and I’m like- Hey I thought you were mega famous and had your own yurt business and all and they’re like –actually I’m broke. Happy but broke. We need to make this clear to people who are contemplating abandoning their 9-5 life. It won’t necessarily make you richer. Like most things in life it will bring its own challenges. It’s not going to Pilates, mincing about the garden and tapping away on your computer (it’s more like cleaning the toilet and making a stew, then realizing it’s midday and you haven’t done anything yet).
Q. What is inspiring you right now? Whether its creatively, or on a personal level or it may be a friendship?
A. I am inspired by Instagram – the women who are launching businesses and coming up with new ideas. I am inspired by younger women who can write really well and show life how its lived by young women- Lena Dunham for example. If my daughter is as eloquent and open-minded as her, I’ll be happy.
Q. If there was one thing you would change about your life as a woman what would it be?
A. I would change the fact that I’m so preoccupied by my appearance. It’s fun to wear make-up and have nice clothes but I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of stuff because I’ve been inside getting changed or worrying about my fat legs or the pores on my nose. I wish there wasn’t this pressure to look a certain way but that’s probably true for men and women these days. The obsession with youth and all that.
Q. What key messages you are passing on to your child when it comes to gender equality, how important do you think it is to change your story around gender?
A. I try and tell her that she can achieve whatever she wants to achieve. I steer her away from media stuff that is pumping out sexist rubbish about women. I try and bolster her self-esteem. It’s hard. I don’t want her to be deluded either.
Q. What are you reading at the moment? Do you have any recommendations?
A. I am reading Ariel Levy’s book. It’s fabulous. It’s sad. It’s the kind of book I wish I’d written.
Q. How would you describe your personal Style?
A. It’s eclectic and I don’t plan it out as much as I used to! I love casual with a bit more formal and so pleated skirt with sweatshirt (or live in dungarees with a nice shirt)