I could not be more honoured to feature Sian Samuel, a woman on a mission to talk about the She and the He through her platform The Project She , in a bid to change the conversation around consent and rape culture. A space where Sian hopes, women and men can tell their stories. We are proud to champion this much needed voice of Sian’s and others discussing their experience of rape. I was struck reading Sian’s answers – that we need a massive shift in perspective because misogyny, casual sexism and the gender pay gap are alive and kicking in the generation known as the millennials. Collectively we have to fight for change, so the next generation do not suffer the same conditions.
FF: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
SS: I’m 21, graduated last year from the university of Southampton in fashion marketing, I went from there into a social media role, which I enjoy, but I’m always looking for the next side hustle I can focus on!
FF: What does Future Female mean to you?
SS: To me, the words future female doesn’t have to mean, the future is all female, but it’s about paving the way for the the current and future women, building a society that not only views them as equals but treats them as such, which is severely lacking at the moment. It’s very easy to say men and women are the same, but the truth is we’re not and future female is about changing that.
FF: #meetoo sparked a global challenge against men who have sexual predatory behaviour. What do you think the next steps are in evolving, so women and men can see this behaviour end?
SS: Education. Education. Education. We expect these allegations to make men think twice, and for some it has, but the heavily ingrained behaviours will never change in those who are so used to living life that way. What really needs to happen is educating young boys and girls about consent, boundaries, how to talk to each other, what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman.
We tell boys to man up when they’re emotional, to fight for the girl, that sex is something they must work towards like it’s a challenge, the end goal. It builds up such negative ideas around relationships, and leads them to do things they would never be ok with if you actually explained to them what they did wrong.
We can’t fix what’s already broken in people, but what we can do is teach before it has a chance to break.
FF: You recently wrote a piece about your experience of being date raped, which is a brave act in itself, given the emotional and mental effects. By sharing your experience here, what do you hope to achieve that could support other women?
SS: It definitely does have its effects, I’m still working on those. But from sharing my experience what I wanted people to realise is that rape damages, it runs your life for a very long time. And so many women are told to stay silent incase it ruins their rapists lives, “he’ll lose his job”, “he has kids”, all of those excuses are thrown at victims. But the matter is, that as a victim, you go through the same. Worrying about keeping your job when you can’t focus due to mass anxiety, has effected me. We need to see victims as the one going through the life altering change.
What I wanted was for women to feel validated, understood, brave and capable of standing up for their lives, to be in control again. We don’t get a criminal record at the end of it like they might do, but it feels as though we have a black mark against our names. Troublemakers, attention seekers, stupid girls. And I hated that, it’s so backwards.
I hope people look at my story and feel brave enough to just speak out and own it, feel no shame. Because the shame isn’t ours to feel.
FF: Future Female promotes everyday gender equality, by raising awareness of daily casual sexism. And action is our mission. What advice would you give to other women for calling out casual sexism? If left unchecked do you think such behavior could lead to more serious abuse or assault?
SS: If I’m being honest I’m still trying to work that one out, because what I do know is you have to be extremely brave. If you’re in an environment you’re comfortable in then go ahead, say what you need to say and don’t be scared, you’re allowed to be offended, you’re allowed to be angry, standing up for yourself doesn’t make your sensitive or difficult, it makes you strong.
But outside of those situations it is hard. Catcalling is hard to deal with, inappropriate touching is hard to deal with, and that’s the stuff we all feel so uncomfortable calling out, we often freeze up. Which then, because it’s unchecked, persists, and does lead to worse.
It’s never our fault, any of this, but we do have to be brave and stand up to it, take responsibility in that sense, because we are capable of making change.
FF: Have you faced any barriers in your career /university and what advice would you give others?
SS: Nothing springs to mind right now, but I think there’s so much I could be unaware of. I work in a predominantly male office, which has to have an effect on my pay and progression, I don’t doubt that.
FF: The gender pay gap is real, do you have any experience of this?
SS: I actually do, a few years back when I was at university I was doing a lot of bar work during summer, I’d worked at this particular place for around 4 years at this point. They often would tell us not to discuss our wages, which is fine, I understand it. But during a shift one day my male college, the same age, same position who had worked their less time, had less experience, and frequently stole stock, was on £1.25 an hour more than I was. Understandably I was angry and arranged to discuss a pay rise with my boss, he agreed and put my pay up to £6 an hour, still 50p less an hour than my male college was earning.
I know many would say I was fussing over nothing but when it’s blatant sexism it’s hard to not be angry.
FF: What action do you take in the everyday to promote female equality?
SS: I try very had to always be informed so I can talk about current issues with the people I come into contact with. I read a lot and love sharing my ideas, when it’s discussed as a topic of conversation you can help make a shift in people perspectives. It’s so important to challenge ideas and opinions and you do have to be aware to be able to do that.
FF: Can you tell us about a project that you are involved in that’s inspiring you at the moment?
SS: I’m currently working on a project called S/HE, I came up with the idea with a close friend of mine after my experience. At the moment it’s a space on instagram where we can talk about consent and rape culture but eventually we do hope it’ll turn into a platform where people can share their own stories of sexual assault. It is taking some time, as I quite often need to take breaks to focus on my mental health, but we’ve already built a small community of women who have come to us to share and that has been so powerful.
FF: If there was one thing you would change about your life as a woman what would it be?
SS: I wish women as a whole were respected more in clubs and bars and around alcohol, it makes life very difficult as a survivor to go into those environments and feel comfortable knowing that you could potential be grouped or have your drink spiked. It feels dangerous when it shouldn’t so I’d love for those experiences to be enjoyable again. There needs to be an understanding where women can speak up and be taken seriously in those spaces. It’s very much still “it was only banter don’t ruin his night, love”.
FF: What are you reading at the moment?
SS: I’m in the middle of Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates and also Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. I’ve been reading a lot of non fiction recently overloading my brain with information so I thought I’d try out a classic modern fiction.
FF: How would you describe your style?
SS: I always find this question hard to answer, because quite often it changes with my mood and I sometimes feel like I’m playing dress up. What I love is finding unusual or classics pieces I think I’ll love forever, but as soon as I see another person walking down the street in my outfit it goes to the back of the wardrobe until a later date. I have a low budget so shop at fast fashion retailers but tend to hold on to those pieces for years.
A huge thanks to Sian for taking part in our Future Female blog series. Do check out The Project She over on Instagram and get involved if you have a story to share relating to sexual violence. The more we talk about rape, the sooner the fear associated with reporting it can begin to lift.