It’s a privilege to share Lauren Kenny’s thoughts on Future Female because it gives us an insight into the next generations view on where we currently stand on equality and where we need to be urgently going. Lauren has recently graduated from Kingston University with a BA Honours in history and human rights specialising in women’s rights. Having also worked as a model she has seen first hand how casual sexism is rife within the fashion industry.
FF: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
LK: I grew up in a small town in Devon so I guess that it’s fair to say that I was relatively sheltered before I moved to London to attend university. I always had an interest in history and ethics, so decided to study history and human rights at Kingston university which was the best decision that I ever made. Moving to London was fantastic and presented me with so many opportunities that I could never have imagined at home. My time as a student clarified what I hope to do in the future; I would ideally love to do a MA in creative writing and go on to eventually write political theatre. I am however about to take a little bit of time out from education to travel and to keep on reeling out the poetry – another two great passions of mine.
FF: What does Future Female mean to you?
LK: To me, Future Female reiterates to importance of acting now to ensure the justice, equality and respect that we deserve in the future. We shouldn’t have to fight for it, but we do and we will. Luckily our generation is full of powerful and capable females who are willing to bring the fight and to make gender-inequality a thing of the past.
FF: Future Female promotes everyday gender equality, by raising awareness of daily casual sexism. What advice would you give to other women for calling it out?
LK: Do not let anybody make you feel like you are being “dramatic” by calling out sexism. Unfortunately, some people still talk about feminism negatively and this is due to their own ignorance and misogyny. You are not doing anything wrong by challenging them and by attempting to educate them. If they choose not to acknowledge what you are saying, they are the problem.
FF: You recently graduated with a degree in History and Human Rights, specialising in women’s rights with particular focus on female reproductive rights, has this changed your view of feminism?
LK: Studying women’s rights has changed my view of feminism in the ways that you would expect. As I gained knowledge on the subjects that I chose to look focus on, feminism became more important and feminist arguments became more relevant in current affairs and throughout history too. I have always acknowledged the existence of gender-inequality, but I am now aware about how much progress really needs to be made. Change needs to occur on a worldwide scale; whilst some of us are striving for equal pay, others are still being declined their basic human rights. We need to fight for all women, not merely those with whom we can relate and empathise with. We also need to ensure that our feminism is inclusive of transgender women. We are all female.
FF: Have you faced any gender-based barriers during university and what advice would you give others?
LK: Kingston as a whole was pretty inclusive. I think that it is actually one of the most diverse Universities in the UK. There weren’t any societies that I wasn’t able to join because of my gender and I met fellow strong female characters who I now call my close friends. I would advise anybody who does experience gender-based barriers at University to knock them right down. University is a time of learning, a time of change and a place where you really establish who and what it is you want to be. An equality fighter is never wrong. Those who might brand you as “dramatic” or “emotional” are intimidated by your power.
FF: You recently worked as a model, did your experience as a model give you cause for concern?
LK: In simple terms, yes. It exposed a whole other level of objectification and casual sexism to me. It is difficult for me to condense my experiences, as I could easily write a whole book about them, but there is an awful lot to be concerned about within the industry. For example being pinned down by a male photographer while on a shoot, to listening to two male photographers discuss how women should be in front of the camera and not behind it, because only males know how to best capture and portray female beauty. I entered the modelling world as a relatively naïve teenager and I have since been made very aware of all of the disadvantages that sadly come with being a female, especially one who is often put on a pedestal and expected to portray the “ideal woman” in a patriarchal society. Of course, it’s not all bad. I have met some wonderful people through modelling and others who are also striving for change within the industry.
FF: #metoo sparked a global challenge against men with sexual predatory behavior. What do you think the next steps are in evolving, so women and men can see this behavior end?
LK: We need to start condemning the behavior of the perpetrator rather than questioning the victim and their recollection of their trauma. Victims stories need to be shared, heard and dealt with accordingly. Justice needs to be served and victims need to receive the help that they need and deserve. It’s a sad fact of life that there will always be people who abuse the power that they have and use it to hurt others. For this reason, it’s crucial that we focus our resources on improving rehabilitation for victims of sexual assault. Hopefully this will do two things; firstly, it will make the process of coming forward and telling their stories less daunting to victims. Secondly, it will allow victims to move on from the hurt and rebuild their lives in the ways that they so desire.
FF: What action do you take in the everyday to promote female equality?
LK: I make a conscious effort to never feel intimidated into hiding my true character, something that I have been prone to doing in the past. I am a strong female who knows what she wants and this can agitate men who enjoy asserting their dominance over women. I am also trying hard to educate myself a little bit more daily. Podcasts such as The Guilty Feminist are a lighthearted and easy way to make yourself aware of the current issues that women are facing.
FF: What is inspiring you at the moment?
LK: The state of the court system in America and the lack of justice in the world. The Dr Ford and Kavanaugh case has amplified my determination to fight for what is right and what is needed; gender-equality, justice and a formal apology to Dr Ford who was brave enough to come forward and share her trauma, only to be mocked and silenced by the President of the United States and countless others. It’s absolutely shocking, backwards and has made it so evident that we are still very much existing in a patriarchal society.
FF: If there was one thing you would change about your life as a woman what would it be?
LK: The tendency for common situations to turn into scary ones and the constant possibility of harassment. I saw an amazing thread on twitter the other day by @tragedythyme which summarized this perfectly. She wrote “For every sexual assault, there are thousands of events that don’t lead to violence but still scare the shit out of us.” I honestly can’t imagine how great it would feel to not be phased when walking to my car alone. Or to have no worries when there is a man who appears to be walking the same direction as me at night. Or to not feel crippling anxiety when having to walk past a group of males – something that has probably sprung from being catcalled by older men multiple times when I was below the age of 15. Being a woman is great and there is nothing that I would change about myself or my sex as a whole. The change that needs to occur is in regard to the world that us women are trying to live and prosper in.
FF: What are you reading at the moment?
LK: I am currently reading The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. It’s a book about the law of attraction and how we are able to manifest our own success. It features accounts by various people who all talk about how a change of mindset managed to completely change their lives. I guess you could call it a spiritual self-help book. I love everything like that – I keep crystals on me at all times, haha.
FF: How would you describe your style?
LK: Upcycled. I like to keep up with the current trends but I very rarely buy directly from high-street shops. I am a great (if I do say so myself) charity shopper and get so much more enjoyment out of finding hidden gems. The price tag is a bonus and you know that your money is going towards a good cause. Recently, I’ve found that having a clear out is a form of free therapy and I’ve become a huge charity shop donator too. I am a massive advocate of sustainable fashion and as a model have always preferred working with brands who are ethically conscious. I think that sustainably sourced clothing is going to become much more of a trend in years to come, which I’m very much looking forward to.
A massive thanks to Lauren for her thoughts, a valuable insight and a voice I’m sure we will hear more from. Follow Lauren’s next steps over at Lauren Kenny Instagram