Interviews with Laura Coryton and Laura Steven

For our Friends Scheme March Prize Draw we are really excited to have two new books to give away, kindly donated by Egmont PublishingWe will be holding the prize draw on Thursday 14th March, at our AGM,  and two lucky winners will receive copies of both books! To be entered into the draw sign up to become a Friend of the Library:!/

We caught up with the authors Laura Coryton and Laura Steven to find out more about them and the books.

speak upSpeak Up! 
by Laura Coryton

Written by Laura Coryton, who led the international campaign against tampon tax, Speak Up! is a vital and timely book exploring what it means to stand up for what you believe in on both a public and personal level.

What inspired you to write the book? 

I visit lots of schools as part of the Tampon Tax campaign to support girls hoping to make changes. The schoolgirls I talk to are always so enthusiastic and determined to solve the problems they face. They are my inspiration for this book! I hope that ‘Speak Up!’ can support a new wave of rebel girls committed to changing the world.

What made you a feminist? 

I think I was born a feminist… When I was growing up, I was perpetually rolling my eyes. I was forever frustrated by what I thought was just ‘being a girl’. I hated the way men would stare at my friends and I as we walked in our uniforms to school in the morning. I was confused as to why everyone would watch the boys play basketball while nobody seemed to know our girl’s team even existed. I was angry at the presumption that I would study food tech and not maths because that’s what “girls do” (quote courtesy of my school’s careers advisor – no, seriously). But actually, I was never frustrated with being female. What I was, and still very much am, actually angry at, are the symptoms of sexism that so many of us face. I was a feminist. Always!

What sparked your period tax campaign? And what have you learned from it that you would like to share with our readers?  

My friends and I are always sharing feminist articles with each other. One day, my lovely friend Verity sent me an article that explained we pay tax on period products. I was confused. I presumed this tax must make some sense if the government was to back it (I was clearly young and naive) but when I started to research our tax system, I got angry. I discovered that while we don’t pay tax on maintaining our private helicopters, because apparently, that’s too essential to tax, we do pay tax for the luxury of buying period products each and every month. Seriously! Nobody was talking about the issue because there is a taboo surrounding women’s bodies and more specifically, around periods. I hope the campaign has helped to tackle that taboo, too!

From my campaign I have learned that anything is possible. If I got David Cameron to utter the word ‘tampon’ in parliament when he was Prime Minister, then you can do anything! I’ve learned that girls have such a passion for making changes and I’m really excited for what future changes their campaigns will bring. Essentially, my piece of advice to any reader would be to be ambitious, never give up and speak up!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with young girls and women just getting into feminism that could help them along their journey?

I think something that’s not spoken about enough is failing. It’s okay to fail. Everybody fails from time to time, but a singular failure doesn’t mean that you’re destined to fail. Lots of us fail and go on to ultimately succeed. You can do the same!

a girl called shamelessA Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven

It’s been two months since a leaked explicit photo got Izzy involved in a political sex scandal – and the aftershock is far from over. The Bitches Bite Back movement is gathering momentum as a forum for teenage feminists, and when a girl at another school has a sex tape shared online, once again Izzy leads the charge against the slut-shamers

What inspired you to write the book? 

A Girl Called Shameless is about an aspiring comedian whose world implodes when dirty pictures involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench emerge online. I really wanted to take down slut-shaming and revenge porn, but I also wanted to weave in some seemingly innocuous themes – like the concept of the ‘Friend Zone’, and the problem with men who consider themselves ‘Nice Guys’ – and unpack why they can be just as damaging as the more overt symptoms of sexism. Plus I really wanted to tell a lot of rude jokes. I love rude jokes. (Which is why I will probably never win the Booker.

What made you a feminist? 

While I’ve always believed in gender equality, and always wanted the same opportunities that were available to my brother, I don’t think there was ever one single moment that made me a feminist. It’s been a journey, more than anything, and a journey I’m very much still on. There are areas I need to do better in, and I’ll never stop trying to educate myself into becoming the best feminist I can be. We’re all always learning, and always growing, and I think it’s important to give each other space to do that – while also holding each other accountable when we mess up. I really love how actress and activist Jameela Jamil refers to herself: a feminist-in-progress.

What has inspired you to join Mslexia? And what have you learned from it that you would like to share with our readers?

I actually left Mslexia after three and a half years back in October, and I miss it every day. It was a wonderful environment in which to grow as both a writer and a feminist, and I got to work with some truly talented people. The main thing I learned was the importance of carving out spaces for marginalised voices, and the value of lifting up other women. It was often frustrating, because we received so many accusations of being sexist, but we fundamentally believed in supporting women writers in a notoriously male-dominated industry. This may seem a little trite, but when it comes to Mslexia, I always think of this Theodore Roosevelt quote (via Leslie Knope): ‘Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.’ I also learned that if you fire Lionel Shriver from a judging panel for being racist, you will be told to kill yourself by alt-right trolls.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with young girls and women just getting into feminism that could help them along their journey?

Do you believe men and women should be treated equally? Great, you’re already a feminist! Of course, it’s often more nuanced than that, and there are countless different debates that fall under the feminism bracket. It may seem like the world expects you to be perfect from the outset, and to know every single thing about every single one of these debates, but that’s impossible. The best thing you can do is listen to those who are more knowledgeable than yourself. Seek out a broad intersection of women from all walks of life, listen to their views, and never shout over them. Unless they voted for Donald Trump. Then some shouting is allowed.