Stirred welcomes Jasmine Chatfield!
Favourite feminist icon and why?
I have thought long and hard on this – it’s a difficult question! It’s also hard to find an ‘icon’ as such without running into problematic elements. I’m going to go with an oldie for this one, and pick Mary Wollstonecraft. Not the most original choice, I know, and certainly not the least problematic, but she did kick off a revolution in the treatment of women in the eighteenth century (and onwards). Her novella ‘Mary: A Fiction’ is a beautiful expression of empathy for women and for everyone. (I’ll avoid writing out my shortlist… it would take up too much space.)
What did you want to be when you were little?
Cheesily, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always had an acute awareness that I’d need to have a day job, too, so young Jasmine’s considerations included: adventurer, opera singer, gravedigger, detective, morgue attendant, and so on. At one point I also drew up a plan to take over the world, with my chosen techniques subliminal messaging and hypnotism (inspired, perhaps, by the Demon Headmaster?). I quickly realised this was unrealistic as well as morally corrupt.
When did you start saying you were a feminist?
I’ve always had feminist leanings but I had a ton of internalised misogyny until probably around the time I was in college (aged sixteen-ish) when I got really into Tumblr social justice. From there I read a lot of feminist writings, and addressed some of my own preconceptions about women, and managed to work through it. Probably around the same time was when I started saying I was a feminist.
Favourite author? (female identified)
I’m going to cheat and list a few – I’m also sure I’ve forgotten a whole bunch, so don’t consider this an authoritative favourite list. I think Fay Weldon and Margaret Atwood are incredible. Heather Bell’s poetry got me back into poetry when I was in my teenage years, and I think she’s amazing. Diana Wynne Jones is one of my forever-favourite young adult novelists.
Favourite author? (male identified)
Probably Michael Ondaatje is my favourite male-identified author. His ‘In the Skin of a Lion’ is one of my favourite books of all time. Mervyn Peake, author of the Gormenghast books, I also find fascinating. Some of the best books I read in 2014 were Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy (the first one is ‘Annihilation’). If you’re partial to some light sci-fi, and enjoy novels with excellent representation and characterisation, as well as subtly eerie landscapes and wildlife, you should give them a read.
If you woke up and sexism had ceased to exist, what would the world look like?
This is a bit of a gloomy answer, but I think it’s near-impossible to imagine what the world would look like without sexism. Sexism is so deeply entrenched in our history and our institutions that I’m sure a world without it would be unrecognisable to us. Maybe I’m thinking about this too practically, though. Obviously, it would be a great place! I’m sure there’d still be numerous other problems with the world, but if sexism suddenly disappeared we’d all have at least a slightly nicer time of it.
What barriers do you think women spoken word artists/poets face in writing and performing?
The barriers to spoken word for women are quite subtle ones, I think, but very important. Traditionally, women are socialised to be less outspoken, and to listen more than to speak. While this is in the process of changing, I think it still stands as an important barrier to women writing and performing. The act of writing or speaking out, as a woman, is somewhat of a political act by default. It establishes women as active participants as opposed to the traditional passive observer.
Any random fact about you you’d like us to know?
I once got shouted at by Robert Winston at a book festival. If you want the full story, you’ll have to ask me in person.