We delve into what womanhood means with roaring feminist and taboo-breaker Elleanor Woods. We call her Elle for short.
What’s your favourite thing about being a woman?
Apart from the orgasms? As a society I feel as though we treat women weirdly. We’re seen as emotional cry-babies but also strong independent women who ‘don’t need no man’. We have the emotional and nurturing side that is seen as a weakness yet a necessity but also the domineering boss woman side which is seen as intimidating. All these conflicting opinions just makes me think, whatever woman you choose to be, you will never be fully accepted.
So…guess what that means? Be whoever the fuck you want. Re-create yourself every month, week or morning. That’s what I love about being a woman. Being able to choose who I want to be regardless of society’s opinion on it.
What can we do to open up the conversation around sex and our bodies?
JUST TALK. I believe there can never be too much chat. Personally, I probably talk too much and too openly. I tell people I’ve just met about my orgasms, body hair and trauma. And I like to know about theirs. By talking we can educate. I also think it’s so important to take your time to educate yourself. There are so many books, documentaries, programmes, TedTalks, articles, the list goes on, that focus on sex and women’s bodies. Not to sound too much like a high school teacher but, education is key.
What are some of the worst phrases you’ve heard women say about themselves and their bodies?
Probably what I say to myself on the day to day. The inner saboteur is real. I’m the first person to tell a woman who’s doubting herself that she’s beautiful and worthy. And I constantly give advice to women about how important it is to love yourself. But I’m also the first person to pick at my love handles in the morning, call myself disgusting for my ingrowing pubic hair and telling myself I’ll never find a man unless I lose weight, wax my whole body (weekly) and shave my jaw bones. Just to say male attention or approval should never be a reason to do anything, however being brought up in a misogynistic patriarchal society it’s hard to flush out that thought completely.
I’ve heard my friends get offered a Subway in return for sexual favours.
What are some of the worst phrases you’ve heard men say about women?
Where do I start. The most disgusting phrases are those I’ve heard way too often just in passing. Such as ‘Oooo I’d like a bit of that’, ‘Look at the tits on that’ and ‘If only I was 20 years younger’. Yes, these are usually said by grubby old men with a pint in their hand. I’ve heard my friends get offered a Subway in return for sexual favours. That’s right. A sandwich. I’ve had friends be shouted at in the street because they didn’t ‘smile, darling’. A lot of my black friends get the traditional ‘you’re quite pretty for a black girl’. I was once outside a club where the two bouncers told me I’m ‘safe’ because ‘he only lets fat birds suck him off’. Honestly the list is endless. All these happened in the last year and a half. A lot of the most harmful but less sexual phrases came from high school. Boys were vicious to any girls they didn’t find attractive. One girl used to be called ‘mullet-head’ constantly. And also had ‘man’ shouted at her in the corridors on the daily. I remember when I was called a man, told I had a big nose, broad shoulders, fat legs, double chin and much more. And even 4/5 years later I still see all these things in the mirror.
What are you doing to create discussion around sex and being a woman?
I’m creating a series of zines for my final major project at university. My first idea was to create one magazine, but my brain kept wanting to split and section out the topics. So a series of small zines were the right path to go down for me. It’s an eight-part series with each zine focusing on a different taboo topic; Vaginas, Boobs, Periods, Sex, Harassment, Self-care, Femininity and Empowerment. The aim of these zines is to break the taboo of these subjects, create awareness, include creativity and give people a laugh. Sex and Harassment will just include women’s stories from the funny to more serious, while the other zines will include an array of illustrations, infographics, photography, articles etc. I’ve already opened up the conversation around sex, periods, harassment and femininity, even if it’s just a little bit. I’ve got women to answer some questions about each of these which I will include throughout my zines. It was interesting to see how some women wrote more timidly and some women telling me about the difference between ‘cum sticky’ and ‘blood sticky’.
What are the three main topics you think we need to discuss more openly and break stigma around?
My biggest annoyance is how conscious I am and most women are about their body hair. I started shaving in year 6 and cut my ankle open because I was scared boys would laugh at me. I was 10. In my first relationship at 15 he told me I had a hairy back, so I shaved from my toes and all the way up to my neck. Even though body hair is being recognised as more acceptable on a woman, it’s only in certain places. God forbid if you have a hairy butt cheek, hairy toes or snail trail. Both men AND women will ridicule you. It’s annoying it’s seen as un-feminine. But femininity is a social construct and it’s just because that’s the way women have been told to be over the centuries. It’s more annoying how even women will use ‘it’s un-sanitary’ or ‘un-hygienic’ as reason that they don’t grow out their body hair. But there’s men walking around with backs that could be mistaken for carpets and hair creeping out their cracks like King Kong. Are they ever seen as un- hygienic? No, it’s manly. Oh, so masculine.
I know it’s another topic that’s highly covered. I just think there can never be too much coverage. I’m not a free-bleeder advocate. However, I would like to be able to walk into class with a tampon and pad in my hand without being stared at. And openly talk about period blood in front of my dad without him telling me ‘I don’t need to hear that’. Also I would like to see a period product advert with RED blood instead of blue gel.
The sexualisation of women.
A big one. A deep-rooted big one. Women have been sexualised for centuries, objectified and degraded. Which is why even in today’s developed society it’s still apparent. Not as blatant but visible. It can be seen through simple integrated actions such as women’s nipples being censored over social media, with men being able to aerate their areola anywhere and everywhere. Or the currently very covered topic of women being blamed for rape due to their clothing. Showing that men believe they have authority over women’s bodies. Bigger issues appear outside of western society. Genital mutilation is still a practice that happens in underprivileged counties such as Ethiopia and Ghana. This is the process of removing some or all of the vulva. This practice shows the man that she is forced to marry that she is ‘pure’. This isn’t so much sexualisation more just complete discrimination and violation.
There’s so many more topics that need to be spoken about more openly. However, those were the three at the forefront of my mind. We definitely need to break the stigma of female masturbation and also talk more openly about porn. Mostly women in the porn industry. Sexual assault being another as well as learning about consent. The list is endless. It’s so exciting that there are women out there creating work to help this movement towards a more open society.