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Interview with Chris McEldowney - The Feminist Shop

We couldn't keep going with the interviews without properly introducing ourselves and giving the same insight that we ask others to give!
 
So here you can find Chris' interview and a bit more about his feminism, journey and vision for The Feminist Shop. 
 
What is, for you, The feminist shop? 
 
I suppose most importantly, it’s a brand, website and business that I’m extremely proud of!
 
I’m obviously a bit biased, but for me, TFS is THE online destination for feminists (and soon to be feminists) that was missing and is now here! We started this venture because we were trying to buy feminist gifts for our family online but we couldn’t find any obvious brand or store that a) had cool stuff you’d want to wear/gift AND b) was clearly and openly aligned with our ethics and values. 
 
We’ve tried to solve this problem by selling great ethical stuff and being fully transparent about where it’s from and where our donations are going. The content sections of the website are there too so that people can get to know our thoughts and motivations but also so that there’s a place for all types of feminists (or not yet feminists) to come along, get information and get inspired. 
 
I think we’re doing alright so far and I’m loving the ride.
 
 
What is the goal? 
 
The ultimate mission is to spread the F word. 
 
In an ideal world, within 10 years time, we’ll be living in a world of perfect gender equality and opportunity, 99% of people will be feminists and there’ll be no need for The Feminist Shop. Unfortunately, there’s a few thousand years tradition and stereotypes to de-programme, so I doubt this will be the case. 
 
 
What is the biggest impact it has?  
 
By far the biggest impact I can see is the raising of awareness and discussions around Feminism. In 2020 it’s still a term which is completely misunderstood, stigmatised and is pretty much guaranteed to provoke an eye-roll or snigger from otherwise completely normal people. This blows my mind. 
 
By wearing our t-shirts, sharing our content and purposely not hiding from the dreaded ‘F’ word,  in the last 6 months I’ve already had so many more meaningful and impactful conversations with friends and strangers than I would have ever had otherwise. Every conversation really counts and that’s what I find the most inspiring.
 
What does it mean for you being a Feminist father? 
 
The kids will copy what they see and hear in the house so I suppose for me the main thing is just for us to be a good role models - showing respect to one another and dividing responsibilities that based on what we enjoy, what the family needs or what we are good at, rather than falling into some pre-defined concept of motherhood or fatherhood. 
 
It’s also about being open-minded and making sure Eric and Nora have exactly the same encouragement and treatment in whatever they do. Sometimes that comes naturally, but sometimes I really have to force myself to double think whenever I inevitably automatically come out with some stereotypical nonsensical fatherly advice!
 
What is your biggest challenge as a feminist man?
 
At the risk of some eye rolling: seeing past my male privilege. 
I come from a middle-class background and I like to think I’ve always had a certain grasp of the fact that this has basically just made my life an easier journey than it would have been otherwise.
 
However, it’s not until fairly recently that I’ve properly started to assess how being a man also has also made life easier for me in a lot of situations.
 
It’s a hard one to get your head around because a lot of it is so subtle/unintentional and it’s actually just really hard to conceptualise certain scenarios from another viewpoint.
 
But when you stop and think about it, some things just don’t stack up. Why does 83% of VC funding go to men, why are there only 6 female CEOs in FTSE 100? Men are obviously not naturally more intelligent, bolder or better suited to being the boss or the main bread-winner. But if that’s the case then why do we have statistics like the above? Sure, maternity plays a role, but overall there is serious structural bias going on and unless you stop and question why then it’s very easy as a man to just breeze on through life thinking you’re the ‘man'!
 
And now our identical questionnaire for everyone:
 
What is Feminism for you?
 
It’s just equality for women and men. 
 
For me, it starts with accepting that inequalities exist (often the trickiest part) and then it’s just about working out practical actions to address them.
 
Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you? 
 
The expressions: 'Don’t be such a pussy’,  'Grow a pair’, ‘Man Up’ etc. 
 
We’ve got plenty of normal words we can use to demand bravery or courage without linking things back to gender. It’s therefore pretty easy to eliminate these phrases from our vocabulary and everyday use if we make an effort. 
 
But again, you have to be aware of the issue here before you can make a change. I’m pretty sure I used to use these expressions - they just slide off the tongue without thinking and they are a really good (bad) example of our engrained  ‘men are strong and bold, women are timid and weak’ culture. Reinforcing these expectations with our casual everyday language doesn’t do any favours for women or men and we should just stop using them, period! 
 
Grrr, I feel like starting a campaign!
 
p.s. I actually think the 'pussy' phrase originally comes from the word ‘pusillanimous’, meaning timid, but it’s definitely not used in that context today so bollocks to that excuse!
 
Do you remember when you started identifying as a Feminist and why?
 
 
Thanks to my mum (see next question), I think I’ve always been a Feminist but I don’t think I necessarily always strongly 'identified' as one. I think I regularly started calling myself a feminist whenever you and I started having arguments around the term about 5 years ago. You claimed you weren’t a Feminist, and I remember my dad told you that you definitely were a Feminist but you just didn’t know it! I agreed with my dad and then started reading more around the topic, and it’s just snowballed from there.
 
Who is your biggest feminist role model?
 
My mum. Bit of a cheesy answer but it’s true. It’s not like she was always banging on about Feminism, but she read a lot of feminist literature and female-authored novels and was basically just a massive defender of equality and opportunity for everyone, not just women. She was the mother of 3 boys and I think she always encouraged us to be respectful, kind, and not to fall into the trap of being ’too boyish’. 
 
What is your favourite Feminist quote? 
 
'For most of history, anonymous was a woman' Virginia Woolf
 
It’s just an extremely clever quote and it highlights part of the reason why, even to this day, there’s a comparative lack of female role models out there.
 
What is your proud feminist victory? 
 
Well, it has to be building thefeministshop.com! We’re just beginning but we’re already starting conversations and doing our bit. I just love working on something I can truly stand behind and develop with pride.
 
What is your feminist recommendation? 
 
  • Book: I have a massive backlog of feminist books to get though. Paradoxically my ability to take the time to read full books has severely diminished since we had kids and launched the business! As such I’m going to cheat slightly and recommend a Simone de Beauvoir combo:

 
 
Disclaimer: Ok, so I haven't finished it yet (it’s really long)! Nonetheless, it’s a masterpiece and it’s unbelievable how she dismantles all the old traditional sexist arguments. If it were written today it’d be impressive, but it was published 70 years ago so that just makes it even more progressive and amazing. Oh, and it's French and I love all French stuff ;-)
 
‘Her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly’ -  Still very relevant sadly.
 
 
So, if you have kids and don’t have time to read the Second Sex but want to learn about good old Simone in 5 minutes then buy this book! It’s our son Eric’s favourite and has brought Simone and her ideas to life at bedtime!
  • TV show: Sex Education-  it’s just all round woke and a great wake up for my 40 year old brain!
  • Film: Very recent one this - Last week we watched ‘On the basis of Sex’ about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and it’s a great film - both eye-opening, inspiring and a nice easy watch. 
 
What is your feminist call of action to whoever is reading? 
 
Check out some of the statistics in our ‘Feminism in Numbers’ section and follow our Instagram/Facebook for more each week. On the face of it,  it’s sometimes really easy  (especially for a guy)  to think that the feminist battle is no longer necessary. For me, it’s the up-to-date numbers and facts that ground us in reality. On the positive side, the numbers tell us that there has been amazing progress in terms of gender equality these last 100 years. On the negative, they tell us there’s still a massive way to go. So let’s keep changing the world!
 
Oh, and guys… Stop resisting and get on board, it’s 2020!

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