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Interview with Virginia Mendez - The Feminist Shop

Keeping up our interview series and the idea of properly introducing ourselves, below you can find Virginia's interview and a bit more about why she started the brand and why she wants to keep starting so many more conversations around feminism!

* Who is Virginia and why did you create The Feminist Shop?

Hi! I am Virginia, I am Spanish, I’m a mum of 2 kids, I have been living in Belfast for almost 6 years and I’m the founder of the The Feminist Shop.

I guess I have always been a feminist, but I just didn’t know it, actually I hated the word! Fast forward a few years and feminism is now a massive part of who I am and what I stand for, with body and soul.

As part of this journey I initially wrote and published a feminist kids book, Mika & Lolo, but I it always felt that it wasn’t enough, so with The Feminist Shop we have created a destination that tackles feminism from every angle: we have original content, but also recommendations, we sell ethically produced clothing and gifts that start conversations and make statements, we sell books that educate about the topic, we showcase and share profits with feminist associations, collaborate with other feminists to amplify each other and invite people to act, to challenge their views and to be part of it all.

Virginia Mendez Portrait

* What achievement are you most proud of so far?

Before we launched the website, we did a crowdfunding campaign to test the market, to validate our assumptions and start creating our community of ambassadors that were going to be part of it from the very very beginning. We raised over £10.000 in 3 weeks, and we donated 10% of it to The Homeless Period, Belfast. It was good to feel supported, and it gave us emotional fuel for all the business challenges and reminded us that this is something bigger than us and the impact is real. We’re now fully up and running we’re getting great feedback from our users and customers so we’re very happy and proud of how it’s going so far.

Also I have been ranked in the top 100 female entrepreneurs 2020 by f:entrepeneurs and I am doing this interview while in London, because tomorrow I am going to the House of Lords for the celebration in the International Woman's Day Week! It is extremely exciting!

 * What is the big vision?

We are very ambitious and have great plans for The Feminist Shop! We want to be a worldwide brand, we believe that communities can be created and connections made through recognising people else in your "tribe". Knowing that you share the same values,  and that you are fighting the same fight has a massive power of connection. 

We also want to be a market place for like minded vendors. Feminist ethical sellers that want to sell to a niche that support their values, and we want to give to the people that come to our website not only great content and recommendations, books and our own products, but a variety of options that defend the same cause where they can buy guilt-free, knowing that the sourcing is ethical and they'll be giving back.

We are also starting a podcast and a youtube channel with the intention of conquering more mediums to spread the F word. We want to make a really big impact and that means being useful for more people, getting closer to them, starting the conversations in different ways.

The ultra big vision is to no longer need the Feminist Shop and then evolve to be a retro brand "remember when those things were needed" - one can dream!

 

 

And then there is an identical questionnaire for everyone:

What is Feminism for you?

Feminism is equality! It's awareness of the cases in which that equality is not real and the relentless work to change things for the better. 

Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you?

Which doesn't! I get really upset about the way we judge women (and girls!) for the way the look. The amount of pressure to fit in the impossible beauty standards and the impact it has in mental health. We always compliment women for the way the look, the change of look, the loss weight, the style sense. I am making a titanic effort in biting my tongue when my first instinct is complimenting women for their appearance, and I am focusing on highlighting their other amazing virtues!

Do you remember when you started identifying as a Feminist and why?

I remember a conversation with my father in law at dinner time. I was going on and on about how I believed XY and Z but I was NOT a feminist. He just stared at me and said "of course you are, any decent person is a feminist" and then kept eating as if the conversation didn't deserve any more time because of how obvious it was. I read lots about what exactly he was talking about and start reconciling with the term, then embraced it, it has been a proper journey until I fully owned it!

Who is your biggest feminist role model?

I have so many! which is really good, because it shows the amazing people out there doing amazing things!

I am going to say Jameela Jamil. She is really intersectional, open, vulnerable, bad ass and is unapologetically having all the right conversations. 

What is your favourite Feminist quote?

I love lots of them (in fact I am loving sharing them in our Instagram weekly!) but I am going to chose "Truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off" by Gloria Steinem. Very accurate for me and really useful for everyone! Sometimes we get defensive and decide to pat ourselves in the back and look the other way rather than do the exercise of becoming aware. Because it hurts, because it makes you angry, it makes you feel small and upset. But it's the collective union of that feeling that has achieved the biggest changes in history! And we are freer when we understand, even if sometimes we can't do much to change it. 

Virginia Mendez Feminist Shop

 

What is your proud feminist victory?

The messages from friends and family telling me that the conversations and relentless sharing and speaking about it equality have made a massive difference in how they see things. I love it when they tell me they think to themselves, "Virginia would hate this" or "Virginia would say this" and makes me feel like a pissed off feminist version of Pepito Grillo (Jiminy Cricket)!

What is your feminist recommendation? 

Book:Invisible Women, by Carolina Criado Perez. I mean, I dare you to read it and be the same person or see the world in the same way when you've finished

What is your feminist call of action to whoever is reading?

Have the conversations! You underestimate the power they have in changing people's minds, in challenging their ideas.

Wear your feminism with pride and be an ambassador for it, support female businesses (retail, art, books, entertainment...) and don't compromise with rules and stereotypes that should no longer exist, be your best version and f**K those norms. Ok...lots of calls to action. Maybe start with having the conversations, to learn more, to teach more and everything in between!

 

 

 

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