WORDS BETH CUTTING
Role models can guide us, there is a common quote “You can’t be what you can’t see”, which is true but also oversimplified. Role models can inform our decisions on a conscious level and if we relate to them in some way they can subconsciously help us believe that we are worthy of achieving certain goals - but the role of someone iconic isn’t purely emulation.
Influential people can be used in a different way. Instead of centring the whole self on someone else, imitating their ideas, looks and goals; we can tap into a variety of elements from different people, and use it as enlightening each small part of ourselves.
Inspiration and motivation come hand in hand so instead of just listing her favourite creative women, F Word’s Beth Cutting has highlighted a quote from each iconic piece of work and written a little about each woman (because context is everything!).
After all, role models are like matches, they’re a tool to light our inner candle; they offer a glimmer of hope, but if not put to our own use and used to strengthen our focus on ourselves, the flame quickly burns out. We hope what has resonated with us might light a spark of inspiration in you too.
“That you and I are women
No longer trying to woo men
Holding the truth to be self-evident
That all genders are created equal”
From the poem ‘Won’t You Be My Sister?’ by Amanda Gorman
The word woman literally sounding like Woo Men. I know, how have we never noticed that before? This clever realisation from Amanda Gorman creates a two word piece of slang out of an existing word, that touches on years of repression and female purpose and quickly dissolves it into a powerful statement. Amanda Gorman gets to the heart of human truth within a few words and I find that skill so impressive. Oh, and she was the talent you saw grace the stage of Americas most recent Inauguration (the youngest poet to ever do so), and read her poem ‘The Hill We Climb’. She was also awarded the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States.
“Identity is the crisis, can’t you see, identity, identity”
From the song 'Identity' by X-Ray Spex
Poly Styrene was arguably the first woman of punk, and she’s here for her non conformist attitude and is often pigeonholed as a punk character but is more complex than what she represents. She was classically trained in opera and opposed the sexy front woman trope; she was no Debbie Harry and I love her for it. She became a symbol of non-
conformity in queer spaces and has been described as the true legacy of punk.
“Basically, I feel like I’ve framed my entire womanhood around men. When, like, in reality, I’m no longer interested in men.”
Jules in the TV series 'Euphoria'
This line felt tragically enlightening to me, modelling womanhood on men, as if it’s for them to pick up and enjoy until they don’t find it enjoyable anymore is a heartbreaking concept. Womanhood is for us, it’s a space we should claim that shouldn’t be centred around what we think our romantic interests desire, especially because our romantic interests can fluctuate.
This quote can be applied to any situation that our insecurities can rule over our instinct; insecurities are real bastards that can lead us to sacrifice a slice of ourselves to impress an audience we don’t fully care about. The sad thing is we think we are being confident at the time - claiming a space can feel that way - unfortunately it takes a period of growth and reflection before we realise the space was warped into what we thought other people want, and it never housed our own truth.
Hunter Schafer is so inspiring to me, not only because she has an interesting story to tell, but because she isn’t scared to put every part of herself out there, she has co-written episodes of Euphoria at such a young age (she is 22). Hunter Schafer is a transgender woman and an LGBTQ activist who has previously challenged a state House bill requiring people to use public bathrooms that matched the gender on their birth certificate.
“There was no such thing as objective truth and if you think something’s good because it speaks to you it is”
From the book ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernardine Evaristo
I’m always drawn to writing that simplifies complicated ideas, the idea of what is true, what is good, is complex for a lot of people. There are jobs to critique and as a writer I’m always considering what’s good. This line from Girl, Woman, Other reminds me that no one person can decide that. If something speaks to you, it’s good.
Which in turn reminds me that art and creating is necessary regardless of the reception, and you shouldn’t get caught up in trying to please people. Forget comparisons, don’t overthink how to consume culture and art, what’s high brow or low brow, what will make you ‘cooler’ if you like it, if something resonates then it is ‘good’.
Alongside expertly getting to the heart of ideas, Bernardine also has such a depth of imagination when it comes to people. Her writing can embody so many different types of characters, it doesn’t matter their background, the way they speak, or their slang; Bernardine will portray each character with nuanced confidence. I find her writing atmospheric, poetic, fun, original and truly exposing. She breaths an anthropological sense of rhythm into each characters lives. Oh and she was the first black woman and the first black British person to ever win the Booker Prize.
“I like gettin’ old”
Patti always knows just what to say and how to say it. I have underlined her writing more than any other author. I often accidentally end up highlighting whole pages of her books, which I suppose defeats the point, but instead of one good sentence a page, she weaves whole paragraphs into poetic prose. She is just too good. Patti Smith is an artistic inspiration to me because she is multifaceted and makes her own rules, she’s not just a singer, not just a poet, not just a novelist, or artist; she is all of these things. And she knows when to keep it simple - as she has with this quote about ageing. I love that she said this because it encompasses the confidence she exudes, the pride of ageing. Getting older is something often feared, resented, and fought against, but not with Patti.
LENA WAITHE & MELINA MATSOUKAS
"Can I be your legacy?" Queen. "You already are.”
Queen and Slim in the movie ‘Queen & Slim’
Transferring your legacy to another person by proxy is an idea I find really interesting. The two characters entwined in this black love story accidentally become symbols of power, rebellion and respect. In an interview the team from Queen & Slim said the very idea of black people respecting themselves and their own rights can be found disrespectful to white people. And that’s what happens in Queen & Slim during a confrontation with a policeman. And behind the scenes of their own lives the characters become incredibly influential, their actions shape the tensions of a country yet along the way they are realising what they want most is accolades of affection from one another, the essence of what they really crave is love.
This film is still one of the best films I’ve seen for the past few years, I think I can remember every scene, and I cried for over half an hour afterwards, which I have only done for a handful of films. It’s written by Lena Waithe who's writing I already loved, and directed by Melina Matsoukas who is another incredible role model, and has shaped the music video industry for years. The two of them as a team created an incredibly provoking masterpiece that changes viewers perspective effortlessly, and it’s their first feature film.
“I liked Samuel best when he was asleep, though even then his drooling and the curl of his little marsupial hands irritated me. No one had told me it was possible to dislike your child. Or at least if you did, it was supposed to happen later, when they were bratty teenagers and then ungrateful, smug adults. I didn’t like Samuel right off the bat.”
From the short story 'Hold Fire' by Chloe Wilson
Her writing is amongst the funniest fiction I've read, it’s thought-provoking, farcical… and faecal. I’m intrigued by different types of honesty and we are probably all occasionally meaner in our heads than we allow ourselves to express out loud. I find this idea really entertaining, Chloe Wilson writes dismay in an expertly comical way. Hold Fire is a short story that explores the disgustingness of the human body, how we can be repulsed by the ones we are supposed to love the most, and ultimately the lengths we’ll go to, for one another. True comedy is observant and steeped in philosophy. Not in a stoic way, in a ‘I helped my husband do an at home colonic irrigation’ way.
“I like being dead.”
Cleo in the movie ‘Roma’
The character Cleo seems to like fading into the background, we see her being observant yet simultaneously playing an integral part in the families attempt at functionality. Yalitza Aparicio plays Cleo with a subtle honesty which you rarely see on screen, often under-appreciating her own importance, her role in the movie can feel like a metaphor for Indigenous communities as a whole - integral to a place yet under-valued and unrepresented. In fact, Yalitza herself was the first indigenous woman to be nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in Roma.
“A few months back Kurtan got really paranoid that his life was The Truman Show, because he literally thought this entire village was all just a studio set, and even down to the pigeons, they would have cameras in them. So he thought if he walked as far as he could out of the village he’d just hit a wall.”
Kerry in TV series ‘This Country’
Pigeons with cameras in them. What’s more inspiring than that? Not only does Kurtans paranoia really make me laugh but I find the story of their hard graft encouraging. Daisy wrote This Country with her brother Charlie whilst they cleaned offices together and struggled to make ends meet. After eventually getting picked up by a production company they decided to pull out from the agreement when the company tried to take too much creative control away from them. That’s such an undeniably tough decision to make with no financial back up, they could barely afford their train to London to attend meetings. Luckily they did eventually get some train fare together as it was picked up by the BBC and became one of our favourite BAFTA award winning shows. This story reminds me to stick to my instinct and protect your creativity at all costs. Plus I just love the idea of them cleaning together and bouncing jokes off each other. It takes strength of character to keep laughing in testing times and I hope that’s what you’re all managing to do throughout lockdown.