From one empowering community to another - Girls & Glory’s Amy Beecham talks to FGRLS Club aka Chloe Laws and Sara Macauley about creating their own online community and how lifting the voices of others helps them find their own.
Talk to me about FGRLS Club’s mission.
C: The aim is to provide a non-bullshit platform for millennial, free-thinking, feminists. I’m passionate about showing that our interests aren’t mutually exclusive; with content ranging from the high to the low, from challenging abortion legislation, to talking about blowjobs. We want to showcase diverse, strong, female voices, within an environment that’s supportive and safe.
S: We both love writing ourselves and wanted to create somewhere where we could voice our opinions. We're now at a stage where we're getting submissions from really talented writers and sassy feminists and we're so proud to be able to give them a platform - and it's great to be able to read and enjoy the work of people we haven't come across before.
What do your readers take away hope people who read your site take away from it?
C: I hope our readers feel comforted, educated and inspired. Our website is eclectic; from interviews with successful career-women, to horror dating stories and personal essays on mental health. I want our readers to feel part of our content, to relate to it and engage.
S: I love the idea that our readers can come on the site and find something that resonates with them. FGRLS isn't trying to be super academic or highbrow - it's as much a place for 'cultural fluff' as it is for more serious topics. I love reading about other people's dating horror stories and times they felt anxious or inadequate - it's a reminder that we're all the same. I hope our readers get that feeling when they read our articles.
What inspired you to create a site yourselves?
C: I founded FGRLS Club just over a year ago, as I wanted something to pour all my passion into. My 9-to-5 is in fashion, and as much as I love it, feminism is where my heart’s at – I wanted to create something that could make a difference. We all have those ideas churning away at the back of our minds, and it’s easy to put off creating something through fear of failing, but one day my mind just switched, and I thought fuck it. If not me, then who?
S: Chloe was the brains behind the site. We've been friends for a couple years and always chatted about doing something together, so naturally, when she founded FGRLS I was straight in there to help her edit. It's so nice to have a side project going on - I work in social media and communications during the day - so running the site is a lovely way to make sure I'm keeping up with writing and doing something cool.
Have there been any challenges?
C: It’s all about prioritising and self-care. When you work 11-hour days, it can be hard to get motivated, but when there’s passion there’s a way. I’ve learned to utilise my time efficiently. Working on FGRLS Club during my ‘white-space’ hours; writing on the tube, answering emails in the bath, that kind of thing. The biggest help has been the amazing women I work with on FGRLS Club (looking at you Sara) – relying on each other, bouncing off ideas, having daily breakdowns in our WhatsApp chat. We’re a website about female empowerment, and that trickles down to every part of our workings. Founding a side-hustle can be challenging, but I’m a firm believer in the idea that hard work pays off, and if you create something thought-provoking with a point-of-difference, that eventually it’ll garner recognition.
S: We both work full time, and as well as that we're both normal girls with our own issues and dramas and down-days. It's been a massive help having each other and our lovely regular writers to keep us motivated, and our WhatsApp group keeps me sane when I'm going "Help I have this idea is it really stupid?" because we're not afraid to tell it like it is and equally if the girls say, "mate no, you weirdo" that's as helpful as when they're saying well done for creating a good idea or publishing a cool interview.
Your tag line is ‘feminism, free speech, freedom & feel good’: how do you practice these in your everyday lives?
C: Feminism is, of course, the main ideal I practice in everyday life. Whether that’s calling out sexism, marching, educating myself on trans issues; it’s about consciously trying to dismantle the patriarchy, whilst understanding my own privilege better, and how to utilise it. Free speech, I’ve never had a problem with – what is a filter, and how do I get one?!
S: I was definitely a feminist long before I knew what the word meant; it's just inherent in me to fight for what I believe in and gender equality is obviously something worth fighting for. When I was younger I found myself getting really annoyed at things like when my odd uncle would tell me I should put some more clothes on but say nothing to my male cousin also wearing shorts, and I still get irked when men make 'get back in the kitchen' jokes like it's the first time the joke's ever been told. I'm really trying to make an active effort to read more pieces from the point of view of trans women, non-binary folks, disabled voices and people of colour, because I know that I'm in a position of privilege as a white, heterosexual female. I've still got a lot to learn, but I think FGRLS is a great way of really pushing myself to consider issues that affect people not in a different situation to me.
How has running the site empowered you, as women and creatives?
C: The amazing pieces we’ve published have truly empowered me – there are so, so many powerful women out there, doing the absolute most. It’s made me grow as a woman, and challenge myself creatively. When you found something, there’s no boss to blame or fall back on. It’s yours, and that’s terrifying but challenging in the best way. Creative autonomy is incredibly freeing.
S: Running the site alongside Chloe has been incredibly empowering - we still get so excited when someone we've admired agrees to be interviewed for the site and it's SO nice to work alongside one of my best friends on something we're both so passionate about. Creatively speaking, it's a lovely feeling to be able to have an idea and charge on with it without waiting for the approval of Editors or a line manager. It's just us, and that's scary but also really cool.
Tell me a bit about your own feminist journeys.
C: How long have you got? Aha! To cut a long story short, my first feminist feelings were very self-oriented. In my early teens there was a breaking point – daily catcalls, sexist teachers, schoolboys thinking it was okay to grope you. I remember speaking to the adults in my life about this anger I had bubbling, and they recommended certain books that began my feminist education – women like Catlin Moran put into words how I was feeling, it was comforting. Then, in more recent years, I’ve had a big learning curve with intersectional feminism. About checking my privilege as a white, hetero woman. Feminism, for me, is a constant learning curve. You can never stop learning.
S: As I mentioned earlier, I've always kind of picked up on injustices when it comes to sexism and gender inequality. I remember being in high school and having teachers telling us off for the length of our skirts and thinking, "eh? what does the length of my skirt have to do with Pythagoras theorem?" or whatever I was learning. I've always been addicted to reading magazines like Company (remember how good that was?!), blogs and sites like Refinery 29 and The Debrief, and reading about feminism and the experiences of other women in these formats when I was a teenager really shaped how I saw the world. As you say, feminism is a journey and one I'm still on and will be until I'm old and grey. There's always room for improvement.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt whilst running FGRLS club?
C: Be prepared to work your arse off. Be prepared for some people around you not to get it. Be prepared to invest, time/money/emotions, with little in return. But mostly, prepare to be so proud of the work you achieve – there’s no better feeling than saying “I did that”.
S: Seriously just do it. After Chloe took the initial step of founding the site and asked me to be involved, I had a bit of a crisis of confidence and was worried I wasn't good enough or not an educated enough feminist to be running something like this. But then I thought, actually if not me, who? I care about feminism, and writing and lifting other women up, so fuck it. Taking things into your own hands can be hard work, but it's also so worth it. Ringing a film director in Tel Aviv who's been interviewed by The Guardian and Vogue was something I thought I'd only be doing after grafting for years and landing a journo job, but here I am doing it in my lunch hour at work. If we can do it, so can you. It's a brilliant feeling.
What are your hopes for the future of the site?
C: World domination would be nice. In seriousness, I’d just like to continue to build ourselves up as a content destination that people come back to time-and-time again, and trust. I’d like to get more diverse voices, unique stories and inspirational people on site. The dream goal, for me, would be to make FGRLS Club my full-time job.
S: I'd love to see the site host more diverse voices - we're beginning to get pitches from people of all ethnicities, sexualities and genders and that's great. Keep 'em coming. I also agree that it would be amazing to see the site grow and continue to be a destination people come back to when they're on the tube or sitting on the loo at work. Having real people reading and enjoying the site is so cool, and I hope it continues.