Erin Grant from Papermachemind caught up with us a few weeks ago to feature Shophitchcock on her amazing blog so we decided to return the favour. We discuss her area of study, her blog and what she believes makes Galway a truly special place.
● You are a gender researcher, tell us a little about what gender means to you in today’s society.
Gender in society is complex and ever changing. I am delighted that there is a really visible conversation among people about gender identity, and that gender issues are starting to become represented through media, popular culture, fashion, art, activism, or politics. For me, it means everything. It means the positives of self-expression, identity and creativity and it also means stigma, inequality, and struggle. It is important that in a conversation about the absolute beauty of gender fluidity and identity, there is a long history of people being treated unfairly because of their gender, or because they have stepped outside of what gender norms have dictated for them. Despite this, as knowledge is shared, and we work together, I am positive we are moving in the right direction and happy to see people openly being themselves.
● What is your particular area of interest with regard to gender research?
The particular areas I am interested in are to do with identities, gendered impacts on society and representation of gender in art. Also, I’ve worked on pieces about gender and sustainability as this link is crucial in creating a safe, equitable and sustainable planet for us and future generations.
● Some might say that the idea of gender fluidity, or the possibility of a limitless spectrum of identities, is just confusing for young impressionable minds. What do you have to say to these people?
In polite conversation, I’ll say that this is simply untrue and that I wholeheartedly disagree. We’re all human, and within that there are so many wonderful possibilities of who we are as individuals. Yet, society and people through a series of repetitive and reinforced acts, has carved out particular roles for those who are male and female. In fact, gender binaries, which are the simple breakdown of the world into boys and girls, are unworkable, unimaginative and far more harmful. People are dying because of gender norms, domestic violence and violence against women is a harrowing example, so is attacks on members of the lgbtq community, and the influence of male norms and the patriarchy which is causing men to feel threatened by emotional vulnerability and representations of femininity. Young people and children especially, are well able to see things for what they are, and learn for themselves. If your child is questioning their assigned gender, you should aim to create a space in which they can understand that whoever they are, they are still loved. I think that teaching people from a young age about gender issues, the world around us, and people's different identities or bodies, can only lead to a more inclusive, empathic, creative, and loving society.
● You are involved in a number of social and environmental campaigns; would you care to tell us about some of your most recent involvement with these?
I’m very interested in sustainable consumption, so I try to buy things which are loose, ethical, and reusable, as much as I can. I’m regularly involved in facilitating menstrual health workshops which look at environmentally friendly options, and combat the societal taboo surrounding menstruation and bodies. Also, veganism is very important to me, as it is an ethical, environmental and social issue, so that is why I collaborate with animal friendly people and spend a lot of time hugging the dogs of Galway. I’m also proud to call myself a feminist, but I think you know that already! A current campaign which is very close to me is the fight for reproductive rights and choice in Ireland for women and pregnant people, and I’m very lucky to volunteer alongside an incredible bunch of humans in Galway Pro Choice. I always try to maintain that regardless of what you would do for yourself, you should never take the right away from another person to control their own body. Their story is not your story.
● Your Instagram is full of inspiration for vegan food and pre loved clothes, what are your top tips for eating and shopping in Galway?
If you’re coming to Galway and want to enjoy vegan food, you’re really in luck. I don’t usually have food out, so when I do dine outside of my house, I want to really enjoy it. I’ve a few regular haunts on my list, and I often review places on my blog. For a perfect vegan fry or wedges, head to The Kitchen, Temple Cafe has a place in my heart because it’s a social enterprise which gives back to the community and it just happens to be full of delicious food, cakes and vegan hot chocolate, also TGO falafel bar is great for just about anything on the menu but I suggest the vegan burger, and some satay on your chips. As for charity shops, I grew up browsing in them, so they are my usual place to shop. Galway is blessed with some great charity shops, but there is a bit of a nack to thrifting! I tend to do the rounds quite a bit, and during my Summers in college I volunteered in them. It’s a great way to learn about times, dates, and some insider tips to getting the best bits, plus it’s a nice use of your time where you meet a varied spectrum of people. Most of the time, charity shopping is just about being there at the right moment. I think that’s why I like them so much, you never know what you’ll stumble across, and if you’re like me, you’ll buy all of the weirdest items just because you can’t bear to part to leave them behind.
● What public figures do you most admire? Is there anyone you follow in popular media that you believe is making a difference?
I am influenced by creativity and that comes from so many places, and of course sometimes I see it in musicians, designers, and artists - but it’s usually in the people I meet around me. That being said, public figures have such an influence on our popular culture and minds, especially during our youth. I think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a brilliant feminist writer and speaker, who illustrates poignantly why gender norms are harming our society. In Ireland, Louise O’Neill uses her platform to integrate feminist concepts into colloquial conversation and should be commended for that. Also, The Rubberbandits are doing a great job supporting equality in Ireland, and generally using satire to inform and engage the public. They’re articulate, especially about masculinity and issues such as repeal.
● You chose ‘Warrior’. What was it about her that spoke to you?
I adored all the designs, but as someone who is often identified by her long hair, I wanted to wear another version of ‘woman’ to show how we are more than how we look. I like Warrior because I think she is always changing for me, I never see her in the same way. Then, during the week where I was picking my shirt, my amazing mother wasn’t feeling great. She’s a fighter, and I’ve surrounded myself with wonderful and strong people, under her influence - so Warrior is for her, them, and me.
Erin's Blog is over at https://shophitchcock.com/ - check out her amazing writing skills (and pics of Donkeys!)
Photography by Love Joules at www.lovejoules.com