17 March, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
It started with an idea, which took shape on the day “Trump happened”. Then came a kickstarter fundraising page, launched on the first of January 2017, backed by Margaret Atwood on day 3. This turned into a collection of essays, interviews and accounts of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, entitled Nasty Women. Published on International Women’s Day 2017, it was an inspiring, empowering, harrowing, and fantastic read – definitely one of my favourite books of 2017. That was a sentiment shared by many others, including Nicola Sturgeon, who “loved, loved, loved it”. Fast forward a year, and here we are at Aye Write 2018, where a panel of 3 of the ‘Nasty Women’, chaired by half of publishing house 404 ink Laura Jones, are able to look back on all that happened.
The topics discussed in the collection range from working class experiences, punk, sexual assault, witches, to being an immigrant. This great diversity comes across in tonight’s panel too: Laura Lam wrote about the women in her family and the re-emergence of the gun in their history, Sim Bajwa’s essay dealt with being an immigrant in Britain, whereas Mel Reeve shared a personal account of sexual assault. After reading a short extract from their respective essays, the women talk about the book’s unexpectedly great popularity, the catharsis of writing, the commercialisation of feminism, and being tired of talking about race. An enlightening discussion is one about the problematics of the #metoo movement, as it forces people to talk about sexual assault and at the same time allows people to sweep the problem under the rug. As Laura rightly notes: no one owes their story to anyone. Yet with a widespread movement like this, taking place mostly online, there is a danger in taking to twitter being the only way for people to feel like their experiences are valid.
Following on from that is the most memorable part for of the night for me personally: a conversation about how and why to write stories like these. Mel rightly questions why we are asking people from marginalised groups to write and share their stories, and the important duty of care publishers should have. The women agree one should ask themselves: ‘Why am I writing this story? Is it me who should be telling this story?’ It’s important to remember that your voice can drown out someone else’s. Being purposeful about inclusiveness means that the result of this personal query will sometimes be a step to the side, to empower someone else. To sum it up in Sim’s words: ‘If you’re platforming yourself as a feminist, it can’t just be about yourself.’ With the feeling of sisterhood buzzing in my head, I resolve to try and support the incredible women around me in my life even more, because they deserve it.