‘NO ONE ever says they used to be a feminist. Once you’re in, you’re in,’ says Scarlett Curtis, the 24-year-old co-founder of activist collective The Pink Protest and curator of bestselling book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies).
A galvanising force in the pursuit of sexual equality, she’s one of the people appearing at this year’s Women Of The World festival (WOW).
‘It’s really exciting,’ she says. ‘I have been going to the Women Of The World festival for a few years now. I think it’s an amazing event because it really puts the focus on intergenerational feminism.
‘It also very much honours the women who built this movement, especially some of their academic research, and they are always so welcoming to young women like myself who are doing different kinds of things within the feminist movement.’
Scarlett will be interviewing some of the key people behind the new Keira Knightley film, Misbehaviour, which follows the events surrounding the 1970 Miss World competition. The then newly formed Women’s Liberation Movement, angry that the event demeaned women, disrupted the live broadcast of what was then the most watched TV show in the world, by invading the stage. And that year, Miss Grenada, Jennifer Hosten, became the first ever black Miss World.
Jennifer, who went on to become a diplomat, academic, broadcaster and author, will be in conversation at WOW with Scarlett, along with the film’s director, Philippa Lowthorpe and its co-writer, Rebecca Frayn.
‘I thought it would be really interesting to look at how you make a film about feminism, how you translate this movement into something entertaining and how that mission is reflected behind the scenes,’ says Scarlett, the daughter of filmmaker and Comic Relief co-founder Richard Curtis and broadcaster Emma Freud. ‘I’m very interested in asking Jennifer about how she used the platform of Miss World — which we consider to be incredibly problematic and sexist — to launch her career and do incredible things.’
Feminists Don’t Wear Pink is a collection of writing from 52 women, including Keira, actor Saoirse Ronan and writer Dolly Alderton, about what feminism means to them. It’s insightful, angry, funny, educational, inspirational and, importantly, accessible.
‘The younger we can get women and girls to understand that feminism is something that can really help their lives and help them make sense of their lives, the better,’ says Scarlett. ‘I see a lot more people calling themselves feminists, and a lot more governments paying attention to feminist laws. I think we’re definitely moving in the right direction. I just want to make sure it doesn’t fade away like it has done before.’
While she’s delighted to meet so many people who’ve said they’ve bought the book for their friends, sisters or mothers, Scarlett knows it needs a wider audience. ‘I’m like, “Buy it for your brother; your dad’s probably the one who needs to read it.” Men need to start engaging with feminism and doing their own bit to learn what it means. My second book [It’s Not OK To Feel Blue (And Other Lies)], all around mental health, talks about how in many ways men are helped by feminism as much as women.
‘That includes dismantling the toxic masculinity that tells them they have to be one way, they need to be strong, and need to not cry or show emotions, or ask for help, making more of them realise why a feminist world would actually be better for everyone.’
■ Scarlett Curtis: Feminists Don’t Wear Pink Live takes place tonight at Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the Women Of The World festival, southbankcentre.co.uk