Writer & activist Jade Mordente talks to REEK Perfume about smells, mental health, the beauty industry and gender equality.

What smells remind you of femininity? What are your favourite smells and why?

My favourite smell is fresh air at 6am. I wake up before work on Monday – Friday and head to the gym first thing, it keeps my mental health in check. In these last couple of months it’s been freezing cold and sometimes raining, and everything just smells so soft and fresh. I like the concept of soft smells, just a gentle hint at something beautiful.

Do you feel that as a female writer you encounter more barriers in all aspects of your career?

I definitely have felt vulnerable when writing, especially when expressing an emotion I deemed would make me look ‘weak’. I guess I have taught myself to put up my own barriers – what I can and can’t speak about. I’ve got to a point now where I am letting go of shame and breaking down those barriers. I recently wrote an extremely personal piece for Refinery29 on female mental health and just minutes after it was published I had all these guys trolling me on twitter calling me a ‘slut’, a ‘crazy bitch’ and a ‘reason to hate women.’ It was insane. At no point did I ever bad-mouth men in the piece, yet so many of the guys responding seemed to feel personally victimised by my words. I laughed it off and assumed they were projecting their own insecurities onto me. Although, I do hope they remain single for the rest of their lives.

To be honest, I’m extremely lucky in my current job as I sit at a table full of supportive, strong and inspiring creative females. In fact, the whole office at Show Media is run by empowering and influential women! I think there are 4 men to 25 women in the office. I know I’m lucky to be in this position. It makes me hopeful.

How well do you feel the UK beauty industry represents women through products and advertising? Women of colour? Women from minority groups?

Well it’s still rare to see anyone who isn’t society’s definition of ‘beautiful’ featured in a make up campaign. Usually it’s white girls with close-to-perfect faces, and on the occasions black girls are included in campaigns they will always choose light-skinned black girls. I went to a very interesting talk recently by the model Leomie Anderson. As a dark-skinned black girl she spoke about how many hiccups and awkward moments she’s faced on set throughout her career in the industry because a makeup artist had no idea what do with her skin, or didn’t carry suitable products. In my opinion if we are still somewhat surprised by a makeup campaign because it represents a race, religion or overall look which we’re not used to seeing, then we are not seeing it anywhere near enough. There definitely needs to be more diversity.

We also need to see some truth in these campaigns – show me a girl with a break out, then I can relate.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day that have also inspired you to push further in your career or your personal life?

My grandmother. She was a strong and inspiring feminist, and has always been the person I identify with most. In Scotland she worked in the jute mills as a weaver and lead one of the first women’s rights marches across Dundee. She fought to get women better working conditions and a livable wage. She fought her whole life for women to be viewed in the same light as men. At just 19 years old she had her first child out of wedlock after she left her cheating husband. She told me the story hundreds of times. In those days you were expected to turn a blind eye to a disrespectful man, it was seen as shameful to be a single mother – but she didn’t care. She knew she was worth more than him and she was prepared to lose her reputation if it meant keeping her self-respect. She was the kind of woman who would empty her purse for a homeless person, but she also wouldn’t be scared to put you in your place if you overstepped the mark. She had a heart of gold and a fiery temper.

She did her best to teach me, to influence me and empower me. I’d like to think it worked, and that I can teach the same thing to other women.

What female or gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

Without a doubt the causes closest to my heart are abortion and domestic violence. I’ll never be able to understand laws against a woman getting an abortion. I often think of those females who stand against the termination of a pregnancy and try to understand their way of thinking – but every time I come to the conclusion they don’t live in the real world. They certainly turn a blind eye to it that’s for sure. What about the woman who’s been raped? What about the woman who is told her fetus is going to be born severely disabled and will have a life filled with pain and physical constraints? What about the woman who can’t afford to feed herself never mind a child? And, of course the one nobody wants to mention, what about the woman who just doesn’t want kids? You know something, if these anti-abortion activists had to spend as little as an hour in the lives of some women then I’m sure their opinions would change. No sane women goes out of her way to terminate a pregnancy, it’s a painful decision. Yet we force ourselves to speak in whispers if we have had one. We force ourselves to feel shame. The money which is spent on anti-abortion campaigns should pay for the therapy sessions of those who have suffered an abortion – that would actually make a positive impact on the world.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

First of all, thank you. I feel truly excited and grateful to be part of this movement!
I have always romanticised the notion of rebellion within women but as I’ve got older my perspective on it has changed. Self-love, self-care and self-belief are a positive form of rebellion against a society that urges you to always want to be someone or something else! Female intuition is an extremely powerful thing when you learn to accept it. I’d call myself a witchy bitch as I truly believe in the power of magick – good things come when you make peace with yourself.

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