Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do – whatever practicalities you’re willing to share with readers.
I’m a PhD student at the University of St Andrews. I submitted my thesis in September 2017. It investigated how civic authorities in Renaissance Florence tried to fund and control a monastery for repentant prostitutes. My research, therefore, considered the ways the city approached prostitution, how it was legislated, and why it was managed the way it. The changing municipal approaches to prostitution affected how the authorities approached the monastery, and the money they provided to support the women living in it.
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of? Why are you proud of this particular accomplishment?
I’m proud of my doctoral thesis. It was difficult work, sometimes work that felt impossible, but I finished it. I’m proud that in a small way it tells the stories of women in the past which may otherwise have gone unheard.
Do you feel that your gender (however you self-identify) has contributed positively, negatively, or neutrally to your current life situation?
I think it’s had a positive effect over all. I think I’ve found it as source of strength. I never accepted the idea that women were in any way inferior to men, so when I came up against that attitude, I tackled it from a position of feeling that I was in the right. I think that gave me the confidence to pursue my ambitions.
Can you tell us a little bit about your understanding of gender-based violence? What does that term (and what it describes) mean to you? Has it affected you and your life in any way?
I haven’t been directly affected by gender-based violence, but my feminism and then my research has made me aware of some of the issues around it. I won’t say that I am “lucky” not to have been the victim of gender-based violence because I think that’s an unhelpful way to think about it. Those who have been victimised weren’t “unlucky.” That thinking absolves both the perpetrators and the systems which sustain them.
Can you also tell us a bit about your understanding of gender equality? What does this term mean to you? And do you think gender equality exists? If not, what are a few ways that you think your life might change by the existence of gender equality?
I think we have a long way to go on gender equality, even in countries like Scotland where there is legislation in place to try to prevent egregious inequality. The on-going sexual harassment scandals in Hollywood and at Westminster are evidence of this, as well as the gender pay gap and a whole host of other, everyday inequalities. I think these affect us all in various ways, from small, subtle things to much larger issues.
If you answered ‘No’ to the question of whether gender quality exists, what is something you could do to contribute to a society that is more equal for all genders?
I teach history at university, so I try to make my students aware of these issues in the past, with a view that they will consider them in the future. However, I find that most of my students are conscious of it and I am pleased to see that they expect equality.
Ending on a lighter note, do you have a role model who identifies as female? If so, why do you look up to this person?
I don’t have a role model, but I have lots of historical heroines. I find I admire women with bad reputations the most because when you dig down, past the infamy and legend, those were the women who were defying the expectations of their time and circumstances. My perennial heroine is Catherine de Medici. She has a terrible reputation for poisoning her enemies and Machiavellian cunning, but she tried to broker peace between warring faiths, secure the crown for her (admittedly awful) sons, and resist power grabs from her nobles. You can’t do all of that and be nice.