Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Their Scribbles: Interviewing Fiona Longmuir of The Escapologist's Daughter

Their Scribbles

Their Scribbles is a feature on the blog where I interview other writers I'm inspired by.

I'm so chuffed to have Fiona Longmuir of The Escapologist's Daughter stopping by the blog to answer some questions about her writing! Fiona is an awe-inspiring lady who stands up to injustice, and went viral when she fought back against a body-shaming advertising campaign. She's also an incredibly beautiful writer, who's blog post feel like stories, and I'm just so happy to have Fiona on the blog!

Fiona LongmuirWhen did you first start The Escapologist’s Daughter and why? What can readers expect when visiting your blog?

I actually started my blog because I was going through a bit of a rough time. I’d had a knock that really affected my image of myself and I needed somewhere to work through that. So where better than on the internet in front of the entire world, right? But it turned out that I was far from the only twenty-something struggling to match up the me in my head with the me in real life. My blog is really about figuring out who the hell I am and what the hell I’m supposed to be doing, but I hope that it inspires other people not to live up or down to other people’s expectations of them!

What has having a platform where your voice can be heard meant for you?

It has been amazing. I’ve always loved writing, so even if no one ever read any of my posts, I’d probably still be there, typing away. I think that everybody probably has a story to tell and having the blog as a platform has let me have the confidence to tell mine, to believe that my voice actually matters. God, I promise I’m not always this corny. (That was a lie, I totally am).

You posed in a bikini with Tara Costello by a Protein World “Are You Beach Body Ready?” advert, which led to a bikini party in Hyde Park. How did this all come about?

This was one of those amazing times where everything just lines up! I had seen the beach body adverts on the tube and had thought that it would be funny if I posed next to one in my bikini. Then, that night, someone retweeted a photo of Tara sticking the finger up at one of them into my Twitter timeline. I had never spoken to her before - we didn’t even follow each other on Twitter! - but I messaged her to ask if she’d be up for it. We sort of made each other brave, talked each other into it. After that, everything just completely spiralled. But we obviously only represented two body types and I get a lot of privilege from being thin, so we wanted to throw it open and invite everyone else to show their beach bodies, whether that was in a bikini, in a pretty sundress or in a pair of jeans. It was so brilliant.

You discuss many topics on your blog, one of which is feminism. As well as writing about your protest against the “Beach Body Ready” ad, you’ve written posts on many aspects of feminism in posts like The Body Monologue - a heartbreaking piece that brought tears to my eyes - and Stuff I’d Start Movements About, which includes the incredible line, “Maybe next time, instead of slamming me for standing up for something I believe in, you could get off Twitter and join the fight.” When did you first identify as a feminist? And how has calling yourself a feminist changed you and how you live in the world?

I actually came pretty late to feminism! It was only when I went to university and started meeting people who were much more intelligent than me that I started to learn. And I’m still learning! For me, feminism is mainly about being wrong, all the time. It’s about opening yourself up to the experiences of people different to you and listening to voices that society teaches you to ignore. Growing up also threw me into feminism a little, as I started to notice the ways that I was treated differently to my male friends and I started to experience some of the discrimination and fear that comes with being a woman. Obviously, I’m a straight, white, thin, cis woman, so I manage to duck a lot of the discrimination that women in less privileged positions receive and that’s where I think it becomes really important to listen to as many different perspectives and experiences as you can.

A few months ago you wrote about your recent experience with trolls after posting a photo of you with a Stand Up to Racism banner, and you also created a fantastic video, What I Learned About Being a Woman on the Internet, to talk about how you were trolled after you and Tara protested again the “Beach Body Ready” advert. It seems to me if you’re a woman with a voice who demands to be heard, it’s likely you will be trolled at some point. What has your experience with trolls been like? How has it changed you, if at all? What advice would you give to people who are receiving abuse from trolls for the first time?

I thought I was prepared for the abuse that women online get but to be honest, I don’t think you can ever really be prepared for it. It wasn’t so much the content of the messages that bothered me - what do I care if some random guy on the internet thinks I’m ugly? - but the sheer volume of them is hard to deal with. I think the best advice I can give is that you don’t have to deal with it. A lot of my writing aims at changing attitudes and challenging perceptions and it took a long time for me to realise that didn’t mean I had to fight every single battle that opened up to me. The “mute” button is the greatest gift on Twitter. And sometimes, you just need to switch off your phone and hang out with some people who think you’re ace to get a bit of perspective.

What opportunities has your blog and writing opened up for you?

My blog has led to some really fantastic things! Because of the beach body stunt, I’ve been interviewed on BBC Breakfast, Sky News Sunrise and I was recently featured in ITV’s Summer Diets - Fact or Fiction documentary. I’ve also been allowed to write for some sites that I really, really admire and I even got to speak at a couple of feminist events. All of this is stuff that came about through the ten mad seconds of courage that it takes to actually put up your hand and say “Pick me! I want that!” In fact, if I could give past-Fiona any advice, I’d tell her to start backing herself and putting her hand up sooner.

You’re also a writer for Standard Issue. Can you tell us a little about the magazine, and your role? Did writing for Standard Issue come before or after starting your blog?

Oh, I love Standard Issue. It’s an online magazine started by comedian Sarah Millican after she got bored of seeing the same old stuff in every women’s magazine she bought. All of the women who write for it are silly-level talented and I basically can’t believe I’m allowed to be a part of it. They actually approached me at the height of the beach body thing and asked if I’d write a piece for them about it. I’d admired them for a long time, so I cheekily asked if I could write for them on a regular basis. See? Put your hand up!

You took part in Race For Life 2016 this year for the fifth time in a row, and you’ve done a lot of fundraising for Cancer Research UK over the years. Can you talk to us about your fundraising, and what led to it?

The Race for Life is a huge part of my life. When I was about fifteen years old, my mum was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Thanks to the frankly amazing work done by Cancer Research, I got to keep her around. My sister and I run the Race every year in her honour, but also because we want to give back. Cancer Research gave me the greatest gift that anyone ever has and I hope that the little money we raise every year helps another little girl somewhere hang on to her mum.

Thank you, Fiona, for such wonderful answers! Be sure to check out The Escapologist's Daughter, and follow Fiona on Twitter and Instagram. If you like what you read, you can now also sign up to The Escapologist's Daughter's newsletter, the first of which will be sent out on Friday!

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