Arts Muse

Life in Lockdown: A Celebration of Women

Charlotte Rogers speaks to the co-founders of BABES. about their new online platform.

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Image Credit: Meg Hollingworth

'Life in Lockdown' is an interview series focusing on people, organisations or student societies who are adapting to isolation in interesting and innovative ways. If you’d like to talk about your experiences in lockdown or share how your student group has adjusted during the pandemic, email editor@nouse.co.uk; we’d love to hear from you.

Across the country many people have taken the time spent in isolation to start up or develop creative projects. In fact, Sandi Mann, the author of The Science of Boredom, said that lockdown could turn out to be one of the most creative times for humankind. Among those establishing new projects were Holly and Rosie, two recent theatre graduates who founded a community and platform named ‘BABES.’ (located on Instagram @we.r.babes). I spent some time talking with the co-founders about the nature, aims and direction of their new platform.

After asking what exactly BABES. is, Rosie and Holly both emphasised that it is still very much evolving, but at its core it is a community for the celebration of women. The duo shared with me a  their vision  for BABES. as a space bursting with positivity, “where you can go to feel great because you’re a woman.” Holly specified that they “don’t want the page to be a place to get angry or have feminist rants, as that can be quite alienating and there are already plenty of spaces to do that”. Rosie nodded her head in agreement before adding that they “want BABES. to be as real and unapologetic as possible, almost like a slice of female life – literally just women being women and that’s it”.

I asked them in what sort of ways this celebration of women might manifest within their project. They indicated that the celebratory element is present through the platform’s promotion of female artworks, creations and businesses, but also through the elevation of female voices. Quoting Florence Given as an inspiration, Holly emphasised the importance of offering women and non-binary people a safe space in which they can talk and share their experiences. Encapsulated within this seemed to be an avid interest in overturning taboos and challenging ingrained stereotypes about femininity and womanhood. Rosie noted that “there are lots of things women hide and avoid talking about '' and referred to certain taboo subjects such as shaving  and discharge. Holly added to this by remarking that “there is stuff you sort of learn not to talk about, but then you realise there are hundreds of thousands of women who have experienced exactly the same as you have, and it’s not weird or gross – it’s completely normal. That’s why talking about those experiences is important”.

Following this, I asked if there were any other notable themes that the BABES. project touches upon. Rosie and Holly identified a topic they see as intrinsic to the celebration of women: the observance and promotion of diversity, and finding beauty in the ‘ugly’. They both expressed an energising passion for fostering more body-positivity and self-love within their online community. Holly stated that “seeing a woman who is fat, who isn’t considered conventionally beautiful, actively telling us to look at her body – well that’s one of the sexiest things ever.” She proposed that a woman’s self-confidence should not be rooted in male judgements, and that spaces like BABES. provide scope to challenge harmful heteronormative logics.

As BABES. is a newly established online platform, I asked Rosie and Holly  about the long-term direction they envisioned it taking. Holly specified that although the COVID-19 pandemic is currently restricting the project to virtual spaces, they “intend to work more physically in the future and at the moment are using social media to see who’s interested, get in contact with people and start conversations”. Rosie noted that her and Holly were “initially interested in creating a play of some kind, but also didn’t want the project to be cut off from other amazing types of art such as painting, sculpting and music”. She revealed their exciting vision of a gallery event that incorporates collectives of various installations, performances and artists showcasing their work in collaboration with BABES. Although the pandemic is casting an air of uncertainty, it is clear after talking to Holly and Rosie that innovative ideas and developments within the project are already in motion.

I concluded the interview by asking them who can get involved with the BABES. project and how. Holly stated that “we are always looking for people to create content for us so if you’re an artist get in touch with us - no matter what your medium is we will find a space to share what you do, whether it’s now or down the line.” She added that they “want to establish mutually beneficial relationships with female artists” and that BABES. is “completely about women helping women.” However, Rosie also noted that “you don’t have to be an illustrator or artist – it’s nice to have support or contributions from other people, whoever you are”. Holly agreed and further commented that “as Rosie and I are both white and abled women, it would be invaluable to hear from people who have broader and different experiences than us, such as women of colour or disabled women”. On the BABES.  Instagram page there are opportunities to contribute your own opinions, perspectives and experiences in response to weekly themes and questions posed by Rosie and Holly. These contributions can be anonymous or not, depending on your preference.

After I asked whether men can and should be a part of the BABES. community, the pair indicated that anyone who is passionate about celebrating women is welcome. Holly acknowledged that they “have to strike that balance between it being a safe space for women to share but also a safe space for men to learn”. Rosie added that they “don’t want BABES. to be a community where men feel like they can’t be part of the conversation”. As soon as restrictions ease, BABES. will be Leeds-based, so if you are located near Leeds keep an eye out for exciting events and opportunities coming your way.

If you are interested in showing support or contributing to the BABES. community, Rosie and Holly can be reached through the Instagram page (@we.r.babes) or via email (wearebabes.collective@gmail.com).

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