What She Loves is a regular series where women we love share their favourite things. Here, Instagram-famous artist and campaigner Florence Given shares her current obsessions – from anti-racism reads to organic skincare.
Florence Given has a lot to say about prettiness. “It is used by women, whether consciously or subconsciously, as a tool to receive validation and open more opportunities for us,” she says. “We’re told that if we shave our legs, put on more make-up, curl our hair and do all this stuff, we’ll receive the illusion of basic human respect. But the respect we’re met with as women when we perform these standards is usually objectification, and that also increases our chances of sexual assault and sexual harassment on the street. It’s a double-edged sword.”
Rejecting the pressure to perform femininity and heteronormative desirability is a key theme of Given’s new book, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty (£12.99, Cassell). A compilation of the feminist artist and Instagram influencer’s writing and illustrations, the book covers subjects including relationships, queerness, competition between women, beauty rituals and rape culture – all the while promoting a specific kind of buoyant, sex-positive Gen Z feminism that encourages women to put themselves first.
The main thing Given wants women to take away from the book, says Given, is “the action of saying yes to yourself and no to other people”. She believes that women “are encouraged to centre everyone else in their lives apart from themselves,” and hopes to be a messenger who “charges in to tell you that you deserve better”.
This message may not seem hugely radical to many women in their late 20s and 30s who already have a solid understanding of feminism. But older, more self-assured millennial women are not the target audience of Women Don’t Owe You Pretty (though that’s not to say Given’s fans are limited to teens: her Instagram followers include Jameela Jamil, Florence Welch, Jodie Comer, Ariana Grande, Rachel Cargle and Reni Eddo-Lodge).
“It’s basically it’s the book I wish I could have whacked over my 14-year-old self’s head,” Given says. She wants to encourage her readers to “question authority”, and to view accepted narratives about womanhood and femininity through a critical lens. “A lot of the stereotypes we grow to believe about ourselves are exactly that: stereotypes.”
So she’s not into gender stereotypes – but what is she into? Ahead of the release of Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, Stylist spoke to Given about some of her favourite things.
Me And White Supremacy by Layla F Saad
“This book is all about unpacking your racism – I’m rereading it at the moment. It’s like holding a mirror to the ugliest parts of yourself, but white people need to be doing that work. You know how sometimes you hear a quote that changes your whole perspective on life? This book shows you things that exist in your subconscious mind that you aren’t even aware of, because the whole world supports the lie of white supremacy. Uncomfortable, but absolutely necessary.”
Venus Libido Rampant Rabbit Pendant
“I love the work of [British artist and designer] Venus Libido. She’s so in-your-face about female sexuality. She sells silver pendants in the shape of sex toys – I really want her Rampant Rabbit one.”
Botanics 100% Organic Facial Oil
“The only thing I really use on my face. It’s infused with rosehip oil, and I just love the smell. It makes me feel like a dewy goddess.”
Tesco Moroccan Houmous
“I love Moroccan houmous – the one you get from Tesco with the nice stuff on top. It feels indulgent. And it’s a beautiful snack with Thai sweet chilli crisps.”
Joy Division T-shirt
“I’ve been wearing band T-shirts constantly during lockdown, and Joy Division are one of my obsessions – I recently read Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, the autobiography by [Joy Division bassist] Peter Hook. You can get band T-shirts from pretty much anywhere, but this is a really nice quality one.”
Yo, Is This Racist?
“This podcast is hosted by Andrew Ti and Tawny Newsome, both of whom are people of colour. Every week, people – mainly white people – call in with questions about racism, and Ti and Newsome answer them. It’s very funny and informative.”
Smeg Pink Espresso Coffee Machine
“My mum gave me this as a birthday present and it’s fucking beautiful. Every day I drink at least one black americano from it in a leopard print tea cup and saucer.”
Florence Given Print
“My flat is mostly covered in plants, thrifted stuff and my own prints. My artwork is aesthetically pleasing, but it packs a punch. People think they’re in for some kind of bullshit, pink, fake feminist-y thing, then it’s like: oh, no, she’s actually really saying some uncomfortable things. The aesthetic is just to lure people in.”
Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given (£12.99, Cassell) is out now
The above interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Images: Chloe Shappard; courtesy of brands