One thing the internet is exceptionally good at (as well as A* Bake Off and Love Island memes) is introducing me to some incredible women- with one of my finest examples being Gina Martin. A freelance writer by trade and now a law-changing campaigner, after discovering Gina’s #stopskirtingtheissue upskirting campaign, I fell head over heels with following alongside her journey- and remain completely blown away by her determination, drive and complete compassion for those around her and perseverance with wanting to make change and better the world. This is a lady who makes things happen. So! Despite being one of the busiest ladies I know, I pinned Gina down for some early-morning photos and a chatter to talk about how it all began and the advice she’d give for other young women wanting to change things for the better too…
Gina! So, thanks to the internets I was introduced to you, your eye for sweet style (THE GRID) and most importantly your amazing campaign #stopskirtingtheissue. For those that don’t already follow you, can you introduce yourself?
Of course! I’m Gina Martin and I’m a freelance writer and campaigner – I’m probably best known for banging it on about why upskirting should be a sexual offence and turning into a Goverment bill! I also am a big advocate of positivity and creativity.
And tell us a little more about your campaign- which has MADE IT THROUGH!! Such an enormous achievement which you must be so, so proud of…
YAAAAYYYY. It’s been a really tough journey and we’re not quite there yet but we’re incredibly close. Last year, at British Summertime Festival two guys who’s advances I’d rejected stuck their phone between my legs and took photos of my crotch. I saw the photo on one of their phones, grabbed it and ran to the police with the guy in tow. The police told me there wasn’t much they could do and I found out that upskirting isn’t a sexual offence in England & Wales. I began writing, lobbying and posting about my experience and launched the campaign in the media. Since then, my lawyer and I have been working with the Government, tabled a bill, had it blocked by Christopher Chope (DAMN IT!) and then tabled a new Government Bill which we are now seeing through the process (plus it can’t be objected too – woo!). It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done personally and professionally but we’re almost there…!
How did you get started with putting the campaign together? It must have seemed like such a daunting task that must have felt impossible to know where to begin with!
It really did feel like so daunting at the start. I was basically doing media saying upskirting should be made a sexual offence and I suddenly thought ‘the law isn’t going to change from me complaining about it on the media, I have to do this the right way’. So I found an incredible lawyer by reaching out online and we put together a strategic plan, gained backing from law authorities, police commissioners etc and did all the work before even approaching Parliament. I deffo googled ‘how to change the law’ at the beginning though… turns out you have to work that out on your own!
Obviously, as with so many things online- you have made it look admirably easy (which it obviously hasn’t been). What has been the toughest challenge?
It’s so important that I keep supporters (not to mention women and girls who it’s happened to) positive that change will happen so social media is key, but it’s been overwhelming. The toughest moments have been the politics which is exhausting, and doing media when everything I say can be taken out of context. Being thrust into a world you don’t belong in, like politics, and trying to get your voice heard is incredibly tough – Ryan has been a godsend there. The online comments and trolling have been really hard too. I’m a magnet for slut-shaming and misogynists. But that’s okay. I have thicker skin now.
‘The best advice would to be to reach out to others and ask for help. Don’t do it all alone’
Hearing about your campaign and relentless energy and determination for it felt like something so selfless and admirable- what was it that made you want to power on and even put together something like this? What has been the greatest achievement through everything?
It was genuinely just the straw that broke the camels back. I was so over dealing with this stuff, brushing it off and thinking ‘we’ll that’s just part of life being a woman’, so I thought ‘this SHOULDN’T be part of life and instead of me saying “someone should change this!” I thought, well… why not me?’ So I started. Then the amount of messages from other victims just propelled me into this incredibly determined mindset.
My greatest achievement so far, I think, is just picking myself up and carrying on when I’ve wanted to pack it all in. I think I’ve realised I’m stronger than I thought I was.
I know so many women will be in awe of you, and putting a law to something that affects so many of us. What would you say to another girl wanting to go ahead and make change? How did you go about it- and what steps would you give to another girl wanting to take heed from your amazing work?
The best advice would to be to reach out to others and ask for help. Don’t do it all alone. You can find everyone on the internet – ALL the information you need is there. I found the current law, Scotland’s bill to make upskirting a sex offence from 2009, a lawyer and every media contact I needed from googling. And also, send emails. Thousands of them. Plus, an old fashioned letter to people of importance is taken notice way more than an email. Remember that!
On top of being a total bad-ass change-making wonder woman, you also juggle a full time job on the side. How do you make everything work and find time for balancing everything else (read: seeing friends, making sure the washing up doesn’t go mouldy and keeping ~zen~)?
If I’m being totally honest I struggle to. From the outside it may look easy but I am dragging myself out of bed, living in a messy house that I have no time to clean, getting no where near enough sleep and having the odd small cry in the shower! I wish I could take more time for self care but at the moment there’s just not enough time. My boyfriend is a bloody dream though, he works full time and night shifts but will make me an incredible dinner, pour me a glass of wine and even charge my toothbrush when I forget because I don’t have time! He’s an angel. We are planning a weekend away when the law hits the statue books though – one where I throw my phone away for twos days and just enjoy the silence! But for now I’ll settle for venting to my best friends and grabbing every early night I can!
And finally, what’s next for Beaniegigi?
It’s hard to see past the bill turning into law but I’m starting to get some great opportunities to partner with brands which is brilliant. It means I will be able to use my influence to really get people onboard the positivity train and change things for the better. I have invitations to chat to school kids about confidence and consent, and I’m also really excited about writing for more amazing publications and continuing creating fun content for my blog and Instagram – that’s my little happy corner of the internet and my followers have been like my cheerleaders through all of this. I couldn’t have done it without them!