Jodie Salt, 43, from Frodsham, Cheshire is a qualified Women’s Assertiveness Coach, a 21st century feminist and best-selling author of ‘Woman Up – the 21st century women’s guide to being assertive’ She’s also mum to three teenage daughters and Founder of Womanifest (https://womanifest.co.uk/), a personal development, wellbeing and empowerment festival for women of all ages, supporting Girls Out Loud – a social enterprise working with young girls from the age of 12 – 16 to empower them to channel their potential and make better life choices.
You’d have to be living under a rock to avoid the current series, individual personalities and social media surrounding Love Island. As you can imagine, as the mother of three teenage girls we have a love/hate relationship with it in our house. Yes, it’s easy-watching, verging on slightly compulsive viewing but at the same time, none of us appreciate the overt messages that if you want to find love you have to look like a Greek God/ess. Cue bronzed six-packs, dentist-white veneers, curvaceous bodies (with absolutely no hint of cellulite) long, flowing extensions and luscious lashes.
Am I the only one sounding slightly cynical, or are we selling an image of perfection which none of us can naturally attain? It seems to me that the pressure on women these days to become surgically enhanced in pursuit of some entirely unrealistic ideal is ever-growing and the effects are detrimental, not only to our bodies but our hearts and minds as well.
In celebration of the female form, to be revealed at Womanifest, I’m currently collaborating with an artist on a piece called Festivulva and it is what it says on the tin: a wall of real women’s real vaginas, cast in plaster to commemorate the beauty of our individuality.
‘How indulgent!’ Some might say. But I don’t think there’s ever been such a need for us to challenge our society’s obsession with perceived perfection because it’s damaging and if we can’t see that, we doom our daughters and granddaughters to a life of misery and self harm.
This art wall might seem a bit of a shocking initiative -but why is that? It’s because as a society this feels out of our comfort zone. We are doing this to get women and girls to reconsider the expectations they have of themselves and their bodies - not just this particular part, but we are leading with this to get people to sit up and listen. No two vulvas look exactly the same – but many women don’t know that - especially young women who feel they are different and long for a designer vagina. This is why we have decided to create this art piece as part of Womanifest, to celebrate, to inform and to show women both young and old, that vulvas are all different and that the words vagina and vulva shouldn’t be embarrassing but championed and a part of our everyday dialogue. I hope that many women and people with vulvas, will come forward to take part in this art installation. My hope is that this art piece will help us start conversations, tackle social issues, help to ease genital anxiety that many people feel and allow us all to celebrate our bodies and our unique womanhood.
Did you know, that labiaplasties – designer vaginas - has been the the world's fastest-growing cosmetic procedure with operations up 45 per cent year-on-year, international survey finds. (source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/labiaplasty-vagina-surgery-cosmetic-procedure-plastic-study-international-society-aesthetic-plastic-surgeons-usa-a7837181.html)
Instead, we should be celebrating difference! Wouldn’t it be glorious to remember that love isn’t lust and yes, we’re naturally sexual beings, but our sexual prowess and satisfaction isn’t a product of our body type.
I want to live in a society where girls at younger and younger ages don’t feel the pressure to conform or yield to the surgeon’s knife. Being a teenage girl (or even an older girl!) in the world today is a challenge, as the landscape gets more complicated and toxic, fueled by smart technology, easy-access porn and Reality TV. These 3 game-changers influence and sabotage our young women at a time when they should be exploring their identity and harnessing their potential. Not surprisingly the negative messages coming at them from all sides are creating poor mental health and a lack of self-esteem. 1 in 4 girls will self-harm before they leave Secondary School, 25% of all 14 year olds are depressed, social anxiety is at an all-time high, eating disorders are up by 42% and sexual harassment is a daily occurrence for 1 in 3 girls in our Secondary Schools. Awareness is power, so now we know, we all need to do something to effect change.
I’m thrilled that through Womanifest, we will be supporting Girls Out Loud because this social enterprise is passionate about empowering girls to learn, lead and thrive by connecting them to smart, sassy and successful female role models. The festival will see woman and girls step out of their comfort zones as they unite in exploring all things feminine at the eagerly anticipated Cheshire-based festival on 17th and 18th September. There’s a range of tickets on offer but the most important to me are the daughter/teenager tickets – I’d love to see as many young women age 12-18 attend the festival with a responsible adult or parent.
So, in closing, how can we ensure we’re not persuiting an unrealistic ideal or perfection? How can we ‘Woman Up’ and feel empowered?
1. Try going social media free just for one day! You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make to your self esteem. Put down your phone and leave the subconscious comparisons to someone else. Not only will you win back your self-love, you’ll gain ‘me’ time to put to more positive use too. Although this is not something many people want to do everyday, you could turn off some app notifications and mute certain followers or unfollow.
2. Challenge the negative self talk! We’re all guilty of it. That internal monologue about how we’re not this, that or the other. The only one who can really get to grips with that is you. You have to make a quality decision that you’re going to talk to yourself differently about yourself. Any time that critical voice pipes up, tell it where to go! You’re worth more than that.
3. Schedule time for positive affirmations. These are the bread and butter of creating a different thought life. Choose something you love about yourself and plaster it anywhere you can see it - in the mirror, by the kettle, on the rearview. You need to be paying more attention to those great attributes than anything else.
4. Choose great company. If the company you keep consistently makes you feel ‘less than,’ you need to switch things up. Find your tribe, hang out with people who celebrate you and tell you as much. They become your go-to on days when you’re not feeling 100% and you need to have those positive things reflected back to you.
5. Have an adventure! There’s nothing more exhilarating than pushing your boundaries and trying something new for the first time. When you challenge yourself, you come out feeling on top of the world, and no one can take that from you. Learn a new skill, visit a new destination, eat on your own …. Whatever it is, these things build courage and confidence and you’ll find a new you looking back in the mirror.
To find out more about Jodie Salt or Womanifest please visit: https://womanifest.co.uk/