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Interview: Cathelijne Blok about The TittyMag and the true meaning of feminism

Feminism is a hot topic that gets more and more attention. It even slowly gets rid off its common prejudices (something with hairy armpits and short haircuts). Cathelijne Blok – feminist in heart and soul – is very happy with this. While Blok secretly dreams of a world in which the word ‘feminism’ is irrelevant, she’s very happy to see the changing attitude towards feminism. With her platform The TittyMag, Blok contributes to this world and therefore she might make the impossible possible. We’ve talked to her about feminism, equality and diversity and how she makes these subjects relevant and approachable for everyone.

To start: can you tell a bit about yourself and your company?
“Yes of course! I started working with a video production and broadcast company. I’ve worked there for 7 years as an editor for radio, television and online media. I wrote my master thesis (Blok studied art history, red.) about feminism, since I figured out that women are underrepresented in the art scene. By that time, I didn’t know much about feminism. So I thought: if I wanna do this, I have to read, watch and listen to all information I can find about the subject.”

So, how did you start with the TittyMag?
“I started to investigate how female photographers portrait women. I soon discovered that I loved the subject and wanted to do more with it. I wrote about feminism on platforms and thought: why don’t I start my own newsletter? At first, only my mother and grandmother read it. But the audience grew very fast and so did the group of people I worked with. I created a team of volunteers: photographers, illustrators, poets, writers, and so on. Then I started an online magazine: An Instagram feed and podcast followed soon.”

“To me, feminism stands for equality. Being treated equally, while celebrating the differences.”

What’s the goal of these platforms?
“To create a dialogue about feminism and inclusivity, always linked to the creative industry.”

Why is it always linked?
“I think we can reach more people in this way and of course to make it more approachable. Some people simply don’t like the word ‘feminism’. We provide content that – at first hand – doesn’t look like it carries a message on feminism. If you look again, there’s always a kind of secret message underneath it, though.”

She continues: “I soon came up with the idea to go offline as well. Simply to make a bigger impact. So I started doing monthly ‘Tittytalks’. These talks form a dialogue with which we create an open conversation about feminism and inclusivity. It’s always a panel combined with breakfast or lunch. It has to be interactive. After each Tittytalk, you know someone new.”

That’s a great starting point. It makes me very curious how you see feminism yourself. What does feminism mean to you?
“To me, feminism stands for equality. Being treated equally, while celebrating the differences. This makes it interesting. Everyone has a different background and I think it’s very important to listen to each other and to learn from each other.”

And how do you incorporate this in daily life?
“First of all, I talk about the subject a lot. I’ve always wanted to work in media, to tell other people my stories. Second, I’ve created a team of volunteers who truly support the message we want to spread. I think it’s very important to have a diverse team well. I’m a blonde woman, so I searched for others who don’t look like me. Everyone should feel comfortable working for The TittyMag.”

Blok continues: “I hope to inspire people and I want others to spread the message as well. The theme should be on top of mind. Everyone has a different way to start reflecting on a subject. And that’s exactly the important part: make people reflect on feminism. So it’s not only about what feminism is for me, but also about what it means to other people. And I think this can only be reached by talking to others and make them reflect on the subject.”

And do you think people reflect on the subject more now? Has there been a shift in thinking?
“Yes, for sure. At first, it’s important that we start to respect our history and learn from it. There’s happened a lot during the past decades. For example, in many countries women are able to vote now. Something that feels very obvious to many of us, while others can only dream about it.”

She adds: “Furthermore, the conversation about feminism is getting more and more relevant. For example, having this conversation with you means a lot. It’s a way to make a change and reach a different audience. The goal is to make people feel more welcome to join the discussion about feminism and the overall movement. And – of course – to make everyone feel welcome in our society.”

And do you think there are some common prejudices we should get rid off?
“Yes, definitely. Many people still think feminists hate men, are lesbian, have hairy armpits and so on. While I think that it doesn’t even matter whether you are a lesbian or have hairy armpits, you simply should respect everyone – despite what you look like, how you define yourself and what gender preference you have.”

“On top of this, we should respect our ancestors. They did so many good things. If there wouldn’t have been demonstrations about women’s rights to vote, then we still wouldn’t vote. Keep in mind that there isn’t one single type of feminist and that’s totally okay.”

So we should celebrate more form and the differences between each other and be a little kinder to each other.
“Yes, exactly.”

Let’s talk about your podcast: Sweet Sixteen. It’s about the advice you would give your sixteen year old self. Why did you choose this subject and why do we have to talk to our sixteen year old self?
“Well, I discussed this with a friend of mine – a man. I was looking for a red thread. We soon came with the struggles of a sixteen-year-old. It’s an important age. You’re not sure if your a kid or a young adult and you make decisions without thinking about it too much, while overthinking other things at the same time. It’s a confusing phase of your life.”

“Sometimes I still have to tell myself to just breathe.”

How does it relate to feminism and The TittyMag?
“What we do now everyday, reflects on the younger generation – something we should be aware of. And the funny thing is, as I invited many different women, there was always one common advice: they wish they’d enjoyed their teenage years more. Just taking a breath and taking it easy are common themes as well.”

Is this also what you would tell yourself if you’d be sixteen again?
“Yes, of course. Sometimes I still have to tell myself to just breathe. It hasn’t changed, haha.”

One of your podcast guests said that we have to listen to our intuition more often, instead of relying on the knowledge of others. Is this something that holds for many young women as well?
“Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s good to be inspired by others, but you have to rely on yourself as well. That’s very important. Stay true to yourself. Eventually, you are by yourself and you have to do it on your own. If you realize that, you’ll soon become a stronger decision maker.”

I think it’s good to be inspired by others, but you have to rely on yourself as well.

That’s exactly how it is. Then: you’ve talked to many women. Who’s the most inspiring woman you’ve ever talked to?
“Oh, that’s a hard question! I can’t choose one. But well, definitely my mom. She inspires me every day, together with my grandmother. My mom is also my best friend. It sounds sweet, but I really need her.”

Do you get your inspiration from these two women?
“Well, my diverse group of friends is very important to me as well. They vary from fashion models, to stylists and doctors, who all have different point of views on life. My team also inspires me a lot. But overall, I get the most inspired by daily life conversations.

“When the word ‘feminism’ becomes irrelevant, then my job is done.”

She adds: “I think it’s important not to view other women as competition, but we should rather support each other. We’re one, we’re together in this.”

Is this also the main message of TittyMag?
“Yes to unite, but also to show feminism isn’t something scary. Feminism is for everyone and we should do it together. It’s mostly about creating a dialogue to inspire people and to make them think and aware of feminism.”

At last: how do you see TittyMag’s future?
“Ehm, we’re busy with a lot. We’re currently working on a big exhibition with solely female artists. We wanna do a big event as well and I’m working on a printed TittyMag as well. At last, we work on a video format as well. As you may have noticed, I hope to reach everyone. The ultimate goal is to make the word ‘feminism’ irrelevant, then my job is done.”