Amy Fox

Writer. Editor. Feminist knitting designer.


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Why I’m changing my name for SEO

Open up the January issue of Diva magazine when it hits shops tomorrow (Dec 18th), and you’ll find a huge picture of me on page 53, sitting in Gaudi’s Parc Güell in Barcelona and talking on the subject of bold changes in the new year.

Six weeks ago, I told my boss that I was quitting my job. I work at a knitting magazine in Essex, and I’ve learnt a lot there – not least how to make Fair Isle jumpers, cabled cushions and top-down baby cardigans – but moving on has been a long time coming. I’ve dreamed of living in London since I was about 13, since I was old enough to know that very little really happens in Leicester, and I stood in Trafalgar Square outside the National Gallery, looked at Big Ben, and felt like I was finally in the centre of something.

I decided that if I was moving to London, I wanted to try freelancing. I wanted to write and proofread for different clients every week, to have flexible hours so that I could work at my most productive times instead of forcing myself awake, and for the money I earned to line my pockets, not a company director I never saw.

But one thing that freelancing kind of depends on is people being able to contact you pretty easily. And since I share the name of Oscar-nominated actress, I’m not particularly easy to find on the internet. So, at least as far as my online presence is concerned, I decided to choose a new one.

Inventing a new name is hard. I always planned to keep it if I got married, and I could never really imagine being called anything else. I knew I wanted to keep Amy, but I liked the emphasis of a single-syllable surname, so I roped in my family and friends, and started brainstorming:

Amy Stark, Amy Fox, Amy Sky, Amy Green, Amy Fox, Amy May, Amy Bird, Amy Fox, Amy Brown, Amy Wood, Amy Fox.

There was a clear winner. Don’t ask me to explain “Amy Fox” any more than the fact that I like the way it sounds. I would have loved to have chosen a name with a more meaningful story, but sometimes these things are disappointingly shallow. And yes, I have noticed that it rhymes with Jamie Foxx. I like it anyway.

So that’s where I am – about to embark on a freelance career, planning to move house for the sixth time in about as many years, and creating a professional pseudonym. For SEO.

Wish me luck? And recommend me to your friends?

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Could Taylor Swift be my next feminist hero?

With the release of Taylor Swift’s fifth album, Amy Adams celebrates the feminist awakening of one of the world’s biggest popstars.

Taylor Swift on the Speak Now tour in 2012. Photo: Flickr/Eva Rinaldi

Taylor Swift on the Speak Now tour in 2012. Photo: Flickr/Eva Rinaldi

With her fifth album releasing today, there has been a notable shift in Taylor Swift’s message. In the press she is known mostly for her songs about famous exes, and a couple of years ago the non-Swifty media had reached almost dizzying heights of speculation. Just how many men has she dated and what were the age differences? How do the exes feel? Straight guys must be terrified of going near her lest they become no more than a catchy chorus in her next single!

There was a time when Taylor Swift couldn’t even be seen making eye contact with a man without it appearing all over the media. As the rumours stacked up, the “maybe SHE’S the one with the problem!” vibe grew ever stronger. (God forbid that a woman play the field, ditch the men she doesn’t see a future with, and then sing about it. After all, it’s not like men have ever written scathing songs about their exes, have they Ed Sheeran?)

But in a world where the narratives of Taylor Swift’s relationships are seen as public property, I’m proud to be a fan of a woman who reclaims control of those stories through her music. No matter how much they are spun out of all recognition, she is determined to have the final word. So even before she self-defined as a feminist, I was still happy to put her in the “empowering female musicians” category and listen to 22 on repeat for days on end.

But things have changed between her last album, Red, and now. The most obvious is that Tay-Tay hasn’t been dating anyone at all for well over a year and a half. “I feel like watching my dating life has become a bit of a national pastime,” she told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “And I’m just not comfortable providing that kind of entertainment anymore.” Instead, she’s made more female friends, moved to New York, openly identified as a feminist for the first time, and bought another cat.

Of course, every right-minded single lady in her 20s is morally obligated to love cats, but it’s the feminist awakening that I care about most. Since befriending Lena Dunham, she has been regularly talking about feminism in interviews and calling out sexism wherever she sees it. Significantly, part of that discussion has involved admitting that she didn’t always understand what the term meant, and that she held many of the same assumptions and prejudices that continue to make feminism a dirty word amongst the “why not rebrand it as equalism” crowd.

But as more and more female celebrities come out in favour of the movement, there’s a lot of talk about how they’re not doing the work of “real” feminism. All this standing in front of a giant neon sign is just detracting from the difficult, dangerous and uncomfortable work of ending violence against women and fighting economic inequality. Now, I don’t want to say that this opinion is invalid, because of course those are very, very different and important goals. Improving the lives of women should remain central to feminism, and I’m not saying that 21st-century feminist debate begins with Beyoncé and ends with Emma Watson.

However, I don’t think that this makes their contributions any less worthy or exciting. The fact that these highly influential women are speaking up at all is a shift that could sway the opinions of millions of people who are starting their own feminist journey.

It’s a step. They’re all steps. But when individuals take steps together, society begins to move. Gateway celebrity feminism isn’t taking away from more serious feminist activism. It’s just that: a gateway. And once we’re through, there should be room for everyone, doing lots of different kinds of work, united by a common belief that all genders should be treated with the same amount of respect.

Taylor Swift has been called the “voice of a generation” for years. But the 16 year olds who were once dreaming of a love story are now in their early 20s, and they’ve survived an economic downfall, political unrest, and a world that seems intent on tearing itself to pieces.

Taylor Swift is not the same girl who wrote a homophobic lyric in Picture to Burn, one of her earliest singles. She’s not even the same girl who subsequently changed that lyric in her music video, and stopped singing it in concert. In fact, she’s come so far that she’s now started actively queering her own lyrics on stage.

Of course, anyone who noted the the cultural appropriation in her video for Shake It Off will also know that she still has a lot more to learn. I’d like to see a feminist who hasn’t.

We’re all on a journey, and we can’t expect every new feminist to instantly know how to change the world – but we can welcome them into the fold, forgive them for their mistakes, and help them to grow.


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Duck & Waffle (Liverpool St)

Best Brunch Ever

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How we brunched:

I have a confession, readers. There was a time when I wasn’t in the mood for Brunch. I know, it’s hard to believe. How could I, Hattie, co-founder of internationally renowned* blog Best Brunch Ever, brunch advocate and Jamie Oliver Superfan not want brunch? Well all I can say is, if you’ve been on a wild long weekend in Krakow and flown home at 4am with a hangover, it’s hard to psych yourself up. There was only one place we could go to that would have felt worth it. Duck & Waffle.

Duck & Waffle is already getting quite the brunch reputation among London foodies. Situated in the financial heart of London, on the 40th floor of the Heron tower, it serves food 24/7, perfect for business lunches, post-cocktail dinners and shattered tourists getting off redeye flights. Loaded with rucksacks and suitcases, we were whizzed…

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The Breakfast Club (Soho)

I started a brunch blog with my housemate and BFF Hattie.

Best Brunch Ever

Breakfast club Soho brunch

How we brunched:

For me, in the quest to find the Best Brunch Ever, The Breakfast Club was a clear starting point. I had heard about it from many people’s instagrams and John Hughes’ biggest fan Rachel and so, on a chilly Sunday Morning in January, we took to the streets of Soho.

It had already been an eventful weekend. Our good friends had come to stay and see Wicked with us, but one had been struck ill the night before with terrible stomach pains, which we had unprofessionally diagnosed as the highly infectious norovirus. For all we knew, this brunch could be our last, so we were determined to make the most of it.

The Breakfast Club had considerable queues on a Sunday morning at 11am, and we soon became certain that every hunger twinge was the dreaded virus starting to set in. We didn’t want to be beaten…

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A good girl and you know it: the 21st-century Madonna-Whore complex

Pop music seems obsessed with good girls, but what does that really say about how male singers view women?

Drake

Do you wanna roll with a good girl? Because Drake certainly seems to. Photo: NRK P3/Flickr

You’re a good girl and you know it
You act so different around me
You’re a good girl and you know it
I know exactly who you could be

Let’s talk about good girls. I’m willing to bet that most of the women reading this have, in their lifetimes, been described as either a good or a bad girl. Personally, I used to fit so neatly into the good girl category that my friends would refer to me as “the perfect granddaughter” – and this is while I was university, where us teacher’s pet types are obliged to try on the bad girl costume while vomiting out of a taxi window at least once.

But what does being a good girl actually mean? It’s a phrase that is so culturally ingrained that it’s difficult to listen to music without hearing some guy crooning to a fictitious good girl about how he knows, underneath, that she’s actually bad. Naturally, he’s the one to help her embrace this side of her – with his penis.

In Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke is so sure that his good girl is actually bad, he’s willing to forgo asking for her consent altogether. He knows she wants it – she’s an animal – it’s in her nature.

Meanwhile, Drake is so obsessed with good girls that it wasn’t enough to just make them the hook of his biggest single, he had to get the idea into Beyoncé’s eponymous album too.

And just when I thought I was safe with 2014’s favourite breakout boyband, 5 Seconds of Summer, there it was again. There’s a whole album track about how “good girls are bad girls that haven’t been caught”, a line so unoriginal that it’s probably been lifted from one of their mum’s fridge magnets. And how does the hero of the song know that good girls are just pretending? Because he catches a straight-A student sneaking out to see her boyfriend, and she decides to let him in on the secret.

Good girls, according to popstars, are all hiding their bad girl nature underneath a veneer of good grades and coy smiles. All it takes is a man to bring out their true, sexy core.

And sex is always the line that they cross. In these songs, good girls don’t become bad girls by beating someone up, or selling drugs, or robbing a bank. They just have to fuck someone.

But where is the line? Sure, a one night stand is classic bad girl behaviour, but apparently so is having a boyfriend. What if you’re engaged? What if you wait until marriage, but you and your husband enjoy a little BDSM? And what about lesbians? Does their disregard of the status quo make them inherently bad, or can they still keep their halo intact somehow?

The truth is, this is a question that society has been battling with for thousands of years – since biblical times at the very least. The Madonna-whore dichotomy is an age-old way of understanding women. They are either motherly saints who should be protected from the world’s evils, or sluts who deserve everything they get. It’s an idea so deeply embedded in our culture that it manifests itself as a psychological condition, first named by Freud, which can keep men from seeing any women as real human beings.

You only have to glance at a tabloid to compare how they treat good girls like the “elegant” Kate Middleton to the more controversial figures such as “wannabe” Josie Cunningham. Bad girls are torn apart by the media – just look what happened to Tulisa – whilst simultaneously sexualised and lusted after.

The few good girls that manage to jump through enough hoops are then held on such a high pedestal that it’s almost enough to make the rest of us give up altogether. And while it’s easy for a woman to fall from grace (hey there, Miley), it’s impossible to climb back up again.

Let’s destroy the lot. Bad girls are only useful as sex objects, and good girls are actually all bad girls anyway. So what’s the point? In 1931, Virginia Woolf said that we have to “kill the angel in the house” in order to get anything done. Let’s kill the good girl along with her; she’s just holding real women back. Women who make mistakes; who like sex but don’t have to be defined by it; who have far more important things to do than worry about whether they’re living up to Robin Thicke’s lecherous standards.

“Good girl!” is praise that we give to toddlers when they count to 10 correctly, or puppies when they manage not to piss on the floor. It’s not an accurate description of adult women.


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The top five things I love about myself: why every woman deserves a list

Learning to get past your insecurities and love yourself is a long and difficult process, but the rewards when you succeed make it all worthwhile.

"Loving myself isn't arrogance or self-importance – it's the only way I know how to keep going." Photo: Amy Adams

“Loving myself isn’t arrogance or self-importance – it’s the only way I know how to keep going.” Photo: Amy Adams

“I don’t understand why I suddenly had a crisis about fancying women,” I was telling my housemate Ollie about a particularly weird night out. “I mean, fancying women is one of my top five things about myself.”

This – admittedly slightly outlandish – statement was met with confusion. “Top five things? Is that normal?” he asked.

“Yeah,” my other housemate Hattie chipped in. “Mine are like, four personality quirks, and then either my butt or my boobs, depending on the time of the month.”

“EXACTLY.”

It wasn’t always like this. I’ve only recently had a list, and I’ve only had the capacity to make a list for a little longer than that.

I was constantly told that I was a beautiful child, but like all women in the UK, by the time I was older I had been raised in a society which simultaneously told me I was too unimportant to speak, and too boring if I didn’t.

By 13, my nose had grown quicker than the rest of me, and one of the cool kids told me that if I sat on the back seat of a bus, I could drive it with my face.

It’s stupid – of COURSE it’s stupid – it’s a story I love to tell after a lot of wine when I’m laughing about how far I’ve come since school. But when I was sitting at that table at that age, I felt hurt and humiliated and I couldn’t tell anyone about it later because I knew the only normal reaction to such a ridiculous statement was more ridicule.

Those experiences continued, and when you’re young it’s hard to separate the idea that you’re ugly from the idea that the rest of you is worth nothing as a result. Our appearance is so tied up with our self-worth, that being a good person can feel pointless if you’re not beautiful too. It took years to unlearn the lesson that I was ugly and uncool and I didn’t matter. I had to move to university; I had to have my heart broken and survive stronger than before; I had to buy a killer red lipstick.

Loving myself isn’t arrogance or self-importance – or at least not entirely – it’s the only way I know how to keep going, and it didn’t come easily. The first time you look in the mirror and tell yourself you look hot, it seems like a joke. But you have to keep kidding yourself until it starts to feel true. Most people can find something they like about themselves, even if it’s just their favourite outfit, so there’s always somewhere to start.

And once your confidence is built up, other areas of your life might start to make sense too. When your own insecurities begin to fade, it’s harder to let people treat you badly, because you know you deserve better. It’s also easier to forgive and have sympathy for the mistakes of others, which are so often caused by insecurities. After all, you’ve been there. Now that you’ve got some distance from that mindset, you can fully appreciate how toxic it can be. And of course there’s no need to explain the difference that a little extra confidence can make in a job interview or on a first date.

“I know” has become my standard reply to a colleague saying how great my outfit is. But after a while, it became more than just self-affirmation. It became a mantra. I don’t just love myself, I love the idea of loving myself, and so should every other woman who’s ever been made to feel small. When I snapchat my face with the words “look how hot I am!” I’m not just showing off, I’m trying to set an example. I can never get annoyed by girls taking selfies because I just want to give them a standing ovation.

Women, wear that cute dress if it makes you feel great. After all, Christina said it best – you ARE beautiful. And the sooner you know it, the better.


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Coming out to my dad and the art that finally fixed things

On Father’s Day, Amy Adams explores how coming out to her dad first strained, and then strengthened their relationship.

"Any LGBTQ person will tell you that you don't just come out once - you do it over and over again"

“Any LGBTQ person will tell you that you don’t just come out once – you do it over and over again”

There is a picture in my father’s house of two dancers. The piece was at the centre of an installation by the art duo Faile, and presented by the New York City Ballet in 2013. It shows a tattooed blonde woman in a red dress kneeling on the floor, embracing the bare legs of a ballerina. It is a striking depiction of female love and lust, and it holds the central position in the hallway of my conservative Christian father’s home.

Any LGBTQ person will tell you that you don’t just come out once – you do it over and over again. Every time you open up to a new friend or family member it feels like jumping off a cliff. Even when it’s someone who you know will love you anyway, who already suspected, even if they are LGBTQ themselves. There’s a point you reach when the other person knows you’re about to say something important, when you know you can’t turn back but somehow you can’t let the words out either. There’s a liminal space where almost anything could happen. Then you jump.

And every time that person smiles, and nods, and comforts you, or squeals, and hugs you, and then gets mad that you didn’t tell them sooner, it feels like a parachute opening. You’re safe this time, you can enjoy the ride down – the view is breathtaking, why were you ever nervous in the first place?

When your feet are back on the ground, you remember why. Next time, there might not be another parachute.

Of course, it’s not always so dramatic. Sometimes they’re little jumps – switching the word “partner” for “girlfriend” when talking to a colleague, or holding hands in front of strangers in a restaurant.

For me, the biggest risk was telling my dad. We have a fantastic relationship, but we’re too similar for our own good. We both get to work half an hour before everyone else, because we’d rather wake up early than sit in traffic. We make the same bad jokes at the same inappropriate moments. And, critically, we’d rather do anything than tell each other about our feelings.

I came out to my stepmother a whole week before I could be honest with my dad. Living proof of the inaccuracy of fairy tales, she was nothing but excited for me. I had expected her to help me form a plan, but I could never have anticipated that she would be clapping her hands and bouncing in her seat.

My dad took it harder – I don’t blame him for that, he was raised in a strict religious and homophobic environment but he loves me enough not to let that get in the way. He couldn’t say that he was happy for me though, just that he would never want to lose me. That was enough, it’s more than a lot of people get, and life continued much as it always had from that point on.

A couple of months later, I opened the front door and was greeted by the picture – Les Ballets de Faile. The house has quite a lot of art, but this very beautiful, very queer canvas was given centre stage.

“Does Dad know it’s about lesbians?” I stage whispered to my brother later that evening.

“We’ve decided not to tell him.”

It became a bit of an inside joke. More comfortable now in my queerness, and out to almost everyone, I loved to tell the story of my dad’s slip up. If that comes across cruel, you should know that we’re talking about a man who was devastated when he accidentally rented A Single Man, believing it was a spy movie, and instead left pondering Colin Firth’s existential crisis as a grieving homosexual professor in cold war America. This picture perching brazenly atop the stairs was nothing short of hilarious.

Time passed. I graduated, I got a job, I moved house twice in nine months. And last Christmas I was visiting home when I brought the picture up again. It was a lazy joke by this point, but my brother looked at me with surprise.

“Didn’t I tell you? Dad knows exactly what it means.”

“He does?”

“It’s for you,” he said. “[Our stepmum] told me. He bought it because he wanted to let you know that he accepted, you know, who you are.”

And it all began to make sense. Of course my dad knew what he was doing – no one who collects contemporary art could miss the meanings behind them. If nothing else, he would have researched the piece before he bought it. I mean, come on – one of the women is literally looking up the other’s skirt.

Sometimes we have to find other ways of making the leap. Sometimes when you’re looking someone in the eye, the words you need to say just aren’t there, and that’s okay. There are other ways of telling someone how you feel. Offer them a cup of tea, let them take the biggest slice of cake, check their tyres before they drive long distance. Just don’t let your love go to waste.

Thank you, Dad, and happy father’s day.


NB. I sent this piece to my dad before publication, out of respect for his privacy. He came back with the following two notes:

“Firstly you should know that, while that picture is 99% a message to you, it’s in that exact position because it’s also a message to everyone who walks through the front door. Secondly, the joke’s on you because it was hilarious watching you all squirm.”