This is the 2nd part in a two section story by Lucy Moffatt.
This is the first part in a two-sided story by Lucy Moffat.
After coming to the realisation that a career in acting was simply not what she was destined to do, multi-talented punk rock girl Felicity Heath made a plan. Jet-setting back to her home country of Australia, she put her head to the grindstone and began working on an idea of hers that had been brewing silently behind a headful of Cruella Deville inspired hair. No longer restrained by the standards of the acting industry, she went back to things she always enjoyed doing in her teen years- dyeing her hair amazing colours and wearing whatever she wanted on the daily, and then, suddenly, delved right into the clothing world.
Her vision? Mermaid Killer. Inspired by the riot grrrl movement of the 90s, cartoon heroes like the little mermaid, and punk and “emo” music, her clothing line has exploded in just over a year to gain widespread recognition. The facebook page (which is often updated with messages of self-empowerment and positive life affirming messages) has over 4000 likes and the clothes have been worn by bands like Tonight Alive and We Saved the Party. Additionally, 10% of all of the profits “animalia” collection were donated to The Animal Welfare league, and all of the clothes are made from completely vegan-friendly materials.
Felicity’s pieces are all about brash, unapologetic moments of self expression, hearkening to comic book aesthetics and in some cases, feminine idols that are not afraid to be up front and bold about who they are.
Felicity is not only a boss bitch and endlessly creative, but she is also kind, respectful and forward thinking. She is also a great friend and a personal hero of mine. Are there any more reasons why this interview is needed and why it’s relevant to our “heroes” issue?
Jonno: Who are some of your favourite designers? Is there anyone in particular that comes to mind that inspires you to be creative and motivated?
Felicity: I love Betsey Johnson (can I please be wearing giant bows on my head at 70) and I really love Vivienne Westwood, of course. Yeah, the people who keep my motivated are actually probably the people that have given me the most shit in my life haha! I’ve had people I consider my friends tell me they don’t believe I can do this, family members tell me I’m not doing anything worthwhile, other “friends” slander me online and get their friends to harass me until I had to change my phone number and had people hack my social media accounts and delete them. THEY are the people who motivate me to succeed….just so I can do that face that Max Black does that says “suck it” in that episode of 2 broke girls when they have the opening party for their cupcake shop.
Jonno: SO GOOD!
Jonno: The designs for mermaid killer are very bratty and colourful - I certainly feel like some kind of X-men character when I’m wearing them. This may seem like a nebulous question, but is there anything you want to make people feel when they’re wearing mermaid killer?
Felicity: Yes- that they can wear anything. I hate this idea of “I love it but I could never pull it off”. Uhm, yes you can. You can do whatever you want and it should make you feel amazing and empowered!
Jonno: I always feel about that with clothes too. I think if you like it, you should wear it, even if it makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable initially!
Jonno: Mermaid Killer, your clothing line, hasn’t been around for long but already you’ve released a few collections, done some amazing shoots and incorporated original ideas and themes into your clothes quite effectively. Where does your inspiration come from in this context and how do you keep track of all your ideas?
Felicity: I’m really inspired by random things. Street art, people on instagram, the colour of garbage bags, Malibu in California, the sky at dusk, Christmas trees. Creative people know how it is - you’re just constantly inspired by everything…you just have to learn how to compartmentalise things. Now I have a folder for any picture I’m inspired by to go into and I write lots of things down. Plus, I’m just really true to myself and I don’t do things because they’re trendy or whatever and I think people can identify sincerity.
Jonno: I’ve found that I have to do that too. My iPhone “notes” section is overcrowded with so many random thoughts and ideas…it would look absolutely ridiculous to an outsider.
Felicity: Yeah me too! I always forget what they are and I’m like ‘what is this jibberish…”
Jonno: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start their own clothing line?
Felicity: Do what YOU want. Know your demographic. Think big.
Jonno: In an industry so over-run by (and that continually glamorises) animal abuse, is it difficult to maintain a clothing line that is fully vegan?
Felicity: Not really. I mean I don’t live in a world that abuses animals. Sometimes I make a new friend and if they eat meat I’m always caught off guard by it - just because it doesn’t even enter my universe and I forget that people do haha. I just do my thing and do my research. It’s just a part of Mermaid Killer and I’m really proud of it, but it isn’t difficult.
Ebony and Naomi, MK girls, visiting the Animal Welfare League shelter.
Jonno: I get a bit of a riot grrrl vibe from some of your designs, as well as from your blog and personal style. What do you think of the riot grrrl movement? Do you think it was valuable and a good way of getting more girls involved in female empowerment or do you think it was just “white feminists patting themselves on the back” as some critics say? Maybe both?
Felicity: I think it’s really important for women who identify with the punk sub culture. I mean this happened in the late 80s/early 90s and in 2013 we STILL have sexism issues in punk. Those women (Courtney, Kat and don’t forget Gwen) really paved the way for women like Hayley. Apart from the reproductive rights issues, being a riot grrrl means to me means you’re an equality, feminist and active member of the punk scene - and you don’t have to be white to do any of that and I hope it doesn’t come across like I am attempting to diminish any PoC’s experiences of feminism and/in punk in saying that, because I understand that I as a white woman potentially have had different experiences of both movements. I am 100% a 2013 riot grrrl.
Jonno: I definitely agree.
Jonno: I think some parts of riot grrrl may not have been inclusive but it’s important to remember that you can still be a riot grrrl in 2013 and reconceptualise that for yourself to be completely all encompassing, positive, open-minded and intersectional!
Jonno: Continuing on that train of thought, who are some of your favourite female musicians, actors, or general heroes?
Felicity: I love Gwen and Courtney. I remember when I was about 6 or 7 and the Just a Girl video came on Rage and I was like “what?! She’s so pretty! Women can do this stuff and look like that? WHO IS THIS I MUST FIND OUT” I also love Ellen DeGeneres for what she has done in terms of equality and overcoming her obstacles. I love Iggy Azalea (she’s younger than me so that’s awkward) and how she made something of herself in a male dominated, American industry as a poor Australian teenager. I love Merivale Hemmes, her company was the first fashion house in Australia to sell miniskirts!
Jonno: That new Iggy track sumps up all the good things that you said about her. Also, her ponytail is fierce as hell.
Felicity: THAT PONYTAIL!
Jonno: You’ve inserted a fun reference to someone you look up to - Audrey Kitching - on one of your pieces. Do you intend to do anything else like that in the future?
Felicity: I love Audrey and seeing her evolve over the last 7 years or so. Yes, there is definitely that kind of thing coming up soon! We Courtney Love doing that kind of thing! Ho ho ho.
Jonno: Oh my god, perfect.
Jenna Tonight Alive wearing Mermaid Killer.
Jonno: I’m sure a lot of readers might want to know because of your expertise in this field - where do you find good cruelty free products?
Felicity: Look I mean, immerse yourself in the culture, and be patient if you don’t know a lot if you’re new. When I first started attempting a cruelty free life I literally ate pasta for all meals cos I had no idea ha ah ha. Google is a goldmine! Most things are labelled, and most websites are proud of it if they are cruelty free and will have it plastered all over their FAQ.
Jonno: What would you like to achieve, as a person and an artist/creative thinker/designer in the years to come?
Felicity: To be honest, I just want to own an international empire of fashion houses under the name Mermaid Killer, I want to own an international boutique restaurant mini-chain too as well as motivational speak for high school students in lower socio-economic areas and own a big piece of land in the mountains where I have an animal sanctuary and get to be with the love of my life and have our babies. Am I giving away too much?
Jonno: Not at all. I think I heard a quote recently that said something like “if your dreams aren’t scaring you, they’re not big enough.” That made me feel a lot better about my aspirations, especially because when I was younger I was absolutely terrified of my uncertain future and felt like my goals for the future were too “unrealistic”. Do you feel that way sometimes?
Felicity: Yes, all the time and I hate telling other people just in case it doesn’t work and they all laugh at me. I mean three years ago I was an actor and didn’t think there was anything else out there for me, and when I decided it didn’t make me happy anymore I copped a lot of shit because people thought I just gave up - but things changed and I’m so much happier with MK.
Jonno: That’s really beautiful! I think it’s important to realise that people change over time and if sometime isn’t making you happy…then changing to something that will make you happy, even if it wasn’t your original goal, is perfectly fine. I definitely feel that I’ve put things on the back burner to focus on other stuff, but as i grow up i realise that at least within myself, these things happen for a reason. How has MK changed your life for the better, specifically?
Felicity: As an actor I put so much pressure on myself and every audition saw me comparing myself to 50 other girls who looked just like me. It makes you doubt your individuality and question everything about yourself that you should just feel comfortable with. With MK I don’t have to compare myself to anyone. More so, when I was an actor - no haircuts, hair colours, tattoos or piercings. Now I have the freedom of expression that makes me a lot happier. Also, I love being my own boss and doing something that resonates with other people. Plus, MK saved my life I think. I was in a pretty dark place when I started it and I could barely get out of bed. I’m really lucky to have the drive to succeed I have and also to have had the people around me at the time who helped me and made sure I kept on track instead of just not doing it, which seemed easier at the time than doing well, anything at all. (EMMA WRIGHT SHOUTOUT)
Jonno: Working with people you love and making something together with your friends is honestly one of the most rewarding things you can do. It’s very life affirming.
Felicity: For sure.
Super serious CEO bosses must be serious at all times.
Jonno: What you said about “being your own boss” is sort of relevant to this issue because we touch upon taking command of your life and being your own hero, saving yourself from situations that maybe aren’t benefiting us or helping us grow.
Jonno: Are there any moments in your life, or maybe recently, where you’ve related to that sentiment?
Felicity: Recently I decided to move back to LA which has been a HUGE decision. I went to bed one night and have been second guessing all decisions in my personal life for about a year and I just decided to make an executive decision and just go back. I make all the decisions in my career now so I’m going to be competent at making decisions in my personal life too.
Jonno: Do you think it’ll be harder or easier to run a company from LA as opposed to Sydney?
Felicity: Well I have a lot of legalities to get through at this stage, but ultimately I think there is more potential for growth and creative expression there. Most MK designs are inspired by something in LA anyway so I think it will thrive there. Plus, I’m at the next level where we aren’t making to order now - everything is in stock so that will help!
Jonno: How does living in Sydney differ from LA in terms of pursuing a career in fashion? Sydney is quite a big city, but I imagine even being in Melbourne would be radically different to the vibe in LA.
(This is coming from someone who has never even set foot in America…)
Felicity: There is just more room for personal expression in LA I think. Sydney is so beige, they keep the “weird” in one suburb - and even now that one suburb is getting “trendy” and getting lots of chain stores and people moving in TRYING to be “weird” or whatever. It’s such an odd, culture-less city I think. LA is just so diverse. You have punk rock and hair metal and hip hop and you can do your hair crazy and drive a weird car and there is just SO much of everything crazy due to the population that there are more opportunities TO do things and nobody looks twice. I am constantly inspired while I’m there and in Sydney I always feel like I have to tone it down, per se.
Jonno: I guess Newtown can only sustain a person for so long.
Felicity: Yeah it isn’t what it used to be you know, when I moved there in 2008 it was entirely different to what it is now. It doesn’t do anything for me anymore.
Jonno: I only went there for the first time last year! I think we’ve covered the candid, deep part of this interview, so is there anything else you wanted to let our readers know?
Felicity: Yes! Cruel summer, our newest collection, will be coming out very soon- at the end of this month, actually.
Jonno: Fabulous! Also…i had to ask another really important question. In fact, the whole interview is useless without it…
Jonno: Who is your favourite superhero?
Felicity: Peter Petrelli.
Jonno: Good choice! Babe male nurses always do it for me.
Felicity: Hahahaha Yes!
Felicity: He doesn’t need a pseudonym, he subtly pulls apart gender stereotypes, and always has the interests of others in his intentions…
Felicity: Plus, Milo Ventimiglia can be my boyfriend any time he wants.
Jonno: “Are you doing the whole trying to make me fall in love you thing and then being casually disinterested because of your nurse code of ethics? Because I could totally get into that.”
Jonno: Thankyou so much for doing this! I really enjoyed doing it and your answers were wonderfully honest!
Felicity: You’re welcome!
With such a wide variety of content available to us online, is there still a place for the independent publishing of zines?
Dimitra spoke to the creator of an online blogazine that is combining the best elements of the web with the DIY culture of zine making.
I was interviewed for radio adelaide about zines and how the online world has contradicted or, in our case, reinvented the meaning of zine making. It’s interesting! I enjoyed doing the interview and you can find it in the link above.
Music Video Monday: Sonic Youth - Bull in the Heather
I’m not the hugest fan of sonic youth but this is one of my favourite music videos of all time. Kathleen Hanna is like this adorable yet terrifying ball of grrrlish energy and her facial expressions are just priceless. I feel like she’s reclaiming youth and femininity and recontextualising it for herself in this video…and that’s super cool and inspiring to me.
You are fifteen and dislike your crush’s girlfriend. You call her a slut. You are eighteen and about to go out clubbing for the first time. Your mother looks you up and down and says she didn’t raise a slut. You are twenty and the boy you are fucking calls you a slut the one night you refuse to have sex.
Everyone knows that the word “slut” has power, whether we agree with it or not. It is used to shame and degrade women and, more importantly, to put them in a box with a label that says “you’re not human here” and to make sure they stay there. Whilst there are many different variables in the slut-shaming game, the objective remains the same: to ensure women’s behaviour is deemed “acceptable” by societal terms, and to make sex a source of shame and not power. In a culture that is so concerned with labels and definitions, one has to pose the question: what is a slut? After years of being called a slut, of hearing my friends being called sluts I can only assume that a slut is a woman who doesn’t adhere to every societal expectation heaped upon her.
Because being called a “slut” runs a lot deeper than enjoying sex, than talking about sex and exercising male-like sexual freedom. It is a term that turns breathing, talking women into commodities. It perpetuates the age-old double standard that if you are a man who enjoys sex, you are desirable/attractive/worthy and ultimately someone with power. Alternatively, if you are woman who enjoys sex you are demonized as an undesirable/dirty/worthless and ultimately someone who is powerless. Girl-on-girl slut-shaming further perpetuates the ideal that if you, as a woman, follows all the rules in the Being a Good Woman Handbook, a non-existent text made up of contradictory insurmountable ideals and rules, you will be respected and worthy. When women slut-shame other women I don’t believe it is because they buy into the idea of a “slut” but because they want to distance themselves from women who are seen as dangerous, unruly creatures.
Thinking patterns such as these simply forces more dichotomies into play that women are expected to choose from: virgins versus whores, good girls versus bad girls, and prudes versus sluts. These dichotomies are far more dangerous than getting your feelings hurt, they support rape culture in suggesting that if you do exactly as you are told by every man in your life, you won’t be sexually abused/sexually assaulted/raped because again, you’ll be following the rules in that unwritten handbook all women know exist. I’m not saying that a desire to feel safe from the near-constant threat of rape is a bad thing; I am simply saying that when you shame other women the results can be dire. When the role of the “good girl” is encouraged, the theory that “only sluts are raped” and that victims of unwanted sexual contact solicit their own attacks is supported.
Although noting the power-dynamics in slut shaming is a worthy one and very interesting, it is also equally important to conclude that there is no such thing a slut. A slut is a myth created by men to hurt women who exercise the freedom of choice. That’s it. If there is anything I’ve learnt from being slut-shamed and seeing slut-shaming in action, everywhere, it is this: no woman escapes being called a slut. Why? Because you can be called a slut when you’re a virgin, thus disproving that a slut is a woman has lots of casual sex. You can be called a slut whilst wearing a pair of jeans, debunking the myth sluts only wearing short skirts. You can be called a slut for refusing to have sex with someone, proving that a slut is a contradictory term used to pigeonhole women. You can be called a slut for speaking your mind, verifying that being a slut also has nothing to do with your sexuality. Women are at risk of being called a slut/whore/skank/“prossie”/tramp at any time for literally any reason on earth.
Although it is going to be a long time before stop start referring to women as, uh, women instead of sluts, the negative connotation that being a slut is a bad thing is slowly diminishing with the introduction of protests such as Slut-Walks – igniting worldwide debate at the terminology and usage of the label “slut” as well as asking ourselves, what is a slut? Well, it’s a myth. You’re not a demonized “slut” with no worth, you are a woman and there is nothing wrong with you.
Even though it comes with a lot of shit (lower pay, judged on superficial things like appearance, higher likelihood of rape/abuse etc.) I love being a woman, and I am proud to be a woman. Given a choice, I would still choose to be a woman.
Being queer comes with a lot of shit too, but even if it was 100% choice, I’d still choose it.
I don’t expect equal treatment as a queer woman because I didn’t choose it, I expect equal treatment because there’s nothing wrong with being a queer woman and I, like any other human being, deserve respect.
(words and art by) -Sarah
It was international women’s day yesterday, and it made me think about how i value the women in my life (even though i think about that all the time) and how i value the apparent femininity inside me, and all the time. I wear it. I wear everything inside of me, I wear the physical things in which self actualise me.
When i wear femininity, i see it as a political statement.
When I wear make-up or clothes that society typically deems “girly” i’m making a feminine statement.
When I show emotion or break way from behaviour that is seen as “masculine” I am making a statement.
I am making a conscious decision to define myself in these terms. I am making a seemingly radical decision to exemplify that sadness or vulnerability or frailty is not a “female” emotion, and it is not a sign of weakness: it is a sign of human-ness, just as anger, or a lack of faux bubbly servitude is as much of a right to a girl as it a “male” emotion.
My life has not been very long, but through it I have observed a perhaps sad and unfortunate circumstance when it comes to how females may view men in comparison to how men view women: often boys and mens may shirk away from being seen as “girly” unless it’s as a joke or in a way that can belittle the opposite gender (even though they’d probably be annoyed if these girls chose to cut their hair short and wear shirts or boots.) It’s underscored by years of conditioning, by centuries of disrespect and “oppression” if you will, even if that word is thrown about so much on the internet sometimes that it becomes a blur. It means that in my world I do not see shame in having rich, deep, rewarding friends with girls, many of them 10 years my senior: this is somehow quite shocking thing to be proud of and comfortable with even if i’m defining myself in the queer spectrum, where such a thing is considered acceptable, but outside of that, a subconscious girl hate seems to continue amongst legions of boys AND girls. It’s under the floor, it’s unspoken, it’s a mild shirking of responsibility when it comes to how we respect those who identify as a woman in any regard.
I choose everyday to fit myself within a nebulous category of “masculine” and “feminine” which is completely bullshit and weird and stupid and governed by invisible rules. I do not wear dresses daily, even though I think in the future I’d totally be down for doing so. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s a series of cloths and fabric but apparently it holds this meaning to the vast majority. I’m trying to start a small revolution in myself which rejects these codes which have been wired into me from when I was born, and hopefully, lead others into partaking into this. I do however, seem to be categorised as some unidentified “other” in some sense when people comment on my clothing, or how I present myself in general: coloured hair is for girls, my mother will say, or in a more extreme circumstance, a stranger yelling at me on the street will inform me in their terms that what i’m wearing is not acceptable to them, and their criticism is a form of policing. I do not like this, I do not like how you are redefining gender for yourself, and you must stop because it makes me uncomfortable. Look, I will try to break you down bit by bit until you learn your place. This is what i’m hearing from them, this is their letter signed sealed and delivered through the soundwaves of that particular evening.
Of course, i’m not a revolutionist. This is not supposed to be global changing work in my mind, but apparently it is because the reaction to this is so shocking and immediate. This is a mantra. It’s me being sick to death of this stupid war, this supposed battle of the sexes which looks more like a one sided battle to me…and why is it so important? Why is it so important to lie and say that women are more weak and emotionally vulnerable (not true…) or that men are the powerful, aggressive ones? (also not true.) It’s absolutely tiring to me and I wish everyone would give up. My attitude has seriously reached that point. I don’t give a fuck about how you think feminists are angry and bitter and how you’ve made this apparently WILD and GROUNDBREAKING discovery that men are just like, so much easier to deal with than girls. I don’t care. I’m so tired.
I’m so tired.