Heist Meets Gina Martin

Heist Meets Gina Martin

15th Mar 2019

Gina Martin is the activist who campaigned, and succeeded, to make upskirting illegal. We caught up with Gina following her huge accomplishment - The Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 came into force on Friday 12th April - to discuss enacting parliamentary change from outside of parliament. Have a read.

How do you think your campaign, and those like it, will impact cultural attitudes towards sexual harassment? (Because changing attitudes is the ultimate task at hand).
I hope that they start an open and honest conversation around the objectification of women’s bodies and the normalisation of harassment and assault. Our aim, aside from changing the law, was always to start a conversation and raise awareness in a big way.

How do you enact parliamentary change from outside of parliament?
There isn't one way to do this, it depends on the cause you're fighting as that completely dictates your strategy. A lot of people don't think you can enact change unless you're in that structure - but you can definitely do it from the outside.

There's a few things to note that might help you get where you want to go: firstly, do all the work and heavy lifting upfront. Don't go into parliament and present a problem and ask them to fix it, instead go in and ask them to support the solution you've presented. Secondly, get a range of authorities in the area you're fighting for, or against, behind you first. For me it was fighting against upskirting, which is sexual harassment, and meant a legislation change so we got the best authorities in the country to support us before we stepped into parliament. So we had already proved that our solution was a viable one. Thirdly, use public pressure as it's a massive benefit and changes procedures that may have been stuck to rigorously beforehand.

Every woman has a story, what would you say to those apprehensive and/or reluctant to share it on the basis that it would be futile?
There is just too much evidence to the contrary to suggest that one story doesn't matter. Almost every single initiative, movement or conversation that has shifted the public consciousness has come from one person speaking out. You have no idea who your honesty is empowering and in this day and age speaking out is critical.

What were the biggest challenges around your campaign, and how did you keep your momentum following the knock-backs?
The biggest challenges were probably self-belief and dealing with online abuse. I really struggled to handle the online abuse at first, but when you put your head above the parapet and aren't the narrow archetype of 'power' (see: a straight white man) people want to knock you down a peg. When that's still happening, there's still work for us to do to expand the expectation of who 'can' rattle the cage and who 'can't'.

I have been very single-minded about my friends and family and I've built a support system that is bullet proof, that's what has kept me going - the people I love around me.

What was your biggest enabler?
My biggest enabler was Ryan Whelan, my lawyer and campaign partner. He taught me to think politically, work strategically, and stay focused and driven.

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You've been described as a "change maker", beyond feeling a huge sense of pride is there also a feeling of pressure?
I'd say there's more pressure than pride! When you work on something for a long time it becomes your reality and the big reveal that's happened of me finishing what I started has made people really excited which is lovely. For me though, this has been my life for two years so finishing it just feels like a huge sense of relief and has become so normalised to me which is mad because I can objectively see that changing the law is a huge thing to do on your own. I'm sure I've set myself a very high bar by changing the law first because now anything I do next will seem was less huge! haha!

Do you think there's something in starting “small” when it comes to driving initiatives that change the system?
I totally do. My book Be The Change discusses, in detail, small efforts and changes that can have a huge effect. Activism isn't defined by the size of the act but just the act itself and I truly truly believe a million of us doing small things is just as valuable as a handful of us doing big acts – if not more!