Madison Drew | 29/12/2023
We might have all just scrambled together our New Year’s resolutions, but activist, speaker and writer Gina Martin is evolving all year round- personally and in her work.
Gina reached a new level in the public eye after her pivotal upskirting campaign that set social media alight. Resulting in upskirting now being illegal in the UK as the Voyeurism Act- alleviating women of all statuses of some fears when in public. However, the reality of being engraved on that legacy holds a considerable weight, something that Gina had to overcome.
“I think with activists of any type. Especially if you've been very visible in a campaign, which I've been super visible in my campaigns, my first campaign especially, you are constantly called strong, resilient, all the time or like a change maker or all this language that is about how much you have done and how much you have withstood and what you've fought... usually, we're talking in those terms about activists, or advocates, and the subtext of that is “how much shit can you handle?” she says.
“How much can you go through at the hands of other people?” It came to a point where I had to be like; I don't just want to talk about being abused online and being stalked and being sexually assaulted. I do so much work. And that is kind of what people are asking about all the time. And I didn't realise for a long time, I thought, well, those stories are important because they're people's hearts and minds in the reality of what women are experiencing.” She says about her experiences within activism after the Upskirting Bill. “It just makes people believe that I'm really strong on a level that they can just put as much on my plate and ask me as much as they want. No one deals with you more softly when you’ve been called strong or resilient or changemaker, or they don't deal with you more gently. They ask more of you.”
“The whole point is that they're trying,” Martin continues. “the best way to engage with an activist is to do it yourself. It’s to listen to what they're saying and engage yourself in your own ways that you find challenging.”
Like Margot Robbie’s Barbie, Gina has always been on her own path. She said no to an OBE, steering away from the UK politics scene and moving to Australia. Her move down under may seem confusing (and daunting for herself), but Martin is more concerned now about tackling issues than ever- in her new approach in bringing meaningful action for herself and society. Since living in Melbourne, she feels so much better working in a place where she’s fought back from the pedestal the world put her on.
“I started this work on the ground with people in an office job on 25 grand a year. And I started the campaign, sitting at my office, and then I'm going to rooms of survivors and victims, and we're talking about experiences, and then I'm writing, I'm interviewing them, and then I'm, you know, creating campaign ads, and I'm running focus groups. I'm just in rooms with people who live this reality….
Because my first campaign was so successful, I changed a lot. I just got put on a pedestal and I got moved from those people; I was in lots of rooms with very important people, which was very exciting and great. But there was a feeling of ‘hang on, why am I not with these people anymore?’ There was no in-between, and there was no normalcy; there was no walking into a room and people- very rarely -people not knowing about my work or not knowing who I am,” she explains. “And I really need that because if we're going to have conversations around gender, we're going to have these really difficult conversations that are going to help people and move their lives along and move their mental health along. They need to meet me on a level. We need to go in there zero to zero.”
“It's been a really special and really joyful to be back in where I started when I was twenty- five/twenty-six, which was being real to people and talking about this reality and building something person from person to person to person, which is grassroots change, I love that it's a really joyful place to be.” Gina says on her new work in Australia.
HATC talks to Gina Martin about dealing with the responsibilities of being an accomplished gender equality activist in her thirties and why sometimes saying no can be the right action.
HATC: You're based in Australia, big move. How are you finding it?
G: Yeah, it's really interesting. I think it's like one of those things where it was always going to happen for me and my partner, and there's nothing that can quite prepare you for adequately moving that far away, especially if you have super strong bonds to your family and friends.
The move took about a year and a half for visa and everything, and I shipped everything five months before and just lived in a house with like one spoon. It was really a wild relocation. And it just took such a long time to settle the other side. But with everything, it's been way more challenging than I thought and at the same time, it's forced me to grow and reckon with stuff that I wasn't wanting to reckon with or think about. So, I'm really navigating my way through everything from being away from family and friends to what it means to try and create community as an adult, build a community and support system and navigating culture with my work and how they do this type of work over there.
It's the weird things. Just, you know, missing Halloween and bonfire night because it's so warm, I forget that it's even on. But I still think it’s the absolute right decision to move, and I'm really glad I've done it. I think I'm going to grow a lot as a person because of it. It’s, definitely one of the hardest things I've done, but definitely the right thing to do.