Denise Mills is a Feminartsy contributor, and founder of the new site for women, ‘The Letter’s Anthology‘. In this chat, we find out about Denise’s journey to becoming a writer and her goal to empower more women through dedicated online spaces.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
That’s the hardest question! I’m shaped a lot by my past and I’m grateful for every moment of it. I seem to have done everything the hard way: coming from a family which wasn’t all that close (my mother was preoccupied tending to my father’s demands and moods and my father was preoccupied with himself), meant that I didn’t really obtain that parental advice along the way. I made all the mistakes, and I love it.
I left home at 16 and quit school despite being an A-grade student, mainly due to a severe lack of confidence combined with a lack of information about my options. I was pregnant at 18 had my son at 19 years old (a fortunate accident, quite different to a “mistake”). In the midst of all this, I was working as a waitress and decided I wanted to “better myself”, for my sake and my son’s. I decided to chase money instead of happiness, went to university in my early 20s and became a tax accountant for 10 very long years.
In terms of relationships, I’ve fallen madly and blindly in love a few times over, putting other people on a pedestal while trying to remould my soul into a shape that suited them. It’s the most painful thing you can do, pushing down your voice, shining a little less, not making your own soul a priority. It’s too high a cost for “love” that isn’t really love at all.
These things make me who I am. I’m a believer that your soul knows the way in terms of your career choices (if you don’t know what you’re passionate about, go towards what you’re curious about), that much of what we call love is merely abuse of the soul. I’m a believer in equality between men and women. I seek to raise women’s voices not because women are more entitled to be heard, but because traditionally our culture hasn’t allowed them to be heard as much as men. And we as women have allowed that in ways, often for our own safety but sometimes purely because our culture says we should be “nice”. The only people who don’t see all that come from a place of blinding privilege.
What is the Letters Anthology, and how did it come about?
The Letters Anthology is a space for raising women’s voices for the purpose of personal empowerment and connection. It’s empowering to speak our truth, and when we do so, we connect with one another in our authenticity. I like the idea of women supporting women. When you hear another woman’s story, the world opens up and you look at other women a little differently. Judgement decreases and love increases.
Why have you decided to focus on the personal writing form of a letter? What about letter writing aligns with your mission of empowering women?
The letter form is important because it’s not only highly personal, but it also removes the fear of writing. If I asked for articles or short stories it can become daunting; “am I good enough, is my work good enough?”. I feel letter writing removes a lot of that pressure and also opens the space up to more people – women who perhaps wouldn’t normally label themselves “writers” – but still have something amazing to share.
Are online spaces for women important? How so?
Any group of people who have less power need a special allocation of space in order to enable change. Whether it’s by making space for women online, or making space for women offline in business and politics. Funnily enough, I used to believe this sort of thinking was not important. I was one of those women who sympathised with a few ignorant men because I was ignorant myself. You know, the ones who say: “If it was really ‘equal’, the best person would get the job. If we have to allocate a certain number of jobs just for women, that in itself is sexism.”
Of course, this argument completely ignores the lines of power which needs to be dismantled or changed in the beginning before a new “normal” is set. Men who keep hiring only men in the top jobs aren’t really choosing the “best person for the job” (although at times they may believe themselves to be), they’re just not aware of their own biases. Once women get in positions of power and are making decisions they bring something new to the table. We end up with a more balanced society. Currently the masculine and the feminine, which are equality important in a healthy world, are completely out of balance.
Think Donald Trump.
What are you excited about in 2018 (be it personal or relating to the site)?
Watching the site grow. Reading more letters from remarkable, strong women and going on a journey with them through their letters. I want women to feel seen, heard and loved whenever they share their letters. One of the many letters which stood out to me this month was Bongs in the Shower. This woman’s story received a lot of support and positive feedback, but it would be easy to judge her situation if you just looked at the dry facts alone. Every time we see beauty in others the world gets a bit more beautiful.
How can people get involved?