Words Of Women Creator on The Collective Power of Female Voices

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"What I'm feeling is usually what hundreds of other women are feeling in that moment."

Lauren Martin, Words of Women

Lauren Martin, creator of the popular website and Instagram account Words of Women, believes the nature of the Internet, especially Instagram, is, in many ways, abusive toward women.

I hear my friends say, "well, no one will like my pic because I don't look pretty," and that's the basis of what's wrong with all of these social media outlets, Martin tells Beyond The Interview.

She also says our culture promotes a platform that's all about ratings and judgment, where we willingly allow ourselves to be "liked" and "unliked"—as if that's supposed to mean something.

"It's the Kim Kardashian phenomenon," Martin says. "The more naked you are, the more famous you get. It seems the only way people think they can get followers is by degrading themselves."

We now think that our worth is wrapped up in the images we portray to the world. We think that someone's better or cooler or prettier because they have more followers, more likes. That's what's wrong. We're out of high school, so why are we still so worried about what other people think?

Surely, Lauren—who does social media and marketing at Complex—had much more to say about the subject, so we asked her:

Beyond The Interview: Are there any ways that you think the Internet has been a positive landscape for women?

Lauren Martin: Through social media, we've been able to organize the Women's March and all these stories about Harvey Weinstein finally have a place to live and be seen. Women no longer feel alone in their shame—it has connected all of us together and we realize that we're not alone in our pain.

BTI: What changes do you hope to see in the coming years for women?

LM: I hope women move away from this falsity that lies on social media. We're all guilty of it. We all take photos that aren't really us. We all start to feel insecure and unworthy around other people's photos, even though we know they probably took 100 selfies to get the perfect one.

BTI: As women, we all have our own shit to deal with, but which problem(s) do you think most of us have in common? Self-esteem issues, body image concerns?

LM: Self-esteem and comparison. I think that's what makes social media so evil—the comparison phenomenon. We're constantly rating ourselves against other women. It's so damaging.

I think it's easy to scroll through 100 model's IG pages and then find yourself feeling really shitty.  It's like any addiction – you don't realize how much you're harming yourself until later. But you also can't stop doing it. And when you finally start to feel good or better about yourself, you go on Instagram again and you're right back where you started – feeling inadequate and unworthy.

BTI: You’ve been running this site for about two years now. What kinds of issues have you seen emerge or continue since its inception?

LM: Since I've started, there has definitely been more solidarity between women. There's been the Women's March, Harvey Weinstein, and countless other moments that have sprung up out of a collective need for women's rights. There has also been a larger light shining on inequality. There are videos on Facebook showing men degrading women and cat-calling, among other things. People, especially the media, are finally paying attention to all the abuse women face on a daily basis. 

BTI: Is there anything you personally went through or overcame that propelled you to create this site? What was it?

LM: I went through a serious breakdown two years ago. I was tired of my job, and where my life was headed and so I quit my job and gave myself six months to get myself back on track. What did I want to do with my life? Who did I want to be? These were all questions I needed to answer. In that time, I started really connecting with quotes and stories of women– entrepreneurs, artists, women who paved their own way.

That's really where it was born. I know a lot of people think quotes are cheesy and lame, but I find so much strength in them. They are these little pearls of wisdom from women who had come before me and done great things. They were giving me guidance and advice, and free advice is invaluable.

BTI: How has this site helped you, personally? When you find quotes or excerpts, or when you spend time writing an article, how has that changed your daily mindset?

LM: As much as this site is for other women, it has been and always will be, for me. The quotes I post always relate to what I'm going through and how I'm feeling. I'm looking for some wisdom or guide to help me get through something.

The beautiful thing about women is that we're all so empathetic and so beautifully emotional that we can relate to each other.

What I'm feeling is usually what hundreds of other women are feeling in that moment.

If I hadn't been picking the quotes for myself, I don't think it would have grown at the rate it has. It wouldn't be as authentic, and women can feel that.

The quotes have literally changed my life. There's a few that I use as daily mantras now. My mindset has completely changed since reading and exploring so many quotes and facets of religion and success. I'm constantly learning. Because I want my readers to learn and be informed, it means I spend hours of research on one woman and her religion, story, background, etc. And I know all of this makes me more well-rounded and just a better person. I feel like I can understand and appreciate new people and different religions because of the respect I have for all the women I've taught myself about.

BTI: Do you think men could use a site like this? Perhaps "Words of Men"? What problems would you address if that were your platform?

LM: I definitely think men could use a site like this. The main message of Words of Women is not women empowerment. It's just empowerment. Women, however, think differently than men and respond to different messages, which is why mainly women are attracted to the site.

I think if an intuitive man were to run a similar account for men it would take off. Because it's about learning and growing and becoming a better person.

There's no way women are the only ones with that desire.

BTI: What do you hope to achieve long-term through your platform, which seems to have quite the following on Instagram? How has Instagram helped you?

LM: I'd like it to be a tool for writers and aspiring artists. I started it as a launching point for my own book because I couldn't get published. It's hard these days to get your books and your words read. Whether you're trying to be an author or another type of artist, breaking into any industry is hard. I'd like it to be a place where I can feature women and their achievements. 

BTI: Do you have any role models? 

LM: Frida Kahlo is a HUGE role model of mine. I discovered her when I was in middle school and even in my self-absorbed "don't-care-about-art-or-anything-besides-myself" stage, I was totally enamored and enthralled by her. I saw her paintings at an exhibit and was blown away. Since then, I've researched, read, and watched everything there is on her. I love what she stands for. I love her attitude and her strength.

She was in so much pain throughout so much of her life, physical and emotional, yet never let it affect her work and her desire to create. She didn't complain, she got on with it. She was also tough as nails. She didn't care what anyone thought of her. She dressed, lived, and painted the way she wanted. Because of this, she developed a style all her own—a style people are still captivated by today. Her art wasn't just what she painted. She, herself, was art. What she wore, how she wrote, how she loved, how she decorated her home, everything about her was so unique to her. Every part of her was part of her art. I want to be like that. I want to emulate myself in that way.

Bethenny Frankel is also a role model. Not for her Real Housewives persona, but for her brand. She built a brand in a very male-dominated industry—liquor. She did it by making strategic choices that weren't so popular at the time (like joining the Real Housewives). She built something from the ground-up, realizing a gap in the market place. Women wanted drinks with fewer calories. It was so simple yet so genius.

She also uses her influencer status for good. Her BStrong campaign is such a beautiful message to not just women, but all people. The way she's been helping the people of Puerto Rico is so admirable. When the government wouldn't step in, she filled in. She used her resources and money to get planes and supplies. I find that truly inspiring.

Another role model of mine is definitely Diane von Furstenberg. She's built her fashion label to be one of the most successful and recognizable labels in the world. She also uses her power to help women. She's so classy and stylish but also so well-read and intelligent. She's the type of woman I want to emulate—a business woman who doesn't conform to the male model of how things are done, but rather, creates her own model.

BTI: What kind of feedback have you gotten from users?

LM: I get very honest feedback—when they love something they let me know. They tell me that I've helped them get through a day. They tell me that they find joy in seeing expressions of their exact sentiments and emotions. I also get feedback when I post something that has negative connotations I didn't even notice—then I take the post down. I get a lot of daily feedback from women, and I love it. Sometimes, women just want to chat, and I love that too. A lot are huge supporters of the newsletter and that makes me so happy. 

BTI: What’s the difference between signing up as a “user” vs. being an ambassador on your site?

LM: A user is just someone who is part of the community. They can post on the message boards, leave comments, or create their own message boards. An ambassador is someone who promotes the brand. Whether it's through getting people to sign up for the newsletter, hosting their own Words of Women meetings or just promoting the brand by way of telling their friends and being involved in everything we do.