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12 August 2023

Gina Martin Q&A: “The fear of societal collapse can feel like torture”

The activist on climate change, Lucian Freud, and how The Basement Yard on YouTube keeps her joyful.

By New Statesman

Gina Martin was born in Liverpool in 1991. A campaigner for gender equality, she is best known for her successful campaign to make upskirting a sexual offence in England and Wales.

What’s your earliest memory?

I was in a park being carried by my dad in the rain. I was three or four. I don’t remember anything other than my view, which was framed by the candy-striped material on the inside of my coat hood.

Who are your heroes?

I only remember crushes. Isn’t that so sad? Probably Britney Spears. I loved her. My adult hero is, and will always be, bell hooks.

What book last changed your thinking?

Emma Dabiri’s What White People Can Do Next taught me that so much of anti-racism work can still sit within exploitative systems, and how allyship under capitalism is often individualised and self-serving through its saviourism.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Stacey Abrams. Her ability to strategise and inspire while staying tethered to her community is so important.

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What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

Music lyrics. I can hear a song just a handful of times and know the words. 

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I would like to live in a time where climate catastrophe and societal collapse wasn’t such an urgent, pressing fear. It defines my future and can feel like torture. But then no era in Western culture before now is one I would want to go back to, because women had fewer rights. What about ten years ago, in the Greek Sporades islands?

[See also: George Monbiot: Sea kayaking as a form of escape]

What TV show could you not live without?

It’s not a TV show, but it is a show! The Basement Yard on YouTube keeps me joyful throughout the week.

Who would paint your portrait?

Lucian Freud or Egon Schiele.

What’s your theme tune?

If you could hear the inside of my head you’d hear “Groove Is in the Heart” by Deee-lite on loop. That’s my energy in a song. Otherwise “Iron Sky” by Paolo Nutini in terms of how I so often feel.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“If you’re not going to quit you’re going to have to learn to rest.” I used to really subscribe to the idea that not working was a selfish act because my work is about big societal inequalities – the martyrdom mentality. But the advice reframes rest as a necessary part of sustaining purpose, and I’ve been much better at learning to “rest” since I reframed it that way.

What’s currently bugging you?

Big politics disengaging with the threat of climate collapse.

What single thing would make your life better?

If I was able to drive.

When were you happiest?

Probably in 2016. I was living and working on a little boat in Greece. I owned very little and was on an adventure. Fish helped to loosen food from my burned dishes, and I would swim with bioluminescence in the evening after a long day of work.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I’d be a full-time artist, a painter and designer.

Are we all doomed?

No, but the assumption that we are, the apathy it activates, and the resulting lack of radical action is exactly what is getting us there.

“No Offence, But…” by Gina Martin is published by Bantam

[See also: Longtermism poses a real threat to humanity]

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This article appears in the 16 Aug 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Russia’s War on the Future