Social Justice

Florence Given: 'The most dangerous thing a woman can do is date a man'

Feminist podcaster and Instagram illustrator Florence Given says women need to stop being polite. It could be life and death

Florence Given is becoming a leading voice for Gen Z feminists. Image: Sophia French

“I have no problem telling women to be rude because I know that most women’s default is to give people the benefit of the doubt, and people don’t deserve that. People deserve that when they’ve earned it.” With pronouncements like this, Florence Given has become the women’s libber for Gen Z.

A podcaster, illustrator and fully-fledged feminist influencer, her popularity began when she started posting pastel-coloured drawings of heart-lipped girls on social media alongside gutsy quotes.

“How much of my femininity is who I truly am and how much of it is a product of patriarchal brainwashing to exist for male consumption?”, reads one. “It’s far better to have a good relationship with your body, than the male gaze”, another. Or simply: “Life’s too short, dump him”. 

She looks not dissimilar to her illustrations, her style a nostalgic throwback to second wave feminism, consisting of flares, bold colours and pink 70’s blowout hair – a recognisable brand amongst her many followers. 

Given began illustrating when she was 18 after being exposed to nightclubbing. “I started experiencing physical sexual harassment for the first time and it was really bothering me,” she says, “but it wasn’t bothering any of my friends.”

The blasé resignation of Given’s friends about unwanted attention was what perturbed her the most. “They were just like, ‘Floss, we just have to put up with it. It’s the way of the world, boys will be boys’,” she says. “But I couldn’t tolerate it.”

Whilst studying at London College of Fashion, Given turned her frustration into a zine titled Don’t Call Me Baby full of essays and illustrations. But Given’s passion to help make the world a safer place for women began even earlier than that. She recently came across an old vlog by her younger self, “huffing and puffing into the camera like, ‘I just want the world to be safe for women’ and I think that is always going to be consistent in my work: wanting women to feel good, and safe in their own skin.”

Now with nearly 600k followers on Instagram, that message has spread far and wide.

During the height of the pandemic, Given released Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, a book that spent months on the bestseller lists and received wide appreciation. The book encouraged women to untangle their self-esteem from what men like.

“I just want women to be happy and realise that there’s so much more out there for them other than the narratives that we have all been supplied by our parents, by society, by school. There are multiple ways that we can thrive in this world,” she explains.

Given also now hosts a new podcast, Exactly, which she describes as a “bubble-bursting guide to modern-day feminism”. The show unpacks topics from sexual identity around monogamy vs polyamory and dating to body hair and boundaries. It’s a “permission slip” for curiosity, says Given. 

“I’m not a person of authority on literally any fucking subject. I’ve always spoken just from my experience,” she adds. “I’ve also shared the work of other people, I’ve always uplifted other people’s voices.”

This is very true. Given often sprinkles her responses with anecdotes and quotes from people she’s inspired by, including podcast guests, authors and other public figures.

She references model-turned-campaigner Emily Ratajkowski, saying: “She made this amazing point about how #MeToo hasn’t done anything for sexual assault, it’s just made men afraid of the consequences. So it hasn’t changed the problem. It’s just created consequences for it, which is good… but it hasn’t stopped the desire for power, control, coercion, rape and sexual violence.

“It’s not made people interrogate why they want to do it or why they think it’s okay. It just made them feel ‘I can’t do that anymore’. ‘Girls don’t like that these days’, it’s like, why are you not thinking about what you’re doing?”

Exactly. With Florence Given is available wherever you get your podcasts

Exactly acts as an audio manual to spot red flags, bad dates and toxic people. Heard of softboys? These are a new breed of men circulating the dating scene: heterosexual men who echo the vocabulary and values of feminism to massage women into accepting bad behaviour. They’re the evolved representative of the oppressive patriarch, a misogynist in sheep’s clothing. 

Given spoke to Iona David, the creator of popular Instagram account Beam Me Up Softboi, on her podcast. David described the archetypal softboy as someone who “wore beanies, smoked rollies and spoke about Stanley Kubrick a lot”.

An authority on the dating world, Given is fully aware of the tropes and traps of softboys. “Softboys use language such as gaslighting. I spoke to Iona about how a guy coerced a woman into sending a picture of her boobs by saying she needs to support #FreeTheNipple. Can’t we have fucking anything to ourselves? So annoying.

“There are men who have fucked over girls on dates that have a picture in their [dating app] Hinge profile of them reading my fucking book.”

Luckily for Given, sexism from men is not something she experiences in her day-to-day life, something she describes as a “privilege”. Instead, a lot of the sexism Given hears about it is courtesy of her followers. “I don’t hang around with a lot of men,” she says. “My bubble is very queer, gay and full of women. I live in this almost bubble utopia.”

But this hasn’t stopped her mission to get women to speak up for themselves. “Women are so focused, not through our own choosing but through socialisation, on being polite that we have muted our intuition, to the point where we will be in a dangerous situation and feel guilty about assuming that this person is dodgy,” she says.

“Most sexual violence happens with someone that the woman already knows, over 90 per cent of all rapes are committed by someone already known to the victim. And so what does that tell us? It tells us that the most dangerous thing a woman can do is date a man, that is insane.”

According to a study by Glasgow University in 2018, more than 90 per cent of rape and sexual assault victims know their attacker. Given believes that this can contribute to women not coming forward about sexual assault and harassment. 

“This culture of silence is so insidious,” she says. “It feels like a heavy-weighted blanket when you have to stay quiet about the things that have happened to you, because women are taught to think about the consequences of the man’s life and his career, and his children.”

But if women speak up: “The best case you save your fucking life. Worst case, you’re rude. But do you really care what a stranger thinks about you? No.” 

Exactly. With Florence Given is available wherever you get your podcasts.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
DWP under investigation over treatment of ill and disabled people on benefits after claimant deaths
Department for Work and Pensions

DWP under investigation over treatment of ill and disabled people on benefits after claimant deaths

Is the cost of living crisis over and will prices in the UK ever come down?
Cost of living crisis

Is the cost of living crisis over and will prices in the UK ever come down?

Low pay as a trainee bus driver left me desperate. I skipped meals and ended up £46k in debt
james rossi, who faced debt
Cost of living

Low pay as a trainee bus driver left me desperate. I skipped meals and ended up £46k in debt

DWP ramps up AI use to 'bring the future to the welfare system' and push people into work
dwp mel stride
Department for Work and Pensions

DWP ramps up AI use to 'bring the future to the welfare system' and push people into work

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know