‘They Thought I Was A Lesbian Because I Was A Feminist’ The TV Show On What It’s Really Like To Be A Teen Now

We speak to one of the stars on Channel 4's new show Teens and oh my, how things changed since we were at school

Channel 4 Teens

by Jess Commons |
Published on

Remember back last year when Channel 4 followed around a bunch of freshers as they arrived at university? They had access to their texts, Facebook messages and tweets and made us privy to their deepest darkest thoughts as we followed them on the ups and downs during their first term at university.

Now, they’ve done the same thing with teenagers and, oh holy hell, does school look a lot more brutal than when we were there.

The first episode of Teens is centred around 16-year-old Jess Haydon (pictured, below right) who, after starting at a new school in Year 12, invites the No More Page Three campaign to do a talk at her school. In short, she’s fucking ace. She roams around the school inviting one and all down, taking time to talk through the issue with people that don’t understand and, when she gets a backlash on social media, handles it like a total pro.

We decided to have a chat to Jess to find out what it was like to put her life on camera, how her campaigning went and what it’s like to be a teenager in 2015.


Hi Jess! Why did you decide to do the show?

Basically, I think there’s lots of negative press about teenagers at the moment, so when the TV company came in to school I thought it would be really brilliant to actualy have a TV show that portrays teenagers in a good way, like instead of always depicting us as members of gangs who walk around with knives and rob old ladies!

Scale of one to ten; how scary was it giving up your texts, tweets and Google searches to a TV show?

I mean, it was really scary. People thought that we must have had a different phone if we wanted a private conversation, but really they took away our old phones and our sim cards so we really had to use the phone they gave us.

It was really weird, you’d send a text and then 10 minutes later you’d get a call from the TV people saying, ‘Can we interview you about that please?’ It was really strange.

Have your parents seen it yet?

Yeah, they really liked it; I think they’re a bit nervous about it coming out but I don’t really do anything that scandalous. It’s my Catholic nan that’s going to be a difficult one!

In the show you get a No More Page Three activist in to speak to your school. Why were you interested in that campaign specifically?

I thought it was really unfair to have an objectified photo of a woman. In the paper you have men in suits talking about politics and the important stuff, then you have a woman with her breasts out and I just thought that was really unfair.

And in the show, you said you once doctored a picture of yourself to make yourself look slimmer; is that something that a lot of girls do?

So many girls edit their photos, it’s ridiculous! And you can always tell, it’s so stupid. You know what, though? I don’t even blame them. It’s not their fault; they’ve felt the need to change so much and I did as well when I did that picture in Year 9.

I’m sorry I ever had that low self esteem but that’s because of what we show in the media. We tell girls they have to look perfect all the time and it’s ridiculous.

When did you guys start worrying about what you looked like?

I remember a girl getting her teeth whitened when we were in Year 8, but people were worrying about what they looked like before that. In Year 6, when we had Leavers’ Disco, girls would go for runs with their mums a couple of weeks before. Honestly, it’s such a major issue and people just see it as a bit funny. It can lead to serious eating disorders as well.

So, some of the guys at your school were SO against the word ‘feminism’. Why is that?

There’s no better sign that we still live in a patriarchal society than when feminism is a dirty word. It just shows that their only conception of feminism is from the Daily Mail or some paper that’s trying to make feminism look bad.

There was one boy who’s a complete dickhead who was like, ‘Oh I think Jess is just going through a phase, it’s just a phase that she’s a feminist.’ I was laughing my head off at that because I was thinking if he’s thinking it’s a phase that he’s got a lot more to come because I’m not going anywhere!

Do people at your school like that you’re an activist?

When I joined the school and started in Year 12 people were really scared and a bit like, ‘Oh my God, she’s a feminist, she must hate men’. One girl who I’d been really good friends with thought that being a feminist meant that you were a lesbian and she only realised I wasn’t when I’d been going out with someone for like eight months!

Oh my actual gosh

Ha, I know, but as time went on people became a bit more understanding and the other day on International Women’s Day, all these people were posting pictures on Facebook saying how proud they were to be feminist, and I was like 'when did everyone become feminists?' I’m happy now more people are comfortable with it and don’t see it as a dirty word any more.

So what happened after the No More Page Three talk with the Twitter backlash from the people at school?

One tweet I got was, ‘Oh well you’re just jealous ’cause you’re fat and ugly’ and I thought, ‘I’m not jealous of their bodies. I’ve come to terms with my body shape and now I’m confident with what I look like and I’m trying to stop other people from comparing themselves to these models all the time.’ So yeah, I got a lot of tweets.

Were they hard to read?

I was upset at the time but now looking back at it, I think they just look stupid. I’m probably not a bad person and they’re probably idiots or ‘degenerates’ as my brother tweeted at them!

What’s the hardest part about being a teenager?

Argh, the amount of pressure! You’re meant to be this perfect academic student but at the same time if you do anything that’s slightly badly behaved, you always get tarnished the same as everyone other teenager. There’s so much pressure from society to be this perfect person when you’re still trying to find out who you are.

Preach, Jess.

Oh, and guess what. Jess is now working hard so she can get into Nottingham University, but once there, her next campaign is going to focus on FGM. What a total hero.

Teens is on Channel 4 tonight at 10pm.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

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People Need To Know It’s Happening Here’ Why You Need To Watch Zawe Ashton’s Comic Relief Documentary On FGM

Follow Jess on Twitter @Jess_Commons

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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