Hold My Purse: Female Solidarity in the Digital Age

Four friends are on a mission.
Rachel Brough, Swara Shukla, Rachel Grande and Millie Earle-Wright – all postgraduate students at Glasgow University, were brought together by their dedication to celebrate the strength of the female bond, that became the very specific goal of their amazing project Hold My Purse.

Hold My Purse is the result of their Editing and Publication programme for their Master degree, however, it’s far from obligatory for them. Aiming to create a shared space wherein female relationships of every variety can be admired and explored, Hold My Purse is an online project across all social networks that posts submissions from the public in any medium regarding female relationships – including videos, poetry, and art. That’s right, Hold My Purse is a web-based project that has grown quickly in the last few months. It has already gathered a significant following on Facebook, with over 500 likes on the page, and it also has its own website for the campaign.

‘Women’s March started a dialogue, and we’re just joining in on the conversation.’ Millie states. Rachel Brough explains the idea behind the project; ‘We want to release batches (of art and literature) at a time, kind of like a digital magazine.’ The girls certainly possess both the commercial skills and motivation to turn a project into a profitable magazine, but it’s clear that Hold My Purse isn’t about making money. Rather, it’s about spreading a message of positivity, and giving women the chance to express their love for one another.

With the current President of the United States needing no introduction for sexist behaviour towards women, these girls are more than aware of how important the project is for being a place of positivity, and not hatred. ‘Whether it be platonic, romantic, familial – doesn’t matter.’ Swara Shukla says. ‘Female relationships, in all their forms, are so relevant across different spaces. For example, the four of us are from different parts of the world, but all of us can connect in similar ways to the project.’

Shukla herself is from Delhi, India, but for her, the person that comes to mind first when thinking about Hold My Purse is her mother. ‘It’s a little typical,’ she smiles, ‘but it’s true. There’s nothing I can’t share with her. I actually consider myself really lucky, because I was brought up in a quite a liberated environment. In my country, it’s hard to believe religion is a choice – it’s pretty much mandatory. But my mum encouraged me to speak out, and be open about my opinions.’

For Rachel Grande – a native of Boston, Massachusetts – female friendships play a crucial role in her life. ‘I spend most of my time away from family, and it means I’ve had to seek out that closeness somewhere else,’ she explains. ‘I think there’s a reason people gravitate towards one another, and it sounds cheesy, but friends are the family you choose.’ Grande grins, abashed.

‘My biggest role models have always been my two older sisters.’ Brough begins. ‘There’s something really special to me about having someone fill that role of both sister and best friend. We’re all very creative – my oldest sister Laura is a writer, and my other sister Emily is a digital artist. I think that shared enthusiasm for creation is where a lot of our similarities lie. It’s also just a massive source of support for me.’

So, the name. ‘Hold My Purse?’
As expected, the girls broke into laughter once it was mentioned. ‘We were brainstorming at the start, trying to come up with titles that captured the essence of female connection without being overly political,’ Grande grins. ‘When you think of someone saying it, it’s as if a fight is about to break out and a girl goes, ‘hold my purse.’’ Swara adds.

The phrase, however, also brings to mind women working together, supporting one another and helping each other out. Gathered around a table – heads bent, leaning into one another laughing – the women behind Hold My Purse Project couldn’t be better suited to such a job.

By Margareth McDonald