Virginia Mendez co-founded The Feminist Shop, a brand created to fuel your feminism through free content and resources and online shop selling over 400 feminist book titles, ethical gifts and ‘wearable activism’- t-shirts that make statements and start conversations. She is also a children’s writer and educator. She told us about her mission to challenge gender stereotypes

Virginia, tell us about The Feminist Shop.

Virginia Mendez: I set up The Feminist Shop with the vision of it becoming a recognisable worldwide brand that unites people around values and also fuels and challenges their beliefs. That is why our website is full of free resources and recommendations. I see it as an ethical company that pays fairly and gives back to society, that supports feminist artists and give a voice and space to those that have something to say.

What is feminism to you?

Virginia Mendez: Feminism is equality, real equality of opportunities. It’s an awareness of what is behind gender inequality, going deep to understand the things that sustain the system and the relentless work to change things for the better. And for everyone. I believe in an intersectional feminism that looks beyond and is determined to dismantle all ingrained systems of injustice. #nopressure

For some women, the word feminism has negative connotations, or they see it as outdated and they don’t resonate with the word. How can we change that and reclaim it?

Virginia Mendez: I used to hate the word feminism myself so I guess this is a good one for me to answer. There is a lot of noise about feminism being man-hating or victimism, or an excuse to justify why we are not where we want to be, or too radical and extreme. But that is an easy and uneducated response that allows us to look the other way and not actively challenge things.

I see in women that refuse to use the word feminist a lot of internalised misogyny, which is only normal in the world we live in.

There is still a huge stigma associated with feminism. But we need to name a problem to fix it, and although feminism is a movement that benefits everyone, it has women at its core because we are the ones that have been oppressed

I believe that feminism is a journey. Once you start seeing things you can’t unsee them. Once you start reading and listening it shapes who you become. I have come a long way and I know I will keep learning and growing.

You don’t have to burn bras, you just have to bring it to your sphere, to your family, to your perception of the world and yourself. We all “do” feminism differently and that is ok.

We love your t-shirts, including the #IbelieveHer range, and the fact that they are ethically made too. Can you tell us more about how you source them? Do you see women’s rights, the environmental and ethical work practices as interwoven?

Virginia Mendez: 100%. We know we wouldn’t be comfortable (nobody should!) having a business about feminism and not being very careful about the conditions of the people working to produce things. Lots of time was invested in feeling proud and comfortable with what we sell because that is how we want the clients to feel when buying.

All our products are printed on-demand, which means that we don’t produce anything unless is already bought. All our products are also drop-shipped so our providers send them directly to clients, instead of making an unnecessary stop through us that would only multiply the carbon footprint of the delivery. We can’t offer next day delivery, because every order is printed specially for each person, but sustainable and convenient are not always aligned.

Our apparel is from Continental Clothing, which runs a pro-active social responsibility programme as a member of the Fair Wear Foundation. The cotton is organic and the carbon footprint is being reduced by around 90% through a combination of innovative product design, low impact organic agriculture, efficiency in manufacturing, and by replacing standard grid electricity with renewable wind power.

Our printing company in the UK is paid a living wage. Even the inks we use to print our products are considered eco-friendly and are 100% vegan!

Virginia Mendez

You’re based in Belfast. What brought you Northern Ireland from your home country of Spain?

Virginia Mendez: Unsurprisingly, not the weather, it was love! I met my husband in Paris. I went for a holiday and he lived there. We were neighbours and met on the stairs. I was still at University and he came to live in Madrid with me while I finished and started my career. He then got a job at the same time I quit mine, and we came here, where we have been living for eight years now. I love it here and I have found an awesome tribe. It is a complex city full of extremes and people that genuinely care and want to make changes.

You worked in the corporate world. What prompted you to switch careers and create a profit-sharing organisation?

Virginia Mendez: I never really liked corporate. And I did try, twice in huge companies! I think it is not for everyone and it just didn’t get the best of me. I moved to a smaller company, international and female-led, which was much better, but when I had my second child I was too committed to feminism and just knew there was a better use for my skills.

My first step was writing my children’s book against gender stereotypes, Mika & Lolo. Then, alongside my husband, we created The Feminist Shop. I then started to do some public speaking and wrote another children’s book about consent.

Everything I do now makes me proud and allows me to have an impact. Career change is the best decision I ever made.

Virginia Mendez

You run workshops and events on gender bias and how it can start at a very young age. How do you challenge and transform stereotypes in your events?  What do kids say about being in your workshops?

Virginia Mendez: I love doing events with kids! I love them with secondary students, parents or teachers as well, but there is something so exciting about primary kids’ faces lighting up when they ‘get it’.

I normally give them a small activity to do, in which they discuss in small groups what is for boys, for girls or for everyone and then we discuss it. I let them speak and I ask them questions for them to arrive at the conclusions. For example, I might ask, “Okay, so if a boy likes a horse that is okay, but if that horse has a horn it is not okay because that is a unicorn and unicorns are just for girls. Did I get it right?” Or, “Raise your hands if you like dinosaurs… wait, there are so many girls… I thought those were for boys. What is happening?”

I ask them about times in which they were told that they couldn’t do something and ask them how they felt about it. There is a sense of empowerment when they get to conclusions themselves and those get reinforced as a shared belief as a group.

There is always a kid or two at the end that comes to tell me an example of their own that they were afraid to share, or kids that normally get teased, who share their relief and feeling of belonging and validation. Those are the ones that really make my day.

What is your future vision for the Feminist Shop? For example, you’re committed to sharing 50% of net profits with your partner associations (including Women’s Aid Northern Ireland, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN) and the eating disorders charity BEAT). Are you at that stage yet?

Virginia Mendez: I wish! It is difficult. I am still in love with the vision, and I know there is a need for a hub and a brand that fuels feminism, but we are competing with people with more visibility, brands with more money for ads or to pay influencers, people that cut corners in terms of ethics but have cheaper prices or that are bigger and get better discounts

Entrepreneurship is a bit like motherhood, people tell you how hard it is but in your head you have it all figured out and think it won’t be like that for you. And then it is hard, and all the advice makes sense.

There is so much noise and so many people out there, it is difficult to survive the first years. Not everyone has the privilege to keep pushing through until it is viable. I feel very lucky that I can.

I want the profits to be split between the company and partner associations because there is so much joy in being able to put your money where your values are. I can’t wait for The Feminist Shop to be all that it was meant to be! We are not there yet but mind my words, we will!

You have a new parenting book coming out – can you tell us more?

Virginia Mendez: Yes! My latest book “Childhood Unlimited: Parenting Beyond the Gender Bias” is launching in April. It invites everyone to go beyond gender bias.

For me, this book was a way to distil all the conversations I have with friends, teachers, and family. It’s a way to ask, in a non-judgemental way, “Have you ever realised how stereotyped books are? And films, clothes, toys and language? This is what the studies are saying about it, and this is how we can change it!”

I feel this book has huge potential to make an impact and raise awareness about the way we do things. The feedback I am getting so far from early readers is incredible, which gives me a lot of hope.


Learn more here and here.

Find Virginia’s book here and follow her on Instagram.

 Images: Jonathan Ryder Photography (


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