FWF Q&A: Madison Griffiths

Madison Griffiths is a writer, poet, artist and host of Tender.

What does feminism mean to you?

It means disobedience, but the best possible kind. Feminism is a conversation, a response to being left out of the discourse. It allows for women’s voices, bodies and needs to be centred. It’s almost too broad a thing to even consider what it means to be, I think. 

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism, and what it means to be a woman writer?

Absolutely. The first time I stumbled upon an article by Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen about vaginismus, I felt something shift. I hadn’t ever had anything published at the time, and I’d also never necessarily read something by a young woman that was equal parts vulnerable and staunch. I’m embarrassed even to admit that. The power of the piece – given its truthfulness and the way it focused primarily on a woman’s sexual agency and trauma – excited me. It felt like a platform I could tap into, something I could utilise in much the same way Giselle had. 

Why did you choose the podcast format for Tender and how did the experience of writing for audio differ to your other work?

For personal reasons. Tender follows what happens once women leave abusive relationships, and the first season detailed my own story. In it (and by ‘it’, I mean my past experiences, not necessarily the podcast) I had once stored audio recordings of Theo* on my phone in a bid to remember the abuse, to listen to it in daylight, and to see it for the monstrosity that it was. It felt important – three and a half years later – to reclaim that medium. 

The experience writing for audio differed only in that I could guide my readership (or listenership) in different ways. They weren’t just responding to my words, but to my pauses. The way certain phrases would roll off my tongue, or small inflections and heavy breaths here and there. Audio is inherently atmospheric. It leaves very few stones unturned. 

Why is it important to you to write about your personal experiences, and how do you choose what to tell and what to keep private?

Not well, if we’re being honest. But I do have one rule! I tend to only write about my personal experiences if I can make sense of them in a broader, political context… otherwise they’re entirely confessional. There’s space for that, certainly – that journalistic style of writing. But I’m not trying to Kerouac my way through literature, I don’t think. At least not yet. 

How are you approaching telling other women’s stories in the new season of Tender – ensuring their safety and privacy – and why did you choose to expand the series to include other people?

Working on the second season of Tender has been touching and complex in so many different ways. My co-producer Bethany Atkinson-Quinton and I are currently conducting a series of intimate conversations with the subject of season two and essentially try to immerse ourselves in her world: to feel what the weather was like at the time of each significant moment, to imagine what she was wearing. The person we decided to work with already has quite a public presence, especially when it comes to domestic violence advocacy, which we thought was important. Revisiting old wounds – no matter how well versed you are in the process – can be unbelievably triggering, and we wanted to ensure that whoever it was we were to end up working with had all of the resources. 

It felt incredibly necessary to expand the series, especially when focusing on women from different demographics. For example, season two follows a woman in her fifties as opposed to her twenties, and we hope to work with a variety of different women in the future. We want to hone the truth that abuse does not discriminate. Or, rather… that it tends to quite explicitly, that it targets certain women more so than others, that there’s no one textbook case. 

You work across many mediums – drawing, prose, poetry, audio. Do you think there’s a synchronicity across all of these parts of your work/do these practices inform each other?

Absolutely. I feel as if I try to imbue each medium with some kind of poetic dimension. Aesthetically, I want it to sound nice, to look nice, to feel graceful to consume. I mean, writing this… I think I might just sound like an angsty teenager who used to cry listening to Bright Eyes. Which I did, of course. 

Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read (or listen to)?

Ellena Savage, Maria Tumarkin, Ellen van Neerven… to name a few! 

What piece of writing advice would you give to your younger self? 
Tell the writers you admire that you admire them, and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Read their work, invest in their stories, pull them up on the street and applaud them. We’re all running the same race, I think. 

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