Artist Sarah Day has designed a necklace in honour of Siân James’ self-description as a “chopsy” woman. Here, Sophie Weeks tracks the journey of the term in Welsh culture, reclaiming an adjective which has sometimes been ingrained in sexist ideology.
Chopsy is a term that’s been used across Welsh communities for generations. It can be loaded with exasperation or amusement, a scolding from a teacher or a mamgu, a light dig when the pub politics gets loud, sometimes accompanied by an eye roll, sometimes a cackle, and always gendered. Chopsy women are outspoken and unapologetic, and they are the ones to watch because, unfortunately for their critics, they get things done.
Sarah Day is an artist who launched jewellery company Wear and Resist in 2017. This was her creative rebellion against the polarising political and social toxicity that was rippling across America and Britain during this time. Her designs combine bold colours, fonts, and phrases which she sells in support of women’s rights campaigns and organisations including, most recently, a ‘Chopsy’ necklace in support of Welsh Women’s Aid.
On its’ development, Sarah said: “There was the shock of Brexit and then Trump got elected. I made a Resist necklace. I was working in London and wanted to wear it all the time, I wanted people to know how I felt about what was going on in the country.
It was nice, I’d be in a café getting a sandwich and another woman would see the necklace and give me a knowing look, it became about solidarity. It sold well in the UK, and I thought it would be popular with women in America, too, but I think the atmosphere there at the time was so hostile, so horrible, that maybe women didn’t feel like they could. Similarly, my friend in Brazil suggested I make a ‘Feminista’ necklace but when we further discussed the politics there, I thought it might not be safe. It’s a sign of freedom that we can wear these designs.
I’d wanted to create a Welsh design to support Welsh Women’s Aid for a while and ‘ffemiistaidd’ is much too long! A customer (Welsh-born councillor Roxanne Ellis) suggested Chopsy in honour of Siân James referring to herself as a ‘chopsy woman’ at the charity’s 40th anniversary celebration. It’s the perfect word- tongue in cheek, owning an insult, a playful edge and a lot of nostalgia attached. I think that’s why it’s resonated with lots of women.”
It is fitting that a design inspired by Siân James – former Welsh Women’s Aid Director, MP for Swansea East and avid human rights campaigner – has been purchased by many women who are striving to make change across Wales. Politicians, leaders in the third and public sector, comedians and campaigners alike have taken to social media sporting their necklaces and declaring themselves Chopsy women.
While there is a lightness in reclaiming the word, being a ‘chopsy’ woman is often synonymous with challenging gender norms around femininity and the constructs of a patriarchal society. When researching the word for her design, Sarah was saddened to find a news story of a man who had assaulted his partner, his justification being that she was ‘being chopsy’.
Welsh Women’s Aid have been advocating and campaigning for the rights of survivors since 1978. Eliminating violence against women and girls, domestic abuse and sexual violence is no small mission, but we have made huge strides (as a federation, and as part of the larger feminist movement) in the past 42 years towards political and cultural change. Our member services continue to offer lifesaving, life-changing support to survivors and their loved ones. Violence against women is more firmly on the Welsh political and public agenda. Sex and Relationships Education is set to become part of the curriculum in Wales, The Domestic Abuse Bill and VAWDASV Act are laws with survivors needs at their heart. There is still a long way to go, but Welsh Women’s Aid will continue to advocate and campaign until the day when all women can express themselves without fear of violence and abuse.
If you’re chopsy, too:
- Put your money where your mouth is and donate.
- Sign up to our supporter newsletter to hear more about our work – and how you can help.
- Purchase your own Chopsy necklace by visiting Wear and Resist.
The Welsh Government funded Live Fear Free helpline is available 24/7, offering free confidential support and advice to survivors and concerned others.
Call: 0808 80 10 800
Text: 078600 77333