This year I seem to be reading a lot about feminism. For me, of course. Maybe looking for sisterhood, reassurance and expanding but also defining better my own opinions and thoughts by means of mental discussion with the books authors. Either way after reading Born Lippy by Jo Brand I found this book in my recommendations and decided to give it a go when I was on my vacation in Poland.
I did not know the first thing about Deborah Frances-White, as I live under the rock with no TV and rarely listening to podcasts. She is a stand-up comedian and feminist. As well as a host of the podcast The Guilty Feminist. At some point while reading the book I started wondering what is it with comedians and feminism. Maybe it is the difficult environment they work in, where sometimes they have to face concentrated abuse from the audience. Or maybe being a stand-up comedian just gives you the courage to call out bullshit where you see it. Either way this book landed with me a lot better than Born Lippy, even though they agree on many points. Just the target audience here is grown up women.
The title comes from a conundrum well summarized by this quote from the book: My goals were noble but my concerns were trivial. I wanted desperately for women to be taken seriously in leadership roles all over the world, but I also wanted to look good sitting down naked. So how do you combine being a feminist with the hypocrisy of sometimes succumbing to the same culture that you’re fighting. This is the endless questions Frances-White is asking. And answering.
For we can reclaim those moments by taking control, by accepting we’re not perfect and don’t have to be perfect. The act of saying I allow myself to not meet everyone’s expectations is empowering in itself. But this book is about a lot more than that. She starts with brief history of feminism, setting the ground.
Then she dives into all the key issues of current feminism from inclusion to intersectionality (and that is a big topic for her). All the was through #MeToo, rom-coms, body image, pornography, getting all the way to men’s rights and how patriarchalism harms them too.
Drawing on her experience of being in a cult (as she describes it) and freeing herself from it she examines the mechanisms of patriarchy. She talks about serious things with certain lightness, not diminishing them, but also making them solvable. She’s using tangible examples to show us how we can change the way we operate to open the doors for others. Especially if we’re privileged, we can use the power of privilege to extend it to those who don’t have it.
Inclusion is the key theme of the book. But she also writes about the confidence and how patriarchy eradicates it in women, how we’re always encourage to self-doubt. And again how we can overcome it, but only together. She also writes how that can turn into saying Yes to life, how the challenges she said Yes to helped her build the confidence. Then there’s the importance of saying No, for one in the sexual context, but also in daily life when women are perceived as the constant givers and helpers. How we have to say No to reclaim some of our time for ourselves. And how surprisingly people take it better than we may suspect.
All in all a great read. Very human, but also very uplifting. There’s a long way ahead, but then there’s also plenty of us to walk it together. At some point she writes about hope and how it is a jump into the unknown, but also how it’s necessary to act in the name of change, this reminded me very much of Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit. Now I’m off to listen to the podcast 🙂
Here you can find selected quotes form The Guilty Feminist