Laughing About Equality

For many, The Guilty Feminist is not ‘new’ news. With over thirteen thousand followers on Twitter and almost fifty episodes, it’s fair to say that a lot of people are already onto it. It’s covered everything from activism to ethical clothing, using humour to discuss wide-ranging and often thorny feminist issues.

Having found out about it a little late, I very quickly listened to all the back episodes and, last week, found myself at the fundraiser for the Women’s Equality Party, ready to hear it live. From the first listen I was hooked. Rarely have I laughed so much, rarely have I felt so included, and rarely have I felt more empowered and enthused to actually take action on the issues I care about. To explain why it’s so important, to many women and men, it’s best if I take you inside that room, to watch it live.

Being a special episode, there was a certain buzz about it from the beginning. Featuring Sarah Pascoe as a guest host, along with regular host Deborah Frances-White, and WEP co-founder Catherine Meyer (who I’ve now seen at three separate events. No, I’m not stalking you, I just really like women’s rights). We gathered in a room in central London, full of enthusiasm for the possibilities for women’s futures.

For one thing, it was a space for women to be funny. All too often, women are talked over in group conversations, or laughed at, rather than being appreciated for their humour. ‘Oh, she’s so funny,’ could be synonymous for anything ranging between ‘she’s a massive weirdo’ or ‘she’s not very pretty.’ From ‘token’ appearances of female comedians on TV, as if they’re some sort of endangered species, to female comedy films that tend to just be the same as men’s roles but starring females, women being funny in their own right just aren’t given that much space.

And let’s be clear, these women are hilarious. No ‘female’ comedian tag is needed. Having only listened to the podcast, I wasn’t aware just how quick and witty they were, effortlessly bouncing off each other and providing quips and jokes in response to whatever subject matter came up.

But it wasn’t just the humour that left me feeling buoyed up by the experience. It was something a bit like solidarity. A version of what I felt on the Women’s March back in January. That all the people there believed in the same thing, had similar experiences to mine. Had all encountered some form of bullshit street or online harassment (what a sad thing to be unified about), spent their lives bombarded by messages from the media about how they were supposed to look and that it was the most important thing about them.

There’s also something to be said for feeling safe. There are so many situations where I’m aware of my physical safety – the gym, the street, on a train, a bus, late at night, in a pub. It’s the reason why I am far more likely to deliver a tight-lipped smile to the idiot who tells me to ‘cheer up’ when walking down the street, rather than telling him that my face doesn’t exist for decorative purposes. Being at the recording reminded me of the time when, at the tender age of 19, I went to my first gay club. Now, of course, with advanced age, I’m far less likely to get male attention. Partly because I fall outside the accepted ‘fit’ demographic, but partly also because they probably sense I’d tell them to bugger off. But back then, the boobs were propped up, the face painted, so much attention to detail. Largely (how my current self cringes) to get noticed. A glance, a chat, who knows, maybe I would meet someone special? You know, like loads of people do when pissed in a club. Imagine, then, the freedom of being in a room mostly full of males, with absolutely no chance whatsoever that any of them would pay me any kind of sexual attention. It was liberating. I danced like an idiot, made lots of friends, and generally had a far better time than I ever did when ‘out on the pull.’ Just like at The Guilty Feminist. But with less men. And less Kylie. But the same sense of safety and security was still there.

After the initial stages of the podcast, which include confessions of ‘I’m a Feminist, But…’ and some stand up routines, attention turned to the Women’s Equality Party. As their representative for Wood Green, Nimco Ali put it, never have I read a manifesto and so wholeheartedly agreed with every single thing on it. Viewing politics through the lens of equality, it soon becomes clear that it would lead to massive benefits for all.

Take, for example, their pledge to give 40 hours of free childcare to everyone with a child below school age. Per week. It sounds too good to be true, but a bit of number crunching soon reveals that, for those who want to take it, the boost to the economy and the revenue from tax from those now working would very quickly cancel out any investment. And that’s just the beginning. Imagine if domestic abuse were treated with the same severity as other violent crime, if sexual harassment and assault became not a case of ‘boys will be boys’ but treated as the crime it is, and became a complete taboo. The country would be like one big gay bar .

Recently, I read that, despite actually giving the public things they want, people won’t vote for Labour, the WEP or any other manifesto they actually think will benefit them. Fear of ‘fracturing’ the left, or somehow being duped into believing that an austere, biting system that penalises the most vulnerable is the best way to secure a good economy. If that were true, Norway would be a third world country. Those places that invest in their own people more tend to have not only the strongest economies but also a much happier population.

Let’s not be eaten up by cynicism. We need to insist that the people who represent our voice in Parliament are people who are more like us. Choose people that believe what you believe, for they will carry you with them to the place where the big decisions are made.

It doesn’t have to be serious. It’s a funny old world, and The Guilty Feminist reminds us that it’s unfair, yes, but there’s always something to laugh about. Make yourself smile on the 8th June. And if you haven’t listened to it yet, where have you been? Check it out here. You can even hear Deborah Frances-White talking to me in the WEP episode!

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I'm a writer, teacher and drummer based in London. Short fiction and reviews are my main staples, along with some dabbling in novel writing.

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