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Review: The Guilty Feminist

I’m a feminist but…I will not feel guilty

by Molly Govus

he iconic first line of Deborah Frances-White’s podcast The Guilty Feminist never fails to make me chuckle. Starting each of her 105 podcasts with a plethora of relatable, innocent and realistic ‘guilty’ confessions epitomises what it means to be a feminist in the 21st century. Whether we try to deny it or not, most women are liable for buying ‘shape-shifting’ underwear and de-tagging ourselves from Facebook pictures when we don’t feel ‘pretty enough’ In her podcast and recently released book, Frances-White inverts and instead normalises what it is to be a ‘guilty’ feminist.

In relation to the book, Frances-White ensures that the structure of her podcast manifests into written form. Being such an eye-opening characteristic of her work, each chapter begins with a guilty confession which then opens into the topic of the chapter – whether be it the topic of sex, nudity or periods. The confession acts as a cushion to the huge weight that is a controversial topic; she becomes one of our best friends through shared confessions where we, as readers, can realise that we are not alone in our guilty thoughts of feminism, and this immediately bridges the hidden relationship between the reader and herself, making her such a personable writer. The podcast and the book both embody the importance of breaking the preconceptions of what feminism is today. In her ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ episodes, she destroys the stereotype head on and takes society’s perceptions and stereotypes of what a feminist is; there is no beating around the bush, if you’ll pardon the pun. A feminist is you, me, the lady at the checkout and the man who you always pass walking the dog every morning – there are no boundaries. If there ever is a way to write about a serious topic in the most humorous and inclusive way, Frances-White is the maestro behind it.

Despite the book’s amazing ability to empower the individual reader, there is nothing quite like the sound of the live audience in the background of the podcast. When they laugh, you laugh. When they are stunned in silence, so are you. It is so easy to forget that you aren’t in the room with the women talking, and the sense of community that comes from this is unlike any other that I have experienced whilst listening to a podcast. They become your friends and you feel like you have known them forever. You create an emotional bond with these speakers when you can hear the pain or the happiness in their voice and this rapport is undefinable. Whilst I don’t think that this sense of sorority can be replicated in the book, that does not mean that the book isn’t valuable in its own ways.

In 45 minutes, it is impossible for Frances-White to cover each topic in depth, but this is where the book excels. Emma Thompson describes the book as ‘essential reading for the planet’, which I whole-heartedly agree with. I’m almost ashamed to admit how much I didn’t know about feminism until I read this book. The grim, gritty and gut-wrenching statistics on domestic abuse, rape and suicide made my stomach turn and I felt compelled to act upon that. This is something that the podcast lacks with its chatty and humorous front. If you want to learn about feminism, and I mean really learn, then the book is probably a better option. On the other hand, if you’re keen to have a few laughs but miss out on the nitty-gritty details of gender inequality, then the podcast hits the spot perfectly.

I could go on forever about how the podcast and the book promote an amazingly supportive environment for women, but then I started thinking…dangerous stuff, I know. Are we really guilty? We may not be perfect as feminists and slip-ups are inevitable, but does this mean that we have to justify our mistakes to the world in the form of a book and a podcast? Probably not. There aren’t any renowned The Guilty Socialist or books, so what’s different about feminism? The title doesn’t do the contents justice, in all honesty.

Maybe, just maybe, we aren’t so guilty after all.

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