The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White
If you haven’t heard of The Guilty Feminist Podcast a) where have you been? And b) I’m jealous because you have some brilliant catching up to do. The Guilty Feminist comedy podcast sees host Deborah Francis-White invite special guests to discuss feminism and how they struggle to fit into the ideal of ‘the perfect feminist.’ Every episode begins with “I’m a feminist but…,” something I think everyone can relate to.
“In 2015 I described myself as a ‘guilty feminist’ for the first time. 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 siting down naked.” – Deborah Francis-White
Deborah Frances-White has now adapted her award-winning podcast to paper with The Guilty Feminist book. With her unique fun but factual style Deborah breaks down the book into three sections: How We Got Here, Now We’re Here, What Do We Do About It? and All Change! From how the patriarchy took control to confidence building and why some people can’t relate to the word feminism while still living the values, this book covers it all.
The Guilty Feminist book is as inspiring as it is informative and expands on the podcasts much needed conversation on how none of us are the perfect feminist.
To celebrate the publication of this book I take a look back at the moment I realised I was a feminist.
The Moment I Realised I Was a Feminist
Like many women across the globe, I was a feminist before I understood what the word meant, before I was old enough to understand what sexism was.
If my memory serves me right I was about 8 years old when I remember first treated differently because I was a girl. I was what most people would describe as a ‘tomboy’ (although the definition makes me cringe: Cambridge Dictionary – a girl who dresses and acts like a boy, esp. in playing physical games that boys usually play), I loved sports, reptiles and begged my dad to take me to Harley Davidson biker meets at the weekends so I could drool over their custom bikes; and bless him he did it! But never at any point do I remember my parents trying to discourage me from the pastimes or passions that I enjoyed.
What I remember clearly is the baby blue and white portacabin room I was in when my co-ed class was told that during our Friday afternoon lesson we would be separated. The boys would be taught to play rugby and the girls would be taught sewing.
As a child, I remember being really confused and angry, I honestly didn’t comprehend what was happening. I didn’t want to sew, I wanted to be out in the fresh air. At that time, my two best friends were boys and I didn’t understand the enforced separation just because I was a girl. I don’t have a great memory in general but that is my first memory of being truly angry as a kid.
School made me a feminist in the saddest way possible; not just by enforcing but, in my eyes, creating a difference between the sexes that wasn’t in that clasrrom before. Sure I knew boys were physically different from girls but I hadn’t had it impressed on me that I had physical limitations because of my sex. It didn’t come from my parents, it didn’t come from my male or female friends, it came from the very institution that was meant to inspire growth, open-mindedness and encourage children to reach their full potential. Instead, it created a divide and introduced the toxic idea of ‘them and us.’
I kicked up a stink in the sewing classes and never hid the fact I wanted to play sports instead but it achieved nothing. Instead, I gained the very important skill of making a small pillow and duvet for a cuddly toy’s bed. You can insert your own sarcastic comment at this point but add some expletives for me.
I’ve always believed that women are just as capable as men and should be given the same opportunities but I didn’t relate this to the word feminism until my late 20s. However, once you’ve been asked what your ‘family plans for the future’ are in job interviews, had various catcalls yelled at you in the street and seen successful women around you be paid less than their male counterparts, it’s hard not to search for a word to sum up the imbalance. But I was making choices for myself that I didn’t feel fit with ‘traditional feminism’. I was modelling part-time, I had a make-up bag the same size as most people’s suitcases and I wasn’t supporting myself. So was I a feminist or not?
The collection of essays I Call Myself a Feminist and the 2015 Ted Talk, Confessions of a Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay provided me with a view on feminism that I could instantly relate to. I started to hear voices like my own, unsure if they fitted into the traditional feminist box but striving for equality with a passion that couldn’t be ignored. Friends around me started to have children and that forced me to think about the next generation and what could be improved for them. Although I have had a blessed life there are plenty of sexist moments in my life that I would hate the next generation to still suffer from.
It may have taken me about thirty years to become comfortable with the word but yes, I’m a feminist and proud to call myself so. Use your voice, stand proudly for what you believe in and improve the world however you can.
Still not sure if you’re a feminist? Then this video might just clarify a few things for you.
If you enjoyed this you’ll love I Call Myself a Feminist edited by Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Alice Stride and Martha Mosse.