Bridget Christie’s feminist epiphany arrived while she was standing in a stranger’s fart cloud. The comic and writer had visited a bookshop to buy Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. When she couldn’t find it, she asked an assistant for help. Annoyed by her request, he deliberately sent her to the wrong floor, though when she found the correct department, she saw he was already there. On getting closer she realised that he’d chosen Women’s Studies, the least populated area of the shop, in which to break wind.
“This is what people think of the fight for equality,” she observes in A Book For Her, essentially a 300-page plea for sensible thinking around women’s rights. “It’s irrelevant, redundant and pointless. Something to be farted at. It was then, in that … smelly moment, that everything fell into place … I felt as if I’d been given a feminist Ordnance Survey map with which I could now negotiate my way through life.”
Before this point, Christie had been limping around the comedy circuit for 12 years, playing to half-empty rooms and floundering with material that involved heavy-duty metaphors and dressing up as Charles II. Now she had a focus: to quit the character comedy and talk openly and unequivocally about feminism. It was a strategy that reaped instant rewards, including a Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award and her own series on Radio 4.
Part memoir, part laughter-filled rant, her book blends her long-awaited rise to fame with micro-essays on the great feminist conundrums of the day, among them labiaplasty, Tory feminists, Christopher Hitchens, women not supporting other women, advertising, Stirling Moss, anti-rape pants, FGM, pink pens, and domestic violence.
These are serious issues worn deceptively lightly. In keeping the gags coming, Christie joyously skewers myths and challenges stereotypes, whether it’s the old “All feminists are lesbians …” chestnut – “There is not a single heterosexual woman in the world who believes that women should have equal rights,” she says. “Not one,” – or that feminism is a club for the sexually frustrated: “Every feminist became a feminist because they were so fat and ugly that they couldn’t get a man, even the most repulsive man in the world. We’ve all tried to get him and he just doesn’t want to know.”
If you’ve seen Christie’s show then the material here will be familiar although, stitched together with tales of her Irish Catholic upbringing and her struggles in stand-up, the narrative is fluent rather than episodic. In her hands, comedy is a powerful weapon though even she suffers a slight humour by-pass over critics, and spends more time than is healthy picking apart written assessments of her shows.
That aside, Christie is a lively narrator and provides a sharp balance of hilarity and ideology. Closer to Caitlin Moran than Germaine Greer, A Book For Her is both a searingly accurate portrayal of 21-century womanhood and a proper hoot.