A Book For Her

Patti Smith should present Top Gear…

...and other ways Bridget Christie's feminist heroes could make our lives better - Q&A with Marisa Bate.

Written by Marisa Bate in The Pool on July 7th, 2015

A Book For Her is a funny feminist memoir by the comedian Bridget Christie. The Pool spoke to her about why she decided to make sexism hilarious and how Nicola Sturgeon would deal with a bare-chested Vladimir Putin.

How do you hope people will feel after reading your book?
Alienated, angry and doom-laden. If there’s one thing a humorous book should aim to achieve, it’s these three things. I also hope it causes lots of arguments between couples and friends who’ve gone on their summer holidays together and can’t decide whether I’ve judged women or celebrated them in this book. Of course the answer is I’ve done both, so there’s no need for anyone to fall out over it.

Can you briefly explain for those who might not have read it the relationship between farting and feminism in your book?
Oh yes please, I’d LOVE to. Basically, a rude and obstructive male shop assistant farted in the women’s studies section of a bookshop after failing to find me any feminist literature whatsoever on his clearly sexist internal database system, and it was my feminist epiphany. Lots of other stupid and grim things had already happened on that particular day (April 30, 2012), all involving women. The fart was the final nail in the coffin. I won’t say too much more about it as I know how excited and intrigued your audience are about farts and I don’t want to ruin it for them. And also because I want them to buy the book.

In the introduction, you write “If I could make a terrible thing funny, I might be on to something.” You have a made a terrible thing (sexism) funny. What do you think that might be able to do?
Thanks The Pool! But I don’t know. As a comedian my main objective is always to be funny, obviously, regardless of the subject matter. If I achieve anything more than that it’s a bonus, but information and/or opinion shouldn’t replace laughs. If someone thinks differently about an issue as a result of something I’ve said AND they laughed when I said it, then that’s a win win situation. I suppose if you make something awful funny, you make the information easier for people to take in and absorb. If they’re too busy laughing, they forget that they are also appalled and shocked. If you’re funny, you have a wider reach.

There’s been a resurgence in feminism, which your voice feels very much part of. Why now?
Simply put, I think it’s because there’s still loads of things to sort out and loads of women collectively just thought, all at the same time, “Hold on a minute – is all this stupid shit still going on?”

Leyla Hussien and the anti-FGM movement in the UK feature heavily in the book. She’s so impressive. If someone didn’t know who she is and what she does, how would you sum it up?
In a nutshell, Leyla Hussein is an extraordinary human being. She’s an FGM survivor, psychotherapist and multi-award-winning social activist. She co-founded the Daughters of Eve with Nimco Ali and Sainab Abdi. She also made the BAFTA-nominated documentary The Cruel Cut. Leyla’s passion and commitment to the End FGM campaign is inspiring and humbling. The home affairs select committee report last year into the UK’s handling of FGM in the UK was as a result of Leyla’s e-petition. Her sense of humour is off the scale and her wisdom and generosity of spirit makes me want to be a better person. Leyla is making the world a better, safer place for young girls, and it’s a privilege and an honour to know her.

What was the best and worst thing about your career taking off at 42?
It was 41 actually thanks The Pool! Blimey! I thought The Pool supported women, not sabotaged and insulted them?! You’ve just cost me at least one casting for a yoghurt advert. Unbelievable! The best thing is that I’m pretty relaxed about everything and the worst thing is that I’m shattered all the time.

The BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Influencer list came out last week. Do you think Nicola Sturgeon deserved to win, and if not, who would you put at the top of that list?
Yes I do. I think she’s fantastic. I really admire her. I judge politicians and party leaders on their potential to hold their own if put in an empty room with Putin. Watching the televised leaders debate during the general election, it occurred to me that out of the whole sorry lot of them, the only person who would be able to sit in an empty room and play chess with the impenetrable and bare-chested Putin, and come out of it well, was Sturgeon. Putin would be a gibbering wreck by the end of it, and would’ve definitely put his shirt back on.

Now Clarkson has gone from Top Gear, who do you think should replace him?
Patti Smith.

If you were PM for a week, what would you do?
Re-nationalise the railways and literally everything else, even personal relationships and pets. Introduce age-appropriate gender studies, sort out sex education, and education while I was at it, build a moat around the NHS, the BBC, Lincolnshire and Heathrow airport, evacuate London and swan about the empty roads in a horse and carriage. And about 400 other things that I don’t have time to list here.

Do you think Hilary Clinton would make a good president?
Yes I do. She’s ace. For many reasons. The two main being that she is a) a woman and b) a Democrat.

A Book For Her by Bridget Christie is out now (Century)

Written by Marisa Bate in The Pool on 7th July 2015.
Filed Under: A Book For Her (The Book), Interview, Book