Friday, March 31, 2017

A funny fluffy fabulous feminist

So I've just finished reading Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter by NZ's female comedian of the decade, Michele A'Court, a couple of years after it was published, but better late than never - much!

I was moved to tears of hilarity and recognition, as a mother and feminist (and wannabe comic), by this funny fluffy fabulous feminist - 'fluffy' from her daughter's first interpretation of the word 'lovely' that became their go-to word for all lovely things and days from then on, a word I might borrow from time to time for the same purpose, hoping that some of their fabulous fluffiness might rub off on me. Indeed a girl can never have enough effs.

Michele is a wit and a brain and a 'strident' feminist to boot - things that tend to go hand in hand, in my experience, but not so much in popular mythology. She is also NZ's answer to Caitlin Moran, who could be described in the same terms.

In fact these women both describe themselves as 'strident' feminists, a playful, even 'fluffy' take on the rather more hard-nosed 'radical' feminist of old. I am going to borrow this term too; I hope they don't mind.

I don't think Michele will. I wrote to her to tell her how much I enjoyed her fluffy fabulous book, and she wrote back within 24 hours! That was a very fluffy day, I must say.

And I am going to see her perform this Sunday (at the club where I am currently battling it out to be the fluffiest new comedian on the block) and where this Sunday, she and other local comedy legends will be giving their time and comic talents freely to raise money for Women's Refuge.

Stand-up has not had a long history of supporting causes like Women's Refuge, it's safe to say. Indeed many have been critical of the male-dominated industry's jokes about wife-beating in the past. And sadly I recently witnessed this kind of thing still being brought to the stand-up stage by new comics, with one guy opening his act with: 'Some things aren't funny (significant pause); domestic violence for instance (significant pause in which I thought I knew what was coming and was bracing myself, but it was even worse than I expected); you should never hit a woman (significant pause) with a baby.'

But he bombed, this young white guy, with an act that was so out of touch with mainstream feeling on these issues that people in the audience, other than me, groaned in dismay, or sat in stunned silence, and I ended up feeling somewhat reassured that I was not alone.

We obviously need more funny feminists, men as well as women, and fewer unfunny sexists. And there are more and more funny feminists to be found on our screens, stages and pages. Michele A'Court is a shining local example of this progressive trend that I think is the best and perhaps only way to bring about a lasting change in attitudes on women and men (and children) from which policy change happens.

If you can make people laugh while you're gently prompting them to think about things in a slightly, but significantly different way, then they are much more likely to listen and to be moved to change their ways, in my view.

Funny feminism, it seems to me, is the fourth wave of the movement. Let's make it a permanent wave, I say, like the hairdo we women don't get anymore but probably should. As long as we can talk on the phone while we're getting it, what's not to like? Indeed it should be easier with mobile technology; what was it invented for otherwise?



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