Book review: A Book for Her - how to make feminism funny
By her own admission a failure until she began performing an act about feminism, comedian Bridget Christie reveals an engaging vulnerability in her very funny book.
The comedian Bridget Christie - a hopeless failure, as she emphasises throughout A Book for Her, until she started performing a stand-up act about feminism - has a voice so idiosyncratic that it transfers uncannily well from stage to page.
Her intention is not to riff on the fundamentals of feminist theory and practice in an approachable, inclusive way, while humbly acknowledging not all feminists think the same. Christie's question is much more particular: how do you make feminism funny?
Christie darts through misogynistic reviewers who wondered who she'd slept with. ("There isn't a casting couch in stand-up comedy. There isn't even a couch. That's why we're always standing up.")
She checks her privilege, in a likeable way, and is always careful to express her certainty that sexism is no worse in comedy than, say, engineering or aeronautics. I don't actually agree: there is something unique about society's determination to keep women from being publicly funny. It's the persistence of all-male comedy panels - the comperes who introduce female comedians as if they're something between a freak show and a child's tap dance, and the reviewers who can't disaggregate a Josie Long from a Jo Brand - that distinguishes a woman in comedy from, say, a woman in science.
"You have to liberate yourself from the need to be liked or popular, and do what you do," Christie writes. "In fact, I even liberated myself from trying to be funny."
Elements of her writing and her show - surrealism, reductio ad absurdum, reversal of expectation, the rule of threes - make feminism funny for the same reasons they would make any material funny. But there is also a very particular interplay between the comic and her material, in the way that she ridicules the shame of being female and castigates the world for its vindictive edges while allowing herself to be vulnerable within it. It's courageous, but it's also very funny.
A Book for Her by Bridget Christie (Century)