British comedian Deborah Frances-White creates a space of mass intimacy between herself and the audience of a few hundred women; gathered to tune in together to her popular brand of “guilty feminism”.
Frances-White grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, and the experience of this intense morality is important to her humour, which focusses on the apparent challenge of living up to the expectations of feminism on a daily basis. Feminism, for Frances-White and her fans, operates as yet another series of ideals that women — already having to be domestic goddesses and professional paragons — find themselves feeling guilty about not achieving.
This is a white, middle-class and heterosexual feminism that is heavily reflected in the audience. The regular jokes about husbands, children, mortgages, and business are richly appreciated.
Aussie co-host Clare Hooper provides a genuine energy, as does guest comedienne Tessa Waters and the vast majority of the audience, who giggle and guffaw at the oft-repeated scenes of failed feminism. Being a part of a live podcast recording has a particular quality of collective creative experience that social movements like feminism also kindle.
Ironically, though, it is the failures of feminism that deeply limit the show: the enjoyment of Frances-White’s humour depends heavily on the audience of women being white, middle-class, heterosexual — and perhaps, ‘guilty’ about it. For those who do not share this experience, it is likely to fall far short of the mark.
The Guilty Feminist Podcast played at the Royalty Theatre on Saturday February 24th.