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Bridget Christie’s A Book For Her (*and for him, if he can read) is a delightful and hilarious look at the worlds of both feminism and comedy, from the perspective of one woman.
While relatively well-known in the U.K., Christie’s particular brand of feminist comedy hasn’t gone international yet. Whether from a lack of exposure or simply being overlooked, Christie hasn’t quite made the jump over the pond—which is a shame. We, here in the States, are in desperate need of one Bridget Christie.
“People don’t like the word ‘feminism’ – that’s what needs to change, because we’re not going to find another word.”
– Bridget Christie
Bridget Christie’s A Book For Her tells her story in a frank and conversational way. A play on the infamous “Bic For Her” pens that garnered attention as being one in a long line of gendered products, ABFH is the story of how Christie found her feminist voice — and her place — in the world of comedy.
Struggling for 11 years to make a name for herself in the comedy world, Christie inadvertently stumbled upon her voice — in the form of a gas-filled Women’s Studies section.
Bridget Christie begins her book with a bang. Well, with a fart.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Before you run for the hills because she might be one of “those” comedians, the potty jokes/toilet humor variety, let me assure you — she’s not. I don’t really dig jokes with the purpose of grossing you out, and this is not that.
It is, however, a fart story I can get behind.
The super condensed version is as follows: on an already bad day, Bridget took her two children to a local bookshop wherein she had an unfortunate run-in with a male employee regarding several books written by or about women. When she asked for directions to the Women’s Studies section he sent her on a wild-book chase, to a completely different floor. Eventually, after speaking with another staffer, Christie finds the Women’s Studies section. She also finds the unhelpful man there, farting.
While this may not seem like a Feminist Awakening Moment, Christie walks you through her experience and why it was… and how it changed her life. She says: “this is what people think of the fight for equality. It’s irrelevant, redundant and pointless. Something to be farted at. No one goes to the Women’s Studies section any more, not now. There’s no need for it!” (31).
To Christie, this moment was one of clarity — one where everything fell into place.
She thought of every time she’d been made to feel wrong or stupid or frightened, just for existing, just for being a woman. She thought about all of the violence and oppression that women and girls face all over the world, all because of their gender. And most importantly she realized that a man farting in the Women’s Study section was funny, and that “terrible things can also be funny things” (32). That, as she says, “if I could make a terrible thing funny, I might be onto something” (32).
While ostensibly a feminist book, this is also a book about the world of comedy: what the process of writing is like, what it’s like to gig open mics, the experience of comedy festivals, and how hard it is to find your own voice. That being said, this book is definitely from the perspective of a privileged, white, Western woman.
The fact that Christie found her voice and her feminism at the same time cannot be understated.
It’s an interesting thing, the feminist ‘Aha’ moment. When everything clicks together, slides perfectly into place. When you realize that the world around you is not as it should be and you decide that you want to try to change things, in your own small way.
And that’s what Bridget Christie does.
She explains power versus status, and how, for most of history, women have had to do without one (power) in exchange for the other (status). How, until pretty recently, women didn’t have access to a number of things that would allow them to gain any real power and standing in society.
Women didn’t have access to education, reproductive rights, control over their own money and property, etc. She also points out that for many women around the world, these freedoms are still not within reach.
When Christie talks about the impact particular things are having on girls, like labiaplasty becoming an increasingly more common plastic surgery option for young women, it makes us think back to the bullshit we’ve had to deal with growing up. Some sexism is apparent and noticeable, some is subtler and disguised. We’re still trying to figure it out, to point at it and identify it.
This is one of the most important things in this book: how closely it looks at systemic sexism. Sexism that you may not even realize is sexism: how women are talked about, demeaned, made to feel less than men.
It’s that feeling, the one we’ve all experienced, but can seldom articulate. It’s kind of an “oh, that’s… not quite right.” It makes us feel uncomfortable in our own skin, like it’s pulled too tightly over our bones and everyone can see.
One of the most impressive things Christie accomplishes is opening up conversations about FGM. FGM seems to be more widely discussed in the UK, putting the issue on Christie’s radar early on. She believes that everyone should be educated about FGM — what it is, who it affects — in hopes of eradicating it completely.
I believe this is particularly important. No social movement, no matter how small or large, can succeed without the help of allies. Social change occurs when groups of people from different backgrounds come together with the same common goal, in order to enact change. Even though Christie herself has not been personally affected by FGM, it is her point of view that no girl should ever be cut and it’s up to all of us to stop it.
While ally involvement should never overshadow the struggles of the oppressed, those of us who are not affected can still see the injustice and should stand up in solidarity to help.
If you don’t already know, FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation and involves cutting, removing and/or sewing parts of the female genitals. It affects more than 200 million girls and women from across the world and is a global problem.
In her discussion of FGM, Christie includes interviews with women who have first hand experience with FGM; women who are working to end FGM all over the world.
Before including it in her comedy routine, Christie spoke with Leyla Hussein (co-founder of the Daughters of Eve and the Dahlia Project; with whom she made a short film) to get her opinion on whether or not a comedian had any right to talk about FGM in a stand-up set.
Hussein said yes, that one of the most important elements in combatting FGM is raising awareness for it. And that, regarding the film she and Christie created together, “Culture gave FGM status. By laughing at it, I was lowering its status” (244).
While the approval of one woman from a particular group of subjugated people does not give one free reign of the topic, I believe Christie is trying to use her platform to shed light on this issue that affects millions of women and girls around the world, to help educate the general public.
She’s not trying to place herself in a position of authority on the subject, but rather is trying to use her own privilege to steer focus on important issues that are not always discussed by white feminists.
A Book For Her is a book for anyone who is a feminist, a lover of comedy, or both. If you’re neither, then I don’t honestly know what to tell you. Actually, I think this book is DEFINITELY for you then. You probably need more laughter in your life. It’s a win-win, really!
You can also see Bridget Christie: Stand Up For Her, available currently on Netflix streaming. Go. Watch it—now.