Jess Bauldry holds a picture of Deborah Frances-White, who co-created and co-hosts the podcast "The Guilty Feminist"
Photo: Maison Moderne
Delano journalist Jess Bauldry found her female role model in a podcast. She describes how Australian comedian and podcaster Deborah Frances-White has been a positive role model for her.
My female role model is the comedian, writer and performer Deborah Frances-White (DFW). I’ve never met DFW but having regularly listened to her podcast, “The Guilty Feminist” during the last two years and read her book of the same name, she’s come to feel like a friend and confidant.
I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s in a rural English village, thinking that “feminism” was a word for bad angry woman who burns her bra. The only person in my field of vision who I associated with the words “strong” and “woman” at that time was Maggie Thatcher. I liked her shoulder pads, men seemed to respect her, but I’m not sure that selling off council houses did much for women struggling to find affordable housing. I’ve since come to redefine “strength” in women and met many great female role models. But, I want to highlight DWF because she has consistently chosen to empower others with the goal for equality between all genders, regardless of their cultural origins or abilities and is empowering others to take this journey with her.
Born in Australia, DFW was adopted and, as a teenager, became a Jehovah’s Witness, two experiences she draws on for some of her comic material.
She moved to the UK where she studied at Oxford University and made a name for herself on the improv scene, paving the way for writing comedy shows for stage, TV and radio (podcasts). I don’t have space to mention all the great work she’s done here but she’s performed at the Edinburgh fringe and had a BBC Radio 4 series “Deborah Frances-White Rolls the Dice”.
DFW has frequently said that if she’d pitched an all-female line-up of comics to talk about issues related to gender and equality, to a TV or radio producer, she’d have been quickly dismissed with the argument “there’s no market for that”.
But the podcast proved it’s not true. I admire the fact that DFW trusted her instinct, persevered and three years later “The Guilty Feminist” has a solid following of listeners and attendees at its live events. I appreciate how inclusive the shows are, how DFW doesn’t just talk about white male privilege, she widens the scope to force white women to examine their privilege and find ways for all people who have suffered under the patriarchy to reset the power balance. I never cease to be amazed at the ways she uses her platform to raise the profile of marginalised groups such as mobilising collections for refugee. And I applaud the fact that she uses her position as a writer and person with connections to make new projects, such as “Suffrageddon”, a hip-hop musical about Emmeline Pankhurst and the fight for votes for women.
I love that she chose comedy as her vehicle for change--opening each episode with a gag about how she failed at feminism. The jokes, and the way laughter is used, diffuse the shame that many of us feel under the weight of impossible social expectations versus the guilt of our not being better at challenging inequality and sometimes even using it to our advantage. This is particularly important for me because I sense that the feminist movement has become divided as a result of people with feminist agendas judging one another on their dedication and commitment to equality.
I relate to DFW’s approach in that I am a woman who has struggled with some of the issues she and her guests explore. I am privileged to be in a position where I can contribute to change in my job as a journalist and through my hobbies. Each time she opens a podcast with “I’m a feminist, but…” DFW reminds me it’s not just OK to be flawed, it’s funny. She encourages me to use my voice for change and where there is no platform for it, to build my own.
Do you have a woman in your life who has inspired you? In celebration of International Women’s Day, we want to hear from you. Send us a mail to [email protected] with your story and photo, or share your story on social media with the tag #myfemalerolemodel