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Rosie Wilby Talks Feminism

Feb 23, 2014

We caught up with comedian Rosie Wilby to talk about her upcoming show Nineties Woman, all about feminism, women’s culture in the 90s and how the ideas of the time have developed.

Tell us about your show, Nineties woman.
It’s a really nostalgic and personal cheeky look back at my own introduction to feminism via archive photos, music and clips of filmed interviews with the collective of women who created the newspaper, Matrix, at York Uni in the early 1990s.
It was a big broadsheet sized feminist student zine that seemed pretty radical at the time and always seemed to stir up controversy. We were seen as crazy dungaree wearing man haters. It had a sense of humour though with funny cartoons and satire in between the serious articles about body image, sexual harassment and rape.
The women who started it were a year or two above me and I was in awe of them a bit, so it’s been funny to track them down now and film interviews with them and meet them on completely different terms.
Who do you think had the most influence on how you feel about feminism?
My mum was quite a feminist and was an English lecturer in Higher Education.  She always made sure that there were plenty of female writers covered and given equal weight, and supported her female students.  She wore trousers and didn’t wear make up, though still kept incredibly fit by swimming and wanted to look good. But I guess she wanted to do that on her terms.  She hinted on many occasions that in a different era she would’ve experimented with lesbianism!

Can feminism be funny?
Apparently so!  At the Edinburgh Fringe, a show about feminism won the main prize.  Though Bridget Christie is utterly fab, she’s been ploughing away on the circuit for years – so it was very unexpected indeed! I think Caitlin Moran’s brilliant book started to change the landscape and make women feel they could start speaking about feminism again, and do so with humour.
What do you feel has changed in feminism since the 90s?  Elle recently tried to rebrand feminism – do you think it needed to be rebranded?
It’s had a bad name for a long time in that its seen as hating men etc as above but I’m very much of the opinion that men should be feminists too and we need them supporting us. The worst rebranding of feminism ever is the period I talk about in the show ie the dilution of riot grrrl to end up with the relatively insipid ‘girl power’.  The trouble is, we are now focussed on the branding of anything now rather than the substance of it.  Feminism essentially means the same thing… equality! Does it really have to be wrapped up nicely in order for us to think ‘hey, that’s a good idea!’

 Click here to get tickets to Nineties Woman on 25th Feb at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green.  You can also catch Rosie on tour as she is performing throughout March in Birmingham (12th), Cambridge (19th), Oxford (21st), Ludlow (28th) and Hereford (29th).

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