Bridget Christie talks to… Bridget Christie about her new book A Book for Her. (and for him, if he can read).
Hello Bridget Christie, thanks for talking to me today. Your new book, A Book for Her. (and for him, if he can read). is out now. Don’t you think the title is a bit alienating for half the population?
No. I don’t think it’s alienating for women at all. It explicitly says it’s for women, so I don’t know what you’re going on about. In fact, if anyone’s going to be alienated by it, (which they shouldn’t be, because it’s only a small book made out of paper, it’s not a 172ft diving board, or an eel on a plate, or a College of Cardinals hiding in a bush at Pride Brighton & Hove armed with Super Soaker CPS 2000 Holy Water Guns with 8 litre backpacks), it’s men, because the book’s called A Book For Her. But men shouldn’t be alienated by it either, as I’ve clearly said on the cover that it’s for them as well, if they can read. The title is a joke anyway, about silly gendered products and ridiculous marketing aimed at women. It’s also very similar to the title of a stand-up show of mine, called A Bic for Her, which I named after Bic launched a range of pens that were ergonomically designed to fit women’s hands. I thought that if my book had a similar title to the title of one of my stand up shows, people would make the connection and buy it. I had the idea for the title of the book when I was on the toilet, in case that was your next question. I hope that’s cleared up the title for you. And anyway, the first 10 pages are about farts, so if anyone’s going to be alienated, it’ll be because of the introduction, not the title.
Is that what you want? To alienate readers early on with farts?
No. Not at all. Of course it isn’t. I really hope people buy my book and enjoy it. My intention is never to alienate people. What would be the point in that? My mortgage lender certainly doesn’t see any value in alienating people, and tells me as much every time he comes to one of my shows. The reason I start the book with a fart is because the book wouldn’t have been commissioned had a man not done a fart in the women’s studies section of a bookshop. But I don’t want to dwell on that, as the book is about many things, not just farts. For example, one chapter is about cheese rolls and another is about women in politics. Also, as I refused to look wacky or “like a comedian” on the front cover, I needed to set the tone straight away. I wanted readers to know that it was essentially a comedy book with some opinions about the patriarchy in it, and although I do talk about serious issues at various points in the book, I do so after page 11. Can we move on from farts now please? There are 320 pages in the book, I don’t think we should get bogged down in the first 10. Your silly questions about the title and the farts aren’t giving people a fair representation of the book. To be honest, if this was the only interview I read about it, I wouldn’t buy the book – and I wrote it! You’ve made me sound like some fart-obsessed 8 year old idiot, who goes around putting whoopee cushions on every seat in the house. And I wouldn’t do that. I’m a 43 year old mother of two with a full-time job. I haven’t got time to do things like that anymore.
OK let’s move on then, but in my defence, you brought up farts, not me. I read somewhere that you come from an enormous, massive, gigantic, huge Irish Catholic family. Are your family excited about the book coming out, or are they nervous and dreading it?
Alright, alright, you don’t need to keep going on about the size of my family. There’s only 9 of us, not even enough for a football team, unless you count mum and dad as well, so just calm down with the size thing. And what do you mean by nervous? Why would they be nervous? What are you suggesting? That they think I’m rubbish, or that my family has some kind of colourful, scandalous past?
I’m not suggesting anything. I was just wondering if they were looking forward to reading the book or not?
Well it seemed like a very pointed question. Of course they are, I think. I haven’t seen any of them for about 15 years, but I don’t want to talk about that. Anyway, I changed my identity and started a new life for myself, and they don’t know what my new name is, so the question is irrelevant, really. You should’ve asked me if comedians and feminists are looking forward to the book coming out, but I can’t answer that either because none of them are returning my calls. Look, I’ve stopped worrying about how the book will go down, because there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it now. A couple of months ago I asked Ben Dunn, the tall and surprisingly genuinely witty publishing director at Century Random House if I could burn all the books if it wasn’t very good and he said no and that I needed to knuckle down and write a good one that I wasn’t ashamed of, and then he walked off. After that I knuckled down and stopped worrying so much. It is a bit daunting though. With a bad gig, only the people in the room know about it. With a bad book, it stays on your shelf for years, an unmoving, physical reminder of your failings and lack of talent that your children will pick up one day and read and slowly realise, page by page, chapter by chapter, that their parent is a fallible, mortal, lump of meat with no real authority or status, and whose frame of reference and vocabulary could’ve been better. So I tried to make it as funny as possible, so that I could at least say to them, “Well, it was only supposed to be funny.”
You’re a white, western woman. That’s plain for all to see. Some of the issues you talk about, such as female genital mutilation and early/forced marriage, affect predominantly black or minority ethnic women and not white western women such as your good self. Have you ever thought about how annoying it might be for women from those communities, who are very rarely given a platform or a voice, especially in the British media, to have a white woman with a Gloucester accent talking about issues that haven’t, and never will, directly affect her?
Wow! I wasn’t expecting that one after the title and the farts questions. I am a white, western woman, yes, thanks for making that clear to all your readers. I’m very glad you brought that up actually, because I have thought about this a lot. I would imagine that many different types of people (both men and women) find me annoying, for lots of different reasons. I do try to avoid annoying my heroes though, and I have never consciously set out to irritate the very women who inspire me and who make me want to be a better person. Before I even contemplated talking about FGM, for example, I spoke with Leyla Hussein, one of the leading anti-FGM campaigners in the country, and asked her if she thought it would be ok for me to talk about it in my stand-up, and how she thought it might go down with other FGM survivors she knew. She told me that no-one she knew would have any problem with it at all and that most survivors, campaigners and activists don’t care who talks about it, they just want people to keep talking about it. It’s really important to me that I don’t upset women affected by the issues I’m trying to raise awareness for, as it would be completely counter-productive, but the harsh reality for me is that I inevitably and unintentionally have or will upset someone, somewhere. And for that, I apologise wholeheartedly.
A Book for Her (and him if he can read), Bridget Christie (Century) is out now. Header image credit: Idil Sukan (all rights reserved).
This piece was first featured on summerofpenguin.com, a month-long celebration of stories and ideas on the London Underground’s WIFI network in partnership with TFL and Virgin Media. So if you happen to be travelling by Tube this summer, be sure to read a story on us.
Hear Bridget in conversation with Richard E. Grant on the objects that inspired her book on the Penguin Podcast.