“It’s A Sexy Ass Wave”: Comedian Joanne McNally Asks ‘What The Eff Is Feminism?!’

"I want female equality, but I also want to wear a low cut top to my cousin's wedding."

It’s Jo’s world, and we’re just living in it. Comedian Joanne McNally (@jomcnally) has, shall we say, a *unique* take on things…

So I’m swanning around ‘Popshop’ minding my own business, and the business of the young girl beside me who is wearing trousers with hi vis strips down the side. It’s a look I’m not familiar with and I’m trying to decide if she’s training for the building sites or has a visual impairment when I notice something else about her. She’s wearing a necklace that says Feminism on it, and a t-shirt that says ‘I’m the girl he told you not to worry about’. Now, I’m no expert on feminism, but surely crowning yourself the top sexual threat in your neighbourhood is at odds with the F word?

I’m fully aware a person can change position on things, but I would have thought having a mental lobotomy in the time between putting on your necklace and putting on your t-shirt is  a bit fast even for the most mentally energetic of us.  Maybe the t-shirt is her evil sister’s or her mom’s or she found it in a bin, or she doesn’t speak English. Maybe neither mean anything to her, maybe under her clothes she’s actually a wombat, who the hell knows. This isn’t about her, but it got me thinking, what are the modern rules of feminism and when we say we are one, do we really know what we’re talking about?

“Feck tradition, we’re a new generation and we say being sexy is empowering.”

Feminism is being marketed to us much like cattle is sold at markets, but these new feminist cows are pink and glitzy and they’ve had their udders done. This new wave of feminism is ‘sexier’ than all previous waves, it’s a sexy ass wave. This in itself is confusing. Should feminism be sexy? Doesn’t this mean we’re objectifying ourselves and doesn’t this go against traditional feminist ideology? Yes it does, but feck tradition, we’re a new generation and we say being sexy is empowering. (This suits me down to the ground because as much as I want female equality, I also want to wear an incredibly low-cut top to my cousin’s wedding in December.)

I ask a friend over lunch, “What the hell does feminism even mean anymore? What are the rules?” She’s piercing her sushi with a chopstick rather than disgrace herself by asking for cutlery.

“Oh, the new rules are now that there are no rules” she barely looks up, “We’re rising up, we don’t need rules”.

“‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’…”

Later that evening I’m swishing through my Instagram when I see a familiar meme, it’s a Madeline K Albright quote. ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’ , it’s being shared with the hashtag #Feminism underneath it.

I screen grab it and send it to my friend. See, says I, there are rules. “Well yea’ she replies, “we have to support each other obviously.” I track the meme and I come across hundreds of  times this quote has been used by women against other women. Picture the scene, gal A calls out gal B for her politics or her opinions on issue X and suddenly gal A is going to hell for questioning a fellow sister, she’s labeled anti feminist and a disgrace to feminists everywhere.

“Despite what Taylor Swift would have us believe, feminism is not a sorority…”

Eh, hold up a minute! What sort of oppressive feminism are we fostering that we’re not allowed critique each other without this bullshit threat of burning eternally in a fire pit with serial killers and paedophiles? Despite what Taylor Swift would have us believe, feminism is not a sorority, it’s not blind approval of everything another woman does just because she’s a woman.

All the t-shirts and cups and empowering fake tans are great because it all brings feminism in from the cold and into the hands of  a younger more mainsteam audience. But treating feminism solely like a girl squad is a mistake. Shutting each other down with this anti feminist bullshit and denying each other of independent thought and opinion is not only unhelpful nonsense, it’s also really dangerous.

Look, I’m no saint, but identifying as a feminist should not make you bulletproof to criticism from other feminists. And the day it does is the day it’s over for all of us, because we’ll have silenced ourselves. The movement will implode and we’ll all just sit around smiling vacuously at each other and admiring one another’s Feminist pencil skirts.

Joanne’s show ‘Bite Me’ is going on tour this month to Cork, Dublin and Belfast.

This article first appeared in the November issue of STELLAR Magazine. Our December issue is on shelves now.

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