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The Guilty Feminist: From Our Noble Goals to Our Worst Hypocrisies

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In 2015 I described myself as 'guilty feminist' for the first time. My goals were noble but my concerns were trivial. I desperately wanted to close the pay gap, but I also wanted to look good sitting down naked.

From inclusion to the secret autonomy in rom-coms, from effective activism to what poker can tell us about power structures, Deborah explores what it means to be a twenty-first-century feminist, and encourages us to make the world better for everyone.

The book also includes exclusive interviews with performers, activists and thinkers - Jessamyn Stanley, Zoe Coombs Marr, Susan Wokoma, Bisha K. Ali, Reubs Walsh, Becca Bunce, Amika George, Mo Mansfied and Leyla Hussein - plus a piece from Hannah Gadsby.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published September 6, 2018

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Deborah Frances-White

10 books148 followers

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5 stars
2,247 (41%)
4 stars
2,146 (39%)
3 stars
882 (16%)
2 stars
151 (2%)
1 star
32 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 485 reviews
Profile Image for Emily B.
424 reviews417 followers
March 3, 2021
Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for a copy of this book.

I learnt a lot from reading this book and not just about feminism but also about history, and gender.
It also made me start to question the reasons behind my thoughts and my own behaviours or lack there of.

There is so much good advice, wisdom and knowledge in this book that I wish I could store it all in my brain and use when needed.

More than 6 months on and there are still parts of this book that have stuck with me
Profile Image for Eva.
35 reviews11 followers
June 20, 2018
You'd be hard-pressed to find a book that talks about feminism in a more accessible, eloquent, sensitive, empathetic way. It's a book that acknowledges the imperfections of modern feminism and how to improve, how to be more inclusive, how to be better feminists and people. It includes interviews with people from all sorts of different backgrounds, giving variety and diversity of opinion to the book. It's such an enjoyable, funny and brilliant book that you will read in one breath and will feel a slight twinge of sadness when you reach the last page.
February 24, 2021
I went into this book not knowing what to expect. In all honesty, I saw this book in the "New release" section in Waterstones, and as soon as I saw the word "Feminist" on the front cover, I thought "Yes Sister! I just HAVE to buy this!"

Apparently, Deborah Frances-White has a podcast, which I have also never tuned into. I may have to rectify that at some point. This book explores feminism in quite a frank way, but I didn't find all of it engaging. It covers the issues women have to deal with in a male dominated work place, abuse and even sexual issues.

The section that covered body image particularly hit home for me. It is something I'll always feel a passion for, and really, I know things will never change. I detest the way shops, social media and the press STILL advertise how girls and women need to look, in order to get some sort of weird acceptance in the world. It's dangerous and potentially damaging to girls and women's mental and physical health. That is why I have never watched things like Gok Wan's TV programme, "How to look good naked" which was basically women, of wonderfully different shapes and sizes going on a show, being given a pair of magic pants to put on, and then given clothes to make them appear slimmer than they actually are. I know I look good naked, and I don't need a guy to tell me that. Yes, it makes me mad.

There are many interviews with activists in here, which are interesting, but not a lot in the way of goals as promised on the cover. This isn't a complaint as such, but I was expecting a little more. While I enjoyed the various topics covered in this book, I don't think it read particularly smoothly, and I felt information was just stuffed in at odd angles. I enjoyed this, but it isn't my favourite book in regards to feminism that I've read recently.
Profile Image for Laura.
696 reviews100 followers
October 31, 2018
Firstly, I have to admit my ignorance to the highly successful podcast on which the author created and instead chose this book based on its reviews. Although this reads much like a companion guide to the podcast of the same name, it’s actually easily digestible and thoroughly entertaining as a stand-alone guide to feminism.

The author covers a large range of topics, although a few I expected to read on were not mentioned or discussed minimally. The book addresses individual topics with passion and expert knowledge on the issues facing women and other marginalised communities in the modern world. There are some fabulous and profound discussions on gender and non conformity within sexuality too. The author also confidently addresses where the feminist movement has to develop and how inequalities still exist within a culture designed to eradicate it.

The book is handily broken down into chapters and feature reoccurring themes. The author encourages those interested in the feminist cause to create change and promote action. The chapter focusing on confidence and saying “no” was particularly interesting. It certainly caused me to reflect on aspects within my own life that are privileged and yet I have always taken for granted.

I would have liked to have seen issues such as female genital mutilation, abortion and reproductive rights and the gender pay gap discussed in more detail but I appreciate that these topics alone could fill a whole other book.

This is a really intriguing guide to those with unanswered questions and assumptions about what feminism means today - and well worth a read for anyone who supports equality.
Profile Image for Katrine Engelhardt  Thomsen .
220 reviews9 followers
February 3, 2019
I am a Feminist and Guilty Feminist Podcast fan but .... I did not enjoy this book.
Infact, I would most likely advocate for this being a book your borrow rather than buy.

I tried so hard to imagine the tone being the same inclusive tone as the podcast aims towards, but it just didn't work for me. The flow was off and the mixture between stories about Frances-White's life and own lived feminist experiences (mostly white, cis and middle class) and the immensly dense facts of the history of feminism just didn't blend together for a pleasant read. It felt more like a bumpy ride with a load footnote potholes.

Nor could I believe it when highly problematic and fascinating issues from within the modern day feminist communities were raised through interviews with say the amazing Jessamyn Stanley (such as her own guilty feminist statement: "I am a feminist but .. I believe feminism is rooted in white supremacy") or Bisha K. Ali's take on the similarities between trickle down economics and white feminism, that the discussions either ended with their statements standing alone and no follow-up questions (at least none shared with the reader) or their words were turned around and closed off to instead turn the reader's gaze back on Frances-White herself and her experiences.

Had Frances-White named her book more truthfully "The Deborah Frances-White Story: Life as a Guilty Feminist" I would still have read it. No doubt. I would just not have spend part of my limited income on it.
Profile Image for Gabrielė || book.duo.
210 reviews228 followers
September 24, 2021

Aš feministė, bet einant kur nors su draugėmis mėgstu susižinot, iki kokio lygio mes puošiamės ir ruošiamės, kad neatrodyčiau arba per daug išsipusčiusi, arba per mažai pasistengusi. Aš feministė, bet jei restorane man atneš ne tokį užsakymą, apsimesiu, kad viskas gerai. Aš feministė, bet net ir ne pirmus metus dirbdama savo darbą vis pagaunu save susimąstant, kad gal nesu aš jame tokia ir gera.

Aš feministė, bet... Taip šios knygos autorė Deborah Frances White pradeda savo podcast’ą tokiu pačiu pavadinimu – „The Guilty Feminist“. Šį pratimą ji sugalvojo tam, kad feministės IR feministai galėtų nusikratyti dažnai šalia šio judėjimo einančios kaltės ir rasti daug bendro. Kad feminizmas neatrodytų svetimas ir tolimas, o pasiekiamas ir kintantis. Kad galėtume pripažinti, jog nesame tobuli, kartais klaidingai vadovaujamės kvailais stereotipais ir mums dar yra kur augti, bet vis vien norime kovoti už tai, kas yra be galo svarbu.

Viena tų knygų, kurią, žinau, norėsis atsiversti dar ne kartą. Daug visko iš jos išsirašiau ir pasižymėjau, nes kai kurios mintys atrodo būtinos kartoti sau prieš veidrodį kone kasdien. Autorė kalba nepretenzingai ir puikiai laviruoja tarp rimties ir humoro, kurį įterpia pačiomis geriausiomis akimirkomis. Jos analogijos lengvai suprantamos, o kartais, net jei ir nepasakoma nieko siaubingai naujo, labai gera tuos žodžius išgirsti, nes jų nesi sakiusi sau garsiai. Negaištama laiko daugumai gerai žinomai feminizmo istorijai, bet atskleidžiama apie mažiau girdėtas asmenybes. Daug autorės gyvenimiškos patirties, tačiau ji, kaip moterys tikriausiai ir nujaučia, dažnai tokia universali, kad tapatintis be galo lengva.

Nesu skaičiusi jokio kito veikalo feminizmo tematika, kuriame tiek daug pabrėžiama, kad į šį judėjimą itin svarbu priimti kitų rasių, seksualinės orientacijos ir įvairių negalių turinčius žmones. Nemaža dalis to progresyvumo Lietuvai tikriausiai bus gerokai svetima, bet juk pats metas pažindintis, ką? Apie tai, kaip sąvoka „consent“ nėra visiškai teisinga. Apie tai, kad feminizmas nėra prieš vyrus, o prieš patriarchatą (kuris kenkia ir vyrams). Apie tai, kaip reikia išmokti pasakyti „ne“ ir rasti drąsos ištarti „taip“. Ir apie daug nuostabių moterų, be kurių čia nebūtume. Jei tik galit skaityti angliškai, tikrai rekomenduoju – paprastai ir nepretenzingai, bet itin taikliai ir viltingai.
January 22, 2022
4.5 🌟 Bloody loved it. I've never listened to the podcast, but this is one of the most accessible feminist books I've read. Great attention to diversity and intersectionality, and so eloquent - it gave words to so much of what I feel that I've never articulated. Also love the space it gave to constructive debate and disagreement. I know I'll be revisiting bits of this again and again.
Profile Image for Angelique.
772 reviews14 followers
September 17, 2018
"I feel it's my job, as a privileged woman who is not suffering under the most oppressive forces, to do more than let my anger out in random, undirected bursts. I need to turn my anger into influential words and persuasive ideas wherever possible"

"Fish are so woke"

DFW works hard and is constantly challenging herself and white woman feminism and is funny sometimes. Total win. She formulates thoughts I've had eloquently and with panache.

I give it 4 instead of 5 because I felt like although the length was justified, with a few more edits, it could have been more potent. (Perhaps the interviews being written like essays? I don't know.)

I loved it though and should be mandatory reading for all/most feminists in the western world. It's also given me more confidence to get out there and take up space and not apologise and can the whole 'if it's okay, if you don't mind, I know you're busy' shit.

Also, there were bonus writing tips! Thanks Deborah Frances-White!

Bits I liked:

Is it common practice for guys to attack each other savagely on Twitter for not being sufficiently nuanced in the languages they use around the brotherhood? Are boys encouraged to look at their achievements and aspirations as wanting?

You turning up to a party in trainers or a kitten heel isn't going to make the world a safe, better-represented, more liberated place for women to live in. You could argue that your choices about heels, make-up, romcoms and career help to create an empowered headspace important for your feminist agenda.

In 2016 the percentage of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies dropped from 5.5 percent to 4.
In 1995, 11.3 per cent of national parliamentarians were female, globally. In June 2016 that percentage had risen to 22.8%

**Let's be honest, most feminists feel guilty, because most feminists are women and women have been trained to feel guilty because it maintains the status quo. Guilt make us feel ashamed and when we are ashamed we feel less entitled to take action.**

**Capitalism is no friend to feminism...the structure is designed to make the stock feel competitive**

When people laugh their defences come down...[the podcast is] mostly comedy, it doesn't feel like homework.

You need influence. You need a plan.

If you are going to 'call people out,' please be aware that it's highly class and location based.

***[on watching Yes to the Dress/brides/bridezillas] I'm watching women be central to proceedings and demand perfection without apology...there is a hidden power in the process because it's one of the only socially acceptable spheres of almost entirely female influence. Some women become 'bridezillas' because it might be the only time in their life that they're in complete control of everything in their domain and they can, at least sometimes, even get their own mothers to back down and bow to their wishes.***
Profile Image for Imi.
378 reviews110 followers
September 22, 2019
Does anyone else find starting new podcasts more intimidating than reading a book? I have no idea why I feel that way, but I do. If a podcast has a backlog of hundreds of episodes, then I just seem to panic and not know where to start, so put it off, listen to old favourites I'm already caught up on, or start a very new podcast with a low episode count. I've had this podcast recommended to be so many times over the years, so when I noticed the podcast creator had released this book, aimed at being an easy-going and accessible introduction to feminism, I convinced myself it would be better a place to start.

Maybe I should still give the podcast a go, but this book left me a little disappointed. The first chapter was really good, but the rest of the book's structure felt off, being entirely made up off anecdotes from France-White's own life, chucked-in interviews, and a few random factoids from feminist history. I also felt put off by how the book seemed to be striving to be "inclusive", but the discussions with feminists from varied, minority backgrounds didn't seem to lead anywhere. Being disabled myself, the few mentions of disability felt really hemmed in, like "oh, we forgot to mention disability!!", rather than being explored in any depth. Maybe that's fine for an introduction, but for how repetitive some parts of the book were, I really think there would have been space for more.

And... I do have to say... I am a feminist, but my biggest disappointment with this book was that despite being a written by a comedian it just didn't have enough humour or jokes...
Profile Image for Adrian Brown.
169 reviews1 follower
January 13, 2019
Disclaimer: I LOVE the Guilty Feminist Podcast. Loved it before DFW wrote this book and love the book. And love the podcast even more now. And love the book more because of the podcast. Nauseous yet? Suck it up, buttercup. DFW is brilliant. All things Guilty Feminist are brilliant. Drink this cool-aid; it'll make you smarter and probably make people (specifically women) like you a little more.

In all seriousness, this is a phenomenal primer on present-day (2019) feminism, with all of it's achievements and it's more guilty moments. And I've read sooooo many "feminist primers" in my day, so take my word for it and start here! DFW's wit is, as always, razor sharp, yet more socially conscious than almost anyone I can think of. Truly intersectional, which (guiltily) has not always been easy for cis-hetero(ish) white women throughout, well, history. Truly top drawer work! I can't wait to share it with everyone I know that is willing to tolerate all of my feminist book suggestions!!!
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 1 book2,706 followers
November 12, 2018
I found this a very interesting read - comprehensive, enjoyable and thought-provoking at every turn.
Profile Image for Lucy Banks.
Author 12 books288 followers
February 7, 2019
A fun, frank exploration of feminism.

I'm a guilty feminist. There, I said it. I believe strongly in women's rights, but seldom dare to voice this fact, for fear of being considered 'one of those types'. As such, this book was of great interest to me!

I've not listened to the podcast (though I probably will do now), so I don't know how much overlap there is, but what you have in this book is a down-to-earth exploration of some of the key issues affecting women today. The struggle to be accepted in a male-dominated environment. Sexual issues. Abuse. Race and feminism, and how difficult it can be for women of colour to manage prejudice of their race and gender.

There were a lot of moments where I read this and found myself thinking 'I relate'. The section on body image was particularly poignant, and something that I wish would be addressed more actively - social media places intolerable pressure on women to look a certain way...ugh!

If you're interested in feminism (male or female), then this is a good place to start. It's not too political, it's certainly not aggressive in tone, and it's an easy read too.
Profile Image for Emilia Barnes.
542 reviews97 followers
February 4, 2019
I really love the podcast and so of course this was on the top of my to read pile as soon as I heard of it. It would have been easy for Frances-White to sail along the same lines as the podcast and dish out heart warming, stirring and funny little wisdoms in palatable morsels of comfort and entertainment. But this is the book that men and women alike should read because though it is not angry (or rather not angrily written) and it is entertaining (making it accessible), it opens our eyes to the privilege we enjoy and what it is like to have it and not to have it. It is not the be all and end all encyclopaedia of feminism, or any philosophy. But it is a wake up call to the privileges we do possess and the doors we are not holding open for others. It is a guide to how to exist as a feminist, whether you are a man or a woman, in a world that is complicated and diverse.
Profile Image for Lexy.
320 reviews1 follower
September 6, 2019
Most people think that feminists have to be 100% feminist all the time: they can't enjoy dressing up, make up, rom-coms, looking good, flirting etc etc. This book provides a much healthier and more balanced view, essentially saying you can be a feminist but still enjoy all of those things.

It's a clever tactic because it makes feminism accessible to all women (and indeed, all PEOPLE) rather than being this exclusive club of sad, serious women who are more focused on judging and condemning others rather than building each other up.

The author focuses on being aware of your own privilege and using those inherent advantages to help those who are in less privileged positions. It's about doing what you can, when you can. I definitely didn't agree with everything in this book but it was still an inspiring and eye-opening read.
Profile Image for Evie.
58 reviews
December 25, 2021
3.5 stars. First non fiction in a while. I did enjoy this, it was very informative and I enjoyed the different perspectives from the people she interviewed throughout - felt that these could have maybe been explored a bit further as they just kind of seemed a bit clunky at times and the writing didn’t always flow between sections.

I liked that it covered lots of different aspects of feminism and intersectionality (some of the topics could have gone into a bit more depth like with the interviews as some did seem a bit glazed over). Also enjoyed some of the arguments about things that could be improved within the feminism movement itself.

Would have liked it to be a bit more lighthearted as I thought there would be more jokes with it being written by a comedian but not a major issue.
Profile Image for Becca Housden.
218 reviews6 followers
June 4, 2019
I absolutely love the Guilty Feminist podcast and so was the excited when I finally picked up this book. Parts of it are an amazing expansion on things talked about in the podcast, and the inclusion of Deborah’s speeches about Brexit and Trump were just as moving in the book as they were when I first heard them.
Other aspects, however felt very repetitive, they were almost verbatim from the podcast and therefore couldn’t really hold the readers attention.
On the whole, I feel like it isn’t a book I want to shove into the hands of everyone I know and demand they read, which is what I was expecting and hoping for.
Profile Image for Verity Craft.
20 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2018
If I'd thought that I was fired up about feminism before reading this book, I'm absolutely in flames after reading it. As an obsessed podcast listener, there was much that was familiar and great to revisit, but plenty of new material too. I will be passing this on to everyone I know to read, and will continue trying to make all women and men feminists by listening to the podcast and reading this book. The world will be a better place because of it.
Profile Image for Clarissa.
112 reviews25 followers
January 14, 2022

Chapters on the The Power of No and Yes were my favourite!

It covers everything we know about feminism starting with definition, waves, and incorporates fresh discourse for example, on non-binary.
Profile Image for Liv Abrams.
167 reviews2 followers
December 30, 2022
This book has some really interesting arguments, interviews and perspectives. I did enjoy it, but also it took me over a year to read. It was missing that little something that made me want to keep reading it, but every time I picked it up again I gained something.
30 reviews
August 5, 2021
This is the PERFECT book for intersectional feminists in progress. It’s not patronising but easy to understand and so inclusive and funny.
Profile Image for Karina Webster.
322 reviews50 followers
December 19, 2018
Very interesting discussion around lots of key components of feminism. It’s easy to only educate yourself on issues that affect you, and people that look, talk and live like you, but it is important to understand the hugely diverse nature of equality. This book considers what feminism means to people of all genders, races and those with disabilities. Is it different? Why is it different? And what can we do about it?

I particularly liked the suggestions of how to word responses differently in order to unequivocally state my position. How to say no eloquently and politely is essential and i appreciated these suggestions on how to do it.

I listened on audiobook and found it very engaging.
Profile Image for Tilly Pohlmann.
27 reviews
November 10, 2022
Book club #3

3.5 stars rounded down. Lots of interesting points, but I wasn’t a fan of the writing style or overall structure of the book.
Profile Image for Ellie Gale.
51 reviews
March 6, 2022
Okay, I have a lot to say about this one! First of all I have now read quite a few non-fiction educational books about Feminism and I've got to say this has been one of my favourites. It is writen in a way which is accessible, entertaining and informative. Although I do feel as though I am fairly educated on feminism already I definitely learnt some things I didn't know already, and I don't feel like you need any kind of knowledge of Feminism to enjoy this book.

I have never listened to "The Guilty Feminist" podcast but after reading some of the interviews in the book and learning about Deborah Frances-White's life I will definitely give it a go!

One of my favourite sections of the book was the short anecdotes of, "I'm a Feminist but....". The way this book is written is so relatable, the writer didn't make me feel bad about things I do/don't do and the general things I enjoy in my own life. As I do feel like in other Feminist books I have read which are in a similar style often make me feel like I am a "bad Feminist" because I like "chick-flicks" and makeup and pink, this writer made me feel better about that, as I think she views Feminsim in a much more "real" way and sees that we're all learning and we are not perfect.

Whilst reading this book I massively related to the section about rap music, so came up with my own example; "I'm a Feminist but I love rap and hip-hop music that regularly refers to women as bitches, hoes, whores and sluts". This book made me understand that the enjoyment of this doesn't necesarily make me a "bad feminist", and although many of these lyrics are mysogynistic I can still enjoy this style of music that makes me feel like a badass bitch.

Another example could be, "I'm a Feminist but I pretend I can't do things so other men will do them for me". This was actually an example from my mum (Shout out to Emma for that one, she has a point I guess). This doesn't make her any less of a Feminist though, it just means she's lazy and wants my Dad to fix her car instead of doing it herself :P

I could write so much more about this book but I think I'll stop here. Bottom line is...I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn about Feminism more without being overwhelmed by facts or guilt for not being "progressive enough". Thank you Deborah Frances-White for writing this, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will continue to educate myself on Feminism.

Onto the next !!! (bit of a long one soz guys, got a bit passionate there :) )
17 reviews
January 29, 2020
By far the best introductory book on intersectional feminism I have come across. Deborah Frances-White is an articulate, witty woman who has managed to cram an immense amount of feminist history, nuance, and interviews with a diverse panel of feminists into a single hilarious page turner.

There’s no preaching, there’s no talking in circles in order to attempt to address all the issues (problems I’ve found with other similar texts) - just well organised and coherent prose. As the creator of a podcast call “The Guilty Feminist” you can bet she includes her own personal challenges to being a modern feminist which make her all the more personable and her writing all the more approachable. In being honest about her mistakes and her guilty “unfeminist” pleasures she enables others to take their first (or even hundredth) daunting step into a world that can not always be welcoming to the uninitiated. We all have to start learning somewhere.

It’s a rallying call to feminist activism and intersectional feminism in general. She has included some thoughtful interviews of the topics of fat positivity, race, disability, and gender diversity. An easy 5 stars and a book I could glean new insights from the more I re-read it.
Profile Image for Dani Cribb.
14 reviews
March 2, 2022
Probably closer to 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed this. I read a lot of content-heavy papers for work, so I normally get scared off by non-fiction books in my free time as I don’t get the element of escape that comes with fiction, but this has a great narrative that I was able to dive into.
It is divided into manageable sections, is light-hearted and self-aware, and provides so much more than I was expecting in regards to the ‘feminist manifesto’: views on diversity, ableism, history, pop culture… everything! It enlightened me into ways I can become a better feminist, while also reassuring me that some of my “anti-feminist” behaviours (“hanging with the boys”, being flattered by compliments…) are actually fairly normal. Would highly recommend.
Profile Image for Amy.
27 reviews2 followers
October 29, 2019
I love the podcast and was not disappointed by the book, which was an interesting and entertaining read. Some essential points on feminism and women's experience in the present day. It's very relevant and I've used some of the examples from the book in discussion, particularly with my dad (nothing but respect for men who recognise their privilege), who now uses them in conversations with other people!
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