Hark! An Awkward Mole Punk Hurricane: My Own “Funny Women Fantasy Dinner Table”
So, the lovely Gina of For Books’ Sake stopped by earlier to populate a fantasy dinner table of funny women for this here publication. I’m a sucker for this format of post – Caryl Churchill got the whole first act of Top Girls out of it! – so this got me thinking about my own imaginary dinnering. In the fantasy world where I am remotely capable of cooking a chicken without poisoning everybody, blowing up the oven or having a shouting match with a measuring jug, here is my table.
A Toast to Glorious Awkwardness: Issa Rae
I bet she’s less awkward in real life. Either way, meeting the creative powerhouse behind the US web series Awkward Black Girl would surely make me spill the wine, partway through mumbling “If you ever need an awkward British cameo…” and accidentally spraying her with vol-au-vent crumbs1 in my enthusiasm.
You know that whole Mary Sue adorkable adoraklutz trope we have going in Hollywood at the mo as a lazy way to round out female protagonists who have almost no other flaws (hi, Bella Swan, hi New Girl)? Awkward Black Girl is not like that. Nor is it Manic Pixie Dream Girl fodder (although in terms of what that archetype tends to look like, “who is the black Zooey Deschanel?” is certainly a question you might ask. Rae is not, FYI, the black Zooey Deschanel; indeed, she is not the [adjective] anything except “the awesome”, but that Racialicious post is, tangentially, an article very much worth your time).
Anyway, Issa’s hilarious, and her work is full of wryly-observed appeal.
Don’t Mention the Moles: Sally Outen
Although, since we’ve documented that I’ll have spilled everything all over the table in a fit of awkward admiration when Issa arrives, why not mention the moles to divert everybody while I’m trying to find the kitchen roll? Sally Outen’s 2011 show Non-Bio, with its simultaneously side-splitting and toe-curling exploration of what happens when your first bit of sex-ed comes from Duncton Wood, was an Edinburgh Fringe must-see which I caught in a London bar with feminist burlesquers Lashings of Ginger Beer Time, with whom Sally often also performs, on her return. She came bounding onto the stage, radiating charisma, and proceeded to destroy my diaphragm. But it’s not all randy talpidae; Sally has a razor-sharp dig, drawing on her lived experiences, at transphobia and sexist bigotry. Frankie Boyle could learn a thing or two.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Emboidery: Marjane Satrapi
I saw the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis at the cinema and bawled my face off. But one reason why, by the end, I was blubbing away with such unfettered gusto and with no care for the integrity of the Barbican Centre’s upholstery was the deft, smart humour with which Satrapi introduces her memoir of growing up in Iran, deciding PUNK IS NOT DED, and dreaming of being either a prophet or the next Bruce Lee. Her art is instantly recognisable, all thick, clean, expressive lines and playful simplicity. Embroideries, her tribute to the women of her family and the stories they share, is just as beautiful and eye-opening.
Of Hurricanes and Wise Words: Grace Nichols
We’ve reached the midpoint of our dinner. This means I am probably drunk. On a thimbleful of wine. And about to begin clutching people’s sleeves, clumsily talking over them, apologising for being born, and going “YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU, RIGHT?”.
Guyanese poet Grace Nichols is probably the unfortunate recipient of the non-negotiable Soppy Speech, because I grew up reading her work in the classroom and at home (my mum taught at primary level for 40-odd years and used her as a literacy resource). Her humour in her writing for children isn’t so much punchy as it is gentle and cheering; moodygoth teenage me allowed herself a little moment of respite from body image fretting, aged 16, when my mum blu-tacked a copy of one of her children’s poems, Give Yourself A Hug, to the wall near my mirror. But I think the reason she’s so appealing has lots to do with the way she balances contemplative work like Hurricane Hits England with the sharply observed, dry indictment at the intersection of racism, sexism and sizeism of, say, The Fat Black Woman Goes Shopping, in which “The fat black woman could only conclude / that when it come to fashion / the choice is lean”.(I know I’m overusing “wry” and “warm” in this post but whatever, she’s a master of both, and MY PARTY, etc.)
What I’m basically getting at here is: she’s brill.
“Take That Ironic Shit Off”: Kate Beaton
The final implosion of my party into a maelstrom of inebriation and repeated burbling of “I want to be you” into the trifle. Webcomic Hark! A Vagrant: the premier resource for anyone who wishes to see me cracking up at my desk. I love it for its heady cocktail of imaginative historical detail (what if the Bronte sisters subscribed to Brooding Hunks magazine?), affection for Nancy Drew, clever lampooning of “straw feminism” (YOU DON’T NEED A TRAINER BRA LITTLE GIRL, COME WITH US TO THE MOON) and, er, the episodes of small round ponies eating indignant ghosts. Oh, and the younger-version-of-the-author comics. BOAT!
…. and there you have it. That’s my “Funny Women” party.
I wonder what your table looks like? Maybe you have a political figures table, or a women-from-the-ancient-world table, or a musical table. MANY TABLES THERE ARE, IN THE GRAND CAFE OF FEMINIST BLOGGING. LIKE VALHALLA BUT WITHOUT ALL THAT PHALLOCENTR-
- wait, this is the phase of the evening where I yell in capslock before collapsing. I think I’m partied out. Anyone got any Anadin? See you in the morning.
- I can apparently make vol-au-vents in this little fantasia. In real life, these are in fact Ryvitas. [↩]