Deborah Frances-White on exploring goals and insecurities of modern feminists in podcast The Guilty Feminist

Comedian Deborah Frances-White is bringing her The Guilty Feminist podcast to a live audience in York as part of her latest tour. Grace Hammond speaks to her.

It is described by comedian host Deborah Frances-White as a podcast “in which we explore our noble goals as 21st century feminists and our hypocrisies and insecurities which undermine them”.

The Guilty Feminist is known for its hallmark one-liner openings - think “I’m a feminist but… one time I went on a women’s rights march, popped into a department store to use the loo, got distracted trying out face cream and when I came out the march was gone…” - and is part comedy, part deep-dive discussion and part activism.

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    Deborah Frances-White, who hosts The Guilty Feminist podcast.

    Since its launch in 2016, it has gained more than 95 million downloads and inspired a book of the same name, and now, it is on a national tour.

    Frances-White is presenting the podcast in front of a live audience, with each show featuring a variety of stand-up comics, local guests and a musical act. “Think Live at the Apollo plus Graham Norton plus Later...with Jools Holland featuring women and people of minority genders but where men are welcome,” she says.

    “Prepare to leave entertained, inspired, empowered and at least 28 per cent more feminist, which is coincidentally the same percentage as the pay gap.”

    Frances-White has a number of strings to her bow - comedian, podcaster, activist and writer, as well as film-maker and a public speaker who delivers seminars on diversity and inclusion.

    She also works closely with Choose Love, raising funds and awareness for the organisation which supports refugees, and is an official Amnesty International UK Ambassador.

    Asked to sum up what she does, she replies: “Don’t ask me to choose between my children. Without activism I’d have nothing to say. Without story and comedy I’d have no way to say it.

    “Stand up comedy is my great love. Writing is my deep passion. Working with Amnesty International and Choose Love is my greatest privilege. The Guilty Feminist is my first born child.”

    Before the pandemic, the podcast was typically recorded in front of a live audience, on the road in the UK or abroad. “During lockdown I kept The Guilty Feminist going via zoom and missed live audiences desperately,” Frances-White says. “To me, the audience is half of the podcast.

    “I found it tough but survived on Instagram lives and the wonderful messages the audiences sent me. I know I was one of the luckier people in lockdown, so I’m not complaining.

    “But I [was] more than ready to be off Zoom and in the room. Having said that, I learned to dance via Zoom and have a full routine to Get Down from Six the Musical so I can only assume Strictly will text me any minute and it’ll all have been worth it. If I don’t do a TikTok dance on this live tour, you should be very surprised.”

    Frances-White describes her job as “the best in the world”, offering her the opportunity to work with “glorious, hilarious, powerhouse women”.

    Among those on her wishlist to interview are New Zealand Prime Minister, environmental activist Greta Thunberg , former US First Lady Michelle Obama and activist Malala Yousafzai.

    As for the show, it’s an open discussion about identifying as feminists and recognising flaws and fears.

    “The whole world tells us we’ve got to be exceptional and invincible and have glossy, manageable hair. Nothing about this world tells us ‘getting out of bed and being kind is enough’,” Frances-White says.

    She adds: “We believe you don’t have to be perfect to be a force for meaningful change, that the resistance should be joyful and that comedy melts armour.”

    The Guilty Feminist is at York Barbican on May 19. Visit guiltyfeminist.com for tickets.