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  • Only a few stones actually hit me.

  • And obviously they don’t hurt.

  • This coat has been through a war, possibly two.

  • Pebbles are nothing.

  • It’s built for grenades.”

  • So Meeder says, “Not only do I detect fact and a bit of humor in here, but I was wondering

  • whether this is a metaphor for being a feminist.

  • The small obstacles are something we blow away; weve got bigger fish to fry.”

  • So that’s a quote from How to Be a Woman, and it’s the opening chapter where I’m

  • describing the worst birthday anyone’s ever had.

  • It was my 13th birthday, and I was walking across some wastelands.

  • And some boys started shouting at me, and then they started throwing stones at me.

  • And I felt like turning round to them and saying, you know, I’m already oppressed

  • enough, simply by being a woman!

  • You don’t need to throw stones at me as well!

  • Society is throwing enough stones at me as it is.

  • So yes, I know, it is very much a metaphor.

  • But you know, but within that metaphor there, cunningly, and I’m making this up as I go

  • along because I hadn’t thought about it, feminism is the coat that youre wearing.

  • In that thing, I was wearing a huge army coat of my dad’s that had been through several wars

  • And that’s what feminism is, it’s the coat that will protect you.

  • It has been through several wars.

  • However many problems there may be being a woman or a girl now, compared to the problems

  • that we had 100 years ago, 150 years ago, you know we are definitelythere’s no

  • better time in history to be a woman than now.

  • Were not getting burnt at the stake anymore.

  • Hair products have improved immeasurably, so frizzy hair need not be a problem.

  • You know, we have Benedict Cumberbatch’s face.

  • You know, things are definitely getting better.

  • Things are improving, for sure.

  • No, I think that’s so true.

  • I think feminism and the feminist movement and finding a community of women through feminism

  • and all of these things have sort of likeit feels like have been creating this force field

  • around me, which has been sort of insulating me from all sorts of cold weathersexism,

  • patriarchy, so.

  • I totally relate.

  • I totally relate.

  • Well it’s that saying, isn’t it?

  • Kind of like standing on the shoulders of giants.

  • And I say I’m standing on the shoulders of aunts.

  • Because that’s who they are, all these women that came before that have done these things.

  • All the little laws that they brought in, all the marches that they went on have incrementally

  • made my life better.

  • You would not be sitting there, and I would not be sitting here, if it wasn’t for probably

  • 20 women who went out there and changed things.

  • But that’s the beautiful thingone person can change things for millions of people.

  • One person can alter the future, and everything that I write, the idea of writing Moranifesto,

  • was everyone, I genuinely believe everyone has one idea, however tiny, that could change

  • the world.

  • And we need all those little ideas.

  • That’s the only way the world changes, is by everybody who has that idea, having, making

  • sure that we have a society that is structured so that if you have a great idea, it can be

  • heard by the right people and can be put into action.

  • That’s the idea of democracy.

  • I love the letter that you wrote to your daughter at the end of Moranifesto.

  • And it actually reminded me of—I’m currently, I’m re-reading 1984 at the moment because

  • I did a film called The Circle, which has a lot of the same themes.

  • And it talks about, in this book, how for the first time in human history, we couldwe

  • actually have the potential, we have the technology, we have the scientific advances, we have the

  • knowledge, for the first time, to feed the world, to possibly create peace, to actually

  • achieve all of these things.

  • But for the first time in human history, we don’t believe that it’s possible, that

  • humanity will allow us to do that.

  • We don’t believe in the innate goodness of humans to achieve this anymore.

  • There’s this kind of disillusionment which has followed the Enlightenment, there’s

  • this lack of hope that we can actually get this done anymore, and it’s so ironic and

  • tragic that it really would be the first moment we would actually be able to do it.

  • And there’s been all these times in history when we were writing books about utopias and

  • we were imagining all of these wonderful societies, and whatever else.

  • And now all we do is we make movies about dystopias and about the world ending and apocalypse

  • and everything just crumbling around us.

  • I thought that was really interesting, and I just—I loved that your—I loved that Moranifesto

  • was just full of hope, and just the idea that this is absolutely possible.

  • You don’t need to watch the news every night.

  • You know, you can actuallyyou can have a diet of hope and belief and faith in human beings

  • Well, totally.

  • Well the future is a propaganda war.

  • You know, kind of like, we are choosing whether were going to be pessimistic or optimistic

  • about the future.

  • And the way that the news media is set up at the moment, and the tone that social media

  • has, these two incredibly powerful places where we have all our conversations, and where

  • we gowhat’s the world like today?

  • I’ll look at the news and I’ll go on social media.

  • That’s what the world is now.

  • And the tone of both those places is incredibly pessimistic.

  • It’s only showing us problems.

  • It’s only showing us things when theyve tipped over and it seems like they can’t

  • be solved anymore.

  • And people’s reaction to that is necessarily one of being completely overwhelmed, and just

  • going well were pumped then, this is it.

  • And but that’s where you realize that like on a day to day basis one of the greatest

  • things that you can do to the continuation of our species and making the world a better

  • place is to be optimistic, is to not believe in that.

  • Because, you know, if we all thought that everything was going to get better, then things

  • would get better.

  • But you know, if at the point where you just become, oh no, it’s just too exhausting,

  • I can’t do anything about itIt’s not going to make a difference.

  • that is where we lose the war.

  • So, there’s a brilliant lyrics by the band The Divine Comedy, “Fate doesn’t hang

  • on a wrong or right choice.

  • Fate just depends on the tone of your voice.”

  • And that is so key, because you know, if you make mistakes in your life, you know, decisions

  • that you make won’t ruin your life.

  • But if your tone all the way through is one of unhappiness or anger or if youre an

  • unpleasant person, that will dictate your life.

  • And it’s the same with our species.

  • We can make all these mistakes, but if our general tone is one of were together in

  • this, were going to make things better, then that

  • is what will happen.

  • But this is why culture’s so key, and the thing that I enjoyed most about my writing

  • and why I think it’s amazing youre doing what youre doing, and it’s because for

  • too long these kinds of conversations have only happened in politics or in academia,

  • and you know, not many people will pay attention to those things.

  • You only come to those things late: you only come to academia when youre in your teens

  • or in your twenties.

  • You probably won’t start to get into politics until that time as well.

  • But as a child, when youre growing up, what you think the world is and what your

  • possibilities are, is stories.

  • It’s the films you watch, it’s the TV you watch, it’s the things you see in magazines.

  • And that’s why making sure that you have as many different stories as possible and

  • as many different people represented in these things are key.

  • One of the big examples that I give in the books is, when I was growing up one of the

  • worst things you could say to a boy in the playground wasyoure a gaylordyou

  • know, “youre a queer.”

  • Like they were destroyed, you know, to say that someone was gay, that was the end of their life

  • Then you fast forward 20 years into the future, and the writer Russell T. Davies writes, first

  • of all, Queer as Folk, and then takes over Doctor Who, and writes into Doctor Who this

  • brilliant, swashbuckling bisexual superhero Captain Jack Harkness, who, in one episode,

  • kisses the Doctor on Prime Time TV.

  • And not only are there no letters of complaint to the BBC about this, but when I go to my

  • daughter’s school on Monday morning, there are boys in the playground fighting to play

  • this bisexual character.

  • Because weve now got a story, weve now got a character.

  • Instead of it just being the wordgayweve got this hero that everybody wants

  • to be.

  • And I can draw a direct line between that show and that character, and then passing

  • the equal marriage act in this country.

  • Because when youve got children in a playground who are fine with bisexuality and see all

  • love as equal, their fathers and grandfathers whore in Parliament can’t go, Well we

  • don’t believe in this.

  • Your children have shamed you.

  • Culture is there to show you possible futures.

  • And again, that’s why it’s so important to make sure that youve got all these different

  • voices, and particularly if you possibly can, to tell an optimistic story.

  • Show us a better future.

  • Show usshow me amazing people doing amazing things.

  • Because that’s what children are watching, and going, “Yeah, that’s gonna be my future!

  • I believe in that!”

  • It’s really interesting, since doing my work with UN Women, and since becoming more

  • involved in this movement generally, people have said, Well, are you going to give up,

  • now?

  • Do you not want to act anymore?

  • Are you not going to be an actress?

  • And if anything, it’s actually reinstilled my passion for what I do, and made it more important

  • Well, the other key thing about culture is, again, if you want to change the world, you

  • can argue all day that something’s right or wrong.

  • You can say women should be equal to men, we should see women in films equally to men,

  • living incredible stories and solving their problems.

  • You can argue that forever, but that argument can go on forever, and there’s no real way

  • of resolving it.

  • Or!

  • You can make the right thing cool, and you can just simply show me an amazing woman.

  • And that’s what culture does time and time again, it doesn’t argue.

  • David Bowie could have spent all of his life writing academic treatises and lobbying Parliament

  • going, you know, bisexuality and gay men who are pretending to be aliens should be accepted

  • into society.

  • It wouldn’t have gone very far.

  • Instead, he dresses like a gay alien and writes Life on Mars and suddenly everyone’s like,

  • I wanna be a gay alien!

  • It’s a great idea, this is genius!

  • Culture wins!

  • It’s faster, and it’s more fun.

  • Because thisthe whole thing about change and the revolution and feminism, you know,

  • all these things were talking about, anti-racism and equality and the trans movement and stuff.

  • It doesn’t need to be worthy and like, eating your fiber and your bran bread, you know and

  • eating your vitamins.

  • The future should be fun, a more inclusive future where people are free to love and are

  • not scared.

  • It should be amazing, that should be a party you want to join!

  • We shouldn’t be having to go, “This is the right thing to do,” we should just be

  • going, “This is where you wanna be, man.”

  • So, Jenny wants to know: in chapter 7, I Encounter Some Sexism, you make a point about the possible

  • reasons why women didn’t have a great role in human history.

  • How did you come to these conclusions?

  • What enlightened you?

  • When youre taught history at school, and you look at the history of women as it’s

  • depicted time and timeyou know, our accepted story of humanity is generally the story of men

  • We tend to only hear about what men did.

  • I’ve learnt a bit more since I wrote that book, because that was 5 years ago.

  • I had just presumed that women weren’t doing anything, and that was primarily because we

  • were giving birth or having raging cystitis that we were gonna have to wait 400 years

  • before they invented antibiotics to cure, and the combination of those two things was

  • why we didn’t discover America; that, and the very uncomfortable skirts and underwear

  • that we were wearing.

  • But since then, I’ve learnt a lot more about female history, and I particularly watchedand

  • I know that youve seen it as wellthat show, The Ascent of Woman, by Dr. Amanda Foreman,

  • who isSuch a major babe!

  • Yes.

  • And she did the brilliant thing.

  • It was an answer to, so the biggest BBC documentary previously about the history of humankind

  • was the history of mankind, and it was Civilization by Dr. Alan Clark*, and that was just the

  • history of men.

  • And so what Dr. Amanda Foreman has done is gone, Ok, let’s have a look at the history

  • of women.

  • And it was one of the most mindblowing premises I’ve ever seen, because she’s done all

  • of her history and all of her research, and she tells an extraordinary story, which tells

  • us that at one point, men and women probably were equal.

  • It’s in pre-history, so we don’t know, but we have to presume there was more equality

  • because we can start to see from 10,000 BC onwards laws coming in that are against women.

  • And the only reason they’d be having to write down these new laws is presumably because

  • they didn’t exist before.

  • So you can see sexism being constructed.

  • You can see gradually women’s rights being taken away from them, being prescribed what

  • women should do.

  • The shut down of women in society, them being hedged out of activity and being shut down.

  • And to watch that, I just genuinely believe it should be on the curriculum, I think every

  • man and woman should watch it, because so many of these things that we experience as

  • emotions, likewomen can’t do these things, women can’t rule a city, we are inferior,

  • we haven’t done anything…”

  • Once you watch that show, it’s like, no, we were trying all the time, because the other

  • great thing she does, even though she’s showing you all the ways that women were shut

  • down, she’s showing you time and time again these women that flourished.

  • These women that did educate themselves, these women that did rule, these women that did

  • try and change things, these women who did try and connect with each other.

  • And it’s—it’s simultaneously incredibly depressing and incredibly uplifting, but at

  • the end of it you just feelyou feel woke, you feel informed as to what it is to be a

  • woman and what has gone before us.

  • Yeah, totally.

  • And again, it’s that thing about needing to see something before you can even know

  • somewhere inside yourself that it’s possible, and I think knowing as a civilization we have

  • found a way to do this, to live in harmony and in equality, and knowing that that’s

  • something that has existed and that we could potentially get back to is pretty cool.

  • Yeah, it’s an amazing show.

  • I think it’s on Netflix nowand so it is available, and I would genuinelyeveryone