Judith Lucy: What does it mean to be a feminist?

Comedian Judith Lucy has created a new show dedicated entirely to discussing feminism and issues affecting women.

The show, laced with her characteristic comedic edge, is called Judith Lucy is All Woman and launches tonight on the ABC. The pilot clearly establishes Lucy’s aim for the program: To find out what it means to be a woman today.

“This is a show about ladies in Australia today,” Lucy says in the opening.

As Lucy embarks on her quest to understand what it means to be a woman in contemporary Australia, she tackles another closely related question: What does it mean to be a feminist?

“I think it just means equal rights for men and women. That’s how I’ve always taken it,” Lucy says.

But she acknowledges that things have not always been smooth sailing for feminism and discusses how it has evolved with writer Kaz Cooke.  

“I remember the feeling of being a young journalist in the early 80s and thinking, this is great, this is a window of feminism that has been opened up and it’s just going to get bigger and better and we’re just going to keep getting more rights for women,” Cooke said.

“I was very stupid, because that’s not what happened.”

“So why have things got so much worse for women in some areas?” Lucy asks.

Lucy describes reflecting on the reasons we still need feminism after watching the recent Ryan Gosling romcom Crazy, Stupid Love.

“It was when his character says ‘the war between the sexes is over. We won the moment women started doing pole dancing as exercise’, and I remember sitting there and thinking, oh my god he is right!”

“I wanted this show to celebrate those gains (already made for women) but also look at where we still need to go, and where we seem to have taken a wrong turn.”

One of the major things Lucy addresses when looking at areas where things haven’t progressed for women is the lack of strong female characters in children’s books (which is reflected strongly in Hollywood and the media as well). 

“A recent analysis of best selling children’s books found that males were featured twice as often as lead characters and appeared in twice as many pictures,” Lucy explains.

“Stop oppressing me Curious George!” she jokes.

She also discusses women’s continuing compulsion to apologise just for being in the room, women’s anxiety about taking up too much space, and women’s submissive nature in response to ongoing male condescension.

“So is it just hopeless?” she asks.

The show isn’t all bad news. There’s a rather heartwarming segment with AFL star Adam Goodes and NRL star Clint Newtown, both of whom are White Ribbon Ambassadors and are committed to teaching men how to eradicate sexism and violence against women. 

We see footage of Goodes explaining to a class of school-aged boys that there are things they can do to help understand these issues and change their behaviour.

“What I did was I started to talk to my girl friends and I asked them, ‘what sort of things intimidate you’ and ‘what sort of things have guys done that you don’t like?’” Goodes said.

“You might be surprised at the things they talk about.”

The footage also shows the schoolboys giving examples of behaviours that are inappropriate and suggesting ways to make sure they are eliminated.

Lucy  also uses this segment to discuss ideas about the need to involve men in discussions about feminism – something that has come to the fore since Emma Watson’s UN speech to launch the HeforShe campaign. 

Lucy finishes the pilot by reiterating her aim: “I’d love to get that word feminist back out there where it belongs and simply meaning equal rights between men and women.”

She is absolutely right in saying that as a society we may have taken wrong turns, hit roadblocks and slowed down at times, when it comes to making things better for women.

But one of the barriers that continues to hold women back is the lack of women in media, women in television, women in film and, most importantly, women in comedy, so watching a female comedian like Lucy present an entire show dedicated to advancing women makes us feel pretty hopeful.


Lucia Osborne-Crowley

Lucia Osborne-Crowley is a journalist and producer at Women's Agenda.

Twitter: @LuciaOC_

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