When I was in my first year at University, I campaigned to be the student president. I had to make a speech in front of 300 people who I was trying to befriend, while simultaneously convincing them I was sensible enough to order the sofas for the common room. The results were announced at a formal dinner in front of everyone. I dressed to the nines and sashayed into the dining room giving small smiles of gratitude to those I considered to be my key donors. When it was announced that I had lost to a boy named, ‘Barclay,’ I gritted my teeth through a semi-gracious smile and acted like I didn’t care. Inside I was mortified.
“Here was a woman who had put herself out there for the most high-profile job in the world and failed.”
So when Hillary Clinton lost in the 2016 US election, I felt I was in a position to empathise. Here was a woman who had put herself out there for the most high-profile job in the world and failed. Her book ‘What Happened’ was released in 2017. It dissects her failure, but also proves to women that life goes on. Despite her shock loss, Clinton’s efforts will mean that for younger generations, a woman running for president won’t be out of the ordinary. Seeing her campaign inspires me to dust off my pantsuit and run in another election, however small in comparison and despite my previous heartbreaking loss.
Having a female mentor, even if I have never met them, has been an enormous help for me in achieving my own goals. Once I came to the realisation that other women’s success did not diminish my own, it has become an encouraging exercise to find women who make me want to fling off my duvet, set a goal and seize the day.
If there is a woman who has lived the life I admire, it’s Amanda de Cadenet. The ultimate wild child of the 90s, Cadenet was married to Duran Duran bassist, John Taylor, with a baby at 19. Since then she has transformed from celebrity TV host, drug addict and single parent, into a feminist activist, photographer, writer and entrepreneur. I read her book, ‘It’s Messy’, in two days, barely stopping to breath as I gulped down the amalgamation of a lifetime’s worth of female experience, beautifully shared in a series of essays.
The book tells the story of Cadenet’s brutal postpartum depression that lasted two years following the birth of her twins. Desperate for survival stories that could aid her in her own recovery, she found very little material which helped. She took the advice of Virginia Woolf and created a room of her own out of an old 1950s Airstream trailer which she bought for $900 and kept in the garden. Free from the obligations of breastfeeding and nappy changing, Cadenet gave herself the creative space to build ‘The Conversation,’ an interview series done from her living room with her friends, and coincidently some of Hollywood’s biggest female names, talking about issues such as financial autonomy, body image and parenthood.
The magic of the interviews is that the usual celebrity gloss is stripped back and what is left is two women, sitting on the sofa, sharing stories which will hopefully reassure those watching that they are not alone. Make sure to watch the Jane Fonda interview if you are in need of a real pick me up or the session with Hillary Clinton if you need a masterclass in interviewing technique.
A couple of years ago, I went to a live recording of The Guilty Feminist, a comedy podcast created by Deborah Frances-White which features stand-up comedy from an array of comedians about the trials and tribulations of womanhood. For almost three hours I sat beside my best friend laughing raucously as Frances-White presented hard topics like inequality in the workplace with side-splitting hilarity. My commute is now vastly improved by the copious amounts of episodes available to download (‘Hair Removal,’ ‘Porn’ and ‘Not Having Kids’ are favourites of mine).
“Her confidence is infectious and every joke that she lands flawlessly on her captivated audience is the perfect disclaimer to anyone who says ‘women aren’t funny.’”
Frances-White, who was adopted as a baby and grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness in rural Australia, did not have the easiest start in life but at 18, she moved to England to study English and Japanese at Oxford University and now organises corporate training days on diversity as well as hosting two weekly podcasts. Her confidence is infectious and every joke that she lands flawlessly on her captivated audience is the perfect disclaimer to anyone who says ‘women aren’t funny.’
What Cadenet and Frances-White have in common with Clinton is that their stories feature bravery. They put themselves out there in a public way and don’t let the possibility of failure stop them. Whether it’s shouting about their feminist views on stage in front of 1,000 people, writing about a sexual assault in a book everyone will read, or even running for the presidency, these women make me want to be my most authentic self with no apologies. If they can do it, so can I.