It is already unfair that I am trying to pen our gratitude for being seen but I am going to try. No spoiler alerts required – I have quoted her in a few places but that’s that. I would still suggest that if you haven’t watched Fleabag, please watch it. Be amazed, cry a little, and come back to make a little more sense out of this piece.
Fleabag orbits around a dysfunctional-complicated-real as she can be, woman who is grieving and in her own words “has a horrible feeling that she’s greedy perverted, selfish, apathetic, cynical, depraved, morally bankrupt woman who can’t even call herself a feminist.”
As women, our identities coexist with ascribed guilt, but almost never are we supposed to acknowledge it. Even as feminists, we are supposed to drink it, drown it, eat it, love it, cherish it, celebrate it. Without ever addressing it, guilt ascribed or prescribed has an isolated process which is twice as burdensome when you’re a woman. Let’s start with the guilt of perversion. Up until I watched this show, many of us felt alone about having the audacity to want to have sex all the time.
As the saying goes, sex culturally is never shown as something that women want and enjoy; it’s something that is “done” to them. We grew up on that idea. Even in porn, I have never apologised for having a “disgusting” taste and no woman should. We did not have the luxury of feminist porn growing up, so we are stuck in this dilemma where we can only enjoy this detrimental toxic masculine porn while being well aware and well prepared to oppose and hate it as a feminist.
Some of us, very few I may add, also felt seen in the complexities of promiscuousness – the picturesque nuances of desiring to cheat, then cheating, then wanting to just have the thrill of being under a complete stranger not because some of us wanted to, but only because we could. Our twenties, and rightfully so, are earnestly a long cynical journey of guilt which stays and sometimes grows into self worth.
It becomes a big ugly pile of experiences that aren’t ugly, but you are ashamed because up until now no one told us that our bodies belong to us and our choices regarding it are not controlled by the culture or the porn we grew up watching. This unlearning is not talked about enough either and is often driven by shame which does not find comfort very easily. Shame grows shame, thrives in its secret and unfortunately for us shame does not let you make great jokes about itself.
This shame isn’t something that men experience for them their escapades are souvenirs of their proud and loud sexual experience. I don’t think women care for that frat-like celebration of their sexual experience but this disparity between what they call pride and what we live with is quite unsettling.
I was researching evolutionary psyche while watching Fleabag and in essence, that field suggests that we see the world how we are, and not what it is. I have always believed that the guilt of perversion was like many other women my own battle and my own burden. Yet in the play, when Flea says, “And I know that my body, as it is now, really is the only thing I have left, and when that gets old and unfuckable I may as well just kill it. And somehow there isn’t anything worse than someone who doesn’t want to fuck me. I fuck everything. I really wasn’t trying to have sex. You know, either everyone feels like this a little bit, and they’re just not talking about it, or I’m completely fucking alone.”
You suddenly don’t feel that alone. It’s this solidarity of women in writing for women, telling stories that matter to us, that helps us heal. It’s a cultural correction that we were starving for. I will never forget what #MeToo movement did for me and for women like me. Conversations opened a lot of old wounds for us, but at the same time there was a community that was a safe space founded on courage and mutual support; a community that I’m grateful was there for my closest friends and I. What Fleabag does is, that it sees that community and it tries to give it something of a cathartic feminist comedy.
For the last few years at least (the years I can vouch for), women around me have been unlearning and becoming unapologetic feminists with rage, with guilt, with this regime of choices. We are still unlearning how to not be sorry for making choices – even the wrong ones – when society, our childhood and our culture are gatekeeping pleasure and thrill from women like me, you and Flea. All of us – angry, horny and a little sorry for not being feminist enough, but at the same time claiming our bodies, stories and adventures of pleasure for more Fleabags to write about their cynical twenties from an honestly flawed perspective of a woman ironically in a society where a woman’s portrayal on screen is the only thing flawless about a woman’s existence.
It’s obvious that we do not have enough flawed women for us to look up to and I’m thrilled to know this in my bones that this hilarious irony has started to be challenged and eventually change.
Featured Image Source: Vox