Jessica Fostekew: 'Even your worst enemy might be right'

This article is from 2019

Jessica Fostekew: 'Even your worst enemy might be right'

credit: Idil Sukan

Realising that feminism has much work to do, the comic and podcaster is considering the weight behind some contentious words ahead of another assault on the Fringe

'Oh god, I really hope "hench" can be a proper compliment for women,' says Jessica Fostekew. When she began writing her new show a year ago, she meant to explore her complicated feelings around being called the term. But if someone calls her 'hench' now, she loves it. 'It wasn't my intention to have that change, but it just means big and strong. So really, it's indicative of how much graft feminism has still got to do that it's not already seen as a compliment.'

Fostekew's evolving thoughts around feminist issues have not just taken her to the comedy stage, but also into a recurring gig as co-host of acclaimed podcast The Guilty Feminist. Working on the podcast has helped her parse through some conflicting emotions around feminist principles, but she's determined to hold onto the guilt. 'I don't ever want to have finished making my mind up about anything,' she says. 'I would rather never be sure that I am right, and that's only possible if you countenance the idea that even your worst enemy might be right. Which is impossible to do all the time, but embracing it that tiny bit means learning and understanding more deeply.'

Does she think the rest of the world might get on board with 'hench' as a compliment for women? 'It depends which way the world goes, doesn't it?' she says. 'If the alt-right rises and we move towards the future in fear of the new, of genuine equality, then no. But if we embrace the idea of the non-binary, and if more and more women become happy in their bodies even when they're big, then why not? You have to hope.'

Though she's made her peace with one gendered term, is there another that still drives Fostekew mad? 'I think "-tress" on the end of anything, such as 'waitress', is comically cute,' she says. 'It's as if women in that job are still doing it in a frilly pinny, arse there ready to get patted.' She's done her share of waiting jobs, and 'there was no "-tress" about me,' she says. 'That's for sure.'

Jessica Fostekew: Hench, Monkey Barrel, 3–25 Aug (not 12), 1.30pm, £5 in advance or donations at the venue. Previews 1 & 2 Aug, £4.

Jessica Fostekew: Hench

The host of The Guilty Feminist podcast talks about taking 'hench' as a compliment.