Thursday 18 January 2018

Comedian's funny and wise take on the female body

Gender, Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body, Sara Pascoe, Faber & Faber, €20.55

The cover of Animal by Sara Pascoe.
The cover of Animal by Sara Pascoe.

Anne Marie Scanlon

It isn't news that we, modern man (as it were), are basically prehistoric creatures living in a world for which our bodies and brains were not designed for. With this in mind comedian Sara Pascoe has written her first book, Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body to examine this from a feminist perspective.

Given the woman's day job, this isn't a dry scholarly work but it does contain a fair bit of research as Pascoe tries to understand if "perhaps our cultures, religions and societal pressures had concealed our animal natures, even from ourselves".

Pascoe does her best to break down the science-y bits for her reader and therein lies a problem. Pascoe uses words like 'science-y' which makes her sound like a 14-year-old schoolgirl rather than a woman of 34.

Some of her writing style is extremely irritating - crossing out words to make a joke. For example, an hour after giving birth "could you run from a scary predator?" Pascoe also indulges in side-tracking, a technique that can be very funny on stage, but just doesn't work here.

It's a shame that Pascoe feels the need 'to be funny' and doesn't trust her own voice. When she just gets on with it, it's a very good read, especially when she delves into her own life for examples.

Her description of her first love at 16 and its all-consuming nature is funny, familiar and heart-breaking. All the research aside, Pascoe exhibits genuine wisdom. "There's such a personal shame in being cheated on, like you failed by not being enough for someone."

On the morning of her 17th birthday, Pascoe had an abortion, and was amazed to find herself beside a girl from Dublin. "Are you sure it's illegal? I thought she must be mistaken, she was just like me, from a country like my country and right next door."

That Pascoe takes time to try to get the reader to understand the protestors outside the clinic that day speaks volumes about her.

Yet, she is no apologist. "A woman like myself - if I am pregnant and I don't want to be, it's top trumps and I win...if you want fewer abortions (help) women who don't want to be pregnant."

Don't let the silly bits put you off.

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