Emma Barnett on why society dislikes women who speak out

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Hannah Keegan
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Emma Barnett

Five Minute Philosopher is a weekly series in which Stylist gets profound with people we love. What will award-winning journalist Emma Barnett make of our existential questions?

What is the meaning of life?

The relationships and connections you have with others. And food.  

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What is the difference between right and wrong?

You know which is which instinctively.

Where is your happy place?

In front of a roaring fire. Preferably with some chips, whiskey, my husband and my son asleep nearby. I rarely achieve this, by the way.  

Nature or nurture?

I’d say don’t underestimate nurture, because I think it’s the key to improving your nature, or destroying it. I don’t believe people have one mode pre-programmed.  

Is it more important to be liked or respected?

Sometimes, I think women need to develop a talent for being disliked. We’re raised to believe it’s one of the most important things we can be, while society has been programmed to dislike women who speak out or seem difficult. So often, you’re not actually disliked fairly.

If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be? 

That I gave a shit.

Who or what is your greatest love?

My husband and my son.  

When did you last lie?

Last week. I told someone who was being very rude how lovely they were in order to bring our interaction to a close. As my very wise godmother has always said: you can kill a cat with cream. 

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Does the supernatural exist?

I’ve interviewed many people who swear that it does, but I don’t believe so. I have an attachment to facts.

Are you fatalistic?

When it suits me, and not when it doesn’t. Isn’t that the way with everyone?

What is your greatest fear?

Losing my family in any way.

Animals or babies?

Babies, but not other people’s.  

What talent do you yearn for?

I would love to learn how to dance properly. As a child, I did ballet and I can dance with total conviction when I’m drunk in a club, but I’m talking about actual styled dancing with a partner. Ballroom. Salsa. Jive.  

Do you like to be complimented?

Yes, doesn’t everyone? But I also like to give compliments. If someone’s looking really nice or has done something good, I like to tell them. Equally, I can also tell them if something’s not so great.  

Do you have a high pain threshold?

Extremely. I have a condition called endometriosis – women who have it have extremely painful periods.  

What book do you recommend most to others?

What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing by Naomi Stadlen. I read it after I’d had my son when I was trying to make sense of my new role, it gave me a real insight into how to cope.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?

That you can’t control most difficult things: what people think, how your body works. You can’t always make things better. I learnt that most when I couldn’t get pregnant.  

Naomi Stadlen's parenting manual helped Emma cope after the birth of her son.

What food sums up happiness?

Cockles and chips by the sea.  

What have you never understood? 

The obsession with talking banalities about the weather. Just, why? It’s boring!

What is the one thing you want to know before you die?

What if the hokey cokey is really what it’s all about?  

Are you scared of dying or what happens when you die?

I’m scared of dying too early. I’d be scared for my family, not for me, because they’re the ones who would be suffering.  

Quinoa or Quavers?

I think this question is ridiculous. Of course it’s Quavers. Those people who pick quinoa are not living their best life.     

Period by Emma Barnett (£12.99, HQ) is out on 5 September

Emma Barnett is appearing at Stylist Live Luxe.

Images: Instagram


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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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