The Killing Eve creator made an important point about the way women police themselves.
There are many reasons to love Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag: the exceedingly sharp comedy, the aching exploration of grief and loss that runs throughout seasons one and two; the impeccable fashion (the jumpsuit!).
Yet what really enamoured audiences to Fleabag the character was how recognisable she was. She married a weary disdain for matters of the heart, and fragmented family relationships with a deep desire to be swept up and just told how to live life because she’s so afraid she’s not doing it right.
But she was doing it anyway. Despite her fears, Fleabag always seemed to speak her mind – whatever the consequences. Now, Waller-Bridge has confirmed that there’s a powerful reason she wrote the character like that, and it’s because she’s setting an example for a very important person: herself.
“For better or worse, Fleabag says what she thinks in the moment, and I’m still learning how to do that,” Waller-Bridge explained, during a Hollywood Reporter comedy actress roundtable that also included the likes of Natasha Lyonne and Tiffany Haddish.
“There are so many things, like fear, in the way,” she continued.
“And the more you become in the public sphere, the more you start checking yourself all the time because you can hear how people can fuck with your words. So I write women who don’t give a shit because I am teaching myself how to be one.”
It’s a significant lesson. Women are often socialised from young to be ‘people-pleasers’ and adopt more passive roles when it comes to speaking their minds. Studies have also shown that women who do display more assertive behaviour are characterised as ‘bossy’ or ‘unfeminine’ – especially in work environments - because being upfront and unyielding are not traits traditionally considered ‘feminine.’
Non-confrontational and ‘risk-averse’ avoidant strategies, however, result in women’s voices being smothered. A 2018 US study found women working for a non-profit organisation who deliberately didn’t display assertive behaviour for fear of being penalised, hindered their chances of promotion and leadership.
So while it may seem frightening to adopt an approach as ‘no fucks given’ as the one Fleabag has, it might just change your life for the better. Although maybe hold off on falling in love with celibate members of the clergy. However hot they are.