Fay Weldon: in conversation with Brendan O’Neill
Bounding on to the literary scene to great acclaim in 1983 with her novel The Life and Loves of a She Devil, Fay Weldon – writer, author and radical thinker extraordinaire – returned to the limelight this year with the highly anticipated (and long overdue) sequel, Death of a She Devil. Dubbed ‘not your typical feminist’, Weldon has lived a colourful life challenging the feminist status quo every step of the way – and her latest novel is no different. Described by the Irish Times as ‘lancing fake feminism like a boil’, Weldon’s 2017 release explores in-vogue trends such as gender fluidity and fourth-wave feminism. Her feisty return was sparked by the controversial Terf (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) storm that engulfed fellow iconoclastic feminist, Germaine Greer, three years ago. ‘There didn’t seem to be any reason to [write a sequel]’, she told the Guardian, ‘until Germaine got into trouble, as everyone does these days, for saying that just to get one’s genitals chopped off doesn’t make you a woman’.
Creator and nourisher of 34 novels, numerous TV dramas, four children (and four step-children), five full-length stage plays, three marriages, and several radio plays, Weldon is an author and intellectual-thinker who has never shied away from controversy. From her 1998 Radio Times interview when she said being raped isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a woman (she later affirmed that, quite rightly, death was), or her friendly advice to other women that they should fake orgasms, Weldon is used to other feminists hating her views. Her response? ‘I’m too old to care.’
Whether it’s her colourful tour de force autobiography Auto da Fay; her 1992 novel, Life Force, which she once summarised as ‘the havoc a man with a very big willy wreaked on a little circle of suburban women’; or her notorious advertising career responsible for coining the supressed slogan ‘Vodka gets you drunka quicka’, Weldon’s witty writing has long been a source of thought-provoking debate and humour.
So, what does she think of today’s young feminists? Why, after decades of a hard-fought battle, are women today often presented as fragile and helpless? And can you really not identify as a woman if you get one’s genitals chopped off? Asking the questions at the Battle of Ideas 2017 will be spiked editor, Brendan O’Neill, in what is likely to be a no-holds-barred critique on feminism, literature and everything in between.