The Mamamia co-founder said feminism was not a scary concept nor an exclusive club with oppressive rules.
“Feminism is a big party and everyone’s invited,” she said at an event promoting her new book, Work Strife Balance, before adding a qualification. “As long as you’re willing to sign at the door stating your belief that you think that men and women deserve equal rights, in you come.”
In response to suggestions that posting naked images online was empowering, Freedman was quick to touch on the power of social media and the “selfie” culture in reinforcing patriarchal standards about how women should look and behave.
“Don’t pretend that photographing your arse or your boobs or whatever it is, is an act of feminism,” she continued. “Just because a woman does it, doesn’t mean it’s a feminist act and just because a woman does it, doesn’t mean it’s helping other women.”
Freedman also drew a clear link between social media and the increasing pressure being placed on women to look attractive all of the time.
“All of the time and at every stage; whether you’re 12, whether you’re pregnant, whether you’ve just given birth . . . It’s be hot all the time, you must,” she said during the event held this week at Cinema Nova, Carlton.
Freedman has challenged body shaming by documenting her post-natal stomach in a series of Instagram posts, highlighted in a 2016 Daily Mail article.
“If I can do something that will make someone else feel okay about their stomach, and if I can help broaden the range of female bodies that are in the public eye, then that’s a win for all of us,” Freedman said.
Throughout her conversation with comedian and breakfast radio host Meshel Laurie, Freedman shared her passionate views about all things women, reassuring the 200-strong audience that no one was alone in their experiences.
“Everyone’s life can look glossy from the outside . . . It’s really easy to hate people from a distance, especially when you’re comparing yourself to other people’s highlight reels,” she said.
Freedman was adamant that ambitious and successful women, like herself and Laurie, could be polarising.
“There’s this thing about women striving, or women saying they’re proud or women saying they’re ambitious that is challenging,” she said.
“Everyone’s life can look glossy from the outside . . . It’s really easy to hate people from a distance, especially when you’re comparing yourself to other people’s highlight reels.” — Mia Freedman
Inequality between men and women was obvious even in how perceptions of success played out.
“As a woman, your likeability is inversely proportional to your success,” Freedman said. “The higher you rise, the brighter you shine, the more people will dislike you.
“For men, it’s the opposite, of course. Powerful men are immensely popular.”
Laurie was quick to lend support, highlighting the difficulty for women of owning and celebrating success.
“We all want to look like it just happened while we were being our goofy selves,” she said.
Freedman reinforces the notion in her book, suggesting that being female and proud invited a backlash.
“Stew in self-doubt and self-loathing, because you’re much more adorable that way,” she writes.
Self-described as someone with no filter or sense of boundaries, who dresses like a four-year-old at a fancy dress party, Freedman said she had written the book for all women who had an eye on their future.
“I wanted to write a book that I wish I could have read in my twenties, thirties and forties because most of the things that I have been through that have been tough are incredibly common. But a lot of them are a bit taboo.”