Sadia Azmat: Sexbots & the Death of Feminism
Sadia Azmat has gemstones on her jeans.
Her Vault Festival stand-up comedy set is contained in the pocket-sized room beneath a Waterloo book-stop. There’s an intimate atmosphere, not least because half the audience holds tiny glasses of white wine procured from a tiny fridge, hidden behind the shop counter upstairs. Perhaps due to this, Sadia’s material, no matter how meandering, hard-hitting, political, or at times informal, is well-received.
She is nonchalant throughout, although she rocks back and forth a little as she ploughs through achingly amusing content: remarking on the majority white audience, flippantly commenting that people are less scared of salmonella eggs than Muslims, and asking to a stunned silence if anyone has listened to her BBC podcast (No Country for Young Women).
“Yeah, it’s really famous,” she says flatly into the silence, and snorts as we laugh, embarrassed.
Sadia mentions early on in her set that she has ADHD – perhaps a part of the wide-legged stance as she sways a little, shoring her. The majority of her material is sex and Islam, sex in Islam. It is easy to be resolutely warmed to her, brashly honest and bubbling with oddly energetic droll, giggling with us about her own experiences.
She is delightfully happy to speak to me afterwards, but the relaxed drawl is replaced by some urgency when asked about femininity, and what it means to her: “[it’s about] being yourself – not about conforming to any kind of social agendas or expectations.”
Despite the importance of individuality in her line of work as a comic (also actress and voiceover artist), she also says that one must be weary. “You can just follow the trend… But I think it’s important about owning who you are. I think we have a lot of male allies and I think you can just follow a rhetoric where everybody’s like anti-men.” This intrigues me. So does her comment that her material centres around female experiences, followed by the almost panicked exclamation: “But also I love men! And so that comes through as well.”
It does, to be honest: she’s spoken about hot dates and blow jobs live and in her podcast. Check out the Valentine’s Day episode – it’s something.
I ask, now fully swept up by her vibrancy in a one-to-one conversation, how femininity might shape her work in the future. I am not disappointed. “I think feminism is dead now,” she tells me, almost apologetically – my face betrays me, I am sure – I am surprised. “The third wave of feminism hasn’t really achieved as much heights as the first and second,” she explains.
“Feminism doesn’t need to be permanent and it should have an end goal… I think the future would be more… Trying to achieve something, and then just being happy that we’ve achieved it, and then starting a new chapter.”
How could I leave it there: what is that chapter, exactly? I’m gripped. Inter-sectional justice? A fourth, fifth, sixth wave, fighting against fake news and social media and post-post-post-modernist thought? Something my white, try-hard feminist arse is miles away from learning?
Without pause, and with utterly earnest eyes: “how to make sure robots don’t take your boyfriend and stuff. I’m really worried about the sexbots.”
Ah, right. I’d almost forgotten she was a comic.