There are countless things to love about last night’s episode of Fleabag – the hot priest fresh from bed, the unexpected return of the stolen statue from series 1, the foxes – but one scene in particular reminded us exactly why we love the show so much. And no, I don’t mean the "lovely" fart in the lift.
Having spent the day helping out her neurotic sister at a Women In Business event and handing out canapés to important people she’s instructed not to speak to, Fleabag finds herself sat in a cocktail bar with not only one of the attendees but the winner of the award for Best Woman In Business, Belinda (played by Kristin Scott Thomas). "It’s infantilising bollocks," she says of the accolade. "It’s ghettoising. It’s a subsection of success. It’s the fucking children’s table of awards."
She is, of course, referring to the fact that she has been named the best woman in business, as opposed to the best in business across all genders. It’s a theory most women will likely subscribe to – why should we be pinned into a corner, accepting our women’s awards, watching our women’s films and reading our women’s books (more commonly referred to as chick flicks and lit) – but one we are often too scared to vocalise, lest we seem ungrateful or, worse, minimise our chances of becoming one of the Best Women. Fleabag, however, driven by Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s steamroller script, can and does say the things we often shy away from.
As their conversation unfurls, Fleabag grows more and more fascinated and in awe of Belinda and, as an audience lucky enough to eavesdrop, so do we. She becomes somewhat of a mysterious fairy godmother to Fleabag, not granting her any wishes but pointing out just how good her life could be and reminding her that not everyone she meets is "shit" – a lesson many of us could do with learning. However, it’s her speech that can only be described as a raging soliloquy on women’s health and pain that really captures the scene. It is so profoundly recognisable that it deserves to be written out in full:
"I’ve been longing to say this out loud," she begins, leaving us wondering which of our shared secrets she is about to spill. "Women are born with pain built in. It’s our physical destiny – period pains, sore boobs, childbirth. We carry it within ourselves throughout our lives. Men don’t. They have to seek it out. They invent all these gods and demons so they can feel guilty about things, which is something we do very well on our own. And then they create wars so they can feel things and touch each other and when there aren’t any wars they can play rugby. We have it all going on in here, inside. We have pain on a cycle for years and years and years, and then just when you feel you are making peace with it all, what happens? The menopause comes. The fucking menopause comes and it is the most wonderful fucking thing in the world. Yes, your entire pelvic floor crumbles and you get fucking hot and no one cares, but then you’re free. No longer a slave, no longer a machine with parts. You’re just a person. In business."
Watching Belinda make her speech felt like what I imagine men experience when listening to William Wallace promise freedom to his army. I wanted to shout in agreement and pump my fist in the air like an extra in an early 2000s sports movie, but instead I had an almost embarrassingly stereotypical response for a woman: I began to tear up. I, we, had been seen.
That’s why shows written by women, as Fleabag is, are important. Our stories – even the ones we are afraid to admit to ourselves – are broadcast to millions of people at once and as a consequence, we’re encouraged to take ownership of our own female experiences and to share them. It makes you sit up and pay attention. Whether you’re shouting or crying, you say "That’s me."
Fleabag is on BBC One on Mondays at 10.35pm and available on iPlayer afterwards