The best tribute to my fearless friend is to keep ruffling feathers

Kate Gould.PNGI had cause on a couple of occasions last summer to ask myself the question: “What would Kate Gould do?”

On each occasion, I knew there was a chance I might be about to ruffle some feathers. Often, in these situations, the easiest and most comfortable thing to do is be quiet, or change the subject, or close your laptop.

But would Kate have done any of these things? Absolutely not.

I’d hoped to meet up with her during the Fringe to tell her about these latest skirmishes, these despatches from the front line of gender politics, but alas, it didn’t happen. Summer turned to autumn, and in October came the terrible news that Kate had died.

I had thought of her again at the book festival when a speaker referred to the title-writing convention of “academic pun, colon, academic pun explained”. I wanted to ask her if she had a title yet for the book version of her PhD. I reckoned her previous one, Exposing Phallacy: An Exploration of Flashing in a Contemporary Context, would take some beating.

What inspired me about Kate’s feminism was that it was never of the bland, sanitised, inoffensive variety. It wasn’t the hollow, cake-and-eat-it feminism of a Beyonce single (the karaoke number I associate with Kate is the toe-tapping Billy Jo Spears country classic Blanket on the Ground). Hers was a feminism that was totally unapologetic about frankly discussing of women’s biology in all its messy, painful and bloody dimensions.

Every good feminist knows that the personal is the political, but Kate truly embodied this mantra. She had no time for skirting around difficult topics, whether it was writing an unflinchingly honest and brilliant blog about her own hysterectomy or tackling media portrayals of female sexuality and “pink viagra” for her PhD. She was a passionate and exceptionally articulate campaigner for women’s rights, who didn’t care a jot about ruffling feathers if it meant highlighting structural oppression and challenging injustice. The news cycle of the past couple of years certainly provided plenty of inspiration, and her voice will be sorely missed.

As well as being the sister of her three beloved brothers, Kate was also part of a global sisterhood. She was a highly respected and valued member of several feminist campaigning groups, and women around the world were distraught to learn of her sudden and untimely death. We will miss Kate’s fierce intelligence and her straight-talking but also her humour and her resilience. I feel privileged to have known her in real life too, to have had the chance to chat with her, laugh with her, sing with her, and be inspired by her example.

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