“At some point in our lives, most of us feel the gentle calling of our soul. Sometimes it’s so quiet we can barely hear it – a soft tapping. No louder than a leaf falling from a tree.” (WE: A Manifesto For Women Everywhere)
It’s late on a winter morning and Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel are ensconced in a cosy corner of London’s Chiltern Firehouse, huddled over piles of paper like friends cramming for an exam.
They are so committed to their conversation that, at first, they don’t notice me approach. That’s because today is a rare chance for the two friends to plan the launch of We: A Manifesto For Women Everywhere, the book they have written together and will put out into the world on 8th March: International Women’s Day.
Both women are dressed minimally – Nadel in a charcoal long-sleeved top; Anderson in a black polo neck and glasses, her blonde hair scraped loosely into a bun. They tell me they share an instinct to reject traditional notions of femininity, though Anderson’s feelings shifted when she began wearing silk blouses as The Fall’s Stella Gibson.
“She’s a strong, powerful character and yet she is very much in touch with her feminine side,” she says softly. “There was something about playing her that actually kind of awakened me to the notion that the two can co-exist. That I can… I’m masculine, so to speak, in the way that I am in my life, but that I can embrace that co-existing other part of myself, and it doesn’t mean that I’m conforming to long-standing notions of how women should and shouldn’t be, or dress.”
As Anderson speaks, I struggle to reconcile the person sitting in front of me with the cool façade of the A-list star on the front of newspapers after the Golden Globes, perfectly groomed in a white tulle Jenny Packham dress.
But perhaps this is the version of Anderson that her close friends, including Nadel, are lucky enough to spend time with: opinionated and vulnerable – an old soul with a young hopefulness. It’s also the version of her that readers will meet in We: A Manifesto For Women Everywhere.
When the book landed on my desk, I wondered what to expect: is it a self-help book? A joint feminist memoir? An activist guide?
Now, after reading it, I see it simply as a map for women who feel like they’re lost at sea. Through tasks, affirmations and principles, the book aims to help us dig beneath our layers, dismantle our fears, and to develop healthy coping mechanisms to use when we wobble. The theory is: if you are happy as an individual then you have more strength to improve the world around you.
Nadel and Anderson met through mutual friends over a decade ago…
Read the full interview in the April issue of Red Magazine, on sale now
WE: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere (HarperThorsons, £16.99; out 8th March)