Hi everyone, I hope you’re all well.
So, over the past decade or more,
there has been a significant injection of
so-called “girl power” into
the public zeitgeist.
Everywhere you look, from the media, to
Hollywood, to universities and high schools,
every institution that
creates culture, there is a massive emphasis
on “empowering”
women.
Whether that’s sloganeering like Hillary
Clinton’s “the future is
female”, to the march for women, to affirmative
action, and the fact
that straight white men are now the only demographic
it is socially
acceptable to publicly denigrate on the basis
of their race and
gender, the last decade or so has been dedicated
to filling the glass
of female confidence and visibility.
And some would say, including
myself, that the glass is well and truly overflowing
now, but, that’s a
whole nuther video.
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Anyway, with all this girl power comes female
so-called role models.
These are depicted as female superheroes,
high-powered corporate
women on six figure salaries who don’t have
kids and don’t need no
man, or, high-powered corporate women who
do have kids and a
man but manage to juggle work and family with
perfect serendipity,
women who eschew so-called traditional beauty
standards in favour
of body hair and copious tattoos, and women
who enter and thrive
in traditionally male-dominated industries
like STEM.
Now this might sound all well and good, but
here’s the thing; the
common characteristic of all these female
role models, real and
fictional, is that they’re all archetypically
male.
They embody what
we associate with typical masculinity, like
getting into fights with bad
guys, aggression, single-mindedly climbing
the corporate ladder,
dressing and speaking like men, providers
as opposed to nurturers,
with not a shred of maternal instinct to be
seen.
The role models we don’t see are nurses,
social workers, teachers,
anything to do with childcare, housewives,
typically female dress and
presentation, and characteristics that are
otherwise feminine.
Now,
for a cultural zeitgeist that is heavily influenced
by feminism, it
seems a little bit strange that rather than
celebrate what is
quintessentially female, they prefer to promote
the idea of turning
women into men.
You can’t just squeeze women into male archetypes
and call it
female empowerment.
That’s a contradiction in terms.
I cannot for
the life of me figure out why feminism, a
movement that claims to
celebrate women, is so keen for them to behave
like men.
This
strange attitude is one of the reasons I decided
to stop calling myself
a feminist; I couldn’t stand the inconsistency
of promoting masculine
women as somehow superior to feminine ones.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have
a proverbially “feminist”
role model, if I dare to use that phrase.
She isn’t one of those female
superheroes, or a corporate dragon, or anything
else that feminists
tell women they should aspire to.
In fact, she’s a bit of a disaster.
However, it’s the way she deals with herself,
and the disaster that is
her life, in such a typically female way,
that I can’t help but admire
her managed chaos, so to speak.
I am talking, of course, about none
other than Bridget Jones
Yep, Bridget Jones, of Bridget Jones’ diary,
not the sequels, played by
the very talented Renee Zellweger, is possibly
the greatest feminist
role model women in their 20s and 30s could
possibly have.
Yes, this
seems unlikely, but Bridget Jones, with all
her flaws and foibles, is a
woman for all women.
She makes all the same mistakes, like being
seduced by the wrong
guy, and has all the same insecurities, like
thinking she’s fat when
she’s clearly not, as your typical lady
nowadays.
The film is basically an anthem for women
which loudly proclaims
that no matter how dysfunctional you think
you are, there is always a
way to get back on track.
And the best thing about Bridget is that she
manages to do this in the most quintessentially,
realistically womanly
way possible.
All women, pretty much, have experienced the
joys and sorrows of
Bridget Jones.
Look at Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver.
It is very
obvious to the viewer that he is the wrong
choice.
But Bridget goes
for him initially because it’s not actually
Cleaver that she falls in love
with.
It’s the idea of Daniel Cleaver she’s
attracted to.
Where we see a creep, she sees a rich, hot,
charismatic romancer,
and hey, let’s face it, there’s no one
else, so why not?
Show me a
woman who’s not been in that or a similar
situation!
Now, I’m sure there are many who would call
this a sexist
representation of a woman.
But I say it’s far from it.
Bridget is
chaotic, bewildered, and entirely unable to
take care of herself,
drinking and smoking too much, getting used
and abused by a jerk
and labouring under the terrible fear that
she will end up childless
and alone; insecurities and behaviour that
plague so many women in
the real world.
However, rather than hiding it, or lying about
it, or deflecting it in the
name of being a strong, independent, 21st
century woman, she was
unashamedly freaking out about it, spewing
emotional word vomit
into a diary, and dealing with her problems
with substance abuse.
And while it’s not ideal to aspire to that
exact behaviour, it’s still a
very real portrayal of what so many women
go through, but feel
ashamed of.
They are told this heartbreak and loneliness
should be
somehow empowering because who needs men anyway
when you
can just focus on a career?
One of the dumbest things a feminist has ever
said was Gloria
Steinem’s assertion that a woman needs a
man like a fish needs a
bicycle.
How ridiculously untrue.
If Gloria realised the scope of
damage that attitude has done to generations
of women, I hope
she’d be suitably ashamed.
However, isn’t the film still a sexist portrayal
of a career woman?
Coming to work in skimpy clothes and being
ungracefully seduced by
the boss?
Not very feminist.
But the thing is, of course Bridget isn’t
a
‘feminist’ representation of a career
woman, because that kind of
career woman actually doesn’t exist.
Bridget Jones, in her
unassumingly inappropriate work attire, is
the underling a lot of
women have been at some point in a male-dominated
workplace.
Receiving flirty emails from the boss which
she knows is technically
sexual harassment but still she’s flattered
by it because there’s no
other man in her life, which in turn makes
her feel guilty and like
she’s a traitor to the sisterhood but then
again she still enjoys it
because he’s hot?
That’s not a unique situation, although
feminists
would have you believe that kind of behaviour
at work is objectively
oppressive to women and should make them feel
unsafe.
But Bridget Jones proves that’s not always
the case.
She owns the
situation right from the first instance
She then ends up having a dalliance with him,
which she very much
enjoys.
And while it ends in disaster, he lies to
her and cheats and is
otherwise horrible, does she take that lying
down?
Hell no!
Rather than being a shrinking violet, allowing
it to traumatize her,
growing bitter, deciding she hates men, and
becoming, well, a
feminist, she resolves to self-improve.
She starts exercising, stops
drinking, gets a killer new job in TV, and
owns that sucker right back
How is that not iconic behaviour?
Standing up to her predator,
learning a lesson, and heading on a journey
to rediscover herself?
And all without kicking butt, or renouncing
men, or any of those
male-typical behaviours feminism has conditioned
women to aspire
to.
Like I said, Bridget Jones, is a woman for
all women.
And when I
say woman, she’s a woman, not a male archetype
masquerading as a
role model.
Bridget Jones’ diary debunks the idea that
femininity and the chaos
that comes with it is something that needs
to be ignored or
diminished in order for women to thrive.
And make no mistake,
woman are chaos.
That’s why women are often so suspicious
of each
other when they first meet.
There’s no camaraderie among women the same
way there is among
men.
This is because we’re onto each other.
Competing females
threaten to rip aside the thin veil of confidence
women spread over
the vast sea of fascinating insecurities that
make up the glorious
chaos of the feminine psyche.
This chao eius gloriosum, to use the Latin
just because I can, of the
female mind can include the pressure to succeed
at work while
feeling guilty about missing her children’s
formative years.
Or the
early-thirties-single-career-woman tug-of-war
between the
excitement she’s made partner, versus the
crippling fear her fertility
is fading with no man to facilitate.
Or there is the general anxiety we all feel
about potentially getting
fat (or fatter), and the further layer of
worry at the knowledge we
can prevent this through a healthy lifestyle,
but the lure of Ben &
Jerry’s at one o’clock in the morning
is simply too potent.
Women are a fabulous mixture of euphoric highs,
hysterical lows,
and fluctuating cravings for chocolate, all
thrown together by the
mysterious, omnipotent force that is our…monthly
loop, shall we
say.
Women are, in short, magnificently appalling
creatures whose
complexities will never be solved, and nor
should they.
Yet we have been conditioned by forces beyond
our control to be
ashamed of this extraordinary internal chaos.
We are told we must
hide it at all costs, rather than following
our basest, most female
instincts and owning the fact we’re a collective
of lunatics.
This is why we all kind of hate each other
at first meeting; the last
thing we want is to be exposed by other women
for not being men.
Of course we’re chaos manifest.
And it’s a fantastic, unique thing
that should be celebrated, not covered up.
After all, from such mental gymnastics and
emotional tripping come
all the greatest ideas.
Emotionality and irrationality lead to a lack
of
inhibitions, and as such open a creative channel,
allowing the
imagination to run wild.
The great male poets; Keats, Byron,
Wordsworth, and so on, all had to take illicit
substances and drown
themselves in brandy to achieve this invaluable
imaginative state.
Women simply have to wait until day twenty-one
of every four
weeks.
As such, you could argue one of the reasons
men make up the
majority of great historical thinkers and
creators, was not because
women didn’t have the skill.
We just had our priorities sorted, and
left the faffing around to the men.
Bridget Jones, in all her dysfunction, fully
celebrates this inherent
female chaos.
She not only happily embraces her crazy, she
lives in
joyful hope that one day she’ll pull herself
out of the cycle of ice-
cream and ill-fated love.
With her tenacity, wit and will to survive,
she grows some self
esteem, starts killing it at her career, learns
who she is as a person,
and as byproduct of this new direction and
confidence, she nabs the
right guy.
So here’s to Bridget Jones.
She’s not Supergirl, or Buffy, or Katniss
Everdeen.
But she does represent a world of women who
are
battling through their hormones and madness
just to make it
through the week, and provides the proof that
we can all actually
succeed…even if it’s in a gritty, chaotic,
but entirely realistic and
relatable kinda way.