A Different Kind of Feminist and What I’ve Learned from Jess Day, Mindy Lahiri and Kimmy Schmidt

I love Barbies. I love polka dots and pink. I don’t mind being referred to as pretty and/or cute. I love frills and glitter and all things shiny.  My bedroom is cotton candy pink and I can get lost in Sephora. I can also get lost in Macy’s. I can spend hours shopping for clothes and when I can afford it, a mani/pedi is always a good way to end the day.

I still consider myself a feminist.

There have been people who have argued. Who have questioned my values as a woman because of the things I find relaxing or fun.

I sat next to Monica Lewinsky once at a dinner party and found her to be one of the kindest people I had ever met.

I told this story to a female peer who called me an anti-feminist and a woman with no values simply because I said kind things about another woman who had at one point in her life had fallen for the wrong guy. I think we’ve all done that, Monica Lewinsky’s “wrong guy” was, unfortunately, a little more public than that nameless guy of the week I obsessed over in high school.

Kaley Cuoco said in a magazine she was not a feminist. Emma Watson says she is and I’m spending a lot of time wondering what a true feminist really looks like. What is it like to be “a feminist”? Why was Kaley Cuoco criticized for her comments where Emma Watson was praised? What is the true definition, the true meaning of being “a feminist?”

I recently binge watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt starring Ellie Kemper who starred as a woman who had been kidnapped and held captive in a bunker for fifteen years. Despite this horror, she was still light, comedic, optimistic….strong. She was able to completely rebuild her life despite going through something that could destroy most. Yes, it was done in a mostly comedic setting but the message was still the same and the fact that it was produced and created by Tina Fey who also produced, Mean Girls, the message was even more apparent. Women are strong. They are resilient.

Zooey Deschanel plays Jess Day on The New Girl. Jess is pretty, always dressed in such trendy outfits that there is even a website devoted to locating the outfits that Jess wore in a particular episode so that fans can buy them. Jess is always singing songs and finding the best in even the worst of situations and in one of the earlier seasons of New Girl, she tells Nick’s current girlfriend:

“I brake for birds. I rock a lot of polka dots. I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children. And I find it fundamentally strange that you’re not a dessert person. It freaks me out. I’m sorry that I don’t talk like Murphy Brown. And I hate your pants suit. I wish it had ribbons on it or something just to make it slightly cuter, but that doesn’t mean I’m not smart and tough and strong.”

This is quite possibly my favorite New Girl quote in the entire series. I love what it represents. I love the meaning behind it. I, too, spend my entire day talking to children. I have an unnatural love of dessert and if it has polka dots, chances are, I’m buying it. Black and white polka dots and hot pink were the colors of my Bat Mitzvah.

Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project believes love should be like a romantic comedy and finds nothing wrong with a tea party with a co-worker at the American Girl Store. She falls hard, knows more about pop culture than she does about the world around her, but she is still shown as intelligent and successful. She’s a doctor who is running her own practice.

All three of those shows are run by strong women who have each gone up against their own obstacles to get to where they are. Perhaps being a feminist means believing in your own strength as a female, as a person. Being called “pretty”, loving the frilly things in life does not make one weak, does not make us subject to attack. Inner strength, true feminism comes from within, from your ability to support other women and to believe in your own equality, your own strength.

In Kimmy Schmidt, there’s a line in the intro, “females are as strong as hell.” I am a thirty six year old woman who grew up hearing impaired which made for some “fun” experiences in middle school. I have had open heart surgery. I have had people say some rather unnecessarily vile things to me over the years simply I don’t fit the mold of whatever definition of “feminism” they hold.

Lastly, my love of Barbie also seems to be a sore spot. Barbies promote unrealistic expectations for women. Yes. They also work really well with people who have disabilities and can be used as a teaching tool to help children learn social skills. How do I know this? That’s why I played with them. Feminism is about support, about loving each other and understanding each other. Feminism is about resilience. It’s about looking at women who have made it in whatever field you’re interested in and believing you can do it.  That is my definition of feminism.


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