The word feminist has gained a negative reputation. It has also been stereotyped and certain behaviours pigeonholed to either make you one or not. But let’s strip all that back for a moment and try and remember what it actually means to be a feminist. It was never about hating men or not shaving your legs. You don’t have to attend exclusive women’s events and shout your opinion on the street. At its core feminism is about equality. For men and women.
Yet some worry that they are almost too feminine for feminism; that by being a feminist it means they must give up certain parts of being a woman. This pressure has come from a loud section of the community that shouts anything men can do we can do too. And whilst I believe that this is true, the fact is that men and women are different to an extent. We do have differing needs. Our bodies are built differently and although society has a lot to do with how we are raised it doesn’t define what it means to be a woman.
Becoming equal is not about choosing one type of lifestyle, gender, or sexual orientation and whitewashing the rest of society with that prototype. Equality is about mutual respect and opportunity for everyone despite their idiosyncrasies. So if you are a woman who likes to shave your legs, wear make-up, and play with fashion then you are just as worthy of equality to those women who never shave, don’t care what they wear, and thinks ‘blending’ is something you do to food.
The above is an oversimplified version of a larger point I’m trying to make, but let me bring in an example to see if that helps. The TV Show The Bold Type, created by Sarah Watson and directed by an almost 50/50 split of females and males (45% female), speaks fluent modern feminism. Issues tackled include love, reputation, identity, sex, friendship, morals, culture, sexism, politics, career, art and basically everything in a mid-20 something woman’s life!
The series follows three friends Jane (Katie Stevens), Sutton (Meghann Fahy), and Kat (Aisha Dee) as they work for global women’s magazine Scarlet as a Writer, Assistant, and Social Media Director respectively. Each of these women are passionate, hard working, and fierce, but not perfect, which is important. What is also important is that they are indisputably feminine. Wearing make-up and sporting personal style, yet never backing down when they want to go for something or have an opinion.
But this doesn’t just apply to the young characters in the cast. What is arguably the strong point of the show is Scarlet’s editor-in-chief Jacqueline. In her late 40’s – early 50’s she is the captain of the ship without being a bully. She encourages her staff in a way that makes me wish I had her as my boss, and the journey you take discovering her character is actually one of the highlights of season 1 in particular. She is unapologetic with her opinions and wants the magazine to speak to the interests and needs of women specifically, as well as empowering them.
The show reminds me a little bit of Girls. The premise of a group of friends trying to make it in New York and discover who they are in the process is fairly similar. What I think are important differences between the two shows though is that whilst I believe both of them represent a element of the reality of being a woman in her 20’s, Girls speaks to the kind of content we have come to identify as feminist, where The Bold Type is content that speaks to a different kind of feminism that needs to be acknowledged as just as relevant.
Why I say this is the fact that my boyfriend also enjoys watching it with me. A man who normally can guess a plot point coming a mile away has been pleasantly surprised by how much he has gotten wrong. And it’s not because the show is written with sneaky plot twists in mind, in fact its written like real life. The characters are more than their interests and what seems shallow on the surface is layered with complexity.
When I first began to watch this show I thought it was going to be another generic drama with beautiful women and a bitchy boss they just gossiped about in the bathroom whilst complaining about their perfect lives. What I got was a manifesto to embracing femininity whilst campaigning for equality in the things we do in our everyday lives. Feminism doesn’t need to be a shout, it can be a calm conversation and that’s what The Bold Type is.
Season 3 of The Bold Type released on Stan in Australia on April 10th