I don’t engage with people who say my love of baked goods makes me less of a feminist. That’s all I have to say about that.
That was me, on Twitter, on Saturday morning. Except then a couple of people retweeted me, so it turned out I did engage after all, so I figured I might as well write it all down. Another day, another attack on (quote) “the sort of girl-wom[e]n who… wear kiddie clips in [their] hair and bake endless cupcakes that don’t even have any drugs in them”, this time from serial antagoniser and occasional journalist Laurie Penny. The article is another one of those tedious riffs against “twee” girl culture, given a topical twist in the form of some sort of review of new Zooey Deschanel-fronted sitcom New Girl.
Confession time: I am quite the fan of the doe-eyed Deschanel the younger. When it comes time for them to cast the Last Year’s Girl biopic, as they undoubtedly will, I’d be very pleased if they considered the actress for the leading role. And so, soon after her new show aired over in the States, I watched the pilot with Jehane (of similar tastes).
Honestly? I found it pretty tedious and lacking in the laughs you’d expect from something billed as a sitcom; and decided that I wouldn’t bother watching further episodes.
Zooey’s dresses were really pretty though.
The premise of New Girl is simple: girl discovers long-term boyfriend is cheating on her, moves into an otherwise all-male flatshare she finds on Craigslist, hilarity ensues. Or not. The presence of Deschanel, who has made her name as the kooky supporting character in various independent pictures with romance at their heart, as that girl adds an extra grenade to the reviewer’s arsenal for never have I seen an actress quite so divisive. As Jess, Deschanel plays a role she’s pretty much made her own over the years. She’s sweet and slightly clueless, wears a retro-inspired wardrobe and even sings the bloody theme song (during the pilot episode, while naked). Thanks to its leading actress articles denouncing New Girl not as a spectacularly unfunny sitcom with a hackneyed premise but rather as some sort of attack on ‘real women’ were therefore unsurprising, not least because it wouldn’t be the first article to rage against the sort of throwback girlish pastimes that have become increasingly trendy of late.*
You know, sometimes I worry that the feminist movement’s biggest enemy is itself.
Honestly? I am so, so sick of this continuous game of feminist one-upmanship. When something becomes trendy (whether it’s cupcake cafes, knitting or Lana Del Rey) it’s only going to be a matter of time before the backlash begins – that’s understandable. As humans, we want to be first or not at all; but some feminist commentators have gone further. Personally I think it is dangerous and divisive to write off certain activities as ‘bad’ because they are seen as being traditionally feminine. For one thing, why is the traditionally feminine of less worth? Aren’t we as feminists supposed to be arguing the very opposite?
You know what? Girls like myself and Zooey Deschanel are built to look cute in hooped skirts and lipgloss just like girls like Laurie Penny look hot as fuck when they’re doing the gamine thing with the Audrey Hepburn hair and a military-style peacoat. And guys, I like cake. This is no secret. I have been really, really sick these past few days and I thought some cake would cheer me up. Now I could have gone out and bought some but instead I whipped up some chocolate buttercream iced things. It took me twenty minutes and cost me 81p for some white chocolate stars because I had everything else in my kitchen already. Which is why I find it quite insulting to read something like this passage from Penny’s article:
It’s not just Hollywood that’s painfully uninterested in three-dimensional women with complex emotions. In a world where women and girls grow up negotiating a soup of stultifyingly gendered aesthetic cliche, sometimes the best way to tell the world you’re hurting really is to cry theatrically and watch Dirty Dancing on repeat. So, we dumb down; we prattle when we could speak our minds; we play retro-cutesy as if to apologise for the modernity and maturity that so often terrifies the men in our lives.
Personally I see no reason why my love of the ‘retro-cutesy’ and my considerable intelligence cannot coexist; why I cannot keep my herbal teabags in a ceramic cupcake on the desk at my job with a major international law firm. Would it perhaps please the makers of this line of sneering argument to live in a world where there are whole professions full of women terrified to act like anything other than Margaret Thatcher for fear their bosses smell placenta on them and officially fuck their careers? I do not know what Laurie Penny does for a living to supplement her freelance income, although she certainly seems to spend way more time in New York than I can afford to, but I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t come as a surprise to her that she already lives in that world.
I have worked in those environments and they are never the ones that you would think. I’ve had the boss who seemed to assume she (yes, she) had the prerogative over her staff’s biological clocks; I’ve had the giggly schoolboy co-workers who couldn’t risk a knowing wink when I rushed past them to vomit before heading to the shop floor. It was an iron deficiency, and the treatment turned my poo black. Oh, I’m sorry – was that too much information? It’s just that you seem to think my health and my body exist for popular discussion, just because I’m in my late twenties and new(ish)ly married. How’s the sperm count? Tick, tick!
That’s the reality. And personally, I’ve seen one too many identikit if well-acted dramas centred around a strong, confident female doctor/lawyer/politician in a man’s world juggling career and childcare and philandering husband. Perhaps they are better role models, but I don’t tend to identify with those women. Forgive me for saying it but even though Jess is a complete tit I identify with her… and at least by the end of New Girl’s pilot episode it wasn’t painfully obvious just which member of the cast she was being set up to ultimately shag at sweep season.
Maybe I’m wrong. As I said at the start, I’ve only seen the show’s pilot episode and perhaps by midway through the series Jess becomes part domestic slave and sex toy for her three male flatmates. Which, you know, if it’s consensual is totally cool but is liable to make it even less my kind of a show.
For now, I might just watch the second episode just to piss off the people who say I shouldn’t.
Oh, and here’s a picture of me and a Hello Kitty thong just for sheer lols.
*There was one particular article I had in mind here, from over the summer, but neither myself nor Lola can remember who wrote it or where. Still, it’s not as if ranting unsourced has ever stopped anybody else writing for the internet.