I don’t consider being a feminist and being feminine two mutually exclusive categories, but I’ve read many articles and blogs looking at Zooey Deschanel from the “feminist” perspective. I was amazed to see what a polarizing figure she has become. Some of the authors seem to believe that she is the absolute worst role model that a girl could have, and that started me thinking. What exactly is wrong with being girly? Why is it bad to wear pink, or play the ukulele, or whatever is deemed “girly?” They don’t seem like activities that will lead to the downfall of women.
I recently read an article in Entertainment Weekly (I can’t find a copy of the article, so I’m working from memory here) in which the woman writing it was concerned that her daughter could have Zooey as a role model. Her choice of a better role model: Lisbeth Salander. Now I think that Lisbeth is a fantastic character, but I was baffled as to why Zooey would be such a terrible model for a girl. I see her as a successful woman who is popular for things she has accomplished, instead of being famous simply for being on tv (like a lot of reality stars).
This got me reading lots of blogs and articles to try to understand when the Zooey Deschanel backlash came from. The blog that gets referenced a lot in these discussions is by Julie Klausner. I read it and don’t think it says exactly what people have taken it to mean. It seemed to me that her concern was about women putting on an act and adopting the persona of a little girl to be less threatening to men. A lot of the things she references, I don’t even consider to be something that Zooey Deschanel does, and the focus of the article is not one specific person.
As for my take on it (since this is my blog), I agree that women shouldn’t have to play dumb to get by in society, but I don’t think that being girly like Zooey Deschanel means that you can’t be a strong woman. A lot of the other articles and blogs that I’ve read seem to be implying that to be taken seriously, you can’t be too feminine and I disagree with that. In an article in New York magazine Zooey is quoted said, “that people equate being girlie with being nonthreatening … I mean, I can’t think of a more blatant example of playing into exactly the thing that we’re trying to fight against. I can’t be girlie? I think the fact that people are associating being girlie with weakness, that needs to be examined. I don’t think that it undermines my power at all.” I tend to agree with that sentiment. I don’t think that women should have to become more masculine to be taken seriously. And looking at Zooey Deschanel, you can see that she is a successful woman; she’s in movies, writes and records her own songs, is the star of a hit tv show, and has her own website. I’m not arguing that all women should be girly, just that women shouldn’t be discounted just because they choose to be more girly. I believe that it’s your right to not find a certain personality appealing, but I don’t understand why that has to mean that anyone who is like that is holding all of womankind back.
For the record, I’m not over attached to pictures of kittens or babies and I have plenty of interests that would definitely not be considered girly (although I’m not sure who gets to decided to which gender activities belong), but I just might bake you cupcakes, and I am a grown woman who wore my hair in pigtails yesterday. And if you want to think I’m less intelligent or weaker because of that, well, that’s your problem.