Saturday, 11 July 2015

Fiery Women.

                                                                     Source: via

I am about to carry out a personal investigation into the feminist ideals of female protagonists in As You Like It and Top Girls as a part of my Pre-U English literature qualification. When I described my idea to my teacher she pointed out that in both, despite being written in completely different eras, the feminist ideals I was looking for were constructed by feisty, defiant women. I hadn't quite thought about it before (I had only just made up the question for the essay) but I realised had deliberately gone searching for characters who in some way fought against the status quo, defied at least some small aspect of stereotyped femininity for any period and were gutsy whether it made them likeable or not. I had looked for fiery women because, for me, that became synonymous with feminism. Women who had been oppressed and spoke out in some manner against their oppression, or questioned their state of being, with an air of defiance were exactly what I was looking for. 

I did not care for female characters who were still slaves to a male writer's idea of femininity and who, despite expressing some form of oppression, were quiet and well behaved and downtrodden. I cared for women who were actively speaking out (even if in Shakespeare's case this could have been unwitting) against standards of delicacy, obedience, and pleasantness for the female form. 

But does this then mean that only fiery women, both fiction and non-fiction, can become feminist idols? Or is it due to my own personality that I find myself attracted to such a quality in who I admire? Even celebrities like Zooey Deschanel who on the outside look kooky and sweet and harmless I consider to be defiant in the unapologetic manner with which they simultaneously carry their darling appearance and continue to express feminist thinking. 

The thing is in order to be agreeing with feminism and having it mean the belief in equality one must automatically be unapologetic, defiant and angry in some way. Even with a sweet demeanour there must be some fire within you to be questioning the justice in the treatment of men and women throughout every aspect of society. Therefore, does a woman who is simply nice and compliant and who does not speak against any whisper of oppression qualify at all to be a feminist idol even if placed in a situation in which they passively question the ideals of their own gender? Would that even provide anything to greatly admire?

I know girls who are quiet and shy and very, very nice but who also call themselves feminist and get angry about injustice and so in my mind that still makes them defiant.  The fire and the anger is still there and the patience for sexism lacks somewhat so they are still gutsy. 

I should conclude therefore by answering my own question by saying that, yes, only fiery women and characters can become feminist idols because there must be some defiance within one's person to fight against any form of oppression. It does not necessarily mean that they are overtly obstinate but simply their level of patience for bullshit is relatively low. Women who are in some way ardent about their beliefs in the face of disapproval or oppression represent feminist ideals: they are not willing to sit submissively in the face of discrimination.  So I will continue to look for these ideals, high and low, for research purposes and for my own satisfaction in even the shyest of women because, for me, that's what it takes to apprehend feminism into some section of your being.