Can Feminists Still Like Romantic Comedies?

These days, it’s not very fashionable to be a feminist and I had to think for a minute whether I even wanted to associate myself with that particular term. However, I have been reading Caitlin Moran’s, How to be a Woman, and I must say I agree with her sentiments on reclaiming it:

“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”

I suppose the challenge is that the term has been re-framed over the years to be synonymous with hating men and all things feminine. I can’t speak for the rest of the ladies out there, but I can say for myself that I want both the right to vote, to be treated as an equal, and to be able to claim out loud that I love watching Dancing with the Stars. If calling myself a feminist means I can’t like watching movies starring the likes of Hugh Grant, Matthew McConaughey, Drew Barrymore, and Sandra Bullock, then I’m not so sure I like that label.

Then again, if you look at my life, I am doing a pretty fair imitation of being a feminist. I chose to keep my name when I got married, I chose not to have children, I have a good career and have had a higher income than my husband since we met. We share the household chores. (Okay, ‘share’ is perhaps a bit strong – he does most of them…) And no one made me give up my “girl” card in order to do any of those things. I do love watching Dancing with the Stars (when are they going to give Tristan MacManus a real partner, anyway?) and I own more chick-flicks than I care to admit, not to mention all the rom-coms I watch on Netflix.

Although noted feminist Gloria Steinem told us, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” I don’t think anything in that comment says that women can’t choose to enjoy the company of men. Steinem herself chose to get married at the age of 66. I think she just meant we get to decide for ourselves if we want to share our lives with someone else, and that our worth is not tied up in the worth of whomever we choose to share it with.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, too. If I were forced to choose between having the right to vote and watching silly romantic comedies, there is no contest. I hardly want to go backwards in terms of the rights women in this country now enjoy. And in some respects I think it may be a sign of just how far we’ve come that many of us take them so much for granted.  I just don’t want my intellect and my capabilities to be confused with my emotional sensibilities.

When I was little, my mother used to read me a bedtime story every night. She tried to provide me with a mix of gender-varied toys (I had both dolls and matchbox cars), but every night I asked for the same story to be read, Cinderella. She worried about how this might affect my sense of self-worth (would I think I needed Prince Charming to come save me in order to be happy?), but she indulged my requests night after night.  In spite of that early fantasy-based influence, I think I turned out okay. I have always thought of myself as pretty independent and self-driven. What I remember from the story, and the Disney movie, was not some anti-feminist sub-plot, but rather that Cinderella made friends with all the animals, that she had a fairy godmother who granted her wishes, and that she got to wear a beautiful dress and those crazy glass slippers. The prince was really just a bonus in the grand scheme of things.

Yeah, I like a good romantic story. I also like heated theological debates that challenge my Christian beliefs. And I like a strong martini at the end of a hard week of work. I like to run half-marathons. I like using my brain on a daily basis at my job. I like holding hands with my husband when we go for walks. I am a complex person, just like everyone else, and none of us has to be all one thing in order to be another. So, yes, we feminists can still like romantic comedies. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just put a Julia Roberts movie in my instant queue…

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