The 19th century saw the creation of the Seven Sisters colleges in the Unites States that provided higher education for women, Emmeline Pankhurst led the way for female suffrage in the early 20th century, Patti Smith rocked the 70s in her boyfriend jeans and leather jacket, the 80s were all about Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’, girl power exploded into every home from London to Los Angeles as the Spice Girls enjoyed unrivalled fame in the 90s and the 2010’s are all about the rise of intelligent, funny and proactive women.
The Times columnist and author Catlin Moran, screenwriter Lena Dunham and Rookie Mag founder Tavi Gevinson’s have all topped worldwide bestseller lists with their recent feminist literary releases. ‘The Mindy Project’, ’30 Rock’ and ‘Parks and Recreation’ (all written and created by women) are some of the highest rated TV shows of the moment and Malala Yousafzai recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for her more than heroic accomplishments. No longer are we all focused on getting that ‘bikini body’ and nor are we truly obsessing over what Rihanna did on her holiday with Chris Brown. More women than ever are immersing themselves in the works of the new faces of feminism and female power – scratch that; the new intelligent, popular and articulate faces of feminism and female power.
The New York Times’ review of Moran’s ‘How to be a Woman’ by Emma Brockes states that “none of what she [Moran] says is new”. This is a statement that I can but only disagree with. Undeniably there are common themes in this book that have been discussed by numerous feminist writers that have come before and they are themes that will undoubtedly be discussed in years to come but Moran, like Dunham and Gevinson, approaches these subjects with a previously unseen intelligence and humour.
Growing up watching the comedy of the late 90s and early 00s it was always the men who delivered the punch lines. It sometimes felt that women, with the exception of a minority of female-led comedies such as ‘Absolutely Fabulous’, were there to simply make up the numbers. Take Lisa from ‘The Simpsons’ as an example, the majority of the time we laugh at her as a result of a hilarious mocking comment from her brother, Bart, rather than a result of a joke that she has delivered. Programs such as ‘Alan Partridge’, one of the funniest comedies to ever grace our television sets, sees female characters such as Partridge’s assistant Lynn, although utterly hysterical, almost totally reliant on the male lead to make them funny.
However, the comedy tide is changing despite many people, both male and female, still truly believing that women are not and cannot be funny. Many female comedic writers and performers have become my role models. Every woman and girl should read and watch the works of Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Lenah Dunham has managed to capture the feelings and experiences of millions of real twenty-something women as they attempt to ‘figure-out’ life in the television show ‘Girls’. Many of us sit down with the family to watch Miranda Hart’s ‘Miranda’ and many a student has spent their days watching leading women taking over E4 with Zooey Deschanel on ‘New Girl’ and Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs in ‘2 Broke Girls’. With all this evidence, can people still truthfully say that women are not and cannot be funny?
It feels like an increasingly awesome time to be a woman in the Western world. Although, I am certainly not blind to the relentless sexism and gender inequality that continues to plague our society. I believe that women and girls need to be blind to the gender barrier that society has constructed. If we do not create a limit in our head of what we can achieve as women then there is no denying that we will achieve more than we ever believed we could. Be funny, be smart, be happy and just live the life that you want. Do not let other people’s opinion make you change who you are or what you want to accomplish.