One of the most disappointing revelations of growing up, at least for me, is that my life really isn’t, and won’t be, straight out of a chick flick. No, my biggest problem in life is not having to bribe my way into law school to get back together with my ex-boyfriend, or breaking up with an attractive and successful man in ten days so that I can finish a story for a world-famous magazine, all while maintaining a lady-like demeanor and wearing gorgeous clothes.
No, like many other college students, my life is much less glamorous. My days are filled with awkward encounters, frequent cups of cheap coffee, saying the wrong things at the wrong times and generally being broke. So when I saw Kristen Wiig portray Annie Walker in “Bridesmaids” as a single, struggling and swearing 30-something woman, I could see myself in her more than in any other character portrayed in those predictable romantic comedies.
While Wiig was praised for her role, a growing concern arose because of the portrayal of women as ridiculous, loudmouth losers. In a Jan. 29 Detroit Free Press article by Georgea Kovanis, women are criticized for losing themselves when they are crass because it “is very male in tone” and “we are following in the footsteps of men.” This sentiment has been expressed by many: Women with strong personalities are viewed as intimidating and manly.
Kovanis is correct in the fact that this new-found freedom of language is a step toward territory previously claimed by men. But I think it’s totally wrong to think that women just want to emulate men and not form their own identity. Of course, we all need to know when and where not to use this language, but honestly, it can be liberating.
Off-color jokes made by women demonstrate a certain power that women are gaining. Think Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler and Amy Poehler. These women use dirty humor frequently and they speak their minds. They are also respected by men and women alike. Yet, there seems to be a disconnect between comedic and strong women in Hollywood and the attitudes toward women in everyday life.
The problem does not lie in how funny or how lame women’s jokes are. Instead, there seems to be a deeply rooted fear of women with bold personalities. When Jodi Kantor’s book, “The Obamas,” hit shelves last month, there was a mass outcry over the fact that this book described Michelle Obama as an angry black woman who was overly protective and harsh. In reality, the book provides examples of Obama not wanting to move her children to the White House before the end of their school year and having some difficulty adjusting to her new life. This sounds like an honest depiction of many women today, not a crazed and vicious first lady.
Many women have always been strong, sometimes angry and a little bit vulgar. Representing women like this in movies and television, and now in biographies, is new. The attitudes and personalities of women are not. Women are not trying to act like men. They are just becoming more comfortable showing who they are and what they think.
It’s one thing to think comedic and strong women are funny from a distance, but it’s another to respect women who aren’t actresses and celebrities. Women can’t continue to live vicariously through the people on our TVs. We should be proud of the people we are with our closest friends and family, not the inhibited persona that we share with the rest of the world.
Yes, women are generally poised, collected and put-together. But it would be inaccurate and unfair to only portray that image. Sometimes, we have loser tendencies, and that’s okay. There are many Annie Walkers in the world, and the more that this is accepted, the easier it will be for women to express themselves publicly like we do with our best friends behind closed doors.
When it’s appropriate, of course. After all, we do have standards.
Adrienne Roberts can be reached at email@example.com.