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A Nomad’s Notes: For the love of women and watching TV

I sat down to write a column about this Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington. And after three attempts my column was either too angry, too flowery or long enough to be a novella. So instead, as a feminist (which simply means I’m for equality of the sexes and all genders, in case no one told you) and as someone who constantly watches TV, I decided to pick five of my favorite feminist/women-empowering episodes of some of my favorite shows, in no particular order:

1: “Parks and Recreation: Pie-Mary.” Aired Feb. 10, 2015: While the seventh and final season of “Parks and Recreation” was too short for my needs and didn’t flesh out all that should’ve been fleshed out, this episode made it all worth it. Our main character, trailblazing feminist Leslie Knope, is caught in a firestorm when she refuses to take place in the Pie-Mary, which is a baking competition for the wives of men who are running for Congress in Indiana. The women of the town are mad that Leslie thinks she’s too good for the competition, and many “Men’s Rights Activists” of the town are mad at Leslie because they think she’s somehow oppressing her husband Ben Wyatt, who’s running for Congress against an incumbent. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that I found myself screaming, “Yes, for the love of God, thank you! They get it!” at my TV multiple times during my viewing. My favorite quote from the entire episode, said by Leslie: “If you want to bake a pie, that's great, if you want to have a career, that's great too. Do both or neither, doesn't matter, just don’t judge what someone else has decided to do. We're all just trying to find the right path for us as individuals on this earth.”

2: “Sex and the City: A Woman’s Right to Shoes.” Aired Aug. 17, 2003: “Sex and the City” was one of those shows that tackled the controversial topics at a time when they weren’t as controversial as they are now; abortion, bisexuality and sexual promiscuity of women are just a few. But one of my favorite episodes happens in its sixth and final season, and deals with something I’ve been familiar with my entire life: the single life. Carrie Bradshaw, our protagonist, attends a baby shower and has a pair of $485 Manolo Blahnik sandals stolen. The woman who threw the shower continues to shame Carrie for spending so much money on herself, and Carrie realizes that except for birthdays, after graduation no one celebrates the life of a woman who chooses to be single. My favorite quote from Carrie: “I’m thrilled to give you gifts to celebrate your life. I just think it stinks that single people are left out of it.”

3: “The Office: Women’s Appreciation.” Aired May 3, 2007: I’ve always been torn between which show I prefer, “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation.” While “Parks and Recreation” is definitely the more feminist of the two shows, I find “The Office” to be funnier, and this episode is but a sample size of the smorgasbord of that humor. Michael Scott, boss of Dunder Mifflin Paper Co., decides to take the women of the office to the mall to celebrate them after one of them is flashed by a man in the office parking lot. His comments are incredibly tone deaf throughout, and if Scott were a real character he and I would have words every day. But as a character who truly is trying his best to make the women in the office feel appreciated, it’s cringey comedic gold, which is what “The Office” is known for. And it’s also awesome because when the van the group is traveling in has a flat tire, it’s not Scott who fixes it; it’s the ladies. My favorite quote from the episode is from Michael himself: “Let’s face it. Most guys are from the Dark Ages. They’re cavemen. And they like a woman to be showing her cleavage and to be wearing eight-inch heels. And to be wearing see-through underpants. But for me, a woman looks best when she is just absolutely naked.”

4: “Star Trek the Original Series: The City on the Edge of Forever.” Aired April 6, 1967: This is considered by fangirls and more mainstream Trekkies (not Trekkers — keep that word away from me) alike to be one of the best, if not the best episode of TOS (The Original Series) in all of its three seasons, and of course that applies to me, too, because it really is that amazing. Without spoiling the ending, I will give a synopsis: Doctor McCoy, the Enterprise’s surgeon, accidentally injects himself with a drug that causes him to lose his mind. He leaves the ship and beams down to a planet with a machine that can control time. He jumps through the machine and Kirk and Spock must go back in time and rescue him. They end up in the 1930s America during the Great Depression and while there, meet Edith Keeler, with whom Jim falls in love and Spock learns must die to save humanity. Essentially, the pair learn Edith, who’s a passionate feminist and advocate for change, will in the future call for peace from the United States during World War II, which allows the Nazis to capture the world. Edith must die so humanity can live. In a way it can be seen as an anti-feminist episode: “A woman brings about too much change, so we must silence her.” But as a staunch feminist, I don’t see it that way. Rather, it makes me proud that a (fictional, mind you) woman from the 1930s would be respected enough to be listened to by major U.S. leaders enough to cause peace. A woman with a loud voice and a message can make the difference, even if, in this case, it’s a negative one. You instantly love Edith as Jim does, and she’s definitely one of the main reasons this episode has become so engrained in the culture for nearly 50 years. My favorite quote from Edith: “Now I don’t pretend to tell you how to find happiness and love when every day is just a struggle to survive, but I do insist that you do survive because the days and the years ahead are worth living for.”

5: “South Park: Breast Cancer Show Ever.” Aired Oct. 15, 2008: I completely admit, it’s been a while since I watched this episode in its entirety, but when I was thinking about feminist episodes I wanted to showcase in this column, this one immediately popped in mind. Wendy Testaburger, one of the main fourth-grade characters, gives a presentation on breast cancer, which is immediately mocked by everyone’s favorite douchecanoe Eric Cartman. Wendy threatens to beat Cartman up, who panics and spends 95 percent of the episode finding ways to get out of the fight, eventually telling Wendy’s parents about the fight, which they forbid her to do. Wendy initially gives in and does not go through with the fight, until some encouraging words from Principal Victoria rally her to fight, no matter the consequences. I very rarely would advocate violence, and even in this instance I wouldn’t advocate it, but since they’re fictional I don’t feel as guilty in celebrating Wendy taking Cartman to task. My favorite quote from the episode, from breast cancer survivor Principal Victoria to Wendy: “I was diagnosed seven years ago. Cancer is. .. pure evil. It is a fat little lump that needs to be ... destroyed. When there is a cancer, you have to ‘fight’ it. You can’t reason with cancer, you can’t wish it away. Cancer doesn’t play by the rules, so neither can you. And you can't listen to what anybody else tells you. You have to be willing to give up everything, because the cancer will take everything. Do you understand? When you have cancer you fight, because it doesn’t matter if you beat it or not. You refuse to let that fat little lump make you feel powerless.”

 

 Lindsay Kriz is a staff writerfor the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email lkriz@brunswickbeacon.com.