The problem with finding a fictional feminist role model

She’s going to insult and piss someone off. Okay, she’ll do it to a lot of people, or he will, or ze will. We just can’t have a fictional feminist icon that appeals to everyone because feminists don’t agree on everything, nor do they have to. But everyone has a role model, don’t they?

I had gotten thinking about this concept when I was watching House of Cards a few months ago and saw the episode where Claire admits to having an abortion. I wanted to look up what the feministing public had to say about it and it wasn’t all that favorable. This is my favorite of those: No, Claire Underwood of House of Cards Is Not a Feminist Role Model. While I agree with the statements in the article, it got me thinking. What is a feminist role model?

There are two sides to this problem:

  1. A role model is someone that is looked to as an example to follow
  2. Feminism is not about following neatly outlined examples

With the plethora of problems that living feminist role models run into, it’s no wonder we can’t pinpoint what makes a good fictional one. We would need an infallible character who is the right proportion of strong and weak, ambitious but charitable, and all the other impossible standards that feminism itself fights against, thus nullifying the viability of this character as a feminist who was painstakingly made perfect for us to begin with.

Alas, the great feminist characters are as flawed as the living feminists. They offend. They belittle. They know how beautiful they are or are not. They don’t care or they care too much. The great feminist characters are those that are allowed to be flawed in their pursuit of whatever. But a single icon among them is simply not possible because of this. Everyone must settle for their own and their own opinion. Claire Underwood might not be a good person, but the real questions should be if she’s a realistic one? We don’t need to follow the example of her actions. We just want to see women unabashedly being themselves, whoever that may be.

This is because we don’t need to follow the example of her actions. Following an example as something that we “should” be or do is a big part of what feminism is against. There can be no examples of what a good feminist looks like because we are all different and following our feminist compasses will lead us in different directions with different actions gaining different outcomes. We will have different opinions on the same subjects and get there from all kinds of evidence. And it’s okay. At least it should be okay. Having equal choice and opportunity in our lives does not meant that we must reach for the same things, it does not mean that we are born with equal talents. It just means that we respect the differences, whether they are gender or the many nuances that can be found within each gender and sex. This makes even one unifying feminist role model completely impossible to find. And again, we don’t need an example to follow, that tears down the point that we don’t need people telling us who we are and how we should act. We need to learn to listen to our internal barometers and not blindly follow the directions of role models, society, culture, religion.

In conclusion, my feminist role model (in fiction) is Iron Man. This is a character who embraces every part of himself, good and bad, and loves to be challenged by the people around him, even the women. Embracing myself will lead me in different directions, but that’s the point, isn’t it?

What do you think about the concept of feminist role models? 

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