Culture

Blonde Ambition

Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon
Legally Blonde is a 2001 American comedy film starring Reese Witherspoon as a sorority girl who struggles to win back her ex-boyfriend by earning a law degree, along with Luke Wilson as a young attorney she meets during her studies. | Photo: MGM | Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon, Pink, Chiwawa, Actress,

The Curse of Femininity

Legally Blonde, one of the cultural touchstones for many girls of my generation, deals wonderfully, albeit lightheartedly, with a problem that festers at the heart of feminism' namely that feminine women cannot be adequately feminist, or at least adequately intellectual. Elle Woods, Legally Blonde's title character, is beautiful, glamorous and feminine in the ?ber-Pink sense of the word. She's rewarded her whole life with the adornments of female accomplishment-- from the title of homecoming queen to the presidency of her sorority to having the seemingly ideal fraternity boyfriend.

But one day, Elle wakes up and she loses a grip on all of the trophies of her life-- her perfect boyfriend breaks up with her, which beginning a series of events that breaks Elle Woods out from the gilded cage of her ideal life. As a means to win back her boyfriend, Elle Woods works her intellectual, rather than physical, tail off to get into Harvard Law School. She, surprising everyone, excels at Harvard and finds herself for the first time somewhere she can be intellectually challenged. Throughout the course of the movie, Elle gains the knowledge of her own worth and her abilities, despite her initial motives. Next to no one encourages her in this'- neither her parents nor her fellow law students nor her girlfriends back home. The most supportive person she finds throughout her law school saga is a high school dropout-cum-manicurist.

Elle is a character in a modern day movie fairy tale, true. But she's the stylized manifestation of a real problem. Feminists of a certain ilk, intellectuals, and nerdy misfits alike claim the clich? of "never judging a book by its cover," as their motto. Feminist in particular all push for a desire for women to be judged based on the content of their minds, rather than the presentation of their bodies. But when these people' these snarky, self-righteous scholars and social pundits' reject the real world counterparts of Elle Woods, they deeply entrench their beliefs in the system they profess to hate and reject. Indeed, they judge and pigeonhole Elle by the same standards that rewarded her for her decorativeness. Elle Woods isn't a person to these intellectuals, academics, and misfits: she's just a Blonde, whose looks and way of dressing immediately preclude any scholarly capabilities.

Just because Elle enjoys dressing up in a particularly feminine way does not mean she cannot enjoy or thrive during pursuits of intellectual vigor. There are those who like to say glamorous women are pleasers in society, appeasing to societal wishes and reaping the collective reward. But few observe that glamorous girls, and pretty girls, and girls who gravitate towards feminine on the gender expression scale are also punished by their rewards. Teaching Elle, and girls like her, that they can't be smart because they're already pretty is downright shameful.

But anyone who doesn't recognize that the early rewards girls like Elle receive for the femininity and beauty as a punishment is blind. You see, glamorous girls are chastised for showing any real interest in their brain. Yes, they're accoladed by those in society who value feminine women and women who put attention into their appearance. But these same women are also boxed in by their societal rewards. You know, because all the brain power used in making manicure appointments, learning how to use a blow drier, and waving a mascara wand makes the thought processes required in comprehensive reading, critical analysis, differential equations, and general scholarly pursuit nearly impossible. Or at least, that's how everyone else seems to see it.

For a girl who loved her high heels as much as her library card, not to say anything of her extensive book collection, Elle Woods was inspirational for learning to express my personality exactly as it is' both feminine and intellectual' and giving anyone the finger who tried to bring me down. Being a human being who enjoys and appreciates the feminine doesn't make any woman dumb or society's dupe. It's a fight worth fighting, because until we stop equating the feminine with the less-than, we'll have a hard time moving towards a society where all beings are truly equal.

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Updated May 6, 2017 5:59 AM EDT | More details

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