Legally Blonde and Feminism

tumblr_mjybp5OuW61rm0ra6o1_500Legally Blonde is one of my all time favorite “feel-good” films. I can literally watch it anytime (in fact I once watched it twice in a row) and enjoy it, but it’s an especially good film to watch when I’ve had a bad day and my life feels like it’s gone to hell and taken my mood with it.

Elle Woods is kind of amazing.

She starts out as the typical dumb blonde and when she announces she’s going to Harvard you just kind of chuckle, because, hello, blonde chick with a chihuahua who loves pink getting into Harvard Law? Yeah, sure, totally likely.

Then she proceeds to flip all the stereotypes on their heads and somehow never change who she is either.

Dumb Blonde: Yeah, okay, she’s a fashion major in college. So funny and dumb, but as someone pointed out to me, there is nothing stupid about this girls knowledge of clothing. Think about the scene where the smarmy boutique saleswoman tries to pass off a clearance item as a “one of a kind” new dress.

Elle: Is that low-viscosity rayon? With a half-loop top stitching on the hem?

Boutique Saleswoman: Of course. It’s one of a kind.

Elle: It’s impossible to use a half-loop stitching on low-viscosity rayon. It would snag the fabric. And you didn’t just get it in – I saw it in the June Vogue a year ago. So if you’re trying to sell it to me for full price, you’ve picked the wrong girl.

If you think that knowing that sort of thing is something just anyone can do, you don’t know much about fabric or sewing. Elle Woods isn’t dumb.

So maybe it’s a tiny bit unrealistic that she got a 179 on the LSAT after a few weeks of studying, but only because most people spend years in pre-law to pass that test…not because she’s too blonde to understand the material.

Bitchy Sorority Girl: Now that’s a trope. When you start the movie the first time, that’s what expect from Elle. She’s blonde, she’s popular, she really embarrasses her (ex)boyfriend in public, but it turns out she’s really sweet. She sticks up for nerdy guys at Harvard Law and helps them get girls and she tries her best to befriend people, even though they treat her badly.

Plain Girl with a Heart of Gold: Trope #3 that gets stomped on in this film, Vivian is anything but a nice girl. Oh she gets nicer over the course of the movie, but she’s all to willing to believe the worst of Elle even towards the end. She’s the real bitch of the movie, despite what other movies set you up to believe about the plain girl being the sweet one.

But you already know all this, I mean who hasn’t seen this movie before? You would like me explain why this movie (and Elle Woods specifically) is feminist.

Now keep in mind that I’m talking about actual feminism (the way it used to be) and not this current “3rd wave” crap we get these days. There is one of these in the movie, Enid, the stereotypical liberal lesbian feminist who has a degree in “women’s studies” and thinks that the term “semester” is sexist and should be changed to “ovester”. Sadly this is an extremely accurate representation of most “feminists” on college campuses these days.

Elle Woods represents actual feminism. The idea that women can be women, but they can also be whatever they want to be. Elle Woods got what she wanted, not because of money or favors, but because when it really comes down to it she was willing to work hard to get where she wanted to go.

She also manages to do this while retaining her own personality and not becoming less feminine. In fact, she manages to use the fact that she has different interests and life experience that are decidedly more “feminine” as an asset. Perms and designer shoes and sorority sisterhood codes end up being the skill set she needs and without them she would not have won the court case.

So she’s my feminist hero.

Why? Because it is this movie that reminds me that I can be smart and capable and demand respect and I can do all of that with girly hair and while wearing heels and lipstick and pretty dresses and spending a little “me” time getting my hair done or getting a facial. There’s nothing weak or anti-feminist about being feminine.

A woman doesn’t have to act like a man to get where she wants in life. We can be women and dress like women, because I love being a woman, and still be strong and independent and successful.

Thank you Elle Woods.


Categorised in: Entertainment, Feminism, Movies, pop culture

3 Responses »

  1. "So maybe it’s a tiny bit unrealistic that she got a 179 on the LSAT after a few weeks of studying, " Actually it's not…the LSAT is really just an IQ test, while it helps to be familiar with the kinds of questions to prevent stress while taking the test, no amount of studying is going to change your scores by any significant amount so long as you come in with a decent background in language and math. So as long as she has an IQ in the 140's, a 179 wouldn't be all that hard to get.

  2. This is wonderful! I have never encountered another person who has appreciated Elle Woods as much as I have and for the same reasons. I am currently writing my research paper on the waves of feminism and each one’s influence on the other. I have not been successful yet in truly depicting the third-wave, but this puts such a great face on this generation’s feminism. This is what the third-wave should be. Thank you!

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