We all remember this famous documentary named She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, released in 2014, which is about women involved in the second wave feminism movement in the United States of America. However, I must say that I am particularly interested in the significance of the title. It reveals that women are perceived in certain men’s gazes as only hysterical girls whose speeches are led by emotion and a kind of hubris they cannot control. Moreover, they are still beautiful because, as we all know, women are only defined by their beauty. Just take a look at women magazines and analyze their main subjects. How do we lose weight fast? How to be healthy? New make-up trends! Which one will suit you the best? …I doubt you will have the opportunity to read an article about Simone de Beauvoir or Jane Austen in your common Cosmopolitan Magazine.
I have never been a Cosmo girl – except when I go to pubs to get a nice cocktail! I got interested in literature at a very young age. From Les Malheurs de Sophie to Camus’s L’Etranger, I was always eager to know more about these writers who made me travel around countries of words and landscapes of sentences. I realized that I could imagine different stories and create my own world. That is why each step in the streets, at the beach, in cafés, each person passing by, each inquisitive animal became an unique element of a new story. I wanted to be a writer. It was not a wish or a dream. Being a writer appeared to me as a genuine goal. Unfortunately, people did not understand why I did my best to be an artist. At school, I felt quite different from the others. At the beginning, I thought that people saw me as “odd” because I was a literature/philosophy enthusiast who spent my free-time writing and thinking about my novel. However, the criticisms were more subtle as some professors and students hinted that women should get interested in other fields. Ultimately, this mindset influences our education as female authors are not taught in classes as frequently as male authors in terms of literature studies. Remember those women who took men’s names to write because they were not allowed to?
I thus was considered the “intello”, “nerd” one. Girls were particularly difficult to deal with. To them, it was quite strange to see another girl reading Voltaire’s essays. The Twilight series was way more interesting and “girly”. It resulted in my being defined as odd. My goals, my hobbies, my dreams. Everything was “odd”. And, I think they were probably shocked that I still enjoyed fashion, red lipstick and feeling pretty and sexy. After all, women cannot be beautiful AND intellectual. Pop culture have showed us this cliché lots of times. I remember watching Beverly Hills 90210 with my mum. Brenda (Shannon Doherty) was the popular and wonderful one while Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris) was the “ugly” BUT intelligent girl. This helps to explain why our society is steeped in misconceptions about women and is also still influenced by sexist images that have spread more easily nowadays. If we think about it, everything is about women’s bodies and looks. They have to “fit” in a perfect Ikea baking tin in order to obtain a marvellous rainbow cronut – ready to be the most “liked” Instagram picture ever. When it comes to intelligence, self-development and arts, women are easily critcized – particularly if they raise their voices against the system.
Although it was difficult for me to face these problems, I was inspired by many female figures who denounced this unfair silent treatment. Emma Watson, Ashley Grahams and Jennifer Lawrence are all new figures of pop culture and feminism promoting a whole new perception of women. Above all, Emma Watson brought into the spotlight the figure of the intellectual and independent women through her roles on screen (Hermione Granger and more recently Belle in the new Beauty and the Beast movie) and also her endeavours such as being an activist for the HeforShe campaign Similarly, some TV shows are more and more keen on depicting women as strong individuals. I watched the new season of Orange is the New Black and I found Danielle Brooke’s performance absolutely delightful. Her character, Taystee, is an amazing example of an intelligent, charming, sensual and funny woman who fights for her causes and never gives up. From a second-role character in the first season to the main role in season 5, Danielle Brooke revealed a rebellious Taystee that is for me an iconic feminist character. Andrea’s sad destiny is now slowly disappearing in order to develop “angry”, albeit wonderful women.
So, yes. I am angry. Sometimes a bit too much. Sometimes a bit less. However, I am a journalist and I am writing to expose my analysis and my thoughts that I developed over the years. And I am convinced that writing and speaking are both the best answers to sexism. Like Taystee, we just need to keep on fighting and reading. Because women who read are dangerous, aren’t they?