The Feminism of New Girl’s Jessica Day

Jessica Day taught me that being a feminist doesn’t necessarily mean disregarding femininity.  She wears pink. She loves glitter. She has too many purses. She rocks a colorful closet of skirts and dresses with bows on them.  She’s really, really bad at sports.  And she is no less of a strong, wonderful, independent woman because of it.  For a long time, I had this notion that doing “feminine” things like wearing makeup and dresses was undermining my values of feminism, that by acting stereotypically feminine I was buying into the very culture of sexism I wanted to repress.  But feminism is all about not putting women into boxes. It’s all about women having the power to make their own choices, whatever those may be. Labeling a woman as “not a feminist” because she chooses to “act feminine” is still putting her into a box.  And that is what actually furthers the culture of sexism—telling women what they “can” and “cannot” do.
I love the character of Jess because she is real.  She is relatable. She is weird. Her life gets a little bit messy sometimes.  Most of all, she is loudly and unapologetically herself. And this, at its core, is what feminism is really all about—a woman being able to be herself and make her own choices about her life without having to apologize about what she’s wearing, or what she does for a living, or who she’s dating.  In an episode in the first season called “Jess and Julia,” Jess confronts Nick’s new girlfriend, Julia, who is a high-powered lawyer who seems to condemn Jess’s outward display of femininity and emotions. Jess lets her know how wrong Julia is about her, announcing, “I brake for birds. I rock a lot of polka dots.  I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours.  And that doesn’t mean I’m not smart and tough and strong.”    
Jess is the feminist we don’t usually get to see.  She’s stereotypically feminine, but she defies sexist stereotypes anyway.  She knows that the people who don’t love and accept her aren’t worth her time.  She kicks ass in her own, colorful, glitter-filled way. Jess is a character every woman should see because she is proud of who she is, no matter what people say.  She knows that she doesn’t fit into a box, and she won’t let anyone tell her otherwise. Her brand of feminism is that she is herself.
What I have learned from Jessica Day is that feminism isn’t necessarily just Wonder Woman’s feminism. For most of us, feminism looks a lot more like Jess’s—trying to be confident in ourselves and recognizing our own bad-ass strengths, whatever those may be.  Jess teaches us that we are feminists when we believe in ourselves and the women around us, when we go out into the world with love and passion and if we choose, pink frilly dresses. We are feminists when we stand up for ourselves when we are unapologetic about who we are when we don’t let people tell us who we should be.  We are feminists when we are ourselves despite the rest of the world.