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We Should Aim to be Like the Female Characters of One Day at a Time

It’s that time of the school year: stress is at its peak and with each assignment you complete you reward yourself with just one more episode on Netflix. What better way to celebrate a mini success with a 90% match based on recent views? I recently stumbled upon the Netflix original sitcom, One Day at a Time. To give you a little bit of context, it features an American-Latino family with a single mother; her adolescent son and daughter; and their widowed grandmother. Like any other family drama, the show deals with issues that come about on a regular basis, allowing for the situations to be recognizable within the family setting, while also emphasizing an immigrant perspective.


One Day at a Time is categorized as one of the “TV Shows Featuring a Strong Female Lead.” This is fitting, considering the three generations of strong women that play a significant role: a grandmother who moved to America at fifteen years old on her own with little knowledge of the English language; a single mother and ex-veteran; and a strong minded and intelligent fourteen year old. In addition, the main characters include a young man who takes advantage of what he can learn from the powerful women in his family.

Although the family finds its origins from Cuba, I find this show relatable because of its home structure and practices that resembled those of my own family who emigrated from the Philippines. My family and I enjoyed binge-watching the show and agreed that we could all identify with at least one of the characters.  My interest grew when my brother said to me, “You’re the Elena of our family.” At first I felt this was an insult, which I believed my brother meant for it to be.  However the more I indulged in each episode, the more I saw the character of the preteen develop. I admired her strength and courage in always standing up for what she believed in, and making it her mission to teach and inform her family and others around her.

Elena is unapologetically feminist in her beliefs and values; this is seen in her push back from having her quinceñera due to its misogynistic origins in just the beginning of the pilot episode entitled “This Is It.” In the episode called “Bobos and Mamitas,” the issue of sexism in the workplace is brought up. Elena explains that nowadays sexism is much more “subtle.” She says, “Men assert their power through micro-aggressions and mansplaining.” I’ll admit, this is a real issue that I was not entirely aware about until recently within the last few years of my university career. My immediate reaction to this statement was impressed especially as she explained that sexism was seen in actions beyond women being “cat-called” or “hit on.”

Elena is well informed on the expectations of women and often criticizes these shallow representations of females. For example, she points out that a princess doll’s body proportion does not accurately represent that of someone her age. At many times throughout the first season, Elena is true to herself and confidently accepts who she is as a person. There are very few moments where she shows any signs of insecurities. If I had half as much confidence as her as an early teenager, my high school experience may have been different. Her attitude is brushing off negative peer opinions

Even as a twenty-one year old, I see Elena as a perfect role model, from her as an intellectual and a “social justice warrior.” I see her imperfections as something equally admirable because she is like anyone else, merely human. While she is educated and obviously well read, there is a lot that she can still learn through life experience. In that way, anyone can be like Elena. Although she is a fictional character, she stands as an epitome of beauty beyond what is physical. I think we can all learn a thing or two from her, from her efforts in always being well informed to being comfortable in her own skin.

Justine is currently pursuing a BA of English at Ryerson University. Aside from reading great works of literature as exposed to in her studies, she finds inspiration from binge watching Netflix and from artist dates that include trying out new eateries around Toronto and aimlessly walking around the downtown area. 
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