Rita is an absolutely amazing writer, and I am honoured to have her work featured on my blog. (I know she wouldn’t want me to say this, but I have to because it’s true – sorry Riri!)
This piece is an interesting read even if you haven’t watched “Bridgerton”. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I hope you do too!
Fun fact: Rita also inspired an earlier blog post I wrote about anti-feminism in Nigerian Twitter.
Pluralistic Feminism as reflected in “Bridgerton”
by Rita Atalor
The Netflix adaptation of Julia Quinn’s eight-part book series, “Bridgerton”, was released this past Christmas and audiences were thrilled by this modern spin on a 19th century period drama. I, for one, am unashamed to say that I have binged the entire series twice, and I am waiting quite impatiently for season two! Bridgerton is a colorful, witty, lighthearted romance drama. For the purpose of people who haven’t watched the series (go watch it!), season one is based on the first of Quinn’s novels. It focuses on Daphne Bridgerton, a young debutante who is officially “coming out into society” (old British lingo for a woman searching for a suitor). Daphne is a naïve young woman, but she is insistent on her pursuit to find the love of her life and get married to him. We eventually see her get entangled with the absolutely dashing Duke of Hastings, and their love story begins.
Beyond the steamy romance in Bridgerton, there is a recurring theme in this story on the place of women in society. The story is based in the 19th century, so it is unsurprising to witness that most of the women had little to no agency or control of their lives. They were raised with the sole intention of becoming wives and mothers and pursuing an independent career outside of this was simply not the norm. As is expected, there were women who itched to break out of this cycle and Eloise Bridgerton, the younger sister of Daphne, was one of such women.
From the first scene that we witness Eloise, I was immediately struck by her outspokenness and wit. Eloise is questioning and unafraid to ruffle feathers. One of my favorite scenes is when she barges into her family room and pointedly asks, “how does a woman come to be with child?!” Needless to say, her mother was stunned and tried to shut her up as quickly as possible.
Eloise’s lifelong dream is to “fly”. Fly, in this case, meaning to go to university and not have to come out in society like her sister Daphne. But, because this was two hundred years ago, Eloise only voices her dreams to her best friend and siblings, although I am excited to see how her story unfolds in the coming seasons. At first glance, Eloise is the quintessential feminist. She believes that her aspirations to pursue something outside of marriage and children are valid. She seeks the freedom that men have: the freedom of choice. Eloise, like many feminists today, dares to speak out against the norm and despite being quieted or downright ignored, does not stop speaking.
I came across many perspectives on social media, contrasting Eloise’s outspoken defiance to Daphne’s quiet acceptance of the expected traditions of marriage as the ultimate goal in a woman’s life. Eloise has been crowned the feminist hero in the story, and rightfully so. But before we dismiss Daphne so quickly, I believe we should re-assess what feminism really is. At the core of feminism is the belief that women should be treated equally to men. Meaning that we should all be afforded the same freedom to choose our life’s path and be the version of ourselves that we want to be.
Daphne chose love and marriage, but that is not to say that she is not a symbol of feminism as well. Daphne displays a strong conviction and does not allow any man in her life, not her brother or husband to challenge that. We witness Daphne’s defiance multiple times, like when she blatantly defies her older brother’s choice of a suitor for her and insists on making her own decision. In her marriage, she does not conform to the expectations of an obeisant wife and speaks up when she is disrespected. Despite her naïveté, Daphne advocates for her agency, the right to act independently and speaks out against anyone who challenges this. This is in essence feminism.
As the fourth wave of feminism unfolds in the 21st century, it has become even more important to highlight intersectionality in feminism. Feminism is not a constant, stoic concept but a dynamic movement that is represented in people’s lives differently. It is what American writer; Roxanne Gay describes as “pluralistic” in her essays Bad Feminist. Daphne and Eloise are examples of this pluralism in feminism. Eloise, outspoken and defiant, and Daphne, strong-minded and unthreatened, are two women who are reclaiming their right to make a choice. Those choices might look different; university vs marriage to the man she loves, but ultimately it is a choice.
It is important that as women in this modern society we continue to not only define what feminism means in our lives, but that we also respect how other women choose to reflect theirs. This is crucial to one of the core goals of feminism, which is the right to choose and to have that choice be respected.
Read this article on Medium.
- Exploring Anti-Feminism in Nigerian Twitter
- ‘Miss’, ‘Ms’, and ‘Mrs’: The Problem with Titles and How We Use Them
- Guilty, she is!
- We Should All Be (Angry) Feminists
- Confessions of a Feminist Thinker
About Rita Atalor
Rita Atalor is an aspiring physician, avid reader, and lover of literature. She is passionate about human rights and feminism, and is working toward integrating a career in medicine with social justice.
Connect with Rita Atalor
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