Is Parks and Rec the Most Feminist Show on TV?

I had an epiphany last night while watching the episode of Parks and Rec where Andy takes a women’s studies class. I said to myself, “I think this might just be the most feminist show on television.”

Then I was all, “Whoa there, girl, what are you metrics? Criteria? A rubric perhaps? Where’s your evidence?”

Emily: It’s just a gut feeling!

Emily: Gut feelings aren’t academically rigorous. What makes a show feminist?

Emily: Um…Gotta pass the Bechdel test, for sure, plus healthy stuff about female sexuality, male female relationships, body image, women in the workplace, etc. You know, women as well-rounded, fully-formed (and flawed) characters with concerns that extend beyond men, yada yada yada.

Emily: Make me a list. Check that shit twice.

Emily: (sigh).

After more rigorous analysis, I stick with my initial epiphany. Here is my hastily assembled rubric for determining if a show is “feminist”:

  1. The central drama is not aimed at addressing the question “when will she get married and have babies?” (Leslie Knope is 37, FYI).
  2. Women like sex too, and not just when they’re in love. Corollary: A one-night stand, though sometimes a mistake for emotional or practical reasons, does not lower a woman’s worth as a friend or partner.
  3. Lots of bodies are beautiful (Have you noticed how Donna’s size is never a plot point on Parks?)
  4. Men and women can have deep, meaningful platonic friendships (Leslie and Ron, Leslie and Tom, Donna and Tom).
  5. Female friends do not only discuss their boyfriends and the boyfriends they wish they had.
  6. Men aren’t just after sex. Women aren’t just after love. (See the respective plot arcs of Chris Traeger and Jennifer Barkley).
  7. Some women are bitches. Some men are douches. These are not stand-ins for some sort of Battle of the Sexes, but are representative of the fact that, oh hey, sometimes people suck.
  8. Feminism is not a dirty word. In Parks, we get Gertrude Stein jokes, portraits of Madeleine Albright, a women’s studies class (that isn’t a joke about lesbian colleges), debates about “Separate but Equal,” and so, so much more.

I know that there are other shows that fit this list as well (The Good Wife and Friday Night Lights come to mind). Some shows definitely do not (2 Broke Girls, The Newsroom). Are there bullet points I’m forgetting to qualify something as a feminist show? Are there sexist elements of Parks I’m ignoring?

Related Post: The best two minutes of TV about sex.

Related Post: The Good Wife handles second vs. third wave feminism gracefully.

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Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Media

7 responses to “Is Parks and Rec the Most Feminist Show on TV?

  1. YESSSS. Parks and Recs is such a delightful feminist gem, in that you can watch it in totally relaxed mode, no disappointing flashes of sexism shoving their fists through the screen to ruin it all with surprise punches.

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